Unit by Unit: Breaking Down Michigan Football's Offense After Its Win Over Indiana

Hey! Lookit this, we're not running hopelessly behind, so it's time to get started with the Michigan Indiana Unit by Unit breakdown. We'll take a hard look at the players and the coaches for each particular unit on the team, and bring them in for a pat on the back or a wag of the finger. After we've looked at each position, we'll give you a final wrap on the team's play on Offense and Defense (Special Teams too!). If you're looking for more detail, game bullets are here, the wrap up is here, the boxscore is here, and the general AP recap is here. If you're looking to peruse the Michigan Official photos from the game, check out this. There are the links, so now let's take a good hard look at....

The Offense

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David Guralnick via Detroit News.com

It's funny to think that when our offense puts up 36 points we're sitting here, at least initially, thinking it was a rough day. But the numbers bear this out. Michigan was outgained by Indiana 467 to 372. Forcier looked like he was pressured the whole day and the offense stagnated for large stretches of time. In hindsight however, I am nowhere near as concerned about the offense's performance after rewatching the game. The offensive line did a more than passable job. The receivers had three drops but were dependable and picked up crucial yardage when we needed it. The run game was nearly unstoppable, even when Tate or Denard took off. A handful of bad snaps killed some drives and two turnovers (one just a horrid horrid play by Forcier, the other a fluke hit on Robinson) did the rest. Despite those issues, Michigan had the lead in the fourth and still rallied to win even after the Defense gave up it's first truly big mistake of the season. You can have some gripes about personnel, play calling, execution; but they're all minor after a second glance. All in all, the offense performed pretty well when it didn't shoot itself in the foot with bad snaps. Take away the bad snaps and Michigan is easily over 400 yards for the game and they're still averaging over 35 points a game.

The Offensive Line

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David Guralnick via Detroit News.com

My initial reaction to the game was that the O-Line had it's worst performance of the year. After review, I actually think they had a decent game. Quite a turn around, eh? How's that happen? The answer is in the blocking. Despite David Moosman's issues with snapping the ball in the second half, the line did an excellent job opening up running lanes for Carlos Brown, Brandon Minor, and Denard Robinson. A lot of the penetration I saw was on blitzes by the outside LB's that the Tight Ends probably should've picked up. The biggest issue the line faced all day was that there was a new center. There were numerous instances where two to three guys moved early. One play in the second both Ortmann and Schilling left early when Michigan was trying to pooch punt. These types of procedure penalties didn't happen with Molk in, and I'm guessing there's still a little communication problem on assignments and snap counts that Moosman will need to resolve as the Center going forward.

Regarding the illegal formation penalty, the first one was legit, IMO. The second is a 50/50 call, but could've been made. Michigan's formations were arcing badly as they tried to ward off Jamie Kirlew and Indiana's outside pass rushers. And don't sleep on Indiana's pass rush. There were two instances where Michigan tried to block Kirlew with Koger or Brown, one ended in disaster (Forcier INT) the other almost did (Forcier's last second pitch to Brown on the last drive).

(more after the jump......)

Indiana got pressure with it's blitz or when Michigan tried to get cute with one of the Conference's best pass rushers. Otherwise, the Line generally got a good push and opened up some mammoth holes. Had Minor been at 100%, some of those TFLs never would've happened. Better communication and better snaps will eliminate most of the issues the line had on Saturday. And if you look past the bad snaps and procedure penalties, the Line actually had a decent day. Michigan's linemen were consisently clearing space and getting to the second level on run plays and were standing their ground on passing downs. Perry Dorrestein was more than passable at left Tackle. Michigan spent most of the day running left behind Mark Ortmann and Steve Schilling, successfully. Mark Huyge had a great block second level block on Minor's TD run.

You can't give it more than a C grade because of the mistakes, but there are a lot of positives to take away.

The Running Backs

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David Guralnick via Detroit News.com

Carlos Brown should never, ever, ever leave the field. Ever. He is by far Michigan's best and most effective back right now. He's showing us a cut back ability I never knew he had. He's running with authority, carrying tacklers for an extra five yards. He's breaking away from everyone. He's our best pass catcher out of the backfield. Never take him out. Ever. If I'm right, and I think I am, after Brown's second touchdown (in just the second series of the game) he didn't get another carry for the next NINE SERIES with his next carry coming a couple of plays into the tenth series after his second touchdown! That's insane. He's the hottest player on the team. You have to feed him the ball, and that's a big mistake by the coaching staff. Maybe they want to protect him, but in a close game getting away from him almost cost us. 146 yards on just 12 total touches. Seriously. Give him the ball. I'm begging you.

Whew. I needed to get that off my chest.

Outside of Brown, I thought Brandon Minor had a good game though it's clear he's still not 100%. Minor had some very good straight ahead runs, but I can count only one play where he was forced to make a cut (or the play called for it) where he was able to move laterally as quickly as we're used to. Straight ahead though, man, he was awesome. He plowed Indiana like a cornfield, picking up 51 yards on 12 carries. Honestly, if he was 100% I think he'd probably have been in the 70-80 yard range. The ankle's healing, he was great in pass protect, but I think he still needs another week to two weeks to be totally healthy and the Brandon Minor we all expect to see.

