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Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Air Force

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FORMATION NOTES. Michigan spent virtually the entire game in the Stack. Most of the time they had Hudson aligned as the "pup" linebacker, as discussed in the game column.

Hudson on the hash farthest back.

Michigan had been using their DEs in a five tech (IE, lined up outside the tackles) in their first two games. Here they moved them into "4i," which is shaded just inside the tackles. The wing players are Metellus and Kinnel, with the corners flanking Hudson.

Air Force is of course in the Flexbone. I called the above look "flexbone tight" and this one "flexbone twin TE":

Michigan did not slide in response and a lot of Air Force's successful runs came by hammering doubles down on both Furbush and Gary, but more about that later.

When Air Force went three-wide Michigan responded with a more conventional-looking press with two high safeties—for a given definition of "high."

Michigan had a four man front with Bryan Mone on two snaps. Oddly these were both first and tens; Air Force gained 1 and –3 yards.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. The back eight was nearly immutable. J'Marick Woods got one snap when Metellus was dinged up and Michigan rotated Watson, Hill, and Long through their two CB spots. The LBs, Kinnel, and Hudson did not depart for any reason aside the two Mone snaps on which Hudson left.

The line was mostly Winovich, Hurst, and Gary. Kemp got maybe a half-dozen snaps; Solomon spotted Hurst for a similar amount of time. I think there was one Reuben Jones snap, maybe a few. Mone got the aforementioned two snaps.

[After THE JUMP: the bone!]

