Upon Further Review: Northwestern Defense Comment Count

Brian November 4th, 2005 at 8:44 PM
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O35 Pass 11 A slip screen much like ours. Michigan's in a zone so only two guys head out to the right flank. There are three NW WRs, and they get their blocks. (CA)
1 10 O46 Pass 23 Bazanez drops this two inches over David Harris's outstretched arm. You can't defend that, and I think Harris's coverage was so good he gets a +1 here anyway. Dude gets deep on his drops. Sometimes too deep. (DO)
1 10 M31 Run 11 Say it with me: loss of contain. This is one of those plays that explain why Woods(-2) isn't the default option opposite Woodley, as he gets sucked inside by a Sutton juke and gives up the corner. Graham also gets sealed, but I think he's playing his responsibility here.
1 10 M20 Pass 7 Leon Hall(-1) is way, way off on this one, giving a 10 yard cushion at the snap and allowing a really easy completion when tigher coverage probably ends up in a sack. I don't understand this coverage in the slightest. There's only 20 yards left to give up, you can't give that big a cushion.
2 3 M13 Run -3 Fumble, touchdown. Woods(+1) explodes off the snap, gets 2 yards into the backfield, and disengages, forcing Sutton wide. Hall(+2) steps around an attempted cut, puts his helmet on the ball, and then runs until there is no more room to run.
Drive Notes: Michigan Touchdown, 14-0, 9 min 1st Q. Some good playcalling and play on the first couple plays, then a Woods screwup that he immediately atones for. I don't get the really soft Hall coverage on the 20. There's only so much room behind you; it's time to step up. Fumble is a 10 or 14 point swing.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O20 Pass 18 MSU-like rolling pocket. Basanez finds a wide open receiver downfield.
1 10 O38 Pass 62 Uh. That was quick. This is Barringer's(-2) bust, though he was put in a bad position as he ended up moving forward at the snap because Michigan's attempting to disguise the coverage. This is the cost of doing business when you're trying to challenge the offense.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-7, 8 min 1st Q. I am fine with this screwup, as it's one of the few we've had this year. Brandon Harrison has had some trouble with his angles and Jamar Adams will occasionally screw up but all four safeties have exceeded expectations.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O4 Pass 26 Jesus. Basanez rolls out and has a ton of time to pick Mr. Zone apart. Graham is well, well behind the WR, but when he has that much time...
1 10 O31 Run 1 Very nice job by Watson(+1) and Branch(+1), who stiff their blockers and collapse when Roberson attempts to dart through them.
2 9 O32 Pass Int / Fumble Basanez's wide receiver never turns around for the ball. Harrison reads, reacts, and picks the ball of then runs it down to the 15 and fumbles. Er. (+2); they did lose like 15 yards.
1 10 O17 Scramble 4 The rushers end up past Basanez pretty quickly and actual man coverage confuses him, causing him to take off. No, this isn't roughing.
2 6 O21 Run 5 Sutton goes off tackle. Burgess does as well as he can given that he's being blocked and there's a ginormous hole between Taylor and Van Alstyne(-1).
3 1 O26 Pass Inc They roll the pocket again. Basanez eventually throws it well behind Thompson when he shoud have run it, he had the first down easily.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 3 min 1st Q. Bad decision by Basanez ends the drive.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O21 Run 8 Clever little design here where the guard opposite Massey(-1) doesn't block him and lets him fly upfield, where a pulling guard removes him from the play and creates a gaping hole .
2 2 O29 Run -2 Sweep to Sutton. Branch(+1) penetrates, forcing him outside where Burgess(+1) comes up and splats the kid. Nice play.
3 4 O27 Pass Inc Basanez has a guy right before the sticks who he misses. A catch here is probably a first down. (IN)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 2 min 1st Q. Northwestern has a number of blocking schemes that rely on the defensive lineman running himself out of the play that worked all night. The first instance is here.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O35 Pass 7 Soft man coverage by Mason and they throw an out in front of him.
2 3 M42 Run 33 Option pitch outside that's blocked well. Adams(-2) has the opportunity to cut off the outside but does not. Major mental error that's the difference between five yards and 33.
1 10 M25 Pass Inc Watson(+1) gets a quick interior pass rush which is followed up by Woods(+1) on the roll. Basanez is forced to throw the ball away.
2 10 M25 Run 3 Jamison(+1) holds his ground on the edge, forcing Sutton wide, where Burgess(+1) tackles Sutton securely.
3 7 M22 Pass 7 Michigan blitzes a safety; Basanez throws an out in front of Mason, who's playing off because his safety is futilely blitzing. As soon as the safety ran up his read was clear.
