What, there's something else going on?
11/23/2007 - Michigan 3, Wisconsin 2 -12-1, 8-0 CCHA
11/24/2007 - Michigan 5, Minnesota 1 - 13-1, 8-0 CCHA
I hate Minnesota.
This is an unusual thing for anyone to hate. Minnesota is a nonentity in the big two collegiate sports. They haven't been to the Rose Bowl in 40 years. The only time their basketball program is any good is when they're cheating their asses off (ya, ya, glass houses, not relevant to the discussion). Maybe Wisconsin and Iowa have a real antipathy for the Gophers, but both rivalries seem built more on sweet trophies -- an axe and a pig -- than venom. Who doesn't want to win a huge ax? Or something called Floyd of Rosedale?
No, it's impossible to truly hate a school so limply sad that when you win the Big Ten at their stadium you can not only pull the goalposts down but haul them out onto the street. Outside of certain frigid enclaves, Minnesota is nothing.
But there is nothing that makes me want to throw a brick into a crowd of revelers than the goddamned Minnesota rouser. The reasons for this are obvious and obscure. The obvious bit:
The obscure, at least in terms of national significance: the first Michigan hockey game I watched was the national semifinal my freshman year of college. Michigan torched UNH 4-0. Two days later, Josh Langfeld wandered out from behind the boards and sort of tossed a puck between Scott Clemmensen's pads and Michigan was national champions. My vague September desire to maybe get hockey tickets had been quickly forgotten in the rush of Charles Woodson and company's national championship thrust; suddenly the decision to not get tickets seemed dumb indeed.
I rectified that the next year just in time for Minnesota to embark on a scorched earth campaign against Michigan. Suffice it to say that before Saturday, Minnesota had won six straight against Michigan and nine of eleven, several of them humiliating blowouts.
In 2003, Michigan made the Frozen Four in Buffalo, there drawing Minnesota. Buffalo being a relatively short jaunt through Canada for Michiganders, we went. (Side note: Canadians are exceedingly accommodating when you tell them you're driving five hours to watch some hockey. If you ever find yourself forced into drug smuggling by some tragic turn of events, just tell the border guard you're watching your cousin play in Lethbridge.)
Minnesota was good. They're usually good, but this edition of the Gophers was a real Death Star of a team: the defending national champions, WCHA double winners, and the tournament's top seed overall. Minnesota's national title run the year before had gone through Michigan, a painful 3-2 loss that was not nearly as close as it had looked. Freshman Thomas Vanek, now a ridiculously overpaid Buffalo Sabre, had 60 points, and the rest of the team was fast and talented.
But Michigan had beaten them 3-1 in the Showcase earlier that year, and dominated the first period. Just crushed them. Jason Ryznar and Eric Nystrom were crushing guys along the boards. Minnesota could not get possession and only a parade of saves and missed opportunities kept the score relatively close. It was 1-0 after one. The second period was the exact opposite, with Minnesota dominating play, until Jed Ortmeyer, god bless him, popped in a second goal and the final five minutes were even. A late Minnesota goal gave the Gophers life, but down 2-1 against an opponent that had beaten them earlier in the year and clearly was giving them all they could handle is not a good spot.
So it was with some disbelief that I listened to a wide array of Gopher fans chatting about the game during the second intermission, every one of them blithely assured that Minnesota would come out and roll over Michigan in the third. I have been around my share of frustratingly overconfident opposing fans -- wooo Ohio State! -- but nothing compares to Minnesota fans in Buffalo that day.
The third period was tightly contested. Minnesota tied it at the other end, but Michigan controlled much of the period. Achingly, Nystrom or Ryznar or someone knocked a puck through the Gopher goalie only to see it waved off, as the whistle had gone. Ryznar had a golden opportunity at an open net that a defenseman hacked off the line. Halfway through the first overtime, Vanek wandered out from behind the net and swept the puck at Al Montoya and it went through his pads and all I could think was "that was soft." We had a hotel room in Niagara Falls for the next couple nights. We left the next day.
Michigan hasn't been to the Frozen Four since and has only intermittently looked like a threat. Every year, Michigan would play Minnesota in the Showcase and prove that it was not national title caliber, then a parade of CCHA teams would get hopes up only for them to be dashed when
the big boys came calling.
Last year, Michigan was obliterated by the Gophers. The upperclass-laden team was basically the same group of guys who limped into the 2006 tournament with zero chance and got blown out by North Dakota. When Michigan drew Minnesota and North Dakota, the season was over. Even though Minnesota managed to blow it against Holy Cross (ha!), the season was indeed over.
This year, Michigan beat Minnesota raw. The shot count didn't reflect it, but the final score did. It doesn't really matter that the Gophers look decidedly un-vintage so far this year at 7-6-1. Michigan and Minnesota have played six periods this year and Michigan has owned five of them. They are streaking towards a real #1-#2 matchup against Miami later this year, and the malaise of the last couple years is gone, replaced with a bunch of freshman who reveal delightful new abilities -- look! backchecking! -- every game.
Everyone was waiting before making a declaration. Are they? Yes. They're for real.
Monday, November 26, 2007
What, there's something else going on?
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Video trouble? Try VLC.
Before we start, the play table below has multiple references to a "5-3-1-7 tech split." This is what is meant by that:
Note the alignment of the defensive line: Three players lined up basically over the tackle (5), guard (3), and center (1) to the side of the play a zone read will come, no one over the nominally weakside guard, one DE split extremely wide (7) on the nominal weakside. The goal here is clear: defeat the zone read by overloading the area of the line where the running back's hole is supposed to be while leaving a wide-split DE to handle the QB.
