God, Penn State's coaching staff is retarded. Remember when they'd waste downs by bringing in Robinson to run an ISQD*? They managed to get away from that habit when Robinson became the starter and said quarterback draws were no longer Incredibly Surprising. Well, they're back. Derrick Williams must have blown a half-dozen snaps running into the Incredibly Surprised line; the one time they tried to run trickeration off of it the play design was totally different than the plays they'd "set up" Notre Dame with and was so Incredibly Surprising that Williams was leveled by Ndkuwe when he tried to throw the ball. Lloyd haters take heart: there are dumber staffs out there.
And that compares not at all to what they did on the defensive side of the ball. Their gameplan against ND -- basically "if we drop all eleven guys into coverage it'll take them a really long time to score" -- tripped some sort of Herrmann-fuse in my brain. When I came to I was on the floor of Dunkin Donuts covered in coffee and what I really hope was frosting. Thanks for nothing, Penn State! Undeterred by Quinn freakin' torching them in the first quarter, they persisted in this until the touchdowns fell like rain. Penn State, thy name is Corky.
And then the grand bull-moose of horrific error: that insane option. Someone's been playing too much NCAA 2004. Just because everyone from John Navarre on up makes a dandy option QB in the game does not mean that Anthony Morelli will do anything except explode when you have him do it in real life.
I no longer fear this game much. Penn State's defensive ends have court orders to stay 50 yards from the quarterback at all times. Their blitzes are telegraphed, mistimed, and pitifully slow. Evidently they're terrified of their secondary, since their gameplan was hell-bent on preventing anyone finding themselves in single coverage, like, ever. Morelli has a nice arm and a tendency to throw into double coverage. Tony Hunt is the very definition of pedestrian.
*(Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw.)
Quinn was better. Two throws on seam routes to TE John Carlson stand out. They were real and they were fantastic. Never really saw the OMG NFL buzz on Quinn, but those throws give some indication of what his proponents see. They had to be placed in a two-foot window twenty yards downfield and were. Pure "wow" throws. Also, when Penn State's feeble attempts to get pressure failed (basically every time Quinn dropped back -- dude had Navarre-ian time to sit back and evaluate the field) he sliced and diced like Ginsu.
...but not exactly great. Those eight-man coverages in the redzone prompted two throws from him that should have been picked off. One was a horribly thrown ball that would have been a touchdown if accurate; a safety stepped in front of the other. There were also a couple overthrows on somewhat difficult passes.
Notre Dame cornerbacks haven't exactly repaired that Fiesta Bowl thing. Penn State had a couple opportunities to bomb it deep but could not. Once Derrick Williams dropped it; another time Morelli underthrew a ball that would have been a Ginn-Fiesta-style touchdown if accurate. I have a sneaking feeling that you can just run by these guys no problem toot sweet bingo, especially if Notre Dame brings an eighth guy into the box to staunch the bloodflow in the run game. Can Michigan block long enough to make it matter? Can the wide receivers actually get under and catch the hypothetical bomb? Eh... seems doubtful.
The linebackers can be had. We've had some problems getting guys blocked and keeping 'em blocked in the first couple games, but from what I saw against Penn State once these guys get engaged they're done. Their SAM linebacker has been iffy and both middle and weakside guys are undersized. That's mitigated somewhat by Zbikowski and Ndukwe, both outstanding in run support, but I can foresee a lot of 5 to 8 yard runs against ND.
Some Irish fans are theorizing that their mildly undersized line is good for dealing with the zone game, but that depends entirely on how committed they are to stopping the run. Seven in the box or even eight in the wrong position == death. That gives the Michigan line the freedom to shove undersized guys into sealed positions with their momentary doubles ("scoop" blocks in the parlance of our times), then get out to the linebackers and turn them into green goo. Lanes a-plenty. If, on the other hand, they guess correctly and force adjustments that remove the scoop possibility, Michigan will be trying to deal with one on one blocking while moving laterally across the line of scrimmage against theoretically penetrating linemen: bad news. Hart can probably turn some projected losses into decent gains, but Michigan won't be able to sustain drives on zone alone.
Victor Abiamiri is going to be a problem. He's good and he's lining up against Riley. I was hoping House Rock Built was engaging in a bit of homer fantasy when he described Abiamiri as a monster in our little tete-a-tete, but I regret to inform you that he isn't. Whatever sap is playing right tackle for PSU got izzowned** by Abiamiri all day... and it would have been worse had the refs decided to call two or three really obvious holds on him. Given Riley's ugly performance against Bazuin I think you're going to see an awful lot of chipping and support given to ol' Rueben. That'll harsh our routes a bit and potentially tip our plays: TE over Long == run, TE over Riley == pass.
**(Like "owned," only to such an extent that you can mention Michigan vs. Michigan State basketball as a potential comparison and be taken seriously.)
- I understand why teams are swarming Samarjajeixkia but not McKnight. McKnight's had several opportunities to make tough catches in ND's first couple games and come through rarely. Whenever you put the ball within five yards of Samarjaexxxxo, he catches it. I hate him.
- If we get aggressive we resign ourselves to two or three forty-yard completions downfield. It's just going to happen. We blitz, it gets picked up, and Quinn hurls it towards one of the aforementioned receivers, both of whom have major height advantages on any cornerback you care to name.
- I'm fine with this. I prefer this in lieu of what happened to PSU.
- Darius Walker is a poor man's Mike Hart. The similarities are downright eerie.
- PSU probably did us a major favor by playing stupidity guinea pig. The stark contrast between GT's approach, PSU approach, and their respective results should be obvious to all. We're coming after Quinn.
- If the other defensive end is as much of a problem area as HRB implied, Long should have a field day against him in the run game. He's been driving guys into the secondary so far this year.
- A large portion of the game's outcome rests on exactly when we have paper to their screen scissors and vice-versa. I often think that football is essentially a very violent poker game; this game will live up to that theory more than most. This worries me, as I don't think there's a person on the planet who would bet on Carr in a heads-up hold'em duel.