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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Again, thanks to Chris of Dangerous Logic for the video. You can check out all the highlights on his blog.

Against the strength of the formation – probably wise as Wisconsin anticipates run, bringing a linebacker up tight against the TE and moving a safety into the box. Hart(+1) turns this into four by breaking the tackle of MLB Zalewski, who's unblocked. Riley was following him around but that's a tough block to attempt.
M2426Ace 3-WidePass14ArringtonPA Out
Token draw fake. Henne goes through his five-step drop and fires immediately to an open Arrington a couple yards short of the sticks. Zone defender to his side has been run off by a Manningham fly route, resulting in a lot of space for YAC. (CA)
M38110Ace 3-WideRun3HartZone
If Ecker can get his man pushed back a couple yards Hart gets a wide-open corner and a first down. As it is, he is shoved himself, forcing aHart cutback. That would have been just fine but Alex Mitchell(-1) fails to cut the DT, who cleans up on the backside.
Wisconsin covers this very well, leaving Henne no one to throw to. He keeps running for a first down. Mobility! (TA)
We run into eight guys; unsurprisingly the box is completely jammed. Hart(+2) meets a Wisconsin defender a yard into the backfield but somehow manages to drive forward for four. Spielman notices this, too, and points out the victimized player. When he's not going BOOM or POW! He's an able color commentator.
O4826Ace 3-WidePass4BreastonSlip screen
Read very well by Langford (I think). Breaston is forced inside and tackled by the linebacker flowing to his spot. I think we need some patterns that exploit a defense's tendency to insta-attack whenever Breaston starts running parallel to the line of scrimmage. (CA)
O4432Ace 3-WidePassIntManninghamSlant
Throw might be a tiny bit high, but it hits Manningham(-2) right in the hands and ricochets into the air. Not Henne's fault at all. Manningham is fallible. But only just. (CA)
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q. Something that's beginning to bother me: 3/3 first down runs, two of them from a three-wide formation against eight in the box.
M27110Ace 3-WidePass10ManninghamPA Out
Actually only six in the box. The reason? Wisconsin sends two corners on the snap, but they start so far from Henne that getting to him in time to do anything useful is very doubtful: this is a run blitz. We don't run, and Manningham is open on the sidelines for an easy pitch and catch. (CA)
M37110Ace 3-WideRun4HartZone
Eight in the box, and it's the eighth guy who cuts off the outside when Ecker turns his man in, forcing Hart to cut it up. First contact here is at the LOS. Hart(+1) makes four yards out of nothing again.
M4126Ace 3-WideRun2HartZone
Seven in the box, one of them spread out to nominally cover a slot reciever on the strong side. We run weakside and there looks to be an excellent hole for a moment until Zalewski closes it down, unblocked. Bihl did not get out on him, although it looks like he might be getting held.
M4334Ace 3-WidePass-5--Sack
Henne slips trying to plant when he finishes his drop, and Deandre Levy is upon him immediately, having beaten Riley(-2) badly. (PR)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 6 min 1st Q. 4/5 first down runs, 3 into eight-man fronts. Hart hasn't had a hole yet but manages to make four yards on every play.
M29110Ace 3-WidePass33ArringtonSeam (2)
UW tries to go straight man with a safety on Arrington, who proves thats a bad idea by streaking down the seam. Before the throw Henne looked off the safety, opening the route even further. (DO)
O38110Ace 3-WideRun9HartZone
Seven in the box and even though Kraus totally whiffs on the WLB, Hart(+2) cuts to the backside – adequately cleared this time – and breaks tackles for ten yards.
O28110Ace Run4HartZone
Eight in the box. Hart cuts behind a linebacker when Jake Long manages to get a bare touch on him, knocking him off balance. Safety fills.
O2426Ace 3-WideRun4BreastonEnd-around
Well-read by Wisconsin. Breaston(+2) manages to turn this from -4 into +4 by beating two separate defenders four yards apart.
O2032Ace Run1HartZone
Hart cuts back and meets two Wisconsin defenders. Normally I think he gets this, but not this time.
O1941Ace Run0HenneSneak
I though they thought they had less yardage to go. 6/8 first down runs, 4 into eight.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-7, EOF.
O36110Ace 3-WideRun8HartOff tackle
Long(+2) destroys the defensive end, pancaking him and getting a linebacker caught in the wash as a result. Hart has a ton of room.
O2822Ace 3-WideRun4HartZone