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Michigan twists its DTs, giving Minnesota an opportunity to seal Taylor; Ezeh comes up and is blocked out of the play by the guard; an unblocked CGraham(-1) misses a tackle, turning two yards into five.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||12||Zone read handoff|
|Michigan in what Colin's described as 5-3-1-7 tech in an effort to stop the zone run; Minnesota motions the tailback to the other side of the line and flips the play, running directly at the huge gap on what was, until moments ago, the backside of the formation. Taylor(-1) is cut to the ground uselessly; BG actually does a really nice job of defeating a double and flowing down the line but as he gets to the POA he's held or stumbles or something and Bennett shoots past him. Both linebackers are crushed by blockers with excellent angles. Englemon(-1) misses a tackle, providing another three yards at the end of the play.|
|Weber throws it well over his receiver's head. I can't tell whether Harrison was going to cut this down or get cut inside of. Maybe credit Crable for reading this and backing off such that Weber had to loft it long? Sure. +1.|
|O37||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-1||Zone read handoff|
|Taylor(+1) stands up his guy, driving him a couple yards back. A blitzing CGraham(+1) tackles from behind thanks to the delay caused by Taylor.|
|O36||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Wheel|
|A twist gets Ezeh in totally unblocked, as a Harrison blitz from the same side occupies the back. Weber gets rid of it in time, finding a marginally open receiver; Warren(+1) hits him as the ball arrives. Moot point as it had already glanced off his fingertips. (Pressure +1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. Bill Curry's already mistaken Shawn Crable for Will Johnson mere minutes after saying “Ironically, Minnesota has a good offense and could move the ball.” I've heard people misuse “irony” from sea to shining sea and never has it been so spectacular. Thank you, Bill Curry.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||9||Zone read handoff|
|Our “please gash us” formation. Crable lined up over a slot receiver, threatening blitz; three DL with Ezeh sticking his nose in as a threatened blitzer next to Taylor. He comes; the C and G double Taylor, sealing him, as Jamo runs himself upfield and out of the play. CGraham unwisely blitzes away from where the zone read play will go if they hand it off, which they do, and there is no chance Michigan stops this. Very poor scheme on this play – I think the lack of wisdom here is not on the part of any of the players.|
|O29||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Another DT twist means neither is in a position to do much at the snap. Linebackers are useless; CGraham(-1) meekly blocked out of the play, ending up on the ground; Crable(+1) sets up well and disconnects to make an important tackle as the RB passes.|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||8||Zone read draw|
|This is not a true zone read, as the pulling tackle reveals this is going to be a QB keeper all the way. I might need to diversify my nomenclature here. Anyway, Johnson fights inside in an attempt to get to the RB, who doesn't have the ball, opening up a hole. Ezeh(-1) is very late reading this, getting plowed by the pulling tackle.|
|O41||2||2||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|5-3-1-7 tech splits; this time Minnesota does not adjust to it and runs directly at it, probably because our linebackers are slanted to the backside. Bennett manages to squeeze through a hole between Johnson and Taylor, but only just barely. No linebacker help again; Bennett is grabbed by the legs and manages to fall forward.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||24||PA Post|
|A zone read fake into play action; well blocked by Minnesota and a post comes open over the middle. CGraham didn't actually bite on this and got into his drop; this is just a good play all around from Minnesota. (Pressure -1, cover -1)|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||14||Zone read keeper|
|Crable(-2) gives up contain.|
|Nominally, anyway, as the RB takes a step outside before coming back inside; a pulling tackle and guard head for the backside hole. (We are again in 5-3-1-7.) Subtly, Taylor(+1) makes a play, sidestepping a cut and forcing the tackle, blocking down and leaving the DE and LB to the pullers, to deal with him. Thompson makes a barely adequate tackle, allowing a couple YAC.|
|M14||2||6||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read draw|
|Same play as earlier in the drive. Crable(+2) defeats a block and tackles after a minimal gain.|
|M12||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Zone read rollout|
|Play action; Weber rolls out; Jamo(+1) up in Weber's face, forcing an early throw and maybe deflecting the pass. Yes, he got it. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(29), 0-3, 6 min 1st Q. A lot of poor scheming gets Michigan players in no place to make a stop; one excellent pitch and catch from Minnesota and a blown contain gets the Gophers in field goal range.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Assume 5-3-1-7 splits unless otherwise noted at this point. Taylor(+2) is the NT here; they run right at the massive gap; Taylor gets his man a couple yards in the backfield and makes a tackle as the RB passes. This is the sort of thing we haven't seen from him enough.|
|Similar to a number of plays last week where Michigan linebackers flew out of zone coverage to deal with running backs on little flares; this time Ezeh moves out, opening a hole in the zone for the slant. (Cover -1)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pen||-5||False start|
|Ezeh(+1) reads this, flying up into the passing lane; Weber throws it away. (Cover +1)|
|O47||2||15||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-3||QB Draw|
|RB motions out; empty look. Both Crable(+1) and Jamison(+1) beat their men to the inside instead of rushing up around them; Weber has no chance; BGraham also comes in to help after a DT twist.|
|O44||3||18||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep out|
|Blitz does not quite get there as Weber fires the ball quickly on an out in front of Warren. It's short-hopped; there was the potential for a completion here but it was a narrow window. (Pressure +1.) Minnesota called for a chop block, Michigan takes the penalty.|
|O29||3||33||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Johnson(+1) does an excellent job flowing down the line to tackle; BGraham(+1) cut off the outside.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 2 min 1st Q. Some help from Minnesota via the penalty, but a good series.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Good push from Johnson(+1); Taylor gets pushed down the line a bit, slipping on the turf, but manages to grab a foot as the RB cuts back; Crable shuts him down after keeping contain.|
|First part of the play missed. Harrison(+2) jets in, fending of a blocker to chop this down in the backfield. Thompson(+1) also out there to help after a quick read.|
|O20||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||7||WR Screen|
|Fake RB screen to the topside of the screen; they got to Wheelwright at the bottom. Warren(+1) gets cut but gets up and manages to force Wheelwright out of bounds short of the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, EO 1st Q.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||13||Zone read counter|
|A more convincing counter that looks like your traditional zone read but for a pulling guard; Minnesota is again attacking the big gap between the 1 and 7 technique DL. We are one blocked CGraham away from giving up a big gain; CGraham(-1) is blocked and we give up a big gain.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Seam|
|Bennett motions out; Weber pump fakes a screen to him, then goes deeper. Harrison is our designated guy to freak out on these and he does; everyone else stays with their assignments. CGraham(+1) gets a bump on the TE, knocking him off his route and making this pass look wildly inaccurate. Even without the bump it's probably still IN; as it is it's ridiculously overthrown. (Cover +1)|
|O44||2||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Inc||WR Screen|
|Weber throws it wide.|
|O44||3||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||14 (pen)||Skinny post|
|The Warren pass interference. The replays given aren't particularly good, but this looks like excellent coverage to me. No punishment doled out.|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. BGraham(+1) beats his guy; can't make the tackle but does slow the back in the backfield. The center never got out on CGraham, and we all know that when you don't block CGraham he can spear you. This he does.|
|M41||2||9||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|Excellent play by Johnson(+1) to disconnect and tackle; CGraham(+1) dodges a block and knocks the ball loose from a falling Weber. Michigan recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-10, 9 min 2nd Q.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Zone read PA|
|Adams at the LOS as if he is going to blitz, but he bails at the snap as Michigan drops into zone. This may confuse Weber, who tosses it into coverage. Initial bite by Ezeh(+1) but he recovers well, getting in the passing lane and deflecting the ball. (Cover +1)|
|Same play as the first counter. TE and guard pull around in an effort to attack the backside. Crable(+1) crashes in, removing any crease at the intended POA; cutback. Johnson(+1) avoids a cut block and tackles.|