A special shout out to Kevin Grady who is becoming one of my favorite role players on the team. Kevin was huge in run blocking and showed great hands, shiftiness, and determination picking up two first downs on two catches. I think we're going to start to see more of him in this offense as a Tatenard safety valve. Also, give Grady massive props for his blocking on Tate's dive to the endzone touchdown. I really want to see Grady score a TD this year after all he's been through. One more note, Michael Shaw saw some limited action but largely watched this game, getting only two touches.

When the running backs got the ball, I thought they were great. I'll get into why they didn't get as many touches when I talk about the Quarterbacks. Overall, the Running Backs turned in an outstanding game in all aspects.

The Receivers

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Couldn't be any other photo, courtesy David Guralnick via Detroit News.com

 

 

Martavious Odoms is the man. I wasn't sold on him going into the year, but now I'm a believer. He just keeps getting better and better. It's not just the great route running and TD catch, it's the little things. His blocking on Carlos Brown's TD run, was the reason Brown went in clean. On the two point conversion, he saw Tate sprint for the endzone and closed off the safety. Sure he had a drop of a poorly thrown ball, but the kid truly is something special. Like Odoms, Kelvin Grady had a busy day. He did have drop on a questionable screen pass by Forcier, but still managed three catches including a crucial 19 yard pickup on Michigan's final drive. Watching him, I get the feeling he's still getting his bearings on the field, but the fact that he's contributing in such a meaningful way so quickly is amazing to me.

The rest of the receiver corps had an okay, not great, day. It's hard to stand out when you throw the ball 24 times, 3-4 are throw aways, 3-4 are drops, 3-4 are bad passes, and the ball spread around to 8 different receivers. Greg Mathews deserves some praise for his run blocking and drawing a flag for PI that got (even though it shouldn't have) picked up. But overall, like Junior Hemingway, Michigan's bigger receivers were largely shut out of the boxscore (one catch between them). Regardless, Hemingway had a great game run blocking and helped clear the way for a lot of yards on the ground, including Brown's first TD and Forcier's 10 yard scramble on Michigan's second to last scoring drive. Roy Roundtree made and appearance and notched a 35 yard catch at the end of the first half, but nothing more.

The Tight Ends had a decent day. The highlight was Kevin Koger's outstanding 36 yard grab that set up Minor's TD run, which Koger also added a good block on. Martell Webb's day was a little rougher, in that the only ball thrown his way was dropped and he didn't see a lot of playing time.

Overall, the receivers were great in run support, good in passing game, and came through when it mattered.

The Quarterbacks

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David Guralnick  via Detroit News.com

Well, if you were expecting a game where Tate truly played like a freshman, this was it. Even so, he played like a senior leading two critical scoring drives in the fourth quarter. You take the bad with the good sometimes, and dammit, the good keeps prevailing. Prior to the fourth quarter, Tate was not having a good day. Early in the game he was gunning everything at 100 mph. His first throw was rifled to Tacopants, and his second throw to Brown required the back to make a much harder than necessary catch before sprinting to the endzone. Tate was victimized by some drops, but only one throw was material (Webb's drop). The drops by Odoms and Grady weren't good throws or good decisions. Tate chucked one ball over junior Heminway's head that should've been picked, then scrambled around like a fool before throwing a "I'm getting tackled THROW IT!" pick that he should've just eaten. He also picked up an intentional grounding penalty and could've been called for another that ended up just being a sack. In the run game, I think he's got the Notre Dame game stuck in his head. Six legit rushes (sacks and bad snaps excluded): three scrambles and three really bad decisions on the zone read. He misread the DE on some, didn't see the late blitzer on another. He needs to keep handing that off for the time being, especially when the runningbacks are picking up 5 a carry on the opposition.

Now all that criticism aside, damn, what a fourth quarter. Forcier was on target whereas earlier he hadn't been.  He showed some great athleticism scrambling for some first downs, and his pass to Odoms and TD runs were things of beauty. The Kid isn't perfect, but he is really, really good. One thing that I especially liked is that he used his safety valve when the home run wasn't available. The biggest thing he's gotta work on is realizing he's not the most athletic guy on the field anymore, and getting rid of the ball rather than running around like a chicken with his head cut off. It'll come with time, but overall, even though the middle of the game was kinda meh, a good start and finish for Forcier.

While Forcier took a minor step sideways, Denard Robinson took a HUGE step forward on Saturday. The kid is just electric on the ground. I know he fumbled before the half, but the fumble was a helmet on football occurrence. There's not a lot you can do when that happens. Robinson's rushing numbers are distorted by two bad snaps and a couple of dropped snaps, but when he actually got the ball off the hike, he was dangerous and picked up some tough yards. Where he impressed me the most was in the passing game. His pass the Koger was absolutely beautiful and perfectly thrown. He had one bad pass to Grady that was behind Kelvin, but he's showing he can handle the full offense and make the team vertical in the air. Right now he's light years ahead of anyone under center last season and a solid number two quarterback. While he's clearly the number two guy, he played like 1A when called in on Saturday. Great game from Denard.

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