MSUFR: Offense vs. Michigan

[Bumped, of course.  --LVS.]

Welcome (finally) to the MSUFR for offense vs. Michigan.

Couple of things this week:

  • I deliberately did not read mgoblog's UFR because I did not want to introduce observer error.  As a result, mgoblog and I may differ on what we call the Michigan defensive formations.  Because Brian has had more experience at evaluating Michigan's defensive sets and plays, I would take his word over mine.
  • I am considering removing most of the text cells that set up each play (e.g., formations, defensive formation, etc.) and replacing it with a picture of the LOS pre-snap.  Much of the information can be seen there, and I believe it would facilitate me getting these things done in a timely manner.  Please give your thoughts in the comments.

[EDIT:  Added the legend to the QB and WR charts]. 

Time Qtr Down / Distance Yard Line Offensive Formation Defensive Formation Play Result
15:00 1     Kickoff   Bryan Wright kickoff for 70 yards for a touchback.
>Wind is blowing hard; this will affect kicks the entire game.
15:00 1 1st and 10 MSU 20 Ace big 4-3 Under Glenn Winston rush for no gain to the MchSt 20.
UM in the 4-3 with the WLB (Brown) right up tight on the weakside TE and the cornerback rolled up on the slot receiver. Strongside TE (Linthicum) motions to an H-back lateral shuffle. This is an Iso; the SLB (Mouton) crashes at the snap. The MLB heads for the weakside contain on the outside and the weakside LB is just standing there reading the play (keying on the TE leaking out). Winston heads straight up the middle and into the pile for no gain. Linthicum got a good block on the corner, but the WLB had crashed any gap on that side.
14:22 1 2nd and 10 MSU 20 Ace big 3-4 under Larry Caper rush for 4 yards to the MchSt 24.
Same H-back shuffle motion as last time. Brown is up on the LOS standing up and the corners are giving 5-10 yard cushions. Zone stretch to the weak side; Caper is hit at the line but keeps his legs moving and falls forward for a couple of yards.
13:45 1 3rd and 6 MSU 24 Shotgun 3-4 speedrush Kirk Cousins pass intercepted by Stevie Brown at the MchSt 32, returned for 18 yards to the MchSt 14.
You, the reader, will have to read Brian's UFR to make sure I get all the UM formations right. I will use traditional names based on players' typical positions. I am calling this a 3-4 as Roh (a linebacker) is lined up on the weak side hand down like a DE. [I don't know if this is typical use for Roh, but Wisconsin used a linebacker similarly, with success, to pick on D.J. Young who is slow laterally and can't deal with the speed rush off the edge]. The DT (Van Bergen) puts a move on Moss (-1) and gets around him. D.J. Young (-1) has his hands full with Roh. Nitchman (-1) tries to pick up Van Bergen but it's too late. Van Bergen gets his arms up and hits Cousins' arm as he throws and the resulting floater is picked off by Brown. The left side of the O-line did well one-on-one but the right side showed its inexperience. As in the ND game, Cousins is in on the tackle on the interception return.
3 plays, 4 yards, interception. 0-0.
12:27 1     Kickoff   Bryan Wright kickoff for 70 yards for a touchback.
Kickoff is deep into the endzone again. No return.
12:27 1 1st and 10 MSU 20 Ace big 3-4 under MICHIGAN ST penalty 5 yard Ineligible Downfield on Pass on Team accepted, no play.
It's hard to understand the referee's explanation of the penalty due to echo / feedback. Linthicum was lined up as a wide receiver to the right but he is up on the LOS. Sims is lined up as the right TE and goes out on a flag route to draw the CB deep. Because Linthicum had Sims covered up, Sims is an ineligible receiver. Had Linthicum been lined up as a back behind the LOS (as White was on the other side of the line), Sims would have been eligible. Linthicum knows he messed up after the play based on the look on his face.
12:22 1 1st and 15 MSU 15 I-formation 3-4 over Glenn Winston rush for no gain to the MchSt 15.
Roh is rushing standup from the weakside. Brown is standup angled on the strong side (TE spy) and a safety (Williams) is standup on the weakside. MSU zone stretch; Roh is untouched and chases Winston down from the backside while Moss and Young (-1 each) can't handle Graham. Nitchman (-1) tries to reach block Martin but is unsuccessful and only pushes him down the line.
11:26 1 2nd and 15 MSU 15 I-formation 3-4 over Kirk Cousins pass complete to Charlie Gantt for 18 yards to the MchSt 33 for a 1ST down.
M's formation becomes a 3-4 under as the TE (Gantt) flops to the short side. White then goes in motion, drawing the LB (Brown). PA sucks up the MLBs and Warren who is on the strong side. Gantt bumps the two LBs in the middle, then cuts deep on the flag route. The right side of the line sells the stretch run, handling Graham and Martin easily. Hawken (+1) turns Roh to the outside out of the play. Cironi (+1) gets enough of Van Bergen to buy time for Cousins to roll out and make the throw, hitting Gantt (CA) in the seam of the zone between what seems like 4 defenders for the first down.
10:50 1 1st and 10 MSU 33 Offset I 3-4 Larry Caper rush for 5 yards to the MchSt 38.
M has the OLBs rolled up on the LOS. The H-back (Linthicum) motions in and back to the shuffle, so in effect Caper has two lead blockers. Iso; Moss and Young (+1 each) get their helmets between Martin and Graham, opening the hole for Caper to slip through. Young hands Graham off to Gantt (+2), who stands Graham up and takes him to the ground. Foreman is coming to help double but basically runs himself out of the play. I've got to give Gantt +2 for handling Graham so effectively. Van Bergen bounces off the initial block of Nitchman and loops back to the second level, fights off Nitchman and makes the tackle. Second level blocking was breaking down somewhat. This is a good read and scrape by Van Bergen.
