Upon Further Review: Offense Vs Notre Dame

Submitted by Brian on September 19th, 2007 at 5:27 PM
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
O43 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run -1 -- Zone left
Or an attempted zone left, anyway: Mallett fumbles the snap. Note that we don't even have a fullback on this play and we still manage to employ the shuffle, motioning in a wide receiver just so everyone is completely damn sure where we intend to run the ball.
O44 2 11 I-Form Pass 10 Hart Stop
Hart motions out of the backfield and no one bothers to cover him. I mean, this is amazing: it's second and 11, we've just motioned our tailback out of the backfield, and they have eight guys in the box with no one within twelve yards of Hart at the snap. Hart runs a little stop route, catches the ball, and jukes his way for another four or five. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O34 3 1 I-Form Tight Run 9 Hart Inside zone
Two keys on this play: 1) Pat "Hur hur hur" Kuntz gets blown off the ball by Boren and Mitchell. 2) Kraus brushes by the other DE, delaying him long enough for Long to chop him to the ground. Kraus is only slightly delayed in his quest for a second level block and gets it easily. Hart gashes forward.
O25 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 3 Hart Zone right
Interior of the line has done a great job, but Massey(-1) loses contact with Ryan to the inside, allowing him to close an tackle. Schilling also let Brown discard him to help.
O22 2 7 I-Form Pass Inc Arrington Slant
Again motioning Hart out of the backfield. Zbikowski goes with him this time. Mallett has Arrington on a slant but throws well behind him. (IN, 1, protection 1/1)
O22 3 7 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Cross
Batted at the line. I can't be sure who he was going for, but I think it was Manningham on a crossing route that he was dead on. He had a shot at a first down if he came off the first guy. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: FG(39), 3-0, 11 min 1st Q. Notre Dame is getting blown off the ball from snap one here. Drive stalls because Mallett is playing like a freshman.
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
O21 1 10 I-Form Weak Run 3 Hart Zone left
We motion Arrington across the formation; he ends up as a second tight end. This run goes to the strong side, away from the fullback. Trevor Laws does a great job on Kraus(-1) here, driving him back and getting him offbalance so he can disconnect as Hart passes. Kuntz also does a good job avoiding Mitchell's cut block; they meet at Hart. Two good plays from ND DL and M still gains three. Why? Second level blocks eliminate the linebackers; no actual penetration from the first level defenders.
O18 2 7 Ace 3-wide Run 6 Hart Zone left
Not sure exactly who is where on this play, but Notre Dame is lined up in a 4-2 nickel here with only six guys in the box(!). Have they watched Michigan play in the last ten years? Laws again proves tough for Kraus to handle but it doesn't matter because he's sort of run himself out of postion here and the other DT has been sealed by the backside guard, Mitchell. By the time Hart meets Boren, et al, he's five yards downfield and it's time for third and short. Bizarre playcall for ND.
O12 3 1 I-Form Big Run 2 Hart Zone left
Griese advises "poise and confidence." FB shuffle to the left; we are still 100% for runs to the side of a fullback shuffle on the year. This causes two defenders to start crashing playside before the ball is even snapped. The penetration that killed Michgian a year ago is not there, though – nice cut but Mitchell (+1) and Hart manages to crash forward for the first.
O10 1 G Ace 3-wide Run -1 Mallett Bust
What was this? I don't know. I think it's a busted attempt at another zone play (the receivers are not running routes, they're blocking), this one to the right, but Mallett screws up the handoff. He manages to get somewhat near the LOS.
O11 2 G Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 9 Arrington Flag
Obvious interference; Mallett laid this right where it needed to be for Arrington to haul it in, but late. (CA, N/A, protection 1/1)
O2 1 G I-Form Twins Run 2 Hart Zone left
Long stands his guy up, as does Kraus, but there's no hole here until Moundros(+1) plows his way forward, creasing the line. Hart follows him into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-0, 7 min 1st Q. Same zone blocking on short yardage this year, but Moundros has usually been in the backfield this year. Results have improved considerably... albeit against sketchy competition.
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
M22 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 5 Hart Zone left
ND in its 3-4 here despite the three-wide; Michigan running into an extra guy. Kuntz is blown off the ball by Boren... er. Wait. They've swapped spots, haven't they? Kraus(+1). Boren crushes a guy downfield; Hart goes for five.
M27 2 5 Ace 3-wide Run 2 Hart Zone left
ND now in a 4-2 with a safety rolled up. There's a crease between Massey and Long ,but that's filled by the rolled-up safety; Laws has pushed Boren back a yard or two. Mitchell also gets driven back into the Boren-Laws mess; Hart has nowhere to go. He manages to do his Hart thing for two.