Seven in the box. Hart cuts back to an open backside when no holes appear. Ecker(+1) did a good job delaying the pursuers.
O24110Ace 3-WidePass24ManninghamStop and go (2, 3)
Manningham(+2) is kind of good. He's just smooth. Henne's throw is where it needs to be. (DO)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 13 min 2nd Q. The slickness of Mario: He briefly slows his route a little bit to prevent Langford from getting in position to deflect the ball, then gracefully jumps back and snags it. Outstanding! 7/9 FDR, 4 vs. 8.
O49110I-Form TwinsRun1HartZone
Eight in the box, we run to the weakside away from the eighth .Looks like there's going to be a nice hole between Long and Kraus but when Kraus disengages from the DT Bihl(-1) gets shoved back a couple yards, closing the gap. If Hayden is dealt with this is a nice gain.
O4829DiamondPass4BreastonDiamond screen
A four yard miracle from Steve Breaston(+1) as Manningham(-1) whiffs on a Wisconsin DB, forcing Breaston to dance just to get back to the line. (CA)
O4435Ace 3-WidePass-8--Sack
Plenty of time to convert a five-yard throw but Henne does not fire. I can tell you that Arrington's short cross was well covered but TV does no reveal the disposition of the others. The bell goes off in Henne's head and he gives up on the play to start scrambling just as Hart's about to release for a short flat route. That combination allows a linebacker tasked with covering Hart to come up and sack Henne as he tries to run. Um... TA.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 10 min 2nd Q. 8/10 FDR, 5 vs. 8.
M20110Ace 3-WidePass5ManninghamStop
Pass is sailed by Henne; Manningham goes up and gets it. Vaguely CA.
M2525Ace 3-WideRun2HartZone
Eight in the box with a ninth guy, the safety, coming up at the snap. He jumps when we hand the ball off and fills the hole that eventually forms a couple yards from the sideline. We actually had those eight guys blocked.
Play action rollout to the short side of the field has no one open, so we throw it away. (TA)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 4 min 2nd Q. 8/11 FDR.
O18110Ace 3-WideRun1HartDraw
Ugly. Seven guys nominally in the box against this passing formation. Guy #7 is lined up inside of Arrington, making it extremely hard to block him. He comes in and forces Hart to cut back into nothing.
O1729I-Form TwinsPass3MasseyFlat
I'm tired of this play, which is an obvious tipoff as to our intentions: TE who can't block in the backfield == pass, often to the Incredibly Surprising TE coming out of the backfield. It is this time, we throw it, and Wisconsin is not surprised. (CA)
O1436Ace 3-WidePassInc--Throwaway
Ton of time for Henne but no one is open. He fires it onto the crowd. (TA)
Drive Notes: FG, 10-10, 3 min 2nd Q. 9/12 FDR.
M28110Ace 3-WidePass-9Riley?!Batted
WTF is Riley(-2) thinking? Henne's pass is batted into the air, then caught by Riley, who immediately falls down, losing nine yards and keeping the clock running. Just knock it down. Would have been the dumbest thing I saw Saturday if a Spartan hadn't kneeled down at the 12 yard line on a kickoff return. (BA)
M19219Ace 3-WidePass12ArringtonOut
TV hardly picks this play up at all. (CA)
M3137Ace 3-WidePass1BreastonFlat
Can't blame Henne too much on this one. Manningham's running a slant and go but gets jammed and is not open. Breaston's sideline route is not a good option but the other option is Unblocked Wisconsin Blitzer. (CA)
Drive Notes: Punt, 1 min 2nd Q. 9/13 FDR, but this one is a two minute drill and maybe shouldn't count.
M45110Ace 3-WideRun3HartZone
Only seven-ish in the box but neither linebacker has anything resembling a blocker approach him. One meets Hart in the hole for a minimal gain.
M4827I-FormPassIncBreastonDeep cross
Rifled and a bit high, but like the earlier interception this goes right through a wide receiver's hands and should be caught. (CA)
M4837Ace 3-WidePass3EckerShallow cross
Everyone hates this route but this one is open. If Ecker has another couple yards before the sideline he can turn this up for first down yardage but by the time Henne comes to his route that ain't happening. Mistimed and (IN).
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-10, 12 min 3rd Q. 10/14 FDR.
M34110Ace 3-WideRun5HartZone
Nominally seven in the box with UW in their base defense w/ a linebacker shaded over the slot receiver. He comes up on the backside when we run our play; Hart cuts back there as everyone gets blocked except him, and he makes the tackle after a decent gain.
M3925Ace 3-WidePass14ManninghamPA Out
Spielman has just called our quarterback “Chad Henry” for about the fifth time. Anyway: zone PA and Henne drops back to pass, hitting Mario just as he comes out of his break. And a good thing, too, as Ikegwuonu was right on top of him. (DO)