|O33||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Out|
|Taylor(+1) defeats his man and crushes Weber as he throws; ball is low as a result and into tight coverage from Warren(+1). The ball is dropped; Decker wants a flag. No sale. No, check that. On replay Warren comes around from the bottom to knock it away. Great play. (Cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-10, 5 min 2nd Q. Warren is officially good, kids.|
|We basically miss this play talking to Rece Davis. But Jamison(+1) knocks the ball down. (Pressure +1)|
|Crable flies upfield on an edge rush but gets pushed past the quarterback; Weber steps up. Jamison(+1) makes an edge rush of his own, then pushes the OT away and collapses down on Weber, hitting him as he throws and forcing an incompletion. (Pressure +1)|
|Harrison blitzes, so does Graham. The tackle on that side has blocked down on the DE, leaving just one running back to attempt to take on both blitzers. CGraham(-1) manages to get pushed by the RB and allows Weber to escape; he keeps his eyes down and attempts to run; Jamison and Ezeh(+1) put an end to that. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 2 min 1st Q.|
|O21||1||10||???||Nickel?||Run||20||Zone read something|
|We miss the beginning portion of this play looking at Tim Brewster; as we come back Will Johnson(-1) has been pancaked and both linebackers (Ezeh -1, CGraham -1) are running right up the middle, getting blocked by one guy. Boom: secondary instantly and a twenty-yard run.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Johnson(+1) stands up his guy, driving him back a bit and disconnecting as Bennett passes; Ezeh(+1) had gotten to the guard quickly enough to also help close the hole.|
|O41||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||-4||Zone read PA|
|Weber gets the ball knocked out by his own running back; he falls on it for a loss.|
|O37||3||14||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Post|
|Weber's pass is sailed, perhaps fortunately as both these Gopher receivers are in the same area and well covered (cover +1). The pass sailed because Will Johnson(+1) drove the guard into Weber as he threw. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 11 min 3rd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Speed option|
|A tough spot for the defense with no DB within eight yards of the LOS at the snap to the side the option is run. Jamison, unblocked forces a pitch; Adams attacks and gets outside, forcing the ballcarrier in; Johnson pursues and tackle. +1 Johnson.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||8||QB Draw|
|Actually a lead draw as the QB fakes a zone read handoff, then follows the running back into the hole; a guard also pulls. CGraham(-1) is met by this tiny running back and pancaked – ugly, this should never happen – and for a moment it looks like a big gainer until BGraham(+1) spins free of a double team and tackles. Still a good gain; could have been considerably worse.|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. I believe Johnson(+1) gets a push into the backfield here; Taylor(+1) also shoves forward. No crease; Bennett forced to cut back and leap over a prone Jamison. CGraham, unblocked, tackles him in the air.|
|O35||2||8||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||10||WR Screen|
|Nominally a 3-3-5 with Crable standing up outside the tackle. CGraham(-1) again shoved to the ground by a blocker as he overruns his spot; Warren got to the outside – I think this is what Carr means by “leverage on the football” -- but the Graham failure just means there's a huge gap for him. Englemon chops him down after ten. Curry doesn't like his tackle; I agree.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||-5||Fumbled snap|
|And John Sullivan pays us a visit.|
|O40||2||15||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|Taylor(+2) pushes into the backfield, making a diving grasp at Weber's ankles that brings him down. Without that, a big gain.|
|A delayed blitz from Harrison doesn't get there; neither does anyone else. (Pressure -1). The post comes open ( cover -1); Weber underthrows it.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 5 min 3rd Q. A dispiriting drive that stops because of Minnesota mistakes and one good play from Taylor.|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||7||WR Screen|
|Warren(+1) reads this well, shooting past a blocker; so does Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson(-1) overruns it, allowing the WR to pick up decent yardage despite Michigan being all over this at the snap.|
|O39||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Excellent job by Johnson(+1) to get penetration and force Bennett outside the tackles, where Adams fills at the LOS.|
|Not even a playfake? Okay. Great coverage on three short routes here (Cover +2); Weber has no place to go. BG(+1) drives his guy back, then sacks. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-10, 1 min 3rd Q. I feel way better about this drive than the last one.|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||9||Angle|
|Balanced line; the RB runs a little flat route, then cuts it inside; I used to run this all the time in NCAA. Ezeh(-1) overruns it, not even getting close enough to miss a tackle, and three yards turn into ten. (Cover -1)|
|O36||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Johnson is blown back by a double team, and though he manages to split them and help tackle he's been driven a couple yards downfield and Minnesota picks up the first down. Taylor did a good job disconnecting and diving, grabbing Bennett's feet as he passes. I do agree that Taylor's played well; Bill Curry and I see eye to eye. Cats and dogs living together.|
|CGraham(+1) times a blitz perfectly, shooting up the middle unblocked and hammering Weber as he attempts to throw. (Pressure +1)|
|Ezeh(-1) fails to read this, getting blocked out of the play by a wide receiver. Warren keeps him inside; Taylor tracks him down from behind.|
|O47||3||3||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||11||Speed option|
|Harrison(-1) is late on this one, as is Ezeh(-1); Michigan loses contain.|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||-2||WR screen(?)|
|Not sure WTF Weber is thinking; a corner blitz from Harrison gets in unblocked (pressure +1) but instead of taking what looks like an open out from the area where Harrison vacated the zone he comes back to Wheelwright, who's run what looks like a screen route without any blockers. The throw is made, but Warren(+1) has come up hard and tackles with help from Crable for a loss.|
|All day for Weber (pressure -2); Webber throws to Decker; Englemon(+1) reads it, breaks on it, and probably should have picked it off. (Cover +1)|
|Oh, you've screwed up something when you leave Crable to be blocked by a freshman tailback. Crable(+1) goes right around him and sacks. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10 min 4th Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||8||QB Draw|
|Bennett motions out; empty look. The linebackers shift over in preparation for a screen, which Minnesota fakes; Weber takes off. Crable(-1) has been pancaked after attempting to dive inside. With the linebackers headed over to the screen fake, acres of space. Slocum and Sagesse in at DT. Rest of the first team D in.|
|O28||2||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|The draw they've run a couple times where a PA zone read fake turns into a lead blocker for the QB. Thompson in; does a good job with the TB; CGraham fills unblocked.|
|Warren tackles immediately after a brief gain.|
|O35||2||5||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read counter|
|Well... Crable gives up contain here after fighting inside to fill the hole; once Bennett bounces out he does a good job of getting back outside the tackle but his tackle attempt is stepped through and Bennett picks up seven yards. This is a tough play for him to make, all alone out there as CGraham had gotten suckered on the counter action... no minus.|
|Oh... okay, I get it. Remember the WR screen(?) on the last drive? I think the idea here is to get the CB to bite up on it, then hit the RB on a wheel route. Warren does indeed bite, opening up a spot for the wheel; Weber overthrows it. Decent recovery from Warren made this a more difficult throw. Still (-1, cover -1).|
|O42||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||4||TE Out|
|For some reason they decide not to block Crable at all; Weber hurried. (Pressure +1) The TE runs a little out route; Adams(+1) hits immediately. (Cover +1)|
|O46||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||9||WR Screen|
|They play off the wheel route earlier and go to an actual WR screen; this time Warren(-1) is hesitant, fearing the wheel, and Wheelwright has plenty of room. (Cover -1). Mouton has entered the game.|
|Harrison in unblocked on a blitz. (Pressure +1) A quick throw is jumped by Adams(+1), who breaks it up and nearly intercepts it. (Cover +1)|
|Harrison(+2) reads and shoots into the backfield, making a huge TFL just as the ball arrives.|
|O48||3||17||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||12||Stop|
|Harrison again unblocked, forcing a quick dumpoff to Wheelwright for what should be five yards. Thompson misses a tackle, and then about four Michigan players whiff, turning this into a makeable fourth down. (Pressure +1, cover -1)|
|Pass completed, but short of the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 4 min 4th Q. Chartin' over.|
So why can't we defend the zone run?