M29 3 3 I-Form Big Run 5 Hart Zone left
3-4 again with a safety rolled up and another corner in sort of a half-zone to the side with not WR. Kuntz is crushed off the ball by a double team; Schilling takes care of Brown on the backside and Hart can fly up in the hole for the first before the weakside linebacker can close him down.
M34 1 10 I-Form Run 3 Hart Zone right
3-4 with extra safety in the box. Boren-Long zone double on Laws doesn't go so well as Laws manages to spin free of it after ceding a yard or two. Moundros does a very poor job trying to cut the charging WLB and Hart is forced to run up into a bunch of bodies. Note again that despite some good play from ND they're getting blown back 3 yards and can't get a TFL to save their lives.
M37 2 7 I-Form Pass Inc Manningham PA Bomb
Don't like this call, or maybe I just don't
like the read. All four ND linebackers take a step or two forward at the snap; Massey should be wide open in the seam. Meanwhile the ND corners are bailing out like mad. It seems this is a defense that is designed to stop either a run play or a bomb; we oblige. Mallett throws it OOB. (IN, 0, protection 3/3)
M37 3 7 Shotgun 3-Wide Inc Manningham Slant
Dropped. Griese starts claiming it was too hard, but I don't know... catch the damn ball. We've seen Manningham do this before. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Probably not going for a first anyway.
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 1 min 1st Q. Griese also says that Mallett had a window on the bomb, FWIW, so maybe my criticism isn't totally warranted.
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
O38 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 1 Hart Zone left
So weird: ND in a 4-2 with no safety help. Laws now lined up over Mitchell after previously being tasked with battling Long; he avoids Mitchell's cut block(-1 Mitchell) and Schilling fails to get a second-level block; Hart is shut down. Poor play from the OL on this one.
O37 2 9 Ace Pass 12 Manningham Wheel
Manningham shoved to the ground with the ball in the air; interference; not charted.
O25 1 10 Ace 3-wide Pass 22 Manningham Waggle
I mean... this is insane: ND in a 3-3-5 here. They actually get a pass call from Michigan on first down (one of like two all day, IIRC). Mallett rolls out on the waggle and fires an inadvisable bullet to Manningham at like the two. This might be a stupid throw... it is close to being eerily similar to the Henne pick in the App St game. But we are a results-based charting service around these parts. (DO, 2, protection 1/1)
O3 1 G I-Form Big Run 3 Hart Zone left
Stymied inside; I actually think Hart should be cutting this up the backside for six. Instead he runs up the backs of his OL for a moment, then darts outside of Zbikowski – how I'll miss you, you boxing, no-tackling bastard, you – for the TD.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-0, 14 min 1st Q. Game over. Hey, they lasted more than a quarter. Barely. Uh... could we count to 11 on special teams, maybe?
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
O48 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 9 Hart Outside zone left
Just Mike Hart being awesome. ND sends a corner blitz right into this zone play; Hart is dead to rights for a five-yard loss... except he's Mike Hart and spins away from Wooden. Meanwhile, Long(+1) has sealed #90 beatifully... this was a tough block to make – and the second-level guys wash out the linebackers. I think this play is subtly different than many Michigan zone plays and is designed to go outside.
O39 2 1 Ace 3-wide Run 14 Hart Zone right
Notre Dame with six in the box. I guess this is a really predictable bomb-it down, but yeesh. ND blitzes the corner again but this time Michigan runs away from it, to the weakside. Boren(+2) crushes his guy (which is Laws!) down the line and to the ground, leaving Hart a massive backside gap that the defensive end can't fill. This is really poor play by Massey(-1) on this block... we are running to the weakside so we can actually get a blocker on the DE this time, but Massey gets discarded. Great blocking by Boren/Long/Kraus makes that irrelevant; Hart pops into the secondary for a big gainer.
O25 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run -1 Hart Zone left
Weird look here with four down linemen and Zbikowski standing up between a DT and a DE. MLB blitzes and a safety charges up right at the snap – wish we were using the finger thing here to tip these. The blitzing LB gets picked up but Michigan, as a result, can't get anyone on Zbikowski. This defense is specifically designed to stop zone left. Hart sees the mess and tries to cut to the backside, but slips. Probably wouldn't have mattered with an unblocked linebacker filling.
O26 2 11 Empty trips Pass Inc Mallett Transcontinental
The double throw. Mallett slips and the ball is overthrown anyway. What is Schilling thinking here? No one blocks Brown and this probably wouldn't have been successful anyway. (Not charted.)
O26 3 11 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 26 Mathews Cross
