In a game where UM was supposed to impose its will on the ground, the effectiveness of the offensive attack was more attributable to their late success through the air. Oregon's approach to defending Michigan was to basically dare the Wolverines to throw the ball. Unfortunately for the Maize and blue faithful, the gridiron heroes from Ann Arbor weren't able to establish their aerial attack early enough for it to make a difference in the run game. The early offensive struggles only exacerbated a hole that was already deepened by a number of special teams mishaps.
1st and 10 on Michigan 16, 2:11
Oregon has nine men in the box. Michigan appears to run a flood pattern with Braylon being the deep option. Navarre sails it too high. Edwards gets his hands on it but is unable to bring it down. Not a good throw by Navarre, but probably a catch Edwards should make.
3rd and 5 on Michigan 21, 1:28
Post corner route to Jason Avant, who had his man beat. Navarre overthrows the pass and the offense goes 3 and out, putting a defense that had already been playing for over 11 minutes back on the field.
2nd and 7 on Michigan 23, 13:05
Double tight set with the flanker to the short side. Pape and Lentz double team the short side tackle but he stones both of them at the line. He then fights through the block and makes initial contact in the backfield, allowing other Oregon defenders to clean Perry up and hold him to a gain of 1 yard.
3rd and 6 on Michigan
Very good protection by the offensive line. Navarre buys more time by stepping up in the pocket and just gets the ball off to Edwards in stride across the middle for a big gain of 27 yards.
3rd and 5 on Michigan 41, 10:58
Oregon blitzes the linebacker and safety. Navarre feels some heat, but the blitz is picked up. Two receivers come free on the play. Braylon beats his man on the shallow crossing pattern and Massaquoi is running all alone on an intermediate crossing route. I'm not sure who John was trying to hit, but it was well behind Braylon and well in front of Massaquoi.
3rd and 7 on Michigan
John steps up in the pocket and drills the ball to Tim Massaquoi in between two defenders. It hit Tim in the numbers but he dropped the ball after contact.
Michigan's offensive woes continued early in the second half, but they picked up the pace late in the third quarter. The receivers did a much better job of helping John get into a rhythm by digging out a few tough passes. There were still a few miscues by the fifth year senior QB, but the eighth drive featured John Navarre at the top of his game.
1st and 10 on Michigan 20, 14:58
Good protection by the offensive line. John comes off of the TE that clears the linebacker in the middle of the field because of a DB in zone coverage (just outside of the screen). This still could have been completed with a good throw but he went the safe route and threw underneath to Perry. The throw was a little to the outside of Chris, who hat sat down in the flat, and the ball fell incomplete.
2nd and 10 on Michigan 20, 14:52
Oregon sends a corner blitz from the strong side. The short side (and in some cases the corner over the slot receiver), is a pre-snap or blitz read in many offenses. In other words, that blitzer is the QB's man in empty backfield formations or plays where the back runs a pattern. Not sure if that's the case at Michigan. Stenavich could have been responsible for the blitzer. (Henson fumbled against the exact same blitz at home against Wisconsin in 2000). Navarre never looks to that side of the field and never sees the blitzer coming. He's sacked for a loss of 8 yards.
3rd and 18 on Michigan 12, 14:09
Great protection and good pocket for Navarre to step into. He delivers a pretty good ball to Braylon (who's being single covered) across the middle. It's just a tad out in front of Edwards but Braylon only gets a hand on it. This was a ball that should have been caught.
1st and 10 on Michigan 32, 11:02
Braylon Edwards runs a post pattern and the Oregon DB is all over it. He reads the play all of the way, despite the fakes that Edwards puts on, and cherry picks the throw from Navarre for an interception. Credit the defensive back with a great play. Navarre went to the proper option(single coverage on Braylon) but he didn't deliver a good throw to a well defended receiver.
1st and 10 on Michigan 32, 8:52
Navarre throws the out cut to Braylon. He zips it from the right side hash all of the way to the opposite sideline. He has to put some heat on it, so it's a bit high. Braylon goes up to get it for a pick up of 11 yards.
