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A (Slightly) Closer Look: Utah

QB Comparison:
Michigan Passing v. Utah
Name
Comp
Att
%
Yds
TD
Int
Yds/Att
Nick Sheridan
11
19
57.89
98
1
1
5.16
Steven Threet
8
19
42.11
69
1
0
3.63
Though Threet's stats are worse than Sheridan's, most people who watched the game would agree that Threet looked to be the better of the two QBs in this game (this is like saying "the less painful way to get hit in the nuts with a baseball bat"). There are several factors that account for this.
  • After the first scoring drive, Sheridan went from competent (started the gane 11/13) to sucky (went 0/6 the rest of the way).
  • Nick Sheridan threw an ugly interception to close out the half that ultimately ended up deciding the game. He also had an interception wiped out due to a pass interference call.
  • Sheridan tried to rip a ball out of McGuffie's hands after he had already given it away, resulting in a lost fumble.
  • Threet's attempts all came after the ground game was abandoned due to both ineffectiveness and a need to slow down the clock.
  • Threet's touchdown pass was prettier.
  • The offense was more effective with Threet in the game.
  • Threet seemed to be more poised than Sheridan (oh god, Clausen comparisons ahoy).
  • The offense just seemed to be clicking a little more (which is to say: at all) under Threet's guidance.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Steven Threet as the starting QB next week, and I think deservedly so. however, Miami's defense is not as good as Utah's, so unless we see major improvement against the RedHawks, the offense could remain ugly all year. There were likely some first game jitters playing a role in the poor QB play as well, so don't expect anything this bad again, but don't expect to see Threet or Sheridan threaten for All-conference honors, either.

Rushing Comparison:
Michigan Rushing v. Utah
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
Sam McGuffie
8
8
1
1.00
Brandon Minor
4
21
0
5.25
Nick Sheridan
5
1
0
0.40
Steven Threet
5
0
0
0.00
Michael Shaw
2
1
0
0.50
Carlos Brown
1
4
0
4.00

Ugly. I think that although the running backs had a pretty bad day, much of the blame falls on the offensive line. The backfield was collapsed on most plays, meaning that the runners had to struggle just to get back to the line of scrimmage most of the time. Brandon Minor had one good looking run, but also a crippling fumble.

Once the offensive line gets a little more used to game shape, and starts playing against less talented D-lines, hopefully they can gel a bit and become more successful. Failing that, we can pray for a midseason return from Corey Zirbel that suddenly makes the line awesome.

Michigan's 36 yards finished 99th out of the 105 D-1A teams that have played so far this season, tied with Utah.

Defense by Half:
Utah's total offense in the first half: 303 yards.
Utah's total offense in the second half: 38 yards.

As Lloyd said (erroneously) after the 2005 loss to Notre Dame: "We may have lost a game, but found a defense."

After the halftime break, the players realized that the 2008 season started at 3:30 Saturday, and even if they were going to show up a couple hours late, they would just make up for it with an extra-special effort in the second half.

I really do believe that Utah has one of the best offenses Michigan will face this year, and certainly among the most balanced. In the second half, they managed to shut that offense down. If anything, I'm disappointed that the game was lost, but I think the defensive improvement over the course of the game is a source of optimism going forward.

Helping the Wolverines
Of course, Utah's mistakes were a big part of why Michigan managed to keep this game as close as it was. Utah amassed an amazing 137 yards worth of penalties in the game. This makes them the second-in-command for Mythical Penatly-Committing National Champion, behind Texas Tech.

Another note about Utah helping Michigan (though this is also something the defense and special teams earned):
Michigan's average starting field position: their own 30.9 yard line.
Average starting field position on scoring drives: Utah's 35 yard line.
The only scoring drive that didn't begin in Utah territory was the field goal, and even that series began on the 50.

The Incredible Frozen Offensive Line
So, uh what was with the plays where the offensive line didn't move?

There are two theories:
  • It was just a trick play.
  • Michigan's center was trying to catch the Utes offsides.
I believe, at least partially, in theory number 2, since the second time Michigan ran this play, the referees seemed to miss an egregious offsides penalty by Utah's entire defensive line. It could also be a trick play, but it seems a little counter intuitive to:
  1. Trick the defensive line into not rushing.
  2. Roll out, away from a presumably non-rushing defensive line.
  3. Throw a fade route, designed to hope that the DB doesn't notice the play has started, when he isn't really watching the O-line for the beginning of the play anyway.
If anyone else has further insights about this, by al means, speak up.

For this week's Inside the Play, I'll be breaking down the Nick Sheridan touchdown pass to Michael Shaw.

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“A (Slightly) Closer Look: Utah”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    It looks like Forcier committed according to scout. Not a big surprise, but nice to see nonetheless.

  2. Anonymous Justin Says:

    From the rushing stats you posted we had 25 rushing attempts in the game, but most of the McGuffie/Minor runs came in the second half (Minor had three rushes on the 3Q drive he fumbled and McGuffie had three or four on another 3Q/early4Q drive). Considering that and that probably quite a few of the QB runs were scrambles/broken plays, there has to be a reason why they barely ran in the first half. I know it seemed to not be working, but there was only about 5 real rushes in the half. Why did they so quickly abandon what we thought was a strength for the team? It couldn't have been because the passing was going so successfully.

  3. Blogger gsimmons85 Says:

    it was a designed free play when the defense jumps offsides, the officalls just didnt call it... you leave the ol lone to make sure there are no offensive penalties on the roll out... holding illegal man down field etc. and you roll the qb out because there will be no blockers...

  4. Blogger kowisja Says:

    i'm sensing a "object to the nuts" theme here.