at least it's not just us?
Devin Gardner at Michigan football banquet has big boot on left foot (he came to post-OSU presser w less substantial boot) and crutches— angelique (@chengelis) December 9, 2013
He has been a warrior this season. Here's hoping that he's exposed to many fewer hits in the bowl game and next season.
Warning, I have a feeling this entry is going to be a little longer than my typical diary, bordering on TL:DR length. But that's OK, since this is my "own personal section of MGoBlog, to post in" as I like. If you don't like it, feel free to scroll down to the link.
If you check my avatar, you'll see I joined this Blog in September, 2010, for Rich Rod's last season. I spent that first season making ridiculous comparisons between Cam Gordon and Ronnie Lott. I was a freshman. For as many good posts that I made that first year, I metaphorically jumped offsides numerous times, a la Kyle Kalis. Once I got the hang of things around here, I think I started improving. Heck, Misopogon (as he was known back in the day) even bumped one of my board topics to the diary section at the start of my sophomore season. I've been bringing you the link to the boxscore ever since. Why do I do this? My reason back then was that I thought that something was missing from this Blog. Every sports section I read as a kid had a page of boxscores. How can one truly appreciate what happened in a game if one does not have numbers to back up their feelings? Quantitative analysis uber alles! Besides, I figured that you, the MGoReader, were going to go to MGoBlue.com anyway, so the least I could do for the blog is to provide a link and get a few more page views (read: advertising dollars) for the Blog, since I was too cheap to contribute to the Beveled Guilt.
I don't know who to attribute this quote to, but someone once said of freshmen, the greatest thing about them is they become sophomores. I expect dramatic improvement from Kalis and all the other freshmen who saw the field this season, and from the few who were redshirted. I guess that leaves me cautiously optimistic about Team 135. I won't be predicting a 13-1 season for them like I did for Team 134 (yes, I seriously underestimated the effect that an inexperienced interior offensive line would have on the offense. I should know better.) Getting back to me for a moment. Metaphorically, I'm finishing up my senior season on the Blog. The question for me is, did I redshirt that first year with my ridiculous comments? Or is there some youngster out there with a tribal tattoo on his left biceps and a penchant for writing about boxscores? Should I step aside for him/her, oh who am I kidding, him, and start writing about the Detroit Lions' boxscores? Part of me says it's time to step aside. I feel the same way after a grueling fantasy baseball season, but come March, I'm first in line to sign back up. I'll see how I feel in August.
Since this is my personal section of MGoBlog, I want to take the opportunity to address the 800 pound gorilla, the 500 pound elephant, and the 90 pound mole on Ginny Sacrimoni's butt.* These items are, in order, "fickle fans," "mailing it in," and the decision to go for two. First, the "fickle fans" comment. I took a swipe at the students in my Rush song parody post earlier in the week. I apologize. Even though the now omnipresent empty rows at the top of the student section were once again visible, I saw hardly any red in that sea of yellow pom-poms. However, in the alumni section, while not quite a sea of red, numerous buckeyes were spotted. Maybe that's because it's harder to scalp student tickets. I don't know. I do know that the renovated Big House provides our team with one of the better home field advantages in college football, and it's a shame to give that up due to being 17 point underdogs. During the first half, as Michigan kept taking the lead, I began to sense the makings of the Bill Simmons classic, "No one believed in us game." Now, I don't think Brady Hoke called the fans fickle to build on that, "no one believes in you, let's go prove them wrong" mentality, but it didn't hurt. The players sure came out motivated to win one for THE TEAM, THE TEAM, THE TEAM. But like Brian, I was upset at Brady for calling out the fans, the ones who indirectly pay his salary.
Next up, "Mailing it in." I was recently assigned a mentee from the University of Michigan's College of Engineering. In our initial meeting, one of the things he mentioned that he'd like to get out of our partnership is an understanding of how I balance work and life. I've given this some thought, and I think the advice I'd give him or you or Brian, for whatever it's worth, is when you are starting out in your career, you should choose to put your career first. When I was a grad student at UofM, the first paper I had to give was at a conference that was scheduled the week after Thanksgiving. My experiments were not going as expected and I found myself a few charts short of a full presentation with a few days to go prior to my flight. As Thanksgiving approached, it dawned on me that I was going to have to choose between Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and getting that extra data that would make my talk more meaningful. So I worked till 5pm on Thanksgiving day, grabbed a couple students from Hong Kong who had nowhere else to go for Thanksgiving, and headed to the Grand Buffet. Of course, by 6pm on Thanksgiving, they were completely out of Turkey, and every other meat product, so I think I had soup, spaghetti, and garlic bread for dinner. Twenty years later, I'm established in my career. I'm happy where I'm at workwise, so I took Wednesday off and wrote a silly song parody for MGoBlog. Time and situations matter. Prince looked cool wearing a puffy shirt in the movie Purple Rain. Ten years later, Jerry Seinfeld made a whole episode around the puffy shirt. "But I don't want to look like a pirate!" So if Brian Cook decides to take a week off and not write up UFRs, I think that says more about the success of this blog than anything else. He has built something great here, and if he wants to spend Turkey Day with family, more power to him. But if the same urge hits next year, might I suggest assigning the defensive UFR to Heiko and the offense to Ace. Present it to them as a learning experience and an opportunity to take on a stretch assignment. They are young. They can write up the UFRs and then head to the Grand Buffet for soup and salad and complain about their boss.
