Had Hemingway kept running, would this have been a great pass? I don't know. Maybe? It looks to me like it was probably a little under thrown, but even so, Hemingway could've been there to knock it down. So whose fault was it? I'm not sure, but after watching the play again, I'm inclined to say Hemingway...After looking over this year's interception, however, and being more confident in my ability to identify defenses and routes, I'm fairly certain that last year, like this year, the pass falls squarely on Denard's shoulders. Let's take a look at this year's interception first and then see how it compares to last year's:
The only way I can see this being Denard's fault is if Hemingway's route was a called comeback that Denard missed in the play calling. I find that hard to swallow though. Hemingway wouldn't have gotten behind his corner so quickly or with so much ferocity if he was going to run the comeback route. Also, he never came back.
Why Denard threw this pass, not once but twice, is beyond me. Below is a diagram of each receiver's route:
Denard's second read is whether or not Roundtree's square in comes open. The outside linebacker that forces Roundtree to the outside is also responsible--along with the playside corner--for the Smith release in the flat. If the linebacker stays with Roundtree, vacating the underneath throw, Denard needs to check the ball down to Smith. But, and this is the read I missed on last year's play, if the playside corner comes up to cover Smith in the flat, Stonum will be open on the deep hitch route that we see him sitting down in. Instead, Iowa is content giving up the underneath route to Smith and taking their chances tackling him. At no point in this play was anyone on the strongside of the field open except Smith.
One of the reasons why there were no open receivers on this play is because Iowa's linebackers and corners do a perfect job carrying receivers through their zones, and re-routing the vertical routes to take pressure off of the deep safeties. We've seen Courtney Avery attempt to do this, but he typically carries receivers too far. Michigan's other corners and linebackers rarely, if ever, re-route vertical receivers putting a huge stress on Michigan's deep safeties and resulting in Cam Gordon being victimized. Not only did the press of the receivers get them out of their routes and closer together horizontally on the field, but it also allowed the pass rush to get to Denard, who was hurried on the play.
Because Denard was hurried, he wasn't able to completely go through his reads. This doesn't reconcile the throw he made, but given that Michigan needed a first down and Smith very likely wouldn't have gotten there, Denard decided that he had to throw the ball deep. Though seemingly a good idea, it also shows that Denard is having trouble getting through his reads and, like this instance, may be making up his mind before the play really develops. Regardless of the situation, however, Denard needed to check this ball down to Smith in the flat, even if he wasn't going to make it to the first down marker. And I believe he needed to make the throw much sooner than he eventually did.
(A comparison to the 2009 play to come later today)