Sports

Upon Further Review 2023: Defense vs Washington

FORMATION NOTES: The UFR Glossary is here and you may want to brush up because DeBoer made me bring out rare formations like a true under-center Single-Wing, and weird notations like Z->Y means the WR and TE have switches spots. This is the Go Go setup (aka Single-Wing RB) that UNLV was running way back in September.

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I put covered players in parentheses, but Washington also managed to get away with some illegal formations where nobody was covered, in which case I just put a question mark in there, e.g. Go Go Right (?).

Hide H” was a trick where Rome Odunze hid out at tight end and got M to align in a mismatch. That’s him trying not to be noticed as the H-back on the top of the formation (where all the Michigan players are pointing).

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I’m using “Flex” for a TE split out wide for a 2×2 set. “Demi” means the TE isn’t tight but neither is he in the slot (see #37 on the left). Also we were treated to a skycam version of this game, so I can provide a few canonical examples of terms we’re often flinging around, and some new ones. Michigan in the above is in an G front, which means the nose is head up over the guard. Sometimes he was over the tackle, which I call Wide, where the DT is lined up over a tackle.

Letters or numbers (A, AA, 0) in the defensive front that means they’ve added LBs on the line of scrimmage in that alignment (A gap, both A gaps, head up on the center, etc). Another nuance I can capture with greater accuracy than usual is the difference between Kirby Smart’s “Mint” front and a true 404 where the DL are heads up on the tackles—I think a lot of the Tites I charted this year were actually Mint. Michigan got creative too. This is “Crable”:

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I’ll also try to note in the text when Michigan used sim pressures, since that’s going to be relevant.

[After THE JUMP: Winning a natty.]

Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O25 1st 10 Ace Demi 4-2-5 Nk Odd 2 fld Run   Buck Sweep Paige 6 0.33
[F-Cross] McGregor(+1) crosses his blocker who grabs his shoulderpad and spins him (Refs-2 egregious) so his back is to the play. That could have been a stuff or just soaked up the lead blocker. Paige(+0.5) sets a good edge to line up a shot for Sabb(+0.5, tackling-1) who dodges that lead blocker and makes the stop but goes for a 3-yard ride.
O31 2nd 4 Gun Wk RB Demi 4-2-5 Nk G 2 off Pass 4 H Out Wallace 11 1.18
[RB-Flare] Soft c2 and Penix takes the quick out and change under Wallace(-1, coverage-1).
O42 1st 10 Go Go Left(Y) 4-2-5 Nk G 1.5 fld Pass 4 America’s Rollout Out Sainristil 3 -0.43
WA quick to the LOS then shift to this covered look from the UNLV offense. M has a poach coverage that takes away the deep options (RPS+1, coverage+2) and Penix has to dump it off under Sainristil(+1) who tackles quickly.
O45 2nd 7 Gun Twins 4-2-5 Nk UnderG 2 off RPO   Split Flow Duo Graham 2 -0.65
Tempo(22). M is pinching at this so Jenkins(+0.5) crosses his blocker and gets an arm on the RB and then Graham(+1) fights back across after his doubler releases, also Barrett(+1) dodges afore mentioned releasing doubler and here’s why this team is so damn hard to run against.
O47 3rd 5 Gun Str RB 4-2-5 Nk Wide 2 press Pass 4 RB Flat Sabb 11 2.35
[H-Fly] WLB sim pressure, he drops. Triangle gets a c3 rotation (coverage+2, RPS+1) and protection isn’t lasting with Graham(+1, PR+1) crossing the RG so they dump to the RB for a 4th & 4…that Sabb(-2, tackling-2) whiffs by coming in too high. RB ducks him and gets to scamper for the 1st and change. Bah!
M42 1st 10 Gun Trips RB 4-2-5 Nk Mint 2 off Pass 4 RB Flare Sainristil Inc -0.91
[RB Exit] Late revealing MLB Amoeba as Colson(+1, PR+2, RPS+2) comes to the weakside edge late and blitzes vs empty. Penix has to chuck it at the back, but Colson’s in his throwing lane and Sainristil(+1, coverage+1) was breaking on it, so it ends up behind the back who luckily fails his catch attempt. Before next play UW lines up with six guys on the LOS and has to burn a TO (Hat-1).
M42 2nd 10 Gun Wk Hide H 4-2-5 Nk G 2 bdy PRO n/a Tunnel Screen Sabb 16 1.48
[H-Slide] They hide Odunze as the backside TE, M notices but can’t fix their personnel before the snap and is shorthanded back there as well (RPS-2). Barrett(+1) does a good job to get between the tunnel blockers and force it back to the sideline, but Johnson(-0.5) gets kicked way wide and doesn’t track back quick enough and Sabb(-1) is trying to funnel to him instead of the cavalry, which may be what he’s told to do so that’s harsh. Barrett’s guy lucky not to be flagged for tackling the defender after the play’s past them.
M26 1st 10 Gun Flex RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 1 off Pass 4 RB Angle Barrett Inc -0.47
M defenders give the arm cross sign. Penix really wants to look off Moore(+1, coverage+1) from a TE post but the coverage is good. Penix’s alarm goes off with Goode(+1, PR+1) putting the LG deep in the pocket and flings it behind the RB.
M26 2nd 10 Pistol Flex 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Run   Power Read Colson 9 0.51
[H-Jet]. Pre-snap they point at Goode’s alignment and change to this run away from him. Refs(-2) miss a chop that takes out Grant. Colson(+2) flies outside after Polk, knocks the RB lead over, and forces the ballcarrier to go outside of Sainristil(-1), who’s set up on the TE and getting held enough that I think he draws a call if he tries to go upfield. Instead he tries to spin off, and the TE gets a final yank on the shoulderpad to arrest Sainristil’s pursuit and give Polk the edge. What are we doing here?
M17 3rd 1 Offset Trips (X) 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 press RPO   Insert/Bubble Colson 7 0.17
Goode(+0.5) isn’t Graham to perform the workback after his doubler leaves but does affect the back after Barrett(+1) fills a gap widened by Grant(-1) getting washed out. Colson(-2) is checking a backside read that doesn’t exist so long that Moore(+1) is the guy the Iso blocker gets to first and JC lets Goode’s original doubler get to him well downfield. This is about to get to the safety but Stewart(+1) flowed in from the backside and kept it to 1st and G from the 10.
M10 1st Goal Offset Flex RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 1 bdy Run   Power Stewart 0 -0.29
[Y-In] This is dangerous-looking because Moore gets a crack from the WR and Wallace(-1) doesn’t replace. It doesn’t matter because Stewart(+2) isn’t buying a fake read, gets on the TE’s hip, ducks under the puller, fights through a facemask (Refs-2) and still gets enough of the RB’s arm to spin him, which is enough time for Colson(+2) to jet out there from the backside and Wallace to right himself. It’s no gain but
M10 2nd Goal Offset Wk 4-2-5 Nk Under 2 bdy Run   End Around Wallace 2 -0.15
[Z-Orbit] Harrell(+2) pinballs off a crack block into the RG, which stalls out both him and the C behind him. G starts kick then realizes oops this is going to the edge and grabs a shoulder, super lucky that Refs-1 miss yet another material hold on the edge, which is four this drive! Jaylen tries to sell it afterwards which maybe costs him a chance to pick off the RB lead blocking. Wallace(+2, tackling+1) sets up outside that guy, dodges him, and form tackles. Colson(+0.5) fought through Odunze to be relevant and help push out after a couple of yards.
M8 3rd Goal Gun Str RB 4-2-5 Crable 2 fld Pass 5 Crossers Sabb Inc -0.35
UW spends a TO then comes back and gets a man look by shifting the H across, Penix checks to this man-beater. Clean pocket vs 7-man protection, but Johnson, Moore(+1), and Sabb (+1, coverage+2) communicate a double switch to get both plausible targets running into safeties. Sabb holds his ground as Odunze initiates contact, pass sails. RPS+1.
Drive Notes: FG(25). 7-3. 4 min 1st Q. Worth the cost of the trip just to save myself knowing how much of a ref drive this was live.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O25 1st 10 Gun Twins 4-2-5 Nk Under 2 fld Pass 4 Scramble Graham 5 0.09
Sim Nk, gets Penix to change the play and gets Sabb crossed by Culp on a deep out (RPS-1). I can’t grade coverage bc it wasn’t thrown–Sabb might make up ground on a TE–but it’s what UW wanted. Not thrown because Grant(+1, PR+1) is coming through a double and Penix takes the exit to scramble. Graham(-1) got a little too high and only gets a foot. Colson forces the slide after 5 yards.
O30 2nd 5 Gun Wk Z->Y 4-2-5 Nk Under 1 fld Run   Buck Sweep GC Graham 0 -0.75
[Y-In] Graham(+1) sees the pullers leave, goes upfield of his blockdown, discards him, and flows to tackle at the LOS. Sabb(+0.5) set a strong edge, Johnson(+0.5) sees Odunze (lined up as an inline TE) cracking Barrett(+0.5) and both react quickly. Stewart(+2) put his TE in the backfield and closes the hole so the lead blocker can’t get to WJ and OMG can flow behind.
O30 3rd 5 Gun Trips Demi 4-2-5 Nk Wide AA 0 press Pass 3 H Out Sainristil 2 -0.24
M showing Man Zero with both LBs in the A gaps, bring just WLB and the DEs. MB gets the RB (RPS+1, PR+1) and pressures through him while three IOL are staring at Colson/Graham/Grant dropping into the middle (coverage+1). Penix(Hat+2) sees it and fires an out in a ton of space under Sainristil(+2, tackling+2) wraps up and will not let the slippery WR get close to the marker. EO1Q.
Drive Notes: Punt. 14-3. 1 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O25 1st 10 Go Go Right (Y) 4-2-5 Nk Under 1 off PRO n/a Hooks/Power CT Johnson 10 0.84
Shift to this. Johnson(-1, coverage-1) is playing off, Odunze(Hat+1) picks up an extra 5 by coming down and immediately backwards, which gets WJ to whiff while Sainristil’s coming from the slot and can’t stop the momentum. Extra 5 yards, thought about tackle minus on WJ but decided this is just Odunze being boss.
O35 1st 10 Gun Wk RB 4-2-5 Nk G 1.5 off PA 4 Hook Wallace 15 1.40
[Z-Jet] Harrell(+1, PR+1) spins inside the RT so this has to be out. Penix rifles in a tough catch underneath Wallace(+1, cov push) that he has a shot to rake out; WR manages to pin the ball against his leg (Hat+2).
50 1st 10 Offset Wk 4-2-5 Nk Under 1 fld RPO   Power CT/Hooks Barrett 1 -0.87
Tempo(24). M has a blitz on (RPS+1). McGregor(+1) lets his downblock go by to pop the lead blocker. Back runs up to get what he can, which is a couple of yards because Goode(-1) got moved out.
M49 2nd 9 Gun Wk RB 4-2-5 Nk Under B 1 off Penalty   False Start n/a (-5) -1.12
Oops (Hat-1).
O46 2nd 14 Gun Flex RB 4-2-5 Nk Wide AA 1 off Pass 4 Out and Up Sabb Inc -0.76
Covered on Matt & Seth Show. Sim from Nk, regular rush but gets C watching LBs instead of helping (RPS+1) as Jenkins(+1) and Harrell(+1, PR+2) spin inside their dudes. Penix bails and chucks an interceptable ball at Sabb(+1, coverage+1) who’s blanketed the out-and-up route.
O46 3rd 14 Empty 3×2 4-2-5 Nk Wide AA 0 off Penalty   False Start n/a (-5) -0.44
Oops (Hat-1).
O41 3rd 19 Empty 3×2 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Pass 3 Hook Sabb 12 0.76
Twist and Harrell(+1, PR+1) occupies the right side enough that Goode is coming free and there’s no pocket. 3rd & 19 so Penix takes what he can get, which is 12 yards because M in prevent (RPS-1, coverage-1) which sets up a 4th and go-for-it instead of a punt.
M47 4th 7 Gun Wk RB 4-2-5 Nk G 0 0 off Pass 4 Circle Sainristil Inc -3.62
The almost disaster. Both OTs are KC Chiefs-level illegal (Refs-1), also right side goes early. Sainristil(-1, coverage-3) was responsible for the bust; he doesn’t see Odunze cross under McMillan to know that’s his man. I went back and forth on this a ton but decided Jenkins(+2, PR+2) saved the day by coming through a double at speed on the inside, which forced an awkward throw that sails over the wide open 1st rounder. RPS-2, Penix knew where he wanted to go and was going to have Odunze with leverage even if Sainristil picked him up. Washington booth reaction.
Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs. 17-3. 10 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O20 1st 10 Go Go Left (Y) 4-2-5 Nk Over 1 off Pass 4 Sack Grant -12 -0.97
Sabb stabs at a sim which gets the left side looking and seemed to get Penix looking that way. Should be an illegal formation because the Y who’s supposed to be covered is in the backfield (Refs-1). None of it matters because Grant(+3, PR+3) put the LG on his ass like a Buckeye draft pick and sacks.
O8 2nd 22 Gun Wk RB 4-2-5 Nk Under 1.5 press Pass 4 Throwaway Graham Inc -0.03
Feels like a game of Clue. The murderer is Graham(+2, PR+2) in the B gap with the hesitation combo through the RG. Grant(+1) was putting a double in the backfield to force a throwaway under the zone.
O8 3rd 22 Gun TTB 4-2-5 Dime Split 3 off Pass 4 Dumpoff Moore 15 0.13
All three safeties in, Colson out. D-Mo(+1, PR+1) bends the LT back and Penix decides to check down and punt.
Drive Notes: Punt. 17-3. 8 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O39 1st 10 Gun 2×2 4-2-5 Nk G 2 off RPO   IZ/Bubble Barrett 6 0.40
[Y-Fly] Light box (RPS-1) so UW has a hat for everyone. Jenkins(-1) shoots upfield hoping to spin back and is just a moment late. He does get an arm on the back so Barrett(+1) is able to come across his blocker to tackle without help.