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O17 1 10 Flexbone twins 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Run N/A Pitch sweep Furbush 5
Twins in the bone means that the inside guy is covered up. M doesn’t put anyone over him, with Hudson in the box. This provides a great crack angle for the WR in the slot, which he uses. Hudson flies directly upfield at this and will do this the whole game so that’s probably as designed. I’ll judge him on whether he takes someone out before getting sealed. Here he creates only a slight bend for the lead blocker, -0.5. Furbush(+1) takes on a block and gets off it and flows to the sideline to tackle after five as Bush gets cut off by the guy who didn’t bend enough. Metellus comes up for a thwack at the end that saves a yard or two. RPS -1.
O22 2 5 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Penalty N/A Offsides Hurst 5
Hurst(-1) jumps on B-back motion that isn’t actually the snap.
O27 1 10 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Dive Hurst 3
Hurst(+1) loses a little ground to a double but comes through it when the C leaves to hit Bush. He tackles a couple yards downfield with help from most of the front.
O30 2 7 Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Run N/A Power option Winovich 3
As per usual I’m adopting NCAA Football lingo as a lingua franca. This power option is not actually one with a puller; by that I mean that the A-back leads out as a blocker. Winovich(+1) hammers a tackle back; he’ll do this a lot to better effect. Here Worthman can barely get around it without changing his flight path and there’s a bit of a hole as M seems to overplay the pitch, sending two guys to it. Long redirects and helps tackle to avoid a minus, but he missed a shot at a plus.
O33 3 4 Shotgun 2-back twins 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press one high Run N/A Lead veer? Long -2
Dive option with QB outside being led out by a back. Long(+1) points something out presnap and slides over to a weird spot for a CB, just outside of Gary, and this goofs with the blocking assignments. A TE shoves Gary a bit and then pops out to look for inside pursuit; he’s standing with Long just behind him… and Long just flows out to tackle. Even if Michigan didn’t RPS this it seems likely this gets defeated since Hurst(+1) and Bush(+1) blow through the back of the line and pursue hard; any cut upfield by Worthman that a blocked Long forces ends up a yard or two short of the first down, I think. RPS +3.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 8 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
M44 1 10 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option Metellus 2
This is more on the QB than anything. Worthman makes a decision early and doesn’t force Metellus(+1) to respect the pitch, so he just collapses on the QB for a tackle. M spending Gary for the dive and relying on LB flow to clean this up if Metellus doesn’t, and it looks like they’ll get there on this one. Bush(+0.5) jumped an attempted cut and got there along with a free-flowing McCray; Furbush(+1) hammered a blocker back to clear their path.
M42 2 8 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option Bush 5
Same thing. Worthman does a better job to stall Metellus with a pitch fake he has to respect. He does, cut up. Blocking a bit better this time but Bush(+1) hits the C, who got to him on his feet, and immediately gives ground to get around and gets there. Hurst(-1) needs to to a better job of stalling that C out and allowing a free flow.
M37 3 3 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Dive McCray 2
Hurst(+1) fires into the C and gets into him such dive back must cut back into McCray(+1) who fired hard at the snap and meets him at the LOS. Hurst chips in on the tackle as well.
M35 4 1 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option Metellus 1
Hurst(+1) shoots into the backfield and almost trips the QB before the play even gets outside the tackles. Worthman keeps his feet but does get disrupted some and this almost pays off. Metellus(+1) does not buy a cursory pitch fake and dives in to tackle just behind the LOS; Gary comes in from behind to tackle and may push the QB over the line to gain. McCray(-1) got cut pretty comprehensively and was not able to hit at all, and he was the guy most likely to stop forward momentum given the angles. Even so this barely barely gets there. Harbaugh spends his challenge on the spot here, which you may as well. Big leverage play and cost is just a first half TO.
M34 1 10 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option N/A 7
AF flips one of their WRs to the boundary and they’re going to do some work with this as M does not respond for a bit. Furbush is now getting doubled by free releasing guys and has no real shot to keep his buddies clean. LBs are now being caught in huge wash. Metellus gets blocked here, no real option, and it still doesn’t matter. Worthman shoots through a big gap and is getting a first down here if he doesn’t trip on the turf, which he does. Bush(-1) does need to understand what's happening and give ground to get around, but even that is only mitigating the issue. RPS -2. Nothing M can do about this given the way they align.
M27 2 3 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option N/A 5
