Scouting ND vs. Nevada

Submitted by SFBayAreaBlue on September 8th, 2009 at 4:56 PM
So I skimmed through "Irish"'s hyperbolic preview and I thought, "ok, well allow me to retort."

ND Offense:
Playing against a WAC defense must be every OC's wet dream.  Nevada's DB's were small, and slow, and timid.  ND seemed concerned about Nevada's DE's who managed to make a few plays, and so they ran a lot of screens and draws and even some QB zone read from the wildcat.  Nearly every deep pass was off of playaction.  The running game looked better than it had in recent memory, but against a pretty soft defense. Most of the runs were off tackle or outside.

QB: Clausen did look pretty sharp. But he's still not very mobile and was taken down by the shoelaces  on several occasions.  He was making good decisions and was very accurate on the deep balls.  Has a good playfake. His confidence seemed pretty high (as it should be vs. last year's 119th ranked pass defense) and was putting the ball on guys even when they were covered.  Against our more athletic DB's this should result in more tipped balls and hopefully an interception or two.  He was continually throwing high to his taller wideouts and TE's.  Lucky for him that his receivers are tall and strong.  Cryst looked like a real QB (not some gay balding emu) but very inexperienced.  If Clausen goes down, there is a big drop off.

RB:  Armando Allen was the featured back, and he has good speed.  Likes to cut to the outside.  Not a real strong runner and doesn't break very many tackles.  Was used in a wildcat formation several times.  Jonas Gray (who we remember as the guy that Carr and staff passed over for Mike Cox) has pretty thick legs and good speed.   He's more of a straight line runner who can run through arm tackles but doesn't have much wiggle. Their third back Riddick or something showed off some good hurdling ability but not much else.

TE: Rudolph (i think) looks like a good pass catcher who is pretty nimble for being so tall, but he's a bit skinny to be an effective run blocker.

WR: Floyd and Tate are the real deal.  Floyd is a bit taller and stronger at 6'4".  His two long catches came on a jump ball where he out muscled the defender and kept his feet and the second was on a simple buble screen where tate got a great block and Floyd used his speed around the outside. 

OL: This unit was not very exceptional in speed, size, or strength, but they seemed much more technically sound than in the past two years when they couldn't block anyone.   They executed pretty well on screens and did a fairly good job of giving clausen time. 

ND Defense:
Can you say blitz?  Can you say blitz 47 times? (estimate).   ND's front seven was pretty unexceptional in every way.  The only time they looked good was when they brought 6 guys and someone came through unblocked. But that was frequent enough to kill drives after Nevada had marched into ND territory. 

This was one of the least impressive shutouts I've ever seen. Nevada missed a FG, had an unforced fumble in the redzone, and pretty much marched up and down the field on ND until something flukey happened to keep the from scoring.  It was 28-0 at the half but could have easily been 28-17.  ND got some help from its crowd which caused a couple false starts and delays of game once nevada got to the closed ends of the field.  The only play that really made you stand up and say "Now that's good D!"  was when they got penetration on 4th and inches to stop another scoring threat. 

Dline:   Nothing to really note here.  They didn't fight through blocks very well and were not much of a factor in the game.  Nevada's Oline was opening up running seams left and right to the tune of 150+ yards and over a 5 yard per carry average. 

LB: Showed good speed on the blitz, and the blitzes came from all over.  But they didn't seem very strong or smart.  Nevada's QB (who is a pretty good runner, and kind of looks like a cross between vince young and Gumar, but sadly Whitecastle is not in Korea) managed to get away from them several times.  Their best player is a true frosh from Hawaii who doesn't start.  He has good instincts and brings the hammer, but can probably be tricked into a bad play or two. 

DB's:  Hard to evaluate here.  They seemed to tackle well, but they weren't pushed very hard as Nevada was missing their best receivers from last year and the Nevada QB had a problem with slippery balls (No giggling!) This probably means that the DB's have gotten better since the days of Manningham getting "OH, WIDE OPEN!".  Not being mentioned much is a vast improvement over the toastings they used to get with regularity. But, with so much blitzing it was strange to see the DB's playing so far back at the snap. 

