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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Generally on these the reader knows what happens before the UFR hits the page, so: West Virginia beat Rutgers 31-3. Total yards for RU: 314. For WVU: 398. Turnovers, inopportune penalties, and missed field goals hurt Rutgers badly.

I picked out this game because 1) it was available, 2) Rutgers was a slightly better than average run defense that looks just average because it had to play West Virginia, and 3) Greg Schiano is reputed to be a fine defensive mind.

No video; I'm having trouble getting VirtualDub to recognize whatever these files were encoded in and thus can't slice out individual plays.

M33110Shotgun 2-backRunZone read handoffSlaton5
Schmitt used as a lead-blocker on a zone stretch play that looks eerily familiar minus the whole shotgun thing. Rutgers is doing a weird blitz where the WLB/SS guy blitzes off the slot receiver and the DE flows down the line instead of attempting to deal with the zone read. He ends up overrunning the play – jammed pretty well on the frontside – as Slaton cuts back; the threat of White caused the blitzer to delay just enough for Slaton to pick up a decent gain. Does Steven Threet inspire the same respect?
M3825Shotgun 5-wideRunQB Draw?White4
I won't know what the personnel is on any of these so I can only give you formations. I'm sure Slaton's still in so “five wide” is not right. I'm not sure if this is a read or a draw or what, but this appears to be a screen to Reynaud – WVU bunched four guys to the bottom of the screen. White pulls it down and takes off, scrambling for a few yards.
M4231I-Form TwinsRunIsoSlaton-2
Ur? On fourth and what looks like a foot – sneak distance – they hand it off and get stuffed. The DT shed the center and shot into the backfield as Rutgers sells out to stop this.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 10 min. Fireworks not so much yet. Schiano was asking for a bubble screen in his face on first down. High risk, high reward here.
M38110Shotgun 3-widePassSlip ScreenJalloh5
This is set up very well and looks like a potential big play but for two issues: White's a little late and upfield with the throw (just a little), and the defensive end did not get chopped by the OT, reads the screen, and makes a great play backtracking downfield. (CA, 3)
M4325I-Form TwinsRunInside ZoneSlaton8
Reynaud comes around on an end-around fake. Slaton's already taking it up the gut. A double from the C and G blows the undersized Rutgers NT back; the other DT is cut and Schmitt obliterates the MLB. A diving tackle attempt from the unblocked DE is stepped through and Slaton's got his first chunk of the day.
O49110Shotgun 3-wideRunZone read handoffSlaton6
Rutgers with only seven in the box here, one of them nominally covering the slot guy, both safeties back. Backside scoop on the DT works well enough and gets an OL into the second level, causing the Rutgers WLB to start cheating over there in case Slaton takes it directly up the middle. He bounces it between the G and T instead, where there's a crease. Rare instance of passive D from Rutgers.
O4324Shotgun 3-wideRunQB Draw White-2
It's actually pretty interesting to watch the Rutgers D at work here. They're stunting and blitzing like mad from all angles; here they get the TE blocking no one as the DE stunts inside and through; White can't take it outside because of another blitzer and gets hit for a loss. I have no idea what happens in this game other than a WVU win... I get the feeling there are going to be some big plays when Rutgers rolls the dice and comes up craps.
O4536Shotgun 3-widePassCircleReynaud7
Man free for Rutgers as they bring another blitz, with a catch: it looks at first like there are seven blitzers but two peel off to cover receivers... poorly. Reynaud is nominally covered by a safety rolling up to the line but is open and darts for the first. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)
O38110Shotgun 2-backRunZone read handoffSlaton38
Uh, check on the ol' big plays. Rutgers is consistently shooting the backside DE down the LOS and bringing the slot-covering WLB in as the contain guy. It's been pretty effective, as the weakside DE shot into the backfield and caused a cutback on an otherwise very well-blocked play. Problem: the backside contain decides to plow White and trip over his prone body. Slaton is – WOOP – gone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 4 min 1st Q. No wonder Bo liked this guy: one real pass so far, and that because of a third and medium.
