An interesting part of all of this is that Denard's first TD began with a fake bubble screen to Gallon. They set that play up, I suppose, with the bubble screens that they ran against Bama.
Hokepoints Builds the IKEA Offense
John T. Greilick|DetNews
This does not a happy Hoke make (2012 stats so far):
Here's Hoke on that in the Monday presser:
Looking at the running game, were there different holes for Denard than for Fitz?
“Well some is we couldn’t get Fitz started. They ran 30 times fire zones -- run fire zones, which they never were that big a team. We call them sharks and stuff like that. But it was a little different. It was a little different. Never could get him started. Some of it we have to block better, some of it on some of the reads, maybe he should have kept the ball twice in there, but I think some of it goes down to number one what we were trying to do, giving Denard the ball, and secondly blocking better. And then you’ve got to give them a little credit, too.”
Throw a dart at a row of newsstands within 400 miles of Ann Arbor and you'll probably puncture a sentence telling the Michigan running backs to step it up. If you do the same with the blogosphere it'll stick in some guy who won't notice because he is running around in panic over all non-Lewan OL. Other potential targets include the "Most of that is Alabama" couch, the floor of "Toussaint only played one game and they took him away by alignment," the wall of "it's early in the season," the "Denard missed some reads" chair, or maybe the "Mealer <<<<(!!!) Molk" bookshelf you just bought at Ikea and discovered to your horror you can't return or reassemble even though you're pretty sure you mixed up two of those bolt-thingies and this is why it keeps coming apart.
This Ikea metaphor for the offensive line is worth exploring but not this moment. This moment I want to figure out which of the above targets are actually getting the most hits, i.e. why aren't the running backs getting any traction?
Instructions after THE JUMP
Here's the called running back runs from the Bama UFR and my mini-UFRing of Toussaint in the Air Force game. Note thanks to AF's two long drives and Michigan's one short one that Toussaint didn't get his first carry until less than 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Play||Player||Yards||Category|
|M34||2||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||Nickel even||Inverted veer||Smith||-1||Hello wall|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Inverted veer||Rawls||0||Hello wall|
|M32||2||2||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Iso||Smith||1||ManPanda (ref)|
|M33||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Iso||Rawls||2||3rd&Short|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 even||Sprint counter||Rawls||-2||Counter to nowhere|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 3-4||Iso||Smith||2||ManPanda|
|M40||2||8||I-form twins||Base 3-4||Power off tackle||Smith||-2||ManPanda|
|M5||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Inside zone||Smith||0||Hello wall|
|M10||2||5||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Inside zone||Smith||2||Hello wall|
|M2||2||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Power off tackle||Rawls||1||Hello wall|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Inside zone||Rawls||3||Rawls=guy|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Inverted veer||Smith||3||Smith=guy|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Zone stretch||Rawls||5||Outside zone still works!|
|O46||2||1||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Inside zone||Smith||0||ManPanda|
|M14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Sprint counter||Smith||1||Counter to nowhere|
|M30||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Zone stretch||Smith||22||Outside zone still works!|
|M8||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 3-4||Iso||Smith||-1||ManPanda|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Iso||Smith||2||ManPanda|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Play||Player||Yards||Category|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||30-front||Sprint counter||Toussaint||1||Hello wall|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5||Zone stretch||Toussaint||-1||Outside zone still…MEALER!|
|M17||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 3-4||Zone stretch||Toussaint||0||Outside zone still…MEALER!|
|O44||2||8||Shotgun 2-back||Base 3-4||Iso||Toussaint||0||ManPanda|
|M45||2||3||I-Form||Base 3-4||Counter||Toussaint||0||Hello wall|
|M1||1||10||I-Form||Base 3-4||Power off tackle||Toussaint||0||ManPanda|
|O14||1||10||I-Form twins||Base 3-4||Iso||Toussaint||-1||Hello wall|
- ManPanda – (reference) RR-recruited OL screwing up while man-blocking is a crime against the Man-Panda. Guilty: 10 plays
- Hello Wall - Running into a stacked front: 7 plays
- Smith/Rawls=Guy - Smith is just a guy: 2 plays
- Counter to Nowhere - The counter that isn't a counter that Schofield always screws up: 2 plays
- Outside zone still works! - Ran an outside zone and it worked: 2 plays
- Outside zone still…MEALER! - Ran an outside zone and it didn't work because Mealer<<<<Molk: 2 plays
So there's your problem. Just like last year Michigan tried to sprinkle a small helping of the offense of the future into the mix, and it didn't work because Alabama's NT can two-gap and Air Force just sent everybody right after it every time. Both opponents—but Air Force to a much higher degree—were setting up with a lot of guys in the box, walking more down from the DB ranks, and slanting toward whichever direction the running back will be traveling.