O45 2nd 4 Empty 2×3 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Pass 4 Curl Colson 10 0.98
Stunt is picked up. Soft c6 (RPS-1) leaves open a quick curl under Colson(-1, coverage-2), who has enough room that the TE can turn and stumble for 5 extra.
M45 1st 10 Offset Flex 4-2-5 Nk Mint 2 off RPO   Sweep/Curls Barrett 2 -0.41
Tempo(30). Nk amoeba gets got by tempo here (RPS-1) as the DL are still getting set and can’t spring into their slants. Graham(-1) goes upfield and gets picked off by the first puller, RB (Hat-1) should cut behind that but Jenkins(+1) does a good job to travel with then cross the playside G and soak up the T. Barrett(+2) deters that cutback then glides playside of the LT before he can come off Jenkins, with Harrell(+0.5) setting a high edge for him.
M43 2nd 8 Gun TTB 4-2-5 5-1 Odd 2 off Pass n/a Tunnel Screen Paige 9 0.95
[RB Flare] MLB Amoeba with Colson lined up on the frontside edge and coming. They’ve got us here, with a screen under the flare draws all four rushers into the backfield (RPS-2). RG (Hat-1) must have infuriated his coaches because he waits too long at the LOS then runs into Odunze and falls down. That takes away a blocker but UW still has one for every winged helmet. Barrett funnels to Paige(+1) who dodges a WR and wraps up around the 1st down marker.
M34 1st 10 Gun Trips 4-2-5 Nk G 2 fld Pass 4 TE Leak Surprise Barrett 11 0.27
DeBoer bringing out all the tricks. OL minus C stands up like they’re resetting the protection, Graham(+0.5) gives warning that the C is still in his stance but is unheard as M starts checking and UW snaps (RPS-2). Barrett(-2, coverage-2) is looking the wrong way and spins around to find the TE has already leaked into the seam. Colson(+1) figures it out faster and makes a solid tackle to limit the damage. Don’t think this play is strictly legal, nor should be–they are using a carve-out that allows the OL to point when they’re already set–but these guys are all milling about fixing helmets and whatnot to sell it.
M23 1st 10 Gun Wk Tight 4-2-5 Nk Under 2 off PA n/a PA Slip Screen Paige Inc -0.42
More tricks, Minter’s had enough (RPS+2) and sends a Nk/WLB six-man blitz with Cov Zero. Play is a fake handoff to the RB they mean to flip out to an arcing WR but Paige(+1) followed him across the formation and is going to blow up or intercept any real throw, Penix can only fling it over the guy’s head.
M23 2nd 10 Empty 1×3 4-2-5 Nk Over 1 bdy Pass 4 Fly Wallace Inc -0.55
WLB amoeba off the edge with Barrett(+1, PR+2, RPS+1) is unblocked and Penix chucks it at a rolled up Wallace(+1, coverage+1) over Odunze, who tripped out of his break. There’s callable contact but Wallace dominated the route and ball is uncatchable. WA sparts about it.
M23 3rd 10 Gun 3×1 4-2-5 5-1 Under 1 off Pass 5 Corner Sainristil Inc(+15) 1.31
[Y-Slide] WLB blitz stunt with Grant gets the attention of the RG long enough for Goode(+1, RPS+1, PR+2) to break into the backfield and threaten a sack. Penix has to lob it at a corner route that Sainristil(-2) is covering. He gets in a tug, lets go, and then the WR (Hat+1) sees he’s not going to get to the ball and flails about like the cheapest spartan to ever spart. Penix adds a thick layer, ref buys it.
M8 1st Goal Go Go Right (?) 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 off RPO   Belly/Fade Colson 3 -0.12
Late shift, Refs-2 miss there’s only 6 guys even pretending to be on the on the LOS. Also miss a chop on Grant(+1) as he swims through a double. Colson(+1, tackling-1) dodges a blockdown, uncharacteristically misses the tackle, but that gives everyone time to rally. Moore(+0.5) comes up to stop YAC.
M5 2nd Goal Single-Wing (Y) 4-2-5 4-3 G 0 off Run   Buck GC Sweep Paige 0 -0.32
Mad Magicians play with the wingback and halfback, and finally the QB, motioning opposite the G and C pull. Entire 2nd level goes flying in the wrong direction, with Colson(-1, RPS-1) almost certainly the guy who’s supposed to be watching the RB. Barrett(-1) gets turned in by the 2nd puller and this is about to be a TD except Paige(+3) flies in off the edge, submarines the kickout guard, and tackles the RB. 
M5 3rd Goal Offset Str (H) 4-2-5 Double Eagle 0 fld Run   QB Lead G Jenkins 2 -0.15
[X-Slide] Down G to the quarterback from an unbalanced formation catches M trying to set up a blitz with Colson dropping the wrong way (RPS-1). Johnson(+1) sees his WR crack and replaces to turn Penix inside the RB’s lead block, but it’s Jenkins(+2) who won’t stay downblocked and flows to make the stop.
M3 4th Goal Gun Str 4-2-5 Nk G 2 press Pass 5.5 Deep Slant Sainristil 3 2.89
Handing out a lot of minuses bc this is a 1st down from a penalty if it’s not a TD to another guy. They want a whip to Odunze; Johnson(-2, coverage-3) grabs him by the pad as he turns around and draws a flag. It also draws Sabb(-2) who’s the help inside on Sainristil(-1) who is supposed to be more than 2 yards from his WR. No minus for Colson even though I reflexively yelled “NO!” when he green dog blitzed out of Penix’s throwing lane here because that’s what he’s taught to do and nobody else is near the QB after a five-man rush on a 7-man protection (RPS-1, PR-1).
Drive Notes: Touchdown. 17-10. <1 min 2nd Q. Kneeldown not charted.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O25 1st 10 Gun 3×1 4-2-5 Nk Under 2 off Pass 4 RB Hitch Johnson INT -5.05
[RB-Flare] to a smash route. Graham(+3, PR+3) pops off the RG and puts the center into Penix’s knees as he throws. That causes a duck that Johnson(+3, coverage+3) intercepts, then the RB knocks it out, then WJ re-intercepts it AND stays inbounds. Hat+2.
Drive Notes: Interception. 17-10. 14 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O25 1st 10 Offset 3×1 4-2-5 Nk G 2 bdy RPO   IZ/Bubble Grant 4 -0.11
Grant has to two-gap because M is down a man in the box (RPS-1), does so but that’s enough for 5 yards.
O29 2nd 6 Gun TTB RB 4-2-5 Nk Mint 2 off PRO n/a Bubble/IZ Johnson 8 2.43
Stewart(+1) has won inside vs a slot and Barrett is pursuing so this is a stop if Johnson(-1) pops the TE on the shoulder, but he connects head on. The TE then rips WJ down by the collar to create an edge. Refs-2.
M49 1st 10 Gun Wk RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 1 fld PA n/a TE Slip Screen Barrett 14(+15) 0.83
[H-Flex] Catch M in man (RPS-1), Stewart flies upfield. Moore is in man but his eyes get taken away and the best he can do is funnel to help. Grahan(+1) got fooled as well but occupies two blockers and gets yanked back in pursuit. That should keep Barrett(-2, tackling-1) clean to make the stop but he too got distracted by the #SpeedinSpace and then whiffs the tackle so the TE can rumble more. Paige(-2) picks up a personal foul for chucking the TE out of bounds after they stopped play for forward progress.
M34 1st 10 Gun Wk 4-2-5 Nk G 2 fld PRO 4 Y Cross/Draw Grant Inc -0.66
This is an RPO that’s meant to put Colson in a bind between covering the TE crossing his face or the QB cutting behind him. Penix pulls, then Grant(+2) bats down a pass that looks like it was going well inside the TE. Grant no-no’s.
M34 2nd 10 Gun Trips RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 1 off RPO   OZ/TE Out Stewart 2 -0.48
WLB amoeba means Graham(+1) is crossing back to the edge of the LT as they read Stewart(+1) who agilely hops back to shut this down for a minimal gain.
M32 3rd 8 Empty 2TE 4-2-5 Crable 0 press Pass 4 TE Leak Stewart 4 -0.14
Craziest sim pressure yet. They’re in a Split! formation but Stewart’s standing up in the backside B gap. Colson sims pressure on the strongside to disguise a CB blitz along with Barrett(+1, PR+1, RPS+3) and both DTs while everyone else drops. Penix floats away from the pressure and is only reading Derrick Moore on a high-low with the two TEs. If he realizes he has a DE on Culp this is a TD because Sainristil(-1, coverage-1) is spot-dropping 2-high instead of protecting D-Mo(-1) who doesn’t carry far enough. Stewart(+1, tackling+1) is there for the immediate tackle. Giving the RPS to Minter for getting Penix to check down because he couldn’t step into the throw.
Drive Notes: FG(45). 20-13. 9 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O26 1st 10 Gun Str RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Pass 4 TE Out Sabb 5 0.10
[TE Fly] Illegal Ts, M shifts out of a Mint look. Quick out under Cov3 gets what’s there. coverage-push, RPS-1, Sabb+0.5.
O31 2nd 5 Gun Str RB 4-2-5 Nk G 2 fld Pass n/a PA Flash Screen Goode 11 1.35
[H-Slide] WLB amoeba to a 3-high means Hausmann is blitzing behind the play (RPS-1). Goode(-1) is hurtling upfield so the OL can just shove him and get to their spots. McGregor(+1) realizes what’s up and sets an edge at the hash, which should limit the damage to a 1st down but Colson(-2) gambles on going upfield of his OL so Polk can glide to Rod Moore(+0.5), who was backing out too long to create a dangerous amount of space, but closed it quickly and made a sure tackle.
O42 1st 10 Gun Trips (X) 4-2-5 Nk Under 1 fld PA n/a PA Slip Screen Harrell Inc -1.15
[H-Jet] Go-Go formation with the RB opposite the TE and they Jet the slot receiver to the other side. M is blitzing Hausmann and Sabb (RPS-1), and both Colson and Paige(-1) are committed to the other side. Harrell(+3) flies up and takes out the intended receiver in the backfield, which is totally legal. Penix has to turf it. Johnson was tracking but would have had McMillan and the OT that Harrell slipped.
O42 2nd 10 Empty 3×1 4-2-5 Nk Under 1 off Pass 4 Fade Wallace Inc -0.82
[Y-Glide] Penix wants Odunze’s slot fade but Johnson(+1, coverage+3) takes it away. He comes back to Polk against Wallace(+2) who has that route topped but now McGregor and Goode’s stunt is getting Braiden through so Penix chucks it long.
O42 3rd 10 Gun Wk RB 4-2-5 Nk Wide AA 1 fld Penalty   False Start n/a (-5) -0.48
Both LBs are threatening a blitz, LG starts early. Oops (Hat-1).
O37 3rd 15 Gun 3×1 4-2-5 Nk Wide AA 0 off Pass 4 Fly Johnson Inc -0.22
Illegal RT. Sim pressure from both LBs and Moore behind them. Penix is clean (PR-1) but has no better ideas than to throw at Johnson(+2, coverage+2). CB gets a jersey tug in, WR gets a little pushoff but is already at the sideline, circus catch attempt out of bounds is incomplete.
Drive Notes: Punt. 20-13. 5 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O11 1st 10 Gun 2×2 4-2-5 Nk G 2 off Pass 4 Smash Moore Inc -0.37
Smash vs plain Cov2 and a standard rush that is stalemated (PR-1). Johnson(-1, coverage-1) is playing the under too aggressively so the over is open under Moore, Penix (Hat-2) throws too high.
O11 2nd 10 Empty 3×2 4-2-5 Nk Under 1 fld Pass 4 TE Out Hausmann 12 0.92
Stunt-twist doesn’t get home but maybe sped Penix up. He dumps it to the TE outlet, will be 3rd & 6 except Hausmann(-2, tackling-2, coverage-push) completely misjudges his angle and lets the TE come back inside him for the 1st and change. EO3Q.
O23 1st 10 Go Go Right (Y) 4-2-5 Nk G 1.5 fld RPO   Counter GT/Curls Graham 3 -0.27
