FanPost

MSUFR: Defense Against Michigan

[Autobump.  Extended analysis--complete with with nickel-vs.-nonnickel chart--at the bottom.  -KJ]

As of right now my lazy bastard self won't be creating any videos.  That could change as quickly as the weather.  If people like the videos, let me know in the comments and I will add some. Play by play courtesy of ESPN.

Edit: Anyone know why the font color changes after I publish?  I set the font color to white for the end of drive summary and after I publish that html code is removed.

Time Quarter Down LOS Offense Set Defense Set Result
13:36 1 1st and 10 MSU 14 Shotgun H Back 4-3 Carlos Brown rush for a loss of 1 yard to the MchSt 15.
58 Anderson is unblocked and follows the play down the LOS. 99 Worthy and 70 Wilson penetrate into the backfield. 99 Worthy disrupts the play and 70 Wilson makes the TFL. MSU appears to be in an odd Man/Zone coverage scheme. The LBs all watch the backfield while the DBs are in man coverage. This reminds me of the scheme that was used against ND in which the safeties are guarding the slot receivers but playing 8+ yards off the LOS. Since I have been so merciless on 43 Gordon, I will point out that he did a nice job of avoiding a blocker. 99 Worthy +1, 70 Wilson +1
13:13 1 2nd and 11 MSU 15 Shotgun H Back 4-3 Tate Forcier sacked by Trevor Anderson for a loss of 4 yards to the MchSt 19.
MSU does a great job on this play. The defense is in man coverage. It looks like a Cover 1 so 53 Jones and 40 Jenrette are in zone covering the middle of the field, everyone else is in man. 58 Anderson is unblocked on the read option. At first I thought this was not a sack, but it is as the H back did not block and the O-line stays behind the LOS making it a pass play. 58 Anderson attacks up the field forcing the QB to cut up trying to avoid Anderson. It does not work and Anderson makes the play. 43 Gordon and 53 Jones track down the line with the HB. 34 Denson does a good job of quickly getting coverage on the H back as he emerges from the backfield. 53 Jones reads the play and attacks the QB to ensure he goes nowhere. 58 Anderson +1
12:40 1 3rd and 15 MSU 19 Shotgun 4WR, Trips R, HB L Nickel Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
The MSU Nickel package is 3 D-line and 3 LBs with 3 DBs. MSU sends 6 on the blitz. I think this is another play where MSU blitzes and then plays a soft zone. Why not, it worked so well against Wisconsin. Michigan had roughly 4 open receivers on the play and the only reason this defensive play is not death is that the HB did not look for the ball.
12:31 1 4th and 15 MSU 19 FG FG Block Jason Olesnavage 36 yard field goal GOOD.
MSU does not attempt to block the FG.
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 4 plays -5 yards, 01:43 MICHIGAN FG
2:25 1 N/A MSU 30 Kick Return Kick Coverage Brett Swenson kickoff for 59 yards returned by Darryl Stonum for 17 yards to the Mich 28.
MSU puts the ball close to the left hash and kicks to keep the ball from the left hash to the sideline to allow the coverage to focus on one area of the field. Learned that on the Big Ten Coaches' Show. The kick is short and allows Michigan to have good field position. 10 Norman gets off a block to make the tackle.  10 Norman +1
2:20 1 1st and 10 MICH 28 Shotgun 4WR, HB L of QB 4-3 Carlos Brown rush for 2 yards to the Mich 30.
99 Worthy again is in the backfield. 89 Neely is the unblocked DE and makes the tackle with 53 Jones who is avoiding a block. 99 Worthy +1, 53 Jones +1
1:59 1 2nd and 8 MICH 30 Shotgun 5WR 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Carlos Brown for 3 yards to the Mich 33.
Michigan runs a double WR screen. IE the screen is being run to both sides of the field to the slot receiver on each side. The QB can throw the ball whatever way he wants. I think the QB made the wrong choice and went to the short side of the field. 43 Gordon breaks down nicely to avoid the juke and is there for the tackle with 40 Jenrette. 43 Gordon +1, 40 Jenrette +1
1:43 1 3rd and 5 MICH 33 Shotgun 4WR HB L of QB Nickel Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
MSU shows blitz then backs out. 58 Anderson gets pressure. 34 Denson sees the QB leave the pocket and attacks forcing the QB to throw the ball away. Secondary +1. 58 Anderson +1, 34 Denson +1, 40 Jenrette +1, 29 L. Rucker +1, 9 Ware +1, 53 Jones +1, 38 KDC +1, 11 Hyde +1 (I can't see Hyde or KDC, so they get free points because I can't make out the numbers.)
