Caught up in traffic on a flow left but Ian Williams bailed him out, making the tackle on Denard Robinson...Held the left edge two plays later and Calabrese cleaned up the tackle for a 2-yard gain…Again set the edge, fighting off a lead block from running back Michael Shaw on the Wolverines’ QB Iso run; combined with Lewis-Moore on the 3-yard stop…Way late covering TE Kevin Koger in the left flat but the talented tight end dropped the easy 3rd and 5 first down pass…Inability to defeat lead block of Shaw on 2nd and 1 leads to a 9-yard gain by Robinson; Te’o hustled downfield to cause a fumble at the end of the run (recovered by UM).
2nd Quarter: Expertly read a swing pass to Shaw and applied the hit as the ball bounced incomplete…Blocked a bit too easily on the move by tight end Kevin Koger; Koger turned Te’o outside as Robinson cut inside during a crucial 7-yard carry (see next play)…Driven 5 yards back in space and pancaked by redshirt-freshman RG Patrick Omameh as one of the last lines of defense between Robinson’s and his 87-yard sprint to stardom. Michigan took a 21-7 lead on the play near the end of the 1st half.
Second Half: Sprint and hit of Roundtree after a 9-yard gain on 1st and 15 to begin the half; Te’o covered a good deal of ground on the play as a well-positioned Neal missed the ankle tackles…Again showed tremendous screen recognition, this time forcing a punt to start the half after a stop of Roundtree 2 yards behind the line on 3rd and 5…Best hit of the day for the Irish: a pop of Robinson after a 3-yard gain over the left side. Te’o broke down and put his face in Robinson’s right shoulder, driving the QB to the ground…Faked out by a beautiful pump from Robinson to the outside; the QB then burst up the vacated middle for a gain of 19 yards…Responded to the same play four snaps later, stopping Robinson after a gain of 9 yards on 2nd and 15 near the red zone…Dropped an easy interception on the move late in the 3rd Quarter (UM eventually punted).
4th Quarter: Nice flow from the opposite ILB spot (aligned to the offense’s left) to stop Robinson after a 4-yard gain to right side…Manhandled on the ensuing series by RG Perry Dorrestein, allowing Vincent Smith 6 yards up the gut…Drilled Robinson on 3rd and 1 despite a quick snap, forcing a 4th and 1 on the final drive (Robinson converted)…Made his best play of the day, tracking Robinson outside for no gain when it appeared Robinson would break around the left side for a sizeable gain. The tackle set up 3rd and 5 from the Irish 17-yard line...Handled by Omameh's pull block on the game-winning touchdown.
Observations: Te’o will be a dominant force vs. Bubble and standard screens over the next three years…still sheds blocks like a sophomore as he allows himself to be sealed by smaller players and engulfed by bigger blockers...The Irish must develop a reliable backup for Te’o to give their most talented defender an occasional rest; he looked tired early in the 4th…Makes sideline to sideline plays and his greatest improvement in 2011 will be up front defeating blocks.
Shed the in-space block attempt of guard Stephen Schilling to drop Robinson after a 2-yard gain on 1st down…Controlled by Schilling on Robinson’s 9-yard gain two series later…Timed a delayed blitz perfectly but whiffed on Robinson’s sidestep (this was a spatial mismatch); nevertheless, forced Robinson’s throw outside that was nearly intercepted by a diving Harrison Smith.
Second Half: Teamed with Lewis-Moore for a stop of Vincent Smith at the line of scrimmage; Calabrese has a nice feel for the running game…Cleaned up Smith at the line of scrimmage to force a 3rd and 4 early in the 4th Quarter…Looked overmatched in space for the first time when Robinson froze the first-year defender as Calabrese fell to the ground (Taking out a charging Te’o in the process) as Robinson gained 11 yards on the play…Nice blitz two plays later to force a Robinson throw (knocked down by Fleming) on 3rd and 2…Big hit on Vincent Smith in pass coverage, drilling the runner after the catch to force a punt, giving the Irish the ball with 4:15 remaining, trailing 21-17; Calabrese was targeted on the play and responded.
