Nebraska game wrap (with pics!)

Submitted by SFBayAreaBlue on July 15th, 2012 at 5:48 AM

[Ed-H: Bump. There, I did it. No more Urban Meyer.]

So, yeah.   

I got a little busy at work during the winter, and then recruiting magic was happening, and then I figured it was too late for this post.  But finally I got a day off, and it's raining, and I've had these screencaps online for 6 months, and I've got literally nothing better to do for a few hours on this sunday.  So here is the Nebraska game wrap (with pics!)

Domination!

That was kind of unexpected. AND AWESOME!  It was without a doubt our best game of the year.  Heck it was our best game IN YEARS.  It was maybe the best team performance since the 1997 PSU game, although I'm probably forgetting some good ones in between. 

During the game, I remember thinking the score was pretty close and anything could happen until the turnovers made it a laugher. But after watching it a few times since then, we really did dominate in all phases of the game.  

domination

By the end of the 3rd, the stat sheet was pretty one-sided.  They really only had 2 great plays all game. (Two plays that I highlighted in the preview post.... so maybe I'm not completely stupid. Still, I did rag on MSU's O-line which gelled pretty strongly by mid-season. ooops.)

Defending the option

Like most of the Michigan fan base, I have huge man crush on Mattison. The things he and his staff are doing, and the performances they're getting from our players are out of this world. I would love to just sit at his feet, follow him around, and absorb as much football knowledge as possible.  

uh

If you've accomplished as much as this man, people won't make a big deal out of you using your moobs to signal the playcall. (This GA knowns that peripheral vision is sometimes a weird thing.)

Defending the option is so simple, yet so hard.  You need your players to know their assignments and play with decisiveness.Here is Jake Ryan demonstrating the textbook definition of "forcing the pitch".

Jakeoptionforce

Nebraska has this play blocked pretty much as you would draw it up. Ryan is the 'optioned' man who is unblocked. Martinez doesn't see the whole open up on the backside, but he's running to where the play is called. He's supposed to read Ryan and "make him wrong".

Jakeoptionforce2

Jake's first step is lateral as if he's going to squeeze the zone on the slot receiver.  But when he sees the option motion coming towards him, he cuts upfield with authority. Martinez reads him correctly, and it looks like this should be a decent gain for the Huskers. 

Jakeoptionforce3

Meanwhile, Mike Martin has beaten his block and is pursuing to stop cutbacks, and the secondary is coming up in run support.

Jakeoptionforce4

Ryan's change of direction is so fast that Martinez can't get a good pitch off with his left hand. Burkhead managed to fall on the loose ball, but if he hadn't we had two guys coming up quickly and there would have been no way for Martinez to get it with his face planted in the ground. The moral of the story is that one way to defend the option is to make those options keep the ball and get killed, or pitch the ball and get killed.

kovacsoptionassignmnet

Another way to stop the option is to get an unexpected defender free. Nebraska comes out in a 4-wide set to try to get a good personnel matchup. But we just stay in our base 4-3 so it doesn't matter when the TE comes down to the line of scrimmage.

kovacsoptionassignmnet2

Mike Martin explodes through the line and forces the pitch FROM THE BACK SIDE. That's impressive.

kovacsoptionassignmnet3

Meanwhile, Kovacs is up in run support and all over his assignment as you would expect from a player of his intelligence. He reacts so quickly that the blocker whiffs on him. And the pursuit isn't giving Burkhead anywhere to go.

kovacsoptionassignmnet4

Getting a 5 yard TFL on first down against your opponent's bread and butter play ... that's a good a thing.

