Reviewing Wisconsin

Submitted by drexel on September 30th, 2008 at 3:41 AM

The Defense: 

  • The defense was outstanding on Saturday.  For most of the game, the Wisconsin O-Line could not block any Michigan D-lineman one on one.  Even when Mike Martin was in the game, he was getting by people. 
  • I think Mouton played his best game.  He was the only linebacker that was consistently blowing up the lead blocker.  He was giving up about 45 pounds to the guy, so he had trouble driving him back very far, but he was meeting him in the backfield and holding outside leverage.  On the touchdown run, he crushed the fullback behind the line of scrimmage and Brown had a chance to make the play in the back field.  Obviously, he failed to do this.  Mouton is getting better quickly, and could be a star by the end of the year.
  • Thompson and Ezeh looked ok.  I thought Thompson made some improvement.  He made one outstanding play in the third quarter where he took on a double team and held outside leverage allowing the other guys to get there and stop the play for a one yard gain.  Ezeh still has some bad habits.  He drops his head sometimes on tackles, stops moving his feet, and seems to wait for lineman or lead blockers to come to him.  He is still playing ok, but these types of things cost you an extra yard or two per carry.  That adds up after a while.   
  • Beckum and Graham not playing hurt Wisconsin.  It took them out of their two tight end sets, and put the full back in the game a lot more.  They ran a lot of the same running plays I described in the scouting report, but they were forced to throw more to their wide receivers.  It turns out their receivers are not good at catching the ball. 
  • They had a lot of success with their bootlegs.  Most of the time they pulled the eventual playside guard or tackle to really sell the run.  We bit on this hard a couple times, and were bailed out by dropped balls.  They did run that zone stretch play action as well, but they never handed that ball off.  
  • Despite a couple of those play actions, the coverage was pretty good.  On Wisoncsin's final TD drive, Everidge had to make a perfect throw twice.  Harrison shold have picked the one to Beckum.  Have to give credit to Everidge on these plays though.  He made some tough throws. 

The Offense:

  • We really were not that far away from moving the ball in the first half.  We actually did ok against Chapman and Shaugnessy.  We are still having some problems with backside cut blocks.  I think a worse problem is on the left side of the line.  We have problems when there is a DT line up in the A gap.  One of three things seems to happen: the left guard releases to second level without chipping the guy and helping Molk get across his face, the left guard and Molk both get on him, but then they both release to the second level leaving the free to make a play, or the left guard does get enough of him to allow Molk to get a block and stay on.  Obviously the last one is what needs to happen.  From what Rich Rod has said in his press conferences, he is going to shuffle the line up until he finds people to figure this out.  There were also a couple running plays that were blocked well.  McGuffie didn't seem to be as patient as he did against ND.  A couple times he cut up the field too soon or looked for the cut back lane immediately when running to the play side looked better.  Maybe this was by design, but it didn't appear this way. 
  • I don't really like Threet's throwing mechanics.  He kind of has a 3/4 delivery and sometimes looks like he his trying to pitch off a mound when he is throwing.  Rodriguez mentioned something about getting his shoulder in the right spot in the second half.  I think when you have this type of delivery, it is very easy to let your elbow drop a little bit.  This puts the nose of the ball up upon release and causes the ball to sail.  He also appeard to take a larger step towards the target in the first half which may have opened his body up too soon.  This could also cause the ball to sail.  I tried to compare the game Saturday to the spring game, but the youtube footage was fuzzy.  If anybody was a qb or qb coach, feel free to correct me. 
  • I think Massey missed every block he tried to make.  If its not going to be Butler, Koger has to be the guy here.  I'm sure Massey is playing hard, but he just didn't get it done.  Koger was not asked to block as much, but looks more athletic.  These tight end blocks are crucial especially on those bubble screens.  One missed block on those plays and it gets blown up. 
  • Some of the ABC replays showed a wide view of the field and you could see some of Michigan's routes.  Most of their passing game is based on selling four vertical threats.  They like to run a couple plays off of this.  One is where Odoms runs down the seam.  Griese mentioned this on the ABC broadcast but didn't really explain it.  Odoms is reading the safety.  If the safety bits on the play action, Odoms is going to run by him.  If the safety is bailing he runs the dig route.  Odoms was open on the dig three times and Threet missed him all three times.  If we hit this play a couple times, all of a sudden we catch the safety sitting on the dig and run by him for a big play. 
  • They also like to run a curl route which I think has been open every time they have run it.  The outside receiver comes inside and runs hard vertical to about 14 yards, stops and comes back to about 12.  We hit Matthews on this a couple times in the second half.  They also like to run a deep hitch route, and then run the hitch and go off of it.  We had Matthews twice for big plays in the second half, and he dropped it both times.  We also actually run the four vert, and we can do it with different personel.  Koger's touchdown was the seam route on four vert, and it was beautiful execution on that play.  Threet made a perfect throw with the safeties playing over top. 
  • There were two plays in the beginning at the beginning of the third quarter that didn't work for us, but provide some good coaching points for receivers.  The first was the out to McGuffie that almost got picked.  I think Wisconsin was in its soft 2 coverage here and Michigan runs a pretty common out/fade three step combo.  On this play the outside receiver takes an inside release on the corner.  This allows a cover two corner to see the out the whole way.  Against a cover two corner, the outside reciever has got to figt to get outside on this play no matter what.  This will cause the corner to turn his head, and he won't see the out develop.  The other play was the slant to Matthews that almost got picked.  On this play the corner is playing an inside shade, and I think he was in man coverage.  On this play Matthews has to stem his route so that he is head up on the corner before he makes a cut.  He tries to do this, but the corner is able to maintain his inside leverage and make a play on the ball.  It was actually a good throw, but a better defensive play.
  • Michigan ran a couple sprint out passes.  This is supposed to be a quick throw to an out or short hitch route, but I think it backfired a little this game.  This brought the linebackers in underneath zone coverage to the play side.  A couple specific examples were Threet's rush that led to 4th and one and the two point conversion play.  On Threet's scramble, they had a smash route called.  In a cover two, this creates a two on one on the corner.  The #2 receiver runs a corner route while the #1 runs a hitch.  If the corner jumps the hitch, you throw the corner and vice versa.  However, on the sprint out, the hook/curl linebacker gets out and underneath the hitch route.  Threet makes the right decision here, tucks the ball and gets what he can get.  The two point conversion was supposed to be a crossing route with Odoms and Koger.  We ran a similar play when I was in college, and it worked almost every time.  However, in this case, Odoms and Koger ran into each other and the linbacker was able to get out in front of the guy running to the flat.  This is supposed to be a quick developing play, but the collision allows flowing linebackers to break it up.
  • It also looked like we ran a couple routes similar to what Utah did to us where a receiver, either wide out or tight end, is simply going across the middle and sitting in a hole in the zone.  Hitting these routes comes with experience.  The key is both the qb and receiver knowing when the receiver is going to sit.  Its got to be a quick release when the reciever sits in the zone.  Threet still looks unsure on these plays, and holds the ball too long.  As he holds the ball, the route gets covered.  I think he had the curls open a few times and held the ball before trying to scramble.  He has got to trust the route a little more, but that will come with mroe experience against good teams. 
  • In the second half, Michigan was able to get Casillas matched up one on one with Odoms in the slot.  I think they did this by keeping Koger on the line, but running a trips set forcing the OLB out onto the slot.  I'd have to watch the film again to make sure.  Unfortunately, we didn't take advantage of this.  One time he ran right by him on a wheel route and Threet threw the slant.  The other time, was a sprint out and Threet didn't throw the out right away so Odoms turned up field.  Odoms had Casillas beat, but Threet missed him. 
  • On Threet's long run, I don't think he could have held the ball at the mesh point any longer.  It was near perfect execution.   