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 3 plays 5 yards, 01:08 MICHIGAN PUNT
9:58 2 4th and 7 MICH 46 Punt Return Punt Coverage Aaron Bates punt for 39 yards, fair catch by Greg Mathews at the Mich 7.
Bates does a good job of kicking a high punt allowing 34 Denson to get coverage and force the fair catch. Bates +2.
9:51 2 1st and 10 MICH 8 Ace 4-3 Tate Forcier pass incomplete to Kevin Koger.
Old School Michigan with the Ace set PA pass to the TE. 39 Robinson makes a great break on the ball knocking it away so the TE can not make a catch. The coverage on the left half of the field is great. 89 Neely is unblocked and has pressure. 39 Robinson +1, 89 Neely +1, 29 L. Rucker +1
9:45 2 2nd and 10 MICH 8 Offset I 3WR 4-3 Under Tate Forcier pass incomplete to Kelvin Grady.
MSU is not in a 4-3 Stack, so that means blitz. And it is. 43 Gordon blitzes from the Under position. The blitz is picked up. 58 Anderson is blocked by FB, he avoids it, then he is blocked by the HB. 39 Robinson had coverage of the slot receiver, and it was bad coverage. This is a recurring theme with the MSU defense. The safety is on the slot, but 10 yards off the LOS allowing everything underneath. The WR just drops the ball. 39 Robinson -1
9:40 2 3rd and 10 MICH 8 Shotgun, 2WR, TE, 2HB Nickel Tate Forcier pass complete to Kevin Koger for 41 yards to the Mich 49 for a 1ST down.
DBs are in press coverage. Both HBs stay in to block, 53 Jones sees this and then goes on the blitz. 58 Anderson gets past the LT and forces the QB out of the pocket. 29 L. Rucker and 38 KDC must have great coverage because the QB has time to throw the ball. He eventually chucks it deep and 39 Robinson is lost on the play allowing the TE to catch the ball. I think 9 Ware was supposed to have coverage on this play. 58 Anderson +1, 29 L. Rucker +1, 38 KDC +1, 39 Robinson -1, 9 Ware -1
9:19 2 1st and 10 MICH 49 Shotgun 3WR, 2TE 4-3 Denard Robinson rush for 1 yard to the 50 yard line.
I think when MSU sees Robinson in the basically ignore the pass and watch for the run. 70 Wilson keeps off his blocker and moves down the LOS to be in on the tackle with 53 Jones. 43 Gordon is actually avoiding a block as well, but it is 5 yards downfield and away from the play. 53 Jones avoided a block to get to the ball carrier. 53 Jones +1, 70 Wilson +1
8:45 2 2nd and 10 MICH 49 Shotgun 4WR, Trips L HB Strong 4-3 Tate Forcier pass incomplete to Kevin Koger.
34 Denson is split out wide guarding a WR. I think he is really looking for the WR screen. He attacks upfield to break up the screen after the snap forcing the QB to throw to what was a WR blocker. Michigan should have been called for a penalty on this play. Since the play was supposed to be a screen, the O-line was downfield blocking which is illegal men downfield. The TE drops the pass.
8:39 2 3rd and 9 MSU 50 Shotgun 4WR Nickel Tate Forcier rush for 9 yards to the MchSt 41 for a 1ST down.
MSU shows blitz with 2 LBs, faking with the other and a CB. 58 Anderson stunts with the 2 blitzing LBs and is picked up by the C. The NT 57 Strayhorn slants right and is picked up by the LG. The pocket is collapsing and that QB steps up to avoid pressure. 34 Denson is pushed aside by the RG creating a huge hole for the QB to run through. And get the first down. Not sure what the defense is in, but the secondary moves up quick to prevent a huge gain. 43 Gordon +1, 38 KDC +1, 29 L. Rucker +1, 9 Ware +1, 39 Robinson +1, 40 Jenrette +1
8:24 2 1st and 10 MSU 41 Ace Twin WR 4-3 Brandon Minor rush for 2 yards to the MchSt 39.
MSU is showing zone, 29 L. Rucker is in the box and 34 Denson is out on the inside WR. 70 Wilson gets a push forcing the HB to cut outside and into 29 L. Rucker who forces him into 58 Anderson. 70 Wilson +1, 29 L. Rucker +1
7:59 2 2nd and 8 MSU 39 Shotgun 5WR, Quads L 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Darryl Stonum for 6 yards to the MchSt 33.
MSU stays in their base package against a 5WR set. The D-line stunts the DEs in and DTs out. 70 Wilson gets pressure and hits the QB. 29 L. Rucker has tight coverage and makes a nice tackle to prevent any YAC. 70 Wilson +1, 29 L. Rucker +1
7:40 2 3rd and 2 MSU 33 Shotgun 5WR 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Martavious Odoms for 4 yards to the MchSt 29 for a 1ST down.