10:19 1 2nd and 5 MSU 38 I formation 3-4 Larry Caper rush for 6 yards to the MchSt 44 for a 1ST down.
Roh now standup in the over spot like we saw Brown on previous plays. Mouton blitzes to the weakside A gap; Cironi dives at Mouton's feet but misses. Mouton bounces off Foreman, who falls down to the ground, and Mouton trips over him. Moss gets away with a hold on Van Bergen; Gantt handles Roh, and Young and Hawken get to the second level and take out Brown, opening the way for Caper to squirt through for the first down. M flopped Graham to the weakside and MSU ran away from him.
9:50 1 1st and 10 MSU 44 Ace H-back 4-3 Keshawn Martin rush for 18 yards to the Mich 38 for a 1ST down.
Banks in the game at DT. UM has 4 down linemen and Williams up where we saw Brown before, outside the TE facing in. MSU runs the misdirection handoff to Martin as he comes in motion. Young (-1) whiffs on Graham. Hawken (+1) gets inside Williams and pushes him upfield, but Martin fails to cut behind Hawken and runs right into Williams. Williams makes a poor tackle and Martin slips out, reversing field and picking up the blockers that were on that side anyway due to the misdirection. Cousins (+1!) crackback blocks Herron. Martin is almost caught from behind by Woolfolk who tries to grab him high but is thrown off. Finally Brown makes the tackle. After the play Ezeh gives Winston a shove and Foreman retaliates, knocking Ezeh to the ground and drawing the 15 yard penalty.
9:18 1 1st and 10 MSU 47 Ace big 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 9 yards to the Mich 44.
Cissoko is lined up hand down on the short side of the field as a down lineman. Bubble screen / long handoff right to White who was getting a 5 yard cushion from Brown. White just runs past him and out of bounds. The referee doesn't say who the penalty was on, but it looks like B.J. Cunningham was locked up with Mouton and both were hand fighting.
9:00 1 2nd and 16 MSU 41 I formation 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 17 yards to the Mich 42 for a 1ST down.
Roh rushing from the strongside edge and Brown behind and between spying on the RB (Caper). PA freezes the backers; Brown delayed blitzes and the other two bail out. Good protection from the line; Gantt (+1) handles Roh, Cironi (+1) handles Van Bergen, and Moss, Young, and Nitchman get the other 2 DL. White runs an out hook and Cousins hits him (TC) between the corner and the safety. Generous spot gives MSU the first down.
8:22 1 1st and 10 MICH 42 I-formation 4-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 3 yards to the Mich 39.
Another bubble screen / long handoff to White who is again getting a 5 yard cushion from Brown. Cousins' throw is a bit low and outside (CA). White tries to put a move on Brown but slips and falls for a short gain.
7:45 1 2nd and 7 MICH 39 I-formation big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 1 yard to the Mich 38.
Power off tackle. Van Bergen is able to get off the block and seal the hole along with the linebacker (Herron?) who read and flowed well.
7:07 1 3rd and 6 MICH 38 Shotgun 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Mark Dell for 9 yards to the Mich 29 for a 1ST down.
Dell runs the criss cross underneath Hawken who is strictly a decoy. Hawken takes shots from Ezeh and Mouton and Dell springs free. Cousins hits him in stride (CA); Ezeh recovers and tackles along with Floyd. Cironi (+1) had to drop back and pick up Roh speed-rushing off the edge to give Cousins time to throw.
6:34 1 1st and 10 MICH 29 I-formation 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete.
Cousins overthrows Gantt on the TE flag route. Good blitz pickup gave him time to throw; he wasn't hurried and I think he just released it too early. (IN)
6:30 1 2nd and 10 MICH 29 Ace 3-4 MICHIGAN ST penalty 15 yard Personal Foul accepted.
This was another bubble screen / long handoff, this time to Cunningham, for a good gain, negated by a chop block or clip. The entire right side of the MSU line tried to cut the D line and blitzing linebacker. Moss dove and caught Martin low and from behind after he got turned around and was still engaged high by Nitchman.
5:58 1 2nd and 25 MICH 44 Ace H-back 3-4 Kirk Cousins rush for 19 yards to the Mich 25.
Michigan lines up 5 on the LOS and only leaves one LB in the middle of the field, who picks up Gantt on the under. Michigan brings 5 on the rush but MSU picks it up well. Cousins sees the wide open field in front of him and takes off. He gets a good block downfield from Linthicum (+1) to spring him for an extra 10 yards.
5:25 1 3rd and 6 MICH 25 Shotgun 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 15 yards to the Mich 10 for a 1ST down.
M has 7 guys within 2 yards of the LOS: 4 down linemen and three Lbs. At the snap three of the down linemen show rush and the middle one drops back. Then the strongside down lineman picks up a TE and drops back. The corner and LB blitz. Nicely disguised coverage and blitz to overload the left side of MSU's line. But Cousins unloads it in time to Cunningham on the out (CA); he is single covered by Woolfolk who fails to make the tackle at the first down marker and lets Cunningham get an extra 10 yards.
4:55 1 1st and Goal MICH 10 Offset I 4-3 Glenn Winston rush for no gain to the Mich 10.
