Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Key Possessions: UConn

One of the big keys to success this year is gaining momentum early in the game.  Against UConn on Saturday, the first possession by each team was dominated by Michigan.  This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.  Let's take a look at just what happened:

  • 14:55 - If there was ever a defensive play I was excited to see, it was this.  Three players all around the ball for the tackle and no gain on the pass out to the flat, added to the fact that Cam Gordon got sideline contain.  Follow this up with a TFL by Mouton on the next play, then a false start penalty, and finally heavy pressure on Frazer's third and long throw, and you have exactly the kind of stop the defense needed to make.  This more than anything set the tone for the game.  The UM defense that was supposed to come out and get pushed around by an experienced offensive unit played fast and aggressive.  They might make mistakes this year, but if they play with this much fire things should be just fine.
  • 13:30 - Who is this team again?  The first two offensive plays are out of the I-form.  Who let Lloyd in the booth?  Both the run by Shaw and the hitch pass to Stonum look like vintage Carr plays.
  • 12:31 - Denard takes the snap, fakes the handoff, and steps into a quick throwing stance, freezing the linebacker and opening a huge running lane.  Who else is excited to see the kind of openings in the defense that pump fakes will open up for Denard Robinson this year?
  • 12:22 - And coming in for the only penalty of the day, Patrick Omameh, with an inexcusable late hit.  I like the enthusiasm, but Omameh has to be aware not only that the whistle was blown, but that Robinson was already down in front of him.  For this offense to be successful, linemen will have to constantly block down the field, and this team can't afford to have drives stalled by 15 yard penalties.
  • 12:22 - The next play is perfect.  As diagrammed at Burgeoning Wolverine Star, this play is a 100% improvement in execution from last year, and one block away from six points.
  • 11:17 - This play goes for positive yards, but looks to be improvised after blocking breaks down on the right side.  Shaw comes across the backfield, but then does a 180 and runs off Schilling's left hip.  My guess is that Dorrestein did not kick the DE out far enough and Shaw got cold feet.  It could be a designed counter (I'll wait for the offensive UFR at MGoBlog), but the cutback develops too slow to imagine this being very effective against solid linebackers.  However, if it is a broken play, it is nice to see a five yard gain, something we didn't see much of last year when the blocking broke down.
  • 10:13 - 3rd and short.  Michael Shaw up the gut?  Excuse me while I flash back to Illinois '09.  Isn't this what we brought Stephen Hopkins in for?  No matter, as this is another 1st down.
  • 9:21 - First, this is an excellent misdirection with the play action.  All the action goes left except for Robinson, Schilling, and Koger.  The LB's don't bite, but are caught watching long enough to give Robinson a head start.  The only man who can pick up the sack is the DE, and Schilling makes short work of him.  Koger finds an open spot below the safety and Robinson throws a strike.  This should be an offensive staple all year.
  • 9:00 - This no gain is probably on Omameh.  He gets stood up by the DT who is able to keep his shoulders square to the play.  By the rest of the blocking   and the backside LB who eventually makes the tackle   I'll guess this run is supposed to go in the G/T gap.  If Omameh turns the DT inside it would seal off the LB coming in from the backside and allow Shaw to get to the second level.  After getting blown off the ball early on this drive and committing a penalty, the day hasn't started well for Omameh.
  • 7:40 - This TD is all Vincent Smith.  UConn sends four players right to the spot on the line that Smith is trying to run through.  Schilling does a good job of staying between his man and the runner even after getting knocked down and turned around.  Smith then goes to work making people miss.  I don't think there is another running back on the team capable of turning this from a no gain to a TD.  Also, credit must be given to both Stonum and Roundtree (or was it Grady?), who neutralize the only players in the secondary capable of getting the stop after Smith makes it through the line.
So the first drive of the day for UConn goes for -9 yards.  Despite a booming punt that pushes Michigan back to its own four yard line, the offense rattles off a 14 play, 96 yard drive.  Denard Robinson completes two passes and runs for three 1st downs himself.  Even with a handful of mistakes this offense is still able to move the ball, only once losing yards (a one yard loss on the run by Shaw).  

All in all it was a great day for the offense.  Two scoring drives went for 96 yards, one went for 77 yards, one for 75, and the offense even capitalized on the shanked punt by taking the ball 38 yards for a TD.  To top it off, UConn was only given two meaningful possessions in the second half, and the defense did its job on both forcing a fumble and a turnover on downs.

Make no mistake though, the game turned ugly for UConn because of execution by both the offense and defense early.  A three and out for the defense followed by a long touchdown drive, and now the home team has all the momentum and confidence.  If this team can make a statement early in games this year it will go a long way toward making things easier on the defense while allowing the offense to worry about ball control and clock management rather than playing catch-up.

There are still quite a few questions swirling around this team, but we can all rest easier after Saturday knowing that the team is capable of establishing itself early.

No comments:

Post a Comment