Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Maize n Brew Review: Michigan 27 (1-0) over Vanderbilt 7 (0-1)

One game down. Eleven to go.

Michigan beat Vanderbilt on Saturday 27 to 7. It was not the prettiest game. It was not a game that made you marvel at Michigan's offense. But it was a win. Michigan looked strong in the beginning. Michigan closed strong. Unfortunately, Michigan looked like crap in the middle.

The new job has kept me busy, so today I offer you my random thoughts on the game and my grades for the Offense. Defense tonight or tomorrow. Plus, look for a Q&A with CMU's own CMU weblog. (HT: Eagle in Atlanta)

So without further adieu:

The Maize n Brew Review

Random Thoughts on The Game:
  • Praise Jeebus. The Defense has returned.
  • The pass defense was lights out. A quarter of Vandy's passing yards came on their trick play TD pass. The D held Nickson to 99 passing yards and a 4 yard average. Awesome.
  • The run defense was incredible. I can't remember the last time I saw the middle of our line get consistent middle of the line pressure on the quarterback. They kept their zones clean and allowed the LB's to make plays. Great game up front.
  • Minus his lingering case of the dropsies, Kevin Grady looked really good.
  • Mike Hart was Mike Hart again. He did what he does best, turn 2 yard plays into 8 yard plays. My god it's good to have him back.
  • Crable can play. What the hell was wrong with him last year. And the year before. And the year before.
  • Blitzes are fun. Let's have more of them.
  • Why could no one besides Tyler Ecker get open/catch the ball when the game was still on the line?
  • Woodley is now on the short list for all-American DEs. Spectacular game. I had him with three sacks rather than 2, but they called one a run.
  • Biggs put the rest of the NCAA on notice. He will bring the vengeance.
  • Naked Bootleg! Somewhere John Navarre is sad.
  • Red Shirts foregone for no apparent reason - Carlos Brown. We wasted his eligibility for a QB draw? Somewhere Antonio Bass is crying and laughing simultaneously.
  • Did anyone else notice that Vandy's head coach looks like Steve Martin?
  • Red Shirts foregone due to overflowing talent - Brandon Minor. Holy crap, he's the real deal.
  • Paging Steve Breaston. Mr. Breaston your hands were left on the team bus. Please pick them up IMMEDIATELY.
  • Note to training staff. Receiver and Tight end gloves should NOT be dipped in grease before games.
  • Mike DeBord needs to be slapped each time he calls a wide receiver screen from here on out.
  • The Offensive Line looked horrible in pass protection. Both tackles spent their time escorting Vanderbilt's DEs and LBs into the backfield. The guards weren't bad minus a penalty or two.
  • Manningham, minus his TD catch, was not good. He bought into his own hype. Three catches for 44 yards with 27 of them coming on his 4th quarter TD.
  • Mrs. Brew remarks most of the way through the second quarter "Henne looks fine, it's those bone head drops that are the problem." I am inclined to mostly agree.
  • Henne looked okay. Not great. Not bad. He underthrew and overthrew early. But the drops and the play calling doomed any chance he had of getting in a rhythm. Good scrambles. One "should've been picked, what the hell was he doing!?" throw. Two excellent, perfect-throw-for-the-moment TD passes.
  • Burgess looked gooooood.
  • Note to Jim Herrmann from Ron English: Aggressiveness is good, you jackass.
  • Did anyone else feel uneasy every time Breaston went back on a punt return or was that just me?
Grading the Offensive Units

Coaches (Split Grade):
Defensive Coaching: B+

Are you kidding me? Blitzes? 6 sacks? Aggressive pursuit? Linebackers that actually seemed to know what they were doing?

It was night and day from Michigan's performances last year. Michigan got pressure off the front four. The D line managed to contain a highly mobile QB. When he got loose the line backers were in position to clean it up. The team was organized and played with the controlled aggression we've been hearing about.

Offensive Coaching: C

Just like last year, only worse. The passing game was abysmal. I saw more wide receiver screens in that game than I saw against Nebraska and OSU combined. Michigan went up top, by my count, THREE TIMES. One bad overthrow to Breaston. One should've been TD to Massey. One TD to Manningham. DeBord said he understood that this team had to be aggressive, had to put points on the board, had to do thing it hasn't in the past couple of years. Either he's hiding stuff from Notre Dame or he was lying. On the plus side the running game looked good and the blocks were there. The zone blocking we've heard so much about worked. Grady's cut back lane, Hart finding holes to run through, Minor being able to plow ahead. The coaches definitely saw a way to improve Michigan's biggest offensive liability last year and acted upon it. Unfortunately, in teaching the system they forgot the pass blocking section and the stretch the field section. Even though we did score twice in the air, the offensive felt one dimensional. Henne's passing numbers (135 yards) were deceptive too because at least half of them came on WR screens. This was not a good game plan.

Quarterbacks: B-

Chad Henne: B-

Henne didn't look good or bad. He looked okay.

The offensive gameplan, WR/TE's useless appendages attached to their arms, and a couple of really bad throws conspired to ruin what might otherwise have been a decent day for Michigan's QB.

As mentioned above, when the majority of your throws are WR screens something's wrong with the game plan. Henne never seemed to get in a passing rhythm. He launch some god-awful duck one play then lob a perfect pass into Breaston's arms the next, only to have it dropped. It was "A Tale of Two Hennes" for most of the game.

After the first scoring drive Henne's passes were high, low, all over the place. I wrote down three times "Who the hell is he throwing to?" He seemed to underthrow his targets more than anything else. He finally lost his composure for a play when late in the fourth quarter he gift wrapped an interception to one of Vandy's clueless CBs who did his best Breaston impersonation and dropped the ball.