Winston had a hole on the right side (+1 Moss and Foreman) but failed to change directions and was met behind the line by Graham, who fought off the block of Gantt (-1).
4:15 1 2nd and Goal MICH 10 I-formation big 3-4 Larry Caper rush for 2 yards to the Mich 8.
Mouton shows blitz. M has 8 in the box plus Herron off the edge. MSU runs a stretch to the short side. Caper tries to get the edge but Hawken's block on Mouton (-1) is not a good one and the backside pursuit is able to catch up and stop Caper.
3:35 1 3rd and Goal MICH 8 Shotgun 4-3 Kirk Cousins rush for 7 yards to the Mich 1.
Michigan in a 4-3 with two Lbs showing blitz. The Lbs drop back into coverage. Cousins gets good protection, has time to look, then takes off. He makes it to the goal line where he is sandwiched by 4 defenders. This play is where Cousins hurts his ankle when Mouton lands on it.
2:28 1 4th and Goal MICH 1 I formation big H-back Goal line Larry Caper rush for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.
Power off tackle. Mouton fills the hole, but Hawken (+1) makes a nice block to stand up Mouton and Caper just runs over him.
17 plays, 80 yards, touchdown. 7-3 MSU. A ten minute drive that overcame 4 penalties, three of which were 15-yarders.
1:22 1 1st and 10 MSU 11 Offset I Big 3-4 Larry Caper rush for a loss of 1 yard to the MchSt 10.
Michigan in the 3-4 with Herron stand-up on the wide side. MSU runs an Iso left with Linthicum motioning to h-back shuffle. WLB (Mouton) crashes at the snap and is stood up by Moss (+1). But Martin spins off the block of Nitchman (-1) and hits Caper in the backfield. Ezeh comes in and hits too, knocking the ball free, but Caper was apparently called down.
0:42 1 2nd and 11 MSU 10 I Formation 3-4 over Kirk Cousins pass complete to Andrew Hawken for 6 yards to the MchSt 16.
WLB (Mouton) is blitzing again and is picked up. Graham is left untouched by Hawken which should have screamed "fullback screen". Throw is on target (CA) in front of Kovacs who wraps up and brings Hawken down for a middling gain.
15:00 2 3rd and 5 MSU 16 Shotgun Trips 3-4 under Kirk Cousins rush for 5 yards to the MchSt 21 for a 1ST down.
Roh in for the speedrush off the edge. Brown is covering the slot receiver. Both the other linebackers are dropping back into coverage. Cironi (+1) handles Graham. Young (-1) lets Roh get around him and the pocket folds from the right side. Cousins pulls it down and takes off, diving for the first down marker. I believe MSU added the QB scramble read if the backers all drop back into coverage for this game; we haven't seen it from Cousins previously.
14:30 2 1st and 10 MSU 21 Ace big (H-back) 3-4 under Kirk Cousins sacked by Ryan Van Bergen for a loss of 8 yards to the MchSt 13.
At the snap, the DE's are all slanting to the strong side while Herron speedrushes around the weakside end. Young (-2) is beaten badly by Graham. Cousins has to step up and evade and is hit by Van Bergen who has bullrushed Nitchman (-1), blowing him back into Cousins. Van Bergen disengages and makes the sack. Michigan flopped Graham to the opposite side of the line; he hadn't had much success against the more experienced left side of the MSU line (Cironi and Foreman) but really exposed D.J. Young on the right.
13:46 2 2nd and 18 MSU 13 Shotgun 3-4 over Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Keshawn Martin.
The WLB (Mouton) blitzes while the over LB (Herron) drops back to cover Gantt on the TE route. Martin runs a cross underneath Gantt. Cousins' pass is slightly behind him, but Martin gets both hands on it (DR). I am not impressed with Martin's hands at all.
13:42 2 3rd and 18 MSU 13 Shotgun 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 27 yards to the MchSt 40 for a 1ST down.
LB (Roh) shows blitz up the middle, then drops into coverage at the snap. Cousins has lots of time to throw thanks to good blocking from Young on Graham (+1 – got away with hands to the face, too) and Cironi on Van Bergen (+1). Cousins evades Van Bergen's little jump and steps up, throwing to Cunningham (CA) who is on a comeback right at the 40 in front of Woolfolk.
13:08 2 1st and 10 MSU 40 Ace big 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 3 yards to the MchSt 43.
Again M has Herron on the wide side to speedrush. This is another of the bubble screens to the wide side, except there aren't any blockers, so does that still make it a bubble screen? Or just a long handoff? Anyway, White catches it (CA) in front of the rapidly closing J.T. Floyd, who makes the play to keep it to a 3-yard gain. MSU is setting something up with this long screen.
12:29 2 2nd and 7 MSU 43 Ace 3-4 under Glenn Winston rush for 8 yards to the Mich 49 for a 1ST down.
M has a LB (Herron) up on the under and a safety (Kovacs) up on the LOS head-up on the TE. Mouton blitzes the strongside A gap. Foreman picks up the blitz. This is what the bubble screens have been setting up: Cousins fakes the bubble screen to the wide (weak) side, then turns and toss-pitches it to Winston who is heading strongside. Gantt (+1) locks up the DE Heininger; Cironi (+1) pulls outside of the TE and seals Kovacs; and Nitchman pulls out and lead blocks the pursuing LB (Ezeh). Winston tries to hurdle Ezeh and Nitchman but is knocked out of bounds.
11:58 2 1st and 10 MICH 49 Ace 3-4 over Larry Caper rush for a loss of 6 yards, fumbled, recovered by MchSt Joel Foreman at the MchSt 45.
WLB (Mouton) blitz at the snap. MSU tries power off tackle to the short side. The safety (Kovacs) comes in motion with the TE (Linthicum) and reads it well, shooting the gap and catching Caper at the LOS. Kovacs puts his helmet on the ball and knocks it free. It is recovered for a loss by Foreman. MSU dodged a bullet there. Caper really needs to work on ball security.