Addressing the ManBall Problem: After two games I don't think this offensive line is ever going to be very good at man-blocking. Lewan can hack it, but Air Force exposed Mealer as not very strong, Schofield as ineffectual, and Omameh/Barnum not great at pulling even when they're not getting tripped by a fallen Mealer. Since we've seen them all excel at zone blocking in the past, and since that's what they were recruited for, at this point a two-game assumption about the limits of their abilities in this regard is rather safe. Man-blocking is fine as a changeup but it's the opposite of helpful if the intent is to get more yards via the running backs.
Addressing the Wall Problem: I'm starting with the running-into-a-stacked front "problem" first because the wall is easy enough to avoid except those few times one must bash his head into it to prove one's manhood.
If defenses are using unsound alignments and extra defenders to troll Michigan's avowed love of running back running, that means they're making the passing game easier and betting their safeties can beat Denard one-on-one in a competition of speed and athleticism. Good luck with that.
We saw a great example of this last Saturday as Air Force again and again committed eight defenders to not dying by Fitz, and consequently left their various Eckstein defensive backs 1-on-1 against Michigan's towering receivers (11 of the day's 14 catches were made by Gardner, Funchess, and Jeremy Jackson) and/or Denard in space. Robinson averaged over 11 ypc on the ground and 8.3 ypa through the air en route to 435 yards and four TDs. The close score belied a game in which evenly distributed luck at the key points (3rd downs, the tipped INT, officiating, etc.) would have found the Falcons consistently forced to drive the length of the field every possession—while they're good enough to do that, this game was more likely to finish 42-17 than as close as it did.
If every opponent sells out against Toussaint to this degree he'll average 1 ypc on six attempts per game while Denard's booking flights to New York and Pasadena. They won't, but even so Michigan needs to do a much better job of taking what the enemy has provided. This starts with pre-snap reads. Hoke mentioned that Denard maybe made some bad reads but I saw a grand total of zero play on potential zone reads when handing off was the right call. I think these are some of the reads Denard was supposed to make, e.g. the first Toussaint run against Air Force when the cornerback crept into the box several seconds before the snap.
The one thing that came up time and again on the head-to-wall-charted plays above was the bubble screen was wide open. This complaint has been had on these pages ad Borgesium, but is no less relevant because the best way to keep the deck stacked against both Toussaint and Denard is to open up the outside. It doesn't necessarily have to be the bubble screen.
Air Force might not have had the resources to shut down Michigan's running backs without sacrificing a member of the back four, but Bama sure as hell did. Future opponents are not Bama, however Michigan State is Bama light and you can be assured Dantonio will be every bit as cunning and soulless as his evil masters. The big thing that needs to get fixed, or at least better covered, is the play of the offensive line, especially when they're tasked with pulling and drive-blocking.
Watch this sequence of plays from Michigan's 2nd drive (starts at 23:30 if below not working):
- 1st and 10, Air Force leaves a quick throw to the slot (Gallon) open by alignment but there is no pre-snap read made. M is running a vintage 2010 Denard-ISO right at them. Their WILL linebacker reads quickly and attacks so fast that Mealer totally whiffs his second block and that guy stops Denard for a 1-yard loss. Mealer is negged, and the bloggerati sing lamentations for six free yards to Gallon.
[Announcers name impact players. Kovacs declared a walk-on.]
- 2nd and 11, Funchess in for Hopkins but AF is massively under-shifted. M fakes zone and Falcons are slanting hard that direction with the LBs biting hard as if the last maggot to get to Toussaint will be cleaning the latrine with his mouthguard. M's manbeast freshman TE has a wide open seam that Denard hits in stride. 1st down declared, "Jim Mandich" searches spike.
[Interlude: Florida scores on a zone read. Spread declared officially dead.]
- 1st and 10, Hopkins back in, bubble not (very) open but weakside CB is walking down leaving Gardner alone with a safety standing 15 yards away. Not seen. Slant plus blockdown plus CB blitz means Barnum's blocking nobody, Schofield is (badly) blocking the CB, and Omameh is letting the DE go by while watching Mealer getting stood up by the DT. Fitz swarmed, Molk lamented.