We run into eight guys just sitting in the box. No stemming or D changes, just eight guys in the box with their corners playing ten yards off our Wrs. Stupid.
O47210Ace 3-WidePass12HartScreen
Our first successful screen of the year finds Hart out with Mitchell and Bihl with two linebackers coming up. Hart cuts up behind Mitchell for a good gain when trying to split his OL would have resulted in five or six yards instead. Nice read. (CA)
O35110Ace Run1HartZone
Eight in the box. We actually get a linebacker blocked by a wide receiver and there is the potential for a hole except Riley(-1) doesn't do anything to his man on the backside other than follow him to said hole. Hart tries to cut outside and is stymied.
O3429Ace 3-WidePassIntManninghamWheel
The interception in the endzone. Henne should never have thrown this pass, as Langford is a step and half in front of Manningham. If it's third down in this situation, sure, wing that mother, but on second down check it down to Hart – who didn't have a linebacker anywhere near him – and get yourself in a makeable third down. (BR)
Drive Notes: Interception, 10-10, 6 min 3rd Q. 13/17 FDR.
Great coverage by Ikegwuonu here forces a throw low and to the outside that Mario digs out. (CA)
O44110AcePass5MasseyPA Flat
Probably the correct read here – Ecker was covered farther downfield. (CA)
O3925I-FormPass1BreastonLong handoff
Finally we try one of these to test those way-off corners. Unfortunately, Langford manages to grab Breaston's collar and drag him down. We should have been doing this all the time on first down. (CA)
O3834Ace 3-WidePass38ManninghamSlant and go (2, 3)
Eet's a touchdown this time as Manningham's slant and go burns Langford like crispy toast. Henne lays it in his arms like soft baby. (DO)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-10, 3 mind 3rd Q. 13/19 FDR.
M27110Ace 3-WideRun14 + 5HartZone
Seven in the box == big cutback opportunity as Hart can diagnose and deal with the filling safety with a couple extra seconds. He ditches him, then stiffarms the hell out of Langford for another five or six yards, plus an incidental facemask on the way.
M46110Ace Run5HartZone
Wisconsin walks an eighth guy up, and we run away from him. Both linebackers get blocked by OL moving to the second level (finally), but Hart's bumped at the line and somewhat disrupted. Still good for five.
Eight in the box. Newkirk gets free because we ask Kraus to impossibly block a guy lined up to the playside, and there's nowhere to go after that.
O4834Ace 3-WidePassIncBreastonFlat
Henne wings it wide of Breaston, but it's doubtful he gets the first down anyway. These throws are too common in this offense and easily read. (IN)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, EO 3rd Q. 15/21 FDR.
O33110Ace 3-WideRun7HartZone
I have no idea how he does this. There's nowhere for him to run; he stops; he's dead in the water; some guys fall down and he's seven yards downfield. Don't ask me how.
O2623Ace 3-WidePass20ArringtonWaggle
Hits Arrington right in stride way downfield on the run. (DO)
O61GI-Form 2TERun1HartIso
Riley(-1) driven into the backfield, fouling the intended direction.
O52GI-Form 2TERun5HartIso (2)
Mitchell has a lot of trouble handling the UW DT; Hart is forced to stop when a linebacker come up unblocked and dives at his legs. He breaks the tackle, cuts behind Mitchell and he's in. Made that by himself.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-10, 11 min 4th Q. 17/23 FDR.
O41110Ace 3-WideRun1ManninghamEnd-around
Momentary re-position of the ball does not appear to be a trick play attempt, as no one is on a route. Also this is Michigan with a two-touchdown fourth quarter lead we're talking about, come on. Backside DE has great contain... it's Jamal Cooper, glorified linebacker, but Manningham get back to the los.
O4029I-FormRun2GradyLead Draw
Eight in the box; POA jammed; Grady is not Hart.
O3837Ace 3-WidePass10ManninghamSlant
Wide open; perfect throw. (CA)
O28110Ace 3-WideRun7GradyZone
Cutback isn't really open as the backside DE is unmolested by Riley(-1) but Grady manages to power through his tackle and gain decent yardage.
O2123Ace 3-WideRun4MinorZone
Cuts it up and delivers a blow to the dfender, getting two yards after contact and the first.
They're stacking the line and we don't care... nor should we at this point. This is a run run run FG situation.
Run into the wad. Yay wad.
O1134Ace 3-WidePass-4--Scramble
I don't agree with this playcall: run the ball into the line and kick the FG. Don't get Henne killed.
Drive Notes: FG, 27-10, ballgame. 20/26 FDR.

