Sam Webb Breaks Down The Offense vs Iowa

Going into the Iowa game, it was widely recognized that Iowa had one of the better run defenses in the country, and a pass defense near the bottom of the NCAA. Therefore, the formula seemed simple. Pass the ball to loosen up the defense and then run once they get on their heels. However, the failures up front stymied the offense to a great extent. This week ... Michigan State has always done a pretty good job of getting pressure on Michigan. What can last week tell us about tomorrow?

Going into last week's game, it was widely recognized that Iowa had one of the better run defenses in the country. Conversely, their pass defense was near the bottom of the NCAA. Therefore, the formula seemed simple. Pass the ball to loosen up the defense and then run once they get on their heels. This very strategy worked to perfection in the first week of conference play vs. Illinois.

Sadly, however, the success against the Illini did not carry over. Michigan barely moved the ball on an Iowa defense that in past games showed little resistance to aerial assaults. There were some very key drops (including a sure touchdown by Braylon Edwards). However, it was the failures up front that stymied the offense to a much greater extent.

Despite some protection breakdowns, Michigan moved the ball through the air effectively on their first drive.
1st quarter 10:20
It's 3rd and 10 after 2 incompletions. Navarre gets pretty good protection and throws a rope to Braylon Edwards, who goes up high to get it.

1st quarter 10:04
1st and 10. Courtney Morgan and Dave Pearson beaten cleanly at the line of scrimmage. Those two defenders apply pressure to Navarre, and he throws the ball to high for Braylon Edwards on a deep square in. Navarre was hurt on the play as well.

1st quarter 9:54
2nd and 10. Spencer Brinton comes in for one play. He shows nice mobility and recognition in finding BJ Askew on the side opposite his rollout. BJ catches the ball and gets a tough 9 yards.

1st quarter 8:17
After picking up the first down and missing on a deep ball, it's 2nd and 10. Courtney Morgan is beaten cleanly off of the line. John is pressured and has to throw the ball before he wants to. Incomplete.

Iowa made some adjustments after this drive. They mixed in more man coverage instead of relying exclusively upon zone. This would seem to play into Michigan's hands since the Wolverine receivers vs. the DB's of Iowa is a favorable one-on-one matchup for the Maize and Blue. However, the advantage could never be fully realized because the pass protection got progressively worse. Furthermore, the running game was not providing any yards for the offense.

1st quarter 2:45
It is now 1st and 10 (after a 10 yard completion over the middle to Joppru). Draw to Askew. The defensive tackle comes free after the interior line fails to pick up a stunt. The result of the play is a 2 yard loss.

1st quarter 2:09
2nd and 12. Courtney Morgan is beaten cleanly to the outside and Dave Pearson is absolutely bull rushed directly back into Navarre's face. John has to check down quickly to Perry on the swing route for a pickup of 3 yards.

2nd quarter 12:07
2nd and 8. Dave Pearson is stoned at the line of scrimmage. Chris Perry is forced to cutback his run and picks up close to 3 yards.

2nd quarter 11:31
3rd and 5. David Bass is beaten cleanly off of the line. Navarre is forced to step up into more pressure (Petruziello beaten by his man). John dumps the ball off to Butler for no gain. This drive was 3 and out.

2nd quarter 5:50
2nd and 3. Morgan misses his man on a run play to Perry. Play results in a 1 yard gain.

2nd quarter 4:50
1st and 10. David Bass is stuffed at the line of scrimmage. His man sheds him and hits Chris Perry for a 1 yard loss.

2nd quarter 4:11
2nd and 11. Pretty good protection on this play until Pearson's man throws him to the ground and gets after John. Navarre hangs in the pocket and takes a big hit, but he gets the ball off for a first down completion over the middle to Joppru.

2nd quarter 3:47
1st and 10. Michigan ran their patented waggle play and it was working just as it‘s supposed to. There was good protection. The play action caused the deep safety to suck up for the run. That left the middle of the field wide open for Braylon Edwards (since in that region was the safety's responsibility in the zone coverage). The only problem with the play was Braylon dropped the ball.

3rd quarter 14:19
1st and 10. The defensive end beats Morgan off of the corner again and he hits Perry in the backfield for a loss of 1.

3rd quarter 13:56
2nd and 11. Morgan is beaten around the corner again. However, this time Navarre steps up in the pocket and then runs for big yards.

3rd quarter 13:24
After a big first down pass completion to Braylon Edwards, it's now 1st and 10. Courtney Morgan is stuffed at the line of scrimmage and his man hits Perry for a 1 yard gain.

3rd quarter 12:41
2nd and 10. Courtney Morgan beat at the line of scrimmage. His man has a clear path to Navarre so Pearson tackles him. Incompletion and penalty on the play.

3rd quarter 7:58
1st and 10. Dave Pearson's man bull rushes him into the backfield and makes the sack.

3rd quarter 1:26
Courtney Morgan is beaten around the corner. Navarre is sacked.

The entire fourth quarter was more of the same.
Even with the deficiencies up front, Michigan still had an opportunity to get the lead in the game. Then they fumbled the Iowa punt in the third quarter. That forced the defense back on the field again. While they had not really stopped Iowa's offense all day, they did keep them out of the end zone early. They bought time for the team, but the offense could not sustain enough drives to keep the defense fresh.

It is clear that Michigan has to address the protection issues from the left side of the line. You can assume that was one of the major areas of emphasis this week. Michigan State, despite their sack statistics, has always done a pretty good job of getting pressure on Michigan. Over the past few years, they have been the most effective team at running delayed blitzes on Michigan. If the protection is there, there will be some great opportunities for RAC yards. Further, MSU has been gouged for HUGE running yards the past few weeks. This is the perfect opportunity to get the running game back on track.

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