Nearly the same deal but they’re swinging for a TD here and Metellus(+0.5) does not get blocked; when the QB sees the same lane he’s able to collapse down and tackle. Bush(+0.5) ends up cut here but I love his instant diagnosis of the situation. Compare him on the previous play and on this one: it took him one event to download the information and now he’s in damage control mode, getting around the Furbush double in a flash. RPS -1. Shoulda blocked Metellus probably.
M22 1 10 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A End around Hill 15 – 15 pen
I love this play design, with the B-back who gets the pitch starting to the field and then looping back playside. Michigan bites hard. LB level is gone; backside T gets the two-for-one offset draw block on Winovich. Metellus is the only person in the world near this and he’s got a blocker. Hill(+1) shows well at about 7 yards and forces McVey to redirect. Metellus takes a shot but can’t get him down, but that does allow Winovich to get there in pursuit. RPS -2. AF gets a PF afterwards, sending them back to the same yard line for a do-over.
M22 1 10 Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press one high Run N/A Triple option Hill 9 + 6 pen
M falls out of the pup scheme vs three wide and as a result CBs get more pressure here. Hill(-1) is in man against a WR who cracks down on Kinnel and has to replace; he is slow to realize this and the pitch gets the edge. Bush(-2) gets a silly facemask call after a solid gain. RPS -1; Michigan’s man approach here made this tough for Hill.
M6 1 G Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press zero Run N/A Triple option Hill 0
Different scheme on for M with McCray diving on the A-back and Winovich(+0.5) forming up on the QB after annoying a tackle trying to get out. This time Hill(+2) fires into the WR on the snap, preventing him from a release, and then when the back bounces to him he fires out on him and gets a zero yard tackle with no help. RPS +1, M forced a pitch into the boundary with good help there.
M6 2 G Flexbone 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Pitch sweep McCray -1
This sweep does not feature a crack for reasons obscure. McCray(+2) is free to flow out and he does so, hard. He rams into a RB leading out and draws attention from an OL; despite the nominal double the back has to bend around him. Watson(+0.5) and Hudson(+0.5) are both there to finish it. RPS +2, McCray jumping on the motion here is a big help.
M7 3 G Flexbone TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Pass 3 PA sack Watson -13
A one man route on which AF is hoping that Watson(+2, cover +2) sees his WR crack down and goes to replace and is doomed. Third and goal from the seven is a hard time to sell that; Watson doesn’t bite and presses the WRs route into oblivion. QB starts running around rather hopelessly since he’s got nobody else; Metellus(+1) covers a late backside route from a tight end and Bush(+1) clearly closes the distance well before Worthman thinks he will and gets a sack. RPS +2 that's more of a –2 for Air Force.
Drive Notes: FG(37), 3-3, EO1Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option N/A 6
Same dang thing to the field. McCray(+1) jumps a cut block and gets there; everyone else is understandably throttled. Furbush is again swarmed by two guys and can’t hold up. Bush(-1) does get cut this time. Metellus collapses; he and McCray meet at the QB, but after six yards. RPS -1.
O31 2 4 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option N/A 34
Same thing. This time nobody makes the plus play and Michigan gets gashed. AF tweaks here, possibly by instinct; Metellus (-1) tries to come down after the pitch is not an option and gets picked off by a blocker. He caught the blocker. If you're going to get blocked you should at least hit the guy. Hill(-2) overplayed the pitch and can’t fill to hold this down. RPS -2. Bush got cut here but kept his feet and prevents the TD. Push, I guess?
M35 1 10 Flexbone tight 4-3-4 4-3 over Off two high Run N/A Dive Mone 1
Mone enters, as M finally decides they’ve got to switch it up. Mone comes in, four man line, and AF bizarrely dives it right at the 330 pound guy. Mone(+2) holds up to a double and Winovich(+0.5) is the first to get there to help as the rest of the D rallies. RPS +1.
M34 2 9 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option Winovich 0
Back to the pup thing but AF doesn’t return to the overload. Without the ability to double playside end and backer AF must pick one. They pick Winovich(+3) to single and lose. Winovich shoots into the playside G, works playside of him, and causes a backfield jitter. Worthman decides to go back outside and Winovich swallows him in the backfield. Bush(+1) dodged a block and was there to clean up; McCray(-1) got pancaked by his. Kinnel also on the edge against the pitch guy.
M34 3 9 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Off two high Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
oops
M39 3 14 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option Bush 6
I mean I guess this is fine since it’s third and fourteen but same stuff here, with Bush(+1) managing to page through a ton of trash and get there to hold this down. M was going to get this before the sticks; Bush saved Michigan 3-4-5 yards and made this a more difficult FG. For naught.
Drive Notes: FG(50), 6-6, 8 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O16 1 10 Flexbone 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Counter speed option McCray -1
Fake pitch, counter into option to the boundary. M reads this way better than they should, with McCray(+3) not biting, staying home, dodging a cut block, and tackling for loss. Hill(+0.5) in excellent position on the pitch if necessary and Bush(+1) also read correctly and will clean up for a modest gain even if McCray doesn’t make a monster play here.