Getting off blocks

One of the stark differences between last year's defense and .... uh ... others... was how well they were getting off blocks and getting to the ball. I don't want to disparage former defensive coaches...BUT the improvement was remarkable. 

demensjakeFF

We're in our zone blitz package with Martin dropping and Demens rushing. Demens gets doubled. That's a pretty big weight disadvantage for him.

demensjakeFF2

So he squares up and gets some arm's length separation from the defenders, one of whom starts looking for someone else to block. 

demensjakeFF3

Martinez decides the coverage is too good and thinks he can squirt through that passing lane. But both Demens and Ryan see it, react to it, and clamp down on that hole.

demensjakeFF4

Ryan slaps the ball out. Check out how far away from the ball Van Bergen is. But he's got his head up, he's disengaged from his blocker, and he's pursuing the ball.

demensjakeFF5

One funny bounce later and it's in RVB's hands. Brian keeps saying that fumble recoveries are just luck and 50-50 propositions. I would disagree and say the fumble recovery percentage is more of a function of the number of each team's players near the ball when the fumble happens. In this case, we were a little lucky because Nebraska had more guys near the ball. But if RVB isn't hustling and getting off his blocker, our chances of getting that ball go from slim to none. So yes, luck plays a part, but I don't believe it's JUST luck or that it will always regress to the mean..

demensjakeFF6

And lets not forget the good hustle and technique which caused the fumble in the first place. Strip that ball!

(The other 85% after the jump)


Gorgeous Borges

The Love-Hate relationship with Al Borges hit its zenith in this game. After the debacle of the MSU and Iowa games, he finally fully embraced the idea that these athletes were best suited to the shotgun zone offense. And he straight-up punished Nebraska's defense for being too slow to adjust.

numbersRUN

The thing that I and many others keep harping on is the fact that with Denard in the shotgun, he's a threat to run, and that gives us a numbers advantage. We're 3 wide, so Nebraska responds with the nickel.

numbersRUN2

Well, thank you very much. The H-back crosses, the split end cracks down on the safety, and Fitz gets to pick his hole.

numbersRUN3

So that's a nice little gain on first down.

numbersRUN4

And a pretty clean hole to run through too. So what should we call on the next play Al?

numbersRUN5

We come out in the same formation. Okay, the H-back is about a yard and a half deeper. But Nebraska is still in the nickel. Their safety does cheat down a bit, so there's that.

numbersRUN6

How about we run the same play!? This time, the DE tries to cheat into the hole and Fitz easily reads it for the bounce.

numbersRUN7

Taylor Lewan stays engaged on his man, giving Fitz the corner. The safety has taken himself out of the play with his run blitz. We get 10 yards plus a late hit out of bounds.  

So what should we run on the next play Al?

numbersRUN8

Well, Fitz is tired, so we'll put in Hopkins. Maybe we'll come out in the same formation, but  Nebraska will have adjusted by now, so we can't run the same play. They'll come out in a different defense. Or ... not.

numbersRUN9

Ok. RUN THE SAME FUCKING PLAY!!! Hopkins takes it more up the middle, because he's built more like a bowling ball. And he bowls his way into the endzone. 

numbersRUN10

But there was a facemask on us, so the TD is called back. However, the penalty doesn't diminish the fact that those three plays were awesome, and at a critical point in the game. This wasn't the 1st quarter where the coordinators are feeling each other out. This was after halftime, after the adjustments have been put in. And our adjustment was to fuck them right up their nose.

There are so many cliché to describe that drive: "Take what they give you." "If it aint broke, don't fix it." "Keep running that play until they make you stop." Al is well versed in all of those.

fitzwalkin

The penalty did stall the drive, but Hoke and his big balls called for a fake FG (more on that below) and Fitz ended up with a walk-in TD to put us up by 21 and pretty much end the competitive portion of the game.

fakefg3

That felt pretty good. 

walkinTDrollout

And Borges deserves a ton of credit for his goal line play calling in general. Denard also got a walk-in TD on roll out.

Denard!

I don't know if Denard pays attention to what is said about him, but those announcers, especially Spielman were on his case all game.

BTW, really ESPN? You're going to let a Michigan game be announced by  two former buckeyes? ಠ_ಠ

ohioannouncers

I'm so glad Denard spooned them up a nice steaming bowl of "STFU!"

DenardleadTD

This 3rd and 1 in the red zone was vintage Denard. It's a great call by Al and even better blocking by the O-line.

DenardleadTD2

It's just a QB wham and Denard gets to pick his hole. Nebraska looks to be in good position with 5 defenders playside. Omameh pulls to help even out those numbers.

DenardleadTD3

Molk and the LG (Schofield?) do a great job of riding their slanting defenders. Nebraska was a little late getting lined up and were caught flat-footed by the quick snap.