1 10 M15 Run 0 Watson(+1) again stiffs the intended hole. When Sutton cuts back he screws up the blocking angles of his offensive linemen, allowing Graham to shoot up unblocked and cut off his escape.
2 10 M15 Pass 4 Play action rollout. Jamison(+1) explodes into the OL and then gets a bead on Basanez, forcing him to throw immediately to a wide receiver only a couple yards downfield.
3 6 M11 Pass Inc Middle screen that Burgess(+2) reads all the way, arriving at the RB precisely when the ball does.
Drive Notes: FG(28), 14-10, 13 min 2nd Q. I really like Jamison; guy seems to burst into offensive linemen, knocking them onto their heels, upon which point he owns them. Burgess is playing very well; Watson is killing the center.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O20 Pass Inc Mason(+1) jumps this route and it's a good thing for Basanez that he chucks this one inaccurately because it's a potential interception if accurate.
2 10 O20 Pass 2 Shovel pass inside that David Harris(+2) owns. His little juke around the guard assigned to block him is sweet, and he follows it up with a badass tackle.
3 8 O22 Pass 14 Basanez rolls out and hits Philmore with a deadly accurate pass thrown at the last possible moment. Hall(-1) is in front of the WR but slows down as he approaches the sideline, offering the tiny window that Bas uses.
1 10 O36 Pass Inc All day to throw against a three man rush. Basanez has a guy wide open 12 yards downfield but he drops it. 3 MAN RUSH == DUMBS
2 10 O36 Pass 0 Screen that David Harris(+1) owns again... and if he didn't own it Englemon(+1) would have.
3 10 O36 Pass Inc Mason(-1) really should have been flagged on this one. I like that he's getting more aggressive, though.
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 7 min 2nd Q. I think we're even now after the Avant hold. Mason's having a game like the one he had against Wisconsin. Doubt we see anything like it against Ohio State, though. Them dudes is fast.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O20 Penalty 5 Morgan Trent(-1) is all over the WR's back.
1 10 O25 Pass Int Mason(+3) makes a spectacular diving interception. There's miscommunication here but even if they WR had run his route correctly he'd be sititng two yards behind him, slapping his hands in disgust.
Drive Notes: Interception, 24-10, 3 min 2nd Q. Yeah. When Mason doesn't respect the opponent's speed he gets all up in the grill.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O20 Pass 16 Basanez dumps it off to Sutton as Harris gets pulled way off in zone coverage. There's no one within 5 yards of him when he catches the ball.
1 10 O36 Pass Inc We're in man this time. Branch(+1) stunts around and forces Basanez to throw the ball away.
2 10 O36 Pass 13 More Sutton. He catches this ball in the flat a yard behind the line of scrimmage. Hall comes up to take away the outside and Burgess(-2) has the inside but overruns the play. Sutton cuts behind both of them for the first down. This is a really important play: if Sutton's tackled they have a third and five from their 40 with the clock rolling under 30 seconds in the half.
1 10 O49 Pass Inc Basanez misses Herbert on a timing route in between levels in the zone.
2 10 O49 Pass 16 Basanez steps up into the pocket, avoiding Jamison, and fires downfield. We're in a zone again, and Harrris(-1) starts chasing Sutton, vacating a massive hole in the zone.
1 10 M35 Pass 35 Touchdown. Mason's(-1) beat deep and tries to interfere but the catch is made anyway.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-17, EOH. Bleah.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O20 Run 16 Another clever blocking scheme designed to open a hole in the line between the DTs. The OT immediately releases upfield and gets a block on Burgess while the OG kicks out Woods and a pulling OG uses Massey's(-1) momentum to open up a big hole. Not a smart play by Massey. He should know something's up when he's released and not fly upfield. Watson(-1) is stoned by the center here. Burgess does well to beat his block but again misses a tackle.
1 10 O36 Pass Inc A lot of time to throw but no one open. Bas eventually attempts to dump it off to Sutton but it's short.
2 10 O36 Penalty -10 An obvious holding call on a Basanez QB sneak. Crable(+2) is lined up as a standing DT and just goes right around the NW offensive lineman to draw the call. He still makes the tackle.
2 20 O26 Pass Inc Philmore drops a slant that would have picked up 6-8.
3 20 O26 Pass Sack, -16 More Crable as the standing DT.Van Alstyne(+1) drives between the tackle and guard, allowing Crable(+2) to wrap around, defeat a half-block by the center, and then close on Basanez to make a crippling sack.
