Sam Webb's Wis. Film Breakdown: The U-M Defense

The U-M defense did a good job overall against U-W. However,(as Ouimet pointed out Tuesday) U-W had a big rushing day -- a potential problem this weekend! So what happened? Was the defense blown off of the ball? Or was it the tackling? The tape tells the truth!

In recent weeks the Wolverines have done a good job of limiting the ground attacks of the teams that they faced. This past week, the competition was taken up a level (despite what Wisconsin's record might have suggested). And the Badgers had 195 net rushing yards against the Michigan defense. That stat would lead one to believe that the Michigan defense was getting pushed around on Saturday. Nothing could be further from the truth. Michigan's front seven did an excellent job maintaining, and or pushing the Wisconsin OL back from the line of scrimmage. What The Wolverine defense did not do an excellent job of was -- tackling.

There are times when a team has to give an opposing player credit for just doing one hell of a job, or being one hell of a player. Anthony Davis is one hell of a player. He is going to make some guys miss, and/or break some tackles. That said, there were numerous times during the day where Wolverine defenders got clear shots at Davis and simply missed the tackle. Many of Davis' yards came after he ran right through multiple initial tackle attempts.

There were several examples of textbook run defense. But, the examples of missed tackles were plentiful:

1st quarter 6:59
2nd and 3. Carl Diggs attacks the play and stuffs the fullback in the backfield. Grant Bowman is double-teamed at the snap, but does a pretty good job of maintaining his initial position. He keeps the second lineman off of Joey Sarantos long enough to allow Joey a free shot at the ball carrier. Joey comes up to make the tackle and misses. Davis picks up 18 yards.

1st quarter 5:13
1st and 5. The defensive line does an excellent job of keeping the offensive linemen off of the backers. Diggs reads the play and has a free shot at Davis in the backfield. Carl attacks under control and hits Davis for no gain.

2nd quarter 14:49
1st and 10. This is an example of textbook linebacker play vs. 'the counter'. Victor Hobson steps across the line to stuff the first pulling lineman in the backfield. Diggs flows across and attacks the other pulling lineman in the backfield with his outside arm free. Carl successfully turns the play back in by doing this. McClintock (who's playing WILL) scrapes across the defense and has a free shot at the ball carrier -- and tackles him for a 2 yard gain.

2nd quarter 11:07
2nd and 6. This is the same counter play described above. Hobson and Diggs do their jobs just as effectively as before. However, this time Sarantos is at WILL. He does a good job of shedding the block of the tight end that comes out to block him. He is in position to hit Davis for a one yard loss, but he whiffs on the tackle. Davis puts on wicked spin move on Joey to get free, and picks up 10 yards. This is more an example of a great play by Davis than a missed tackle by Sarantos.

2nd quarter 10:42
1st and 10. McClintock replaces Sarantos at WILL after the play described directly above. Wisconsin tries the counter play yet another time. Hobson Diggs and McClintock work in perfect unison once again. Scott comes from the backside to wrap Davis up for a 3 yard gain.

2nd quarter 7:02
Sarantos does a nice job of coming up and taking on the lead blocker at the line of scrimmage. He stuffs the block there and Cato June has a free shot at Davis for no gain. Cato dives at Davis and inflicts a blow, but Davis runs right through the tackle attempt (Davis did nothing fancy here to break the tackle; Cato just didn't wrap up.) Charles Drake then misses a tackle in the secondary and Davis is off to the races. Shantee Orr hustles from his defensive end spot to 'limit' the play to 27 yards -- it could have gone the distance.

2nd quarter 6:33
1st and 10. The D-line does a good job of forcing the entire right side of the Wisconsin offensive line back. Grant Bowman shoves his man into the hole and the lead blocker can't get through. McClintock then gets in the backfield and gets a hat on the blocker. Michigan defenders have Davis completely surrounded in the backfield, but none of them get off of their blocks to make the play. Davis scoots to the outside and then goes up field for 13 yards.

2nd quarter 0:36
2nd and 1. McClintock comes up from his WILL position and shoots inside of the wide receiver coming to block him. Davis sees Scott coming and tries to get to the outside, but Scott wraps his feet and stops him for no gain.

2nd quarter 0:24
3rd and 1. Wisconsin runs the same counter play described previously. However, this time Hobson jumps over the first pulling lineman (who tries to cut him) and he takes on the second pulling lineman. This alleviates Diggs responsibility for the second lineman and leaves Carl with a free shot at Davis in the backfield. Carl delivers a good shot, but doesn't wrap Davis up and the Badgers pick up a first down. This prolongs the drive and allows Wisconsin to attempt a short Hail Mary attempt a few plays later to end the half.

Davis rushed for 85 of his 106 first half yards in the second quarter. Michigan did a much better job on him in the second half, though they still had bouts with poor tackling.