O15 2 11 Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Pass 3 Scramble Winovich 3
Jet motion from the remaining B-back and that kind of tips pass. PA is pretty token and Winovich(+2) is around the corner in a flash to flush Worthman. Hurst(-1) overpursues, not reading pass, and there’s a dangerous looking lane until Gary(+1) shuts it down for a modest gain. Pressure +2. Coverage impeccable(+3).
O18 3 8 Shotgun 2-back twins 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press one high Run N/A QB power Gary 1
Backs go out as if it’s power option; OL pulls and leads the QB up the middle. Furbush(+1) is creeping down and doesn’t bite outside as there’s not really a fake here; he collapses down. Gary(+2) has slanted away from this play and loops around the LT in a flash, getting into the backfield. He has the ability to redirect, tackling with Furbush. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-6, 3 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Run N/A Dive Hurst 1
Hurst(+2) drives the C down the line and gets to the flight path of the dive immediately; Winovich(+1) forms up on QB and dives down himself to tackle.
O26 2 9 Flexbone TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Pass 5 Seam Hudson Inc
PA finds an excellent pocket(pressure -2) thought it’s not like I blame ‘em. Hudson(+2, cover +2) in the chest of the wide receiver and does a good job to get his head around and get a PBU.
O26 3 9 Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Pass 5 Throwaway Bush Inc
Passing down and M does much better on the rush here. Bush(+2) doesn’t tip his blitz and is so fast through the gap that he splits two different guys who freak out and try to block him. Meanwhile Winovich(+2) splits two blockers and charges from the other side. Worthman tries to escape; Furbush(-0.5, tackling -1) is unblocked on the edge after his guy chased Bush and almost sacks… but does not. Winovich cleans up; the missed tackle lets Worthman dump it. (Pressure +3, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 9-6, 14 min 3rd Q. DPJ takes this back for a TD.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Dive Gary 6
Gary(-1) in tough here against a double but does get pretty caved in. Hurst(-1) ripped to the backfield but behind the C and ends up only able to chase and hit from behind. Pile lurches a good distance.
O31 2 4 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option McCray 1
M shading the back end towards the run strength now, FWIW. AF runs the same option play but away from the run strength. They don’t have the bodies to block everyone since M hasn’t shifted much. Winovich takes a double, handles it okay; B-back runs by McCray and hits Bush; Kinnel takes the lead block, and McCray(+1) is there, free. Pitch would be Watson in space against the pitchman and might be more attractive here; instead Worthman cuts up. Hurst(+1) had fought through the trash and also got there as the QB tries to get away from McCray. RPS +1.
O32 3 3 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option Bush 4
Hurst(+10 bursts through the line behind the C and gets straight up tackled from behind, no call, refs -3. Same stuff on the frontside with Furbush(+1) holding up to the double to give his guys the ability to flow. Two lead blockers split, one hitting Bush and Metellus; Hudson(-1) needs to be more aggressive here. He’s got Hill behind him and has the luxury to go hammer this at the LOS. He’s unblocked. Instead he flows down the LOS and tackles just past the sticks. Not exactly terrible but on third down shoot your shot.
O36 1 10 Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Pass 5 Seam Metellus 64
Jet threat gets Kinnel(-2, cover -2) to bite outside here; the b-back runs upfield inside of him, with Kinnel unable to make contact afterwards. That should be good for a first down; it turns into a big play because Metellus(-3, cover -3) vacated centerfield once the jet guy reversed field. RPS -1; this got M and was clever but should only have been a first down.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-13, 12 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Flexbone 3-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Pass 5 Sack Winovich -6
Straight up throw with no PA is pretty fricking weird but here we are. It looks like Hudson’s gotten beat on a slant while everyone else is covered(+1), but Worthman doesn’t have time to hit it with Winovich(+3, pressure +3) powering through the A-back and sacking, with minor assists from Bush, in a spy zone, and Gary.
O28 2 16 Flexbone 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Triple option Kinnel -9
This is why AF hasn’t been running regular triple option against this alignment. M clobbers all aspects of this. Hurst(+1) rips through the line and almost TFLs; Worthman bends around that. McCray(+1) dives inside a blocker and is upfield after a shove; another bend. This gives M time to rally; Kinnel(+1) dissuades the pitch and then collapses down for a TFL; Gary(+1) got all the way from the backside of this play to Worthman and nails him. Worthman makes a very bad decision to pitch and the ball hits the turf. RB grabs it and exits the field. RPS +1.
O19 3 25 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 Nickel over Press two high Run N/A QB draw Bush 2
Devin Bush(+2) is a dude. He’s sent on one of his rabid squirrel blitzes and should probably get run by. He gets the RB as blocker, but he’s able to stop and redirect to tackle at the LOS. JFC.