Let's take a look at the second play of the game. You may remember this picture from such locations as "the top of this post":
Hey, this is a good defense if they're going to run a traditional zone read right at Brandon Graham. Yayyayyayya--
Uh-oh. They motioned the tailback. Quick! Adju--
Balls. As you can see, Taylor's been chopped to the ground, the frontside guard has no one to even think about blocking on the first level, and Jamison is in no position to get inside the tackle. The hole gapes like Tim Brewster's... mouth after a meaningless pass on the last play of the game.
Zing! The running back zips into the secondary and gains 12 yards. Minnesota successfully attacked this gap with presnap motion and counters several times.
So we have a first facet of our issues against the run: sometimes our scheme gets exploited. We broke out our 3-3-5 with massive gaps between the DEs and DTs once in this game; Minnesota promptly ran for nine yards with little any Michigan player could do about it. This same formation was responsible for a lot of the ugliness against the Northwestern run game. It makes no the sense.
It's times like these that I wish I could see into the heads of the coaches, who obviously know way more about football than I do: is there some way in which this defense can stand up to interior runs? Is someone not executing their job? Do they just assume that teams will pass in these situations? When Michigan has gotten opponents into must-pass situations the rampant pressure they've applied certainly justifies the use of the 3-3-5, but whenever it comes out on a plausible rushing down Michigan gets gashed. Isn't it time to shelve it?
Aspect two: the linebackers are not so good. Chris Graham did some good things in this game, but the standout memory of him in this game was one of those QB draws that came coupled with the tailback as a lead blocker. This Bennett guy is like 180 pounds or something -- tiny -- and when he met Graham in the hole he splattered him like a bug. Result: another big gainer. It has been rare indeed for any Michigan linebacker to stand up to a block and tackle.
Aspect three: The defensive tackles are not really absorbing blockers. The 5-3-1-7 wasn't so good, but when Michigan lines up in a flat front, they still get gashed because too often the DTs can't control the gaps between the guard and tackle. Often they get momentarily doubled sealed, then the guard leaps out on a linebacker.
Aspect four: Shawn Crable sometimes gives up contain on quarterbacks as the first three aspects often make his backside pursuit necessary.
That, I think, covers it. It should be noted that Michigan is now 36th in rushing defense, which is not terrible. However, a ton of sacks -- 15th nationwide -- help cover up Michigan's average-at-best run defense.
|Johnson||9||2||7||Best day of his career, probably.|
|Taylor||8||1||7||A couple diving tackles that really helped out the befuddled linebackers.|
|Crable||7||3||4||Well, he's active.|
|Thompson||1||1||0||Had another couple near-minuses.|
|Ezeh||4||5||-1||Still a work in progress.|
|C. Graham||4||7||-3||Sometimes his inablity to stand up to blocks is truly amazing.|
|Trent||-||-||0||A remarkable complete game shutout for Trent -- wonder if this has ever happened before. Since he's a corner, this counts as an excellent performance.|
|Harrison||4||1||3||Blew one option; killed two drives with monster TFLs on screens/option plays.|
|Warren||5||2||3||Minnesota attempted to pick on him all day and mostly came up empty. Already a standout, IMO, and poised to have a huge career.|
|"Pressure"||15||4||11||Heavily Minnesota assisted, as several times their line calls completely missed corner blitzes and, once, Shawn frickin' Crable. Still: good.|
|"Coverage"||11||7||4||Another fine day for the secondary.|
More of the same: good play from the DL, an effective secondary, and linebackers that just didn't do much. Michigan's leading tacklers are Englemon, a safety, and Crable, a defensive lineman. Total safety tackles: 127. Total linebacker tackles: 118. That is not a good ratio. For comparison, last year it was linebackers 215, safeties 101.
Sometimes I feel like I'm being too harsh on the linebackers because of an expectation bias: I expect them to be bad, so I interpret their play as bad. The tackle numbers reassure me. They're the main issue with the defense at this point, IMO. Everything else appears solid.
Taylor had a very strong day, as did Johnson. Harrison and Warren were the best members of a strong secondary.
Well, yeah, the linebackers.
What does it mean for Michigan State?
It'll be interesting to see how Michigan adapts to a traditional offense, which they've seen all of once this year (Penn State) if you make the reasonable assertion that whatever the hell Weis is running, it's not "traditional" or for that matter "an offense". They did well against Penn State and the parallels between the two are vast: erratic quarterback, power-run philosophy, unquenchable thirst for brains.
Maybe not that last one.
Where Michigan State has the advantage on Penn State is they have a pair of good runners who complement each other -- Javon Ringer is an All-Big Ten level performer, IMO -- and a #1 wide receiver. Devin Thomas is legit and will be the stiffest test for Trent or Warren (or, more likely, whoever happens to line up on his side) since Oregon left town with our womenfolk trussed to their wagon.
IMO, this could go either way and slowing the MSU rushing attack would be an accomplishment of moderate valor that bodes well for the final two games of the season.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Video trouble? Try VLC.
