Upon Further Review: UW Defense

Submitted by Brian on September 29th, 2005 at 7:25 PM
1 10 O28 Run 0 Draw. Weird call for the first play of the game. Graham(+1) slices in to make the tackle as it's slow developing.
2 10 O28 Run 15 Biggs(-1) and Graham(-1) get blocked and lose contain. Scooting downfield occurs.
1 10 O43 Run 7 Again Graham(-1) gets caught inside and Hall can't come up to take away the corner. Contain rears its ugly head again.
2 3 50 Run 3  
1 10 M47 Run 2 This is crammed up pretty well inside and when he tries to bounce Burgess is there for the stop.
2 8 M45 Pass 7 Despite the completion this is great coverage by Mason(+2), who picks this ball off half the time.
3 1 M38 Run 1 Watson in. They run away from him. Massey(+1) and Woodley(+1) hold and push really nicely and this is just a good play by Calhoun to squeak out the first down. A better tackle from Barringer(-1) stops this conversion.
1 10 M37 Pass Sack, -13 Woodley(+3) owns the tackle, makes the sack, and forces an obvious fumble that the referees fail to call.
2 23 50 Pass Inc Screen is thrown over the head of Calhoun. Would very probably have gone for very few yards if caught, as Mason and Hall were there.
3 23 50 Pass Inc Stocco gets decent time but a blitzer that I think is Brandon Harrison(+1) penetrates and forces the incompletion.
Drive notes: Woodley sack singlehandedly ends this drive. Really distressing lack of contain here. That line with Biggs and Massey lined up on one side is like a giant sign that says run here. Brandon Harrison appears to be two or three weeks away from starting at FS the way he's going.  
1 10 O1 Run 1 QB sneak.
2 9 O2 Run 6 Line is Branch-Watson-Massey-Woodley here, they run between Woodley and Massey after a cut he has to make at the line. Massey(-1) just sort of falls down at the snap. He's walking a fine line between being too high and falling over every snap... 6'8, you now.
3 3 O8 Run 2 David Harris(+1) shows up in the hole at the line of scrimmage largely because the blocker was forced to take on Engelmon(+1), and cuts it back where a host of Wolverines are waiting.
Drive notes: 1 min left in the first, 0-0. 3 and out here, can't ask for anything more. A 58 yard punt and a bad-as-in-dumb holding penalty screw up the field position, though. First glimpse of the Branch at DE thing.  
1 10 O11 Pass Inc Hall(+2) comes in and makes the breakup. Stocco didn't even stare him down, though he didn't exactly rifle it out there.
2 10 O11 Penalty 5 Offsides on Rondell Biggs(-1), but Branch(+2) made a TFL on the actual play.
2 5 O16 Pass Sack, -10 Burgess(+1) and Engelmon(+1). Burgess leaps in Stoccos face, causing him to stop his throw and then Engelmon cleans up. Even if the blitzers weren't effective, Branch(+1) was held.
3 15 O6 Run 11 Whatever, we concede the 11 in pass coverage.
Drive notes: 12 min 2nd q, 0-0. Branch with two plays here and there's more coming.  
1 10 O28 Run 0 Branch(+1) and Woodley(+1) both hold at the point of attack and collapse into the hole as Calhoun passes. Then they go WOOO like they're Ric Flair.
2 10 O28 Pass 3 Dumpoff to Calhoun rather quickly after Branch(+1) (guess who?) gets a great interior pass rush.
3 7 O31 Pass Inc Stocco missed Daniels badly, but an accurate throw is still not a first down. Branch drops 10 yards downfield on the zone blitz.
Drive Notes: 8 min 2nd Q, 3-0. Branch is everywhere. He got a drop on his pass rush comparable to a linebacker. At this point the defense is dominating.  
1 10 O26 Run 0 Burgess(+1) holds the corner and when Calhoun cuts it back it's into a few Michigan defenders, most notably Harris.
2 10 O26 Pass Inc Stocco throws a ground ball to Daniels. Massey got good push up front, though I wouldn't call it a hurry.
3 10 O26 Pass 12 Three man line and one blitzer comes... Brandon Harrison? Yep. Stocco finds an open guy after the blitzer is picked up.
1 10 O38 Run 4 Sweep outside and Michigan's just outnumbered. Wisconsin is in a three wide here and Burgess is spread out to the slot receiver, leaving just six in the box.
