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Thursday, November 17, 2005

(In the interests of focusing more on Ohio State only the first half of the game was charted, since the starters made their exit at half time. Copious thanks to Vijay at IBFC for providing a video as I again forgot to tape the game. Bad Brian, very bad Brian.)

110O34ScrambleHenne2Henne rolls out and keeps rolling. (TA)
28O32PassBass7Bass motions out of the backfield, making this a 4 WR set and catches a simple stop route. (CA)
31O25PassAvant10Slant to Avant. Ward claims that Henne is going up top on the slant. Perfectly thrown. (DO)
110O15RunGrady3Henige can't move the IU DL out and Grady eventually runs into him. He didn't have anywhere else to go.
27O12PassGrady7Batted at the line but Grady catches it an picks up a first down. (BA)
1GO5PassAvantIncProbably a touchdown if Porter doesn't grab Avant's arm, forcing him to attempt a one-handed stab at the pass. (CA)
2GO5PassAvantIncFade is overthrown. (IN)
3GO5PassEcker5Touchdown lasered into Ecker just out of the DB's reach. (DO)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 9 min 1st Q. After the Grady deflection the color guy, who is almost as incompetent as Ward, starts waxing eloquent about how Henne has an inordinate number of balls tipped at the line. More on this below. It's crap. Also: I didn't think much of this drive to start but there are a few really excellent throws in here.
110O48RunJackson1Zilch.Linebacker is unblocked into the hole as the pulling Henige doesn't do anything useful.
29O47PassBreaston23Slip screen to Breaston off a quick count. The IU DB actually does a really good job of getting outside the other slot receiver and into Breaston's way, but a half second after Breaston gets his head around he just changes direction and goes zip upfield. (CA) BTW: Ward gets this spot wrong by 10 yards.
110O24RunJackson3Well blocked. Jackson doesn't make all he can of this. Hart does better here.
27O21RunJackson5Fake end around that the DE does no bite on, getting inside of long and closing down on Jackson.
32O16RunBass8Bass motions into the backfield and takes a pitch. He is freaking fast.
1GO8PassAvant8I'd be doing my Yosemite Sam soft coverage act if this had happened to us. A long handoff from the eight yard line as the DB is playing way too far off Avant. Good recognition of an unlikely situation by Henne. (CA)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-7, 6 min 1st Q.
110M39PassBreaston12This is a five wide shotgun look. Breaston runs a slant that he then cuts outside to an out… this route has a name, help me out here. Anyway, it's open and Henne lays it in there so Breaston can run after the catch. (DO)
110O49PassMassaquoi6Play action; Henne checks down to the short option. Throw is slightly behind Massaquoi. (CA)
24O43RunGrady0Thoroughly depressing, as this run play is totally jammed at the line.
34O43PassManningham14Manningham's open on a crossing route into an area that Ecker's route has vacated. Henne is again very accurate here. (DO)
110O29RunGrady2Draw. Henige's man disengages and disrupts the play.
28O27PassManninghamIncCaught in the endzone but it's out of bounds. Better footwork is a touchdown. (CA)
38O27PassNo oneSack, -8Same guy who made the play on the first down draw beats Henige and rolls around the defensive end, who's getting doubled to make the sack. (marginally TA, as Henne could have gotten rid of the ball if someone was open immediately, but I'm not charting this one.)
Drive Notes: Missed FG(52), 14-7 1 min 1st Q.
110O26PassManningham3WR screen is surprisingly well defended. (CA)
27O23RunGrady5Grady's forced to cut back outside of the tackle. He makes two after contacting the tackler.
32O18RunBass7Dude Bass is fast. This is a fake end around from the receiver in motion paired with an outside pitch to Bass.
110O11RunGrady9Pitch out to Grady; he makes an excellent swift cut behind an overpursuing linebacker.
21O3RunGrady3Ends up about a foot from the goal line.
11O1RunGrady1Yay touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown(Missed XP), 20-7, 12 min 2nd Q.
110O16RunGrady7Another pitch that Grady gets the corner on.
23O9RunGrady2Third pitch in the last five plays.
31O7PassMassaquoiIncThere's a DE on Henne instantly on the waggle and he is forced to toss it immediately. (TA)
41O7RunBass-1Same end-around pitch play that we ran on the last drive. Bass actually stiff arms the safety coming up to make a play but can't keep his balance afterward and steps out just before lunging over the first down marker.
Drive Notes: Downs, 20-7, 8 min 2nd Q.
110O40PassHenneIncTranscontinental is going to be a touchdown if Breaston can just get it there. That's why he's a wideout. (Not charted.)
210O40PassGrady8Scren. I think the reason ours work so well generally is because we've gone away from the screen where all four defensive linemen are released into the backfield that defensive linemen no longer buy. Ours are partial screens wherein only a couple blockers are released and are thus not as obvious from the snap. (CA)
32O32RunGrady32Touchdown wherein Grady is seemingly going to get stuffed at the LOS but powers through a tackle and rumbles, stumbles, etc, into the end zone. He showed POWER, as EA NCAA Football Kirk Herbstreit might say.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-7, 6 min 2nd Q. Does this count as a three and out?
110M30RunJackson3Well blocked by the line but Avant misses the safety and Ecker can't seal the linebacker as they converge.
27M33PassAvant22Heartening to see Henne nail Avant on this play, as it's the deep crossing route he's missed so often this year. This time he steps up and hits Avant perfectly. (DO)
110O45RunBreaston30Reverse. Henne gets a hell of a block. I still think this stuff would work against OSU. Why run it now?
110O15PassAvantIncEither a ridiculously overthrown pass or a miscommunication. I think it's the former, actually. (IN)
210O15PassAvant9Slant is somewhat behind Avant, but he makes an excellent catch. (CA)
31O6RunJackson6Touchdown. Jackson pushes forward to about the one and then lunges forward with the ball to finish for a touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 34-7, 3 min 2nd Q.
110M31PassAvant18A ton of time. Henne finds Avant on the deep crossing route again. (DO)
110M49RunGrady18The quick-hitter we run with Grady slightly offset finally works as Michigan opens up a gashing hole and the linebackers don't react quickly enough to it.
110O33PassGrady0Screen that doesn't work as Stenavich never releases his guy, instead driving him into the play.
210O33PassManningham14Wide open underneath the zone. Manningham dodges out of bounds swiftly. (CA)
110O19PassMassaquoiIncHenne wings it over the head of an open Massaquoi. (IN)
210O19RunJackson4A similar play to Grady's 18 yarder earlier in the drive.
36O15PenaltyManningham5Henne finds Manningham and the IU player hits him early. Manningham has to run this past the sticks, though: he was a yard short of the first down. (CA)
110O11PassMassaquoiIncHenne manages to find a tiny window between two IU defenders low. It's a tough catch for Mass but a makeable one and a good throw. (CA)
210O11PassBreaston11Touchdown on a corner route that Henne lays right in Breaston's hands. (DO)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 41-7, EOH.