Drive Notes: Punt, 27-17, 13 min 3rd Q. Okay, let's track these holding calls for hint of bias. This first one gets called 100% of the time. Also: welcome to Michigan football, Shawn Crable. I don't know if he'll ever find a role against teams like Wisconsin, but he's been a really effective pass rusher.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O23 Penalty -10 Holding on Herbert on an option. He was clearly holding, as Herbert had a death grip on the outside shoulder of Englemon, but this only gets called 75% of the time. Harris and Woods play this well, by the way.
1 20 O13 Pass 4 Shovel pass. Woods(+2) makes a great play, forcing Bas to pitch and then collapsing on the pitchman and making the tackle.
2 16 O17 Pass Inc Philmore is open past the first down sticks and drops a slightly high ball. He has to catch that.
3 16 O17 Pass Inc Rolled pocket. When Bas reaches the sideline he ends up with Branch(+1) bearing down on him with only a three man rush. He tosses it downfield and Michigan's all over the coverage. It's Burgess(+1) and Engelmon(+1).
Drive Notes: Punt, 27-17, 9 min 3rd Q. Second hold is clearly legit as well, though it's not a call you absolutely have to make.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O36 Run 19 Same play they gashed us with on the first play of the second half, this time to the other side of the field where Watson(-1) takes the bait. Burgess(-2) is very tentative here. If he is decisive he has an opportunity to meet this in the hole but since he sits back a WR calmly blocks him and Sutton has an easy path into the secondary instead of a minimal gain.
1 10 M47 Pass 6 Long handoff that we were doomed on from the start with one DB to a side with 2 WRs. Probably should have gone for more but the WR takes a weird path.
2 4 M41 Run 1 Watson(+1) moves around his man and makes the tackle on a shotgun counter trap.
3 3 M40 Penalty -10 Holding on what would have been a first down. This one is pretty weak, as Branch spins past the center and seemingly just falls down, but I can understand how it looked to the ref. Branch(+1) draws it.
3 13 50 Scramble 7 Jamison(+2) comes screaming around the tackle and would likely have had himself a killer sack if not held. Basanez is forced to scramble futilely.
Drive Notes: Punt, 27-17, 6 min 3rd Q. Third one is weak but I can see why the ump threw it. It looked like Branch had spun free and was about to kill Basanez before being taken down but Branch was falling mostly under his own momentum. Another impressive play from Jamison.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O37 Pass Inc Massey(+1) is all over this screen.
2 10 O37 Penalty -10 Holding and thi s one is a must call as Watson(+2) owns Belding and would have crushified Sutton in the backfield without it.
2 20 O27 Run 5 Same gash play. Massey and Woods handle it better this time.
3 15 O32 Pass Inc Fields is open downfield and Basanez drops it in there about as well as he can but it's a little behind the wide receiver.
Drive Notes: Punt, 27-17, 3 min 3rd Q. Basanez is not getting much help from his wideouts. They've had a lot of opportunities to make catches that may be somewhat difficult, but they're catchable. Avant would have caught them.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O20 Pass -2 Play action screen. Hall(+2) reads the screen, beats the blocker, and makes the TFL. Good on yer.
2 12 O18 Pass Inc Goddamn, Tim Jamison(+2) is going to be a monster. On this play he engages with the OT and then just blows him up. He's about six inches from an impressive sack as Bas is rolling to his side of the field. Bas manages to get a pass off at the very last second but the receiver can't toe the line.
3 12 O18 Pass 0 No, you didn't block Shawn Crable(+2) on this screen. Where did you come from, son?
Drive Notes: Punt, 30-17, 12 min 4th Q. Three consecutive excellent plays. Top marks go to Jamison, though. He's a freak.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O20 Pass 18 Ton of time; Basanez finds a man open in the zone.
1 10 O38 Pass 1 Bails out and hits the checkdown falling out of bounds.
2 9 O39 Penalty -10 Holding on Thiry, and this one is also definite as Thiry just tackled Jamison(+1)
2 19 O29 Pass Inc Basanez attempts to check down to Sutton. It's slightly overthrown and bounces off Sutton's fingertips.
3 19 O29 Pass 13 Completed Sutton checkdown.
4 6 O42 Pass Inc Sutton drops a sure first down.
Drive Notes: Downs, 33-17, 6 min 4th Q. This game will probably harsh the Sutton buzz in a major way. He got 50 yards on 10 carries, fumbled to Leon Hall, and has these two coffin-nail drops. He's still going to be a thorn for the next three years.
Dn Dst Line Type Yards Notes
1 10 O36 Pass 9 Sutton checkdown.
2 1 O45 Pass 7 Clearly in a prevent here, fine by me.
1 10 M48 Pass Inc Trent(+1) breaks on this ball and nearly intercepts it. A very nice play reminiscent of his EMU interception.
2 10 M48 Pass 5 Sutton checkdown again, another nice play by Trent(+1), this one an open-field tackle.
3 5 M43 Pass Inc Basanez is a little short on a downfield throw.
4 5 M43 Pass Inc Harrison(+1) pounds the final nail with a really nice zone read and close to get a PBR.
Drive Notes: Downs, 33-17, 3 min 4th Q. EOG for the D.

