Matt Pargoff Breaks Down The Michigan Defense

Matt Pargoff is a high school coach (in case you didn't know!). Here is his film-breakdown of the defense in the Iowa game. Why rehash the unpleasant-past? MSU now has a similar run-pass quarterback to Iowa's, so the challenges presented this week will be similar!

Coming into this game, I expected Iowa to get their points. They have one of the top ten scoring offenses in the nation. But I also expected Michigan to score a lot, and attempt to win the game in a shootout. So entering from that perspective, the offense seemed to have let the team down. However, whenever a defense gives up 34 points, including 24 in the last 24 minutes of the game, they certainly must share in the blame. In analyzing Iowa's success against the Michigan defense, several key aspects stand out. Here are those aspects, along with their corresponding play-breakdowns.

1. Poor Tackling:
As Mark Ouimet stated in his Iowa game preview, Michigan had to tackle! And early in the game, Michigan was very good in defending the run. However, the lack of consistent tackling became very costly as the game went on. The plays listed below include missed tackles, each resulting in a key play on an Iowa SCORING DRIVE. By the end of the game, Michigan was being pushed around, and huge holes opened.

-1st Quarter (10:48)
Iowa ran the slip screen to wide receiver CJ Jones who took the play 39 yards for a touchdown. Victor Hobson was in perfect position to stuff the play for a two yard loss. Instead, he missed the tackle, running right by the Iowa ball carrier.

-1st Quarter (5:53)
The Hawkeyes had the ball on the Michigan 35 yard line. Brad Banks ran the ball on a quarterback draw, gaining 18 yards and taking the ball to the 17 yard line. This was well within the Iowa kickers range, and the Hawkeyes ultimately gained a field goal on that possession. However, the play should have been stopped for only a two yard gain. Charles Drake hit Banks just as he crossed the line of scrimmage, but failed to bring him down.

-3rd Quarter (3:35)
Iowa had the ball on the Michigan 29 yard line. On a Jermelle Lewis run, Zack Kaufman over-pursued and Shantee Orr missed Lewis on the cutback. That opened a hole for the Iowa running back to pick up about nine yards. However, when Jeremy LeSueur missed the tackle at the 20 yard line, Lewis was able to run for an additional 15 yards, making it first and goal for Iowa. The Hawkeyes would score on the next play.

-3rd Quarter (3:03)
Jermelle Lewis was handed the ball and was hit cleanly by Cato June at the 3 yard line. However, June failed to bring him down, and Lewis scored a touchdown.

-4th Quarter (14:55)
On third and 11 from the Michigan 23, Iowa ran a shovel pass to Lewis for a touchdown. Cato June should have made an easy tackle at the 8 yard line, but was run-over instead.

2. Defending Dallas Clark:
Ouimet also stated in his Iowa game preview that the linebackers had to defend Dallas Clark well; well, he pulled in five catches for 68 yards. Two of those completions were gains of under ten yards on passes into the flats. The other three were more costly, attacking the middle of the Michigan secondary for large gains. On each of these plays, I noted during the game that Clark was allowed to release without being touched by the defensive end or linebacker. Michigan was more successful in defending Clark when Hobson hit him, slowing him down and knocking him off of his route.

-1st Quarter (6:52)
Iowa used play action to keep the linebackers close to the line. Clark was allowed to release without impediment, and caught the ball between the linebackers and the safeties in a cover two zone. Iowa picked up 20 yards on the play.

-2nd Quarter (8:38)
Almost identical to the play described above, but without the play action. Clark settled in the middle of the field, between the Michigan linebackers and safeties. He was wide open, and picked up 20 yards on the play.

-3rd Quarter (4:05)
This play was similar in that Clark again attacked the middle of the defense, and again was untouched off the line. However, this was a ten yard pick up on a third and 10. Despite being a costly play, Kaufman had it defended fairly well. He kept Clark in front of him, and hit him as soon as he caught the ball. This was just a well-executed play by Iowa.

3. Defending the Slip Screen:
Also known as the "jail break screen," flanker screen, ect. Whatever you choose to call it, Iowa ran that play a lot, and had great success against the Michigan defense. The keys to defending the slip screen are quick recognition, getting by or defeating the blockers, good defensive flow to the ball, and tackling. If one of these aspects is missing, the play is much more likely to be successful for the offense.

-1st Quarter (12:39)
Iowa ran the slip screen to CJ Jones, and Michigan defended it very well. Lazarus and Stevens flowed to the ball very well, and slowed Jones. Carl Diggs got past his blocker quickly, and made a sound tackle on Jones who only picked up four yards. This is how the slip screen should be defended. Unfortunately, it was a rare occurrence during the game.

-1st Quarter (10:48)
I noted this play above in the poor tackling section. Hobson should have made the play for a short loss, but missed the tackle. In addition, Diggs c ould have made the play after a five yard gain, but was easily blocked by the Iowa offensive lineman. LeSueur attempted to get past his blocker to the outside and took himself completely out of the play.

-2nd Quarter (10:31)
Iowa used a slip screen to Jones to pick up 9 yards on a third and 8. Markus Curry just missed making the play behind the line, but did a pretty good job. If he'd recognized it just a little quicker, he would have stopped the play for a loss. Diggs was too easily blocked. But Hobson had the best chance to stop this play. He was pushed outside, but got off his blocker, and just needed to step up and make the tackle. Instead, he waited for Jones to come to him, and made the tackle as Jones picked up the first down.

-3rd Quarter (10:31)
Iowa was on the 16 yard line after the Curry fumble, and used the slip screen to get to the 2 yard line. Hobson was on a blitz for Michigan, which made this play inherently more difficult to defend. Charles Drake tried to get around his man to the outside, and took himself out of the play. More significantly, Carl Diggs was too easily blocked again, and didn't make the tackle as Jones ran past him. Larry Stevens had to run Jones down from behind to prevent the touchdown.

4. Other Observations:

Michigan wide receivers weren't the only ones dropping balls on Saturday. Charles Drake dropped an interception in the endzone in the first quarter of the game. Iowa scored a field goal on that drive. In the second quarter, Marlin Jackson dropped an interception at the Iowa 34 yard line. Ultimately, Iowa was forced to punt the ball. However, instead of getting the ball at the Iowa 34 yard line, Michigan received the ball at their own 3 yard line. These are plays that have to be made.

Adam Finley was arguably the best defensive player for the Wolverines in the first half, burying the Hawkeyes inside their 15 yard line with great punts on four separate occasions.

Iowa was 9 or 18 (50%) on third down conversions. By contrast, Michigan was only 5 of 15 (33.3%) on third downs. Iowa picked up 22 total first downs to Michigan's 12. As a result, Iowa successfully dominated the clock, possessing the ball for a full 38:27. Michigan possessed the ball for only 21:33. While the defense shares responsibility in not getting the Iowa offense off the field quick enough, the inability of Michigan's offense to sustain drives stranded the defense on the field for far too long. By the end of the game, Iowa was able to push around the defense for rushing yards. Fatigue was likely a major contributing factor to the poor run defense as the game ran on.

One note about the offense: Michigan and Iowa entered the game with very similar offensive strategies: pass the ball to set up the run. Iowa was very successful in doing just that. In the first half, their rushing attack was shut down, but they were very successful passing the ball. In the second half, they were able to do both. By contrast, Michigan was unsuccessful passing the ball early, and was consequently never able to run the ball.

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