ND definitely looks better, but they're vulnerable on both sides of the ball.  I like the way we match up with them.  We seem to have faster and stronger athletes along both lines.  And with home field advantage and barring any major injuries we should be able to answer anything they throw at us.

When we have the ball:
Our RB's against their front seven looks like a definite advantage for us.  We should be able to control the pace of the game with our rushing attack and put together lots of long drives. The key in the passing game will be all about our ability to pick up the blitz.  We need a big day from the TE's are RB's and good communication along the line.  But I expect our QB's to run for over 100 yards and our RB's to combine for 150.  So here's to hoping that Koger, Webb, Brown, Minor, and Grady (24) have a great week of practice.

When they have the ball:
If we can get pressure with our Dline, we should be able to shut down their offense pretty well.  Graham and Roh should be able to get around their tackles, and Martin shouldn't have much problem with their centers and guards.  Donovan should be glued to Floyd all day and Bouboucar on Tate if he's healthy.  Stevie can take their TE.  That just leaves our other LB's vs. their RB's on screens and zone options.  This looks like a push or a slight ND advantage.  The one thing we cannot do is fall for their excellent playaction.  We need a big game from our safeties.

I expect we'll be able to move the ball with ease.  I'm just not sure how our 3rd, 4th, and 5th DB's will hold up.  I expect ND will gain decent yardage on screens and a few runs, but we might give up a huge play every now and then.  I think the game will be shortened due to long drives and we'll pull out a squaker in the 34-30 range as we control the clock and their D gets tired.

Or if we can knock out Clausen it'll be 38-0.



September 8th, 2009 at 5:41 PM ^

He will be playing on Sundays, and was the #1 TE recruit in the country last year. But your safety should have no problems with him. I know that Irish's analysis was through blue and gold lenses but....

So Manti is talented but can be tricked into a bad play or two, but Roh should have no problems? Floyd and Tate will be easily blanketed all day? Uh, ok. They did have success against other good DB's last year. Shocking, but true. Floyd is going to the NFL after his junior year (unfortunately). This game will be competitive, but Weis and Company should win this year. Simply based on experience and talent they are presently the better team. If Weis is to prove he is the coach for the future you win games that you are supposed to win. And ND is supposed to win this one. They might not, but they should.

So the shutout was "flukey"? Well, then I sure hope ND gets all of the "flukey" breaks again this coming week.


September 8th, 2009 at 5:53 PM ^

certainly had enough flukey plays last year, this year you're in the big house and bullcrap like that tends to even out.

Roh against your line and manti against our RB's are both matchups that favor us. Roh was good enough to win a starting job from older players. Manti wasn't.

I acknowledged tate and floyd as good players without dwelling on it. But that can be neutralized with a good pass rush against a qb who is not very mobile. We were getting pressure with 3 men at times last week, and brandon graham will eat up your tackles.


September 8th, 2009 at 6:17 PM ^

...are fairly typical of the UM fan who never lost a game, simply gave it away. Unless bullcrap is having a special teams gunner lay out a returner while putting their helmet on the ball: bullcrap! If the logic persists that last year's game was a barometer of Michigan's likely success then why didn't ND win in 2006? Or UM trounce them last year? You can pretty much take nothing from a game played in half a hurricane that was 10 games and close to a year ago. UM has entirely new QBs, ND has entirely new coaches on both lines and RB. I think it is strange that so many wolverine fans are looking back at a loss to indicate a victory.

Roh winning a starting job from older players might simply mean they were not that good (that was a joke, he is good, but still a freshman). I believe that Brian Smith is the best player on the D, not the bench-warming hawaiian. I am excited to seem him progress over the year (the hawaiian).

The truth is this: somewhere between Irish's assessment (the Irish are national champs!! Weis for President! Clausen for Heisman!) and yours (ND is slightly ahead of Central Michigan and completely unable to block Mike Martin's biceps) is the likely assessment. These are two teams that looked better than most expected in week one against middling competition. This will probably result in a competitive game throughout where either ND's offense makes some plays against the Michigan D-line (sorry, your LB's and corners do nothing for me), or Tate Forcier exhibits the poise he showed in the opener at the home stadium and plays mistake free football allowing the run game to take hold. I think the freshman makes a mistake, and ND capitalizes. ND 27, Michigan 20.


