Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Rewind: Indiana

Excellent play from the receiver position has taken this offense to the next level.
I watched the first half of this weekend's game in a loud sports bar surrounded by about 12 friends, and I listened to the second half on my car's radio.  Needless to say I didn't get a chance to focus on much.  Here are a few observations I had when re-watching the game today.

1st Half:
I guess I didn't miss much by missing the audio on the ESPNU feed the first time around. It was only a matter of time before Pam Ward got a chance to butcher one of our games.

Broekhuizen kicks off.  Well short of the endzone.  I miss Hayden Epstein.

Ugh.  After a couple great pass plays gashing the defense like I expected, Willis breaks off a first down run and is barely dragged down by Floyd.  I'm glad I missed this the first time around.  That would have been a disheartening play to witness live.
After a four man line stuffs an Iso run by Indiana, a three man line gives Chappell time to set up and find a receiver behind the Wolverine zone coverage.  With the rushing offense MSU will bring in next week, lets hope that the Wolverines show more of the four man fronts.  This time it was Roh and Banks on the ends and Van Bergen and Martin inside.  I think one less in zone coverage is a sufficient sacrifice that is worth the added pressure we will get.

Denard Robinson takes his first carry to the house.  How hard is that to stop?  The hole in the line is massive after Koger leads up from the H-back and kicks the linebacker out.  All Robinson has to do is avoid the safety and outrun everyone.  Fortunately he excels at both of these things, and it's six.

The only guy who can make this tackle is the Back Judge.
If the offensive line can open up holes like this against MSU, Denard could have another big day.  Here the interior of the line walls off the entire backside, and Kevin Koger makes a perfect block on the filling linebacker to spring Robinson.  Tougher defenses over the next three weeks will make the offense work harder, but it is tough for even good defenses to stop this level of execution by our offense.  This is the offensive difference between 2009 and 2010, at least the difference not named Denard.

Boom.  Webb'd
Roundtree's bubble screen touchdown was beautiful.

The defensive backs are both playing 9 yards off the line, Robinson hits Roundtree in stride, and Hemingway opens just enough of a hole by shoving the crashing safety inside.  Then it's one move...

...and it's off to the races.  If teams play our receivers tight we have the option to go over top, and if they play loose we can kill them with bubble screens.  Say what you want about the offense's reliance on Denard Robinson, but it is eleven guys doing their jobs out there that makes it all possible.

This could be the most dangerous play in the Wolverine playbook because you absolutely have to honor the threat of Denard running the ball.

The offensive line zone blocks to the backside, Smith leads into the hole, and Robinson tucks the ball to run.  The receivers all release straight down the field, like they do every play because they are always moving down field to draw off the defense and block on the second level.  What choice do the linebackers and safety have here?  Robinson just beat them on a similar play earlier in the game for a touchdown, and if they don't fill the hole he has the speed to get up and outside the hole if they don't blow it up now.  They all attack the play...

...and he pulls up to loft a pass over top to Roundtree, who now has Kelvin Grady down field as a blocker.  This play was great, but it was inevitably overshadowed by this:

That was the early turning point in the game.  If Michigan punches the ball in and goes up 21-7 they pick up loads of momentum, go into halftime leading by anywhere from 7 to 14, and get the ball back to open the second half.  I'm with SCM at Maize and Brew, lets not go under center.  Especially now that the staff has debuted the two H-back sets.  We have more options out of that set anyway, with the same amount of blocking.

If a bad rushing offense can do this:

I shudder to think what a good rushing offense is capable of.  I'm not sold on Michigan State's rush offense being a juggernaut, but I think it is good enough to find success.  My biggest worry isn't Michigan's pass defense vs Cousins and company, it is our linebackers making enough plays to keep MSU's yards per carry down.