Third, the "go for 2" decision. I'm going to focus on this more in the sections after the link. In defense of Brady's decision, I should just point out that Lou Holtz thought he should go to OT and leave it at that. Pardon the war metaphor, but I think it gets my point across. We are in a battle with Ohio State. So far, we are winning the war, 58-45-6, but OSU is catching up quicker than we'd like. There are a couple sports-related things that I'd prefer not to witness in my lifetime. One is having some team catch us in all-time wins, and two is Ohio State taking the edge in the all-time record. While we lost the battle this year, I think Brady's decision to go for two will help us in the future. Recruits like uniformz and coaches with onions. Brady is a players' coach and a guy I'd want to go to war with. That can only help with recruiting. The future is, dare I say it, bright. Highlighter yellow bright.
*I watched the series finale of the Soprano's on Friday. I watched the earlier seasons numerous times. It seems every time I'd introduce the show to someone else, I'd start from the beginning and rewatch the series. So I probably saw season one 7 times, season two 6 times, and so on and so forth. I recently realized that I haven't rewatched the final season since watching the final episode that left me wanting more answers. As I sat watching that final episode again, I felt myself hoping for a different ending, as crazy as that sounds. But then, when Steve Perry sang, "Don't Stop," that final time, the realization sunk in that the ending is set in stone. I may not like it (I don't) but I'm going to have to live with it. What does this have to do with football? I suspect that sometime in the future, say 5 to 10 years from now, ESPN Classic or the B1G Network will reshow this UofM / OSU game and label it as a classic. I'll probably watch a few minutes until remembering how the game ends, and then I will sadly change the channel. For however great this game was (especially for fans of offensive football) the ending will always be the same, and that sucks.
Burst of Impetus
* On our first possession, Gardner threw a screen to Gallon that went for 84 yards. On one play, we accumulated more than half the yardage we put up against Iowa. We effectively said to Ohio State, "If you want to dress like Indiana, we're going to treat you like Indiana." Eventually, the impetus faded and Ohio State was able to build a 14 point lead and seemingly take control of the game. However, Michigan never gave up. A huge forced fumble got us back in the game (hey, Todd Blackledge, STFU, that was not a "gift" turnover. Michigan raked that ball free.) After the Penn State game, and after I calmed down a little, I rescinded my call to fire Borges. Instead, I said he should be evaluated at season's end. Before the game, I thought he was dead man walking (hence, the Ballad of Borges.) Now? I just don't know. The team did not quit on him like they did with Rodriguez. Call me crazy, but if Devin comes back for a 5th season, and I think and hope he will, I think he and Borges deserve an opportunity to finish what they started. Handing Devin another new coordinator in year 5 just continues the chaos.
* I know, no politics or religion, but the pun was unavoidable. Ben Gedeon, Thomas Gordon, and Raymon Taylor led us with 6 tackles each. Joe Bolden was 4th with 5 tackles. The young linebackers played well at times, but they were dealing with OSU linemen seemingly on every play. Perhaps Ross would have more quickness to avoid some blocks, but I think he's a little undersized and would get trucked by Hyde like everyone else.
* We had 18 players in the defensive stats to Ohio's 20. That may be the first time that the opposition has had more players show up in the defensive stats. That's partly due to Michigan running 82 plays to Ohio's 61, and our depth being hurt due to injuries.
* Frank Clark only had one tackle. We needed more production out of him. He did have one QH that wasn't credited to him. OK, I'll admit it, I have no idea what constitutes a QH. I thought it was a QB hurry or QB hit, but Clark deposited Miller on his backside early in the game and doesn't have a QH to show for it.
* QWash didn't register a stat. If he was commanding double teams and freeing up linebackers, that would be acceptable. Instead, Ohio averaged 8.5 YPC.