Michigan is hurrying preventing MSU from doing any substitutions. The d-line stunts again but the pass is quick so there is no pressure. The soft coverage allows the WR to be open for the first down.
7:00 2 1st and 10 MSU 29 Shotgun 4WR, Trips R 4-3 Tate Forcier rush for no gain to the MchSt 29.
MSU has 34 Denson split wide looking for the WR screen. 58 Anderson is unblocked and disrupts the play. I think he get a small TFL on this play. 58 Anderson +1.
6:35 2 2nd and 10 MSU 29 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Martavious Odoms for 11 yards to the MchSt 18 for a 1ST down.
39 Robinson has the slot receiver in man. He is playing 10 yards off the LOS so the pass is open underneath. It is an easy pitch and catch for Michigan. This play is really a product of the safety playing so far off the LOS. The CBs had great coverage on the outside WRs. 29 L. Rucker +1, 38 KDC +1, 39 Robinson -1
6:14 2 1st and 10 MSU 18 Shotgun 3WR, 2HB 4-3 Brandon Minor rush for a loss of 4 yards to the MchSt 22.
This is a blown play by Michigan. 54 Rolf and 34 Denson combine on the TFL. 54 Rolf +1, 34 Denson +1
5:28 2 2nd and 14 MSU 22 MICHIGAN ST penalty 5 yard Offside on Jerel Worthy accepted.
Bob Eucker "Just a bit outside." 99 Worthy -1
5:17 2 2nd and 9 MSU 17 Shotgun 4WR 4-3 Carlos Brown rush for 6 yards to the MchSt 11.
Michigan runs a draw. 99 Worthy and 70 Wilson get pushed out of the way opening the big hole. 53 Jones avoids a blocker and makes the tackle with the assist of 39 Robinson. 70 Wilson also got off his block to be in on the tackle. 53 Jones +1, 39 Robinson +1, 99 Worthy -1, 70 Wilson -1
4:59 2 3rd and 3 MSU 11 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier sacked by Team for a loss of 14 yards to the MchSt 25, MICHIGAN penalty 0 yard Intentional Grounding accepted.
The snap is bad by Michigan. MSU blitzed two LBs. 43 Gordon gets through the line untouched and would have made the sack except for the intentional grounding. 43 Gordon +1
4:47 2 4th and 17 MSU 25 FG FG Block Jason Olesnavage 42 yard field goal GOOD.
MSU does not attempt to block the FG.
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 14 plays 67 yards, 05:34 MICHIGAN FG
15:00 3 N/A MSU 30 Kick Return Kick Coverage Brett Swenson kickoff for 70 yards for a touchback.
Swenson +1
15:00 3 1st and 10 MICH 20 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier sacked by Team for a loss of 7 yards to the Mich 13.
58 Anderson is unblocked on the PA read option fake. He gets pressure forcing the QB back into the pocked and 99 Worthy whom gets the sack. 58 Anderson +1, 99 Worthy +2
14:25 3 2nd and 17 MICH 13 Shotgun 3WR, H Back 4-3 Carlos Brown rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 12.
58 Anderson is unblocked on the read option. The QB gives to the HB and the d-line does a great job of forcing this play down the LOS. 43 Gordon avoids blockers and makes the TFL with 33 Fortener. 99 Worthy +1, 70 Wilson +1, 43 Gordon +1, 33 Fortener +1
13:53 3 3rd and 18 MICH 12 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak Nickel Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
The QB has all day to throw. All 3 LBs stay up close to the LOS but do not blitz or drop into coverage. The secondary has good coverage and the pass is incomplete. 39 Robinson +1, 9 Ware +1, 29 L. Rucker +1, 11 Hyde +1, 38 KDC +1,58 Anderson -1, 57 Strayhorn -1, 54 Rolf -1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 3 plays -8 yards, 01:23 MICHIGAN PUNT
9:45 3 1st and 10 MICH 7 Shotgun 3WR, 2HB 4-3 Carlos Brown rush for 7 yards to the Mich 14.
MSU sends 2 LBs on a blitz. Michigan blocked down the LOS which opened the hole and a good tackle by 40 Jenrette saved a big gain. I think this is one of those MSU blitzes at the wrong time plays. 40 Jenrette +1
9:25 3 2nd and 3 MICH 14 Shotgun 3WR, 2HB 4-3 Carlos Brown rush for 2 yards to the Mich 16.
Michigan runs the same play. MSU doesn't blitz. 99 Worthy is released by his blocker who tries to block 53 Jones and fails. 99 Worthy and 53 Jones are in on the tackle. 70 Wilson does a great job of stringing this down the LOS forcing the HB to cut inside to 99 Worthy and 53 Jones. 43 Gordon gets blocked by a HB on the play. 99 Worthy +1, 70 Wilson +1, 53 Jones +1, 43 Gordon -1
8:39 3 3rd and 1 MICH 16 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier rush for no gain to the Mich 16.