Stewart(+0.5) hops up and constricts the gap but this play is mostly made by Graham(+2) crossing his downblock, fending off a stiffarm, and making the tackle while the LG is full-on tackling him (Refs-1). The last allows the back to hop forward 3 yards as he’s going down.
O26 2nd 7 Gun Wk Flex RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Pass 6 H Out Johnson 3 -0.22
Shift reveals a pressure, bring WLB and Nk. Sainristil(+1, RPS+1, PR+1) is coming in unblocked. Penix has an outlet under zero high coverage but he’s backing up and has to angle it away from Sainristil which forces the WR to turn back for it and Johnson(+1, tackling+1) can rope him down for a minimal gain.
O29 3rd 4 Gun Wk Hide H 4-2-5 Nk Wide AA 1 press Pass 5 Mesh Flare Colson Inc -0.39
[H-Flex]. Hide-the-Odunze doesn’t work as M spots him and gets WJ over him. WLB blitz gets Stewart in free but Colson has to maneuver through the TE’s natural pick (RPS-1, coverage-1) to get to the flare, meaning Penix has a first-read outlet that could be a catch and tackle just short of the sticks, an easy first, or a lot of yards depending on how Colson’s tackle goes. But first RB has to catch it; he doesn’t (Hat-2).
Drive Notes: Punt. 20-13. 13 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O33 1st 10 Gun Wk RB 4-2-5 Nk G 2 fld Pass 4 Deep Cross Sabb Inc -0.96
Token PA fools nobody but gives Penix a moment to survey. C whiffs trying to pick up a stunt from McGregor(+1, PR+1) who gets Penix throwing off his back foot a little behind a crosser, which is enough for Sabb(+2, coverage+1, Hat-1) to make up the ground and authoritively PBU.
O33 2nd 10 Gun 2×2 4-2-5 Nk G 1 fld PRO n/a Corner/Dart Johnson 32(-10) -0.83
WJ has a deep cushion so Penix is reading whether Johnson(-3, coverage-3) is biting on a double-move. He is, Penix lobs it up and Odunze has to fade OOB–a more accurate throw and this is six because WJ is dead by 5 yards. Comes back because McGregor(+2, PR+1) hammered inside the RT who got a light rope on his collar as he was going by that causes McG to lose his balance and go sprawling at Penix’s feet, picking up WA’s first holding call. Considering the far more obvious calls they haven’t made all game it’s funny this is the one they throw because he let go pretty quickly. Refs+2 for saving it for a 42-yard swing.
O23 2nd 20 Gun 3×1 RB->H 4-2-5 Nk Under 2 fld Pass 4 Slip Screen Sainristil 2 -0.07
Shift puts the RB wide and the McMillan at RB, gets Colson playing field corner. Goode(-0.5) turns around a beat late but Sainristil(+3, coverage+2, tackling+1) is all over this, ducking under the C who can only get a light illegal shove with the ball still in the air that doesn’t prevent Frozone from getting low and upending the ballcarrier.
O25 3rd 18 Gun 2×2 RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 3 off Pass 4 RB Dumpoff Colson 9 0.16
Harrell(+1, PR+1) spins inside the RT to pressure and Penix has to dump it. Colson(+0.5) collects.
Drive Notes: Punt. 20-13. 10 min 4th Q. Michigan drives to the 7, at which point I turn to a Sklar and say “Watch this; Corum’s going to win us the national championship right here.” WA gets the ball back down 14 with 7:00 to play so we are in comeback mode from here.
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O25 1st 10 Empty 3×1 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Pass 4 H Comeback Sainristil 4 -0.11
M players pointing at illegal formation (H is off the LOS), but it doesn’t affect things. Double-twist has DTs flip then come around outside, but it’s picked up, RG inadvertently picks up Stewart(+1, Luck-1) by falling down in confusion. Graham(+1, PR+1) is coming around as well though so this has to get out. Polk comes way back under Sainristil(+1, coverage-push). Throw is 6 yards, WR tries to spin for extra, loses four shaking Mike and gets back two Colson(-1) whiffs. Stewart(+0.5) and Sabb(+0.5) are there to collect.
O29 2nd 6 Gun 1×3 H->Y 4-2-5 5-1 Over 2 off Pass 4 Slot Fade Sainristil 44 3.45
[H-Fly] Penix finally gets a chunk pass. WA does the OSU thing where they flip the TE and H back and forth pre-snap and it works (RPS-1), as Sainristil(-3, coverage-3) bites on the H out under Odunze’s fade. WLB amoeba gets Graham(+2, PR+2) slanting through the C so Penix can’t get more on this. Moore(-1, tackling-1) whiffs but I think he’s expecting a deeper pass. The delay is enough for Sainristil to catch up after another 8 yards.
M27 1st 10 Gun Str 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 fld Penalty   False Start n/a (-5) -0.54
RT goes early (Hat-1).
M32 1st 15 Gun Str RB 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 fld Pass 4 TE Leak Hausmann Inc -0.67
Both Ts move early, think the C has a pause after the clap that his linemates aren’t getting; anyway they let it go this time (Refs-1), which leaves M players pointing instead of rushing for a second. Stewart(+1, PR+2) converts point to push and deposits the RT into the pocket. D-Mo(+0.5) coming around the LT through a TE chip forces Penix to step up, but Grant(+1) has the LG shed and is coming up to lay a hit. Penix has to lob it over KG, which puts it well over the TE who chipped Derrick and got wide open on a short cross. Why open? Hausmann(-2, coverage-2) fell down.
M32 2nd 15 Empty 1×3 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Pass 4 RB Dumpoff Barrett 2 -0.52
Again both Ts start a half a second early (Refs-1) but Graham(+2, PR+2) and Stewart are watching the RT and the RG is watching the ball, which means OMG is by that guy before he’s out of his stance. Penix has to dump it to his RB under Barrett(+1, coverage+1) who goes to the ground to get it but wasn’t getting more.
M30 3rd 13 Gun 3×1 RB 4-2-5 Crable 2 press Pass 4 H Wheel Sainristil Inc -1.01
We’ve come to the first of the three sim pressures we did a Matt&Seth Show on. Both DTs rush right, DEs are stunting which gets D-Mo in space with the RG (RPS+1) while Stewart(+1, PR+1) pushes the RT into the pocket again. Penix has to force up a prayer to an out-and-up sideline fade to the slot that Sainristil(+2, coverage+2) blanketed the whole way.
M30 4th 13 Gun 2×2 4-2-5 Double Eagle 0 Off Pass 4 Prayer Johnson Inc(0) 0.00
Weird sim pressure #2. MLB and DTs feint inside and drop while WLB and Nk blitz off the edge with the DEs. RT (Hat-1) misses the snap count again but this time he’s late. Harrell(+1, PR+2) is instantly around him and the T has to reach back and give a full yank to prevent an insta-sack, called. Barrett(+1) is rerouting outside so Penix can only roll around and chuck a “500” ball in the general direction of Odunze and hope for a bailout. Johnson(-2, coverage-2) provides, mistaking Odunze’s attempt to cross him to come back for a duck for a layout. WJ tries to pull his shoulder back but the contact is enough to look bad, Odunze does a little acting, flags come out, down replayed.
M30 4th 13 Gun Str RB 4-2-5 Nk Wide 2 press Pass 4 Circle Sainristil INT -7.74
[Y-Slide] You may see this play again in your lifetime. Sim pressure from the LBs gets WA looking for rushers up the middle but Harrell(+2, PR+2) is coming wide around the RT. Penix could come off this and throw to a dig that’s coming open behind it, but is done trying to figure out Michigan’s weird-ass coverages and reads his slot the whole way, trying to fit a perfect throw over Colson(+1) who isn’t giving him any room. The ball goes high enough to clear JC, but that means it’s also too high to get to McMillan, coming down instead in the hands of Mike Sainristil(+2, coverage+3). Goode and Barrett get sealing blocks, The former low 3-star from Haiti via Massachusetts runs it back to the Washington 6, where Penix is set up to force to the TE’s pursuit.
Drive Notes: Interception. 27-13. 4 min 4th Q. Michigan scores to put us in garbage time, but I’m not ready to leave, so let’s score one more drive with this team shall we?
Ln Dn Dst OForm DPack Front Hi Type Rush Play Player Yds EPA
O17 1st 10 Gun Str RB 4-2-5 Nk Even 2 press Pass 4 Z Cross Colson 7 0.48
[H-Fly] Sim pressure from Barrett, double edge rush outside is picked up (PR-1). Colson is playing back which isn’t RPS at this point in the game, Polk bends around him but only gets a couple extra. Push. They flag Johnson for targeting but it’s picked up on review. Penix in obvious pain fwiw.
O24 2nd 3 Gun Str 4-2-5 Nk Over 2 off Pass 4 Dig Colson Inc -0.74
Harrell(+2, PR+2) bends the RT and is coming for the sack, with Graham(+1) spinning off the RG to join him, so Penix has to force this out too soon. Colson(-1, coverage-1) came down on the TE dumpoff to provide a window but throw is behind the WR, or McMillan is supposed to sit earlier, anyways he can’t bring it in (Hat-1).
O24 3rd 3 Empty 3×2 4-2-5 Nk G 1 bdy Pass 4 RB Cross Sainristil 2 -0.22
Twist. Harrell(+1, PR+1) again supplying the pressure by spinning inside the RT, Penix again off his back foot to an outlet. RB tries to edge Mike Sainristil(+1, tackling+1); it doesn’t work out for him.
O26 4th 1 Offset 3×1 (X) 4-2-5 Nk Under 1 off Run   Split Zone Graham 5 1.42
This is so close to a stuff/EOG as Graham(+1) rips past the C and Harrell(+1) surprised the LT and is crashing behind him. TE (Hat+2) makes a super heads up move to redirect a shoulder into Harrell (his man is Barrett) so the RB can run through OMG’s arm tackle attempt.
O31 1st 10 Gun Wk 4-2-5 Unset n/a Pass 4 TE Dig Sabb Inc -0.89
Tempo(30) catches M changing. Graham (way offsides) and Harrell and Sainristil(-1) are just getting off when it’s snapped (Refs+1), and once they’re gone M has only 10 guys (RPS-2), pretty sure Sainristil is the one supposed to stay on. Goode(+1) wins on a hesitation move and D-Mo(+0.5, PR+1) bull-rushes the RT, and even now Penix can’t step into his throw. Sabb(+2, coverage+2) comes down and breaks it up.
O31 2nd 10 Gun 3×1 4-2-5 Crable 1 press Pass 4 Throwaway Colson Inc -0.49
Slight sim pressure by Barrett before the snap gets Penix looking at him. Stewart(+2, PR+3) comes through the LG who has to commit a monster hold (Refs-2) and outside of context I’d probably +3/-3 this it’s so bad. Once Penix has stepped around this D-Mo(+1) has hopped inside the RT and Goode(+1) has ripped by the C and Penix throws it well over his RB. Also over Colson, who’s mad he didn’t get a championship-sealing double-club interception out of it.
O31 3rd 10 Gun 2RB 4-2-5 Crable A 1.5 fld Pass 4 Throwaway Johnson Inc -0.23
[Y-Flare] Another crazy sim pressure, this time a CB blitz on the same side the WLB is coming, with both DEs and Colson dropping out. RB takes Barrett, Johnson(+2, RPS+1, PR+3) completely surprises them, flies past the LT and is sacking Penix as he chucks it deep into his sideline and 20 yards from anybody. Not grounding because his WR was supposed to turn up? He hollers at the WR and the refs buy it at least.
O31 4th 10 Gun 3×1 4-2-5 Crable A 1.5 fld Pass 4 TE Dumpoff D.Moore Inc -3.94
Lol SAME BLITZ JESSE MINTER GOES OUT RUNNING THE SAME CB BLITZ TWICE IN A ROW TAKE A BOW KING! LT isn’t even looking at Johnson(+1, RPS+2, PR+3) this time and Penix is like ah SHIT and throws it outside the frame of a TE who’s well short of the sticks and D-Mo(+2, coverage+2) is breaking it up if it’s on him anyways.
Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs. 34-13. 1 min 4th Q. Michigan kneels it out and wins the National Championship.