2 6 O42 Pass 8 No one picks Calhoun up coming out of the backfield--a zone. Don't know who to blame.
1 10 50 Pass 15 No pass rush and Stocco has time to find Daniels. Both safeties are in pursuit. Obviously the line expected run. They've been flipping the DEs to get Woodley on Urbik on passing downs but on this play Woodley's rushing against Thomas and then it's Biggs on Urbik.
1 10 M35 Pass 18 Zone blitz look that rushes four but Stocco doesn't even look to the short side where the zone drop is . Hall(-1) gets sold a bill of goods on White's route.
1 10 M17 Pass Inc Two blitzers but this could have been a touchdown. Very close to interference here, but Mason just fell down and Williams fell over him.
2 10 M17 Pass Inc Stocco gets plowed by one of the DTs right as he throws. Black guy who doesn't look like a mountain so probably Branch(+1). I think Barringer(+1) deflects Stocco's pass, which was on target.
3 10 M17 Pass Inc Another blitz that's picked but, but there's no one open past the first down sticks(Mason(+1) again has excellent coverage, this time on Daniels) so Stocco rolls out and dumps it out of bounds.
Drive Notes: FG. 1:17 2nd Q, 10-3. Stocco got big ideas for a bit here in the best stretch of QB play this game sees. None of the blitzes on this drive get to the QB and thus the big chunks of yardage coming off. Mason is playing extremely aggressively; marked contrast to the soft zone stuff he was playing against ND.  
1 10 O37 Run 5 Again a bounce from the RB. Burgess(-1) foolishly attacked the tackle when he should have sat back and kept better contain.
2 5 O42 Run 3 Three yard runs are not easy to comment on.
3 2 O45 Pass 7 Four wide here and I hate this soft zone on third and two. Calhoun makes the catch. Make Stocco replicate that last drive to beat you.
1 10 M48 Pass Inc OOB. Engelmon(+1) shoves him out, otherwise this is a catch.
2 10 M48 Run 11 Swearing erupts. Crable(-1) i s actually in on this play as a defensive end, they run right at him.
1 10 M37 Run 1 Nice play by Harris(+1) to shoot out to the sideline, beat a block, and force Calhoun inside.
2 9 M36 Pass 11 Evil TE screen to Daniels in the middle of the field. It *looks* like a screen to the left, it's got a receiver running an end around, it's confusing as shite, man.
1 10 M25 Penalty 5 Offsides Watson(-1).
1 5 M20 Run -2 Calhoun falls over but Watson(+1) was in the backfield here, causing the cut that caused the fall.
2 7 M22 Pass -4 Stocco sacked by Branch(+3), who has a beautiful bull rush move and singlehandedly ends this play.
3 11 M26 Pass Inc Stocco shortarms Orr. The line had pressure coming and Stocco moves to avoid it and throws this awkwardly.
Drive Notes: FG, 9 min 3rd Q, 13-6. That TE screen is a badass, brilliant little play that looks like it could be any of three different things. It freezes the outside defenders on one side with the end around, on the other side with the threatened Calhoun screen (that looks almost exactly like a screen because it IS a screen), and opens the middle up. Never seen that before. It's clearly the Wisconsin Secret Weapon this year, because they brought it out when they really needed a play twice.  
1 10 O29 Run -1 Burgess(+1) drives the pulling guard backwards and Harris(+1) actually tracks down Calhoun before he can get ot the corner. Harris is legit.
2 11 O28 Pass 7 Screen, called at the exact right time as we blitz and the screen is right where the blitzers were. Burgess does well to recover and hold the play to 7.
3 4 O35 Pass Inc Stocco throws it high. Mason(+1) again in good coverage.
Drive Notes: 7 min 3rd Q, 13-6. A huge Breaston return is wiped out by a Charles Stewart block in the back.  
1 10 O26 Pass Scramble, 11 Stocco rolls out and finds no one open on the boot so he takes off. Biggs gives chase but is slow.
1 10 O37 Run 11 The linebackers all meekly accept blocks but the big issue is Crable(-1) again, who has no idea that Wisconsin's allowed to run on first and ten and has no chance at preventing a big gain. Wisconsin sees Crable, they run at Crable.
1 10 O48 Run 3 I can't believe this doesn't end up gaining more yards, as Calhoun gets the corner but some Michigan dudes show up.