Drive Notes: Punt, 16-13, 8 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Pass 3 Throwaway Winovich Inc (Pen -10)
Winovich(+2, pressure +2) beats the RT, hammering him off balance and ripping him away. Guy hangs on for a tackle, drawing a flag. Worthman throws it at a very covered guy (cover +2) as he doesn’t think he has anything.
O10 1 19 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A End around Kinnel 1
Kinnel(+1) draws the only blocker to this side of the field; he beats the guy to the inside and flies up on the ballcarrier. He can’t tackle but does hit the legs, slowing McVey significantly and allowing Hill(+1, tackling +1) to rally and tackle in space.
O11 2 18 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Pass 3 Post Watson Inc
Decent protection as everyone can get doubled. Winovich(+0.5) does come through his and forces a throw. WR running a post is bracketed , with Watson(+1, cover +2) over the top. Miss.
O11 3 18 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option McCray 6
Same stuff as earlier but on third and 18 whatever. McCray(+1) does a good job of paging through the trash and getting to Worthman; with six more guys in the area this was going to get shut down anyway. Furbush(+1) held up well to a double to allow the flight path. Yards are inevitable and would RPS if this wasn’t a give up and punt.
Drive Notes: Punt, 19-13, 1 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O15 1 10 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack strong Pup Run N/A Power option Bush 5
M slides its line to the run strength. AF runs same power option look to the weakside. This has an almost identical effect. Gary(-1) and Furbush(-1) both get doubled and this time they’re blown out. Bush(+1) scoots around the mess and makes a tackle three yards downfield because he is a boss.
O20 2 5 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack strong Pup Run N/A Pitch sweep Winovich 4 + 10 Pen
Winovich(-2) bursts into the RG, knocking him back, and then falls down. He brings the OL down with him. He gets flagged. Fair enough but call it both ways please. He’d probably opened up a lane for Bush to flow through anyway; Bush duly flows and tackles. His reaction speed here isn’t astounding so he only gets to McVey downfield and ends up giving up four. That’s a push.
O34 1 10 Flexbone tight 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option McCray 3
This is some crazy good LB play here by both Bush(+1) and McCray(+3), who both swim through two different guys to get to this play. McCray takes a block from a TE, gets outside of him, is getting held, powers through an RB, and blasts McVey OOB after a short gain. Bush meanwhile had scraped between two downfield blocks to get there for the QB if he kept it. Kinnel(-1) didn't dissuade the pitch sufficiently and this was going to get 5-7 without the McCray play.
O37 2 7 Flexbone tight WR 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Pass 4 PA hitch Hudson Inc
McVey motions out from b-back to a WR. M does a lot of pointing in response. End around fake to McVey back into a pass. Pocket momentarily clean until Winovich(+1, pressure +1) comes around his blocker and pounds Worthman right after the throw. Out clean, but this WR is super blanketed. Worthman is lucky his throw is off, as Hudson(+2, cover +2) was undercutting this and probably intercepts an accurate throw. Kinnel(-1, cover -1) did get beat on the other route by a step or two; he seems to recover by the time the ball is out. Not great, not terrible-terrible.
O37 3 7 Shotgun 2-back twins 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Run N/A Speed option Furbush 7
H-back type guy motions to the strong side for an extra blocker and M does not really respond. Furbush(-2) charges right upfield and forces a pitch, and this is bad news. TE reads him and moves on. OL does hit him but M just traded a guy with a bad angle for one with a good angle. That guy hammers Bush. Post pitch there are 3 guys leading out against two and support. Hudson(-1) gets cut and is gone. Long(+1) does a good job in a bad situation to be a force player despite taking on a couple different blocks. McCray(+0.5) doesn’t have a blocker and runs at the right angle to be there; he forces the back into Long and seemingly puts him down short of the sticks. McVey is given the line to make. Real close.
O44 1 10 Flexbone tight 4-3-4 4-3 even Off two high Run N/A Power option Winovich -3
D change discombobulates AF, it seems. They run a bonafide pulling G on this. Winovich is spread over the boundary TE, and the G pulls to him; Winovich(+2) blows him up, throwing him back into Worthman. Worthman off balance, stops, reverses field, is doomed. McCray(+1) beat a block to get there fast and saves a few yards. RPS +2. Winovich had an advantage here.
O41 2 13 Flexbone twins 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press one high Run N/A Pitch sweep Hudson 27
Michigan is very badly aligned and pays for it. Hudson is two yards inside the slot WR and shoots upfield and gets wiped. He does not take anyone with him. Furbush takes an upfield line and dodges a cut block, but that cut slows him and removes him, and then that guy falls into the feet of Bush, who leaps over it but is also slowed. CB is acting as force; Metellus is the last man… and AF has a blocker for him. He manages to slow the back and Bush grabs him and spins him around and this gives M enough time to rally and tackle on a near TD. Okay… so. Hudson(-2), Furbush(-1), Bush(+1), RPS -3.