* I don't know how to defend the spread. The folks that claimed it wouldn't work in the Big Ten are swimming around aimlessly in a fetid soup of cognitive dissonance today. I saw numerous posters after the game complain that Mattison didn't put 8 or 9 in the box to stop Hyde. What, and leave two wide receivers completely uncovered? The best you can do against the spread is put 7 in the box and go man-to-man with the WRs. But then you need your 4th best cover corner to stay with their WR, and if the running back breaks through the box, there is no safety to clean up. No, the best you can hope for is to win one-on-one battles along the line and get to the mesh point before they can option you. We did this once with Jake Ryan. Auburn did this numerous times to Oregon in the championship game a few years ago when Fairly and some other dude shut down Oregon. We don't have the Fairly and other dudes we need on the d-line yet.
* Gardner finished 32 for 45 for 451 yards and 4 TDs. That's good for 71%. So getting back to the end-of-game situation. A successful pass basically wins the game. He's 71% for the day. That beats a 50/50 chance in OT. Additionally, he couldn't walk anymore, so that somewhat limits your attack in OT.
* ABC showed that Gardner had thrown 110 passes without an interception, as if trying to jinx him into a poor throw. DAMN YOU ABC!!! And yet, according to Todd Blackledge, Gardner has turnover problems. I see pro quarterbacks throw INTs all the time. Yes, I watch the Lions, how did you know? I think Gardner is being held up to a ridiculously high standard. Yes, I'd like to see fewer INTs next year, and better ball control, but stuff happens. Even the great and powerful Carlos Hyde fumbles occassionally.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* We have a running game to talk about, whoo-hoo! A week after I noticed that De'Veon Smith had exactly one yard lost this season, in the season of TFLs, he led us with 57 yards on 7 carries. That was boosted by a 38 yard run, but again, he had no carries of negative yardage. (I thought I saw Kalis trip him up in the backfield for a yard loss, but the boxscore doesn't lie.) Smith runs north and south and gets to the hole quickly. He may miss some gaping holes as a result, but the negative plays are minimized. I like the way he runs. I wish he had 4 years of eligibility left.
* Derrick Green had 12 carries and no lost yards.
* Fitz Toussaint had 5 carries and no lost yards.
* Imagine what the odds would have been for Michigan running the ball 24 times with RBs and having zero lost yards. All this behind an offensive line starting it's 5th different left guard of the season. Kudos to Kyle Kalis for not giving up, fighting back, and earning his starting spot again.
* I thought Kerridge's blocking was much improved, except for one pass block where he got shoved into Gardner. I'd rather he attack the defender than try to backpedal while staying in front of the defender.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* What more can be said about Jeremy Gallon? He'll go down as one of the all-time greats.
* What was truly impressive about the receiving stats is that 9 different players caught passes. That kind of diversity prevents the defense from focusing on two receivers, helping everybody get open. Jake Butt caught five balls for 85 yards and a TD, and caused me to exclaim, "WIDE OPEN BUTT," and "GO BUTT!"
* Dileo caught five passes, and a few of them were not 4 yard button hooks that the defense knows is coming. Regarding the 2 point conversion, I watched the first two Michigan drives again this morning. On the second TD, we were lined up just like we were for the 2 point play. Instead of passing to Dileo, Gardner ran the option away from the triple stack and basically waltzed into the endzone untouched. I think that would have worked again, assuming Gardner still had the ability to move his legs. The TD occurred 3 hours earlier, so I think the Ohio defense would have forgotten about it by then. Oh well. I really shouldn't complain about one bad play call out of 82.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet had the kick return we were all waiting for called back by a bogus holding call. The blocker had his hands inside the defender's jersey, the defender was backpedaling, and a third player bumped into the M blocker and ohio defender. This caused the ohio guy to lose his balance and get pancaked. How was that a holding penalty? If that's holding, you could call Ohio's o-line for holding every play. It seems they are coached up to grab the defender by the name on the back of his jersey and shove him where they want.
Go for the Win
* In overtime, you need 25 yards to score a TD. I checked the drive chart, thinking this would confirm my gut feeling that going for 2 was the right call. Ohio State had 11 real possessions. They gained at least 25 yards on 7 of them. Michigan had 11 real drives (not counting the end of half because Brady didn't try to mount a drive.) We gained at least 25 yards on 8 of them. Hmmm, maybe Lou Holtz was right.
* We had 31 first downs to their 23. So our offense was at least as consistent as their's, if not moreso. Hmmm, I'm really starting to doubt myself.
* Yeah, but Ohio State averaged 8.6 yards per play. That's basically a TD in OT every three plays. Yeah, but we averaged 7.4 yards per play, that's hardly a significant difference.
* But we gained our yards passing while they gained their's running, and more bad things can happen passing than running (sacks, incompletions, interceptions.)
* In addition, our starting FG kicker was in street clothes and our QB was a bag of bones loosely held together by duct-tape and chewing gum.
