Michigan Football: Nebraska at Michigan — What Happened and What It Means — Part I
Stuck in the Middle
Analysis of the Michigan football program is quite simply at this point, but lengthy. That is not a good thing. Saturday, Michigan was at home playing a beat up Nebraska team and could only put 13 points on the board.This article opens with one clear given: no real improvement has been noted in any of the team’s weaknesses that last few weeks. Before delving into the sordid truth, please note one qualifier: Michigan has a fine collection of student athletes, almost all of which have represented themselves and the university very well. That is important and should never be underestimated. Coach Hoke was correct when he took a typical “expert sports reporter” to task for attacking the character of players last week. Losing may cause bad feelings, lack of playing time may cause pouting, but this is not a group of thugs, the Michigan players need not apologize for character issues, such implications are unfounded. Eventually what counts the most is achievement and citizenship beyond the playing field. Football is a temporary game.
Shifting gears back to the game, it is safe to say that the multiple offensive problems are linked but still separate. As with most such analyses of offensive play, discussion starts with the quarterback position. Even after three years, Michigan’s quarterbacks do not match the profile of pro-style quarterback. One never would, but one frankly should. This begs two questions: the first is what is wrong, and the second is why do the problems continue now with a red-shirt junior?The pass rush against Devin Gardner cannot be discounted as a base cause, but the same problems with quarterback play continue. The view here is that Gardner is an instinctive quarterback that makes moves linked to self-defense and still exhibit what the author terms the Superman syndrome. As such, only occasionally stepping up into the pocket, running around instinctively, and not being able to break well-designed edge contain and middle spy strategies have led to chaos. His head is down, the ball is held way too long, and the instinctive play has led to hesitation. Nothing has changed, which begs the second question: what is being done to correct the constant bad quarterback play? That question could only be answered by those immediately charged with improving the offense. Early in the game, Michigan’s receivers were running deeper patterns with their backs to the ball and had no idea what was going on behind the line of scrimmage. Later on, it appeared that short patterns, hitting the edge, and throwing to a back finally emerged, and there was some success with the be quick strategy described in my article a week ago. Then the entire offense broke down and a well-thrown ball on a quick inside combo route went right through the hands of Drew Dileo. Mistakes are like a disease in sports, one guy leads to two, two leads to three, and before you know it, plenty of mistakes break down an offense. Yesterday, there were no turnovers but overthrows, another bad snap, and terrible results on first and second down put Michigan in predictable third down and long situations that had equally as predictive strategies from the Nebraska defense: line twists, and the middle linebacker and safety coming up the middle in the choo-choo defense. The objective was to corral and disrupt Gardner. There were times that happened Saturday, but sometimes Gardner had five or more seconds to throw and still did not throw the ball. Spielman correctly pointed out that Michigan was forced to hold receivers, namely the tight end to achieve more max blocking. The ideal WCM offense uses backs, the flat, and quick routes to counter pressure. That appeared to happen on only one well-engineered drive.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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