/running /running /running

/leaps into giant running start bear hug tackle

WE DID IT  WE DID IT OMIGOD WE DID IIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTT!

/emphatically returns hug

I may have to find a new line of work now.

Wait, what?

Don’t you pay me to fret about reasons Michigan won’t win a national championship in our lifetimes? Well now I literally can’t do that.

You’re more of a vehicle for expressing public takes about the game that I can respond to with our findings.

Yes but I can’t hear them anymore. I’ve lost my capacity to be annoyed. Thinking about Michigan football brings me joy and only that.

I see. Well let’s start with the joyful takes. Like how everyone on coach Twitter thinks that Michigan’s defensive line was rampant.

Okay, they’re saying Michigan won a National Championship on the strength of their pass defense.

In our 2022 Hail to the Victors magazine Michael Elkon looked at every championship and championship-caliber team since the advent of the Playoff. What he found was that every team to ever win a title or even come close to defeating the champion had either ungodly talent—as in their rosters were made of up multiple classes in 247’s top ten *OF ALL TIME*—or a godly quarterback like Deshawn Watson, Baker Mayfield, Trevor Lawrence or Joe Burrow—running NFL stuff.

What do you mean by NFL stuff?

Lots of route combinations, and lots of motion and pre-motion shifts in and out of spreads to give the quarterback a chance to read the defense, and check his routes and protection before the snap.

By the time the play starts the QB should have a good idea where he’s going with the ball, which defender he’s reading, and where his outlet is if he got it wrong. If you’ve got the guy who can make all of these throws and reads, and he has targets who can win their routes and make their catches, and you can keep him protected, there isn’t a college defense that’s going to stop him.

 

Michael Penix would definitely qualify. Using CollegeFootballData’s numbers, Washington came into this game averaging 9 yards and 0.48 expected points per attempt (sacks included), and coming off an absolute torching of the Longhorns in the semis. But Michigan, whom nobody would accuse of recruiting like 2021 Georgia, found a different formula: An NFL passing defense.

Penix Opponent Yards/Att EP/A Comp or DPen INT Sack/Hold Success
OTHERS 9.0 0.48 66% 2.0% 2.7% 55%
Texas 11.0 0.54 76% 61%
Michigan 6.4 0.10 52% 3.7% 3.7% 31%

The last measure is notable because Penix is so good at getting the ball out when he’s under pressure. The formula for a “success” is you got 50% of the line to gain on 1st down, 70% on 2nd down, or converted. Penix only took only 11 sacks all year (12 if you count a grounding) and only took one in this game. Penix was still getting completions, but a lot of those were dump-downs.

Going back to the stats from my charting, the numbers are even crazier when you stick to his dropback passing stats: 24 completions for 185 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs on 46 dropbacks (3.9 YPA). Take out a third of dropbacks from when Washington was trying to claw back from down two touchdowns in the 4th quarter and it increments up to 4.4 YPA.

How?

For one, I don’t think Michael Penix got to step into a throw once. Constant pressure wasn’t the only piece to it though; we’ve Hutchinson/Ojabo lines running through their opposition like water only to have the ball out so fast it didn’t matter. What made Michigan’s pass defense so effective, I thought, was the way Minter married his pressures to the coverages, controlling where the quarterback’s eyes went so he could never find his leverage.

The video below is the canonical example from this game to show the different games DeBoer and Michigan were playing. A majority of Washington plays had these pre-snap shifts to reveal the defense’s assignments and coverage look. I kept that in the clip so you can watch the Huskies shifting their formation and talking to each other about what it means. You also catch Penix giving a quick glance to Odunze to check that Johnson is in press, a sign that Michigan’s bringing pressure on 3rd & 8.

In this case they get a Cover Zero look with a ton of pass rushers on the left. Their scouting says this is likely to convert to man coverage with a five- or six-man pressure that takes away underneath coverage. Then Colson comes down to threaten a blitz in the A gap, confirming his read. In Penix’s mind the pressure is coming from the left, while on the right Will Johnson is going mana-a-mano with Odunze down the sideline with a safety high to the side with two TEs and a linebacker who’s going to be a stretched vertically between those two threats. All of these reads are on the right, which is where the quarterback will be rolling if he has the space.

After the snap, everything changes. Watching Penix’s head gives you an idea of what going on in his head (best guess):

  1. Watching Colson for pressure up the middle (nobody’s rushing any interior gaps).

  2. Roll away from the pressure and check Odunze vs m2m (Johnson with him and Sainristil is climbing over the top).

  3. Come back to TE #83 under the safeties (Derrick Moore is dropping with him)

  4. Check down to TE #37 under the other TE’s route (Josiah Stewart is coming in to tackle).

image

It never occurs to the quarterback that the safety rolled up over over the Y tight end will be covering a slot receiver on the opposite numbers. Or that the safety to that side has the #1 receiver back there. Or even that the guy carrying his receiverish TE is a defensive end.

The speed and versatility of Michigan’s defenders allows them to get away with this stuff. Colson can be at the line of scrimmage at snap and be cutting off a dig at 15 yards if need be. Keon Sabb can be at midfield on the edge of the box and over a slot receiver on the numbers. Josiah Stewart and Derrick Moore can cover linebacker zones versus tight ends. Kenneth Grant can go from head up on the center to rushing the frontside edge. Michael Barrett can get into the backfield so fast that Penix has no time to figure it out.

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This isn’t just randomness. Michigan has Colson showing pressure to keep his attention off of Derrick Moore dropping into coverage, which might alert the quarterback he has a mismatch down the seam. When Penix does come back to the high-low read there’s a guy with a single digit dropping, which means the TE delay underneath that should be coming open. With Barrett bearing down on him that’s the safe play. Stewart arrives immediately, and it’s 4th down.

Is Wink Martindale going to do the same thing?

So the major difference people charting Martindale vs Macdonald with the Ravens is Mac tended to use more sim pressures (AKA creepers) and Martindale tended to bring more blitzes, playing Cover 1 or Cover 0 behind that. Wink’s reputation as a blitzer was earned in 2019, but that was also the year the Ravens had three 1st round cornerbacks in the secondary. When the talent wasn’t there he wasn’t bringing pressure any more often than Macdonald’s Michigan defenses, on the whole.

image

But “on the whole” is doing work there. Jesse Minter varied his pressure rate dramatically from game to game, blitzing less experienced quarterbacks mercilessly while holding back relative how much he respected the passer’s ability to find his hot read.

image

When he wasn’t bringing them he was threatening to bring them with sim pressures. I got into more of these with Demorest if you’re into video content (start about 3:22 if you want to skip our preliminaries).

I’m sure there will be a Neck Sharpies on it too, and a feature in our Yearbook (yes it’s happening; we’ll have a Kickstarter once there’s a cover).

Technically there aren’t supposed to be any holes in this this—D-Mo came off the TE way too early—but that’s asking quite a bit. When we talk about how complicated this defense is, imagine how many pass rush moves Derrick Moore has to practice, in addition to timing on his stunts (Michigan runs a lot of them), and then an entire suite of linebacker zones on top of that. Earlier in the year if they dropped a DE into coverage he was usually taking either a hole or a curl/flat zone in Cover 3, and this became predictable enough that various opponents attack those zones. The sim pressures and weird looks buy the DE room to make his mistakes.