* OK, I convinced me, go for the win. Everything was perfect, except for the final play when the guy with the members only jacket emerged from the bathroom and put a bullet in our collective temple. We never saw it coming.
The kid came to play today. He showed some real heart and was the reason we were in the game until the end. He even was playing with one leg and was still fighting through. Thank you devin
This diary is a fuller exposition of a quick chart that I threw together and posted in Ace's recap of the Iowa game. I've expanded the analysis somewhat and corrected at least one mistake.
In essence, I wanted to chart the offensive regression that we've all witnessed over the course of the season, especially post-Minnesota.
First, let's just chart yards per play (maize dots indicate losses):
The overall regression is clear, with a big spike against Indiana. That was a great offensive performance, but Indiana. Overall there's a clear regression, especially in Big Ten play.
The problem is that not all defenses are created equal. To try to correct for that, I've divided Michigan's yards per play by the average yards per play allowed by each team:
Here you can see that the Indiana performance is still quite good -- we did better against them than the average team. But you can also see the below-average performances (anything below 100%): UConn, Penn State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Iowa.
Notice how poor our performance against Nebraska was: our yards per play (2.778) was only 53% of the average offensive performance allowed by Nebraska (5.27).
I also charted yards per carry by the running backs:
This is a little bit harder to correct for, since defensive rushing stats include sacks, etc. Nevertheless there's a clear negative trend, and in no case have we averaged more than 5 YPC by running backs in any game.
Finally, yards per pass:
The slope here is a bit flatter, but it is still negative. Perhaps the fall-off over the past several weeks can be attributed to injury? DG's also not getting yards rushing the way he did earlier in the season. DG rushed for 82 yards in the Notre Dame game, for example, and for 121 yards against Penn State.
In conclusion: this is grim. Very grim indeed.
In the picture pages post today, I feel I noted something of some significance. This isn’t supposed to be a post to puff out my own chest, rather, I merely want to give the
other side of the argument my side of the argument for what it really is.
As an aside, there have been numerous people that have constantly misconstrued my argument lately. I understand that by taking a particular unpopular stance so strongly, that I have opened myself up to criticism. But within this article I also want to make clear up some of my stance, so towards the end I will get into some of that. Much of these will be related to the comments I made earlier (if not copy and pasted), the major difference is that I now have the opportunity to add accompanying pictures and diagrams to go with it. This is of importance because football isn’t really a sport that is best described with words. You can try to be as descriptive as possible, but there will always be a certain amount of failure to accurately convey your thoughts through this medium. So the pictures/diagrams help in that regard. So let’s begin.
Set Up and Play Design
I’m going to copy and paste Brian’s set up to his post as he does a good job getting us there.
Michigan comes out with an H-back and two tailbacks in a twins formation, which necessarily means that the slot receiver is not an eligible receiver. Nebraska responds with 7.5 in the box, with the gray area defender just about splitting the difference between Funchess and the tackle.
I’ll get to the covered receiver part later, I want to start off with the basics here about what the intention of this play is. Let’s first start with the most fundamental concept of any run play: the blocking scheme.
Inverted veer works with a Power O blocking scheme. Power is a type of man/gap blocking scheme, while “O” indicates the pulling of the backside guard. A simple power play looks like this.
The inverted veer meanwhile, takes the fullback and erases him. It utilizes the option read to kick out the DE because the DE must commit to the QB or the RB. If the DE commits to the RB, the QB reads this and shoots through the lane inside of him. If the DE commits to the QB, the QB gives to the RB and the RB attacks the edge. Here’s how the inverted veer looks:
Now, let’s first act like there is no FB involved in the play so we can address the offensive line and TE first. As noted, this is a standard power blocking scheme. No one, from any of the offensive linemen, to the TE, do things differently than they would if this was a Power O run from under center. But the defense aligns in a way that makes running power difficult. This is an even front, stacked front, meaning the DL is aligned 5-2-2-5 as far as gaps. That’s outside shoulder of the OT and inside shoulder of the OG. The stack indicates that the OLBs are stacked over the DEs.
Well, to the front side this is similar to what a 4-3 Under will look like, but instead of the LB brought up on the LOS like Michigan often does with Jake Ryan, they’ve stacked him behind the DE.
This isn’t the exact defensive formation, but the blocking scheme is exactly the same (the only difference is the OC has one less shoulder to down block the backside DT and that the LB are shaded further from playside).
If you’re wondering what some of the things are in the diagram, the green boxes are the blocking calls that should be understood or made. As for the defensive formation, just for reference, the “G” means the NT that is usually lined up in a 1-tech slides out to the guards inside shoulder (often utilized to stop Iso) and the Loose is the SAM position loose from the LOS.