|M32||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||3||Brown||Zone left|
|Seven in the box, so, like, okay. But Minnesota is lying in wait for this, shifted to the strongside. As a result, Boren doesn't have an angle for his second level block and there's a linebacker ready to meet Brown a few yards downfield. Fairly well blocked save for the Boren thing, which wasn't really his fault.|
|The TE-pull makes its first appearance since it showed up once against Penn State. Except instead of a tight end the pulling guy is a wide receiver. Seems like this would be a dead giveaway, no? It doesn't matter, though, as Minnesota bites like whoah. Mallett holds onto the ball – there's no one in his face this time as the backside DE had crashed down on the run play – until he finds Arrington open for a significant gain. Like the ability to take the deeper route here. (CA+, 3)|
|O46||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||-1||Brown||Zone left|
|Boren(-2) doesn't bother to block the strongside DE. Bleah. Think this was supposed to be a counter thing as the FB headed to the backsie; no matter.|
|O47||2||11||I-Form Twins||Pass||Inc||Hemingway||WR Screen|
|Mallett horribly underthrows a screen. I think this is a fumble; it's called incomplete. Fortunate. (IN, 0)|
|DE speed rush almost gets past Long but does not; Schilling, however, is beaten. Mallett steps up past the pressure but can't find anyone and is eventually collapsed upon. (TA, 0, protection 1/2, Schilling -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt,0-0, 11 min 1st Q. Stewart(-1) lets a Zoltan punt bounce at the five and into the endzone.|
|Mallett checks into a pass with Minnesota showing eight in the box and everyone fairly close to the LOS. He can't find anyone, checking down to Moundros. Throw is late and behind him; a linebacker, drawn up by the delay, hits him as the ball gets there. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M33||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||4||Minor||Zone right|
|Pretty crappy block from Mathews as Minor goes for the edge; Minor does very well to stiffarm a corner and get outside the safety and up the sideline for a few. Minnesota all over the frontside of the play, in a 5-3-1-7 split of their own; counter counter counter dammit.|
|No idea what Minnesota is thinking on the coverage, as they pull up a safety in sort of a robber zone but he's nowhere near anyone. A simple slant is wide open to the outside. This is a completion so I can't be too hard but I think the placement of this ball is too far in front of Arrington and if he was being tightly covered, or someone had jumped the route, is a potential interception. Results based charting service says: (CA-, 2, protection 1/1)|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||8||Brown||Zone left|
|Long(+1) and Butler(+1) seal the corner, giving Brown an opportunity to use the jets. If Schilling can get a block on the WLB this could go the distance; he doesn't. Tough assignment, but worth noting. Brown doesn't switch arms, fumbling the ball as the WLB gets there; turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-3, 5 min 1st Q.|
|Pass interference called; looked weak live and still looks weak to me. Ball is way too far inside – Manningham has a ton of room to the sideline – and could have been intercepted if this corner wasn't ten. (IN, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|O46||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||0||Minor||Zone left|
|Kraus and Ciulla attempt to execute one of these zone blocks we've seen of late wherein the first blocker blows the guy back and the second blocker picks him up as the other peels downfield. These need a name: they are now handoff blocks. This one is executed poorly, as Kraus(-1) never gets into him and Ciulla can't get there; the result is the DT tackling at the LOS.|
|Linebackers take steps back and get themselves in trouble; three second-level blockers get out to their man and momentarily this looks like a brewing big play; Ciulla(-1) loses his guy, who forces Minor outside, robbing a couple second level guys of their angles and limiting this to a small gain.|
|Minnesota sends the house; Mallett reads it and finds an open Manningham. The ball's knocked down; IMO just bad luck and a good play from the Gopher DL. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 1 min 1st Q.|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||-4||--||Free touchdown|
|Hey, that sucked ass. One clarification from earlier: this was intended to be a run play, not a pass.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-10, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|M21||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||3||Minor||Zone left|
|Michigan seals the edge, as Butler, with some help from Long, blows the DE off the ball and gets out on a linebacker. If he wants it Minor can get the corner; he inexplicably cuts it up. He does get a good push after making contact, but this was a missed read.|
|Minnesota blitzes, opening this up. Good throw and catch; little YAC. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|We get this, but another example of why I hate the stretch on third ands hort. Minnesota loads up the frontside with two linebackers and has eight in the box with one deep safety; Butler takes a hit from a charging LB, eventually stalemating him and driving him back a bit; his one-armed tackle attempt is warded off by Minor at the LOS. The backside pursuers fall, and Minor has a lane.|
|Lead draw fake with Minnesota showing eight in the box. Arrington has one-on-one coverage, running a comeback route that's ends up pretty well covered. Not sure if this was a poor route or poor timing. In any case, the window here is small and Mallett hits it. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2) Curry says this is a horrible read. I don't think it's so bad.|
|M42||2||3||Ace 3-wide||Run||5||Minor||Zone right|
|Excellent push from the right side of the line but four players end up sprawled on the ground in a mess. Minor hops over them, getting popped by Steve Davis after picking up the first. Clay Matvick is always wrong about the yardage. I hate him.|
|M47||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Pass||22||Arrington||Stop and go|
|Mallett pumps; the corner bites on a stop route. Mallett then lofts it into the space vacated. The ball is a little long – Arrington lays out, making a gorgeous grab – but catchable enough. (CA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|We're watching replays as this snaps. Looks like Ciulla can't maintain his block.|
|Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw is a week late. Next time be infinity weeks late. Minnesota's MLB shoots up between OL as if this play is sort of... predictable.|
|Batted down. Bleah! (BA, 0, protection 0/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(42), 3-10, 10 min 2nd Q. Lopata called a senior; he does have another year.|
|M37||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||5||Brown||Zone left|
|Again attacking the edge; a combo block from Long and Butler drives the DE back as Criswell takes on the corner. There's a gap between the two. Butler eventually loses the Long-provided momentum and allows his guy to come free to tackle with the help of a linebacker.|
|M42||2||5||Ace 4-wide||Pen||-5||Boren||False start|
|Butler spread wide; Mallett tosses a short out that's well covered. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Mallett with all day, eventually firing it long to Manningham in virtually the same spot on the field Arrington was. Like that pass, this is a little long and outside, but Manningham makes a fantastic juggling catch. (CA, 1, protection 3/3)|
|O15||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||8||Minor||Zone left|
|Going after the edge. Helmuth in as a second tight end. Butler can't really seal his guy (Long does a great job to make him the only relevant player) but does stalemate him. Minor meets him two yards downfield; he, Butler, and Helmuth combine to make a train that plows its way inside the ten. Powerful running.|
|O7||2||2||I-Form Twins||Run||-2||Minor||Zone left|
|Ciulla's asked to make a near-impossible block as Boren ignores the NT lined up directly in front of him. Ciulla can do little but chase him to Minor. Minor manages to get past him, but the play's messed up. Stretch on short yardage.|
|Overthrown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) Curry says he's just throwing it away, but there's a window here since Arrington can jump out of the stadium; Mallett misses it entirely.|
|Drive Notes: FG(26), 6-10, 6 min 2nd Q.|
|Arrington runs a stop route; a Minnesota player plows him. Mallett has to take off. After initially trying to get something downfield, he settles for a decent run. (TA, protection 2/2)|
|Eight in the box for Minnesota. We have an inverted TE set with Webb [erroneously IDed as Butler earlier. -ed] in a two-point stance on the line next to Moundros in the backfield; we run a draw off this. Webb(+1) gets an outstanding block on the linebacker attempting to contain; two guys come up inside; Moundros does a good job with one. This time Minor makes the right read, shooting outside into acres of space for a big gain. Long also excellent here.|
|O45||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||12||Minor||Zone right|
|Shuffle right, run right, away from the TE. This time we get an actual zone block from Ciulla and Boren, who drive the DT back; Ciulla(+1) peels out on to a linebacker as Helmuth hits the hole. Long has made the tough stretch block on the backside DT, the one Ciulla could not make on the last drive. This allows Boren to head downfield and flatten a linebacker. With a crease and no chasers, Minor hits the secondary again. (Replay)|
|Miscommunication between Long and Boren; both head out to the second level, allowing the frontside DE in unmolested. Think this is on Boren because, well, obviously, right? Brown runs past the DE; he makes a shoestring tackle.|