2 7 M49 Run -4 Branch(+2) annihilates Daniels and Harris(+1) cleans up the mess.
3 11 O47 Pass 14 Very quick screen out to the left rolls for 13. This is entirely on Mason(-2), who is unbelievably moving towards the center of the field when the screen is released instead of slicing past the lumbering OL and up to stop the conversion.
1 10 M39 Run -1 Woodley(+1) holds the point of attack and Watson(+1) leaps over a couple defenders to assist on the tackle.
2 11 M40 Pass Inc No real rush here and the backup TE has an 8 yard reception which he drops.
3 11 M40 Pass 11 Effing middle screen to Daniels. And this time we rush three and still don't stop it.
1 10 M29 Run 9 Both Burgess(-1) and Engelmon(-1) whiff on tackles.
2 1 M20 Run 2  
1 10 M18 Run 11 We have eight in the box against this and lose contain again. Harris(-1) can't keep Calhoun from getting the corner and Engelmon(-1) moves up a bit and gets blocked by the WR. I think he needs to be moving outside here with eight in the box and both middle backers moving up into the inside holes. Crable(-1) comes in way low on Bernstein and just collapses to the ground... he's supposed to be the OLB on that side.
1 G M7 Pass Inc Harris(+1) times his blitz really well and hurries Stocco, who throws it away.
2 G M7 Run -2 Strung out nicely by like everyone.
3 G M9 Pass Inc Biggs(+2) gets instant pass rush and forces the throwaway.
Drive Notes: FG. 13 min 4th Q, 13-9. Crable's established why he's a backup. Why they keep playing him I'm not entirely sure. Some first chinks in the Engelmon armor.  
1 10 M12 Run 6 They had this jammed up again... lost contain! This is on Graham(-1).
2 4 M6 Run 6 Goddammit! Crable(-2) did it again! He just plunges in towards the nearest blocker like a useless git.Can anyone who knows more than me tell me whether this is actually a run defense strategy?
Drive Notes: TD. 11 min 4th Q. 13-16. You see what I do for you?  
1 10 M36 Penalty -10 Holding drawn by Branch(+1) I believe.
1 20 M46 Pass Int Mason(+3) miiight have interfered here, but he jumps the cut, reads the route, and makes a huge interception.
Drive Notes: 10 min 4th Q, 13-16. Mason playing out his mind except for the badly misread screen. Ditto Branch. I completely fail to understand the strategies of the OLBs here, who seem to be giving up contain by design as the middle linebackers slide into the middle of the opposing line.  
1 10 O46 Run 6 Big hole as Watson(-2) gets turned way inside by the center, leaving a gaping gash between him and Branch which Harris can do nothing about.
2 4 M48 Run 12 Harris(-1) has GOT to get out to the outside faster when he sees the bounce.
1 10 M36 Run 6 They drop Woodley into a zone. We're just getting crushed.
2 4 M30 Run -1 Raiola tries to catch Watson offsides but doesn't and Stocco fumbles the snap.
3 5 M31 Penalty -10 Illegal block on the back when Mason comes up to combat the screen (now he gets it). Carr takes the penalty.
3 15 M41 Pass 4 Stocco dumps off underneath the zone.
Drive Note: 5 min 4th Q, 20-16. Even though they down the punt at the 3 it's a dumb decision anyway.  
1 10 O48 Run 2 Strung out well. Woodley(+1) is unblocked at the line for some reason and holds up against the FB unlike Crable.
2 8 50 Run 6 Harris(-1) has to read this play earlier and fill the hole. By the time he reacts the pulling guard is already on him and all he can do is wave a hand at Calhoun.
3 2 M44 Run 3 I don't know how he makes this. He gets turned inside and it looks like he's dead meat but he squirts up for the first anyway.
1 10 M41 Pa ss 9 Play action and there's no pass rush whatsoever. Stocco finds the hole in the zone.
2 1 M32 Run 0 Engelmon comes up to the line and isn't blocked, he makes the tackle.
3 1 M32 Run 8 Despite Biggs doing a great job on the corner there's no one there on the edge to stop the outside run.
1 10 M24 Pass 9 Calhoun takes the dumpoff and scoots upfield.
2 1 M15 Pass 10 Calhoun again.
1 G M5 Pass Inc Batted at the line by Watson(+1)
1 G M5 Pass Inc Hall(+1) knocks it away.
1 G M5 Run 5 Touchdown.
Drive Notes: Argh.