M39110Shotgun 2-backPassPA FlareSchmitt13
Same late shift with the slot blitz and DE shoot; this time WVU goes play action, faking the same frontside zone read they've run a couple times before. This time Schmitt releases to the backside. He could pick up the blitzer but instead dummies him and slips into the flat; White hits him and it's beer truck time. (CA, 3)
O48110Shotgun 2-backPassBubble ScreenReynaud5
Good job by the Rutgers corner here to cut down on the gain here; Rutgers had again blitzed off the corner. (CA, 3)
O4325Ace 3-wideRunInside ZoneSlaton4
Slaton's got a nice hole up the middle as a scoop block seals one DT and gets a lineman out to a linebacker; Schmitt kills a DE and wipes out a weakside blitzer in the process. If you get your hands on these guys they crumple. Also: another end-around fake.
O3931Shotgun 4-wideRunQB Lead DrawWhite4
Schmitt in the backfield with White; Slaton split. ISQD is the call. A Rutgers DE zips right past the WVU RT and into White's path; White jukes past him and the unblocked weakside blocker to pick it up.
O35110Shotgun 3-wideRunZone read keeperWhite3
Same slot blitz gets in an unblocked player; he tackles Slaton, leaving a major gap in the middle of the field. Unfortunately for WVU, the OL on the second level does not have an angle on the MLB. He meets White at the LOS. White spins out of it; the delay allows a safety to fill.
O3227Shotgun 3-widePassFlareSlatonInc
Bad snap and a bad block from the RT allows the DE to knock it down. (BA, 0, protection 0/1, RT). I don't think this RT is very good.
O3237Shotgun 2-backRunND-style fiasco---23
Snap flies over White's head.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 11 2nd Q. White is all like “dude, snap it to me.” Punt hits a gunner and goes back to WVU.
O31110Shotgun TripsRunQB Draw White 19
Again, I'm not sure if White actually has an option to throw a screen here or if it's just a decoy. In any case, both Slaton and White take off towards the trips side of the field. The weakside DE gets way too far upfield – the proper angle if this was a zone read with White peeling out to his side of the field, but it ain't – and opens up a huge cutback lane that White exploits.
O12110Shotgun Stack?RunQB SweepWhite2
Two WR, a TE, Schmitt and Slaton lined up approximately over the TE. This turns into something kinda like the sweep that was so deadly with QB Eagles in Techmo Super Bowl. Good contain from two separate players on Rutgers forces it back up inside for a minor gain.
O1028I-Form TripsRunFB DiveSchmitt1
Jammed in the center. Schmitt does what FBs do, which is run directly forward until they've hit the ground.
O937Shotgun 2-backRunQB SweepWhite8
Rutgers is blitzing from the weakside and bailing a safety out into a robber zone on the playside, leaving three guys chasing uselessly and one running his way out of the play. Almost doesn't matter as the RT gets beat again, forcing Schmitt to pick his guy up and allowing the DT to continue flowing down the line against a not-so-effective reach block. Schmitt gets enough of a push on the other guy to create a hole; the diving DT causes White to stumble but does not bring him down.
O1 1GAce RunQB Draw White1
I think I need some differentiation between QB draws here. On this one, Schmitt is the single setback and White looks like he's going to give him a zone handoff before keeping the ball, using Schmitt as a lead blocker, and hopping into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 9 min 2nd Q. White actually fumbled into the endzone but recovered his own fumble.
M15110Shotgun 3-wideRunQB SweepWhite22
Schmitt the only setback. This play is actually gap blocked with the TE and LT blowing the Rutgers DE way off the ball – sort of like the Navy offense, when you get these guys expecting not to get blocked and then they get hammered the results are not pretty – and pulling the backside guard around. Schmitt picks the corner off and a filling linebacker gets swallowed by the guard; White lopes into the secondary.
M37110Shotgun TripsRunZone read handoffSlaton5
Nice zone block by the center to carry the DT out of the play; big hole in the middle is filled by a couple meh second level blocks.
M4225Shotgun 4-wideRunQB Draw White0
