Upon Further Review: Northwestern Offense

Submitted by Brian on November 3rd, 2005 at 4:01 PM

Moving on...

Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M26 Pass No one Sack, -1 Play action. Lentz gets beat by Coefield and Grady doesn't pick him up, forcing Henne to scramble. If he had a second or two he had an outlet.
2 11 M25 Pass Avant 8 Slant to a well covered Avant; Henne hits him right between the numbers. (DO)
3 3 M33 Run Grady 19 Grady finds a cutback lane here. Great job by Kraus to kick out Coefield after Lentz pulls around. Good read by Grady as the intended alley was nonexistent.
1 10 O48 Run Grady 4 This is essentially the exact same play except Kraus can't seal Coefield this time. Steno limps off after this play, temporarily replaced by Kolo.
2 6 O44 Pass Grady Inc Screen to Grady is thrown behind him. (IN)
3 6 O44 Pass Avant 22 Henne's given all day by the offensive line and finds Avant downfield on a little in. (DO)
1 10 O22 Run Grady 1 Ecker's man gets inside of him, as he's assigned to block the DE who's lined up inside of him as Lentz and Long head downfield.
2 9 O21 Pass Manningham 20 Diamond formation screen. Manningham owns the unblocked DB, who was too aggressive on this one. (CA)
1 G O1 Run Grady 1 Touchdown, Grady plows ahead.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 11 min 1st Q. A good start. Coefield is the only guy on the Northwestern defensive line capable of making a play, but he makes one here and will make a few more.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M26 Pass Massaquoi 7 Play action rollout that finds Mass open. Henne actually shows some touch on this one, giving Mass an easy ball to catch and allowing him to pick up a couple after the catch. (DO)
2 3 M33 Run Grady 8 Fake end around that holds an OLB. Offensive line just crushes them here. Lentz kicks Coefield into the next county. OMG TEDY BRUSCHI!
1 10 M41 Pass Breaston 8 Breaston's the checkdown on this play action. (CA)
2 2 M49 Run Jackson 4 Fake the end around again. The DE isn't biting on it and comes down on Jackson when he makes a smart cutback.
1 10 O47 Pass Breaston Int Bass and Breaston both run takeoffs and end up too close to each other. Henne tries to hit Breaston on the outside route but throws it too far inside, allowing Cole to pick the ball off. Breaston has plenty of room on the sideline here, Henne has to throw that a couple yards further outside. (IN)
Drive Notes: Interception, 14-7, 6 min 1st Q. Kraus goes out for the game on the interception.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M25 Pass Massaquoi Inc Henne's pressured on the waggle and has to throw off balance. Both Mass and Ecker are running routes in the same area of the field. This ball is badly overthrown if it's to Mass but actually accurate if it's to Ecker... except for Mass attempting to catch the ball and almost knocking it to a defender. Er... call it (BA).
2 10 M25 Pass Avant 6 Long handoff. (CA)
3 4 M31 Pass Avant Inc Avant's open on a six yard comeback that Henne throws two yards wide of him. (IN)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7 3 min 1st Q. NO ME GUSTA. Get used to seeing Avant diving at a ball well out of reach.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M21 Run Grady -1 Coefield owns Lentz on this play, swimming right past him and crushing Grady.
2 11 M20 Pass Breaston 6 Diamond screen #2. Tabb misses his block, otherwise this works for several more and perhaps a first down. (CA)
3 5 M26 Run Grady 2 Oy. Northwestern has five, count 'em, five in the box on this play but no one even thinks of blocking Coefield and Bihl gets beaten badly by the NT. Bust + Bihl on this. I have no problem with the playcall, this should have been a gashing run.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, EO1Q. Last two drives are a perfect summary of the downside of this year's offense: shaky interior offensive line play and bullets wide of wide receivers.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M34 Run Jackson 5 Not much off tackle but Jackson leaps forward over a fallen blocker for a few yards.
2 5 M39 Run Jackson 8 Crushing blocking between Henige and Steno. Paul smashes McGarigle, and Jackson finishes the run with an extra couple.
1 10 M47 Run Jackson 3 Bihl can't seal his guy, who fills the hole off the right side of the line.
2 7 50 Pass Avant 12 Great catch by Avant on a buttonhook. Henne just fits this one in there between two defenders. (CA)