DenardleadTD4

And the red sea parts in front of shoelace. 

DenardleadTD5

And it's clear sailing to the endzone. Freaking Dilithium.

And I love how much of a team player Denard is. As I talked about in the QB comparisons, he is so patient waiting for his blocking to develop. He not a freelancer, no matter how many times uninformed announcers call him that.

patientdenard

Here we've got a sweep play but the DE has done a good job of establishing the corner and taking on Fitz.

patientdenard2

That screws up the pulling linemen making their route longer than it should be. 

patientdenard3

But Denard just patiently stays with them and picks up 7 yards. If the linemen had had a straight path, Denard would have been able to see the huge hole to his right, but it's a decent gain for first down. If he had cut back at the first sign of danger, #34 would have had him for a loss or short gain.

And there was more evidence of progress in his passing game. 

passprotection

Yes, his reads and his decision making in the passing game still needs improving. He needs to cut down on interceptions and make his footwork more consistent.

passprotection2

But if the O-line can give him this kind of time,

passprotection3

And he gets his feet set,

odomsTD

He's got the arm to put the ball 55 yards in the air and on the mark. 

He also needs to work on his touch on screen passes. He underthrew a sure TD in the Sugar Bowl on a throwback screen, and he wasn't able to get it over the defender on this play.

screenINT

Although, Lewan is also to blame.  He's not staying engaged on his rusher.  

screenINT2

So the guy manages to tip it up for the interception. Give him a little elbow or shoulder to the stomach next time and that'll keep him from jumping up.

We can has good special teams?

Could you believe that our special teams would ever, EVER, play this well?  

  • Two forced fumbles and recoveries on kickoffs
  • A blocked punt
  • A successful fake FG

In one game. 

I wouldn't be surprised if we've gone full seasons without getting all that.

We did miss a chippy FG late, but we more than made up for that in the Sugar Bowl. 

1stKOFF

The 1st kickoff fumble was caused by guys staying in their lanes.

1stkoff2

Terrance Robinson has this guy lined up and nails him from the blind side. 

nebfansad

That's a pretty good way to start the 2nd half, unless you're a Nebraska fan.

puntblock

The bad snap was fortuitous on this punt.

puntblock2

But you still have to make an effort to get to the spot.

fakefg

And yeah, Brady calls a lot of fake FGs. But when you see something like this on tape, it's not really that big of a risk.

fakefg2

That's a lot of open space.

hokepoint

No problem. Don't even need a measurement.

2ndKOFF

The 2nd Kickoff fumble was more about sloppy ball carrying by the returner, but a good hit and rake by #4.

Holy Freaking Fitz! 

But the star of the game had to be Fitz. I don't know if I gave him enough praise during the season, sometimes he looked to be lacking a slight bit of top end speed. That might have been injury or wear related. He certainly showed all the tools in this game.

fitzcutz

The two things he's always had are good vision and lateral movement. But in the past, for whatever reasons, he wasn't getting as much upfield as this past season. On this play he demonstrates a great ability to pick his way through the muck.

fitzcutz2

We've got good blocking and the linemen have reached the 2nd level. But Molk seems to be losing his leverage, so this play only looks like it's going to gain 3 or 4 yards.

fitzcutz3

But then Fitz makes a hard cut and squirts between two blocked defenders away from the free man. Reminding me of Gayle Sayers and his 18 inches of daylight.

fitzcutz4

And the cuts just keep coming!

fitzcutz5

Even Spielman was gushing after this.

fitzcutz6

When a safety has you lined up and dead to rights, and he ends up laying on the ground hugging air, that's a good cut.

fitzcutz7

From the back you can see that Hopkins, Lewan, and Schofield get good blocks at the point of attack as Fitz makes his first cut. 

fitzcutz8

His second cut gets him away from Molk's man, who Molk might have been holding a little bit.

fitzcutz9

The third cut is amazing because he's making it with his inside foot and still getting good traction. That is wow.  

fitzcutz10

The next cut is the coup de grace on #3, who had to spend some time after this play finding his jock strap.

At full speed. (Sorry about the audio synch problem, still looking for a good avi to youtube clip generator if anyone knows of a good free one.)

