The Tape, The Tape, The Tape– Michigan 78 Rutgers 0

I’ll freely admit my first attempt at this week’s post just came out as one long string of gibberish with runs of “LOL” interspersed between.  To be fair that probably would’ve conveyed the overall point just fine.  What do you say after that performance?  During the week, Rutgers fans proclaimed this to be their National Championship Game.  By the end of the night Saturday every single one of the 70 Michigan players that traveled to Piscataway saw the field.  Every. Single. One.

Do you remember those matching tests right before a holiday break in elementary school where the answers would inevitably spell out “Happy Thanksgiving”?  You no doubt recall the sense of relief you got once you realized it wasn’t a real test.  That would be the exact same feeling that sprouted up midway through the first quarter of Michigan’s first road test Saturday.  The dismantling took place in front of an announced 53,292 at High Point Solutions Stadium (the birthplace of college football indeed), although if there really were that many people in the stands ESPN didn’t feel the need to show it on TV.

The lead-up to this game was relatively quiet.  Every meaningful metric pointed to a comfortable victory over the Scarlet Knights; this lessened but did not completely quell concerns about the first away game.  Competent road performances in 2015 had helped heal emotional wounds from the previous decade, but even so, I had some slight trepidation right before kickoff.  Certainly this was not what one would call arational concern, but the loss to Gary Nova and Kyle Flood in 2014 briefly re-appeared on the radar well before ESPN mentioned it 29 times.  No doubt an intern brought this up in the ESPN production meeting to raucous cheers.  The broadcast crew didn’t make it past the opening kickoff before belting out “Rutgers trying to do in Michigan for the second time in a row here”.  I quickly found the mute button.  So too did the Wolverines.  What may be lost in the statistical smorgasbord of domination is that Michigan started this game offensively with two three-and-outs and a two play drive that ended with a fumble.  The next 13 possessions would feature 11 touchdowns and two punts.  Huzzah!


This was the most singularly dominating performance I have ever witnessed on a football field.  I say that without an ounce of hyperbole.  Pick a line from the box score.  Seriously, any line.  Now think “when is the last time I saw that in a Big Ten Conference football game?”.  You haven’t.  Michigan scored 78 points with eight completions for the game.  Eight.  The QBs combined for 119 yards through the air and 75 of those yards came on just two completions.  Jabrill Peppers carried the ball three times: two were for touchdowns, and the third? A 63 yard run that preposterously ended up as not-a-touchdown on a busted play.  Even the stuttering offensive start had a near miss:

On 3rd and 5 from the Michigan 24, Wilton Speight got solid protection and delivered a strike to Amara Darboh through the rain and unfortunately Darboh’s hands:



From behind the line of scrimmage you can see the chasm that he is running into on this route, the safety is nearly 15 yards back and the corner well behind, he’s about to catch that ball dead in the middle of the field.  The sideline view below drives the point home that had this been completed it was at the very least a big gain.  Darboh was able to quickly separate from the corner and the timing and placement of the ball were on the money.  All in all a great slant opportunity that was probably complicated by the rain and velocity of the throw.  I also point this play out in particular because on a night where Speight didn’t look sharp early he once again demonstrated an ability to put the ball on the money with these intermediate slant routes.


The staff rotated through several different OL combinations during the period where Juwann Bushell Beatty was on the sideline.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-12-43-23-amOn the play that De’veon Smith fumbled there was immediate pressure from the middle of the line, this was the result of Patrick Kugler missing a block on #51 who broke through and eventually forced the fumble.  The following drive saw Mason Cole back at the center spot.  This was one of the few major mishaps on the OL at least on first viewing.  There was plenty to be encouraged about however, in particular was even more evidence of the maturation and “it clicking” for Kyle Kalis.  Below is a dive to Karan Higdon with Rutgers stacking the the box and the safety only six yards deep:


As the play begins, Kalis pulls and seals off the LB coming into the lane:screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-12-54-52-am


screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-12-55-51-amHigdon hits the lane quickly and bursts up field for an eight yard gain and a first down.

Another well executed set of blocks came on one of Ty Isaac’s first touches of the game.  Isaac demonstrated great patience in letting the blocks develop in front of him, Jake Butt seals his man while Kalis and Magnusson gwt outside.  Kalis engages the filling LB and Magnuson releases downfield to spring Isaac for a first down on a beautifully executed toss.




Despite the level of the competition, I think we can safely say we are seeing meaningful progress in the rushing attack, both in terms of execution and in terms of the variety of guys carrying the football.

Once again, the completeness of this performance is still perhaps best shown in the box score.  Hats off to Coach Harbaugh, the staff, and the team for delivering a game that will go down in the history books as one of the most dominant in the modern era.  With a bye week approaching we’ll save the discussion of the defense for next week and take that opportunity to also look ahead to Illinois.  As always, Go Blue!

Defense Shuts Down Badgers — Michigan 14 Wisconsin 7

2016-wisc-023This contest was truly a game of two narratives: on one hand Michigan beat the #8 team in the nation, notching a Top 10 win for the first time in eight years and coming through in the clutch to do so, but on the other hand remains the nagging thought that this game shouldn’t have been close. Football teams encounter this exact game nearly every season: you know the one, the your-team-continually-stubs-its-collective-toe-on-the-threshold-of-breaking-the-game-open… game. A dark and pressured mood somewhere between frustration, anger, and bargaining settles in during these games. It’s easy to think back to one of those awful losses to Notre Dame where every conceivable break went the other way, and mutter quietly “not again”. Your attempt to assuage these fears is rudely interrupted by another field goal sailing wide. This is beyond galling because out on the field is a Michigan defense that simply will not relinquish a two score lead to Wisconsin. So that field goal is worth more than just three points on the scoreboard; it is the season at that moment. A 10 point lead in this game was certain victory. The bargaining sets in next, “just one of these has to go through”. The football gods do not comply with the increased urgency of your pleas. Multiply by 111,846 and you have a general sense of the nervous energy that filled Michigan Stadium for huge chunks of the game. The eyeball test indicated that Michigan dominated Wisconsin. The stats indicate that Michigan dominated Wisconsin. The scoreboard somehow lagged behind.

