October 25, 2012

Film Review: Michigan offense vs. Michigan State

The offense wasn't pretty, but did just enough.

Here is a look at the critical offensive possessions that made and broke the Wolverines in a 12-10 victory over Michigan State ...

Best Drive/Most Critical Drive: I will combine these two because, no matter how abysmal the offense had been, it stepped up against a very, very talented Spartan defense when Brady Hoke and company needed it the most.

Down 10-9 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the ball on the Wolverines' 38-yard line, any aspirations of a game-winning drive were fleeting for a Maize and Blue offense that had struggled mightily throughout the game.

But the unit made it happen.

Al Borges dialed up a read option out of the shotgun - a play MSU had shut down all day - and a bottled up senior running back Vincent Smith made a quick cut past two assailing Spartans in the backfield and burst up a seam, created by a block from senior quarterback Denard Robinson, for a 12-yard gain to give Michigan a slight sliver of hope.

Needing at least 15 yards to get into field goal range, Robinson was immediately snuffed at the line of scrimmage on a quarterback draw. Redshirt senior left guard Ricky Barnum was hesitant in reaching the next level, allowing Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen to stop U-M's quarterback for no gain.

Following an offside penalty on Spartan defensive end William Gholston, Michigan looked to pass the ball. MSU's defensive backfield shut down a combination route to the field, and Robinson was forced to check down to senior running back Vincent Smith out of the backfield for a three-yard gain.

On third-and-two Borges put the ball in the hands of his best player, conjuring up a quarterback draw. Michigan State's defensive line created a tremendous push up the middle, but Robinson sidestepped a sprinting Spartan safety, who clearly read the play, and stretched forward to barely pick up the first down. A seal block by redshirt junior left tackle Taylor Lewan gave Robinson the slimmest of lanes, in which the senior signal caller used his uncanny athleticism to gain two yards.

On the next play, Robinson made a poor choice to check down and throw to redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint out of the backfield, and Toussaint made an even worse decision to make a diving catch for a one yard loss that kept the clock running and forced Michigan to waste its final timeout.

Then it happened.

Needing a huge chunk of yardage, the fledgling Michigan offense delivered.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Drew Dileo, who caught four passes for 92 yards in the game (23.0 yards per reception), lined up behind junior wide out Devin Gardner to the short side of the field with Robinson in a single-back set out of the gun, and motioned to the wide slot against an MSU defense that was playing a soft zone. After the snap Barnum picked up a key block on a Spartan linebacker, who stunted from a stand-up wide-nine technique into the C-gap, allowing Robinson to step up in the pocket, buy extra time and hit Dileo on an elongated crossing route for a 20-yard gain that firmly entrenched the Wolverines in field goal range.

The Maize and Blue rushed to the line and Robinson emphatically spiked the ball to set up a game-winning field goal attempt with nine seconds left, and redshirt junior place kicker Brendan Gibbons took care of the rest.

Finally it was over.

Worst Drive: Drive Seven
Down 7-6 late in the third-quarter with a second chance to put a drive together to take the lead, the Wolverines look absolutely listless.

On first down, Robinson posed a half-hearted play fake to Toussaint that fooled no one and tried to hit redshirt junior Jeremy Gallon on a come-back route. Gallon ran a tight route, taking three strong steps outside at the snap of the ball to create space and gain inside position, and was open for a mid-range gain - but the pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage by a Spartan defensive tackle.

On second down, Michigan lined up in a split shot-gun formation with twins to the field and tried a quick-hitting sweep to Toussaint that was foiled immediately by an bombarding Michigan State defensive lineman for a six yard loss to create a third-and-long. Left guard Ricky Barnum pulled and redshirt senior center Elliott Mealer progressed too early to the second level of the defense, leaving a lane for MSU's defensive tackle to burst into the backfield.

On third down, U-M once again lined up in a single-back gun, this time with tight twins on each side, and Robinson looked for junior wide receiver Jeremy Jackson in double coverage on a deep post. It was a poor pass forced by a collapsing pocket along the outside - even though the Spartans only rushed four. This play was a perfect personification of a Maize and Blue offensive line that struggled to contain Michigan State's athleticism up front.

To make a bad situation worse, typically trustworthy junior punter Will Hagerup shanked the proceeding punt for only 30 yards, giving MSU the ball in good field position.

Offensive MVP : Redshirt junior wide receiver Drew Dileo

Not only was Dileo the Wolverines' best player in the passing game (92 receiving yards), but also made an impact when the ball was on the ground. The Michigan receiving corps has prided itself in its blocking over the past two seasons, and Dileo helped create lanes in the second level with chip blocks from the slot and stalk blocks from the outside.

Also, aside from his critical 20-yard reception on the final drive, he was the holder for the game-winning field goal, and corralled a snap that was less than perfect to give Gibbons a chance.

Drive Chart:


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 3 plays, 0 yards, 1:43
Starting Position: Michigan 19

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession:8 plays, 39 yards, 5:21
Starting Position: Michigan 19

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 11 plays, 77 yards, 5:19
Starting Position: Michigan 16
Result: Field goal


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 3 plays, 4 yards, 2:16
Starting Position: Michigan 21
Result: Punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 5 plays, 39 yards, 0:48
Starting Position: Michigan 30
Result: Field goal

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 1 play, 0 yards, 0:08
Starting Position: Michigan 42
Result: Interception


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 6 plays, 27 yards, 2:52
Starting Position: Michigan 25
Result: Punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 3 plays, 0 yards, 1:04
Starting Position: Michigan 33
Result: Punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 3 plays, -6 yards, 1:31
Starting Position: Michigan 28
Result: Punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 10 plays, 54 yards, 3:26
Starting Position: Michigan 43
Result: Field goal


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 5 plays, 32 yards, 2:41
Starting Position: Michigan 25
Result: Punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 7 plays, 27 yards, 2:00
Starting Position: Michigan 38
Result: Field goal

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