1 10 O38 Run Bass 8 Reverse. Bass manages to get the corner on the NW linebacker because he's fast. He has two blockers, Bihl and Henne; neither actually blocks anyone.
2 2 O30 Pass Grady 18 Malone got me on this one. Two receivers reposition themselves to the wide side of the field in this four wide set and I immediately think slip screen; they throw the flare screen to Grady, who makes about five before bouncing off a NW defender and rumbling for 13 more. (CA)
1 10 O12 Run Grady 3 Grady picks his way well here, but there are NW players stacked up all along the line, and the last guy gets him.
2 7 O9 Pass Paul Inc Paul's wide open out of the backfield and has a probable touchdown, but Henne is a yard off, forcing a diving catch from Paul. He drops it. (IN)
3 7 O9 Pass Avant Inc This is obvious defensive holding, as Battle gets his hand around Avant's shoulder pads and locks onto him like a remora. Henne throws the ball away instead of looking for secondary receivers. (TA)
Drive Notes: FG(26), 17-7, 9 min 2nd Q. When we get the blocks and a couple of good passes, we march down the field.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M29 Run Grady 3 We don't really see this play because we're looking at NW's linebackers coach.
2 7 M32 Pass Ecker 13 Play action; Henne checks down to a wide open Ecker after a ton of time in the pocket. (CA)
1 10 M45 Run Jackson 7 Faked reverse. Paul really crushes his guy; Lentz misses his or the hesitation caused by the fake would have opened up a big hole.
2 3 O48 Pass Breaston 8 Slip screen. Breaston has an unblocked guy but gives him one of his patented quick cuts and shoots right upfield. (CA)
1 10 O40 Penalty Ecker -5 False start.
1 15 O45 Run Jackson 5 Draw. Certainly seeing a lot less of these without Hart.
2 10 O40 Scramble Henne 2 Play action; Henne has all day again but can't find anyone. Short option is definitely covered. (TA) OMG TEDY BRUSCHI.
3 8 O38 Pass Avant 18 Northwestern rushes three and I think Henne figured that out in the fourth quarter of the Iowa game. He sits in the pocket and calmly drills Avant downfield. (DO)
1 10 O20 Run Henne 2 QB sneak? This seems like a playcall specifically designed to prevent replay but Avant's catch wasn't even close to not being one. I don't get this.
2 8 O18 Pass Breaston 8 Checkdown route; Breaston makes a guy miss and manufactures five from nothing. Franklin starts talking about a misspotted ball but it isn't. The ball is clearly at the ten by the time Breaston ends up down. (CA)
1 G O10 Pass Paul Inc Paul again wide open; this time he just drops it. Easy touchdown otherwise. (CA)
2 G O10 Pass Massey 10 Same route, same throw, different player, touchdown. Let me just say that Malone is on tonight. (CA)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-10, 3 min 2nd Q. That flat route was there three consecutive times. On the last drive, Henne threw it too far upfield. On this one a drop and then Massey. I have to think that Paul's drops were just jitters or they would have had him alternating with Brian Thompson.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 O28 Run Jackson 3 Straight ahead. Again I notice Paul shoving a guy halfway across the field.
2 7 O25 Pass Breaston 20 Slip screen. Tabb and Avant make great blocks. Yeah... Tabb could have gotten called for holding here. (CA)
1 G O5 Run Jackson 0 Bad cut here. He's supposed to go behind Lentz and Long but there's nothing there. If he cuts back to the center of the field he has 2 or 3.
2 G O5 Run Jackson 2 They keep pulling Lentz down on the goalline and he keeps totally missing blocks.
3 G O3 Run Jackson 2 Meh. Again they pull Lentz. This time he does get someone but there's just not enough room for Jackson to cut behind him.
Drive Notes: FG(19), 27-10, 1 min 2nd Q. Discussed below.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 O46 Run Grady 5 Short side pitch we run with frequency to Grady. There's a small crease and Grady drives forward for 2 YAC.
2 5 O41 Pass Manningham 14 Not quite a slip screen but the same in principle. Avant goes in motion to the far side of the field where Manningham and a third WR wait. Henne just throws it out to Manningham, who makes guys miss. The WRs hold their blocks. (CA)
1 10 O27 Run Grady 1 Grady cuts back when the NW LB comes up and fills a hole as neither Lentz or Paul can block him.
2 9 O25 Pass Avant Inc Avant open and Henne throws it well wide of him. Like those throws he's always missing Avant on in the endzone except on the 10. (IN)