It's just Indiana.

Yeah, but still...

TeamDead onCatchableInaccurateBad ReadThrowawaysBatted

The screen count in this game is only 3, so our downfield good:bad ratio is 15:6, obviously a massive improvement over Henne's typical 1:1 this year. IU's defense had something to do with that--it's hard to make a bad read when no one is covered--but his accuracy was dramatically increased this week, defenders in the area or no. No, he wasn't being regularly pressured and the IU defenders were generally accomodating. We've heard that story before and it ends with Henne winging the ball well over the head of his intended target and severely fouling up the offense against, say, Wisconsin. This was different.

We need him to replicate this performance against OSU. That doesn't necessarily mean putting up the same numbers--OSU will do a better job of getting to Henne and covering our receivers. It does mean taking advantage of the opportunities the Buckeyes yield. He'll still make his share of poor-to-aaaargh decision against Ohio State, but if he can be efficient when he does find an open guy, it's hooray beer time.

You said you would yell about batted passes.

Henne does not have an abnormal number of passes batted at the line, as the chart above shows. Keep in mind that there are probably four or five incidents of passes being deflected downfield by defenders (and Tim Massaquoi once) lumped in there. He's really averaging slightly over one a game, and many of those were screens on which the tackle failed to get a cut on the offensive lineman.

The batted passes were an obvious issue in one game against Notre Dame and all of a suddent he's John Navarre in this department to many. It's just not true.

What was the deal with all the fancy shmancy trickeration?

I touched on this earlier in the week with a TIC assertion that Michigan was setting up Ohio State for the trick play by running their trick plays, but, er, in reality I'm not a fan of the decision to dump out the exotics against the Hoosiers. That pitch play they ran to Bass is money if the opponent doesn't have it scouted; now Ohio State does. Ditto for the fairly obvious transcontinental. It seems that they're trying to get Ohio State to respect the misdirection and thus open up their more conventional running game. Either that or they're just practicing it. Personally I would prefer to teach Ohio State to respect the misdirection by using it to score a first-quarter touchdown.

In any case, this week's profusion of exotics coupled with the frequent fake end-arounds Michigan was running against Northwestern imply that Malone does indeed have something unusual in mind for Ohio State. It seems like Michigan has acknowledged the fact that a plow-ahead running game is just not going to work on Saturday and will thus get the low variance portion of their yards via less manly means. This helps explain the transcontinental: the WR screen is going to be a staple and Michigan would like it to work the first couple times they use it, so keeping a Buckeye linebacker or two in the middle for an extra split second is desirable.

The offensive line?

Still shaky. Adam Stenavich has been invisible all year, which is perfect for a left tackle. He's shut down every pass rusher he's faced. But the guards were beaten regularly against Indiana of all teams. This happens on a regular basis, and I think the coaches are aware of this. Rueben Riley started rotating in very early in this game, seeing time at both left and right guard. I think Michigan will start the seniors but it's very possible that Riley--not much of a tackle but an effective guard last year--usurps one of the starting positions by the second quarter if the Buckeye DTs are regularly beating one of the starters. Kraus and Long still have health questions, so that's four starters with question marks above their heads. I don't think that's so good against Ohio State.

What does it mean for Ohio State?

If Henne can be as accurate as he was against Indiana we have a very good chance. He's not going to get off as lightly as he did against the Hoosiers, though. The happy feet he displayed against Notre Dame cannot return even though the pressure he will feel will likely be comparable. I've lost all faith in the guards. They're going to get beaten.

To run we need Mike Hart back. No offense to Jackson or Grady, but Mike Hart is on another level, to use a horrible-but-true sports cliche. He can be effective if we establish that Henne is going to be a downfield threat. If the Buckeyes are allowed to focus on him he'll be making his magic happen five yards in the backfield.

Expect misdirection. They've been setting it up for the past three weeks and are integrating it into the gameplan on a regular basis. They know they can't expect to line up and blow the Buckeyes off the ball. Expect a large number of simple throws for Henne that allow Breaston, Manningham, and Bass to run at defensive backs in space. It's going to be a WR screen festival. I'm okay with that: given our strong-armed quarterback, excellent edge blockers in Avant and Ecker, lighting bug receivers and the shallow Buckeye secondary, it's likely to be far more effective than running it into the teeth of a top-five run defense.

We're going to finesse this game, and it's the right decision.