What was the deal with that last interception?

I dunno. Lloyd muttered something about it being third down or some such stuff after the game, but that wouldn't have passed a polygraph test. I guess he was ticked Bielema called his last timeout. Still, dropping back to pass there can only lead to bad things in that situation, like Henne getting his face broken and the beginning of the Jason Forcier era. With just over a minute left and Wisconsin out of timeouts, running into the line almost ends the game. Figure five seconds for the play, forty before the play clock runs out on fourth down, eight seconds for a punt, and then the clock winds when the ball is ready for play. UW would get one or two plays at most. Weird.

Maybe he's trying to get Manningham the Heisman.

Grumble grumble mutter mutter playcalling grumble. Debord!

I'm with you. Michigan spent around half of its first downs running into eight guys and another chunk running into seven from a three-wide set, which is functionally equivalent. Fully 20(!) of Michigan's 26 plays on first down were runs*, which is a big flashing sign that says "BAD OLD DAYS" to me. A big reason that hards YPC average to date is somewhat disappointing is his frequent deployment into obvious rush defenses. He's still doing his thing, but a combination of bad blocking and predictable playcalling means he's dodging tacklers at or before the line of scrimmage instead of three yards downfield.

The end result was a lot of plays where Hart turned something that should have been zero yards into four. I guess the theory is that teams will be incredibly surprised -- note the lack of Ironic Caps -- when Michigan throws to Arrington down the middle and thus those plays will be both safe and yard-rich, but in the summer doldrums I highlighted a post from Smart Football that discussed the proper distribution of run and pass calls for maximum awesomeness. The upshot was that you should balance it such that your passes are only a bit more efficient than your runs, as passes are a bit more risky. The "passing premium" cited by Smart Football is about a yard. Year to date, Michigan averages 4 yards per rush and 7.8 per pass, which is way out of whack. We've also ran fully two-thirds of the time: 181 rushing attempts to just 90 passing.

Before Wisconsin I was willing to dismiss that as two games against patsies and a weird game versus ND that we led by a billion points the whole way, but the stubborn decision to plow ahead into a good defense stacked against the run in a tight game was lame. I don't mind running on 55 or 60 percent of first downs, but 75 percent is almost certainly hurting our offense.

*(Caveat: three first-down runs were when we had the ball in their territory leading 24-10 with time slipping off the clock. I have no problem with these, so 17/23 is probably a better measure. That's still way high.)



Notre Dame

Another fine performance, especially because Michigan only threw four screens and only one of those INs was an inaccurate pass. (The other was one of those horrible three-yard TE outs that would have gone for a first down but was thrown too late.) At this point I think it's safe to declare Henne's accuracy vastly improved. He still makes the occasional Morelli-esque throw into a Mongol horde of defenders, but he's performing more like the Henne from last year's OSU game than last year's Wisconsin game. Loeffler strikes again?