3 9 O25 Pass Tabb 3 Henne checks down to Tabb. The NW LB makes a good tackle. (CA)
4 6 O22 Pass Breaston Inc No, that wasn't even close, Ron. (IN)
Drive Notes: Downs, 27-17, 10 min 3rd Q. Brutal finish to this drive. Henne's just winging it all over the place.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 O36 Pass Grady 0 Screen. McGarigle reads this very well; I think Bihl is late getting out so by the time Grady catches the ball McGarigle is on top of him immediately. (CA) OMG TEDY BRUSCHI
2 10 O36 Run Grady 3 Grady turns eight to ten yards into 3 here on a very well blocked play that he unnecessarily bounces to the outside. Miss you, Mike.
3 7 O33 Pass Avant Int Stares Avant down the whole way and throws it directly to the linebacker in a standard zone coverage. Ugly. (BR)
Drive Notes: Interception, 27-17 8 min 3rd Q. Clear evidence of injuries limiting effectiveness. Bihl's demonstrated that Kraus is the starter for a reason and Grady is not Hart. Henne, well, bleah.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M20 Run Jackson 4 Good push but no crease from the OL.
2 6 M24 Run Jackson 3 Draw. McGarigle easily defeats Lentz's block, holding the play down to a meh gain.
3 3 M27 Pass Avant Inc Open, also two yards in front of Avant. Henne killing us. (IN)
Drive Notes: Punt, 27-17, 4 min 3rd Q. Discussion of Lentz below.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M42 Run Grady 13 Pitch play. This time Stenavich gets a downfield block and drives the linebacker well back. Bihl also gets a good block.
1 10 O45 Run Bass 3 Another pitch, this one outside to Bass, who doesn't set his blocks up very well and just sort of runs fast to the sideline.
2 7 O42 Pass Breaston 3 Slip screen to Breaston; NW is all over this one.(CA)
3 4 O39 Run Grady 3 Pitch. Paul's block doesn't really kick the guy out and Grady has to slow up a bit.
4 1 O36 Run Grady 1 Straight up the gut for the first.
1 10 O35 Run Jackson 6 Fake end around again seems to give Jackson a crease up the middle. Henige falls down as someone falls on his leg and can't get a block downfield.
2 4 O29 Run Jackson 6 Exact same play. Excellent block by Henige thi s time.
1 10 O23 Run Jackson 2 Now we're running into an eight man line with two safeties pretty near the LOS. This is just the offensive line driving.
2 8 O21 Pass No one Inc Faked slip screen into a fade downfield that apparently isn't open. Henne throws it away after a pump fake. (TA)
3 8 O21 Pass Manningham 1 Diamond screen to Manningham. (CA)
Drive Notes: FG(37), 30-17, 14 min 4th Q. I find our lack of faith... disturbing. Go ahead, find the last non-screen Henne completed for a first down. Give up? Last play of Michigan's second quarter touchdown drive to Mike Massey.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M43 Run Grady 2 Henige fails to block Shultz and he crunches Grady near the LOS.
2 8 M45 Run Grady 2 Pitch play again. Northwestern has gotten wise to this.
3 6 M47 Scramble Henne 8 They rightfully pick up the flag on this one. (Not charted)
1 10 O45 Run Jackson 3 Michigan's abandoned any pretense of doing anything except running unless forced to throw.
2 7 O42 Pass Ecker 13 First non-screen throwing first down since 3 minutes left in the second quarter. Ecker comes wide open on play action on a crossing route. Nice call. (CA)
1 10 O29 Run Jackson 4 Decent run into an 8/9 guy box. Blocking has been consistently good for the last while here.
2 6 O25 Run Jackson 12 Pitch to Jackson, and he sets up the outside blockers and then slices upfield smartly.
1 10 O13 Run Jackson 4 Well blocked again but down here without deception or a missed tackle you're not going to bust it for more than this. At this point I am also thinking FG.
2 6 O9 Run Grady -2 Slips on his cut; later Carr will say that's because he cut off the wrong foot.
3 8 O11 Pass No one Sack, 0 No one open and a holding call on Lentz ends up declined. (TA).
Drive Notes: FG(28), 33-17, 7 min 4th Q. Effective, grinding drive.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 O43 Run Jackson 3 Run run run punt?
2 7 O40 Run Grady -1 run run punt?
3 8 O41 Pass Thompson 5 Little dumpoff to Thompson. (CA)
4 3 O36 Run Grady 0 Pitch play with a fake reverse that NW is all over.
Drive Notes: Downs, 33-17, 4 min 4th Q. Okay with me.
Dn Dst Line Type Player Yards Notes
1 10 M44 Run Jackson 1 Strange to have a game that I'm not panicking about.
2 9 M45 Run Jackson 3 Kind of nice, though.
3 6 M48 Pass Massaquoi 15 Waggle. (CA). That's all folks.
Drive Notes: More clock killing, 33-17, EOG.