Well-timed blitz from Rutgers gets a guy into the backfield, as two OL were scooping a DT and did not get out on him in time. Result is a mess.
M4235Shotgun 4-widePassIn Jalloh11 + 5
Jalloh comes open in man, as the lack of safeties cause the cover guy to be cautious. Easy pitch and catch for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2). Incidental face mask tacks on five.
O42110I-Form 3-widePenaltyFalse StartSome Guy-5
O47115I-Form 3-widePassWaggle!Jalloh13
They fake an iso or inside zone to Slaton then roll White out of the pocket. Schmitt, releasing into the flat, gets a hit on a linebacker and gives White enough time to fire a strike in front of rapidly-closing defender. (CA+... aw... DO, 3, protection 1/1)
O3422Shotgun 4-wideRunZone read handoffSlaton1
Two guys come up to the wide side of the field and a guy backs out into zone on the other; WVU zones away from the rolled-up secondary. This should be a good gainer or at least a yard or so and a really short third down but Slaton decides to cut back needlessly and ends up losing ground.
O3533Shotgun 2-backRunQB SweepWhite13
Rutgers sends the house with six guys coming through the LOS and a seventh trying to clean up. One cut block is quite effective and White sets up blocks from both Slaton and Schmitt before bursting upfield and picking up the first down and considerably more.
O22110Shotgun 2-backPassBubble ScreenReynaudInc
Zone read fake to the bubble screen; White throws it well over Reynaud's head, possibly in an attempt to get it over the hands of onrushing linemen. (IN, 0)
O22210Shotgun 2-backPassSeam#4Inc
There are 30 seconds left in the half now, so WVU is pressed for time and Rutgers is kinda expecting pass. White throws this into coverage, unwisely. (BR, 0, protection 0/2)
O22310Shotgun 2-backRunQB Draw White-2
Rutgers sends two guys right up the middle and almost right past White, who is this close to breaking a tackle and shooting into the secondary for at least a first down and very probably a touchdown when he goes to the ground. Roll them dice, Schiano.
Drive Notes: FG(42), 17-3, EOH.
M28110Shotgun 3-wideRunZone read keeperWhite-7
Slot blitz as per usual, but no stunt. The DE shoots right into the backfield unblocked – unclear whether this was intentional or not – and tackles Slaton; Slaton doesn't have the ball. White keeps and starts rolling out; the tackle blocks the corner. Unfortunately for WVU the guard who moved directly to the second level does not get to the LB, who makes an excellent, quick read and shoots into the gap. White was planning on taking it up into the hole; he starts backing off and looks like he's going to throw the bubble screen, then hesitates and is lost.
M21217Shotgun 2-backPassBubble ScreenReynaudInc
Poor throw; slot blitz and this was open. (IN, 0)
M21317Shotgun EmptyPassCornerJollah14
Nice throw, though it's short of the sticks and Rutgers closes Jollah down. Rare dropback pass. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-3, 14 min 3rd Q. Rutgers goes on a 7-minute drive that features a dropped touchdown pass and gets no points out of it.
M25110Shotgun 3-widePassFB FlareSchmittInc
Schmitt as an off-the-line TE. Same corner blitz; Zone read fake suckers in everyone and Schmitt shoots into a wide open flat. Big gainer but for the pass getting batted down. (BA, 0)
M25210Shotgun 2-backRunZone read handoffSlaton-3
Corner blitz + DE stunt combo again. This allows the NT, who's shaded to the frontside of the play, to really shoot hard. He does so, and a poor cut-block on the backside plus the stunt leave Slaton surrounded.
M22313Shotgun EmptyPassJailbreak screenSlaton51
Three man line and two blitzers up the middle; everyone rushes hard and takes themselves out of the play. Left side of the line releases; great cut block on an attacking safety by the LT, and excellent downfield blocks by the wide receivers. Slaton sprung, runs far. (CA, 3)
O27110Shotgun 4-wideRunZone read keeperWhite1
The usual stunt-blitz. White pulls it out of Slaton's belly and attempts to shoot upfield past the CB; a diving shoestring tackle limits him to one yard; LB coming up may or may not have had an angle.
O2629Shotgun 4-widePassBubble ScreenSanders6
Crappy block from the outside WR forces Sandesr to deal with the defender a yard or two after the LOS; he stiffarms his way for a number of yards. (CA, 3)
O2033Shotgun TripsRun???White15