Overall, This was a great effort to come back in the second half.  It was the most exciting Michigan game I have ever attended, and hopefully the second half gives the offense some confidence.  Threet was accurate and made better decisions in the second half, and if he can speed up his reads and pull the trigger a little quicker, this offense could become very good before the end of the year.  The D was outstanding, and if they wouldn't have been put in so many bad situations with turnovers and poor special teams would have been dominant. 



September 30th, 2008 at 8:48 AM ^

I thought Martin was a standout on the line. He is getting a ton of reps. Love what I am seeing there.

I noticed Mouton, too. Man, did he play fast and physical. After the Utah game, I said Michigan had the best young LB in the league with Ezeh. A month later, maybe we have the best 2 youngs LBs in the league.

Its starting to all come together. I think we're in for a pretty fun October.

Go Blue!!


September 30th, 2008 at 9:20 AM ^

I meant to ask this yesterday..............what was up with Will Johnson? Was he hurt? Martin sure got a lot of reps in the 2nd half. Or has Martin supplanted him on the DL? I find that hard to believe.

Watts Club Moz…

September 30th, 2008 at 5:51 PM ^

I believe I read somewhere that Martin would play more in obvious passing situations. He nearly sacked Evridge on the missed 2-point try. I also saw Banks in for a few plays on Wiscy's final drive. I don't know if that was part of the normal rotation or a response to Jamison flying wildly upfield on the 3rd down draw play and the screen to Hill.


September 30th, 2008 at 10:03 AM ^

This is like pretty basic stuff and it's something high school guards and centers learn how to execute the 2nd and 3rd week of summer practice.
It's got to just be bad reads and not knowing their assignment 100%. If they don't know their assignment 100% then it seems like you'll see the kind of mistakes you highlighted. And this is the inexperience factor.

 On that play where Odoms runs the seam route or cuts in, it seemed like the timing was way off, and it was open every time like you said. Either Odoms was running poor routes (which I suspect is the case) or Threet was just missing him.
That play that they almost hit to Minor: was he lined up in the slot there? Or was it a wheel route out of the backfield again? Seems like that wheel route play is open almost every time as well.

