The Ominous Counter Gap

Submitted by CLord on September 9th, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Mattison’s bend-but-don’t-break scheme Saturday was maddening, but ultimately panned out with two key interceptions and one turnover on downs.  The bend appeared to be a scheme where we sacrificed bodies for the pass rush in exchange for keeping everything in front.  Forgivable also given that Reese appeared prepared to check down the few times he smelled blitzes, and managed them successfully.  So our defensive game plan made sense, except for the part where we had no answer whatsoever for the counter gap.  ND gashed us repeatedly right up the gut, as their right guard constantly pulled and buried, typically Ross, while their center and left guard moved our nose tackle to off to the right, leaving a lovely gap for 8-12 yard gainers.

What we saw today is precisely what we are going to see from Ohio, and what we saw from them last year.  They counter gapped us to death, and Miller checked down off of our blitzes.  Now for the upcoming Ohio game, I envision the same bend-don’t-break defense given Miller’s speed.  Our opposing QB will trade a little accuracy (Reese > Miller) for a ton of athleticism and escapability, which to me, is far more scary (nightmares of Troy Smith still dance in my dreams), and I’m comfortable our scheme will keep Miller in check, but how will we solve the counter gap?  It gashed is last night, I’m surprised ND didn’t resort to it more, and flat out I no likey.



September 9th, 2013 at 12:14 PM ^

UFR-defense will be verah interesting, in that from my hazy, martini & beer-soaked memories of the game, the D-line was generating little to no pressure and there was a surprising amount of yardage for ND rbs.

Howeva, while trolling for schadenfreude, a couple of Domer bloggers mention how the Michigan LBs were sitting a couple yards deeper off the LOS to try to keep crossing routes in front of them and to force Rees to squeeze balls in a 2-deep zone, thus sacrificing some run support.

Would guess, with JMFR back, our ability to generate a rush with 4 will be better, and hopefully, the DT in our nickle will be able to clog up the middle more. Don't think you will see our LBs as deep, either, or have someone like Ross 'spy' Miller.


September 9th, 2013 at 1:23 PM ^

Sorry, I must have missed the part of Heiko's roundtables with Mattison where coach individually breaks down the performance of each line player on each play, and provides youtube clips of some plays.

Please, next time, can you point these out to me?

Also, have Mattison call me to share his opinion on how he is going to gameplan Braxton Miller.


Sarcasm aside, yes the coaches are better at this, but no, they really don't share their opinions all the time.  UFR is great for folks who like to see in minute detail the schemes, and effectiveness of parts of the game.


September 9th, 2013 at 12:14 PM ^

If I see exactly what I saw Saturday with Michigan beating Ohio State by 11 then I will be okay with it.

Mattison's scheme looked underwhelming against Notre Dame because our blitzes were picked up well and on most plays we failed to get pressure sending four.

Personally, I would have liked to see us start to cheat up and try for an interception on those short routes when we had a two TD lead since Notre Dame didn't seem all that able or willing to beat us by throwing over the top.

Hopefully, our D-Line matures over the season where they start to be able to get pressure sending four or Ohio State's O-Line isn't as good as Notre Dame's.


September 9th, 2013 at 12:15 PM ^

I'm not sure if we can stop the run, but I haven't seen Miller pick apart a defense passing the ball the way that Rees did to us Saturday night.  His accuracy isn't as good.  I'm also not as convinced that Braxton will be as proficient as Rees when it comes to seeing the blitzes. 

Other than that, we just have to hope that the defense will undergo some drastic improvements between now and November.  It's going to be scary.  We are justifiably the underdog for the game. 


September 9th, 2013 at 12:21 PM ^

I think you're remembering last years game wrong.  The problem was most definitely not our defense stopping their offense.  It was our offense staying in the lockerroom after halftime.  Take the way MSU stopped Denard as the perfect example of how to stop Braxton.  Our DBs are better this year, and will be much more refined by November, and if they do play with the cushion we saw on Sat. and that bend don't break mentality, while our LBs key on corralling Braxton, we should be ok.  We won't need to play so much nickel because Braxton is not nearly the thrower Rees is.


