Getting Offensive: Breaking Down Michigan's Offensive Performance Against Indiana in the Wolverines' 42-35 Win

Below is MGoVideo's outstanding video compilation from Saturday (minus sound, for copyright reasons). I couldn't break down last week's game without it so, as usual, my unending thanks for his seemingly tireless work. Watch it, review it, think about it. Every play from Saturday's win over Indiana:


Initial Thoughts

First, the Bad. Good Lord, is it possible for this offense to shoot itself in the foot at a less critical time than Michigan's did? Michigan was rolling Indiana, about to go up 14 points to 21-7, and we go into a power I formation a fumble the ball on the friggin one yard line. Seriously!? Blame is shared equally between Molk and Robinson on the snap, but I still can't figure out why we went to a power set when we were running the quick snap shotgun offense up to that point. Run the I formation when you're going to take your time. It lets the center and quarterback calm down. When you run a power formation rarely, then break it out on the goal line and try to run the play too quickly, bad things happen. The result was a fumble that gave Indiana life right as Michigan was going to stomp the life out of them. GAAAAAH!

Michigan also threw itself out of a couple of possessions in the second half. The Wolverines punted FOUR times in the second half. These punts included THREE three-play drives wherein Robinson overthrew receivers twice and Indiana stuffed a fairly predictable WR screen. Again, I can't blame the coaching staff for trying to go for the throat, but first downs in a close game are important too. There were some other assorted, "why are we doing that?" moments, but for the most part I can't complain too much about the play calling. The offense seemed to be humming, and Michigan ran up almost as many points as it ran plays (42 points to 45 plays). I think Rodriguez probably should've held Robinson out one more play to let him catch his breath after he got injured, but I can't fault him for putting the talented QB back in the game.

Now, the Good. 45 plays, 42 points. Michigan scored touchdowns on five drives lasting less than five plays. They scored touchdowns on two TWO PLAY drives, one THREE PLAY drive, and two FIVE PLAY drives. Holy Hoppin' Moses, are you kidding me? When this offense is clicking... man... Details on positional play after the jump, but I want to say one thing up front; our tight ends are not getting nearly enough credit for the outstanding jobs they're doing. Martell Webb and Kevin Koger are crushing people right now. If anyone deserves some special recognition, it's these guys.

Postional Reviews

The Offensive Line: What more can you say about this unit that I haven't already before? They're playing at a level Michigan hasn't seen since the first 8 games of the 2006 season. The Line is simply steamrolling people right now. Before we start breaking open the bottles of Dom and planning a parade, it should be noted that the defensive lines Michigan has faced haven't been of the highest quality. Notre Dame is arguably the best defensive line they've faced, and running at Indiana's line was like watching a puppy trying to stop a dump truck. The line was outstanding. Michigan didn't have a single negative play on the day, and that's just a great thing to say. The only negative, and this is a big one, is the botched center to QB exchange that led to the fumble. Watching that play you see David Molk fire out of his stance before he'd gotten the ball to Robinson and Robinson pull out of the snap too early. The result was a massive momentum shift that never should've occurred. During the Wolverines' third and fourth quarter nap, the Line also wasn't getting a lot of push on the Indiana line. A lot of that is attributable to the Hoosiers stacking the box, but the run game went nowhere for three series when Michigan needed points. So, I can't give the line an A. But I can give them B+. great work all around.

The Receivers: As touched on above, I can't say enough about the job the tight ends and wide receivers have done this season. In particular go to 1:09 on the video and watch Martell Webb just destroy Indiana's poor safety. God I love watching stuff like that. What's even better is that Kevin Koger never quit on the play and followed his quarterback looking to block someone. The result, he was there to fall on a loose ball after Denard went down. Sure it wasn't a fumble, but that's the kind of hustle Michigan is getting from every member of this offense. It's incredibly gratifying to see. These guys just don't want to be good, they want to be unstoppable, and it's evident in the way they're playing every down.