11:08 2 2nd and 16 MSU 45 Shotgun 3-4 over Kirk Cousins pass complete to Glenn Winston for 6 yards to the Mich 49.
Underneath screen (CA) to Winston. Foreman (+1) gets a good block downfield on the DT (Banks) and Blair White (+1) catches enough of Mouton to free Winston to the sideline.
10:33 2 3rd and 10 MICH 49 Shotgun 3-4 under Kirk Cousins pass complete to Charlie Gantt for 2 yards to the Mich 47.
Michigan is showing blitz from the Safety (Kovacs) and middle LBs (Mouton and Ezeh). LB (Roh) is speedrushing the weak side. Cousins has time to throw (CA) to the TE (Gantt) who is covered tightly by Ezeh and dropped as soon as he catches it well short of the first down.
11 plays, 42 yards, punt. 7-3 MSU.
4:43 2 Kickoff       Bryan Wright kickoff for 61 yards returned by Glenn Winston for 36 yards to the MchSt 45.
Michigan kicking into the wind now. It is making about 15-20 yards' difference. Winston fields it on the bounce and heads left. He gets a block from Jimmerson and breaks a tackle, then splits a good crease from Celek, Linthicum, Hawken, and Ashton Henderson before he is pushed out of bounds.
4:35 2 1st and 10 MSU 45 I-Formation 3-4 under Keshawn Martin rush for 12 yards to the Mich 43 for a 1ST down.
LB (Roh) speedrushing from the under spot. Martin runs the end-around from the strongside slot. Michigan is slanting to the strongside. Moss pulls and gets just enough of the safety (Kovacs) to spring Martin. Martin steps out of bounds on his own, costing him about 6 yards.
4:07 2 1st and 10 MICH 43 Ace Big 3-4 over Glenn Winston rush for 2 yards to the Mich 41.
LB (Roh) on the strong (wide) side again. Gantt motions to an H-back. Zone stretch; Michigan does well to keep stringing it outside where Winston is finally pinned against the sideline. Caper is the better back to run the stretch with, since he can cut it up through any creases that open; Winston is pure straight-ahead runner.
3:19 2 2nd and 8 MICH 41 I-formation big 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Blair White for 10 yards to the Mich 31 for a 1ST down.
Michigan in the 3-4 over with the extra LB (Brown) up on the LOS spying on the TE. Another long handoff / blockerless bubble screen to White (CA) who is getting a 10 yard cushion from the cornerback (Floyd). White puts a move on and Floyd slips; White gets an extra five yards and a first down.
2:47 2 1st and 10 MICH 31 I-formation 3-4 over Glenn Winston rush for no gain to the Mich 31.
Roh standup on the strongside; he is not speedrushing this time. Martin is faking the end-around but UM is not buying it. Mouton blitzes the weakside B-gap; Cironi and Foreman double him and pick him up. This means that Graham is unblocked by an lineman. The fullback (Hawken, -1) whiffs and by the time the pulling Moss gets over, it's too late as Graham is in the backfield tackling Winston. It's a lot asking Hawken to block Graham, but he missed completely.
2:10 2 2nd and 10 MICH 31 Ace H-back 3-4 over Keith Nichol pass incomplete.
Nichol in the game for the first time. Mouton blitzes the weakside B gap as Roh locks up on the TE. Nichol throws the slant to Dell but sails it badly. What's the name of Tacopants' cousin who decided to go to MSU? (IN)
2:07 2 3rd and 10 MICH 31 Shotgun 3-3-5 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 15 yards to the Mich 16 for a 1ST down.
This is new -- alternating QBs in the same series. UM brings the zone blitz – LBs Roh, Mouton, and Ezeh blitz while Van Bergen drops into coverage. Cousins has time to throw and hits Cunningham on a corner route (CA) – finds him in a seam in the zone just past the first down.
1:32 2 1st and 10 MICH 16 Ace 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 6 yards to the Mich 10.
The fake bubble screen / toss pitch again. Winston gets the edge then runs into people for a decent gain.
1:13 2 2nd and 4 MICH 10 Shotgun Trips 3-4 Keith Nichol rush for 3 yards to the Mich 7.
Pure run as Nichol takes the snap and runs to the short side. Caper (+1) gets a good kickout on Mouton but Kovacs is able to stop Nichol short of the first down.
0:43 2 3rd and 1 at MICH 7 MICH 7 I-formation big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 8.
UM has 9 in the box (well, between the TEs, anyway). Mouton is blitzing at the snap. MSU runs the stretch to the wide side. The UM linebacker (Brown) reads and flows, and fights through a Winston stiff-arm to make a good tackle in the backfield. Winston's gotta lower his shoulder and run through Brown on that one, IMO. I think Winston gets too greedy in the red zone, going for the TD when a first down will do.
10 plays, 47 yards, Field Goal. 10-6 MSU.
13:37 3 1st and 10 MSU 50 Ace big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 2 yards to the Mich 48.
Stretch right; CB (Warren) walks up on the LOS outside the TE on the short side reading the TE and Winston. At the handoff he is already charging into the backfield unblocked (appears no one is assigned to block the OLB) and stops Winston.
12:56 3 2nd and 8 MICH 48 Ace trips 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for no gain to the Mich 48.
MSU motions to trips to the wide side and the DBs press while the safety (Kovacs) rotates up . Cousins shows the bubble screen fake then pitches to Winston going to the short side. Cironi takes off immediately for the second level so it's obviously not a pass; Cironi lets the DE (Van Bergen) into the backfield untouched. Van Bergen pursues Winston from behind. Moss (-1) misses the seal block, tries unsuccessfully to clothesline Kovacs. With the backside pursuit, Winston has to try to bounce outside, right into Kovacs who stops him for no gain.