The genius of Minter is the whole thing has to work in concert. Junior Colson’s sim pressure—”Look at me!!!”—creates the sensation of pressure up the middle to distract from the WLB and CB coming in from the backside. So does the step upfield that Stewart takes, which gets the LT and LG focused on Mason Graham instead of pressure from the backside. The interior blockers are watching Colson as well, and then see Grant sliding across their faces. Wallace diverts his rush when he sees the pass but Penix can’t step into the pocket because Barrett’s in it, unblocked. The C and RG spend this play doing exactly as much as I did, IE watching it.

image

And that’s just the pressure side of it. While Penix is watching Colson he’s not seeing Sabb depart for opposite hash or Derrick Moore dropping, all clues that he’s got a TE down the seam in front of him.

The trick is keeping Penix off-balance by overloading his reads. You can really see it when they know a pass is coming, because they can get wild with their fronts, stunts, and twists. But remember the key is having the pressure look *complement* the coverage. Here they have both LBs lined up in the middle threatening to blitz the A gaps. The shift gives Penix a 1-high look with Sabb lined up over McGregor, which is an indicator that McGregor isn’t dropping into coverage. On a clap the LBs step forward more like they really want to come. When Penix looks right he sees Sainristil give a sim pressure that would uncover McMillian. As he drops back he’s checking that and the LBs (both dropping).

Meanwhile he’s missing a window when his TE on the left was open down the seam as Sabb rolls into his curl/flat zone and Wallace gets over the TE.

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It’s not a big window because Barrett is dropping in the shorter lane and Moore is over the top, Penix misses the front of it while distracted by the middle and loses his chance to the back of it as Jenkins spins off the guard, and the C is taken up watching Barrett drop and then has to deal with Goode. Penix notices Jenkins late, and has to bail and try to make some chicken salad down the sideline. He’s lucky Sabb doesn’t pick this off. Sabb is “lucky” his failure to chip the TE doesn’t result in a chunk down the seam, but once again the confusion reduces the offense’s ability to punish defensive mistakes.

Part of the philosophy here is that Michigan knows they’re not going to be perfect. Odunze got open a few times over the top when Michigan DBs messed up their assignments. On the clip below their pre-snap motion caught a Cover 6 where Sainristil, moved by the motion into the role of a free safety, has eyes on the quarterback and misses the #1 and #2 receivers crossing, which means he needs to be getting back over Odunze.

#0 the guy threatening a pressure just inside the right hash.

That’s a bust on Sainristil but also Minter getting got because he’s asking his nickel threating blitz inside the hash mark to cover Rome Odunze down the sideline.

Sometimes Penix figured out what the defense was doing and it still didn’t matter, because Michigan’s defenders are just that good. Here’s a third and medium where Michigan’s dropping DTs into mesh lanes, a trap that James Franklin has fallen into multiple times in recent years. That leaves Sainristil in a ton of space with Washington’s dangerous slot receiver Jalen McMillan. Also dangerous in space: Mike Sainristil.

#0 the nickel rolled up near the LOS on the right hash

That’s the slot-vs-nickel equivalent of Blake Corum losing two yards on a swing pass versus Nakobe Dean. The offense got the right playcall, got the ball to a playmaker in space, and it doesn’t matter because the defense has one of the best players in college football. That Sainristil was a nobody ATH from Massachusetts who turned himself into that player in six years and Dean was a third-year five-star who made himself into that player in time to cash in on a class SEC bidding war is relevant to the programs’ relative chances of repeating their respective formulae, not to this game.

So you’re saying they tried to edge Mike Sainristil?

They did! Several times! And they tried to beat Mike Sainristil inside as well!

Really? How did THAT work out for them?

It didn’t!

So Michigan had a good scheme AND they had the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles-level talent?

Wait’ll you see the defensive line scores.

Okay but you gotta promise not to show these scores to the NFL, to wanton tamperers like Texas or Oregon, or to predatory agents like Drew Rosenhaus trying to take our players away from us by offering them riches or dubious promises thereof.

I think they’re aware. People watched this game.

Be it on you.

Chart.

Defensive Line
Player Snaps + T Notes
Kris Jenkins 34 6.5 1 +5.5 Doesn’t stay blocked, this guy.
Mason Graham 46 18.5 2 +16.5 Rampant.
Kenneth Grant 37 9 1 +8 Freak.
Cam Goode 32 4.5 2.5 +2 Good pass-rusher, didn’t have to finish.
Rayshaun Benny 0 0 0 DNP
Jaylen Harrell 38 16.5 0 +16.5 Remember when this guy couldn’t pass rush?
Braiden McGregor 37 6 0 +6 McGregorian as always.
Derrick Moore 37 5 1 +4 Mostly power moves, PBU to end it.
Josaiah Stewart 36 14 0 +14 Remember when this guy wasn’t getting there?
TOTAL 297 80 7.5 +72.5 Key to winning a national championship is…
Linebacker
Player Snaps + T Notes
Junior Colson 66 9 8 +1 Minused for tackling, plussed for coverage in this one.
Michael Barrett 68 10.5 5 +5.5 Dangerblitzer.
Ernest Hausmann 12 0 4 -4 A couple of whiffs, nothing to worry about.
Jimmy Rolder 0 0 0 DNP
TOTAL 146 19.5 17 +2.5 I bet we will miss this.
Secondary
Player Snaps + T Notes
Rod Moore 67 4 1 +3 Involved vs early runs, avoided in pass game.
Makari Paige 23 5.5 3 +2.5 That play on the edge is an all-timer.
Quinten Johnson 0 0 0 DNP
Keon Sabb 61 6.5 5 +1.5 What’s he doing out there? Oh!
Mike Sainristil 71 14 10 +4 Some coverage breakdowns offset by being Mike.
Will Johnson 74 11.5 10.5 +1 If this is your day against Odunze, hat tip to ya.
Josh Wallace 72 6 2 +4 Blanket.
Keshaun Harris 0 0 0 DNP
Ja’Den McBurrows 2 0 0 DNC.
Amorion Walker 0 0 0 DNP
DJ Waller Jr. 0 0 0 DNP
TOTAL 370 47.5 31.5 +16 College team running Pro defense like young pros.
Metrics
Player + T Notes
Pressure 55 4 51/48 How it happened.
Coverage 32 27 +5 High volume because I got to see it all this time.
Tackling 7 8 -1 The Sabb one was the big one.
RPS 20 25 -5 DeBoer vs Minter was an all-timer.
Hat Tip 10 14 -4 Dub’s Doggies left some meat on the bone.

I need to ask an all-time question. The defensive line…

You want to know where this game stands among all-time UFR defensive line totals.

Yes.

Well good news and bad news. Bad news is I might just be a kinder scorer than Brian, because the first eight are all from 2021-’23, IE after I took over charting the defense.

I do not have a problem believing the defensive lines with Hutchinson and Mason Graham are scoring better than Renaldo Sagesse and Jibreel Black.

Yeah but like 2016…

Where does it rank?

Out of 207 games we’ve charted…Third.

Rk Year Opponent + TOT
1 2021 Ohio State 99.5 16.5 83.0
2 2022 Indiana 85.5 9.5 76.0
3 2023 Washington 80 6.5 73.5
4 2021 Nebraska 89.5 17 72.5
5 2023 UNLV 73 4 69.0

Again, sorry I couldn’t find another half point against OSU somewhere.

In the national championship. Against the team that just won the Joe Moore Award, specifically for pass protection. I am speechless.

I went through the game again to make sure and there were four plays when Penix was able to stay clean long enough to read through his progressions, and a few more when he had an opportunity to step up into a throw because they went to a 7-man protection.

Michigan beats it with a switch coverage.

But if you really want to narrow your focus to one thing Michigan can do that nobody else can replicate, it’s they can roll out three of the best DTs in college football, two of whom were true sophomores.

When the 2018 season came crashing down, part of the story was Indiana showing you could single-block both DTs and save your help for Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich. On a passing down in 2023-’24 you can double a tackle and chip both DEs and your tombstone will read “Singled Mason Graham.”

The Will Johnson interception to start the second half, arguably one of the biggest turning points of the season, was also the most Mason Graham play ever.

#55 DT on the right

And speaking of things that remind us of beating Ohio State, here’s an offensive lineman being put on his ass.

This play is second only to Taylor Swift in clips that have been making the rounds on the football internet in 2024, because the list of DTs with that kind of power, speed, and agility in recent years is Georgia’s Jalen Carter (9th overall in 2023) and Michigan’s Kenneth Grant. It’s not up there with Hutchinson ass-putting in 2021 or Harrell ass-putting last November because RG#77, Julius Buelow, isn’t one of their NFL prospects (that’s the two tackles). But Buelow is a 6’8″/313 fifth year player, and people know he plays for a team that gave up 11 (12) sacks all year. I guarantee you Phil Knight took one look at this, remembered how Penix beat the Ducks twice, and dared the NCAA to enforce their tampering and NIL inducement rules.

Grant also got up to bat this throw into the type of pop-up that lands in a defender’s hands 80 percent of the time.

It’s a gross oversimplification to say Michigan fans want to broom Warde Manuel immediately because he’s messing with our chances to keep Grant and Graham from going to a Texas or Oregon. But it’s not completely untrue.