ND sends six; Mallett hangs in and lays it in to Mathews on a crossing route that is wide open. Manningham drove off one defender, and the ND linebacker in the middle zone inexplicably started moving up towards Hart... screen wary? I would like to note that Mallett did not throw this a billion MPH, instead laying it in gently. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-0, 11 min 2nd Q.
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
M22 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 12 Hart Zone left
FB shuffle, ND in a straight 3-4. Why? Think this is also designed to get outside. Moundros heads out immmediately and clocks Long's guy, who's set up outside pretty well; he starts spinning back and trips up the ND linebacker. Hart's outside. He then cuts back behind a wall of blockers five or six yards downfield before Trevor Laws tracks him down. A DT. 12 yards downfield. Yay, ol.
M34 1 10 I-Form Run 1 Hart Zone Right
FB shuffle, still 100%. Safety flies up to make it eight in the box and flies into the backfield, where Moundros submarines him, but not before he prevents Hart from breaking this outside. This prevents him from picking up an absolute convoy of blockers and forces him into a morass. We tipped this and it cost us.
M35 2 9 I-Form Pass 10 Arrington Quick out
FB == Butler. We tip this as a pass. Arrington comes in motion across the formation with DB in tow, so it's man. The route is a pick with Manningham on a slant opening up a quick out for Arrington; executed five. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M45 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 11 Hart Zone right
ND in a nickel set; slot CB blitzes; we run away from it. Boren(+1) drives Laws off the ball again; the hole here is between Mitchell and Schilling. Hart picks his way past a prone, grasping Laws and gets out to the second level, where Long(+1) is obliterating an Irish LB. Hart's eventually taken down by a recovering LB, but after the sticks.
O44 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 3 Hart Zone left
ND again in a straight nickel. Though Zbikowski is moving up at the snap, he's too far out to be of much use. Why is ND doing this? We've thrown once on first down? Is Corwin Brown a mole? Anyway: this time Boren(-1) can't get off his zone block to deal with the linebacker fast enough; he dives at Hart's feet in the backfield. No tackle. He then stops on a dime and cuts upfield for 3 yards he shouldn't.
O41 2 7 Ace 3-wide Run 4 Minor Zone right
ND in a nickel with press coverage. Think Minor has a major gainer here if he takes it between Schilling (I haven't been giving him pluses, but he's consistently been caving his DE in all day) and Mitchell. He reads the zone block wrong... C Kraus has taken the DE and Mitchell is heading out to the second level, go outside... and allows the DT to disengage and tackle.
O37 3 3 Ace 3-wide Pass Inc -- Batted
It looks like a confident throw, at least. Definitely a second read, too. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-0, 5 min 2nd Q. This is an obvious go-for-it situation according to Romer. I hate this punt. It is slightly defensible up 24 and opposing this ND offense, but still... no.
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
M44 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 11 Hart Zone left
Straight nickel. Corwin Brown is a mole. Weakside DE might have a chance to shut this down but he hesitates on a potential waggle fake and cannot recover in time; Hart is romping behind him as Long and Boren(+1) take Brown and ride him five yards downfield. He ends up pancaked past the 50. All Hart had to do is run up behind the duo.
O45 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 9 Hart Zone left
WR shuffle and we run in the direction of it. Designed to go outside, then, as it brings in the CB so Mathews can block him and Hart can pop it. Line seals the ND DL way inside, but Mathews(-1) puts up a block worth of the ND OL and Hart has to deal with the corner in the backfield. One stiffarm later he's rumblign down the sideline for 9.
O36 2 1 I-Form Pass Inc Manningham PA Bomb
Very predictable playcall and Manningham is bracketed by the safety. ND has eight in the box and the safety runs over to double Manningham at the snap, ignoring Arrington. Maybe... throw it to Arrington? Just sayin'. Ball is thankfully overthrown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2). Nice blitz pickup from Minor.
O36 3 1 I-Form Big Run 4 Hart Zone left
FB shuffle and the blocking on this is poo. We are fortunate a couple people get cut to the ground and Hart can do his Hart thing, cutting behind Boren driven backwards, for the first.
O32 1 10 ??? Run 9 Minor Zone left
We're looking at an iso shot of Jake Long as this play snaps. So angry! By the time we get to the play thre is a gaping hole up the middle with two guys looking for second level blocks and only one linebacker to deal with. Minor reads this and high steps for close to ten.
O23 2 1 Ace 3-wide Run 3 Hart Zone left
3-4, so they've got an extra guy. Kraus blows Kuntz off the ball and Schilling stones Brown; there is a massive backside hole.