I really don't think the offense has as chance to be "very good" by the end of the year, just because I don't see the current O-line having enough bulk and experience to ever get a consistent push in the running game. We might see some big hitters like the Minor run, and the Mcguffie runs against ND, but as far as anything sustained I doubt it.

I do have hope though that as the season goes along Threet starts to hit his guys faster, those guys are running better routes, and that guys are sustaining blocks in the open field. This should result in quite a bit more success in the passing attack.

One thing that has surprised me is the amount of time they are giving Threet to throw. Great job all around on pass protection so far.

And the defense was awesome, as you noted. D Line was dominating and the linebackers and secondary were solid to great all game as well.

One thing you didn't touch on was the return game, which is time and time again putting Michigan up against it. This is not a team that can afford to misfire on special teams and expect to win many games. At this point I think it's time to ditch the freshman back there and let Minor and Trent take over full time.


September 30th, 2008 at 10:49 AM ^

On the Minor play, he was lined up in the slot.  There was a linebacker in man on him.  I don't remember for sure if it was Casillas or somebody else.  I thought the coaching staff did a great job of getting mismatches by alignment in the second half. 

I think "very good" is a relative term.  I think they can get to the point where they are scoring 27-28 points a game.  If this happens sooner rather than later, we can win enough games to get to a bowl with the way our defense is playing.

I did forget to mention the return game.  It looks like there are a few guys on the front line of the kickoff return that go right after guys.  The others fall back, and the second line forms a wall.  Front line gusy usually have one guy on kickoff team that they are supposed to crush.  Our ko return team in college would cross the front line guys across the field leading to a lot of blind sided hits.  We had a pretty good return game.  I see Michigan's fron line guys fall back, turn and wait for the potential tacklers to get to them.  They then whiff on the block.  Woolfolk seemed to miss a lot of blocks on the returns.  It always looked like he was chasing guys to the ball.  As far as returners, I like Odoms.  He doesn't hesitate like Harrison, and he carries the ball high and tight.  Trent and Cissoko are carry the ball out away from their body, which has led to their fumbles.  Minor is ok back there too.


September 30th, 2008 at 12:06 PM ^

on blocks during the kicking game.  If those guys going right across to block are wiffing they are just taking bad angles.  That's correctable, but it's also rather bizarre that it hasn't been fixed already.

The poor wedge being formed and easily blown up I guess could also be a function of just too many young underdeveloped guys trying to block the flying missiles coming at them.  If you're too light in the pants it doesn't matter how much technique you have when a guy is running full speed into you.

 Nne of the most infuriariing things to me is watching guys wiff on a kickoff block and then try and run and catch the guy the were supposed to block.  NO!  Turn around and block the fucking next guy.  Someone needs to scream that to Woolfork.


September 30th, 2008 at 7:51 PM ^

In the front line's defense, its very hard to pick out the guy you want to take out after running away from them.  When you turn you have about 1/2 a second to pick out YOUR guy and try and nail him, while you're at essentially a stop.  You run after that guy for a cutback, there's not really a second level to move towards in the return game, unless you would like 2-3 guys crushing a kicker.  Besides, if the KO team is running in the proper lanes, they should all pass you within 1 second of each other, and should be spaced out so that no 2 can be taken out by the same guy.


September 30th, 2008 at 10:03 AM ^

"On Threet's long run, I don't think he could have held the ball at the mesh point any longer. It was near perfect execution."

Great point on this play. I thought that I noticed in the first half that as they were trying to run these plays, that there wasn't enough of a hesitation (if that is the right word) at the mesh point. It seemed that the decision to keep or give was made earlier on and wasn't sold as well. It looked to be fixed in the second half on this play and a few others.

Keep up the good analysis!


September 30th, 2008 at 12:05 PM ^

It was the perfect call. Thats why they do the clap and the adjustments from the side. It was run, threets read, to the weak side or short side of the field. I think it was 71 who delievered the good block on the WLB.


Six Zero

September 30th, 2008 at 10:18 AM ^

Nice work again-- I really like the wideout perspective you provide.I'm not exactly a wealth of knowledge when it comes to running routes and the experience of being a receiver, but I know enough about football to really get what you're saying-- keep it up and thanks for your insight.

Most exciting game I ever saw at the Big House-- probably Perry bullin' his way into the end zone against Penn State in the first ever overtime at Michigan Stadium. Place was going crazy-- great memory.

BTW, speaking of Martin, who did indeed look VERY un-freshmanlike... could you imagine one day sending out LaLota, Martin, Campbell and Roh onto the field as our front four?? We're 3/4 of the way there-- C'mon Big Will, get back here!

Six Zero

September 30th, 2008 at 11:19 AM ^

Speaking of receivers, with Ricardo Miller now joining the fold, HOW many more do we need???

If I were Junior or Clemons, I'd probably be a little nervous right about now...

blue edmore

September 30th, 2008 at 5:47 PM ^

I noticed Threet's throwing motion, particularly on the short sideline he's tossing a frisbee or something. His mechanics, with his shoulder, feet, etc. need serious tech work. Hopefully that will come with experience, but the kid does have some upside physically. And, I think, mentally he grew quite a bit Saturday.