Wednesday, September 14, 2011

5 Minutes That Changed The Game

While most people are in their 2nd or 3rd go-around rewatching Notre Dame, specifically the 4th quarter, I for some reason can't stop watching the 1st half. You know: the half when Denard started 2-9, 48 yards, TD, INT; the half when Michigan registered only 3 first downs, went 0/5 on 3rd downs and had no drive over 5 plays; the half when Michael Floyd had 7 receptions for 112 yards. The Wolverines, by all measures, started the game in free fall before the Irish turnover machine kicked into gear to meet them halfway. While Notre Dame lost twice in the last 72 seconds, Michigan saved this game in the 1st half on 3 separate moments/plays within 5 minutes at the end of the 1st quarter and start of the 2nd. I'd like to revisit that critical time:

Another V. Smith and it's a completion.
1. Called screen play for V. Smith meets Denard 5-yard fade route throw. Denard's first pick of the game came on the last play of the 1st quarter with Michigan already down 2 TDs.  Momentarily mistaking V. Smith for Yao Ming, he missed the throw by a mile and knew it instantly. Denard does this about once or twice a game: make a huge mental error because he is literally too excited that the play is working. He then goes "AHHHHHH", runs back to the sideline, gets on the headset with Al Borges and goes "AHHHHHH" again. You can't even get mad at him. Notre Dame gets the ball back around the Michigan 40--prime position to put this away early in the 2nd quarter.

The Brian-Kelly-Is-A-Blueberry joke never gets old but there's something to be said when juxtaposed with the way Hoke and his staff handle themselves on the sideline. ESPN had no trouble pointing it out. After Notre Dame scored their 2nd TD to go up 14-0, EA reported that Greg Mattison calmly told his players to keep encouraging each other; he used it as a teaching moment. A quick camera shot of Hoke while the XP was being kicked showed him as calm as can be. I seriously thought he'd just say "This is Michigan." and walk away confidently as if that's enough to win the game. So when Denard throws a pick to basically give the Irish a 3rd TD on a silver platter, it's nice to see Hoke calm and confident correcting Denard's mistake. Who knows if that actually did anything to help him go off in the 4th quarter but it sure as heck beats getting berated on national television.

Minor difference in coaching styles?

2.  The Kovacs pick.  It's been picture-paged so there's no need to revisit how the play develops. Brian notes how open the seam route is if Rees' brain isn't going FLOYDFLOYDFLOYD. I will be interested to see Mattison's RPS but I do believe this play was great coaching for his recognition of the situation and subsequent playcall. Here's why: 2 plays before, on 2nd and 9, Rees throws an incomplete pass intended for--who else--Floyd. It's covered pretty well by Woolfolk and a nice lick from Marvin Robinson sends Floyd into a bench, sidelining him for the next play. While Rees sets up 3rd and 9, a timeout is called with 8 seconds left on the playclock--cleary from the sidelines to get Floyd in on the next play. While Rees' brain may go FLOYDFLOYDFLOYD, it was Kelly who tipped the play. Mattison gambles, double-covering Floyd on the next play, and it pays off when Kovacs cuts underneath for the INT. While I agree Michigan gets burned 9 out of 10 times if Rees is a senior or Floyd isn't their entire offense, that's still good coaching and a great playcall for the situation.

3.  Hemingway starts JUMP-BALL-FEST.  Michigan scores their 1st TD of the game 2 plays later. As poorly as almost every unit played, the offensive line had a pretty good day, at least in terms of pass protection. Denard had all day to throw: so much time passed that Hemingway had to adjust and come back to an underthrown ball for the 43-yard TD catch. Now I admittedly know very little about offensive line schemes but from a casual fan's perspective, the way this playaction was sold as a run is pretty impressive. Picture Pages time:

Here's the personnel just after the snap. Notice #84 TE Steve Watson is the H-Back while Koger is on the line. Hemingway goes motion with nobody following; ND is in zone coverage. Barnum is already pulling. Here is a closer look:

Here's how the blocking looks. Notice Koger's role to delay the DE before Barnum rolls and finishes the block. Watson takes the OLB.

Here's a good look of it unfolding. You have a Power-I formation, Koger selling the block, Barnum pulling to and Watson heading towards the strong side. Looks like a run to me.

The playaction works. Notice where the LB in relation to the previous pages: closer to the LOS. This is small detail but this picture also shows the feet of another defender not pictured before, meaning he's crept up too. Koger releases and Barnum is in perfect position to finish his block. Lewan, Molk, Omameh and Hugye are doing just fine and Hopkins is there if need be.
Mmm... pocket.

And this is 3 seconds later, I counted. Granted it's 5 rushers against 7 but nobody is even close to Denard.

For completeness' (and fun's) sake.

Full Video (HT mgovideo):

I don't have any grand object lessons; I'm merely highlighting 5 critical minutes during the first half when Michigan was teetering perhaps worse than being down 3 with 30 seconds left in the game. With Notre Dame already having all the 1st quarter momentum, Michigan starts the 2nd quarter playing defense on our 40-yard-line and the Irish receiving to start the 2nd half. The next 5 minutes gave Michigan just enough strength to make it back to the locker room. Without that, their chances for any sort of comeback goes from remote to zero.

But it's still fun to watch only the 4th quarter.

1 comment:

  1. I think you just provided a grand object lesson.