O20 1 10 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Circle
Yipes. The near pick-six. It looks like this route could be open but Mallett stares it down and, if it's open, throws it late. (BR, 0, protection 2/2).
O20 2 10 Ace 3-wide Run 9 Hart Zone left
ND in a 3-3-5. They can't be serious. They are, evidently, Michigan runs it down their throat. Laws has the temerity to actually try an upfield pass rush, so Long just runs him out of the play. Kuntz (say it with me) blown off the ball; three second level blockers don't even have to pause before crushing linebackers, and Hart is unfettered until the weakside DE tracks him down at the 11.
O11 3 1 Ace 3-wide Run 1 Hart Zone left
Stupid camera angle means I can't tell what happens on this play.
O10 1 G Shotgun 3-Wide Run 5 Hart Zone left
Major hole as the weakside DT's first step is upfield. He eliminates himself behind Mitchell and there's a big crease up the gut. Hart is chopped down at the five.
O5 2 G Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 5 Arrington Flag
Laid in. Ver' nice. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-0, EOH.
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
M30 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 1 Hart Zone right
FB shuffle to the playside against a 3-4 with a corner blitz coming. Boren(-1) whiffs on Kuntz; corner forces Hart back into him.
M31 2 9 Ace 3-wide Run -3 Hart Zone left
Straight nickel. Playside DT – Laws -- does not get blocked much as Boren(-1) ignores him for a second level block after a brief brush that's not enough for Kraus to get him sealed. Zone blowup just like the one in my book(!). Massey(-1) also got driven back unpleasantly.
M28 3 12 Ace 3-wide Pass Inc Hart Screen
Thrown too high. (IN, 1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-0, 13 min 3rd Q. First three-and-out of the game. Boren, who has been outstanding so far, beat a couple times.
Line Down Dist Form Type Yards Player Brief
M21 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 11 Hart Zone left
ND with six in the box down 31 with 9 minutes to go in the third quarter against a team with a true freshman quarterback who has thrown two first down p
asses. Corwin Brown is a mole. And there's just no way they stop crap on this play. Huge split between the backside DE and DT is exploited as the DT runs down the line a bit and gets blocked a few yards backwards. Hart has a veritable field to frolic in. Then he burrows for another three yards carrying five defenders. Mike Hart is awesome.
M32 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 7 Hart Zone right
Blitz slices in to the backfield but it comes to the backside of the play. On the frontside another huge gap between Schilling and the Kraus/Mitchell zone block. Sai block controls the DE then pops out on the LB... textbook.
M39 2 3 I-Form Run 0 Minor Zone left
3-4 with a blitzing safety... and an FB shuffle. Safety cuts off Minor's attempt to go outside and he can only burrow back to the LOS.
M39 3 3 Ace 3-wide Pass 4 Hart Flare
3-4, safety in the box. Mallett checks his first read, comes down to Massey, and the flicks out a little flare to Hart for the first down. Don't know if the other options were real options or if this play was designed to come down to Hart from the beginning; still nicely executed. More touch shown, too. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M43 1 10 I-Form Run 12 Hart Zone right
FB shuffle. This one is alittle slow developing and the backside LB is totally unfettered to Hart. He is wrapped up three yards downfield... breaks through two guys and rumbles for a first down.
O45 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 12 Hart Zone right
Notre Dame is blitzing two linebackers and bringing both safeties up in this nickel look, but the safeties are still yards from the LOS when the ball is snapped. This sort of half measure isn't working and hasn't been all game. Bruton attacks up the outside, allowing Hart to cut back behind Mitchell. Kraus has cut the DT to the ground and Hart is into the secondary once again. He puts a little move on Zbikowski and sprints to the outside for yet more yards.
O33 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 3 Minor Zone left
Well blocked except for Massey; his man overpowers him and closes down on Minor.
O30 2 7 Ace 3-wide Run 11 Minor Zone counter
The TE pull we debuted in the Oregon game returns; Massey cuts the backside DE and Minor has a massive hole that Zbikowski tries to fill... Minor pwns him with a sweet spin move.
O19 1 10 Ace 3-wide Run 4 Hart Zone left
Wide camera angle makes this hard to parse. Looks like the ND line getting blown back en masse
O15 2 6 Ace 3-wide Run 2 Hart Zone left
Way more blitzers than blockers here, no chance for this to be anything. Should be a three yard loss, but Hart is awesome.
O13 3 4 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 13 Manningham Stop and go
Manningham fakes a stop route and Mallett gives a pump; corner bites. Manningham's wide open at the back of the endzone; laid in. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 38-0, 4 min 3rd Q. With no points and the rest of the game garbage carries with partial lines, charting stops here.