What you see is an adjustment in the blocking scheme. This is automatic and should be called and understood. Any team that runs power should make this adjustment. Why? Because that playside DE is very tight to the formation and becomes extremely difficult to kick out. His position pre-snap is already squeezing the hole that power is intended to go through, so rather than slam into that wall, it’s easier to down block him and seal the outside for the RB.
Now, here is how that applies to the inverted veer.
You see now that the person being optioned is that OLB (SAM) rather than the DE because of the defensive alignment.
Now let’s add the FB in the inverted veer. Power blocking makes another small adjustment when you have two lead blockers. If you remember back in the Tackle Over days, Michigan would utilize the U-back as a first lead blocker and a FB as a second. It was the U-back that was first through and responsible for the kick defender. The FB has some reads, but generally will try to get beyond the kick player and knock the first odd color jersey he sees.
More accurately, let’s look at it with an overhang defender. The way the FB is going to treat this is to go block that guy. If that guy tries to gain depth into the backfield, the FB will just carry him with his momentum. If he tries to go inside of him, he’ll simply arch block him. This is what that looks like:
Now let’s apply that to the inverted veer. It’s the same exact thing. The first lead blocker through takes the kick defender (here, that is the playside OLB). The fullback goes and finds the next off color jersey, typically to the outside. Generally, he will block this in a somewhat similar way, erring on the side of scooping the gray area defender. What that does is give a massive alley for Fitz to run through. It also forces that gray area defender to fight that block, regardless of if it blocks him from DG because he knows he must respect Fitz to run. That means if the blocking up front is done properly, DG has more than enough room and time to go straight up field and beyond that gray area defender before cutting out into the same lane that Fitz would run in.
So that’s how the play is designed to be run. Combined with the slot receiver taking the playside safety, everyone on the playside is blocked and a defined seam is established.
Why Run This Play?
I’m not really going to get into why you run the inverted veer, as that’s just a play more or less that has some pretty clear positives as far as reading a defender and threatening a defense with the RB and QB. But why put in the FB?
A common way teams defend the inverted veer is similar to ways that defenses have adapted to defend the read option: they force the QB’s read to be wrong. Essentially, this is a scrape exchange.
In the instance of an inverted veer, they’ll bring a defender off the edge that the QB can’t read or see because the QB is busy reading his key. The key typically is the DE.
Here’s a give look:
Here’s a keep look:
And here’s how a scrape exchange looks:
See that the read is still the same player for the QB. The QB’s read is to give. What the QB doesn’t see is the guy that is coming right into Fitz at the handoff. The defense is making DG’s reads wrong and there is nothing he can do about it.
So, to counter this, you add a FB. This is similar to what Rich Rod did with a U-back to kick the backside on a read option. Essentially, it’s making the QB’s read right by blocking the exchange defender. This means the QB just has to read his key and is fine. This is an adjustment to take advantage of a defensive look and seal the defense inside. Effectively, it’s acting similar to a bubble screen would act as it’s sealing the defense inside and attack the edge and alley with the RB (rather than a slot receiver). It’s a horizontal constraint on top of the normal inverted veer play.
Why Doesn’t it Work?
I’ll save some time and copy and paste a bit:
So the problem is two-fold: Kerridge completely whiffs his block because he archs too wide. His goal is essentially to scoop that gray area defender like he's trying to do in the MSU clip, note in that clip how he passes off the read DE and tries to get to the second level where he blocks no one because the safety he wants to block shot the gap instead (in theory here, his eyes are in the wrong place, there should be some adjustment that allows for DG to read the safety crashing and for Kerridge to scoop the DE, and DG should give here in that instance, but was likely hoping that guy would just follow Fitz and he'd have a clear path to a TD by having the option essentially block two-defenders, but as expected, it doesn't). The second problem is the fact that two people (Schofield and the TE) aren't on the same page as to what the power blocking adjustment should be.
The Big Picture
So we see this is messed up here. It is an execution issue. Alright. So what’s the deal. Quasi-rant in copy and paste mode:
Now, I don't think as far as the missed communication that it's because the blocking scheme is too complex. Much and most of their run scheme settles around a power blocking scheme. That should be better. The play against Nebraska should be executed better, but there were two huge botched assignments. The play against MSU is tougher and something that clearly wasn't repped enough (on the coaches). The FB nor Gardner made the correct adjustment to a safety shooting a gap. They might have repped it a few times, but clearly it wasn't enough to be familiar with how to adjust it in game.
It's basic Power O blocking fundamentals with two lead blockers (here, the two lead blockers are the option read and then the FB rather than a U-back and then a FB).