General opinions on the performance?

We are this close to having a really good defense. The line did a great, great job in this game, getting constant pressure on Stocco and jamming up the interior of the line very well. Mason played out of his mind and the secondary actually looks above average. However, the persistent inability of the linebackers to keep outside containment on running plays has burned us in every game when we weren't playing a glorified high school team. Almost all the rushing yards the defense has given up this year stem directly from one of two situations:

  • Michigan is spread in an obvious zone against a three-wide formation. There are only six men in the box.
  • A running back feints into an interior hole or just plain heads outside and there is no one to stop him.

Shawn Crable was the worst offender on Saturday, but David Harris, Brandent Engelmon, and Chris Graham were all culpable at some point or another. Graham did almost nothing all day, though it appears that Wisconsin ran to the strong side almost exclusively.

Other than that glaring problem which Calhoun was extremely well suited to exploiting, they did very well.

What about designated Internets whipping boy Pat Massey?

Still mostly neutral. Batted one pass down and got a -1 for a goal line run play that gained six (Wisconsin still went three and out). That was partially because Watson played a lot more. That was partially because Wisconsin was bouncing outside with regularity and rarely tested us with runs up the middle. And that was partially Massey just doing a decent job. He held up. Leave him alone, whydontcha?

Goats?

Pick a linebacker other than Harris, who at least balanced out his bad plays with good ones. Burgess and Crable were both highly culpable for the defense's late collapse, and Graham was mostly invisible.

Ungoats?

Jesus, Alan Branch was a monster, blowing up run plays, getting held twice, and getting a superior pass rush with regularity. He could be our best defensive player right now. And that's despite the fact that Woodley turned in another very good game and is one of the best defensive linemen in recent Michigan history.

Also singled out for special commendation is Grant Mason, who had one bad play on a third down screen but was otherwise great. Mason's interception kept Michigan from going down two scores in the fourth quarter and allowed Michigan to forge into the lead. He was constantly harrassing the Badger passing game and outplayed Leon Hall.

David Harris is tenously here as well, as he made a great number of good plays, but part of me believes that he's at least partially responsible for the containment issues, though I can't be entirely sure.

Roll that beautiful bean table.

Player + - T Notes
Woodley 7 - 7 A drive-killing sack and a very good job against the run.
Woods - - - Didn't even play I think.
Biggs 2 2 0 Did all right but is clearly just servicable.
Massey 1 1 0  
Watson 3 3 0 Might be harsh because of all the bounceouts... rarely went up the middle for a reason, probably.
Crable - 4 -4 Just a total disaster late in the game against the run. Why was he playing at all?
Jamison - - - DNP.
Branch 12 - 12 Sweet fancy Moses!
Burgess 3 2 1  
Thompson - - -  
Harris 4 3 1 Reading and reacting in the short zone.
Graham 1 3 -2  
Mason 7 2 5 Great in coverage all day.
Hall 3 1 2  
Engelmon 3 2 1 Did okay but part of the contain issues..
Trent - - -  
Adams - - - Didn't see him play.
Barringer 1 1 0  
Harrison 2 - 2 Pressing Barringer, I think.

OMG DREW STANTON.

Well, yeah. The good news is that I think Michigan actually has three solid cornerbacks in Hall, Mason, and Trent and the safeties have at least been competent in pass coverage so far this year. If Branch can even do half of what he did against UW it will help a lot and Michigan's been preparing for the spread all year. He will get his yards and he will put points on the board--he's really that damn good--but I think the major danger for the Michigan defense is freshman running back Javon Ringer, who had almost 200 yards on 13 carries against Illinois. Ringer is a lot like Calhoun, a juky scatback with slashing ability and the speed to get to the corner. If he hadn't blown out his knee last year he would have been a huge recruit and I've been really impressed with him so far this year. Unless we can slow him down or JLS gets loopy and decides that The Pedestrian Jason Teague is the answer for UM, we are going to have to split our attention between Ringer and Stanton and the prospect is too horrible to contemplate.

So...

Don't get your hopes up.

Goddammit.

Seriously.

Update: Commenters point out that the deflection at the end of the game was Watson's, not Massey's.

Also: I totally forgot the strategic blunder. Soy muy estupido. Here:

So how about that strategic blunder?

Michigan allowed the worst possible thing to happen to them on Wisconsin's final drive: a touchdown with vanishingly little time on the clock. When the Badgers got the ball back Michigan should gone nuts with aggressive man to man and blitzing to prevent the 8-10 yard plays that Wisconsin got with frequency. They were aggressive up front with eight man fronts but the coverage they played behind it was soft and the corners and safeties were playing far off. When it became clear that Wisconsin was A) going to have more than enough time to do whatev er they want and B) not going to punt, Michigan should have taken its timeouts and told Wisconsin that if they were going to score, they were going to score quickly. First and ten from the 24 was the tipping point, if not sooner. Passively watching Wisconsin drive down the field and getting the ball back with 29 seconds left is a recipe for defeat, and defeat is not Good Eats.

Comments