I would just like to aknowledge several things that have really helped me put things in perspective about this team, this season, and this coaching staff.
(1) I've been vocally hard on Denard this year, as more people have tended to be. He's got some serious fundamental flaws that are being exposed in a system that awkwardly hybridizes (word? word, now.) things that he does well with things that he doesn't do well. This naturally has made for frustrating moments where you want to string up borges, denard, rich rod, anyone tangentially related to this transition, etc.
Given (1), (2) Denard has accounted for 29 TDs through 10 (11) games, which is 3 short of his scoring production in 13 games-ish last year. That's actually pretty nuts, given his apparent struggles. The point is this: we can handle the reduction in yardage/ per play average if he's getting us into the endzone with that kind of regularity.
(3) Acknowledging that Denard's turnover rate is still unacceptable, and given (1) and (2), if this is a down year for D-Rob, I'm OK with it. I'm more than ready to give Al Borges the benefit of the doubt and see if his Year 2 progression theory holds up. I've been pleased with the job he's done overall, and I'm more than happy to sacrifice the bubble screen for the package deal of hiring Borges and Mattison. The development of Fitz Toussaint has been amazing to watch.
(4) Speaking of Mattison and his defensive staff, holy hell. I'd trade flashy QB heisman-ish stats for this defensive turnaround 3 times over.
(5) I'm ready for 8 years of frustration to be taken out on OSU next weekend. 41-17 M with the coronation of Fitzmonga Biakabatoussaint. 200+. Go Blue. Good times ahead!
Out of whack
So that game kind of sucked. If you're wondering why this diary is so late in the week, I try to wait until I feel like the foul language will be minimized after we lose.
Despite the video above, I'm not really blaming Borges for this loss. Not entirely anyway. He did not have a very good game. But that could be said for many people. Denard, Hemingway, Vince, Roundtree, Morgan, Floyd, the refs. THE REFS. THE MOTHERFUCKING REFS. But we'll get to that later.
You know when an offense is clicking, it's when guys are wide freaking open. And not just in the passing game. When an offense is in rhythm, running lanes open up too. That really didn't happen on Saturday until the final drive (when Iowa was backed off in prevent). Every pass and running lane was contested. That's partially due to the vanilla cover two. But a larger problem for us is our failure in self-scouting and our lack of an identity on offense.
A lot of what an OC does during gameday is psychological. You're supposed to mess with people's heads. RR was great at this. And the people he targeted most were the outside linebackers, DE's, nickel backs, and safeties. The reason why all forms of the option offense are so strong is because of the ability to always make a player wrong. You read which way he goes, and then go the other way. It's about taking what you're being given.
Which leads us back to Borges's failure this week. Ideally an offense creates an identity by beating a defense in a certain way so much that the DC has to adjust to take away those plays. But when that happens, it opens up the companion play.
Back during Lloydball that script went something like this. Offtackle run, offtackle run, offtackle run, bootleg pass for a TD. It was boring as hell, but when it worked, it was a thing of beauty. Tuman wide open in the Rosebowl, Breaston taking a reverse for a TD, etc.
With Richrod it was more like, zone read/bubble play left, zone read/bubble play right, Denard, Denard, Dena-OH SHIT! TD!
With Borges it is ... uh ... ? What exactly? Brian discussed this at length already, so I'll just add that it feels like we're just throwing random crap at the wall to see what sticks. Borges has called better games and it's hard to establish an identity when your 'bread and butter' plays are getting stuffed. But our best play this season has been for Denard to hold the ball too long in the pocket and then heave a prayer downfield. No one is going to mistake Denard for Andrew Luck, I don't understand why we're trying to use him like that. I don't understand why he's in the pocket reading pass coverages.
What is our base play? A zone read? Then why the hell don't we have the companion bubble screens? Is our base play an I-form Iso? Then where are the reverses that keep the backside DE honest? I'm getting sick of watching the backside end or OLB making a tackle in the opposite B gap. Are we running Denard? Then why are wasting a blocker by handing it off to him?
I understand that we're trying to keep him healthy, but we're losing the numbers game. Every time we go to that Denard Jet Sweep formation, the defense doesn't have to account for him. We hardly ever give him the ball, and we never throw it to him. And why is that the trick play formation we're stuck with? When we came out one week with the diamond Fritz formation and then had the jet sweep thing the next week, I was expecting to see 5 more different variations. Instead we've settled into this one that opposing DC's have figured out.
There's only three games left. It's time to take the reins of our biggest offensive threat. It's time to put in all those counters and companions and make play calls during the game that are, uhm..., like fucking coherent. (I wrote and rewrote that sentence 5 times, and still have an expletive, if not in all caps.)
I understand you're transitioning to a new philosophy and we're under-manned and can't hurt people with the base plays you want to run. But there's only three games left, if we want to win any of them, some of that will have to go out the window. I know you're not trying to use up Denard, but there's only three games left. If not now, when?