Chappell threw 64 times Saturday.  How many people think that Cousins, Stanzi, Pryor, Tolzien, and whatever anonymous walk-on is starting for Purdue after another round of devistating ACL injuries can limit themselves to only one of these kinds of throws a game in 64 attempts?  This was the most accurate quarterback the defense will face all year.

2nd Half:
Second play out of halftime and Indiana's secondary plays the bubble screen after the zone read fake in the backfield.  The safety crashes down on the slot receiver, and Hemingway runs a short post under the cornerback and is wide open.

 Seventy yards later, that is six more points.  It is nice to see a guy who has had so many injury problems outrun the other team, even if it is Indiana.  It is also nice to see the scheme allowing for huge openings down the field by faking run action.  I've been waiting for this for two years.

The play calling that Rodriguez went to when Tate Forcier came into the game was a little too conservative for my taste.  The first play is a zone read with Smith in the backfield on second and one.  Smith is obviously getting keyed on this play and Tate isn't the running threat that Denard is, so the Indiana defense collapses on an easy read.  The bubble screen is open to the wide left of the field, and Tate is very good at throwing it.  Let your receiver pick up yardage in the open field by throwing it to the wide side.  On the next play Rodriguez decides to swing the bubble screen to the short side of the field where Roundtree didn't have the space to work for the first down.  Why teams throw short of the first down marker on third down is beyond me.  

Indiana has contain on the outside, a safety flowing downhill to the ball,
and help from the middle of the field.  Michigan doesn't have a chance.
This offense needed to go for the jugular on this drive, but played conservatively and missed the second opportunity to open up a lead on Indiana.  Then, instead of either going for it or actually punting it, the Wolverine's pooch punt giving the ball to Indiana on their own 39.  What does Indiana do on the first play?  Throw a slant and go route to Tanden Doss that puts the Hoosiers in the red zone.  Fortune favors the bold, Rich.  Don't forget that next week.

Indiana moves the ball down to the four and runs to the strong side behind a pulling guard into what should be a stop...

...but it turns into a touchdown.
You can't succeed in the Big Ten without being able to stop something like this.  That run was all heart.

Michigan had one 15 yard penalty (facemask) that contributed to an Indiana scoring drive, and two more 15 yard penalties (both roughing the passer) that gave away free yardage in the last quarter and a half.  Bad defenses can't afford to give away yardage.

Indiana marches down the field nearing the end of regulation, throwing aside an otherwise very good quarter for the defense.  But they didn't know...

...it's a trap.

Denard Robinson and the Wolverine offense get the ball back with 1:08 left and 73 yards to cover.  Robinson gets eight on a run to the left, then another run cut back to the left gets the ball over the 50.  

After a three Denard Robinson keepers in a row, he stands tall in the pocket and delivers a slightly under thrown ball that Hemingway adjusts nicely to for the catch inside the five.

This is a good completion after overthrowing two wide open receivers earlier this quarter.  Put the ball where your receiver can make a play on it.

One Denard Robinson run later, Indiana's dreams are crushed again.


What does all this mean?

Offensively, I came away more impressed with this team than I was initially.  The pictures above show a great deal of offensive execution. When all you have to complain about offensively is a couple of overthrown deep balls, a couple conservatively called three-and-outs, and a fumble on the goal line, you're doing all right.

Defensively, eh?  If you are a Michigan fan, and you are pissed that the defense gave up 480 yards passing to Indiana, 439 yards of offense to UMass, and 535 yards to Notre Dame, don't get upset with Greg Robinson, the secondary, or the schemes.  Get upset with the person who made you believe this wasn't a distinct possibility after Tony Gibson and Adam Braithwaite spent the offseason breaking mirrors and kicking black cats.  Yes, the defense gave up huge amounts of yards, but after Indiana scored to make it 28-28, the defense  stopped two fourth down attempts and forced a punt before allowing the Hoosiers to score again.  Indiana needed 52 plays to score five touchdowns.  It isn't great, but the defense put the offense in the position to win the game.

As long as that is enough, I will be happy.

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