The sophomorehood of those guys is the reason they’re getting most of the attention, but draftniks will be noticing what Kris Jenkins was doing at the end of the season. You saw that spin move on the play we diagrammed earlier. He was also a hidden reason Penix missed a wide open Odunze on 4th & 7.

#94 DT on the left hash

So much of Michigan’s run defense is predicated on Jenkins never staying blocked. Here’s a pin & pull in the redzone that they’re having Penix run to get an extra guy in the box. Jenkins should be irrelevant—Washington’s pulling the guard over him and blocking down with the right tackle, an advantage vs Jenkins that the puller’s tasked with paying off versus a linebacker. Jenkins gets across that downblock and arrives long before Colson.

#94 DT on the right

Graham and Jenkins are so automatic at this that Michigan can get away with an alignment so weird that coaches don’t agree what to call it, where the nose tackle is lined up in a 2-tech, head up over a guard. The term I started using for it is “G”.

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Typically the nose tackle is aligned either head up on the center—for teams that use a 3-4 philosophy—or shaded to his shoulder. Spread era teams have moved that nose out further, to what coaches call a “2i”, which is inside the guard’s shoulder. Any further and they will have both tackles shade outside the guard’s shoulder, what’s called an “Even” front. What Michigan was doing in this game was moving the nose head up over the guard.

Look at Mason Graham, the DT on the right.

Washington is attacking that A gap that Michigan widened by alignment. On the snap Graham and Jenkins (the DT on the left) cross their guards. That puts both of them behind their doubles, theoretically creating a big gap between the spot Jenkins had to cross a lineman to get to and Graham has two guys shoving him out of.

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This wasn’t new for this game, but it’s something that Michigan was working on over the course of the season. Go back to the Minnesota game and you can see Jenkins getting stretched from this alignment.

#94 DT on the left

At the time I suggested this was consequence of Michigan defending the run with a light box in preparation for Ohio State, and that they’d have some plans for deterring the behavior. Turns out one of those plans was to just keep doing what they were doing and have Jenkins and Graham learn to deal with it.

You’re talking about the DTs but Harrell and Stewart had Ojaboesque scores.

Nobody’s come further in my charting than Jaylen Harrell. As we say goodbye let’s remember some of the complaints I had about him. We’ll begin with his pass-rushing, which wasn’t going to remind anyone of Josh Uche. There were times though when I thought his explosion was good enough to make him a plus rusher if he ever got his footwork down. Well,

#32 off the right side

The explosion gets him upfield, the RT gets a kick that widens him, but instead of widening his step and getting flung by Harrell shortens to several steps. The last gets him around the corner of an NFL-bound tackle. The drive before this the RT didn’t bite on a hesitation step but Harrell’s punch and footwork got him around to force the Sainristil interception.

Harrell’s second issue, despite being an otherwise excellent edge defender, was he was mostly linebacker-sized and tended to get bonked whenever he tried to defend a kickout. His answer: pop the kickout inside and then use the bonk momentum to be your own spill.

#32 on the bottom

Washington got away with a hold or that’s 3rd & goal at the 15. Husky fans might retort that Harrell got away with pass interference, because this was TOTALLY on purpose even if he sold it as total accident.

It’s also totally legal. A back in the backfield is a blocker. You can’t hold him, but you can hit him. And if you’re going down to your knees after contact with another blocker, it’s on him to avoid you the same way a pulling guard has to go around a DT on the ground.

As much as I’d have loved another year to stan for him as much as I dogged on him in the past, Harrell’s ready for the NFL. And to be honest, so is his understudy Josiah Stewart. His problem earlier this year was he didn’t have Harrell’s edge responsibility. Well,

#5 DE on the left

That’s an OMG play but what actually takes out the RB is Stewart staying even to the line of scrimmage as he moves that tight end out to the numbers; it’s the TE who makes first contact with the runner.

In other edge defense, was a little worried this would be a repeat of the Bad Moment from the nonconference portion of 2023, but then Stewart ducked under the puller, got facemasked, and still fought through it to delay the running back until all the help arrived.

This went with a continuation of his pass-rushing. The “Crable” package—where Stewart lines up as a standup DT—ought to be a big part of Michigan’s pass rush strategy next year, because Stewart has the Danna-esque push to rush like a DT and the linebacker-esque agility to stunt around to either outside gap in time to affect the quarterback or cover a zone.

We didn’t really learning anything new from McGregor and D.Moore in this game. I covered a couple of their plays above when we were discussing sim pressures.

As an aside, I’ve been stumping for Rod Moore to return to #19, partly because I want to buy his jersey and everyone will assume it’s an older model for JJ. But that (and Yzerman, and the Stephen King thing) don’t matter as much to me as the confusion of multiple rounded single-digit numbers in the same secondary when I’m trying to chart. Am I looking at Rod Moore? Mike Sainristil? Keon Sabb? Derrick Moore? Anyway I could be talked out of this if—and only if—it turns out they’ve been doing this on purpose because it also works on quarterbacks.

If Penix registers that’s #8 not #9 or something do you think he throws to the tight end? I’m willing to hear arguments.

Did you say Keon Sabb? What’s our fourth safety doing on the field?

Ballin’.

The throw is a little behind the receiver but Sabb made up all of that ground and was probably breaking it up if it’s accurate. He visibly slows while tracking the ball in the air so he can time his arrival with the ball. And it’s not like this makeup speed is coming from nowhere. We saw him make that huge play on a screen in the Rose Bowl, and this receiver went from open down the sideline to definitively not over the course of Penix’s throwing motion.

There was also the breakup on 3rd down in the redzone on a double-switch coverage, but the biggest Sabb highlight I thought was when Michigan got caught with ten guys on the field and Sabb calmly PBU’d.

To the negative, I thought Washington’s touchdown was on Sabb overreacting to the trouble Johnson was having with Odunze. zzzzzzzzz

Michigan spent a chunk of the early season getting Sabb reps when Moore and Paige were coming back from injury. With Paige hurt again and Quinten Johnson unavailable they turned to Sabb to play the majority of this game and got one of the best safety performances of the season. Caveat: Michigan’s safeties didn’t have to do much this season. Opponents would be wise to avoid them next year too. zzzzzzzzzzzz

You said you want to get a Rod Moore jersey?

Here’s that double-switch redzone coverage I just mentioned. Sabb got the credit for the PBU, but the man directing traffic directly into his true sophomore compatriot.

Protocols for Seth’s Annual Jersey Recommendation* are it’s the guy when I’m rewatching the season who’s doing a lot of the little things that most fans won’t notice: Hassan Haskins, Trevor Keegan. I do this after my spring rewatch of the whole season, but it’s not going to be hard. Moore doesn’t get targeted often, and getting to see the All-22 for once really demonstrated why. Here Penix *finally* gets a coverage he can read—it’s Cover 3—and is trying and trying to move the deep third guy down to the flat. Moore will not bite.

Safety #9 high on the far right

So many of these weird coverages start with Rod Moore beginning the play in one spot and covering a zone very far away. This is the role that the Ravens wanted Earl Thomas to play when they spent a huge chunk of their cap space on him in 2019. Except Moore instead of being a locker room poison Moore is the most NFL-ready prospect returning for his senior year. We are so damn lucky. Maybe I’ll talk to Jared Wangler—another #19—about starting a ThoseWhoStayAndWear#19 fund.

*[Changed from “purchase” to “recommendation” because this is getting expensive]

We are also lucky to be getting back Makari Paige. He was limited, but in that limited time he made the play of the game for his group.

#7 on the top

I’m going to find the 1948 Rose Bowl tape when the Mad Magicians ran this—he wouldn’t be the first modern coach to pull out a Crisler play in a championship game—because it’s cool. Even cooler was the way Paige was like “Oh, I’ve read all about the ’47 offense” and submarined the edge in time to upend the ballcarrier when the rest of Paige’s teammates were as ignorant of the Magicians as Brian Cook.

Rough score for Will Johnson. Does this put a damper on his Heisman hopes?

Let us not make the old PFF mistake of treating cornerback assessment as cornerback projection. The scores are the scores. When you bite on a double-move that could give up a 67-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter of a one-score game you are getting a –3 for that play.

But context matters. Johnson was set up with a cushion and had reason to figure they weren’t going to try him deep. Washington figured this out and got a true sophomore to give up his advantageous position. Good gamble by a good coach to catch a young player trying to make a play. Probably not going to be a routine thing. This is:

Usually that’s all we get from a Johnson game because they don’t go back to him, but the benefit of Skycam means we get to see Penix spending time staring wistfully at routes run in his direction. Odunze initiates contact, Johnson anticipates his direction, and the receiver is out of good ideas (we’ll come back to Wallace’s coverage in a minute).

Blitzes also may become a more common event. As long as opponents are ignoring his side of the field it’s a good place to bring the fear. The way he gets into the backfield so quickly it’s a dangerous weapon in the back pocket, because the QB really doesn’t have time to make more than one read.

The other big minus events for Johnson were the penalties he committed trying to prevent Odunze from crossing him. The one on the touchdown is worse because his struggle draws Sabb out of the throwing lane.