The final TD run was just a thing of beauty. 

fitzicing

We start with a numbers advantage again.

fitzicing2

Nebraska's adjustment is to run blitz with the safety and middle linebacker. 

fitzicing3

This is practically the same play as the earlier series of three, we've just moved the H-Back to a TE spot on the other side and instead of crossing, he runs a short out/drag whatever you call it. Fitz sees the huge hole left by the vacated blitzing Mike, but the safety is in good position to make a tackle.

fitzicing4

But Fitz jukes him out of his shorts. He's now 2-for-2 on the safeties' shorts.

fitzicing5

The linemen keep driving their blocks and Fitz is so Zen. He's like a fish swimming up the rapids.

fitzicing6

He lets Molk push his guy right past him with a little jump cut. Meanwhile, Grady is staying with his man.

fitzicing7

Fitz gets his wheels turning again and Molk gets a two-fer block by taking out the deep safety who had gotten lost in the wash.

fitzicing8

Grady pushes his man past the play, but Schofield's man has come back and looks like he's going to make the tackle.

fitzicing9

But Fitz powers right through that. 

fitzicing10

And then runs SIDEWAYS, at FULL SPEED!!!?!!??? He's accelerating sideways!

fitzicing11

The endzone view gives a better shot of his amazing cuts. 

fitzicing12

And sideways accelerating!

fitzicing13

That's just incredible. 

Here it is coming at you

Their Two Plays

So the one play where Martinez wasn't throwing like a little girl...

kovacsblitz

And getting clobbered by various wolverines., he hit a wide open guy on play action. 

nebPATD

They're in the Inverted-T and had just gotten a first down near midfield on two consecutive running plays. If you remember the Lloyd years at all, you know that's primo time for a deep pass or trick play. We've got 8 in the box and the DBs are selling out on the run.

nebPATD2

They show the double option look with the short man taking the mesh and Burkhead deep to take a pitch.

nebPATD3

But Martinez sticks his foot in the ground and rockets backwards to give the deep post time to come open.

nebPATD4

Kovacs is in no man's land and still hasn't reacted by the time Martinez has his plant foot down and is getting ready to launch. (That's not his fault, I'm sure the call was for an 8 man front)

nebPATD5

The real blame goes to the corners who were both playing bump and run and both got beat badly.

nebPATD6

And then the remaining DBs collide.  So, ... yeah ...TD.

doubleoption

When they finally did run the double option, it was from split backs instead of the inverted - T (The deep tailback has split out). We're already fucked because we've got a D-lineman in the wrong place. 

doubleoption2

I doubt we'd ever see this play again, but the read is the nearside HB #8 who takes a flare route to get into pitch relationship. The corner who has flat responsibility has to go with him. So while most teams don't have a TB that can read an unblocked defender and make a good pitch, most teams have a QB that can hit that flare pass off the playaction. I'm not sure which of our two guys circled there is in the wrong place, but with two receivers to the top of the screen, we're outmanned on that side.

doubleoption3

It really is a nice play, simply because it's something you never see. Like a fumblerooskie.

doubleoption4

Once Jake got blocked, there's no way for the corner to stop 2 men by himself. If Demens had been lined up wider or reacted quicker, he might have had a play on Burkhead leaving Abdhullah for the the corner. Jake's inexperience shows here. If he hadn't given up the contain, he might have been able to turn the play back to Demens.

doubleoption5

But it's just a good play call. 

doubleoption6

From the back, you can see how the initial mesh freezes RVB and Demens. If that had been Jake Ryan, he might have had the speed to get in there and cause havoc.

doubleoption7

But Jake is getting cracked down on by the WR.

doubleoption8

Hoke and Mattison weren't even mad.

T-Magic Pinball!

I have nothing to add about this following play. I just think it's funny.

Tmagicpinball

Tmagicpinball2

(Wrap up.)

Tmagicpinball3

Tmagicpinball4

Tmagicpinball5

Tmagicpinball6

Oh, BWC finally joined the play!

ETC

"I did not have sexual relations with that coaching job!"

announcersliars

"Several reports and rumors indicating that you've accepted the Ohio state coaching position."