A quick gripe that I fully realize didn’t end up impacting the game, but let’s just place it under the category of GET IT RIGHT: Wisconsin’s fumble in the first quarter was overturned by replay. Exactly why it was overturned remains a mystery. Brian Griese quickly proclaimed that the runner’s knee and an elbow were down; the problem was that the replays showed no such thing at any angle. Since the play was called a fumble on the field, I’m not sure what could’ve supported overturning the call.


Let’s look at two plays that jumped out on re-watching the game. The first is more a question only my behalf because I’m not entirely sure what happened below, the line appears to be pulling to block for a screen at the snap, though Jocz is running to the opposite flat. In any case we end up with the entire O-line blocking two Wisconsin defenders and Newsome ignoring 55 as he comes right up the middle clean. Without chipping that defender Smith is left in an impossible position. He picks the outside guy and Speight somehow manages to escape for minimal yardage. My guess is this designed to go to Jocz with the motion drawing the defense to the short side?



The second play occurred right before the first missed field goal, and was key because if Michigan had dealt with the pressure this was a touchdown to either Grant Perry or Jake Butt. Pre-snap you can see the CB coming off of Perry and moving towards the line, Darboh has motioned to the slot and is lined up across from the soon-to-be-blitzer:


At the snap the CB comes clean and Darboh runs his route, you can see Butt just above the down and distance graphic, Perry is to the top of the screen and will find himself open after his cut. Isaac picks the other blitz up cleanly and all of this is for naught as the aforementioned CB is about two steps from Speight’s blind-side already.


Here’s the play from behind, note Butt coming open on the corner route to the top right and Perry to the top left as Speight is already having to run for his life. Also you can see here that Wisconsin has dropped #94 into coverage from his defensive tackle spot.:


Caveats of my lack of football coaching experience apply, but I think Perry needs to communicate to Darboh that the corner is coming on a blitz and Darboh needs to get a piece of that guy to let this play develop. If Speight has time either Perry or Butt have perfect position on their defenders for a TD that likely puts this game out of Wisconsin’s reach early on. These types of issues with overload pressure are something to keep an eye on as the season rolls on.
Quick hits:

This should be a penalty against the defense, if an offensive player did this as a block it’d be flag every time, this play most likely ended Newsome’s year, and all the Badger defender is doing is cutting/chopping the OL so he can’t get to the edge to make the block, he’s making no effort to get to the ball, it should be illegal:



Above was pure joy in football form, Go Blue!



Jake Butt and Grant Newsome

Fresh off a 38-0 pounding of South Carolina State, first-year University of Central Florida Head Football Coach Scott Frost, breezed into Michigan Stadium with his victorious Knights.

Frost was savoring his first win as a football head man and also his first win of the season, together with his first trip into Michigan Stadium. He and his charges no doubt intended to entertain the 109,295 member stadium crowd, and additionally the TV audience, by filling the afternoon with an Appalachian State style upset of the highly favored Wolverines.

That UCF intention was thought by the Wolverines to be, and it proved to be, an impossible agenda for UFC. The highly favored Wolverines, fresh off their convincing 63-3 demolition of Hawaii’s Rainbow Warrior’s, had no desire to accommodate such a horrendous scenario. They proved it by thoroughly pummeling the Knights.

SCOTT FROST A FAMILIAR ANN ARBOR FOOTBALL NAME: Those of us who recall the 1997 split National Championship will recall that Scott Frost was the QB of the Nebraska eleven that, through luck and politics, split the national title that year with the unbeaten Wolverines. Frost was very vocal in favor of the split as he too politicked. I think the thing that swung the deal, was AD Tom Osborne’s retirement.

A genuine Nebraska coaching legend, then retiring Nebraska AD Tom Osborne shamelessly politicked for a title share, using his retirement as leverage. As he was one of the most successful Coaches in football history, he successfully parlayed his big news retirement as Nebraska AD into a title share. That event is not recalled fondly by Michigan fans old enough to recall the situation. And neither is Frost.

It was the fervent wish of most of the Wolverine fans of the day that the Huskers face the Wolverines in a playoff. It was thought that the previously lucky Huskers would get shucked and shocked.

Saturday, per press reports, the imaginative Scott Frost talked in his press conference about his charges out hitting the Wolverines during this game.

He must not have seen the same game I did. His team sold out to stop the run and indeed they did an effective job of it, holding the Wolverines to 119-yards on 41 carries. Meanwhile the Wolverines produced 312-yards and 4 TDs passing, mostly from play action, and caused another solid victory. While the Knights came to play, and played hard, so did Michigan.

SPECIAL TEAMS SUPREME: The Wolverine special teams were special on this Saturday. Kenny Allen kicked three FGs, but fumbled a punt snap. DE/DT Chris Wormley blocked two field goals, and Tyree Kinnel partially blocked a punt, and recovered a kick off fumble. Tyree also played a part in outstanding KO and punt coverages. All of this assisted in Michigan in starting its offensive series at a 47-yard average. The Wolverines won the special teams battles, and they impacted the game.