Out of similar personnel against similar alignments Michigan was stopped twice because of bad O-line execution and being outmaneuvered, and had one easy long play. All three happened out of things that were visible in the pre-snap alignment. Even with a shift back toward the type of plays that better utilize their skills, this isn't going to be one of Michigan's great offensive lines without huge improvement or a new face. However this could be a great offense if Denard is able to make more pre-snap adjustments to the obvious things opponents are doing to prevent getting gashed by Toussaint.
Against better defenses this won't be so obvious all the time. But Michigan doesn't face another Alabama, meaning when opponents "cheat" against the run it'll mean Gardner is matched 1-on-1 with a human, not a Milliner. A quick audible here or there will find room to use the myriad other weapons at Borges's disposal (Denard's legs, Gardner, the Funchess, Gallon in space, etc.), or make defenses plug those leaks so they can't just key on stopping Toussaint.
I looked at that play a couple of times, and it looked like a zone read where Denard should have given since the DE was in his face. Denard didn't have time for a pass fake, but he did have time for an "oh shit I blew the read, better follow Fitz through an amazingly open hole, hey look at that Fitz would have gained a lot of yards, hey after my cut there isn't any secondary guys left and I'm catching up to Gallon, is he slowing down to block or just not as fast as I am, oh here we go time to kneel down and say a prayer to my brother."
And I think even Lewan had the same point of view when he brought up this play and said, Denard could have handed to Fitz, either way the hole was there on that play. He was offering it up as proof the poor performance of the Running Backs wasn't the running backs themselves but the blocking of the offensive line.
Denard saved himself on that blown read because he's Denard. And probably since everyone on defense started moving toward what they should do after seeing Denard's mistake, didn't realize that Denard excels at awesome plays after making one mistake. I.e. every run where Denard drops the ball is more awesome than he deserves. I think Alabama was the only team that just stood around with patience and discipline until Denard tried to run.
This is going to come off as dickish, because maybe it is.
But is there a way to throttle back the meme-age and clever quips?
I see a table with the word "ManPanda!", a term that has not been defined prior to the table, and I just back-button my browser.
I feel like we can descend so far into memes here that I need a Rosetta stone to continue.
OK, to be charitable, I read on, and found the definition of the term (after its use 10 times). And I guess I know what you refer to. But I really don't get the joke.
Why would constructive criticism be dickish? Made some updates so others won't be as confused.
beat me to it while i was distracted in office hours. well played, Seth, well played.
probably should've been linked. it's unclear how helpful that is--why is this a crime against denard instead of against fitz or the OL themselves?--but that should be the reference.
Thats for the analysis. Much appreciated. We will see a test of your theories in the ND and MSU games. I'm sure the offensive line will get better. Most teams will try to stop our best weapons of running the ball and force Denard to beat them by passing.
Why is Smith=guy used on one of Rawls carries?
Or is that going to be the standard for everyone who is believed to be "Just a guy"?
Edit: Obviously was fixed.
really? there goes 25% of the additional respect your MGoDraft performance earned =P
(btw, 'Hokepoints' is an excellent upgrade)
So I've only once screwed up the different sized screws and had to take the thing apart, but everyone I know complains enough about it I figured it was a relatable experience. My main problem when building IKEA stuff is when you tighten anything the cheap particle board they make everything out of will crack way easily. Once those screws get exposed the furniture is done for.
I've never had issues with it, but I'm a mechanical engineer who works on cars, so I'm not your average consumer.
I've actually been MUCH more frustrated with some Target bookshelves. The "no tools needed" assembly is a huge pain. Can people not use screwdrivers anymore? What the hell!
once upon a time i made Sears mail me a new slide for a kid's bed, on the grounds that the slide that came with it didn't have the factory-drilled holes it was supposed to have in order for me to fasten it to the frame.
and then the new slide didn't have them either!
and then i flipped it over.
It soaks in and cures almost instantly, reinforcing and toughening the sawdustboard that passes for furniture now. It is also an exothermic process, so don't use too much.
Some of their stuff is junk, but some of it is pretty good. The instructions usually are easy enough, but the particle board is fragile and can break if you abuse it. I've had furniture from IKEA break, but they've been good about replacing parts. I do hope that our OL is a lot better than IKEA furniture. If they're analogous to IKEA, we're in big, big, trouble.
It is somewhat depressing to know that after three years of starting, it doesn't look like Denard will ever be making the pre-snap audibles that I've come to expect of multi-year starting quarterbacks who are seniors.