Despite the underthrows, Henne had some great passes during the game. There were at least five drops on good throws. One should have been a TD (Massey) and the other should have set up first and Goal (Manningham). Looking back, Henne's two TD passes were perfect throws. The TD to Ecker was exactly where it had to be, right over the LB and where only Ecker could grab it. The Manningham TD was perfect, hell, he even showed some touch. A major improvement from last year was Henne's mobility. Instead of forcing bad throws he ran for first downs. Instead of sitting there clueless he escaped the pocket and showed some good wheels. Henne only lost his mind once during the game, thankfully it was dropped, also a major improvement over last year.

Not a great game. His performance did nothing to back up my prediction of a monster season. However, Henne's day would have been substantially better had he gotten some support from his receivers and if his offensive coordinator allowed him to throw past 15 yards. I think he'll show improvement against CMU.

RB: A-

The minus comes from the fumble by Grady. Other than that a great afternoon for Michigan's running game. Hart pumped out 146 yards. Grady got the season's first TD. Brandon Minor showed us why everyone's so high on him. The running game showed life after a year in an iron lung. Happiness all around.

Mike Hart: A

He's back. One yard losses became four yard gains. Pearl sized openings were enough for first downs. The only thing missing was a big, long run to show the world his speed is back. Hart never had break away speed, but he looked a little slower (speed wise) than I remembered. However, his quickness and elusiveness are both back. I got a little bit of a scare mid 2nd quarter when he got up and appeared to be limping, but he quickly eased my fears by rattling off a 18 yard jukey, stutter stop, run. 146 yards on 31 carries. Welcome back Mike.

Kevin Grady: B

5 carries 30 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble, 1 drop. His 19 yard, cut-back, TD scamper was the best run he's had at Michigan. Frankly, it was the best run of the day for all the running backs. Grady showed speed, vision, and toughness during his time on the field. Most importantly, on fourth and 1, Grady put both hands on the ball and blasted his way through the Vanderbilt D-Line for three yards and a first down. What keeps this from being an A is his fumble. Grady showed us last year that he's got problems holding onto the ball. Putting one on the ground in only five carries makes me a little nervous.

Brandon Minor: INC (but an A for effort)

Real deal. Has that burst. Gets me all tingly. 24 yards on his first ever D1 carry. Methinks special tings out of 'em.

Carlos Brown: INC

One carry on a fake QB play? We wasted a redshirt for that?

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-

Its tough to get on these guys to hard because I'm not sure how they played downfield while watching the game on TV. My spies in the stadium (Dad and brother) reported they weren't getting open. So based on the lack of production by the WR, and a number of drops by both the WR and TEs, a B- seems appropriate.

Steve Breaston: C-

Breaston hasn't shown any ability to catch anything other than a wide receiver screen during his time at Michigan. I counted at least two drops. The bulk of his yards came on a busted WR screen that he turned into 30 yards. Against a real defense like PSU or OSU, he loses ten yards on that play. 4 catches for 68 yards doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, especially when those yards were gained on WR screens and short inside slants.

Mario Manningham: B-

disappeared for long stretches of the game. Dropped a first an goal pass from Henne. Quiet until his over the shoulder 27 yard TD at the end of the game. Has to find ways to get open and make things happen down field.

Tyler Ecker: B

Great catch in the back of the end zone to go with a meh day where he left Jake Long out to dry in a pass defense situation. I'll pin most of the blame on Long, but Ecker's "pass block" on that play was part of the reason Henne got hammered.

Massey and Bulter: D

Massey drops a first and goal at the one. Butler dropped a couple of underthrown but catchable balls.

The rest of the receiving corps gets an INC.

Offensive Line: B

The line gets an A for the running game and a C for the passing game. Riley and Long were serviceable at best in passing situations. The center of the line was surprisingly solid. Kruas, Bihl and Mitchell looked very good. All the pressure seemed to come at Henne and the running game from the sides. Overall a good performance, but not a dominating one. Dominant means no one touches your QB. That didn't happen, and Henne spent too much time running from LBs and DEs. It's my hope that this is merely a result of players at new positions for the first time. For for significant improvement against CMU or begin the Joey-esque death march into South Bend.

The positives were:
- Zone Blocking = Sucess
- The OLine owned the line of scrimmage for most of the game, Hart and Grady had a combined negative 4 yards.
- Solid blocking in the middle. Hart consistently got yardage following his guards.
- The afore mentioned Kraus, Bihl, Mitchell were SOLID and should be sent gifts.

The Negatives were:
- The tackles, thought to be a position of strength, were really bad on passing downs.
- Two false start penalties in a row to close out the first half.
- Riley looked a lost from time to time at Tackle. Everyone is going to line up their fastest pass rusher against him from here out.
- Ecker, god bless him, can't block to save his ass.

Kicking Game: B+

Garrett Rivas: B

48 yarder? Are you kidding me? Awesome. 42 yarder booted into the back of your center's head, predictable. As usual, Rivas was good for two field goals and a crappy kick. He's just okay enough to make me scared come crunch time.

Zoltan Mesko: B+

3 punts. 41.7 yard average. 1 kick inside the 20. No touchbacks. A 45 yarder. Zoltan, your table is waiting.

Ryan Ross: B+

Good kick-offs and 1 touchback. One good punt. Solid game. The kicks that didn't find the endzone had height and hangtime allowing the defenders to get under them.

Return Game: C

Steve Breaston: C

Passable all day. When given room to run he flubbed the catch. Underwhelming. Inspired no confidence.


At 2:47 PM, Anonymous the walrus said...

I agree with the synopsis. I look at the results as such:

The Defense was: Raiders of the lost Ark

The Passing was: The Temple of Doom

The Running was: The Last Crusade

At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I hate to defend DeBord, I think we may have been planning to go downfield on a couple of the plays in which Henne was forced out of the pocket.


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