A final item: Mallett fumbled one more snap, and there is video of Minor's truck job on a Notre Dame safety.

And a desultory cheer went up from the beleaguered masses.

Yeah, yeah.

Does this game actually tell us anything?

Maybe a few things. The biggest takeaway for me was the excellent performance of Justin Boren, who spent much of the day making Trevor Laws eat his own poop. Though the Notre Dame defense is almost totally devoid of good players, Laws was a thorn last year, is by far ND's best player in their front seven, and has three years on young Mr. Boren. Despite this he spent most of the day face down five yards downfield. ABC's constant fawning closeups of Jake Long running untouched to the second level and obliterating some poor linebacker were amusing since they all showed Boren doing the heavy lifting. That dominance, plus Schilling's quiet effectiveness, are very encouraging signs for the offensive line going forward.

The rest of the line continued it fine performance. There was the occasional missed block or inability to hold the POA, but this is the third consecutive game Michigan's ground game has been punishing. This has all been against overmatched opponents, sure, but there's an inkling in there that most opponents will be overmatched. Penn State will tell the tale.

Also, Brandon Minor missed an obvious read on one of the carries I charted above; I think the running back job is going to be wide open next year. Minor runs really upright and seems perpetually on the verge of getting his clock cleaned; he also clearly lacks Hart's ability to pick through traffic. The spin move on Zbikowski was sweet, though.

Oh, and Mallett. Here's Mallett's cha--

Chart!

Yes, chart. Here's Mallet's chart:

Team DO CA IN BR TA BA PR
Endless Fiasco 2 22 8 2 1 0 2
Oregon - Henne 1 13 6 3 1 0 3
Oregon - Mallett 3 7 2 3 1 1 2
ND - Mallett 2 7 4 1 0 2 0

A fairly typical profile for a freshman called upon to throw only 15 or 17 times. Perhaps I was a little generous with a DO and one of the INs could be a BR -- the double-covered bomb to Manningham that was out of bounds -- if you were so inclined. The numbers look okay, but suboptimal in the ways that first-time starters are. Mallett also succumbed to our weird tendency to have a ton of balls batted when we play Notre Dame.

All things considered, Mallett did very well. Each of the touchdown throws displayed touch. Two were looped over the heads of Notre Dame defenders; the third was a soft crossing route to Mathews that beat a blitz. He stood in the pocket, knew when to get rid of the ball, and came off his primary receiver a couple of times, most impressively on the little Hart flare that picked up a first down. He dealt with no pressure and usually had open receivers; he took advantage of his.