MSU shows blitz and backs out of it. This is a straight QB run with the HB being the lead blocker. 99 Worthy does a good job of pushing down the LOS and 58 Anderson maintains outside contain. 99 Worthy is chipped by the HB, spins around and falls backwards onto the QB stopping him from getting hte first down. 99 Worthy +1
8:10 3 4th and 1 MICH 16 Punt Coverage Punt Return Zoltan Mesko rush for a loss of 4 yards to the Mich 12.
For reasons I can not comprehend, Michigan runs a fake punt. The punt return team was all over it stopping it for a loss.
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 4 plays 5 yards, 01:43 MICHIGAN DOWNS
6 3 N/A MSU 30 Kick Return Kick Coverage Brett Swenson kickoff for 70 yards returned by Darryl Stonum for 21 yards to the Mich 21, MICHIGAN penalty 10 yard Holding accepted.
Swenson kicks the ball to the goal line. 40 Jenrette forces a fumble on the play. Too bad MSU could not recover. Swenson +1, Jenrette +2
6:03 3 1st and 10 MICH 11 Shotgun 3WR H Back 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Carlos Brown for 5 yards to the Mich 16.
HB Screen. 34 Denson is taken out by a cut block from a WR. 53 Jones is cut blocked by an O-lineman. 39 Robinson comes up and makes the tackle. 39 Robinson +1, 53 Jones -1, 34 Denson -1
5:50 3 2nd and 5 MICH 16 Shotgun 3WR, 2HB 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Martavious Odoms for 9 yards to the Mich 25 for a 1ST down.
Michigan does the nice trick play where the o-line doesn't move. The QB rolls out and gets the ball underneath the secondary for a 1st down. Offsides on most of the d-line is declined.
5:36 3 1st and 10 MICH 25 Shotgun 3WR, 2HB 4-3 Brandon Minor rush for 3 yards to the Mich 28.
91 Hoover is the unblocked DE on the Read Option. The QB hands to the HB. The d-line does a good job of stringing this play down the LOS where 58 Anderson gets off his block to combine for the tackle with 43 Gordon. 58 Anderson +1, 43 Gordon +1
4:55 3 2nd and 7 MICH 28 Shotgun 4WR 4-3 Tate Forcier sacked by Kevin Pickelman for a loss of 5 yards to the Mich 23.
96 Pickelman gets by the RG and gets pressure on QB making a shoe string tackle for a sack. 96 Pickelman +2
4:20 3 3rd and 12 MICH 23 Shotgun 4WR, Trips L Nickel Tate Forcier pass complete to Junior Hemingway for 11 yards to the Mich 34.
58 Anderson gets pressure. 53 Jones comes on a delayed blitz bringing more pressure and forcing the QB to throw. The coverage is good preventing the first down. 58 Anderson +1, 53 Jones +1, 29 L. Rucker +2, 43 Gordon +1, 39 Robinson +1, 40 Jenrette +1, 38 KDC +1, 9 Ware +1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 3 plays 23 yards, 02:52 MICHIGAN PUNT
14:55 4 N/A MSU 30 Kick Return Kick Coverage Brett Swenson kickoff for 54 yards returned by Darryl Stonum for 17 yards to the Mich 33.
Short kick by Swenson but a nice tackle by 33 Fortener keeps Michigan from having incredible field position.  Swenson -1, 33 Fortener +1
14:45 4 1st and 10 MICH 33 Shotgun 3WR, H Back 4-3 Martavious Odoms rush for a loss of 4 yards to the Mich 29.
Michigan runs an end around. 54 Rolf maintains outside contain forcing the WR to cut back inside. 54 Rolf gets off his block forcing the WR to spin into 29 L. Rucker who makes the TFL. 54 Rolf +1, 29 L. Rucker +2, 54 Rolf -1
14:10 4 2nd and 14 MICH 29 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Denard Robinson rush for 2 yards to the Mich 31.
89 Neely does a great job of keeping outside contain forcing the QB back inside. 53 Jones and 99 Worthy miss tackles before 89 Neely can get back and tackle the QB by his Shoelace, pun intended. 89 Neely +1, 53 Jones -1, 99 Worthy -1
13:39 4 3rd and 12 MICH 31 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak Nickel Denard Robinson sacked by Greg Jones and Johnathan Strayhorn for a loss of 12 yards to the Mich 19.
MSU sends 2 LBs on a blitz. The QB actually has all day to throw the ball before he gets sacked. 53 Jones +1, 57 Strayhorn +1, 9 Ware +1, 29 L. Rucker +1, 39 Robinson +1, 37 Weaver +1, 38 KDC +1, 43 Gordon +1, 53 Jones -1, 57 Strayhorn -1, 34 Denson -1, 99 Worthy -1, 54 Rolf -1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 3 plays -4 yards, 04:23 MICHIGAN PUNT
11:15 4 1st and 10 MSU 46 Shotgun 4WR 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Junior Hemingway for 9 yards to the MchSt 37, MICHIGAN ST penalty 15 yard Personal Foul on Team accepted for a 1ST down.