September 9th, 2013 at 12:23 PM ^

mattison was also pulling pipkins and washington for the nickel package and going with 2 3-techs in the middle to try and get some pass rush, i saw black, glasgow, wormley in the middle often together. so we were sacrificing some major bulk and run defense to try and get the pass rush. none of those guys is really gonna stand up against a double team. i imagine given notre dames pass heavy attack and seeing the reciever daniels get deep against temple, mattison was more worried about the deep ball and the recievers than rushing yards. if ryan is back by then maybe mattison will be able to get some more creative pressure.

The FannMan

September 9th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

We defended the pass and gave them run because we gambled that Kelly would still pass the ball.  We were right.  A lot of other coaches would have ran the counter again and again and again until we stopped it.  (Imagine Tressell facing that defense.)  However, not Kelly.  I don't have stats, but it seemed that he would get a 7 or 8 yard run through a gapping hole and then follow it with two passes.  If they were incomplete or short, we got the ball.  Mattison had to give them something.  I think he gave ND the run up the middle and bet that Kelly wouldn't call it enough to beat us with it.  Mattison was right on.  (I also assume that Mattison had a plan B if Kelly went all Tressel on us on handed the ball off again and again.)

Meyer may be different story.  I think he would just run the the ball up the gut with Miller or a RB until he hit the endzone.  I expect our defensive scheme to be very different for that game.

Basically, I think that your underlying assumption - that the defense will be the same in November as it is now - is incorrect.  Also, we should hopefully have Jake MF'n Ryan who will just simply destroy all in his path.

Space Coyote

September 9th, 2013 at 1:48 PM ^

Mattison's plan was to force ND to never get behind the sticks, and as soon as they did then he'd mix it up. Notice his wrinkles came on 3rd and short or 2nd and 10 more often than not. He knew it would be extremely difficult for ND to play mistake free football and work the ball in small chunks down the field. He was then confident that once they were behind the sticks he could keep them there. That didn't always work perfectly, but the play itself worked well in the grand scheme of things, and forced ND to do somethings they weren't comfortable with (run between the tackles on 3rd and short, throw the ball deep)

the Glove

September 9th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

Notre Dame had the luxury of having a senior quarterback with the ability to audible at the line of scrimmage, I really don't think that Braxton Miller or many other teams Michigan will play will have quite that ability that Tommy Rees showed.


September 9th, 2013 at 12:57 PM ^

Sure, it's a long time from now, but it is nice to get these sort of things up on the blog early to make sure Mattison will see it and start game planning early. Unfortunately I don't think he's quite as much the devoted reader that most of us are, so these posts need to get put up early and often to make sure he reads them and knows what to do.


September 9th, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

First of all OSU and ND are two completely different offenses with different skill sets especially at the QB position. Why would you expect us to run the same defense against them? ND is primarily a passing team whereas OSU is an inside read - QB run team.  Even though OSU is trying to throw it more you stop them by stopping the run. OSU had 40 rushing attempts against SDSU and 45 attempts agains Buffalo.


Secondly, ND beat Temple with big plays (Rees 15 yards per completion) and when they didn’t get the big play they struggled. It was a sound strategy therefore to take away the big play (which we did) and think that we could stop them from making long drives. Obviously ND performed better then they did against Temple as many teams do in week 2.


September 9th, 2013 at 1:25 PM ^

One: I'm not worried about Ohio yet.

Two: Jake Ryan will hopefully be back which gives the defense a lot more options. 

Not sure why, other than Kelly arrogance, that they didn't run it more, but they seemed determined not to.  We'll see how it goes with other teams.


September 9th, 2013 at 2:59 PM ^

I'm worried, but not as worried as the OP.  Mattison played 6 in the box most of the game.  I think he plays 1 high and makes Miller beat us consistently over the top before he lets them just run over us.  Just my personal opinion.

Zone Left

September 9th, 2013 at 3:52 PM ^

Rees is a much, much better player than people want to give him credit for. He was able to get ND into the right play all night and had the accuracy to make Mattison's strategy really frustrating to watch. Miller is very different player and OSU's offense is a very different offense. Notre Dame's line is also really good.

I think you'll see us be somewhat more aggressive and certainly closer to the line of scrimmage. Mattison will want to box Miller in with the ends while blitzing from different angles and forcing him to beat our corners.

That said, OSU is really good. They're going to move the ball. We just have to move it more.