Briefly: the refereeing?

Bad nocall on a PI on Mason; likewise when Avant was held on third down. One of the holding calls in the second half was bogus-but-understandable, one was obviously holding but not necessarily called every time, the other three are always called. Overall, fine.

You eviscerated the defense last week for giving up 420 yards and 17 points in regulation and they did it again, so...

Not this time. This was a much better defensive performance. As the Monday column mentioned, in the Iowa game the defense faced 11 drives; in this one they faced 16. Grant Mason got all up in the grill of Northwestern wideouts, Basanez was forced to make a large number of heroic plays to get the yards they did, and the defensive line made Northwestern line go splat (save for the times when they were outsmarted). There's a difference between Iowa killing drives by blocking someone in the back or dropping a pass and Michigan killing drives by treating Principal Belding like he isn't there.

The chart shows this clearly:

Player + - T Notes
Woodley - - - You will be healthy for Northwestern OHIO STATE!
Woods 4 2 2  
Van Alstyne 1 1 0  
Taylor - - -  
Massey 1 2 -1 Is what he is.
Watson 6 2 4 I think putting the redshirt freshman center opposite him without help was... unwise.
Johnson - - -  
Jamison 7 - 7 On his way. Redshirt last year is a blessing in disguise.
Branch 5 - -  
Burgess 5 4 1 Made more good plays this week and got rave reviews from a lot of people, but he also made some bad ones that were more subtle.
Harris 4 1 3 Unbelievably deep drops in coverage.
Graham - - - Didn't play much as Michigan spent most of the game in nickel.
Thompson - - -  
Crable 6 - 6 Best game at Michigan. Clearly has a talent for getting to the quarterback.
Mason 4 2 2 Effectively aggressive.
Hall 4 2 2  
Trent 2 1 1  
Adams - 2 -2  
Engelmon 2 - - Didn't play much.
Harrison 3 - - Hold onto the ball.
Barringer - 2 -2 Monster bust was the only play I noted.

Basanez was under duress much of the night and when he wasn't it was usually because one of the offensive linemen was busy practicing for his knots merit badge. Michigan alternated man and zone and got burned on it a couple times, but outside of that Basanez was largely forced to make great plays to move the ball. Some dropped passes helped and Northwestern shot itself in the foot some but it's hard to move the ball when the only way you can block the opponent is by holding them.

What has happened to Massey?