3rd quarter 14:50
1st and 10. Wisconsin runs a counter again. Rumishek takes out the pulling guard. Hobson stuffs the pulling H-back at the line. Charles Drake comes up free on the safety force and Davis tries to cut to the inside. Hobson comes off of his block to make the tackle for a 1 yard gain.

3rd quarter 13:48
1st and 10. Wisconsin is in the I-formation and they run a lead play. Sarantos' responsibility is the fullback. He sees the play, but waits for the block to come to him instead of attacking it at the line. Diggs recognizes the play immediately. He attacks and beats the block of the center by ducking inside. He has a shot at Anthony Davis right at the line, but Davis runs right through his arms. Sarantos meets the lead block 2 yards past the line of scrimmage and comes off to grab Davis' legs to hold him to a gain of 7 yards.

3rd quarter 12:27
1st and 10. Victor Hobson steps up and takes on the lead blocker at the line of scrimmage. The entire line gets a good push. Norman Heuer takes on a double team and stuffs it initially. All of this prevents Davis from having a lane to run through so he hesitates in the backfield. The double team takes down Heuer, but he makes a play on Davis in the backfield from his knees. No gain.

3rd quarter 2:05
1st and 10. Wisconsin is in a double tight end set with a single back. Diggs and McClintock see the line firing off of the ball and they attack the play. Diggs blows the play-side guard into the backfield and Davis has to cutback. McClintock jumps into the cutback lane. Davis tries to cut inside of McClintock, but Scott wraps him up and holds him to 4 yards.

4th quarter 13:38
2nd and 5. Diggs recognizes the short set by the linemen and the fullback firing at him and diagnoses the lead draw. He stuffs the lead blocker in the backfield and forces Davis to cut back. At the same time, Sarantos has some indecision about run or pass and he doesn't fill the cut back lane. He finally comes up to make a play on Davis, but Davis cuts inside of him and gains 11 yards.

4th quarter 9:21
1st and 10. Larry Stevens collapses the play-side guard into the backfield. Victor Hobson comes around to stuff the fullback in the backfield as well. Davis almost runs into the blockers that were pushed into the backfield, but he manages to cut to the outside. Diggs beats the block of the play-side tackle that was coming out to get him by going around. McClintock beats the block of the center by ducking to the inside. They both converge on the hole and are in pretty good position to stop Davis for a short gain. However, Davis runs right through the arm tackle attempts by both and picks up 14 yards.

Later in the fourth quarter (as pointed out by Ouimet yesterday) Victor Hobson became a one-man gang against the run. He made several individual tackles on Davis for short gains or losses. On the day, Davis' numbers were 26 rushes for 154 yards (5.92 yards per carry). He only ran for only 48 yards in the second half, which is a testament to the defense (and a long time consuming TD drive by the offense helped as well by keeping Davis off the field).

Wisconsin's other rush yards came from Bollinger. He rushed 16 times for 39 yards. (It should be noted that four of those rushing attempts were sacks resulting in minus-23 yards). Michigan did a pretty good job containing him. Bollinger's positive ground plays were muted by his ineffectiveness through the air. He only completed 7 of 20 passes for 60 yards. The Wisconsin receivers had an extremely difficult time getting open vs. the Michigan secondary.

Wisconsin seemed to be making a concerted effort to stay away from Jackson. Marlin made a big play on the very first defensive series by forcing a fumble with a very good hit on Davis. He later turned in yet another pass breakup. Jeremy LeSeuer also turned in an impressive performance. Both corners have been stellar in run support the past few weeks and they've complemented that with blanket coverage.

It seems like the Badgers noticed LeSeuer's and Jackson's play as well because it looked as if they were making a concerted effort to pick on Markus Curry. Curry had some good moments with a near interception after a brilliant break in front of an out a pattern and an excellent pass break up on a deep crossing pattern. However, he was also nearly beaten for two touchdowns. On each play the receivers had him beat in the endzone. But, he gave up on neither play and kept on hustling in an attempt to break them up. Luckily he was able to do so on both plays (noting that he ‘may' have made contact just a tad early on both).

The secondary play complemented the play of the defensive line, which also had a stellar game. Every single player along the defensive front had good games. They got excellent push and they put good (albeit not great) pressure on Bollinger.

One of the changes that we will certainly see this week is McClintock starting at WILL. He may be a step or two slower than Sarantos, but he has a better feel for the position. There is no doubt that Joey will get better with experience. In the meantime, Scott gives Michigan the best chance to win. He was getting excellent drops into pass coverage and making very solid tackles. He, Diggs, and Hobson work very well together.

Bottom line: It is of extreme importance that these guys tackle better vs. OSU. I am confident that Michigan's defensive front will hold up vs. OSU. But the linebackers and safeties MUST WRAP UP! Further, they must be cognizant of OSU quarterback Krenzel getting outside of the pocket. He's not the most elusive scrambler that they've seen this season, but he's probably the biggest. He's tough to bring down and faster than many give him credit for.

If Michigan can tackle well, they will force OSU to its passing game. If that happens then Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann will have the Buckeyes right where he wants them.

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