12:13 3 3rd and 8 MICH 48 Shotgun 2 TE 3-4 Kirk Cousins rush for 12 yards to the Mich 36 for a 1ST down.
Presnap one of the LBs (Brown) rolls up tight on the slot receiver but inside him; Roh is speed rushing. The other two LBs are in the middle. At the snap both TEs take off downfield and the LBs drop back with them. MSU's receivers run all-verticals to drag all the DBs and the LBs downfield. Brown turns his back to the QB and runs with the wide receiver. This opens up the lane for Cousins to step up and take off. I don't think this is a designed run but a read on the OLB (Brown), ut bas Cousins still has the ball in his hand as if to throw when he steps up and doesn't tuck it away until he gets to the LOS, by which time he has nothing but open field in front of him. The line was getting pushed back as well.
11:50 3 1st and 10 MICH 36 Shotgun 3-4 Keith Nichol pass complete to Keshawn Martin for 9 yards to the Mich 27.
UM drops a DE (Banks) into coverage but doesn't blitz. Bubble screen; Blair White (+1) gets a good block on Brown to spring Martin behind him. Martin breaks a tackle by the cornerback (Warren) but just steps out of bounds. M was not giving the ten yard coverage on this one; the blocking was a little different with White basically setting a screen, not stalk-blocking.
11:17 3 2nd and 1 MICH 27 I-formation big 3-4 over Glenn Winston rush for 6 yards to the Mich 21 for a 1ST down.
Michigan has like 9 guys up in the box: three linemen, a linebacker (Herron) up on the LOS; a CB (Warren) up on the other side; 3 linebackers in stack; and the short side safety rolled up (so there's no deep help). MSU runs the stretch to the short side; the blocking by the line is pretty good. The cornerback reads and flows to maintain outside contain, but the lead blocker (Hawken, +2) not only gets him moving outside but back and into the filling safety Kovacs – two for the price of one, and Winston rolls through for the first down.
10:44 3 1st and 10 MICH 21 Shotgun 2-TE 3-4 over Kirk Cousins pass incomplete.
UM has one of its three LBs about 2 yards forward of the other two; does this mean blitz? Yes it does. The pocket is collapsing but Cousins throws it accurately to White. The pass is defended well by the cornerback (Floyd), who read and reacted to White's out cut well (DE).
10:38 3 2nd and 10 MICH 21 I-formation 3-4 Larry Caper rush for no gain to the Mich 21.
UM blitzes a linebacker (Mouton) into the weakside B-gap. Zone stretch to the short side; UM flows with the stretch and clogs the hole. I think this one is on Young (-1), who instead of turning inside to seal the MLB (Ezeh), turns outside to hit Brown, who Hawken was lining up on. Hawken runs into Young and the hole is sealed; Caper has nowhere to go.
9:54 3 3rd and 10 MICH 21 Shotgun 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass intercepted by Donovan Warren at the Mich 5, returned for 2 yards to the Mich 7.
MSU motions to an empty backfield, sending Caper to the wide side into a trips set. Michigan has Roh on the edge on the speedrush and also blitzes Mouton on the right side. Michigan is picking on Young here, presenting him with two blitzing LBs. Young takes the inside blitzer (Mouton) and leaves Roh untouched, who hits Cousins as he throws. This is both a good play and a bit of luck by Michigan. Presenting Young with 2 blitzers was good tactics. MSU motioning the RB out so there was no blitz pickup was the luck. Had Cousins not been hit this was probably a TD as Dell was behing Warren. (DE; I don't think I can give Young a minus as he had very little choice on this play).
8 plays, 39 yards, interception. 10-6 MSU.
8:02 2 1st and 10 MICH 13 I-formation big 4-3 Glenn Winston rush for 6 yards to the Mich 7.
I'll have to look at mgoblog's UFR to see what they are calling this formation. Looks like 4 D-line, 3 LBs with one of the LBs up on the LOS angled in and a cornerback on the opposite side, so it gives the appearance of a 6-2. Iso; MSU's line gets good push left on the UM D-line that is slanting hard to the left; the effect is that the lines roll counterclockwise. Hawken (+1) hits Warren and the pulling Foreman (+1) seals Mouton, opening the hole. Good block by Linthicum (+1) as well to seal the cornerback (Warren).
7:29 3 2nd and 4 MICH 7 I-formation big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 3 yards to the Mich 4.
Michigan in the same alignment as last play. Again the shortside MLB (Mouton) is a yard ahead of the other two, and again it's a blitz. Nitchman (+1) gets Martin out of the way; Gantt (+1) handles Van Bergen himself; and Cironi (+1) is into the second level. Winston rolls through. It appeared he had the first but got a poor spot, IMO.
7:00 3 3rd and 1 MICH 4 I-formation big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 5.
DAMMIT RUN A PLAY ACTION TE WAGGLE!!!!! Argh. UM has 9 up in the box with a safety centered and single man coverage out on White. It's the LB one-yard-closer blitz. Winston never has a chance as Young (-1) turns inside to pick up the blitzing LB and Graham (who has flopped to the right side in order to pick on Young) basically gets a pat on the shoulder from the TE Linthicum on his way into the backfield. There is no way a TE is going to be able to block Graham unassisted. Winston is absolutely decked in the backfield for a loss. I can only guess that MSU believes that five OL plus two TEs can handle Michigan's smaller players in the 3-4 base formation. This has generally been true with the exception being Graham. He must be doubled.