September 8th, 2009 at 5:45 PM ^

Thanks for the insight. I'm hoping to catch a replay on Universal HD because I didn't see much of the game and didn't TiVo it.

This is the quote that's troubling and, of course I immediately thought about it watching the Floyd highlights...

"We need a big game from our safeties."

I guess I'm a pessimist, but I just don't see it. I hope I'm wrong, and I also really hope we can score first and HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL. That would be nice.


September 8th, 2009 at 6:50 PM ^

HOLD(ing) ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL would be a huge improvement over last year. Fortunately Mathews didn't put the ball on the ground and/or cough it up 6 times like ST did last year.

And as far as the safeties? We'll just have to hope and pray.


September 8th, 2009 at 7:52 PM ^


That always helps :)

"And as far as the safeties? We'll just have to hope and pray."

Sigh... so true. Also pray for Cissoko's stinger to heal by Saturday.

You'd think ND would try to spread the field and really go after our secondary, but it sounds like that's not what they like to do, or at least that's what Sam Webb (WTKA) says they want to do, and I hope he's talked to more people about ND than I have. According to the last thing I've heard Webb say is ND will try to run the ball and go play action.


September 8th, 2009 at 6:14 PM ^

Good job...One thing I think we can all agree on,is that we did not see to the full extent of what this Mich team is capable of.Western only saw some base stuff.
ND is going to see alot more.


September 8th, 2009 at 6:22 PM ^

Good job on the Nd evaluation (you can also watch the irish on notre dame central on the nbc sports website)

I would also:
*over 200 yards of Jimmah's completions came on 3 catches: 88 yarder when he was under pressure and just tossed it up to Floyd who beat an inferiior athlete, 70 yards on a swing pass to a wr, and 45 more on another jump ball down the sidelines
*Nevada, running out of the spread, had little trouble running between the tackles

My guess is that ND will come out, like last year, try and rung the ball, then go play action with max protect (sounds a bit like carr?). On Defense they will try and blitz alot but I think they would be better off keeping everything in front of them and force Forcier make a lot of plays. We shall see


September 8th, 2009 at 7:19 PM ^

I agree with your analysis. It seems like the ND offense is plodding with a little bit of explosive mixed in. Jimmah throws the deep ball very, very well. I think if we make them try to beat us up front, and mix in a lot of blitzes with some conservative zone coverage schemes I think that'll be ok. One thing is for sure, Greg Robinson knows how to beat ND, so I have the utmost confidence that our D will be prepared. Barring said big plays, ND is not a super powerful offense.


September 8th, 2009 at 8:11 PM ^

"This was one of the least impressive shutouts I've ever seen. Nevada missed a FG, had an unforced fumble in the redzone, and pretty much marched up and down the field on ND until something flukey happened to keep the from scoring."

Sounds good to me. I think Nevada is really not all that great, 7-6 last season and from what one can tell had a pretty poor defense all around. I can't find how many starters they returned from last year's team, though, but from what it sounds like it wouldn't have helped Nevada's defense much.

It's not like beating Western was like beating USC, but Michigan certainly looked a hell of a lot better than they did last season. Western supposedly had a very good QB as well.

If Tate stays healthy, Michigan's got a perfectly good chance of winning this game.


September 9th, 2009 at 11:11 AM ^

They moved the ball against the ND defense. They run a spread, so that's a good sign for Michigan's offense. Their one and only running back had a decent day -- 114 yards at 6.3 per.

The bad sign is that the ND offense scored at will. Michigan's defense is better than Nevada's -- the question is, how much better?

Here's my take on the coming season: The defense is thin -- U-M needs to control the ball on offense, to keep the defense off the field. Not because they are bad, but because the starters aren't going to get a lot of breathers. That will be the story against ND -- will Michigan have a big enough lead in the 4th quarter to withstand the pressure as ND rotates offensive linemen while the Wolverine front seven stays on the field?