D-line does not get any pressure. I think 53 Jones is spying on the QB. When the QB leaves the pocket 53 Jones goes after him. 34 Denson makes a nice tackle, too bad he tackled 43 Gordon. 40 Jenrette comes up to finish the tackle and gets flagged for a late hit. Odd, the play was still going on. 58 Anderson -1, 99 Worthy -1, 70 Wilson -1, 89 Neely -1
10:38 4 1st and 10 MSU 22 Shotgun 4WR, Trips L 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Darryl Stonum, fumbled, recovered by MchSt Jairus Jones at the MchSt 12, Jairus Jones for 15 yards, to the MchSt 27.
Michigan rolls the pocket slowing up any pressure. 34 Denson looks like he is out of position. 43 Gordon makes a big hit and gets a forced fumble. The sad part is that is the first one of the year. 53 Jones picks up the ball for a nice return. 43 Gordon +2, 53 Jones +1, 34 Denson -1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 2 plays 35 yards, 00:49 MICHIGAN FUMB
9:05 4 4th and 6 MSU 31 Punt Return Punt Coverage Aaron Bates punt for 38 yards, fair catch by Greg Mathews at the Mich 31.
Bates has another quality kick that allows the coverage to get downfield and force the fair catch. Bates +1
8:59 4 1st and 10 MICH 31 Shotgun 4WR 4-3 Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
The D-line does get pressure from 89 Neely. It looks like Michigan is keeping a HB in to chip on 58 Anderson. The pass is inaccurate. 89 Neely +1
8:54 4 2nd and 10 MICH 31 Shotgun 4WR, Trips L 4-3 Tate Forcier pass incomplete to Brandon Minor.
MSU stunts the DEs and DTs. The HB is wide open but falls down.
8:50 4 3rd and 10 MICH 31 Shotgun 5WR Nickel Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
MSU gets no pressure with the 3 d-lineman. The QB has all day, but the coverage is great. The WR gets hit as the ball arrives preventing him from making the catch. 37 Weaver +1, 39 Robinson +1, 29 L. Rucker +1, 9 Ware +1, 11 Hyde +1, 38 KDC +1, 53 Jones +1, 43 Gordon +1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 3 plays 0 yards, 00:30 MICHIGAN PUNT
At this point the MSU defense gets gutted for 2 TDs.
4:47 4 1st and 10 MICH 31 Shotgun 5WR 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Junior Hemingway for 9 yards to the Mich 40.
MSU stunts and takes a second to get pressure. 99 Worthy and 93 Treadwell for the QB outside. 34 Denson has the ball but the WR goes over him and takes it. The coverage downfield was outstanding. 9 Ware +1, 29 L. Rucker +1, 34 Denson +1, 43 Gordon +1, 53 Jones +1, 40 Jenrette +1, 39 Robinson +1, 99 Worthy +1, 93 Treadwell +1
4:38 4 2nd and 1 MICH 40 Shotgun 4WR, Trips L 4-3 Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
89 Neely goes for the HB on the read option giving the QB time to throw. The WR beats 34 Denson deep, but 40 Jenrette makes the hit to seperate the WR from the ball. 40 Jenrette +1, 34 Denson -1, 89 Neely -1
4:30 4 3rd and 1 MICH 40 Shotgun3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Darryl Stonum for 60 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
I think this is a cover 2 zone. The WR had a go route along the sideline which is the week spot on the Cover 2 Zone. 39 Robinson misses the tackle and it is off to the races after that. 39 Robinson -1, 40 Jenrette -1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 3 plays 69 yards, 00:44 MICHIGAN TD
2:58 4 4th and 3 MSU 39 Punt Return Punt Coverage Aaron Bates punt for 52 yards, returned by Greg Mathews for no gain to the Mich 9.
Bates does a great job of booming a punt and angling it to force the PR out of bounds. Bates +2
2:53 4 1st and 10 MICH 8 Shotgun 4WR Nickel Tate Forcier pass complete to Darryl Stonum for 9 yards to the Mich 17.
MSU is playing a soft zone. MSU sent a LB with the 3 d-line. Michigan just threw the ball underneath for positive yards. I think this is all but a prevent defense.
2:31 4 2nd and 1 MICH 17 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak Nickel Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
Michigan rolls the pocket, but 54 Rolf avoids the block by the HB to get pressure. The pass is thrown short and incomplete. 54 Rolf +1
2:27 4 3rd and 1 MICH 17 Shotgun 4WR 4-3 Tate Forcier rush for 11 yards to the Mich 28 for a 1ST down.
58 Anderson is the unblocked DE on the Read Option. He attacks the HB so the QB pulls the ball out and jogs upfield for 11 yards. 29 L. Rucker cleans up the missed tackle by 40 Jenrette. 29 L. Rucker +1, 58 Anderson -1, 40 Jenrette -1