Then there are Roy Roundtree's two outstanding catch and runs. One ended up in a touchdown, the other got Michigan to the 1 yard line. On the first Tree simply jukes the socks off the corner and outruns everyone to the endzone. On the second he uses Kelvin Grady's outstanding blocking to pick up as much yardage as possible. Again awesome. Then there's Junior Hemingway's breakout game. The "sturdy" wideout went for 129 on 3 catches including a 70 yard TD catch and run, and the most critical play of the game, a 42 yard catch that set up Michigan's final TD. Hemingway deserves a lot, and I mean a lot of credit for an outstanding adjustment on the ball, fighting through the defender and maintaining enough body control to get from the 10 yard line (while being tackled) to the 3 yard line. BTW, all three of Hemingway's catches were for first downs.

The receivers are playing at an incredibly high level right now. Of the 6 incompletions thrown by Denard, I can't think of an incompletion that was caused by an easy drop. the incompletions were generally caused by Denard overthrowing his receiver or the receiver getting popped at the time of delivery. These guys were great. A+.

The Running Back: I'd say running backs, but only Vincent Smithcarried the ball. It was one of those games where Michigan only handed Smith the ball 9 times. One handoff was a run into a stacked goal line defense with no lead blocker, so... yeah. The rest of the Smith was pretty darn good. His 56 yard run was something I think everyone  was dying to see from him since his injury. It was also the patient run to the hole, followed by the explosion after the line of scrimmage you just love to see. He picked up yards on every carry. Subtracting his 56 yarder and zero goal line run, he averaged about 3.5 a carry which isn't great, but it's still not too bad. I'd like to see some bigger number on the shorter runs, but Smith was an able blocker and picked up a critical touchdown. I think you've got to give him an A on the day.

The Quarterback: This one might surprise you a bit, but i don't think Denard Robinsonwas on his game this Saturday. Sure he amassed some mind boggling numbers, but he wasn't as sharp as we've seen him. The goofed up snap, a couple of bad reads on the zone read, at least three overthrows of wide open receivers and failing to see another receiver streaking down the field uncovered. I know he racked up some sick yards, but this wasn't his best game.

Robinson showed some great speed off the line of scrimmage and also hit his short throws pretty well. But the two longest catches of the day, Roundtree's gallop to the one and Junior's TD, were on short passes. The only down field pass that Denard really threw well was to Hemingway on the second to last play of the game, and that one he purposely underthrew. I also dinged him a bit for some of the second half throws after be got bumped. I know he got the wind knocked out of him, but he's still out there and defenses don't play to your current level of health. During Michigan's string of three straight drives of four plays or less, Robinson really looked like he was forcing things. He's got to take a breath and relax.  I think there's a lot of room for improvement this week in the passing game, especially at hitting the streaking receivers.

Going to the running game, Robinson had a pair of amazing runs, but he also made some weird decisions on a couple of cut backs that cost him yards and got him popped. Again, I just think he had a little bit of an off day, in part because Shaw wasn't in there as the every down back clearing linebackers out of his way. Robinson had another amazing day, but I've got to give him a B for his performance on Saturday. As the stakes go up, so does the strickness in the grading policy.

Overall

Despite the numbers, overall this was a good, not a great offensive performance. Michigan handicapped itself a few times with bad throws and mental errors. Michigan easily left 21 points on the field that they should've had. That's a lot. The fumble. The overthrow on Hemingway. The overthrown on Odoms. All three were touchdowns and all three never got up on the board. Michigan had the luxury of playing a middle to lower tier football team last Saturday, so those screw ups (thankfully) didn't come back to bite them. But against Michigan State, a team with perhaps the best linebackers Michigan will see all year, you can't leave points on the board.

Given Robinson's iffy downfield day, I'd expect the Spartans to crowd the box with 7 to 8 guys and dare Robinson to beat them over the top. "That's suicide!" you say. Not really. Robinson showed he can run through gaps and pick up yards. Based on the Indiana game he hasn't shown a lot of touch, and MSU's corners are a lot better than Indiana's. Can Robinson exploit that? Definitely. I think he's a lot better than what he showed on Saturday. Also working in his favor are the great showing by the offensive line, the reliability of his receivers, and getting a healthy Michael Shaw back.

Saturday's game is going to be a barn burner, but if there's one overarching good thing to take away from this game it's that Michigan can play really average (yes, I thought this was an average performance based on the level of competition [on defense, not offense] and the mistakes that were made) and still win the game based on the explosive nature of this team. Michigan's execution will likely be a lot better on Saturday simply because it has to be, and I'm looking forward to an exciting game and a better performance from Robinson.

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