Even I, your somewhat annoying inner monologue, can see it plain as day.

Er?

Henne.

Oh. Yeah. Chart:

Team Dead on Catchable Inaccurate Bad Read Throwaways Batted
NIU 19 4 5 2 2 1
ND 15 7 9 5 3 5
EMU 12 2 4 0 0 0
UW 11 6 11 2 1 2
MSU 4 25 1 3 3 1
MINN 5 11 5 3 2 3
PSU 5 19 6 6 5 2
IOWA 7 7 5 3 1 1
NW 4 20 7 1 4 1

Again I must offer the screen caveat: 11 were thrown. Ten were CA, one IN. This leaves Henne's downfield good/bad ratio at about 1:1 (14:12 to be specific). Henne did scramble for one first down, but five of Michigan's drives ended because Henne either missed a wide open receiver on an easy throw or found the open defender.

The best thing about Henne this year is that he throws a mean WR screen. That's only partially sarcastic--those throws are tougher than they appear and Henne has put every one on the money this year--but, yeah, it's sarcastic. I mean, dude went approximately 1/3rd of the game without completing anything other than some screens and a three yard dumpoff to Tabb on third and nine. It's nice that we had a semblance of an offense in spite of that, but it's not going to fly against OSU.

Anyone else get the Whitlock treatment from you?

It has to be said that Matt Lentz has been a major disappointment. A three year starter and fifth year senior, he was supposed to be a major part of the Line of Doom. Instead he's spent much of the year flailing ineffectually at the mean men in ugly jerseys. If I handed out +/- for offensive players he probably would have ended up -4 or so for several instances of allowing Barry Coefield--admittedly a pretty good player--to own him. Of course, if I did do offensive +/- I find it hard to imagine OL ever coming out of it on the positive side and he was tasked with opposing the best NU defenders (including McGarigle), but if you are demented enough to return to earlier editions of UFR I'll bet you a shiny nickel or three you find many citations of apparent poor play on his part.

He must have picked it up late for Michigan to successfully grind the game into pulp in the fourth quarter, but he's clearly been the source of many missed blocks and is a major contributor to Henne's happy feet.

Wasn't the play calling a little strange?

