by Mark Edwards
With the unique and highly effective triple option offense of the Air Force Academy entering the Big House, Michigan Defensive Coordinator Don Brown must have felt like it was Halloween. With his normal “heavy blitz” apparel being replaced by a “read-react disciplined approach”, this week I’m going to feature the discipline of the Michigan defense while also the speed of the back seven.
THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE
SITUATION: 2nd & goal, Air Force ball on Michigan’s 6 yard line
TIME: 8:16 left in fourth quarter
WHY THIS SERIES: Michigan held a nine-point lead in front of an anxious Michigan Stadium. Air Force had driven the ball to the doorstep of “full-blown” panic among the fan base who doesn’t understand why we should be upset with Dave Brandon for scheduling triple-option service academies. It was at this point that Don Brown’s unit needed to step up and make a stand.
OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Double Wing Ram (meaning you have four offensive linemen to the right of the center)
AIR FORCE PERSONNEL: 32 (3 running backs, 2 tight ends)
DEFENSIVE BASE: 3-3
MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan has three down linemen with linebacker Noah Furbush #59 standing up in the A gap. Linebacker Devin Bush Jr (#10) is four yards from the ball while fellow linebacker Mike McCray (#9) is lined up in the B gap at three yeards. This is obviously a reaction to the unbalanced formation from Air Force. Note that cornerbacks Lavert Hill (#24) and David Long (#22) are one yard from the line of scrimmage in a contain shade. Lastly, Michigan viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is the spy at seven yards over the center.
What is Air Force doing here? Air Force has motion wingback #33 Tim McVey to the right, which is the motion for the triple option pitch back as well as their toss sweep motion.
What has changed: While the ball hasn’t been snapped, Michigan S Tyree Kinnel (#23) is rotating back to the middle of the field. Devin Bush Jr. is already running downhill to the weak side A gap. Lastly, Hudson is rotating down to the C gap on the strong side, which is where the motion is headed.
Michigan’s pressure: The only pressure is the Bush attack on the weak side A gap. The secondary rotation is predetermined and was consistently used in the red zone in yesterday’s game.
What is Air Force doing here? Now that the ball is snapped, Air Force is running their power toss play. It is called power toss because they are pulling the right guard (#74) , right tackle (#77) and the extra tackle (#60) to the top of the screen. They have blocked down with their tight end, which is meant to set the alley for the RB to run through. The wing back (#12) is arcing to the flat defender, which is Michigan safety Josh Metellus (#14).
What has changed: The Michigan defensive line has been cut blocked on the bottom of the screen. Air Force is attempting to “reach and run” to the top of the screen which let’s Hurst (#73) and Winovich (#15) to run wide to the top of the screen. McCray is spying the fullback who stepped to the weak side.
Michigan’s pressure: Bush Jr. has blitzed away from the play and is forced to redirect in pursuit. Hudson is still coming downhill in an inside-out relationship. Metellus is attempting to run wide as his job is to set the edge.
What is Air Force doing here? Air Force has lost the point of attack. Michigan CB Lavert Hill has defeated the extra tackle (#60) and the Air Force RB is now going to be forced to bounce the play to the edge. This play was designed to run up the hashmark much to the chagrin of every rocket football coach who tosses the ball the fast kid who runs around everybody.
What has changed: Besides Hill, Hudson (#7) is now unblocked and running through the C gap while Metellus is still in position to force the run to go inside of him. Why does Metellus do that? His job is to make Air Force cut the ball back to the pursuit (Look at #73, #15 #7 and #9.
Michigan’s pressure: While I don’t know if I would call it pressure, I’d say that the pressure come from Hudson because Hill’s technique/responsibility is so well-played.
What is Air Force doing here? They have lost 5 yards and left themselves with a 3rd & goal from the 11 yard line, which is what this offense is ill-suited to conquer.
What has changed: Hill (#24) has defeated #60’s block and it is now a gang tackle, which is a true sign that you are defeating the triple option. In the spread offense world, it’s all about the “1 on 1” match up.
PRESSURE OF THE WEEK DIAGRAM
I cannot tell you how impressed I was with Michigan’s defense and their ability to be disciplined. I know that many fans left less than entertained but when you play a triple option offense, this is how you win. Handling your assignment with physicality is exactly what you would expect from Don Brown’s defense and this play is a great representation of it. This play led to a failed third-down conversion and a missed field goal. Effectively, the game was over when that kick sailed wide.