2:20 4 1st and 10 MICH 28 Shotgun 4WR, Trips L Nickel Tate Forcier pass incomplete, MICHIGAN ST penalty 15 yard Personal Foul on Trevor Anderson accepted for a 1ST down.
58 Anderson gets busted for hands to the head roughing the QB. This was a blown play as MSU was offsides anyway. 58 Anderson -1, 57 Strayhorn -1
2:02 4 1st and 10 MICH 43 Shotgun 4WR, Trips L Nickel Tate Forcier pass complete to Martavious Odoms for 8 yards to the MchSt 49.
Michigan runs a WR screen. 43 Gordon gets blocked. 34 Denson gets blocked. 33 Fortener and 37 Robinson come in for the tackle. 33 Fortener +1, 37 Robinson +1, 43 Gordon -1, 34 Denson -1
1:36 4 2nd and 2 MSU 49 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak Nickel Tate Forcier rush for 13 yards to the MchSt 36 for a 1ST down.
Read Option again where the unblocked DE 58 Anderson attacks the HB allowing the QB to run down the field for a first down. If the QB had not stumbled this would have gone for a lot more than 13 yards. 58 Anderson -1
1:12 4 1st and 10 MSU 36 Shotgun 5WR Nickel Tate Forcier pass complete to MSU 24.
MSU blitzes a CB and LB. They get pressure but the QB avoids them finding a wide open WR for the first down. MSU was lucky this ball was poorly thrown. Someone had blown their coverage. Unidentified Secondary -1, 29 L. Rucker hits the WR so I am blaiming him. 
0:51 4 1st and 10 MSU 24 Shotgun 3WR, 2HB 4-3 Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
The QB has a lot of time but eventually gets pressure. He misses an open WR in the endzone. 29 L. Rucker had the blown coverage. 99 Worthy had pressure. 99 Worthy +1, 29 L. Rucker -1
0:35 4 2nd and 10 MSU 24 Shotgun 4WR 4-3 Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
29 L. Rucker had good coverage until he fell down. The ball was not catchable. 29 L. Rucker -1
0:30 4 3rd and 10 MSU 24 Shotgun 4WR, Trips R Nickel Tate Forcier rushes for 12 yards.
54 Rolf gets pressure but losses outside contain springing the QB for the first down run. 34 Denson misses a tackle to keep the QB in bounds. 96 Pickelman makes the takle forcing the QB out of bounds. 96 Pickelman +1, 54 Rolf -1, 34 Denson -1
0:21 4 1st and 10 MSU 11 Shotgun 4WR Nickel Tate Forcier rush for 2 yards to the MchSt 9.
MSU blitzes but it is picked up. The QB runs and is tackled by 57 Strayhorn in bounds, but the QB fumbles and the ball rolls out of bounds stopping the clock. 57 Strayhorn +1
0:14 4 2nd and 8 MSU 9 Shotgun 5WR Nickel Tate Forcier pass incomplete.
The snap is low, the QB picks it up and heaves it into the endzone. Evidently the ball slipped out of his hand because of the rain. I am amazed no one caught it.
0:08 4 3rd and 8 MSU 9 Shotgun 5WR Nickel Tate Forcier pass complete to Roy Roundtree for 9 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
MSU sends 3. There is no pressure allowing the QB to throw the ball to the WR enjoying blown coverage. 9 Ware -1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 13 plays 92 yards, 02:51 MICHIGAN TD
N/A OT 1st and 10 MSU 25 Shotgun 4WR 4-3 Tate Forcier rush for 5 yards to the MchSt 20.
89 Neely attacks the HB allowing the QB to run untouched up the field. 11 Hyde makes an open field tackle. 11 Hyde +1, 89 Neely -1
N/A OT 2nd and 5 MSU 20 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier pass complete to Martavious Odoms for 7 yards to the MchSt 13 for a 1ST down.
Looks like MSU is in a cover 3 and the QB just throws the ball into the flat before 34 Denson or 33 Fortener can get there.
N/A OT 1st and 10 MSU 13 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier rush for 4 yards to the MchSt 9.
MSU blitzes 2 LBs. This is a busted play by Michigan. The QB keeps the ball and runs up the middle for a short gain.
N/A OT 2nd and 6 MSU 9 Shotgun 3WR, H Back 4-3 Brandon Minor rush for 1 yard to the MchSt 8.
I think the H Back screwed up on this play. 58 Anderson is unblocked and just tackles the HB.  58 Anderson +1
N/A OT 3rd and 5 MSU 8 Shotgun 3WR, HB Weak 4-3 Tate Forcier pass intercepted by Chris L. Rucker at the MchSt 0, returned for no gain for a touchback.
MSU blitzes 53 Jones. He is picked up. 99 Worthy and 58 Anderson get off their blocks to put pressure on the QB. The QB throws it into the endzone and it is tipped by 33 Fortener and intercepted by 29 L. Rucker. 99 Worthy +1, 58 Anderson +1, 33 Fortener +1, 29 L. Rucker +1
DRIVE TOTALS: MICHIGAN drive: 5 plays 17 yards, 00:00 MICHIGAN INT