|Minnesota stacks the line and sends them all, six in total. Arrington gets a step on the seam and has the opportunity to make a catch with only a safety to juke for the endzone; Mallett overthrows it. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Excellent coverage from Minnesota: a bump and no separation; Manningham forced to the sideline. Mallett loads up and threads it in there; Manningham makes a good catch as the corner fails to locate the ball. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O5||1||G||Ace Twins||Pen||-5||Ciulla||False start|
|Ciulla(-1); he's yanked for McAvoy.|
|A horrible decision; an equally horrible throw bails him out or Mallett throws an interception here. What's worse is he had a simple dumpoff to Mathews on the “TE” pull with no one within ten yards of him. Maybe a touchdown; definitely five yards. (BR, 0)|
|O10||2||G||Ace 3-wide||Pass||6||Manningham||WR Screen|
|Mathews in the backfield; he motions out to two guys at the top of the formation; I mutter “screen”; Michigan screens. Excellent blocks from Arrington and Mathews; I wish Manningham had attacked this a little harder and picked up another yard or three. (CA, 3)|
|O4||3||G||Ace 3-wide||Pass||2 (pen)||Manningham||Slant|
|Manningham abused; flag. (CA, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Big||Run||2||Minor||Zone left|
|Can I use a touchdown as a further example of why I hate stretches on short yardage? The Minnesota MLB shoots into the backfield, nearly tripping Minor at the five. Minor manages to run past him, then cut up into a massive hole as Boren(+1) blocks a mofo into the wall.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 13-10, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|We motion the TE to the side oppose our FB offset, then run to the offset. Ciulla and Kraus combine on a crushing zone block that drives the Minnesota DT five yards downfield; there's a gaping hole up the middle as a result. Good job by Boren to seal the backside DT, and good downfield block by Long. Helmuth uselessly runs up the back of the zone block, allowing the MLB to tackle unblocked, but only after six yards; Minor carries him for three more.|
|Kraus has a tough time with the DT, getting no push and no seal; escorting him down the line to Minor. They meet at the LOS; Minor pushes forward for the first down. Think Minor misses a cutback opportunity here, as Schilling cut the backside DT to the ground.|
|Schilling(-2) lets this guy in, sure, and this is another instance where he's been shaky in pass pro. But Mallett has to help the guy out and step up in the pocket instead of running right into the DL and fumbling. (PR, 0, 0/2, Schilling -2)|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 13-10, EOH.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||3||Minor||Zone left|
|A late-blitzing safety makes this a seven-man front with another cornerback coming up to cut off the outside. Kraus again does an adequate but not great job on the DT. No penetration but no push and no seal. There is still a small gap between the DT and DE that Mallett flows up into. The Gopher safety does a good job of picking through traffic to pop Minor after he squeezes through the hole; more Gophers converge, including the aforementioned DT.|
|Same story with Kraus and the DT except a charging Moundros does a great job of chipping him as he plunges through the hole, knocking him backwards and to the ground. Moundros then continues on, helping Minor get a cutback lane by shoving a linebacker on the second level. Minor into the secondary. A Dudley-level play from Moundros here. Also, kudos to Schilling for getting a late cut on a backside DT.|
|Minnesota brings an eighth guy in the box and blitzes a linebacker right into the G-C gap on the frontside where the last two plays have gone. He gets through and tackles for loss. On Debord.|
|M40||2||13||Ace 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Manningham||WR Screen|
|Michigan motions a TE out to two receivers at the top of the screen; I mutter “screen”; Michigan screens. Mallett throws it over Manningham's head. (IN, 0)|
|Mallett with time; can't find anyone. He steps up, continues to look around, and eventually scrambles for a few yards. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Miss the first portion of this play coming back from commercial... I mean, no big deal, it's just a 48-yard run. Even better: the replay is from ground level. From what I can tell, Kraus gets a seal on aDT; a frontside zone double shoves the other guy out of the hole, and Boren(+1) plows the MLB. Long must have gotten a good cut as tehre's no one on the backside when Minor cuts back. From there he's off to the races.|
|O43||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||0||Minor||Zone left|
|Eight in the box; Kraus(-1) has a bit of a hard time with his guy and Minor decides to take it outside instead of heading upfield in the gap. Butler(-1) doesn't to a good job on Davis, forcing Minor further outside; the play is strung out.|
|Minnesota blitzing up the middle; one unblocked linebacker picked off by Moundros; the other is forced to halt by the traffic. Unfortunately, McAvoy has peeled off in a futile attempt to get the second blitzing linebacker, allowing Davis to fill on a play that otherwise would have worked for near first-down yardage.|
|Mallett one-hops a stop route that wasn't going for the first down, anyway. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 9 min 3rd Q. Zoltan, angry, boots it into the endzone.|
|M25||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||8||Minor||Inside zone|
|A rare zone play that's not a stretch. Michigan is fortunate the unblocked Davis doesn't shoot into Minor on this play; as it is he's a foot away. Minor cuts out of the intended hole, finding a crease between Butler and Schilling; he meets resistance 3-4 yards downfield, powering forward for a sizable gain after contact.|
|M33||2||2||Ace 3-wide||Pen||-5||McAvoy||False start|
|A well-timed corner blitz gets to Minor in the backfield; the corner trips him up by his ankles. Kraus(-1) defeated on a second level block; this wasn't going anywhere anyway.|
|Well, yeah, of course he makes this throw. Wish it was a little bit inside, as then it's a touchdown, but that's a tiny nit to pick. Manningham blew by on a straight fly route. Oh, I hope you're really really back. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Minnesota shifts very late, bringing up an eighth guy and throwing two linebackers at the strong side of the play. In the stands, I go “noooooooo” as Michigan snaps it and runs right into it; Brown breaks it big. Outstanding job by Helmuth to stone one of the strongside linebackers; Brown heads outside of him. Long blows the DE back; Boren... uh... definitely gets away with holding, dragging the DT to the ground. Criswell loses another LB but manages to block him out of the Long-generated crease. Secondary time. Five yards downfield, Brown meets up with Long still driving his guy back; a filling safety trips over the Minnesota DE's legs. Brown slips down to the five. This should go on Long's Heisman reel.|
|O4||1||G||I-Form||Run||4||Brown||Inside zone left|
|Key to this play is a powerful zone double from Boren and Kraus that drives the DT back four yards; McAvoy just barely gets enough of a cut on the backside DE; Schilling heads out to the second level and gets a good cut on a LB. Helmuth stones a guy on the fronside; Brown runs up the backs of Boren and Kraus for the TD.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-10, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|The Minnesota LBs are washed out; the MLB shoots upfield and is shoved to the ground by Kraus; Long engulfs the SLB. A safety heads outside for contain; Minor follows the FB between Butler and Boren(+1), who got the DT sealed at the last moment – no grasping arms. Minor bolts through the hole and into daylight. (Replay)|
|Not sure what Moundros(-1) is thinking here, as there's a cavernous hole on the frontside that Davis is trying to fill. He peels off and hits a backside DT who's not a threat, leaving Davis alone. Minor manages to cut back for a few because the drive blocks mentioned previously (Boren +1, Kraus +1, Long +1) have opened up major space.|
|O48||2||7||I-Form Twins||Run||6||Brown||Zone left|
|Our unbalanced line that we toyed with against Eastern; still a 100% run formation. Minnesota appears to know this, shoving an eighth guy in the box and shifting to the overloaded side; doesn't matter. Boren(+1) again gets the DT sealed; Long and Butler have crushed the DE downfield. A desperate arm tackle from a pancaked backside DT and Schilling's inability to cut his guy lead to a tackle, but it's six yards downfield.|
|O42||3||1||I-Form Twins||Run||1||Brown||Zone left|
|The unblocked backside DE comes in to make this play... actual blocking was definitely sufficient for the first. I dunno... Brown sometimes goes down too easy for my tastes. Not much YAC in his legs.|
|I disagree with Bill Curry on everything. I just wanted to say that. Everything. Except an Englemon tackle earlier in this game. Mallett sneaks it.|
|Perfect throw; Manningham toast his guy; ballgame. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-10, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Criswell(-1) gets beat; the delay that causes allows the backside unblocked guys to close it down.|
|Critical error from the Gopher DT, who takes a step back instead of slanting hard left; this allows McAvoy to slide out on him and get a block as Kraus heads to the second level. Boren does a good job on the other DT; Moundros crushes one linebacker; Schilling cuts the other one. Brown jets for the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 34-10, 8 min 4th Q. Charting? Over.|
Well, that was... confusing.