The chart for the rest of the offense just isn't working out. I'm going to revamp it but keep forgetting to do so. The idea: passes will get rated on a catch-difficulty scale a bit more fine grained than the passing chart (0 through 3, with zero being totally uncatchable and three being something that would be a hair-pulling drop if it hit the ground) and receivers will get rated on that. Offensive linemen will have separate grades for pass and run blocking... still pending. Anyway, I'm working on something. I don't think the +/- system really said anything about offensive players. I was always getting done and thinking "wow, those numbers are wrong," which is not something that happens for the D. Work in progress.


Henne was excellent. His only real mistake was the second interception, which should have been checked down to Hart. And who thought we'd say that about the King of Checkdowns?

Hart was the engine that kept the offense going by regularly turning poorly-blocked plays into moderate gains.

No one else really stood out, as Manningham coupled his two touchdowns with a drop that led to an interception and probably could have done something to prevent Henne's second, even if that meant taking a penalty. He's still kind of good. Also, Adrian Arrington is emerging as a #2 wideout, but more on him later.


Vijay's been quietly peddling a theory: Rueben Riley's inability to do much of anything useful when he's on the backside of the zone severely hampers the running game. I noticed it a couple times in the second half and offered (-1) for it, but Vijay took a look at most of our run plays and concluded the situation was much worse than that. When he locks onto a guy and drives, he's fine, but try to get him moving at all and he can't hack it. Sort of explains that speed-rusher thing, too.

Two turnovers were a result of missed Manningham-Henne connections, but then again so were two touchdowns, so we can't complain too much.

Mike DeBord's playcalling left something to be desired, IMO, as discussed above.

Do you have any cracked-out suggestions to improve things, you know-nothing internet loon?

Why, yes, yes I do.
  • One thing I noticed in the Minnesota game is the frequency with which they faked an end-around. This often held the backside defensive end/linebacker long enough to let Pinnix dart up through a hole that would otherwise have been shut down. Since our slot receiver is usually Breaston, a man who's not much of a blocker but is a terror with the ball in his hands, constantly threatening to hand him an end-around could open up those cutback lanes which are so frequently absent either because they have an eighth guy in the box or someone on the backside has let their man pursue without interference.
  • Wisconsin played way, way off our WRs when they brought that eighth guy in the box. I was calling for the long handoff to Breaston over and over again, though when they finally ran it the UW corner made a great play to snag Breaston with his arm and made me look stupid. That thing works 90% of the time, though, and would be a great way to force opposing cornerbacks to inch closer to Manningham (and therefore their doom) presnap.
  • We need some plays that play off our WR screen tendencies. When Breaston starts running parallel to the line of scrimmage, entire secondaries freak out and converge. Either a transcontinental or just some faked screens would be excellent. Purdue pulled out a sweet play where they faked the WR screen, then ran a statue-of-liberty sweep to one of their runningbacks. The play sucked in a linebacker and went for a 14-yard touchdown.
  • Our old friend the screen was executed successfully for the first time this year. With Hart being who he is I'd like to see more.
  • Speaking of screen: play-action waggle screen. Fake a zone, get the offensive linemen moving left, get the defense reacting to the "waggle"... throw back to Hart. It's gold, Jerry! Gold!
How about that Arrington kid?

So. Excited. Disappointed he dropped that fade, but he's open a lot, has displayed an aptitude for the tough catch, and has a rangy easiness about him that radiates "star." That redshirt year forced by an ankle injury may be the best thing that ever happened to him. I expect he'll relegate Breaston to the third-WR slot role he excelled in during the Braylon Era and provide a presence over the middle and on fades that we need sans Avant.

And what does it mean for Minnesota?

We should crush them like silly bug. It's one thing to have troubles against Wisconsin, possesors of a solid front seven and a burgeoning star in Jack Ikegwuonu (who was great in that game, BTW) and entirely another to have the same troubles against a Gopher team with no discernable talent.

That said, we probably won't if we insist on running into stacked lines some more, and I fear that the Boiler offensive line is just plain better than ours (Steve Davis made not a peep). I figure our offensive line kills a few drives, stubborn playcalling a few more, and we score somewhere in the low 30s more due to great field position provided by special teams and defense more than anything else.