So no, this wasn’t Marlin Jackson v Reggie Williams 2.0. But I am lobbying Brian to file this as a 1 in the receiver chart:

Halftime was not enjoyable after Michigan squandered the early momentum with that 4th down TD. Mason Graham created the pressure out of the break, but since the wide receiver defended it I was able to give Johnson the full +3 I normally award for turnovers.

That’s how you still come out in the positive after a bust and two downfield penalties. Those events are also part of the reason Josh Wallace was coming out as PFF’s top-graded cornerback in the last month of the season.

I remember being worried about Josh Wallace.

Yeah, not so much:

#12 standing where it says “National Championship”

Michigan’s UMass transfer was a bona fide dude down the stretch. He dominated another one of these routes, and raked out a hook underneath that the receiver managed to pin against his leg after. And then there’s our preseason take that Wallace was more of a help defender than a run defender. Yeah not so much.

#12 CB at the bottom

What a find, yes, but Wallace developed quite a bit over the course of the season.

You were saying Minter was a genius; the RPS score says otherwise?

Well Michigan’s side of the ledger got up to +20, which ranks in the 92nd percentile for 160 games we’ve charted. Then we come to the Washington side, which is 2nd all time. DeBoer brought out ALL the tricks to try to scheme his not-as-good team to a national championship. Some of the more memorable were “Hide the Odunze.”

#1 bending at the top of the formation

Michigan was misaligned and mismatched: RPS-2. The 4th and 7 that was almost a 47-yard touchdown was also something Washington won by throwing dice. Michigan’s pre-snap alignment takes away a fade to Odunze on the right, but they rotate out of that to a three-high and Penix is never confused. If Jenkins doesn’t come through here and force Penix to throw off-platform it’s a touchdown.

Michigan escaped a 9-point EP swing on that. Near the end of the DeBoer they rolled out a statue play to get into the redzone.

There were also a bunch of Michigan dice rolls that went the wrong way. Jenkins saves the day on this play as well but the guy it’s designed to attack, the middle linebacker, is dropping opposite the direction of the play. RPS-1.

So is having a green dog on a max pro, which was what opened up the touchdown throw. Michigan did what they could to confuse Penix’s reads, but the way Washington plays is all about forcing you to reveal your coverage before the snap and attacking the weaknesses. Ultimately Michigan wanted to play off coverage with a bunch of Cover 6 and stuff, and the Huskies were willing to run into light boxes, throw a few underneath, and check to screens when they detected actual pressure.

Some of these YMMV. Does Minter get credit for Jaylen Harrell taking out the screen target, or was Michigan caught in a bad play and bailed out by a heady one from their senior edge? I went with the latter. Is it RPS+1 or RPS+1 that they have a complicated switch coverage on 3rd & goa? Because I said +1 and credited the players for executing it.

I think the nature of this favors the offense, because a big RPS event for the defense can kill a drive. Say the OC schemes up a 12-yard screen, an 8-yard run, and a 10-yard hitch to move from the 30 to midfield. I give him a +2, +1, and +1 = +4 on those three plays. Then on 2nd & 5 the DC draws up a crazy blitz that results in a sack. RPS+2, I say! But now it’s 3rd & 17; the drive is all but dead. Who won the exchange; the coordinator with a +4 or the one with a +2 on his ledger?

The offense also has a natural advantage in getting to decide what the play’s going to be, and how much information and of what kind the two sides can glean off each other before the snap. Do they hurry-up, or motion multiple times to scheme a matchup or betray a zone? Defenses are largely reacting on standard downs. It’s the passing downs when they get to do something funky. Like the time Minter ran the same cornerback blitz he’d shown seven times all year twice in a row at the end of the game.

I looked over some of the other games where the opponent got high RPS- scores on us. THE HORROR was a -46 because Michigan let the opponent run the same zone read on them 20 times without an adjustment. The 2021 Rutgers game was a similar story. But the rest of the top ten are pretty even battles the felt like defensive victories when the opponent had clearly put time into cleverness: 2022 Maryland, 2013 Nebraska, 2013 Northwestern (the slide FG), 2021 Michigan State.

The thing this game was most like was that 2017 Penn State game, when Joe Moorhead got Barkley matched on Mike McCray and got Gary to fly upfield on the first drive, and Don Brown hit back with some haymakers that let Michigan stay competitive. If Washington hits that 4th & 7 we’re giving DeBoer more mental credit for this game than we did. He’s one of those guys, which is why he now has the Alabama job. Minter is also one of those guys, which is why he’s an NFL coordinator.

What does the coverage score mean?

The availability of all-22 footage and Washington being a pass-fist outfit put the total volume of coverage scoring at 97th percentile. A lot of what went into the coverage scores is discussed above. Here we have a lot of company, either from bad teams that were chucking it up their one good receiver a lot, plus 2021 and 2022 Ohio State. High volume just means we charted a lot of passes.

Again, your mileage may vary on some of my decisions. I don’t usually give out +3s for coverage unless there’s a boatload of time or a bad playcall that someone bails out. A 2nd & 10 incompletion shouldn’t be more than +2 total. But considering it’s Michael Penix, and they’re going for the Big Shot, and they keep him clean for enough time to get across his progression, this is +3.

There were four -3 coverage events: the TD on fourth down, and three times that they got Odunze free behind the defense. Penix missed one, and another was called back for a hold. Considering the purpose of the Washington offense is to generate such events, that’s an excellent outcome. Like the RPS score, I’m not worried about big highs and big lows because coming out even is neutralizing the thing that got the Huskies to this game in the first place.

Is it the same for linebackers?

I walked into that one. Colson doesn’t get a minus for this because he was just doing his job, but he’s never going to be the linebacker with a green dog (blitz if the RB stays in to block) option that he doesn’t take because his spidey-sense says there’s open grass behind him that he needs to take away.

Barrett has that spidey sense to shift his plan of attack based on feel. His day was all +1s except when Washington tried to go tempo on him while he was still giving out assignments. He glides over, gets playside of both tackles trying to make a play on him, and wins the play, with help from Jenkins getting across his man.

He’s taking away space but also in control so he can react immediately to the bootleg action and show up in Penix’s face. We are going to miss these guys; we’re going to miss Michael Barrett more. Not that this is a surprise.

The refs seemed to be bothering you. NCAA conspiracy?

The story early in the game was Washington extending drives with screens and runs to the edge because a Michigan player was getting yanked back:

It irked, but became a lot less irksome when they finally decided to call a light one to wipe out a 32-yard gain in the fourth quarter.

That’s a hold that in my mind would be called 100% of the time on Michigan in the Big Ten, but maybe 35% of the time on a Michigan opponent in the Big Ten. The Washington woofers were mad about it when the stadium put it up on replay, so call it even.

The Washington players are also coached for a Spartan level of barking. This wasn’t Refs-minus because Sainristil got in a relevant jersey tug, but it was going to be a Refs+ event (or at least “rubbin’s racing”) if the receiver doesn’t box out and put on a sales job.

When I was an umpire I hated these kinds of guys, because it works, and you feel like such an asshole afterwards. You can be an old man and whine about respect for the game, or you can respect game.

DeBoer is one of those guys. He used all kinds of tricks at Indiana, if you recall, and was going full Scott Frost with illegal formations the refs didn’t catch but set off confusion as Michigan was trying to get aligned. Washington also took a page from the KC Chiefs, using a hard count and getting the tackles moving a half beat early. The latter ultimately bit them in the ass; Washington had two false starts, and wishes the refs had called a third when Mason Graham started with the right tackle and the right guard was still waiting for the ball to be snapped.

What Does it Mean for 2024 and Beyond?

All aboard for the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Defensive Tackle Room. Michigan’s #1 priority for 2024 should be getting Graham and Grant back. It’s not fair, ethical, moral, or going to last, but it is what the people in charge of this sport, in their spectacular greed, shortsightedness, and ineptitude, have created but support the One More Year Fund.

Josiah Stewart is underrated. He quietly blew up, then came back to college. Crushing the edge, dangerous rusher, comfortable dropping: he’s the whole package. Could be the best edge in the country next year. Derrick Moore completes the set.

Need to append “and Sabb!” to 2024 safety talk. Justifiably, they’re going to be talking up Rod Moore and Makari Paige as the best safety tandem in the country. They also have an understudy who’s Ready. Wouldn’t be surprised if they try one of these guys at nickel (we’ve been saying Moore because he’s the buggiest of the trio, but they can all do it) so they can add McBurrows to the cornerback competition.

Wink is probably going to sim…and blitz! They have the dudes for coverage, so he can play more man than Minter did if he likes. But they also have the dudes to get pressure with their front four, so he can run creepers like Minter if he likes. Best guess, Wink varies his pressures and fake pressures by opponent, because he has the luxury. I also think Martindale is going to like it here.

DeBoer was gunning so hard for the Michigan job he got the Alabama one. Emptied both barrels of Weird Crappe at Jesse Minter, and once that was exhausted it was a coverage/pressure knife fight till the end. Coaches are going to be on about this one for the next 30 years, or whenever Michigan retires DeBoer in the Rose Bowl.

Michigan won the National Championship. You probably don’t need another sports thought this year.

Your Moment of Zen:

 

We came here to spread some love and kick some ass, and we’re all out of asses.

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