Indeed. I mean, just look at the--
Those three DOs were all near-perfect bombs; two more CAs were further bombs that receivers laid out for. Other than that, though... ugly, ugly, ugly. Many of those incompletions were on screens and stops. The BR was also IN or Mallett throws a terrible redzone interception; in general TAs and BAs and PRs are not held against the quarterback unless they start to pile up... six is starting to pile up. And then there was the free touchdown. This was without question the most schizophrenic quarterback performance I can remember.
As a result: several scoring drives when the long completions came in with bupkis otherwise. Frankly, Mallett is a C- quarterback at the moment, and Henne's health will be critical for the stretch run.
It is nice that when Mallett does something right it's often damned impressive. He seems to have terrific command of the pocket and has arm strength for days. He was supposedly very accurate in high school; both Navarre and Henne had skittish days where they sailed a lot of balls before working their mechanics out and getting accurate. Mallett has a world of potential; still, I'm concerned that he will remain thoroughly bad through most of next year.
A flawless day from the wideouts, albeit in limited opportunities to actually catch the ball. The first two bombs from Mallett were circus catches.
Protection: 27/31, Schilling -3, Team -1.
A great day from anyone who wasn't Schilling, and Schilling wasn't awful. Just Minnesota, though.
Why did we run so much better in the second half? Was it the Ciulla-McAvoy switch? Something different we did schematically?
Not in my opinion. The key, IMO, were a few truly outstanding blocks from Boren and Kraus on some of Michigan's many zone lefts. Long was also near flawless, but he is always near flawless. During the Illinois game it was clear that Michigan was one block away from breaking into the secondary time and again. Against Minnesota they were again one block away through much of the first half; in the second half they started getting those blocks. I'd like to see Boren match that level of performance against a defense that isn't the worst in I-A before anointing him Arrived, but it was a really encouraging performance from him.
Also, Mark Moundros spent much less time flopping at the feet of linebackers and more time punching them in the facemask with his head; this was the first time this year the fullbacks were a definite positive.
As far as the scheme goes, there were a few instances where we saw true zone doubles on the interior of the line -- Brown's first touchdown run for one -- instead of the stretch blocking we've gotten used to over the past year and a half. These were generally very effective, perhaps because the Minnesota DTs were in no way able to stand up to them. That might not be as effective against lumbering tubs of goo.
Long, Kraus, and Boren; Manningham. Minor, I thought, was the better of the backs, consistently running with power and picking up YAC.
Mallett was the main reason the offense sputtered early. Schilling appears to be a weak link in pass protection.
What does this mean for Michigan State?
Very little assuming Henne and Hart plays. I think everyone's more worried about Henne now that Hart's backups have shown they aren't straight off the short bus, if that's a takeaway lesson.
Other things that might be relevant: Boren is quickly playing himself out of "oh God, so young" status. Manningham looks to be back to the form he flashed before the meniscus injury last year; Spartan cornerbacks beware.
Overall, this offense was sabotaged/saved by a freshman backup quarterback playing against the nation's worst defense. Little can be gleaned.
Monday, October 29, 2007
10/29/2007 - Michigan 34, Minnesota 10 - 7-2, 5-0 Big Ten
If you could create some sort of time vortex that inverted the order of the quarters in the Minnesota game Saturday, there would be no complaints from even the grumpiest Michigan fans out there. After an insane decision to rotate David Cone and Nick Sheridan at QB and two atom-sized white dudes at RB on the open series, Carlos Brown jets for an 85 yard touchdown, Ryan Mallett lays in a perfect strike to Mario Manningham, and the rout is on. It's 21-0 at halftime and eventually 34-0 before Mallett offers Minnesota a free touchdown and the Gophers get a late, meaningless field goal. Order is restored, Michigan squashes all comers and everyone goes home happy, even wizard's sleeve Tim Brewster, as Michigan's final drives would have been tepid three-and-outs.
This did not so much happen. I didn't actually read this week's game thread -- it's 926 comments long! -- but I did get this email about it from Matt K:
I wanted to drop you an apology for the flame war that took place in the game comment thread. I got pretty pissed off at something that was said and unleashed a barrage of f-bombs and inappropriate insults. I know you like to keep that stuff to a minimum. I know you'll end up deleting the posts, but please don't ban me. It won't happen again. I won't comment for a few days and will come back with a clean mouth and without the anger.I would put the ETA on this little contretemps at two seconds after Mallett fumbled away the aforementioned free touchdown, staking Minnesota to a 10-0 lead. I can sympathize. In the stands at Michigan Stadium, I swore like a sailor and mentally prepared myself for The Horror II.
Michigan ran off 34 straight points and 500 yards from that point, Minnesota 0 and about 100. Michigan's last useless throw to Andre Criswell vaulted them to 561 yards, eight past Minnesota's season average. After the game, I accepted a chiding for my lack of faith. I'm betting that simultaneously frequent game thread commenter Magnus called various other frequent game thread commenters wizard's sleeves for various slurs, profanities, and gypsy curses uttered whenever anything went wrong during the game.