M32 1 10 Flexbone twins 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Run N/A Pitch sweep Woods 9
Woods in briefly as Metellus is out and this comes right to him. Same thing. Hudson(-2) way inside and no chance. Bush flows out without delay this time and the lead blocker peels back to hit him; Long(+1) puts the WR on him on the ground and comes back to get a diving tackle attempt in that puts the back off balance; Woods(+1) comes in to pound him down. RPS -2.
M23 2 1 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Dive Hurst 0
Hurst(+2) blows the C back into the A back. That guy loses his balance, rather understandably, and goes down just short of the first down.
M23 3 1 Ace trip TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Down G Bush 2
Downblock double on Kemp(-1) that he inevitably loses. Furbush comes up and gets doubled himself. Puller kicks Furbush; Bush(+1) is free but has to get around trash and gets there as fast as possible. Not fast enough.
M21 1 10 Ace trip TE 3-3-5 4-3 over Press two high Run N/A Down G Kemp 6
Kemp(-2) gets thumped, losing quickly enough that a guy gets out on Bush in a hurry. Hudson(-1) gets lit up by another blocker and this is pretty dangerous; McCray(+1) tackles by leaping over a cut block and flowing down to clean up.
M15 2 4 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Run N/A Power option Furbush 6
Wall of meat. Furbush(-1) can’t hold his ground as he times up his blitz poorly but this is again just M not having enough guys to the run strength. RPS -1.
M9 1 G Flexbone tight 3-3-5 4-3 over Off one high Run N/A Power option Gary 3
This is defendable; M does pack the box here. Gary(-1) gets hit by a TE and then blown back by a second guy picking him up. Bush(+1) climbs over an OL supposed to get him and takes on a lead block. He gets wiped by that block but the ability to get there allows Hudson(+1) to flow free and hit a few yards downfield.
M6 2 G Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 4-3 under Off one high Run N/A Pitch sweep Hill -6
Hill(+2) lined up just outside of Winovich playside and shoots outside as soon as the pitch happens. He’s picked up by the second lead blocker but is hitting it too fast for him to pick it up, and this is edge or nothing; McVey cannot cut up without stopping entirely and dooming himself. Hill shoots through and harasses; Hudson(+2) started flying up on the motion and joins to TFL. RPS +2.
M12 3 G Flexbone 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup Pass 3 Throwaway Hurst Inc
Hurst(+3, pressure +3) explodes through the line incredibly fast and is likely to sack until another clear hold on him(refs -3) goes uncalled. This play isn’t going anywhere anyway what with it being a waggle rollout to the boundary and both WR s blanketed (cover +2). Hurst continues the pursuit and Worthman just punts it OOB.
Drive Notes: Missed FG(29), 22-13, 7 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Flexbone twin TE 3-3-5 3-3 stack Pup over Pass 4 Sack Winovich -8
Three guys in the route and they’re all covered(+3). Worthman tries to bug out. He must because Gary(+2) beat a block and can’t because Winovich(+2) did so on the other side. Those two meet for a crunching sack. Pressure +3.
O32 2 18 Flexbone twins 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Run N/A Pitch sweep Bush 3
Same pitch sweep but M slides the LBs to the run strength and this is enough. Hudson(+1) flies upfield with more purpose this time, picking off the B back to his side and getting a two for one. Thus stripped of a lead blocker McVey is just trying to outrun Bush(+1), which he does not. RPS +1.
O35 3 15 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 30 nickel slide Press two high Pass 5 Throwaway Furbush Inc
Huge protection bust by AF leaves not only Furbush but Bush totally unblocked. Worthman fires it anywhere. (Pressure +3, Furbush +0.5, Bush +0.5, RPS +2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 22-13, 5 min 4th Q. Final AF drive is down 16 with a minute left. But it’s short so ok.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press one high Pass 4 Y Cross McCray Inc (Pen +15)
Protection good(pressure -2) despite a 4.5 man rush; Romine thinks he’s found a gent for a first down but McCray(+2, cover +2) is in a robber zone and reads him; he leaps to PBU. Hudson(+1, cover +1) visibly upset as he’d undercut this and could INT. Jones(-2) gets an illegal hands to the face call.
O40 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press one high Pass 5 Scramble Solomon 12
Solomon(+2) engages and then dismisses the G, getting pressure that flushes the QB. Kemp(-2) is out of his lane, in the same space as a blitzing Bush, and the QB can jet directly upfield for a first down. This would be more modest gain in a different situation.
M48 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press one high Pass 5 Seam Hudson Inc
Another big huge bust by the line sends both Bush and Furbush in without blockers(pressure +3, RPS +2). Romine fires at the feet of his WR; Hudson(+1, cover +1) in prime PBU territory if more accurate.
M48 2 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 3-3 stack Press two high Pass 5 Improv Hudson INT
Paye(+1, pressure +1) shoots inside a tackle and flushes. This gives up the edge but Paye keeps going and sufficiently pressures for me to think this is not just okay but good. QB throws up a prayer that Hudson(+1, cover +1) comes down with as the capper to an outstanding day in coverage.
Drive Notes: INT, 29-13, EOG.