4 plays, 8 yards, field goal. 13-6 MSU. Not getting a TD out of the good starting field position will be costly later.
3:17 3 1st and 10 MSU 30 I-formation big 3-4 Keith Nichol pass complete to Brian Linthicum for 22 yards to the Mich 48 for a 1ST down.
Michigan in the 4-3 ("6-2") look. Linthicum just runs straight at the safety (Kovacs) then cuts out. Kovacs stumbles and Linthicum is open. Nichol's throw is a bit behind Linthicum, who has to turn and reach to catch (TC), falling down. Would have been at least another ten yards had Nichol hit him over his outside shoulder because of Kovacs' slip.
2:47 3 1st and 10 MICH 48 I-formation 3-4 under Larry Caper rush for 2 yards to the Mich 46.
Nichol turns to sell the end-around fake and hands to Caper like an up-back. Kovacs reads it well and steps and fills.
2:14 3 2nd and 8 MICH 46 Ace big 3-4 under Keith Nichol pass complete to Charlie Gantt for 19 yards to the Mich 27 for a 1ST down.
MSU sells the stretch left; it's a PA waggle. TE Garrett Celek (+1) makes a rare appearance and successfully blocks Graham (nearly taking his helmet off in the process) enough that Nichol can get around him. Gantt runs the TE cross between the seams and Nichol hits him on the run (CA).
1:40 3 1st and 10 MICH 27 Ace H-back 3-4 Keith Nichol rush for 6 yards to the Mich 21.
Michigan shows blitz up the middle by Mouton. At the snap, Cironi (-1) moves across to take the blitzer, but Mouton justs steps sideways and stays there and they just dance, mirroring each other. This lets the DE (Heininger) in untouched. This is supposed to be a waggle to the Fullback (Hawken) coming across underneath, but the DE is in Nichols' face, disrupting the route. Nichol pulls it down and takes off, spinning out of a tackel by Brown and getting a decent gain out of a busted play.
0:51 3 2nd and 4 MICH 21 I-formation 3-4 under Glenn Winston rush for 3 yards to the Mich 18.
Iso; the lead blocker (Hawken) tries to seal the LB (Brown), who has already run himself out of the play. The ILB (Ezeh) would have been a better target. Ezeh helps out by overpursuing and Caper slips past himand is met downfield by Kovacs and Mouton.
0:05 3 3rd and 1 MICH 18 Offset I big 3-4 Larry Caper rush for 3 yards to the Mich 15 for a 1ST down.
M has 9 in the box presnap. Iso; Caper just finds a hole and keeps his legs moving after being met by the filling LB (Brown) to get the first down. I guess Foreman (+1) gets the plus because he bulled through and just made enough of a crease for Caper to get through. Nichol changed the play before the snap as Mouton showed blitz again; I think MSU flopped the direction to get away from the blitz.
15:00 4 1st and 10 MICH 15 I formation big 3-4 Keith Nichol pass incomplete.
Ezeh brings the blitz up the middle as Roh drops into coverage. Caper picks up the blitz well. Nichol throws off his back foot (again) for Gantt in the end zone. Gantt is covered pretty closely by Roh; the pass him in the hands (DR).
14:54 4 2nd and 10 MICH 15 Ace trips 3-4 over Glenn Winston rush for 15 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
MSU splits trips to the wide side to draw a linebacker over. Michigan's defenders are all over-rotated to the wide side. Roh is the only one on the short side and he is spying on Gantt. Bubble screen fake and toss pitch to the short side. Gantt (+1) turns Roh to the outside; Young (+1) gets inside Van Bergen and seals him, and Moss (+1) blocks Warren springing the corner for Winston.
8 plays, 70 yards, touchdown. 20-6 MSU.
12:47 4 1st and 10 MSU 48 I-formation big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 2 yards to the 50 yard line.
Double eagle look. Iso; Graham is blocked by a TE (Linthicum) actually pretty well, but he fights through, reaches out and trips Winston as he runs past.
12:14 4 2nd and 8 MSU 50 I-formation 3-4 MICHIGAN ST penalty 10 yard Holding on Joel Foreman accepted, no play.
Graham is lined up outside Young. MSU pulls Foreman on the play action and rolls Nichol out to throw to Cunningham on the stop route. Foreman (-1) didn't get to the spot he wanted to be in time and had to hook his arm around Graham. Both teams have gotten away with much worse throughout the game, though.
12:05 4 2nd and 18 MSU 40 Shotgun 3-4 Keith Nichol pass complete to Blair White for 7 yards to the MchSt 47.
Mouton blitz, Roh drop. The line gives Cousins good protection. He throws to Blair White (CA) on the cross. White just cuts in front of Roh who seems surprised that White is there and White just runs past him. The UM cornerback (Floyd) makes a good tackle to prevent White from getting more yards.
11:25 4 3rd and 11 MSU 47 Shotgun 3-4 Kirk Cousins sacked by Brandon Graham for a loss of 7 yards, fumbled, recovered by Mich at the MchSt 46.
Michigan in the 4-4 look; shows blitz then backs out of it. Graham beats Young (-1) and Van Bergen loops around behind Martin; he is in largely untouched. Cousins takes off but slips a little; Graham just chases him down from behind and as he's tackling he knocks the ball out.
3 plays, 12 yards, fumble. 20-6 MSU.
10:26 4 1st and 10 MSU 27 I-formation big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 3 yards to the MchSt 30.
Iso; M has 9 in the box. Nothing special; just a straight-ahead run play to grind off the clock.
9:50 4 2nd and 7 MSU 30 I-formation H-back 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 1 yard to the MchSt 31.