There were problems: an inaccu
rate slant, routes he screwed up the timing on, the near-pick, two fumbled snaps, and a busted handoff. It was not an efficient performance -- anyone seriously doubting whether a healthy-ish Henne should start versus Penn State is advised to stop doubting -- but it was one that hinted at his potential.

Also (not to go all NDNation on you): the kid has an infectious confidence. His joy for the game that was a delight to see when I reviewed the tape. With Hart gone after the year, Michigan will need a focal point and he seems like the kind of kid to take up that mantle.

Other chart?

Other chart. Not much to see here, as you might expect.

This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Manningham 4 - 1/1 1/2 6 0/9 4/5 10/11
Arrington - 0/1 - 2/2 2 0/1 2/4 10/11
Mathews - - - 1/1 - 0/3 1/1 8/10
Hemingway - - - - 1 - - -
Massey - - - - - 0/3 1/1 2/2
Butler - - - - 1 - - 2/2
Hart - 0/1 - - 1 - - -
Minor - - - - - - 0/1 2/2
Moundros - - - - - - 1/1 -

Kind of dodgy protection metric?

A perfect 22/22.

What about that punt?

Completely indefensible in a close game. Potentially justifiable up 24 and facing an offense that would need several miracles to reach double digits. If I knew that Michigan would not do the same if it was down four points in the second quarter, I wouldn't even mention it.

Anything else irritate?

We are still 100% run when freshman wideouts are in the game and 100% run in the direction of a shuffle, be it fullback or -- new! -- wide receiver. Also, we broke out our TE-as-FB package for the first time this year. This is always a pass.

Now, it's fair to point out that Michigan ran most of the day and these things might not mean much in the context of a 38-0 whitewashing, but Michigan does this against opponents both competitive and not and gives away many of their plays just by personnel or alignment. Whatever shocking plays we have that play off these tendencies are not worth the constant bleed of expected value we suffer throughout the year.

Mr Cranky actually like anything?

I failed to mention this in the aftermath of the Oregon debacle, but this zone counter thing where one tight end comes across the line to chop down the backside DE, opening up a major cutback lane, has been really effective and plays off our zone game beautifully. We only ran it once against ND but it went for a Minor first down; it also opened up that Butler crossing route on the first play of the Oregon game. It's been a fine addition.

Heroes?

Boren, as mentioned, the rest of the OL, and Hart. Who is awesome.

Goats?

I kind of hate Mike Massey's run blocking. He was the one guy who didn't seem able to overpower his man; a couple of Hart's less successful runs involved Massey getting pushed back a bit. Other than that, there isn't much to complain about.

Is Corwin Brown a mole?

Very possibly. Michigan's ground game was sometimes opposed by extra guys in the box but not nearly often enough given Michigan's tendencies -- two first down passes were attempted all day -- especially considering their deployment of a true freshman quarterback. Often Michigan would line up in their standard ace three-wide formation and ND would oppose it with a straight nickel! There can be no justification for this, especially when your defensive line ends up on its ass every play. Sometimes the nickel look would have a late-blitzing safety who would come up and try to fill, but this ploy was universally ineffective.

Notre Dame showed nothing unusual to slow down the Michigan rushing attack aside from one creative blitz that got Zbiboxerguy free and forced Hart into one run for no gain. Corwin Brown may be able to recruit against Michigan, but Pete Carroll he's not.

What does it mean for Penn State?

Given the youth of Penn State's defensive line and some injury problems they're having (projected starting DT Abe Koroma is out), I think we should be able to mash them pretty good. Their defensive ends are quick but undersized and will either slash past the blockers assigned to them or end up like Pat Kuntz: face-down after being used as a plow. The defensive tackles are underclassmen, albeit highly rated ones. Their linebackers are awesome, but if the DL can't hold up they'll have to deal with blockers all day and will be awesomely turning 10 yards gains into 6 yard gains instead of 4 into 0. It will help if Penn State does its traditional two- or three-deep coverage all day instead of rolling a guy up to the LOS. If there's one team out there that relies on out-executing your opponent more than Michigan, it's the Ni
ts.

The passing game? Depends on the quarterback, obviously, but it will be a sideshow. Last year Michigan passed to set up the run; this year it will have to be the other way. Count me as cautiously optimistic Hart goes for something like 140 on many, many carries. The passing game is still a question mark.

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