I appreciate that we've only lost two games, but there's only three games left and none of them are gonna be any easier than the two we lost. There's only three games left, and none of them are against Minnesota. There's only three games left. It's time to bring out our "A game".
A bad game all around.
So I noticed Brian noticed my noticing of Desmond Morgan getting a good tackle on a kickoff against Purdue. How was his game against Iowa?
It's pretty bad when even the TV guys are pointing out your bad play. (Although Spielman is one of the handfull of guys that knows the game pretty well and points out good and bad LB play)
And Fitz had a great game against Purdue, did that carry over?
Oh. (That's two unblocked middle linebackers on an A gap dive.)
But at least we've still got Denard who has been excellent at reading blockers and -
It's hard to blame any one person on offense when the entire blocking day was sub-par.
Looks ok here. That is a linebacker (and supposedly an above average one) not a DB. So our little slot guy should either go low or try to pin him inside.
Oh. Nevermind. But look, Fitz is leading the play for Denard, so we're still good.
We've got two guys on him, no problem. Except Denard has no place to cut back because Huyge couldn't maintain his backside block.
Still, a 2 on 1 means Denard should be able to bounce it outside.
*sigh* I guess this is where I'm supposed to mention something about teaching cut blocking and then I get pissy about how small blockers should take on big defenders by going low ... but I just can't get too upset about this play. I guess my rage is being reserved for something else...
And about those refs....
They started the game by missing a holding call
And then they decided that pass interference was no longer an enforceable rule.
They actually threw a flag and then talked themselves out of it. Maybe they thought it was uncatchable.
Maybe they're FUCKING BLIND.
And this was on Denard's interception right before the half. Denard has thrown some bad interceptions this year. This was not one of them.
At this point, someone needs to be in the ref's ear. I know Hoke is not the fire and brimstone kind of guy, and that's fine, but we need somebody to be working on the refs. The same thing happened during the Northwestern game, the refs never woke up and gave us a makeup call.
And our receivers need to do a better job of getting the call. Throw your hands up and dive on the ground. Watch some European sissy boys play soccer and learn how to embellish a call. I'm not saying all the time, because 'boy who cried wolf, blah blah blah.' But when you've got a legitimate case, don't be afraid to hop up and down a bit more. Make the ref peek at the video board and maybe you'll get the call next time.
Or just ... fuck.
So there's about 14 points that they owe us.
If this diary seemed overly critical, you win as a team, you lose as a team. Win and there's plenty of credit and high fives to go around, lose and everyone gets shat upon.
Amongst those few that had good games:
- Gallon, not as dropsies as Hemingway or Roundtree
- Interior O-Line, not as bad as the tackles
- Fitz, his running and hole reading were not as bad as his blocking
- Demens, not as bad Morgan
- Countess, not as bad as Floyd
- Martin, ... ok he was still awesome, in fact the entire D-line had a decent game. I guess that's what happens when you've got 3 D-line coaches (Hoke and Mattison are both ex D-line coaches)
- Mattison, not as bad as.... well I think I've covered that already.
Original Picture Pages here. Analysis courtesy Brian, as usual. Now the slo-mo works but I'm back to non-lower-case lower case letters. Whatever.
Setup: Borges is setting up 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situations. On the play prior to this one, Michigan sent Hemingway, Roundtree, and Grady to varying depths along the left sideline. The corner stepped up to take away Hemingway (running the middle depth of the three routes), but Roundtree beat the safety to the outside for a big gain. This play is designed to get one man open no matter which way the corner plays.
Wha'hoppon: Gallon is split left, Denard in the slot right, and Hemingway split right. Pre-snap, Junior motions in, and the defensive reaction reveals zone. On the snap, Gallon runs, well, I'm not sure - it might be a streak, or a fly, or a post, or a post-corner (#7). One safety steps up into a robber zone and the other forms a Cover-3 with the corners. Gallon's corner runs with him and the safety comes over. Hemingway runs what starts out as a deep in, I think (#6?), but continues it all the way across the field, getting free of the robber and being wide open in the spot vacated by the corner. The LBs are occupied by the threat of the end-around first, then a potential Denard wheel route second, which prevents them from dropping into the passing lane. Gardner finishes both fakes, has a quick lunch, tweets "no1 w/in 10yds of me lol wide open" and proceeds to throw into double coverage towards Gallon. Armpunt.
Full YouTubage at http://youtu.be/9gADYsUMVN8.
In yesterday's Mailbag, Brian offered two explanations for why Borges wouldn't answer the question:
1. He is vaguely aware of the fan zeitgeist about this and is sick of these laymen bothering him about a stupid play.
2. He is going to bust it out as part of Michigan's ever-evolving baseless offense.
WRONG (Borges smug?) and KIND OF WRONG.
The bubble screen is the base offense. Everything they've shown on film so far is a trap for Ohio State. On November 26, Borges will break out 5-wide ninjas, all bubble, all the time, left bubble, right bubble, all the way down the field bubble, 500 yards and 48 points of bubble. They'll go for 2 and make it 50 with a bubble screen.