Stretch; UM just keeps stringing it out. Winston breaks a tackle in the backfield but can't get around the end and finally runs out of room. UM is selling out to stop the run knowing that MSU is trying to choke the life out of the game. UM is maintaining two layers of defense: the D-line and a layer of LBs and the safeties about 2 yards behind that that are flowing to the ball to stop the run.
9:08 4 3rd and 6 MSU 31 Shotgun 3-4 Keith Nichol pass incomplete.
UM brings all the LBs on the blitz, which leaves the slant to White open. Nichol throws it too far in front (IN).
3 plays, 4 yards, punt. 20-6 MSU.
8:29 4 1st and 10 MSU 24 Ace big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 3 yards to the MchSt 21.
Michigan with 8 in the box. The NG (Martin) is bumped by Nitchman who heads for the second level and Martin is clean through to the backfield, where he gets Winston along with Graham and Kovacs. It doesn't look like a blown blocking assignment as no one pulled to trap Martin and no one tried to pick him up. Rope-a-dope?
7:40 4 2nd and 13 MSU 21 I formation big 3-4 Kirk Cousins rush for 41 yards to the Mich 38 for a 1ST down.
Michigan with 9 in the box against an "obvious" running formation. MSU sends the TEs out; they get picked up by LBs as they go past. UM only sends 4. Play action fake and Cousins rolls to the right. Can't see downfield but obviously all the downfield defenders were dragged over to the right side. Cousins gets good blocks from Young (+1), Winston (+1), and Gantt (+1) to spring him. He then channels his inner Steven Threet, helped by an over-pursuit by Mouton.
6:55 4 1st and 10 MICH 38 I-formation big 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for 2 yards to the Mich 36.
9 in the box. Iso off tackle; UM linebackers are stepping and filling. Nothing special; clock-running play.
6:13 4 2nd and 8 MICH 36 I-formation 3-4 under Glenn Winston rush for no gain to the Mich 36.
Middle linebacker (Leach) shoots into the intended gap, forcing Cironi to push him out of the way. Winston runs into Cironi and is stopped for no gain.
5:27 4 3rd and 8 MICH 36 Shotgun 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 5 yards to the Mich 31.
Michigan shows blitz from the corner and right side. The under LB (Roh) drops into coverage and then Ezeh comes on the delayed blitz. Two defenders get pressure but Cousins throws to Cunningham (CA) on the out.
5:23 4 4th and 3 MICH 31 Shotgun 3-4 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete.
MSU decides to go for it on 4th and 4. I have no problem with this call as it would have been a 48-yard field goal into a very strong wind that was making 10 yards worth of difference on kickoffs. Michigan sends all the LBs on the blitz (seven rushers total) opening the slant. The cornerback reads it well and stands in the spot where the slant to Martin should have gone (DE). The middle slant would have worked better as White came open.
6 plays, 45 yards, turnover on downs. 20-6 MSU.
4:03 4 Kickoff       Bryan Wright kickoff for 59 yards returned by Glenn Winston for 21 yards to the MchSt 32.
Winston fields it at the 11 and heads left. He almost gets though a seam but is tripped up.
3:58 4 1st and 10 MSU 32 I-formation 3-4 Keith Nichol pass complete to Mark Dell for 7 yards to the MchSt 39.
M showing blitz up the strongside B gap, and on the weakside edge. The middle is a decoy; Hawken (+1) picks up the blitzing edge linebacker (Mouton). PA fake and rollout; Nichol throws on the run to Dell (CA) on the comeback route. MSU continues to throw to the inside, not attacking the sidelines, to keep burning clock.
3:14 4 2nd and 3 MSU 39 I-formation big 3-4 over Larry Caper rush for 1 yard to the MchSt 40.
UM has 8 in the box. They also send the safety (Kovacs) on the blitz. He is unblocked off the edge and catches Caper in the backfield. Good call by UM.
3:04 4 3rd and 2 MSU 40 Offset I h-back 3-4 Larry Caper rush for a loss of 1 yard to the MchSt 39.
UM has 9 in the box. Again UM sends Kovacs on the safety blitz and again he is unblocked. Foreman and Hawken bumped into each other and didn't block anyone; missed assignment, but not sure who it's on (I suspect Hawken).
3 plays, 7 yards, punt. 20-13 MSU. Nervousome time.
OT OT 1st and 10 MICH 25 Ace trips 3-4 Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 9 yards to the Mich 34.
M is slanting hard. Bubble screen fake and pitch toss. The strong side LBs are spying this; MSU has gone to the well once too often. Had Winston caught the pitch he wouldn't have had much room to run as there were 3 or 4 defenders and only 2 blockers out in front.
OT OT 2nd and 19 MICH 34 I formation 3-4 Keith Nichol pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 11 yards to the Mich 23.
UM shows blitz with the LBs but they hold off at the snap and read the play. Nichol has good blocking, time to throw, and hits Cunningham (CA) on the out, getting back into field goal range.
OT OT 3rd and 8 MICH 23 I-formation big 3-4 Larry Caper rush for 23 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
UM has 9 in the box and brings a safety (Kovacs) on the blitz to the short side. Stretch to the wide side. Nitchman (+1) gets in front of a slanting Martin, slowing him up; Ezeh runs into Martin's back. Gantt (+1) has Roh pushed way out to the sideline. Hawken (+1) gets a good kickout block on Brown. Caper shoots through the gap and should be down at the 20 or so. Instead, Woolfork tries to tackle high; Caper shrugs him off. White (+1) has a good block downfield. Mouton and Floyd angle to finish off Caper, but when Caper squirts free and cuts hard to the left they have overpursued and Caper is untouched the rest of the way to the end zone.
3 plays, 25 yards, touchdown. 26-20 MSU. End of game.