So that was a thing.

Yeah. I haven't done a triple option game in five years and this was interesting. It messes with my head, though. Usually I'll offer some positives for anything short of five yards on the ground. Against Air Force you begin to question your assumptions about what's good and bad.

Also your assumptions about rock-paper-scissors. I had Michigan +1, and I have no idea how I feel about that.

On the one hand, Michigan spent a large chunk of this game vulnerable to a power option play Air Force kept running successfully, and when I think Michigan can't hold down a gain without a superhero effort that's when the minuses start coming out. Here's the first instance of Air Force's overloaded formation where they line up both WRs as inline tight ends to the boundary. I can't see how Michigan is supposed to hold this down unless Furbush is able to do something amazing against a straight up play-long double team, and out come the RPS minuses:

The BTN director—who did a much better job than the guy assigned to Cincinnati last week—provided a helpful closeup of this action. Here's the wall of meat Furbush and Gary are trying to get through:

Even if by some miracle Gary does rip through that double to the playside he just runs into Furbush or the two guys hammering him the whole play. Air Force just kept doing this... until they didn't. This drive ended in a field goal; the first two plays of the next drive were the exact same play. The second was Air Force's biggest run on the day.

Option teams will discover your scheme and tweak to blow it up, and here you go: Metellus gets blocked and nobody can crash down on the QB except Hill, who overplays the pitch.

This looks real bad and then it stops. Why? I don't know. Michigan had not adjusted yet.

After the big run Mone came in for a snap that was a dive he crushed; Michigan went back to the stack but Air Force didn't overload on the next snap. A great Winovich play and a false start later it was third and 14. The Winovich play is the direct result of Air Force not having the extra guy to the playside and having to pick one guy to double. They picked Winovich. They chose poorly:

#15 DE to bottom of screen

The next two drives get stuffed with no overload; they return to it right after the DPJ punt return, picking up a first down, but Michigan has responded by shading their back end to the run strength. A second-and-four power option to the weakside gains just one; the third down conversion sees Hudson free but insufficiently aggressive. The party is over.

The net result for Air Force was a couple of field goals and a lot of RPS minuses. Their pitch sweeps also generated a lot of RPS minuses since it was one block on Hudson and then desperate pursuit; on the last, successfully defended one Michigan slid their linebackers to the field and that was enough to get a three yard gain. 27 and 9 yard gains prior were easy.

I think Don Brown did an outstanding job getting Michigan ready for this game but RPS doesn't show that, because I try to be as systematic as possible with this. This is an achievement:

It is an achievement RPS does not grade.