This appears to be a flare screen for Slaton designed to exploit the corner-blitz-mad Rutgers D. White bobbles the snap, however, and he never makes the throw. So he's got four defenders in his face and one guy who's made an attempt at a cut block. White just sort of darts up through the crack and is loose in the secondary just like that. Bad cut downfield or this is a TD.
O51GI-Form 3-widePassPA RolloutN/AInc
Iso fake to Slaton coupled with a White rollout. No one open, so he throws it away. (TA, 0)
O52GShotgun 2-backRunZone read handoffSlaton5
Hard to tell what Rutgers is doing on this play since we get a terrible camera angle and the replay's not much more helpful. This is another cutback from Slaton though, and one that picks up a block from White.
O1 3GI-Form TwinsRunOff tackleSlaton1
Another excellent job by the LT to seal the DE and use his hands to delay pursuit from two separate players. Schmitt, leading, can't find anyone to plow until he's five yards into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-3, 4 min 3rd Q.
M27110Ace TwinsRunInside ZoneSlaton3
Reynaud with the end-around fake. Excellent play from the MLB to shoot into an offensive lineman, get playside of his shoulder, and make a tackle around the LOS.
M3027Shotgun 4-wideRunMSQDWhite3
Schmitt the only setback; Slaton in the slot... and yeah, you can kind of see this coming. A Mildly Surprising QB Draw. Nice push froom the OL but the stunting DE gets in, as does the blitzing corner, and another LB... Schmitt sort of stops to set up a block on the outside guy; White runs into him.
M3334Shotgun 2-backPassFB FlareSchmitt19
Woo! Zone read fake coupled with Schmitt shooting to the backside of the play. White keeps, draws attention, and dumps it to Schmitt, who McGuffies some kid ten yards downfield, rumbling for excellent yardage. Side note: you know what this play reminds me of a lot? Carson Butler shooting backside against Oregon for 50-some yards. (CA, 3)
O48110Shotgun 4-wideRunZone read handoffSlaton-10(pen)
Schmitt now in the slot. Zone read handoff is well-contained; holding called anyway.
M42120Shotgun 3-wideRunQB Draw White3
Trap block blows up an OLB; slanting from the DL gets the playside DE in past his assigned blocker; he delays White long enough for help to converge.
M46217Shotgun TripsPenalty???N/A-5(pen)
I don't catch the call; either a false start or delay.
M41222Shotgun TripsPassScrambleWhite0
Ton of time for White; he can't find anyone open. Eventually he scrambles out and gets back to the LOS. There's gotta be an outlet or something on second and long and any moderate gain significantly increases your chances of picking up the first, so... (BR, 0, protection 3/3)
M41322Shotgun EmptyRunQB Draw White17
A give-up-and-punt; White's dangerously close to making this a first down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-3, 14 min 4th Q.
We're watching some damn horse race instead of the game.
M3727Ace TwinsRunEnd-aroundReynaud6
Rutgers has this contained until Reynaud makes a jab step upfield and bursts outside; the containing DE took a step in and when he tried to come back out he slipped. Reynaud has the edge and a decent gain.
M4331Shotgun 4-wideRunQB SweepWhite7
Schmitt lone setback... not quite a MSQD but close. This is a sweep play with Schmitt lead blocking. He crushes a linebacker, blowing him back on his ass and giving White a lane.
50110I-Form 3-wideRunInside ZoneSlaton0
No creases in the front; when Slaton bounces it out he's got an unblocked linebacker to deal with.
50210Shotgun 2-backRunBroken playWhite-6
Snap is high. White bats it in the air; when he comes down with it it's too late to do anything but get to the ground.
M44316Shotgun 3-wideRunQB Draw White50
Safety blitz comes up late; this is the Wrong Answer. White reads his blitz and zips past him with the help of a last-ditch push by an OL, and then there's one guy with a shot at him, a DE who's been blocked four yards off the LOS by Schmitt. Can he catch Pat White? No. A cutback turns a first down into a near-touchdown.
O61GI-Form TwinsRunOff tackleSlaton6
Clearly running over the strongside tackle. After momentarily blocking the DE, the LT passes him off to Schmitt and heads downfield to seal off anyone with an idea of getting to Slaton, eventually cutting the last hope of preventing a touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-3, 8 min 4th Q. Up four touchdowns, WVU calls the dogs off. EOC.

