Inside the box score - Game 3

Submitted by ST3 on September 18th, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    Inside the box score - Game 2, was bumped to Diary Status and front-paged linked twice last week, so I think I'm OK with making this a regular feature. [Ed-M: Yes! Yes you are!] I know that the folks just like having a handy link for the box score, so let's get that out of the way first, and then we'll follow with my commentary:

    The BIG story coming into this game was Eastern Michigan averaging 331 yards per game rushing, and how could our rebuilding defense match up with that? During the first quarter, I was starting to believe that Mike Hart was the second coming of Fred Jackson. After that, our defense calmed down, and I found out that Mike is actually an offensive quality control coach. So how did we do against the greatest rushing attack in Ypsilanti? The EMU Fighting Emus tallied 10 rushing first downs, 207 yards rushing, and 4.5 yards per carry. 67 yards came from the 4th best QB in the state of Michigan, Alex Gillette. I was impressed with his running, but EMU could never get the passing game going. I'm a little worried about what this says about our chances against Scheelhaase. Could we be looking at another shootout?

     Time to get inside the box score:

* First downs: UofM 24, EMU 12. Now that's more like it.

* Average yards per rush: UofM 7.5, EMU 4.5. That's a healthy serving of MANBALL right there.

* Net yards per punt: EMU 40.2, UofM 29.7. Mr. Hagerup, we eagerly await your return. Please obey your curfew and get your homework done. Thank you.

* Net yards per Kickoff: EMU 51, UofM 38. Giving up a first down's worth of field position with every special teams play is not special.

* Vincent Smith had 118 yards rushing. If there is a baby seal nearby, you can bet that Vincent has a club ready. He's looking better and better.

* Denard was 7-18 passing. Let's hope that was just a result of the injured arm they referenced on the B1G Network telecast. I'm not seeing 70%. I'll take 60%. <50% has me worried.

* FG attempts: UofM 1 for 1! I realize it was just 21 yards, but let's let the young man get his confidence up a little before throwing him out there for a game-winning 50 yarder into the wind.

* 23 players showed up in the defensive stats, lead by another linebacker. With all of the running EMU did,  that's to be expected, but doesn't that feel great to see 2 weeks in a row?

And finally in our official's names section of the post,

* The linesman was "R. Studd." I wonder if he's related to Big John.

Your thoughts?



September 18th, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

EMU seems improved to some degree, but clearly, part of the reason why they average so many yards on the ground is that they just plain never pass.  Essentially, a pass play for them is a de facto misdirection QB sweep. 

We need Hagerup back badly.  Wile is being asked to do way too much.  I'm hoping that maybe his kickoffs will improve if he doesn't also have to punt.


September 18th, 2011 at 4:11 PM ^

He ended up with 2 tackles yesterday. That's two more than I want to see from our kickers, and only one less than EMU linebacker Nate Paopao. I had to rush to Church this morning, so I didn't have time to discuss Paopao in the OP. I was hoping the B1G Network would show this every time he made a tackle:


Blue in Seattle

September 18th, 2011 at 6:10 PM ^

I equate MANBALL to the still sarcastic usage, although more and more affectionate usage, that Brian has for Brady Hoke's style of football, as born from a comment Hoke made about Spread Formation/Zone Blocking as "basketball on grass".  A more schematic description would be power running, or running out of the Power I formation.

The game against Eastern Michigan demonstrated very little Power Running (at least that was successful, unless 2 yard gains on average are successful) and much much more Run Option Spread formation running.  First Denard established the running, and then Vincent Smith seemed to benefit when the "Option" to actually let the running back have the ball seemed like the better thing to do.  We even got to see Al Borges try out 2 QB Run Oh Noes to the result of a TD each.

So if anything, I think the reason Denard played more, and ran more, and we didn't see Gardner was so that Al Borges would have more video tape to review on how the Run Option Spread Formation offense works, and what it can setup for a passing game.  Just because we finally have a lot of rushing yards does not mean that MANBALL was what provided them.

That said, every game I watch, I get more respect for this coaching staff.  Both the defense and the offense are truly learning situations.  For the defense it is the players who are doing the learning.  For the offense, I think there is as much learning going on for the Coaches, as there are for the players.  The delicate balance that Al Borges has stated that he has to run, is very interesting to watch as it happens.  I think he's done an excellent job with providing Denard a west coast pass first style of offense, and he's patiently waiting for Denard to grow into it.  This may never happen, as Denard's weakness does see to be the ability to throw the deep arc throw accurately, combined with an impatience to check down to other receiver options.  The second item can be taught, learned, and in my watching experience, is something all QB's go through as they reach the next stage of the game "speeding up".  The former item may be something that will always be out of Denard's reach.  And that is why time and again, Brian has stated that the run option spread formation system is the best scheme to run for Denard's abilities.

The huge downside to running that system with the QB being the main rusher, is not just that his throwing arm gets beaten up, but that it's actually kind of exhasting to sprint for 52 yards.  When a running back does that in a power I scheme, it's very easy to call in the #2 back, or the 3rd down back and run a different play.  But when you are THE QB, THE LEADER, and you just sprinted 52 yards, it's basically, "suck it up man, and try to get enough breath to call the next play".  Go back and watch that series of downs after the 52 yard run.  Denard is clearly gassed and not operating at normal performance for at least 3 plays.  The drive almost falters.

So no matter what scheme is selected, Michigan desperately needs a running back to emerge who can become the featured rusher.  Maybe Vincent will finally show he has what it takes.  But my bet is, no strike that it's too unlikely to bet on, my hope is that something clicks for Denard in his passing, and he starts to become a Pass First QB with lethal scramble capabilities, who then opens things up for the running game, by the running back.  Hopefully all he needs to do is have the patience to truly check down to the 2nd or 3rd guy (something I don't think he's practiced until this year, so he's a freshman at doing this) to allow this to emerge.  But you can see it when he fakes that play action from the I and stands in the pocket, with the one safety or LB who is assigned to "spy" him.  Something always seems to open up, but he doesn't always see the best thing opening up


September 18th, 2011 at 6:26 PM ^

Your last two paragraphs are spot on. I've been thinking the same thing. If a back runs one for 50 yards, he can be replaced for a play or two. I think our only option would be for Denard to hand off, but the defenses are probably thinking the same thing so Borges tried to run Denard on back-to-back plays. Denard ended up with 26 carries. I was shocked at that number. For all of the talk that we're going to keep him to 15-18 carries a game, for him to get 26 against EMU is surprising to say the least.

There was an interesting article about a recent MLB draft choice out of UCLA. He is a real student of that game. He found out that the longest play in MLB takes about 12 seconds. So he developed all of these workouts where he exerted himself for 12 seconds. How does this relate to Denard? Well, I suspect he got in great shape last year running the no-huddle, speed spread of RichRod, or whatever it was called, so he's more equipped to turn around and run three plays in a row. Still, I wish we had more consistency out of the backs.