This is the problem that I've had with the "too many things that they aren't good at anything" argument. Veer option is based on a running scheme they utilize anyway (essentially a down G) but you don't have to pull because your kick block is the option. Inverted veer is Power blocking all the way. It is their base run play with the same exact assignments and adjustements. Nebraska does absolutely nothing that shows this play is tipped, they don't play it any way other than how a standard defense would play it. But Michigan can't get out of it's own way.
And this is the argument that I've had since PSU. It is execution. This play should work. It is 100% execution. Borges has Nebraska exactly how he wants them. Michigan is missing assignments in their base blocking scheme that they've repped thousands of times from under center, from pistol, from ace, from shotgun. That's not just on the players. Why the hell isn't the coaching staff able to get the players to block their base scheme? Why is it taking so long? Youth is part of it, yes. But at this point they should be able to block the run they utilize 75% of the time, including on their counters. It's on the coaches but it's not because of the play call. The play call is perfect. Why the hell aren't the players able to execute? Part of that, a lot of that, is youth. And part and a lot of that is they aren't getting through to these kids. It's the argument that I've made that's been misinterpreted since the start of all this. It's the same thing over and over again. Why can't they block their most basic, most repetitively run play in the entire playbook?
It’s not that there is too much in the playbook, I don’t believe that. That seems like a plausible answer when you isolate inverted veer from the rest of the offense. But it's not isolated from the rest of the offense. It's a Power O play with Gardner making a read. Blocking is exactly the same as Power O. It's their most repped play in the entire playbook.
So how can you make it easier? They've taken out most of the difficult things. 75+% of the runs are the same damn blocking scheme. Counter Power, Inverted Veer, Veer option, Power, that accounts for the vast majority of the plays and all those plays have their roots in the same blocking structure. They still can't get it done. It's not about reducing the playbook anymore, they literally can't without just running from the I formation or just inverted veer. They can literally only reduce it by having the same blocking scheme and the same run action behind it, and that would only make matters worse because blocking is the primary issue.
And I know the execution thing rings of cliché as well, but it is absolutely true. This grab bag theory that all these plays are independent of one another isn't correct. They do have some tweaks. Zone stretch is now intended to be a constraint. Same with the counter. But the base of the run game comes back to power over 75% of the time I can promise that.
So it’s part youth. Certainly youth is a valid reason for some of these issues. But it’s also coaching. I can reiterate that until my face turns blue and some people won’t accept that I said it. But there is a fundamental flaw transferring the knowledge of this scheme to the players. This is not a difficult scheme. It’s a scheme taught to high schoolers all across the country. Sure, it gets a bit more complex at this level, and it gets a lot faster and you have to be much better at executing, but the basic, mental problems?
Why No Vertical Constraint?
Trust me when I say I would like a vertical constraint (pop pass) out of this look as much as anyone. My goal in this section is to try to explain why it may not be in the playbook right now with so many other issues in this offense.
But I seem to remember a pop pass off of it once or twice last year (I believe with Denard at QB). Honestly can't say why Borges hasn't run a false mesh, slide protection pop pass off of this look yet this year. I would like him too as well unless. My guess is that he's uncomfortable with DG making that read in traffic (he's worried about someone undercutting it or scrapping into it is my guess, and DG not processing it fast enough).
This is intended to argue one way or another if that play should be in there (I would personally like it), it's just trying to give perspective on if it's been run before and why an OC may shy away from it.
Why Cover Funchess?
Again, guesses for the most part, but realistically:
As I said, I hate covering receivers. It is a tip to the defense that it's likely run (where, they don't know). That said, you would be surprised how many defenses will still trot a DB out to cover that guy.
Anyway, the reason here is because Borges wanted a guy to block the playside safety. He wanted to form an alley on that side for Fitz. The FB takes the slot defender, Funchess takes the safety, and Gallon takes the CB. Everyone else is sealed inside. That's the only reason he did it, was to get the play completely blocked playside, which it should have been.
They need to cover the TE or Funchess because he wanted to run to strength and wanted that slot blocker. So the TE or Funchess had to be covered. Now, typically I'd say "alright, cover the TE, don't cover your 2nd biggest threat". But a couple things could have gone into the thinking here.
- But have the TE off the line you open up plays to the backside of the formation with the inverted veer look (including counter schemes and how the FB would leak out into the flat later). So in a way, it keeps the box defenders more honest, which they succeeded in doing (they didn't all crash playside on the snap before reading the play).
- They wanted to know what that slot defender was doing. They didn't want to run him off, they want a clear target for the FB. Funchess covered, that guy comes. Maybe that was something they saw on film and were trying to take advantage of. But there's a real possibility that they didn't want to force the FB to read "is that guy going with the WR, do I pick up the filling alley safety or does Funchess, so do I switch to his guy?" etc.
My guess is more #1 than #2, but it depends on what they saw on film.