"Well there's NO TRUTH TO THAT. I have not been offered any job, I have certainly not accepted any job." BUT MY AGENT HAS

"Well there's NO TRUTH TO THAT. I have not been offered any job, I have certainly not accepted any job."  YET

"Well there's NO TRUTH TO THAT. I have not been offered any job, I have certainly not accepted any job."  I mean, unless you consider multiple discussions and an agreement in principle without a finalized signed contract, as having been OFFERED a job... well uh, you know, hey look, IT'S TEBOW! (runs away)

"Well there's NO TRUTH TO THAT. I have not been offered any job, I have certainly not accepted any job." I like blonde chicks. 

The refs were pretty good, even if they missed this play.

PInotcalled

That's what the kids call pass interference.

Mike Martin, Goodnight sweet prince.

Martinsmash

MikeMartinsmash2

It's been an up and down 4 years, but Mike was always a bright spot. You'll be missed. Even moreso if we can't get your replacements to perform at an acceptable level.  

This is where I reiterate my comments about Will Campbell.  Feel free to stop reading if you already know what I'm about to say.

Dear Big Will,

You've had some great plays, and done some good things. But you've also had plenty of screw ups. And I'm not talking about denting a car. I don't care about that. I was a drunken college kid once and that type of thing is perfectly understandable if not advisable. On the other hand, I didn't have 100,000 people following my every move on twitter. So maybe you should be careful,  you don't want to end up like D_______l S__________m. But, that's not the point.

I'm talking about your play on the field. You've got some big shoes to fill. You've got a lot of potential you've yet to fulfill. But what I saw from you in the spring game was very disappointing. I don't care what your newspaper clippings say. The way you were getting pushed around and loafing around during the spring game will not be enough to earn the starting job, let alone help us defeat the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, MSU, and Ohio. 

I want you to spend all summer working on your stance and explosion in your first step. I want you to dog crawl up and down the field, from endzone to endzone in 10 yard bursts. But mostly, I want you to have that fire and drive where you're at full speed with a motor that never stops. Maybe that's too much for a lowly fan to ask from an actual athlete.  

But think about this. You've got one year. One year to prove what you're made of. One year where you teammates are going to depend on you more than they ever have before. And at the end of that year, you might have the opportunity to be a multi-millionaire.  he power is in your hands. One year, or the rest of your life to think about what could have been.

Props to the band.  

blockMcymbals

I can't wait for September 1st!

Comments

SFBayAreaBlue

July 15th, 2012 at 5:56 AM ^

the fans were great counting down the playclock for the offense when the power was out. 

And I like that the visiting fans are now up in the nose bleed seats.  

visitorseating

 

Roachgoblue

July 15th, 2012 at 7:41 AM ^

Once I got through the pictures I realized my day was gone. I like the post though. It was a great game that I was very nervous about. I was more nervous because I was living in Nebraska at the time. Thank you Michigan! Go blue!

Smash Lampjaw

July 15th, 2012 at 9:10 AM ^

made me wonder if he is really such a genius after all. Maybe it was good coordinators and Tebow that accounted for his success. I don't think that he is an innovator- maybe more of an early adopter- and I don't know if he has the coordinators to help him succeed at the same scale now. I hope not. If he does succeed I will withdraw my objections.

Sextus Empiricus

July 15th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

Would that BWC didn't serve on PAT duty his freshman year and instead rep'd NT continuously to this season.  Regardless he would still be in the same position of need.  He certainly couldn't ask for a better opportunity to make money than 2012.

It's never to late for a Nebraska take down.   

LB

July 15th, 2012 at 10:57 AM ^

near us. My daughter sat next to a very nice couple from Omaha. When the game began, they were very big on their defense and Burkhead, especially. As reality set in, they really quieted down, but stayed classy throughout the game. For pure enjoyment, this game was tough to beat on many levels.

AFMich

July 15th, 2012 at 3:13 PM ^

Brian keeps saying that fumble recoveries are just luck and 50-50 propositions. I would disagree and say the fumble recovery percentage is more of a function of the number of each team's players near the ball when the fumble happens.

