A closer look at the play of the Irish receivers and tight ends in Saturday's loss to the Wolverines:
Kyle Rudolph (TE)Whiffed badly vs. Jonas Mouton on opening block attempt (4-yard loss for Allen)…Proved unstoppable in solo coverage early, converting on 3rd and 14 down post and 3rd and 4 on a quick out, using a natural pick in a two-sided bunch formation to break open easily…Nice seal block in space on Crist's 19-yard sprint-option carry… Good block at the second level vs. Mouton to give Montana a running lane for the junior QB's 10-yard run late in the 1st period…
2nd quarter: Nice seal of Roh to help Allen gain 8 over the left side late in the quarter…Two out routes from Montana (one right, one left) helped Montana gain confidence late in the period.
Second Half: Showed great awareness avoiding a sure illegal block curing Floyd's cross-field run (described below). Football smarts that saved the Irish offense nearly 30 yards of field position…Lost his feet on a pass behind him from Crist, but gained 20 nonetheless…Failed to get his head around two plays later (saw it live more so than on replay) and Crist's easy completion to the uncovered big man bounced incomplete…
Observations: Rudolph is completely unstoppable on out-routes vs. solo coverage…He's hands down the best tight end in the nation, and for the second straight season, a clutch playmaking force in September. Consistency as a blocker is the only flaw in his game as a true junior.
Michael Floyd (W)Ran into too much UM pursuit on a WR screen throw inside the red zone but still managed six yards…
2nd Quarter: Not sure about the holding call on Floyd late in the first half though he did have a few fingers of jersey.
Second Half: Showed poor spatial recognition near the sidelines, short-arming an on-target thrown by Crist to start the half…Nice stab of a high Crist throw, coming back to the scrambling QB near the UM sideline; Floyd's momentum brought him inside first down yardage but his ensuing cross-field, weaving foray helped him pick up the first down on the Irish sideline…lunging grab inside the UM 6-yard line set up the Irish with 1st and Goal, trailing 21-14 with 9:42 remaining in the 3rd (ND settled for a field goal)…Dropped a perfect square-in pass from Crist that likely would have resulted in a 1st down on 3rd and 10 with 9:50 remaining. That catch absolutely has to be made…Good job to catch and get out of bounds on the first and second play of the final drive, drawing an ill-advised (and shaky) 15-yard late hit penalty on the latter.
Observations: Who are you and what have you done with Michael Floyd?
Tai-ler Jones (X)Absolutely destroyed Michigan safety Cameron Gordon on a crack-back block at the tail end of Crist's (called back) TD run; I originally identified the blocker as Floyd...Caught his first pass with 1:51 remaining in the 2nd Quarter, a 7-yard hitch from Montana. Secured a 13-yard out-route from Montana on the next play, stopping the clock out of bounds with just over a minute remaining…Couldn't reel in a high sideline throw from Montana two plays later, though he attacked the ball aggressively at its highest point…
Second Half: Helped the Irish cut the lead to seven, 21-14, taking an uncovered sideline go route 53 yards for a touchdown; Jones' premature celebration at the one-yard line should have cost the Irish seven points but Michigan failed to challenge his obvious fumble (flipped it out of his hands in celebration) before crossing the goal line. That's the only possible manner in which Jones would ever get away with such a colossal mistake. Let's hope (assume) he paid the price Tuesday during practice…Unleashed a beautiful crack-back block at the last moment to spring Floyd for 5 extra yards on the junior's cross-field jaunt.
Observations: Jones is the first freshman wide receiver to score a touchdown both of his first two games in program history. Dropping the ball at the one-yard line should be dealt with accordingly, however.
Theo Riddick (Slot)Took a motioned inside handoff to the short side to start the game – blocking has to be perfect (it was solid) to allow a true corner for the runner and Riddick was knocked out of bounds by ROLB Craig Roh (who shed a Zack Martin and Allen double-team); The Irish received 15 extra yards due to an avoidable late hit by S Jordan Kovacs…Tunnel screen on opening drive limited to two yards thanks to a Rudolph missed block in space and the intuitive play of RDE Ryan Van Bergen to sniff out the pass play and drop into Riddick's running lane. 2nd Quarter: Made the best catch of his young career, showing tremendous concentration on a 37-yard tip-toe on the sidelines to set up the Irish for a chance at points in the half's final seconds.
Second Half: A second inside handoff ("Speed Sweep") to the short side gains the same yardage as the first (none)…Miscommunication with Crist could have resulted in an interception down the seam…
Observations: I can't think of a tunnel screen to Riddick that's come close to working this season. Riddick still looks like an athlete playing wide receiver as the Irish have been ineffective getting him the ball with any semblance of space.
Tyler Eifert (TE)A tremendous first career catch, securing a 17-yard crossing route over the middle while absorbing a big hit from UM safety Cameron Gordon; Eifert handled the hit, stayed up, then was dragged down from behind. A great catch in his only opportunity…Followed the effort with a nice wham block at the line to help spring Wood for 8 yards.
Second Half: Collapsed S Jordan Kovacs 8 yards across the field, blocking from a down position in a two tight end set (with Rudolph inside him); Allen gained 9 yards on the play over the vacated left side…Repeated the effort – vs. the same defender – on the following play as Allen gained 12 more to the same side…
Observations: The Irish have found themselves a tight end; Eifert might take over Duval Kamara's role as the first pass-catcher off the bench if the senior receiver doesn't begin to make an impact when given the opportunity.
Duval Kamara (X)
Observations: Did not show up on film, though I suppose I could have scoured for a few more downfield blocks. Kamara was my film-review favorite last season, regularly laying out linebackers or safeties upon Monday reviews...No passes thrown his way.