Points Totals

 

Defensive Line
Player Plus Minus Total
70 Wilson 6 2 4
99 Worthy 10 5 5
58 Anderson 9 5 4
89 Neely 3 3 0
54 Rolf 3 4 -1
57 Strayhorn 2 3 -1
96 Pickelman 3 0 3
93 Treadwell 1 0 1
Totals 37 22 15

Linebackers
Player Plus Minus Total
10 Norman 1 0 1
53 Jones 10 3 7
43 Gordon 11 2 9
34 Denson 3 6 -3
Totals 25 11 14

Secondary
Player Plus Minus Total
40 Jenrette 9 2 7
29 L. Rucker 17 3 14
9 Ware 7 2 5
38 KDC 8 0 8
11 Hyde 4 0 4
39 Robinson 10 4 6
33 Fortener 4 0 4
37 Weaver 2 0 2
Totals 61 11 50

Obviously there are a lot of huge positives this week.  43 Gordon had 20 plays last week where he earned a minus and only two this week.  As predicted, Gordon was significantly better because Michigan does not trap or use plays with a lead blocker.  Also, Gordon actually got off a blocker to make a play this week.  The defensive line played really well until the end of the game.  At that point for some odd reason 58 Anderson and 89 Neely decided to start ignoring the QB on the read option and just attacked the HB.  That change allowed Michigan to pick up a bunch of rushing yards and first downs.  The secondary was solid all day.  Outside of two plays they really did what was asked of them.  There were only a few blown coverages and MSU was lucky that Michigan could not take advantage of those plays. 

Run Defense

As was pointed out in the game Michigan had the best rushing offense in the Big Ten coming into the game against MSU.  MSU promptly shut down that rushing offense.  No kidding.  I predicted that in the preview for this game.  MSU's defensive scheme is 3 LBs.  I have no idea what to call it, but no matter what MSU has 3 LBs on the field.  That means MSU has 7 in the box to stop the run.  Michigan's run game has 5 o-lineman and a HB/QB.  So, for MSU if everyone does their assignment we have a unblocked DE to watch the QB and 3 LBs, at least two should be unblocked, to go after the HB.  Guess what?  With 3 unblocked defensive players watching for the run, the run game was shut down.  This defensive scheme that MSU runs challenges opponents to throw the ball.  The scheme is to have teams abandon the run and go all pass.  This worked well for most of the game, so let's discuss when the scheme did not work well.

First 55 Minutes Versus The Last 5 Minutes

Everyone most likely wants to know what changed in the defense that allowed the two long Michigan TD drives.  The first TD was just the safety, 39 Robinson, being out of position to make a play.  I don't know if he was slow to move over in the zone coverage or if he never saw the receiver, but he got burned by a move from the WR.  Then 40 Jenrette came in and was unable to put himself in a position to make a play allowing the WR to get into the endzone.  If he had taken better angles he might have been able to drive the WR out of bounds.  It would still have been a huge play, but maybe not a TD.  The last drive MSU switched over to running mostly Nickel defense and played a soft zone to keep everything in front of them and prevent another 60 yard play.  They did force Michigan to drive the length of the field to get the TD with only 2 seconds left.   

What was the difference?  I think the change actually happened with 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  Cousins was sacked and fumbled.  Michigan then got down to MSU's 12 yard line and fumbled the ball back to Michigan.  At that point Michigan had started moving the ball well.  Their next drive was a 3 and out with 3 incomplete passes, but a play that would have been significant was when a wide open Brandon Minor fell down in the flat.  There was no one around him and it could have at least been a 3rd and short for Michigan instead of a 3rd and 10. 