3rd and 3 on Michigan 47, 7:44
Navarre has to get rid of the ball because the defensive lineman came free on the stunt. He delivers a low but catchable ball to Avant, but Jason drops it.
1st and 10 on Oregon 35, 5:15
Square in to Braylon Edwards. Navarre delivers some very high heat, but Braylon SKIES to bring down the reception for a short gain.
2nd and 5 on Oregon
Comeback to Jason Avant. Navarre delivers the pass low, but Jason goes to his knees to scoop it up for the first down.
2nd and 10 on Oregon 23, 4:13
Square in to Avant. This time John hits Jason with a perfect pass in stride that allows him to keep running and battle his way all of the way to the endzone.
2nd and 6 on Michigan 49, 13:09
This drive started at the 2 and John drove the Wolverines down the field with 5 on-the-money passes. His sixth throw was a gorgeous pass to Breaston on the corner route. He stood in the pocket knowing that he was going to get hit and delivered the ball (despite taking a huge blow to the chops). Steve made a nice over the shoulder catch going out of bounds for a pick up of 22.
4th and 12 on Oregon 32, 12:13
Navarre takes a huge hit on the blitz but still delivers a strike to Edwards on the square in for a pick up of thirteen yards and a first down. Michigan eventually scores a touchdown on this drive (in the corner to Breaston).
1st and 10 on Oregon 24, 11:02
John engineered another drive from deep in Michigan territory. Steve Breaston runs an out pattern. What appears to have happened while watching it live was John threw the ball after Steve made his break. That allowed the defensive back, who had pretty good coverage anyway, to recover and break on the ball for the interception. An earlier throw (before the break) is probably complete.
The offense didn't do anything to help the defense get off the field in the first half. That ineffectiveness helped contribute to prolonged Oregon drives and the eventual fatigue of the defense. It's clear that the Ducks keyed on Michigan's running game, sometimes employing eight and nine players in the box. It's also clear that John was off of his game in the first half. He missed some open receivers. The second half didn't start much better. However, both John and the receivers turned in a number of clutch plays down the stretch. While it is certainly the case that the offensive attack was not at it's best (and neither was Navarre), after viewing the film it seems largely inappropriate to put the loss at the feet of this unit. Lets not be mistaken. John made a few mistakes that one wouldn't expect from a senior quarterback ...namely the throwing of the second interception and the taking of the sack in that last drive. Still, they scored enough points to win that game. John finished the day 28/55 for 360 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 interceptions after going 5/12 for only 42 yards in the first half. Below is an account of the errant throws.
Good throw by John that should have been caught
Poor throw by John that should have been caught
Throw by John where the receiver bailed him out
Very poor throw or decision.
The mention of this defeat as a team loss is appropriate. However, if blame for what happened on Saturday must be assigned to any one unit, most of it has to be laid at the feet of the special teams. Every facet of the specialty teams broke down at some point during the game. The unit gained 7 points (off of a punt block return and an extra point), but it cost the team 16 points (punt return for a TD, punt block for a TD, missed extra point, and blocked extra point). Add to those the botched fake attempt and the field position disadvantage do to penalties and poor distance on kicks/punts and it becomes quite evident just how much the offensive and defensive units had to overcome. Neither I nor anyone I've spoken with about the game has witnessed such a poor special teams effort. While I can't be classified as a Navarre apologist, it does seem largely unfair that he (or the receivers) takes the brunt of the blame for what occurred on Saturday.
That being said, the offense must be prepared to get off to a better start in the coming games (especially against the Hawkeyes). They must figure a way to get their passing game in sync much earlier in the game. That's the only way to counteract the blueprint that Oregon set forth. Equally physical teams may have success against the Wolverine running game if the passing attack can't back them off. Michigan certainly has the tools to get things in gear and I fully expect the offense to be improved. The team rolls over the Hoosiers 38-6.