Probably nothing. He was getting some stats and what seemed like pretty good pass rush last year, but that seems like a mirage now. This year he has 23 tackles through 9 games but only 10 are solos. He has one sack and no TFLs outside of that. If I added up all the +/- I think he would easily finish in last. The move inside from a 3-4 DE to a 4-3 DT has hurt him. When was the last time you saw a 6'8", 285 pound defensive tackle? He just can't get leverage at his height and weight. He's fine in pursuit--witness the screen he tracked down against the Wildcats--but hasn't beat an offensive lineman all year when the play has been run directly at him.

Who was that masked man?

Charles Woodson got real tall all of a sudden, huh? Or are you talking about Jamison? It could be either. Each turned in a selection of tantalizing plays where they slapped the taste out of an offensive lineman's mouth and then chased Basanez like howling ninja banshees. Crable even made a good play downfield by blowing up a screen. I'm not exactly sure where Crable's role is on this defense--I still remember Calhoun loping downfield outside of him--but his main problem when rushing the passer is running right by the quarterback because he's too fast. This is a good problem to have.

Jamison... wow. He's maybe 250 or 260 and thus technically undersized but he explodes into offensive tackles. Either that or he teleports past them. If Michigan's defensive scheme can't find a starting spot for him next year it's the wrong scheme. No offense to Biggs or Van Alstyne but Jamison is on another level. If Woodley returns (and Mel Kiper recently said he was the "fifth or sixth" best junior defensive end, XOXOXO Mel) Michigan may have one of the best sets of defensive ends in the country plus Branch inside. That's geting ahead of ourselves, though. Hopefully he doesn't try to put on 15 pounds. He doesn't need to be any stronger from appearances and I'd hate it if he started plodding around.

Burgess played well, didn't he?

Much better than against Iowa, yes. Not great. He's a lot like Henne in that he clearly has all the athletic ability he could possibly need but is lagging mentally. He was in position to make an important stop on Tyrell Sutton on their last-ditch first half drive and overran the play. Leon Hall was in position on the outside there and there was no reason to allow Sutton a cutback lane. Later the Burgess pendulum swung too far the other way on a 20 yard Sutton run when Burgess sat and waited to get blocked instead of attacking the hole. He made a number of impressive plays when he read the play right but he's still a tick slow several times a game.

If he can understand what he's doing as well as Harris he'll play as well as Harris, and then we'll be cooking. That's a key thing to watch going into next season. It's a shame he didn't redshirt--how much better does Burgess play look if he's a redshirt sophomore with two years left? Now we have to hope he puts it together next year.

What does it mean for Indi... er, Ohio State?

I wouldn't expect to see much of Mason's super-aggressive side. He's broken that out twice this year against teams with sort of meh wideouts. Holmes and Ginn are not meh. I'd like to see it, honestly. Smith makes poor decisions when pressured, and that can come from the corners just as well as the DBs. That is playing with fire. Fire, eh, we're cool.

Assuming Woodley is back and healthy, and let's not contemplate the alternative, I would very much like to see Branch get the majority of Massey's snaps. I realize that I've said this for about six straight games, but by the time OSU rolls around we should have every DE on the roster healthy. Jamison and Woods have played very well in Woodley's absence and have made more big plays in the last two games than Massey has all season. Branch was a monster at DT early in the year. If we're concerned about giving up gashing running yards, make Woodley the strongside DE and allow Jamison and Woods to pursue. This is doubly important because Smith is mobile and as we've seen lately the difference between someone who can run down a rolling quarterback and, say, Van Alstyne or Biggs is often the difference between a punt and a first down.

My major concerns are twofold:

  • The problems with our outside linebackers persist and the Ohio State running game finds just as much success as everyone else has this year. If the safeties can play two deep I'll feel much better because issue number two is...
  • Getting beat deep. Michigan's been very good about cutting off the big play this year, and this game has the look of a low-scoring slugfest. Long touchdowns == bad, mmkay.

The third, lurking thing is that despite the plethora of spread offenses we've gone up against we haven't really faced a running quarterback. Stanton's morphed into more of a passer and hardly crossed the line of scrimmage against us. Robinson had a couple of QB draws and a scramble or two but mostly looked to throw. That probably has something to do with our linebacker-delay tactic, but I still consider the running-QB defense to be somewhat untested.