So what’s the point in all this? Is it to blindly defend Borges? No. The intention isn’t to blindly defend the coaches. The intention is to look at what is happening and figure out where the issue is. Here is a very, very clear example of a bigger picture. It is execution. The coaches aren’t lying about that and it isn’t a copout answer. This is a play where Al Borges got everything he wanted and more from Nebraska. Nebraska, who had a player say they knew every play that was coming, did nothing to stop this play because of any tip or tendency. They stopped it because Michigan can’t get out of their own way. They can’t execute their most basic blocking scheme that they practice and rep more than any other. This points to youth, and this fails to a failure by the coaching staff to adequately teach these players to do one of their most fundamental plays. Both of those are under the execution umbrella.
And this goes beyond this play. This goes to the pass protection schemes. This goes to how I’ve seen veer option blocked. This goes to how every single run play pretty much ever this year is blocked. There are a few players that seem to “get it”, there are some that get it sometimes and not others, and then there are the young or inexperienced that clearly don’t. It’s a fundamental issue that isn’t play calling, it isn’t scheme, it isn’t about huddling or not huddling. It’s not about if you prefer certain screens (I’d like more screens), it’s not about play action or 3-step drops or hot routes. It is as simple as people continuing to fail at doing their jobs. That’s not just calling out the players; that’s also calling out the coaches for putting out a product, for not teaching their students, in a way that allows them to succeed. They are in positions to succeed, probably positions to the best of what they rep day in and day out in practice, but the mental aspect, the thought process, the confidence to know what they are doing without questioning it or doing it wrong is not there. And that is the major failure in this offense right now. This play only exemplifies that.
Holy Offensive Extravaganza Batman! In the interest of time, I'm going to break format again, skip the introductory paragraph and get right to the numbers. Michigan gained 1237 yards on 98 plays, accruing 73 first downs in the process. Devin Gardner led the way with 712 yards passing. Jeremy Gallon's 26 receptions accounted for 560 of those yards. The rushing game returned in grand style, with Fitz Toussaint running for 234 yards and 8 touchdowns, behind a line featuring a fourth string left guard and three high school seniors. Michigan won the time of possession battle, 52:12 to 7:48. Michigan punted negative three times, and finished seven for four on third down conversions. Raymon Taylor led the defense with 37 tackles and 16 pass breakups. Yes, these numbers are completely made up. They are ridiculous, but so are these numbers:
Burst of Impetus
* Early in the game, it was obvious that Indiana was throwing to the receiver guarded by Raymon Taylor. Taylor got beat deep, giving up a 59 yard TD to IU. On the next drive, they went back at Taylor, hitting Latimer for a 14 yard gain. After an incomplete pass and a five yard run, Sudfeld went back towards Taylor. Taylor absolutely lit up the TE, Bolser, forcing an incompletion. Later in the first quarter, on another third down, Indiana went back at Taylor down the sideline. He just barely turned his head around and got another deflection. Later in the game he got another PBU on third down and forced a field goal. The boxscore lists him with 4 of Michigan's 5 pass breakups. He did make 9 tackles, so it's obvious Indiana was targeting him and giving him opportunities. He wasn't perfect, BUT HE MADE PLAYS. In a back and forth game, the key to winning was who was going to be able to break serve. Indiana was 8 of 14 on third down. Half of those stops are directly attributable to Taylor. The other defensive player who MADE PLAYS (2 of them, in fact) was Thomas Gordon. He did not record a tackle, but he did make two huge interceptions that gave the Impetus back to Michigan both times.
* Devin Gardner was 21 for 29 with ZERO INTERCEPTIONS! (That's not difficult to do when IU's DBs were rarely in the same time zone as our WRs, and the line provided good protection for the most part.)
* He threw for 503 yards, 2 TDs, and a long of 70 yards (thanks to Gallon.)
* His bad habit of flinging wild throws to avoid sacks returned, but fortunately, did not result in any INTs.
* Al Borges is the QB coach. Is Al the one responsible for teaching Devin how to pitch the ball to Fitz? I'm, of course, referring to the fumble. It was attributed to Fitz, but the pitch was the problem. I have a hard time picturing in my mind, Al out on the field giving Gardner instructions on the proper way to pitch the ball back to the RB.
* After suffering through the 27 for 27 documentary, Fitz ran 32 times for 151 yards net. The longest run was only 27 yards, so this is not one of those cases where a guy's stats are inflated by a 60 or 70 yard TD run. He scored 4 TDs.
* Derrick Green pitched in 21 yards on 6 carries.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Jeremy Gallons actual stats were 14 receptions for 369 yards and 2 TDs. He caught 2/3 of Gardner's completions.