Let's agree to grade on a curve, then?

I mean, right? Yes. It's always going to be tough to keep your head above water when Air Force lives and breathes triple option while Michigan is only making a cameo defending it. Michigan just did (and they were aided by some big pass pro busts on M blitzes to do so); that doesn't feel like a C. It feels like an A.

Michigan did get a number of easy stops. Here Michigan does some pre-snap pointing and relocates Long to an area of the field where no Falcon thinks they need to block him. End result is a TFL and a stop on third and four:

#22, "LB" right on the arrow

Air Force was equally discombobulated by the two Mone snaps. Winovich gets to blow up the puller here but this poor guy is put behind the eight ball by his own player, who runs in front of him and robs him of momentum. The resulting contact is always going to be won by Winovich:

There were only two of these snaps in the game but Michigan won both. Also, Air Force just had their worst offensive output since 2012. The defense, it is good. Look at this-

very respectful of our military but uncomfortably hoping this is obliteration CHART

Yes, that, I guess.


Defensive Line

Player + - T Notes
Gary 6 3 3 Doubled most of the day. Run away from when not.
Hurst 14 3 11 Could not be handled.
Mone 2   2 Not bad for two snaps.
Winovich 21.5 2 19.5 Helloooooo viking.
Kemp   -5  Blown up twice and vacated lane on last drive.
Solomon 2   2 Slick pass rush move late.
Marshall       DNC
Paye 1   Pass rush on last play.
Jones   2 -2 Illegal hands to face call.
TOTAL 44.5 15 29.5 Why M could play six-ish in the box against triple option.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Furbush 5 5.5 -0.5 Like Gary mostly ate doubles.
Bush 16 4 12 Outstanding ability to get through traffic, and speed.
McCray 17.5 2 15.5 Several monster plays and very little to complain about.
Robo       DNP
TOTAL 38.5 11.5 27 Outstanding days from Bush and McCray.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Hudson 11.5 7.5 4 Impeccable coverage, edge issues.
Metellus 3.5 4 -0.5 Good except for the big bad.
Kinnel 2 4 -2 Not tested much on ground, helped contribute to big bad.
Hill 6 3 3 Big relief that he's good in run support.
Long 3   3 Ditto.
Watson 3.5   3.5 This is actually all coverage.
Glasgow       DNP
TOTAL 29.5 18.5 11 One bust in game.
Metrics
Pressure 21 4 +17 Inevitable.
Coverage 24 6 +18 Also inevitable.
Tackling 1 1 0 Leaked almost no yards.
RPS 18 17 +1 Even is a huge win against AF.

Two guys were mostly obscured by great piles of flesh they were trying to paw their way through: Furbush and Gary, who almost always got play-long doubles they didn't do great against but didn't do horribly against. Or they were run away from. The rest of the front six killed it.

The back end should get a lot of credit for the coverage number, which is one –5 play you probably remember, one guy who might have popped open but wasn't targeted, and absolutely nothing otherwise. While the DB scores above are hovering around zero for the safeties that coverage number pulls each of them up into good to very good.

That's quite a bounce-back from McCray.

McCray was at home in this game. He was an interior punisher on the rare occasions Air Force tried the interior. Here he makes a dead-stop tackle on third and three:

#9 LB to bottom of screen

Later on that drive (the 12 play, 24 yard FG drive that was about half the second quarter) he gambled and won on a toss sweep, starting his drive outside on the B-back's motion. By the time he reaches the lead blockers he's got so much momentum that two guys take him on and they still get blocked back; back has to bend and has no blockers and gets TFLed:

And this is just a monster play. Stays home, beats a cut block, solo TFL.

#9 LB to bottom of screen

Few coverage responsibilities and few edge responsibilities makes for a good McCray day, inherently, but don't sell his performance here short based on that. He had one good zone drop and PBU in desperation time; he was able to get to the edge a few times and make plays. The pitch where he pounded McVey out of bounds was an impressive pursuit through two blockers:

#9 OLB to top of screen



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Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Air Force

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