If you're referring to the fourth and six, yeah, but I covered that before. Of note is that Carr passed up a golden Punt Lloyd Punt situation: Michigan went on fourth and one from the Northwestern 36 with a ten point lead in the fourth quarter. Even a few years ago that's an autopunt and some unprintable epithets being hastily scribed in this space and then deleted, but on Saturday the Fear of Punt didn't even cross my mind. I knew he was going to go, and that felt good. Then he went for it on fourth and three trying to kill the game, Bob Davie said that he disagreed with the call, and that felt better.

What a strange person I am.

But didn't you want to strangle someone at the end of the first half?

Watching the game I was somewhat peeved, but after further consideration it was okay.

Right at the edge of halftime the case for attempting to punch it in from the goalline is significantly weakened because you don't benefit much by burying them inside their five since you don't get the ball back. Plus, reviewing the tape I was struck by a particular play wherein Tyrell Sutton escaped from Burgess on the quick-strike NW drive right before the half. Had he been tackled, Northwestern's total lack of timeouts would immediately have become very relevant and even a field goal attempt would have been unlikely. There might be some tactical merit in stripping that last timeout that doesn't exist for the first or second.

In summary:

  • First and goal from the five: Absolutely no problem with the run here. Burn time and getting a couple yards puts you in a very good position to score. Unfortunately, Jackson doesn't make the right cut and is stuffed at the line.
  • Second and goal from the five: Run is okay. Case for passing can be made here if you expect Walker to take the timeout he did. Not being intimately familiar with Walker's tendencies I was actually surprised he took it--it's (wrongly) an unconventional decision.
  • Third and goal from the three: Given you're at the three, how much more likely is a pass to score than a run, especially when you have an erratic quarterback? The answer is probably "somewhat," but it's not a huge gap. The run does have the incidental side effect of stripping the last TO. The options are very close; the run was certainly the conservative call but it wasn't necessarily the wrong one.

Overall?

The offensive game plan was very good. It clearly focused on exploiting Breaston and Manningham on the edge against Northwestern's undersized defensive backs and grinding out yards against the Northwestern run defense. It minimized Henne's shortcomings once it became apparent that the whole going downfield thing wasn't working. Perhaps it's easy to look good against defense #117, but Malone wasn't dealing with a full deck of cards here, nor has he been doing so all year.

What was the deal with all the fake reverses?

They certainly do hold holes open that might not otherwise be there, but I think paradoxically they may reduce the effectiveness of actual reverses, since the defensive end/linebacker out there is constantly reminded that he has outside contain even if the play appears to be heading the other way. Michigan had a series of nice runs off the fake and benefited from it on at least a couple instances.

Strange timing to introduce a new wrinkle into the offense, though. There's a possibility that it was added with Ohio State in mind. Michigan may be attempting to lure OSU into falling asleep on the reverse or just preparing to use a ton of misdirection in an attempt to confuse them. Michigan's offensive line is ill-prepared to fight fair with OSU's run defense; expect some sand in the eyes.

Also: did you notice Bass take a pitch a la Derrick Williams? I did too. I would expect nothing from him against Indiana, but if they aren't cooking up something Basstastic for Ohio State I'll eat my hat. Darn tootin'.

How much are you going to miss Jason Avant?

One billion units of miss. If he doesn't have a long NFL career I'll be crushed.

What does it mean for Indiana Ohio State?

FYQ; let's get serious here.

We need Hart back and healthy in a major way. I like Jackson but he's a poor man's Hart (though he might have higher top end speed). Grady has some advantages but is making the wrong cuts on a regular basis. Hart is clearly superior to both.

To win we will need Henne to play his best game of the year. I've maintained all year that Ohio State can be had through the air and I think that's been accurate. They have owned a few guys this year--most impressively Tate--but they've also given up big heapum yards to a few quarterbacks of varying impressiveness. Stanton put up 360, Young 270, Cupito 396. They haven't been terrible overall but they are 53rd in the country in defensive pass efficiency. Compare 53 to that ugly 3 next to their sick run defense and it's obvious where the (relatively) soft underbelly of Ohio State is.

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