While I do expect a slight return to mean on turnovers, it is obvious that a better coached defense will have better success recovering fumbles.

wolfman81

July 16th, 2012 at 11:22 AM ^

Here's the crux of BlueSeoul's model:

Recovery Probability = (# of your guys in area)/(# of guys in area)

From there it is just Bayesian statistics.  (That is, after enough trials--like a whole season's worth--the Recovery Probability = Recovery Rate.)  Since the best defenses do things like "fly to the ball," they generally have better odds at recovering fumbles because they have more guys there to make the play.

Now let's translate that into football coachspeak:  If you routinely out-work and out-hustle the other guy, good things happen.  If you loaf, your a$$ will ride pine.

TheTruth41

July 31st, 2012 at 10:04 AM ^

I think one other important thing to note is what each assignment for a player is on any given play that results in a fumble. I think it goes further than just numbers around the ball. How many times does a single defensive player jump on a stripped ball by the qb in the pocket with so many offensive linemen around? The offense is concentrated on the defenders (looking at them) while more defenders are concentrated on the ball (looking at the ball). It's almost funny to watch sometimes when a qb fumbles the ball and it bobbles at the feet of his linemen and none of them know there's a fumble and that the ball is right under their noses. Then some DT or LB come diving in to recover against all probable odds.

turtleboy

July 15th, 2012 at 5:16 PM ^

"This was after halftime, after the adjustments have been put in. And our adjustment was to fuck them right up their nose." Indeed, that was a good adjustment. On a conciliatory note, it was nice to hear Spielman say he voted Denard for the Heisman in 2010.

Blueroller

July 15th, 2012 at 8:11 PM ^

Man I have missed these posts! Also the games themselves. The Notre Dame one remains one of the best single things I have ever seen on the internets. I sent a link to my son-in-law who had watched the game, but is not a Michigan (or God forbid Notre Dame) fan. His response: "That is AWESOME."

Yet another reason to be drooling with anticipation for the season to start. Now I have to go de-slobber my keyboard.

Hoek

July 16th, 2012 at 1:11 AM ^

This was a great game in showing what this team, and coaches were capable of. The future is very bright indeed. I know we will see many games like this in the near future.

sdogg1m

July 16th, 2012 at 8:34 AM ^

I just saw the option pitch that Nebraska performed against Michigan at the goal.

Also, Brady Hoke has seen the play too. Michigan State ran against Michigan in 1997 at roughly the 10:30 mark of the second quarter.

It was probably unrememberable because MSU drew a holding penalty on the play. The announcers remarked that they hadn't seen a play like it.

Just an interesting tid-bit for you all this morning.

Note: Video is posted on mgovideo.com

sdogg1m

July 16th, 2012 at 9:34 AM ^

The Irvin play was a handoff to Irvin who then pitched the ball.

I am surprised you don't see this play more in the college game. The play has a low turnover risk and potential to get a runner one-on-one on the outside.

Would especially be useful against a corner who tackles poorly.

---

Just wanted to add, good post BlueSeoul. This is definitely my favorite game of the season and I believe it setup a confident team that would face Ohio the following week.

El Jeffe

July 16th, 2012 at 8:40 AM ^

100% pure Colombian awesome. Welcome back, BS.

One minor quibble:

NEEDZ MOAR WHY DIS SO HARDZ

I thought it would have been apropos on this play:

mackbru

July 16th, 2012 at 11:15 AM ^

Doesn't M's success in defending the option kind of boil down to the fact that M's defense had spent two years chasing Denard (and therefore M's various incarnations of the spread) in practice? Martinez is just a poor man's Denard. Ergo, he's easier to defend. 

Wisconsin Wolverine

July 16th, 2012 at 11:22 AM ^

I would say that knowing how to defend the option comes down to the coaching staff instilling the strategy into our boys' minds.  but definitely seeing a live Denard in captivity every day gives them an intimate familiarity with ludicrous speed & helps them execute said strategies at a mentally fast pace as well.

I Miss Bursley

July 16th, 2012 at 12:57 PM ^

I know you put in a lot of work and football knowledge into this post so I apologize that my favorite part of the whole thing was Mike Martin's "Grr!" 

LOLed pretty hard at that one.