Well, that was... different.

In many ways, yes. The most striking to me is the protection tally, which is 9/12. For a game. Michigan would do that on some drives last year.

And yet...

Not so different in all ways. The West Virginia run game is not much different than the zone stretch stuff Michigan ran the last two years under Mike Debord. The two major differences:
  • The quarterback is in the shotgun, and
  • said quarterback can reach a cruising speed of 600 kph.
That latter point is the difference between the West Virginia rushing attack (6.15 YPC) and the Michigan tepid advance (3.97 YPC), as it forces the backside defensive end into a no-win situation more often than not.

I feel conflicted about whether this was a dominant performance or a kinda meh outing rescued by a few huge plays.

You and I both, hypothetical guy who talks in bold. West Virginia got stuck in third and long twice only to be bailed out by 1) a screen that would have every Michigan fan howling until it reached the sticks, then muttering until it passed 30 yards, then grudgingly pleased, and 2) Pat White going "woop" past several blitzers on a broken play and gliding for days. Both plays went for better than 50 yards and turned what otherwise would have been limp, punt-terminated drives into touchdowns. Similarly, WVU's first touchdown was opened up by a colossal Rutgers screwup -- banging into Pat White, who obviously did not have the ball.

Without that, West Virginia's day was kind of a sputtery mess, and it's reasonable to question whether or not the offense relies on opponent screwups to function.

On the other hand, this was a remarkably short game. West Virginia had nine meaningful drives, only one of which started in opponent territory, and scored four touchdowns and a field goal. I should really go back and get a number for Michigan drives per game over the last couple years, but I can tell you nine is probably tied for a record low. More realistic numbers are 13 or 14, which likely would have seen WVU put up 40-some points against an opponent that went 8-5, was 17th in total yards ceded, and allowed opponents only 22 PPG.


Charts. White's passing chart for the game; I've taken the additional step of breaking down his throws into screens (which also include little flares and the like -- anything that doesn't cross the LOS, basically) and downfield attempts.


You can see why White isn't often tasked with going downfield: here his positive results are just three of seven throws. For comparison, Chad Henne's chart for all the games he played more than half of:

Illinois (2/3)

The receiver chart is really boring and is omitted. There were no drops, and the only catch rated harder than an easy '3' was a third-down conversion early that was only tough because Darius Reynaud is a smurf.

So... is any of this replicable by Michigan next year?

Not much. The similarities between the two sets of personnel are a good, fast running back, -- we don't know who Michigan's is yet but there are six of them, someone will step up -- a good left tackle, and a bad right tackle. Things WVU has that Michigan does not:
  • Pat White
  • little slot buggers (maybe)
  • Pat White
  • a facemask-busting maniac fullback
  • Pat White.
Things Michigan has that WVU does not:
  • receivers the NFL will not laugh at
  • sixty-five tight ends
  • hypothetically, a strong-armed quarterback.
Michigan is going to be more balanced by necessity this year, and probably next year.

What was the deal with Greg Schiano's mad blitz-stunt scheme?

I don't want to steal too much of my own thunder here, since one of my articles in the upcoming Hail To The Victors 2008 is all about Schiano's response to the West Virginia zone read, but this is the basic concept:

Shooting the defensive end down the LOS as shown above makes him useful again, and allows the defensive tackle on the playside to have one-gap responsibility. It slowed West Virginia's attack down considerably. Many of their rushing yards came from a variety of White draws, and Slaton was a nonfactor outside of his... uh... 38 yard touchdown run and 50-some yard screen. So it's got a fatal flaw: the cutback. The HTTV article has much more.