I was annoying; Matt was annoying; Magnus was annoying. We are all united in this. All of us reasonable people are really two completely insane people coming to a compromise. One of them, sports id, is Mike Valenti (MAKE PLAYS!). The other, sports hope, is that guy who predicts 12-0 before every season and then is totally unperturbed when things go wrong when they should be angrier than anyone. Unadulterated, both are irritating. So let's stop, maybe? Let's take immediate aftermath venting for what it is and let it go; I promise to not let gunmetal skies, Appalachian State, and the comical ineptness of an opponent or two ruin the last days of Hart and Henne and Long and (very probably) Manningham.
- This game meant nothing given all the backups in and the hideous performance of the Minnesota quarterback. The only two takeaways, IMO: a reinforcement of our issues with the interior run and what should be a final dispelling of any Manningham-related discontent.
- I swear to God I sat directly in front of Gloria from Miscellaneous T. Same irritating New Yawk accent, same complete inability to grasp simple concepts -- her husband explained that the teams switched endzones after the first quarter, then had to explain it again after the third -- and the same (projected) inability to stop talking. It was alternately amusing and awful. They were going to the Gandy Dancer after the game; I debated whether to tell them it was the most overrated restaurant in town and suggest the Earle, eventually deciding against it. The specter of a long conversation where she completely failed to understand me was too much.
- At halftime, a various men set up something that looked like an oversized metallic dandelion, then exhorted the crowd to cheer the oversized metallic dandelion, then took the OMD to the sideline without offering either an explanation or compensatory pyrotechnics. We booed them as they left the field. Why? Because eff them, that's why.
Does anyone have any idea what this was all about? The theory batted around was that they were measuring noise levels, but why and for what? And why at halftime when nothing in particular was going on?
- Oh God, every dire and awful item about Ryan Mallett's preparation consisting of playing MarioKart and listening to Bob Marley seemed horribly true in the first half. The free touchdown, screens winged to Tacopants -- Tacopants has never done screens before -- and Mallett's now-standard running-around-and- maybe-doing-something- awesome-but-probably-just-getting-sacked act... all horrible. Even the long completions were overthrown balls upon which Manningham and Arrington made superb catches. (This is less of a criticism, since said balls were a bit long and outside -- the place to miss if you're going to miss -- and they were completed; any ball thrown that far downfield and completed is by definition a decent throw.) I pined for, in order: Tom Brady, Chad Henne, Steven Threet, David Cone, Nick Sheridan, myself, and Richard Nixon's corpse, almost reaching Jimmah Clausen before Mallett did something, anything right and definitively proved himself better than Jimmah. Then in the second half he bombed and bombed and bombed and hey, that's pretty good. The most deeply schizophrenic performance by a Michigan QB in a long time.
- Greg Mathews looks like he's going to get his shin broken on every punt return.
- Weekly complaints about special teams: Zoltan dropped three punts at the five. All of them made it to the endzone. Not once has a Michigan gunner flagged down one of the many opportunities Zoltan The Inconceivable has provided to pin opponents deep. More evidence of disjointed coaching on special teams, yes? ZTI ended up so disgusted that he booted a second-half punt into the endzone, saving the crowd the trouble of hoping.
- At this point it looks like Michigan is going to have a bonafide tailback rotation in 2008 for the first time since Anthony Thomas took over for Clarence and Howard in 1998. (Unless you'd like to count the brief Askew-Perry here, but IIRC that was short-lived due to injury.) Grady, Minor, and Brown are all likely to receive carries, and probably for most of the year.
- Another day, another disturbing inability to stop read option dives. At least with Mendenhall and Jonathan Stewart you could console yourself with the idea those guys would be playing in the NFL before long. This Bennett kid? Not so much. Fortunately, it looks like we're done with the damned spread option until the bowl game; unfortunately it's doubtful that Michigan's weakness against the interior rush is limited to just one particular play.
- I don't know if the pass interference call on Warren was legit, but even if it was that sort of tough in-your-face defending bodes extremely well for his future. Draped on the receiver, he found the ball and made a play on it. The recruiting hype on him, at least, was 100% accurate.
- Brandon Harrison has come into his own as a detonator of screen and option plays.
Game column around 1-2 PM.
It's MSU week. That can only mean one thing: MAKE PLAYS!
- Michigan State: 3:30, ABC
- Wisconsin: noon, ESPN.
- OSU: noon, ABC.
He's a winner. On the last play of the Minnesota game, David Cone rolled out and threw an eight-yard pass to Andre Criswell, who ran up the sideline for like 20 yards against Minnesota's crappy defense. Tim Brewster's reaction:
"I don't know what went into their thinking on it," Brewster said. "But obviously I think it was a disappointing thing. Maybe somebody will ask [Michigan coach Lloyd Carr] what he was thinking."I have an exclusive interview with Lloyd Carr that reveals all.
MGoBlog: So why did you call a meaningless eight-yard pass instead of a meaningless three-yard run on the final play of a 34-10 blowout?
Lloyd Carr: To brand Tim Brewster deep with the mark of shame. He will go to the end of days with the knowledge that his team gave up a first down trailing by 24 with no time on the clock. I am remorseless, without pity, the destroyer of all that opposes me. Bow down, Brewster. I am your God.
MGoBlog: Super! WHY DID YOU PUNT ON FOURTH AND FOUR AGAINST OHIO STATE TWO YEARS AGO?
Lloyd Carr: That's a stupid question.
"I just shook hands with him and went about my business," Brewster said. "But I think he knew that I was thinking about the last play and maybe what his thought [process] was."Oh, yeah, Minnesota's got themselves a winner here. Two words: wizard's sleeve. Glen Mason must be laughing his ass off.
Come back plz. Henne and Hart... available? Maybe. Carr:
So... probably, I guess.
"I'm optimistic that both of them will be ready to go," Carr said after Saturday's game. "But, as I've said in the past, it's day-to-day. I know that both are much, much better than they were a week ago. We'll see how the week goes."
First and what? He threw a what? Varsity Blue takes a look at the first down playcalling against the Gophers, which featured 22 runs and 6 passes. Those passes:
1. Incomplete pass to Moundros (0 yards).Not exactly pure awesome, although you don't really expect Mallett to say "hey, here's a free touchdown" on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Minor and Brown plowed the Gophers... eventually. I plead small sample size.
2. Pass Interference (15 yards).
3. Mallett lost fumble (-4 yards, returned for touchdown).
4. Mallett scramble (7 yards).
5. Mallett sack (-16 yards).
6. Manningham Touchdown Bomb (40 yards).
A toothpick, some gum, and a shoelace equals... this potential starting lineup for Michigan basketball:
Don't read too much into it, but the starting lineup for Michigan's closed scrimmage at Kent State Saturday was Ron Coleman, Zack Gibson, K'Len Morris, Jerret Smith and DeShawn Sims.Videos. Wolverine Historian presents the '97 MSU game:
Plus press conferences from Minor, Brown, Taylor, Crable, and Carr.
Etc.: Todd Collins has a fake blog to go with his fake job, which is the greatest of all time; Autumn Thunder reveals the Mallett playbook