Not to detract from his abilities on the field, but it seems like his vision isn't allowing him to recognize the matchups to key in on. I am going to enjoy this season, I am sure of that, but I just don't know that with Denard under center I am ever going to feel like I'm not tremendously frightened everytime the ball gets snapped.
or are the coaches (read: borges) not willing to give him that free reign to make the reads? considering denard's amazing ball-carrying vision, it's hard to imagine that he is to blame for missing so many read plays on runs.
But I tend to think that part is on denard, part is on the coaches not wanting to let denard make the decisions. Do you think, if the coaches are indeed the culprit, that they are making the decision to not allow him to make his own calls because
1) They don't thinlk he is capable of making the best reads all the time
2) They're stupid, and he can make the calls but they just don't want to let him
I agree that he has great ball-carrying vision, but it seems that his vision is at its best 4-5 seconds after the snap.
Judging by his desire to throw the ball up for grabs often, I don't know that his decision making skills are the best I've ever seen.
either way. Denard's vision definitely seems best 4-5 seconds after the snap, so that's a great point. I guess pre-snap and post-snap vision is very different.
But I could also argue that Borges seems to be a stubborn (different from "stupid," but no less frustrating to watch) play-caller. I think it's plausible that Borges runs plays in attempt to establish a tone, rather than to gain maximal yardage. The offense feels very scripted--to my uneducated eye--so to me it seems like Borges needs to run certain plays to set up others. Take the continued dedication to running from the I-formation, in spite of its continued lack of success. Somehow it set up great play-action plays last year.
I guess, to summarize my view, the reads that aren't being made look so baffling simple that the only way to miss them is if you are over-thinking things. And I think Borges is a very cerebral guy, so it makes more sense to me that Borges is missing them.
Denard has NEVER had the freedom to call his own reads. It's not just a Borges issue.
the freedom to call his own reads, then isn't a trend of bad reads purely a Borges issue?
No. Even in 2010, Denard would be told from the sidelines which play to run by RR/Magee. In 2011 and 2012, Borges has given him the play to run. As a result, if the play gets bottled up, that's because of the playcall.
Denard has been told for years now to "run this play" - it's probably why we all get frustrated he doesn't scramble that much (think of that awesome Hemingway triple juke TD v. Illinois - Denard had 20 yards of open space in front of him when he threw the ball). He has always just run the play that he's been told to run.
If he has always "just run the play that he's been told to run," which, by the way, I think is a little too simplistic to be the whole truth....then wouldn't bad reads be a result of bad/non-adaptive play calls?
first double post
I don't understand why our pulling guards and tackles get so deep on their pulls. If you pause the video during the play, you'll notice what I'm talking about - particularly on the Schofield pull. He's a yard behind the other advancing linemen, and damn near in the way of the RBs.
I want to take a good look at that, too...it seems fairly basic, even for a guy that last played organized football in 9th grade. You run to where the guy next to you is now, and won't be, after the ball is snapped. Or at least, right behind him...towards his feet or "bottom." It seems like they're doing so in order to get more leverage on the first guy that they're going to hit....?
I'm at work so I can't replay the vid, but if we're talking in general. . . it's because they're not athletic enough.
A rule of thumb -- just a rule of thumb, mind you -- is that if you're gonna draw up movement on your O-line, the lines need to be roughly the same length. This is because it takes time to, you know, put one foot in front of the other in what's known as "running". So a guy who has to run six yards to get into position is going to do it in twice the time as the guy running only three, and if you don't time your contact precisely the play is dead behind the LoS.
Sorry if that came off as patronizing; I don't do this snarky style as well as Seth. Point is, a lineman that can pull needs to be exceptionally quick for his size because of the distance he needs to range to reach the point of attack. Not everyone can do this so I marvel at Borges' audacity to keep talking about execution. This is an example of a pull:
It's actually a play action, but the O-line movement is the same for the base play (duh). What should immediately pop out is just how far the left guard has to run just to reach his assigned gap. IF your back rumbles like a locomotive and IF the goal is to push strongside for 4-5 yards, this is classic MANBALL, and that's fine. I presume the RT takes on the SAM, which means the pulling guard's assignment is typically a ILB or safety who loses a step reacting to the play and has farther to go to get to the point of attack. The unblocked weakside pursuit will be trailing the tailback whose job is to take a few steps and fall forward anyway -- tackling him from behind doesn't stop the play from achieving its goal. The problems are this: One, the tailback here is Fitz. He's a speed demon, not a tank. Even with a guard quick enough to pull properly, this burns rubber as well as a sports car tailgating a Mack truck. Two, teams will often roll up the safety, blitz with a corner or use a robber to stop the run. End result? The defender reaches the gap before the guard does, the ball carrier's speed is neutralized going behind the late guard, and now you have all this speed in the backfield with nowhere to go. Sports car stuck in traffic. You don't really need to worry about the play action either; the same defensive alignment gets you a blitzer in the backfield because Fitz can't block and Smith can't run. You can pretty much tell what Michigan's going to run (or fail to execute) by watching who lines up next to Denard.