Broke up a pass to the short side to begin the decisive UM drive (the only incomplete pass of the final drive by Robinson)…Stopped Robinson for a 2-yard gain to set up 3rd and 1, but a clean tackle would have held the slippery QB to no gain… Missed a tackle vs. Shaw outside setting up 2nd and 5 at the ND 17-yard line with 1:13 remaining. Michigan actually caught a break as Shaw was initially marked down at the 9-yard line but replay brought the ball back to the 17. For the offense, 2nd and 5 from the 17 is much more tenable than 1st and Goal from the 9-yard line (which leaves the offense with 3 or 4 downs to score or tie; not an easy proposition in a short field).
Observations: Knows how to attack the gap with authority, both to make a play and simply fill his role as a team defender up front.
Played his left drop zone well on UM’s opening 3rd and 5, knocking down the slot receiver then coming up to make a play on an uncovered Kevin Koger (who dropped the pass)…I’ve watched it 10 times: I think Brian Smith was supposed to fill a short zone to the left flat (rather than step toward the line of scrimmage on Robinson’s run-action). That missed assignment forced deep safety Zeke Motta too far toward the left sideline (over the left hash) in coverage, thus allowing a clear post route for Roy Roundtree on the uncovered touchdown (See Motta’s review for more on the play).
2nd Quarter: Timed a blitz well on 3rd and 4; Smith missed the tackle, but forced Shaw inside into traffic and a pair of defensive linemen…Timed a delayed blitz on the next set of downs, hitting Robinson squarely and forcing an incomplete 3rd down pass and a Michigan punt…Lost outside containment when he allowed himself to be cut by 5’6” lead blocker Vincent Smith; Robinson gained 7 yards as a result, moving Michigan from the shadow of their own goal on 2nd and 8.
Second Half: Made his best play of the day on 3rd and 7 from the Irish 22-yard line, defeating a cut block outside, containing Robinson, and forcing a hurried throw to the front end zone pylon incomplete; the Wolverines missed the ensuing field goal attempt from 39 yards out.
Registered a pass breakup at the line with 14:03 remaining in the 2nd period (not the appropriate time to first notice an OLB)…Defeated a block in space on the next play to combine with Anthony McDonald, stopping Robinson for 6 yards on 2nd and 10…Came in late to force an off-balance throw from Robinson that was almost intercepted on the UM sidelines by a diving Harrison Smith.
Second Half: Forced to respect Robinson’s potential keeper run to his side but still stopped an inside handoff to Michael Shaw after a 5-yard gain…Consistently late covering his short (boundary side) flat throughout the final period...Made an initial hit behind the line but needed help from Calabrese to finish the play early in the 4th Quarter…Hustled to trip up Robinson after a 7-yard gain to the right side; nice flow by Fleming because Robinson was about to enter the danger zone with Te’o and Motta disengaging from downfield blocks…Very athletic play on the edge to break up a 3rd and 2 pass, forcing a punt with 6:12 remaining…Slipped twice on one play in the short flat, turning a short gain to Michael Shaw into a 12-yard first down at the 1:20 mark.
Part of the problem in the second “3 vs. 2” 31-yard gain by the Wolverines: I don’t think Neal dropped deep enough outside, which resulted in a mistake by Darrin Walls who appeared to have deep third responsibility. Then again, there’s no chance we’ll receive an answer on this one. Regardless, Neal bit on a slant in front of him that was covered by Harrison Smith.
2nd Quarter: Badly overran the play and allowed Robinson an easy cut outside his containment which resulted in a 36-yard sprint down the sidelines. After a good game in space last week, Neal looked like a defensive end playing linebacker on this one.
Second Half: Missed an ankle tackle in space on the first play of the half but denied Robinson an outside lane on the second and Ethan Johnson cleaned up the runner’s cutback attempt…Lost his balance on a weak block in space, allowing Roundtree an outside lane for a 9-yard gain midway through the 3rd Quarter…Excellent play to force Robinson back into the pocket on a 3rd and 3 but the elusive one lobbed a scrambling sideline pass to Darryl Stonum for a 12-yard gain.