* Devin Funchess was the second option, catching 4 balls for 84 yards. Towards the end of the game UofM was trying to run out the clock. They faced a 3rd and 6. Instead of running on third down, Al called for a pass. 38 yards later, Funchess had given UofM another first down, and three more opportunities to run clock. I think that is the go-for-the-win attitude that we became accustomed to under Brady Hoke, that was sadly missing last week against PSU.
* Jeremy Jackson returned to the field, catching 2 balls for 23 yards.
* I love Dileo and if I were in charge of the offense, I'd involve him more, so what I'm going to say next may amount to heresy. Is it possible that he's not getting open on the other ~60 plays, or that he's not great at blocking? I also wonder if he got hurt, because he wasn't back there fielding punts. Maybe Borges just wanted to give Devin a slightly bigger target in Jackson.
* Midway through the first quarter, Joey Burzynski got hurt. So let's review our situation at Left Guard this year. Glasgow started the season there, only to move to center in an attempt to shore up the middle. Chris Bryant was the next man in. He's either injured or not as effective as the staff would like, so he was replaced by Burzynski. When he got hurt, Kyle Bosch entered the lineup. Yep, our 4th string left guard. Indiana did get 2 sacks and 7 TFLs, but I can honestly say, I didn't notice Bosch out there, and that's a compliment for a lineman. He may have made a mistake or two, or missed an assignment, but I didn't notice.
* A bruised and bloodied Taylor Lewan returned to the lineup. I was a little worried before the game started, as Lewan showed very little enthusiasm jumping up to touch the M Club banner. To think he could be making millions of dollars today, all I can say is thank you, we appreciate your effort and loyalty to our shared University.
* I would be remiss not to mention Graham Glasgow's hustle. At the end of Gallon's 70 yard run after the catch, Glasgow was right there. There were several other long plays where I noticed Glasgow hustling down the field looking for another block. The guy can move for someone his size.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet returned 6 kicks for 121 yards. He made a couple poor decisions, but on average, the results were fine.
* So is this blocked FG thing something I'm going to have to worry about for the rest of the season?
* Five of Wile's 10 kickoffs were touchbacks. IU didn't do much with 4 of the 5 they returned.
* On one kickoff, we kicked from the 50 due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on IU. Doesn't game theory demand an onside-kick there? Or at least a high, short, coverage kick where you can pin them back inside the 20? If they recover the onside kick, they get the ball at their own 35. Instead, we kicked it out of the endzone and they got the ball at the 25. For 10 yards, I'd take that chance at getting the ball back. This was not a field position game. This was a ball possession game, as in, if you had possession of the ball you were likely going to score.
I'm an international umpire
* The refs let them play. IU had 3 penalties for 20 yards and Michigan had 4 for 15 yards. I noticed some holding and maybe some DBs getting to the WR a little early, but nothing outrageous, and the officials didn't get nitpicky. I'd rather they call a foul a foul, but it kept the flow of the game going nicely, and they were consistent, which is all you can ask for.
* I covered the important stuff in the Impetus section. We got some stops.
* Help me out, Alannis Morrissette, is it ironic that we ended the game by sacking IU's QB? I say yes.
* Besides Taylor's 9 tackles, JR3 had 8, Jourdan Lewis and Morgan had 5, and Wilson had 4. That's a lot of DBs, but that's to be expected in a game like this.
* It seemed like neither defense could stop the opposing offense. In fact, it seemed like neither team faced many difficult third downs. So I decided to review the play-by-play and see how the two teams did on first and second down. My numbers aren't quite adding up, but they are close to being accurate. In the all-important second down conversion stat, Michigan dominated Indiana going 14 for 26, to Indiana's 10 for 24. On first down, Michigan was 14 for 41 to Indiana's 10 for 35. That's right, we had 35 first downs, and gained 28 of them, 80%, on either first or second down. Indiana's defense is horrible.
* I mentioned in the Game 1 diary that my dad passed away from cancer this summer. Michigan broke out the pink accoutrements to raise awareness. I think most people are "aware" of the major cancers - breast, lung, prostrate, etc. In fact, my dad was a five year survivor of prostate cancer. Spending our limited resources attacking the most common cancers makes sense (Spock would agree, the needs of the many, etc.) but let's also spend some time raising awareness of the less common cancers, because these are often the ones that aren't diagnosed in a timely manner. A year and a half ago, dad was diagnosed with urothelial cancer. The problem was mis-diagnosed for a good 3-4 months, during which time the cancer may have doubled in size and changed from something that could be dealt with, to something that was fatal. I'm all for raising awareness, but I also think we need to be doing more in terms of improving diagnosis and treatment options.
My dad took my brother to the Anthony Carter/IU game. I suppose I should be jealous of my brother for that, but I was the one who got to hear Bob Ufer call the play. So who was the lucky one? HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK!!!