The key to tripping up Minnesota was stopping their rushing attack. They were the number one rushing team in the Big Ten so they represented an adequate test to Michigan's rush defense. Jim Herrman's boys were up to the challenge. Minnesota only rushed for 127 yards for the game (although that stat is a bit misleading due to the lost yards on their bad punt snap in the 1st quarter).
In the first half, Michigan bottled up the Gopher running game almost completely.
The first test came early when Chris Perry fumbled on the very first offensive play -- giving Minnesota excellent field position inside Michigan's 20 yard line. In this 'sudden change' situation, the defense held up excellently . They stuffed the Gophers on the first two downs. Then on 3rd and 10 at 13:45 in the first quarter, both Orr and Stevens came off of the edges to sack Abdul-Kaliq and force a field goal.
Another sudden change situation occurred in the 2nd quarter after Minnesota faked a punt and got excellent field position as a result. On 2nd and 9 on the Michigan 18 at 5:24 of the second quarter both Bowman and Rumishek came off of the edges to pressure Abdul-Kaliq. Jon Shaw began reading Abdul-Khaliq's eyes from the snap of the ball. When he threw it, Shaw got an excellent break on the ball, leapt in front of the receiver, and intercepted it.
The rest of the first half was filled with examples of stout defense, although with a few exceptions.
1st quarter 8:02
1st and 10. Heuer beat his man up front and forced Abdul-Kaliq to go to his outlet (Terry Jackson). Jackson droped the ball and Victor Hobson LEVELED him.
1st quarter 7:57
2nd and 10. Rumishek was pushed back off of the line by Minnesota's tight end. That allowed the running back to get outside him. The linemen pulled around the corners. Carl Diggs split two of them to trip Jackson up. Pickup of 7 yards.
1st quarter 6:25
2nd and 5. The alignment was wrong on this bubble screen play. Minnesota lined up with trips right, single back, and one receiver to the left. Kaufman did not hedge to the outside towards the trips. He lined up inside of the defensive end. That left the bubble screen wide open. No defender was within 5 yards of him. The play picked up 11 yards as a result.
1st quarter 5:20
2nd and 7. It's the bubble screen again. Minnesota lined up in the same formation except to the other side. Kaufman almost lined up wrong again. He recognized it this time and began to move outside the defensive end before the snap (Larry Stevens pointed this out as well). This left Kaufman in position to keep the receiver from turning up field. The play was strung out to the sideline and Marlin Jackson beat his block and stopped it for a 1-yard gain.
1st quarter 5:10
3rd and 5. Abdul-Khaliq rolled to his left out of the shotgun. Jon Shaw was in a bit of limbo because he had to play Abdul-Khaliq (who might scramble) and the receiver (who was behind him). Shaw played it just right and played Abdul-Khaliq just long enough to make him throw it and then got back to cover the receiver and break up the pass.
2nd quarter 11:41
1st and 10. Carl Diggs stepped up in the hole, took on the fullback's lead block, and shed him and made the tackle for a 1-yard gain.
2nd quarter 6:38
3rd and 8. Grant Bowman came around the corner on a stunt, spun off of the blockers and pressured Abdul-Kaliq into making a bad throw. Marlin Jackson muffed the interception that would have been a sure touchdown.
Minnesota only had 3 plays of over 7 yards during the half. They converted only 2 of 8 first downs. However, in the second half Abdul-Khaliq decided to run a bit more and the Minnesota offensive line did a better job of opening holes for Jackson.
3rd quarter 14:06
3rd and 8. Michigan was playing straight man to man coverage and had all of the receivers blanketed. Abdul-Khaliq had to step forward due to a good pass rush by the down lineman. He decided to run and Kaufman coame up to tackle him well short of the first down. However, he deliverd a good stiff arm to Kaufman's face and got 5 extra yards and a first down.
3rd quarter 13:51
1st and 10. Norman Heuer got pushed back off of the ball as he tried to angle toward the ball carrier. That allowed a seam for Jackson to get through. The guard blocked Kaufman. Further, he failed to take on the block with his playside shoulder free. Jackson scooted through and made some moves for a big gain of 28 yards.
3rd quarter 9:15
1st and 10. The guard blocked down on Bowman. Rumishek was kicked out and there was a huge hole. The guard picked off Diggs. Sarantos lined up outside of Rumishek (in order to blitz). He was left out of position to stop this play. As he blitzed into the backfield he had a chance at the running back but the fake reverse fooled him. This, for the most part, was a very opportunistic call by the Minnesota offense since the blitz by Sarantos left a huge void to run through. Jackson picked up 13 yards.
3rd quarter 8:15
3rd and 8. Michigan was playing straight man to man again. There was good coverage in the secondary. Michigan stunted up front leaving a large hole up the middle. Abdul-Khaliq ran through this hole and then cut to the outside for a first down.
3rd quarter 3:11
1st and 10. Lazarus was pushed a couple of yards off of the line by a double team. Shantee Orr angled in to tackle Jackson for a 5-yard gain.
Michigan did a pretty good job of containing Terry Jackson outside of a few big plays. He finished the day with 19 carries for 89 yards. However, Abdul-Khaliq did the greater damage. He only had 13 rushes for 67 yards, but he had big runs on 3rd downs. When you compare these stats to those that they put up vs. OSU (Jackson 16 rushes for 49 yards, Abdul-Khaliq 11 rushes for –15 yards), it's very evident that Abdul-Khaliq was a big factor in Minnesota being more successful vs. the Wolverines.
Many of Abdul-Khaliq's yards came when he ran up the middle and then cut to the outside. Teams sometimes combat mobile quarterbacks with spy techniques. An alternative is to "spill" the quarterback to the outside and use the boundary as an extra defender. This requires all of the defenders to maintain their rush lanes. Michigan is a team that runs stunts very frequently. This can leave them susceptible up the middle at times.
Brooks Bollinger will be playing on Saturday and you can bet the coaching staff will be addressing quarterback containment.
A few individual players must be pointed out because their play has really progressed during the season. Larry Stevens has really come on as of late. He's always been an effective run stuffer. However, these past few games he's been really effective at putting pressure on the quarterback. Furthermore, he continues to play with the endless motor that we've become accustomed to seeing.
Another player that has really stepped it up is Carl Diggs. Many had questions about 'the man in the middle' early in the season. However, he has been a rock in the center of the defense the past three games. He's really shown improvement in shedding blockers. Further, he's gotten a lot more comfortable with shooting gaps and beating blockers to the point. Look for his play to continue to get better.
Finally, the most pleasant surprise the past few weeks has been Jon Shaw. He's demonstrated the ball skills that Wolverine fans have been clamoring for. He's made the most of his limited time and it will be hard to sit him down when the other safeties become healthy. That's a very pleasant problem to have.
Film Breakdown vs. Minnesota: Michigan's Defensive
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