That hardly answers the question, but I feel that MSU did nothing different in the 4th quarter than the rest of the game.  The difference was with Michigan.  Their offense simply started to execute plays.  Throughout the first 3 quarters Michigan was basically in yakety sax mode on offense.  Forcier threw into the flat to a HB who never looked for the ball forcing Michigan to take a FG on their first drive.  On Michigan's last drive of the first half, they ran a play that involved three players staring at each other in the backfield and pondering why Brandon Minor had the ball.  That was followed with a bad snap that led to a sack/intentional grounding.  Michigan simply self destructed in the redzone and got a FG.  In the second half there was the play where 99 Worthy literally fell backwards on Tate Forcier and prevented him from getting a first down.  Which was followed with the are you kidding me fake punt.  Later, Michigan had a Denard Robinson drive end when Robinson decided standing in the pocket for 5+ seconds and seeing no one open required him to stand in the pocket longer.  If he had tucked the ball and ran at any point he could have gotten a significant amount of yardage.  We've all see the Robinson highlight against Western Michigan so we know what he can do with the ball on the run.  There were other plays where open receivers simply dropped the ball.  Through the first three quarters Michigan's mistakes on offense made the MSU defense look good.

Which goes back to the 3 LB scheme.  MSU dared Michigan to pass the ball and Michigan responded with bad snaps, dropped passes, falling receivers, catches for 11.5 yards on 3rd and 12, etc.  The key to MSU's success was Michigan's mistakes.  If Michigan had executed any better in the first 3 quarters, Michigan would probably have been winning going into the 4th quarter. 

Defensive Lineman, 4 versus 3

I have spoken repeatedly about MSU changing between 3 and 4 man defensive lines when they go to a nickel package.  I do not like it. 

Alignment Plays Yards Average TD Turnovers Negative Yardage
Four 42 139 3.3 1 2 8
Three 18 114 6.3 1 0 1

The numbers are skewed heavily in favor of the four man line because MSU switched to a soft zone at the end of the game giving up a lot of plays underneath the coverage while in their 3 man set.  Outside of that MSU gave up roughly 5 yards per play in Nickel, mostly on account of the 41 yard bomb Forcier threw in the second quarter. 

My pathological hatred of this defense has a lot to do with who MSU has to play defense.  70 Wilson and 99 Worthy did a very good job on the d-line.  Whenever MSU switches over to its Nickel package, one of them comes out of the game.  MSU then depends on either 43 Gordon or 34 Denson to make plays.  Denson plays in the revolving door LB position for MSU.  That position has been filled by him, 10 Norman and 36 Misch in previous games.  None have been spectacular which is why there is a rotating starter.  43 Gordon does a good job of run stopping when he isn't acting as a blocking sled, but he is not athletic enough to defend the pass.  He is also asked to do thinks he can't, like cover Michael Floyd in man coverage.   So MSU tasks Gordon and Denson to either rush the passer in the nickel package, or drop into coverage.  Worthy and Wilson are better at rushing the passer and KDC, L. Rucker and Ware are better in coverage.  This adjustment gets MSU a weaker pass rush combined with worse pass coverage.  Oddly enough, I feel this is a bad trade off.

I will try to follow this Nickel versus base formation for the rest of the season and put up a chart like this for each game.  I am not taking much away from this game because of how the stats were skewed against the Nickel set.

Looking Ahead

MSU has 7 games remaining and needs to pick up 4 wins to be bowl eligible and probably 5 to ensure a bowl game.  MSU's defense should do well against the remaining teams that run a conventional offense.  Those teams are:

Iowa

These teams run a spread:

Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Western Michigan, Purdue and Penn State.

The spread teams should be able to take advantage of MSU's defensive scheme.  I hope everyone else has the same happy feeling I have right now.

The Blame Game

At this point I am guessing that people should start buying pitch forks and torches to prepare for the end of the season ceremony for Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi.  We don't want have to a run on them at the end of the season and leave anyone excluded.  The problem is that Dantonio is a defensive guy and he is agreeing to the defensive scheme and game plan.  After these past four weeks it is painfully obvious that this scheme is a failure and has to go.  The scheme challenges teams to throw the ball.  So, MSU challenged these teams to throw the ball.

CMU - Spread Offense that throws the ball

Notre Dame - Offense is designed to throw the ball

Wisconsin - power rushing offense that switched to 4WR sets to throw the ball

Michigan - spread option offense that throws the ball

The rest of the schedule is filled with spread teams that throw the ball.  By design, the MSU defense is going to continue to have problems stopping these teams.  And now that there is four games available for teams to watch, I think everyone will know how to attack MSU.  Outside of a team self destructing like Michigan did, MSU is not capable of stopping anyone.  Any and all wins from now on are going to be a result of the offense.  The Spartans are going to have to continue to score 30+ points per game if they have any chance of getting to a bowl game. 

This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.

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