Will the fact we can do the same thing on offense (bring experienced, quality reserves in and out of the game to keep the line fresh) help us maintain similar pressure on ND's front seven?



September 10th, 2009 at 5:07 PM ^

How good will Michigan's defense be is a painfully obvious question, I'll grant you that.

I don't really know if the Irish have the personnel to rotate on the OLine in the way I was thinking. I do know Michigan does, though. It just feels like this will be a 4th-quarter nail-biter. The ability to bring in fresh horses, even if just for a few plays during a drive, could be the difference. Thus the twin questions.

Tha Stunna

September 8th, 2009 at 8:17 PM ^

I liked the first part, but...

"If we can get pressure with our Dline, we should be able to shut down their offense pretty well. Graham and Roh should be able to get around their tackles, and Martin shouldn't have much problem with their centers and guards. Donovan should be glued to Floyd all day and Bouboucar on Tate if he's healthy. Stevie can take their TE. That just leaves our other LB's vs. their RB's on screens and zone options. This looks like a push or a slight ND advantage. The one thing we cannot do is fall for their excellent playaction. We need a big game from our safeties."

The first sentence is correct, but expecting us to magically own their Dline is highly optimistic. Remember, we got zero sacks last year against the same offensive line. I also think our corners will be mostly good but will screw up occasionally against ND's excellent wide receivers, through blown coverage or causing penalties. Stevie can take their TE, but whether he will largely remains to be seen; he is Stevie Brown, capable of covering anyone but not necessarily deigning to.

I'm not putting much faith in our LBs, although I would put less faith in ND's probably sucky running game, which is largely a decoy.

The key matchup here is our QB pressure vs safety suckitude. Jimmah will gladly make good passes without pressure, and our secondary is not up to the task. The question is whether QB pressure is good enough to take the burden off our safeties, who are probably going to screw up frequently given a chance. (No offense to the safeties, but pretty much every heuristic says they will suck, and WMU didn't prove much of anything on their part.) I'd expect a mostly good effort out of our defense with several big plays given up from time to time and at least one turnover from Jimmah.


September 9th, 2009 at 7:00 AM ^

Just saying.

P.S. Kyle Rudolph is for real. Clausen is overrated but Rudolph is not. Clausen will look to dump off to Rudolph (I mean when he is not just heaving a jump ball to Tate and Floyd) every time he gets into trouble. Michigan needs to cover Rudolph like a blanket.


September 9th, 2009 at 10:13 AM ^

Let's face it, it is close enough to be impossible to predict reliably. If you were to 'average' all of the previews and analysis that favor either team, they come out at about neutral. I would give ND a slight edge in that they are in the third year of their 'turnaround', however the game is played in Ann Arbor which just about evens that out. Seems like a push to me. Oddsmakers have ND a slight favorite against a ~3 point home field advantage, so I guess you could put it at 55% ND / 45% UM if you needed to attached a number.

This game will likely be close, both teams will make some big plays, both teams will have a few sustained drives for scores, both teams will get some breaks. The team that capitalizes on those breaks the best will come out on top.

My 'prediction':
-ND has 3 big plays and two sustained drives for scores
-Michigan has 3 sustained drives and 2 big plays for scores
-Both teams will see 1-2 turnovers come their way

Difference makers:
-Red zone efficiency: touchdowns vs. field goals for scores on drives
-Turnovers: winning turnover battle is key, both in terms of number for/against, as well as 'impact'. I say 'impact', b/c not all turnovers are equal, interception on your own 20 = punt one down early, fumble recover on opponent 20 = instant scoring opportunity.

A football is a prolate speroid in shape (mathmatically = (x/a)^2 +(x/b)^2 = 1), which is a long way of saying it bounces funny and unpredictably. How the ball bounces will be a major factor on Saturday.


September 9th, 2009 at 10:22 AM ^

Good to hear how they got the shutout. Michigan, on the other hand, had 31 points before WMU had 31 yards! It sounds like the Irish defense is a bit of a paper tiger heading into week two.