Well, that was unnecessarily exciting.



Player + - Total
Gantt 9 1 8
Cironi 7 1 6
Hawken 7 2 5
B. White 3 0 3
Moss 4 2 2
Linthicum 2 0 2
Foreman 3 1 2
Cousins 1 0 1
Caper 1 0 1
Celek 1 0 1
Winston 1 0 1
Nitchman 2 4 -2
Young 4 8 -4


Cironi is without doubt MSU's best offensive lineman.  Foreman is solid but unspectacular, he doesn't make too many mistakes but doesn't really stand out.  Which is actually a good thing, considering he's a sophomore.  Nitchman still shows the rust and lingering effects from his injury.  Moss is doing better than expected.  He pulls well and has a mean streak.

Unfortunately, the weak link in the MSU offensive line is D.J. Young.  Young doesn't move well laterally in pass protection; as a result, he doesn't handle the speedrush off the edge well.  Defenses are beginning to pick on him with lighter, faster guys to get around the edge.

Gantt and Hawken's success can be attributed to Michigan's 3-4 sets.  Gantt and Hawken faced off against linebackers, or more frequently, defensive backs; guys that they could handle relatively easily.




QB Failure Analysis
Player DR IN TA BA DE BR Total
Cousins 1 1 0 0 4 0 0
Nichol 1 2 0 0 0 0 -1



DR: "Dropped" by receiver. A catchable pass that was flat-out dropped by the receiver. (+1)
IN: "Inaccurate." Passes that are plain uncatchable but for extraordinary intervention on the part of the wide receiver. (-1)
TA: "Throwaway." Passes which are not intended to be caught since the quarterback can find no one open. (0)
BA: "Batted." Balls which are deflected at the LOS. These are generally regarded as fluke occurences and are not held against the quarterback. (0)
DE: "Defended". Defender in coverage either deflected the ball or hit the receiver to knock the ball free for an incompletion. (0)
BR: Bad Read. (-2)

Not a bad day for either quarterback.  Both of Cousins' interceptions were not his fault.




Player CA TC HC DR DE Total
White 3 2 0 0 1 7
Cunningham 4 0 0 0 0 4
Dell 2 0 0 0 0 2
Gantt 3 0 0 1 0 2
Linthicum 0 1 0 0 0 2
Hawken 1 0 0 0 0 1
Winston 1 0 0 0 0 1
Martin 0 0 0 1 0 -1



CA: routine catch (+1).
TC: Tough catch (+2). Usually any jumping catch, or one that requires the WR to drag a foot right at the boundary, or one that requires the WR to take a hit and hang on.
HC: Heroic Catch (+3).
DR: Dropped. This must be a catchable pass (-1).
DE: Defended (0). Broken up by defender.

Good day for Blair White.

Game Plan

Michigan State came into the game with Michigan as a balanced run-pass team.



Week Opp Run Pass Run Pct (game) Run Pct (accum)
1 Montana State 39 35 53% 53%
2 CMU 29 27 52% 52%
3 Notre Dame 25 40 38% 48%
4 Wisconsin 22 46 32% 44%
5 Michigan 46 32 59% 47%


  For the Michigan game, MSU decided to help out the defense by playing offense; that is, to grind the clock and keep the ball out of Michigan's hands.  They did this in three ways:  passes to the inside of the field rather than the outs we saw in the first several games; running the play clock down as far as possible on each play; but mostly by running the ball more than they had in the previous four games (as many times as in the previous two games combined).  

Some think that MSU's playcalling got conservative in the second half.  I don't believe this is true.  MSU continued to follow the strategy of "keep-away"; it's just that Michigan started loading the box up with up to 9 defenders to take the run yards away.

The following graph shows the accumulative run-pass balance throughout the game.


Each uptick is a run, each downtick a pass.  [Don't let the scale shift fool you due to it being a running percentage.]  As you can see, the playcalling was "conservative" throughout the game, alternating run and pass with the occasional string of runs and the occasional string of passes.  The string of runs in the middle spans the end of the second quarter (when MSU had only a 1-point lead) and the start of the third quarter (only a 4-point lead).

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.