I'm gonna say it: It's a stupid, stupid, STUPID use of personnel. It's not the guard's fault he's slower than Fitz. You can't execute or drill or technique or "block better" into making this work with this team. Even with an All-American left guard, you can't make this play work unless something weird happens (Fitz does something silly, a linebacker slips and falls) but that's not what you'd call a well-executed play. With a true MANBALL team it's tough to stop, but with this crew it calls upon players -- including the defense -- to traverse distances inversely proportional to their speed. The slower they are, the farther they have to go and vice versa. The only way to make it work in order is to do it in slow motion but defenses won't cooperate.
What I REALLY don't get is that even if Borges doesn't see this on tape, Mattison should be destroying this play in practice. Why are they still using it??
Nice post, thanks.
It's obvious from the table - opponents load the box on 1st and 2nd down because we are going to run it. And they know our receivers are inexperienced.
Until we start calling and completing more passes on 1st down this will not change.
Our first 5-10 plays of the game against MSU need to be passes. Throws off their entire game plan, even if we only hit a few of them.
Yes, we'll all bitch about it, it's what we do..
Denards avg. per carry of 8.2yds is impressive as hell. I've never seen a player that could just flat bust a defense open like him. As the year goes on his passing will continue to improve. I'm betting on a year end total of 10 int's vs. last years 18. We have lots of good things to look forward to this season and the maturation & improved confidence of the most exciting player in the country is foremost one of them.
8.2 yards!! I mean c'mon thats damn near a 1st down per carry!! Thats just sick.
Small sample yes. But, I think it's a fallacy to dismiss averages after taking out the best or in this case 2 best runs and say that the ypc isn't all that special.
My guess is that over 4-1/2 yards per carry after taking out the 2 best runs is in fact exceptional.
I say fallacy because what happens is you make a seemingly innocuous change. People then don't change their benchmarks, and lo and behold, the point is made. My argument is that you got to change the benchmarks---in this case the distribution of ypc when you take out a guy's 2 best runs. My claim is that the distribution shifts sharply to the left. Clearly, it shifts left, but I think it's sharp. I would be interested if someone has a database and could verify this.
I've seen this rhetorical trick many times in my field (economics).
Should you take out the two shortest? I know that in some (non-football) settings, you eliminate the high and the low score, and average the rest. (Olympic Gymnastics) Anyway, I think seeing the average without the top two is partly questionable.
To use a different metaphor, Adam Dunn with the White Sox has a really lousy batting average, and way too many strikeouts. But it doesn't matter, because of how many home runs he hits. The "value" of the home runs more than compensates for the crummy BA and the strikeouts.
Isn't it fair to say that because of the "home run" potential of Denard, you can't just throw the high numbers out?
For this reason, footballoutsiders came up with the S&P statistic, which is a combination of [S]uccess rate (a measure of consistency) and [P] points-per-play (a measure of what you called "explosiveness", very much like YPC but with the observation that some yards are more valuable than others).
More information here: http://www.rockmnation.com/2010/6/7/1504382/beyond-the-box-score-an-updated
I think it stands to reason that both consistency and explosiveness are important, but it's pretty difficult to measure them with a single value.
Well, he's already on pace to match last year's 18, so unless he gets a lot more careful with his passing, I think your prediction of 10 interceptions is overly optimistic.
He's good at what he does, but he's not paid to do what he does well. He's paid to do what it takes to help the team win. Michigan is not quite so saturated with talent that you can sneeze at an open receiver simply because you don't want it, or make no effort to drill a pre-snap read to audible against a stacked box. Denard can't look at a blatantly uncovered receiver or audible the secondary rolling up? This isn't advanced stuff.
So everyone keeps talking the same game about blocking better, playing with better technique, 11-man football. . . but shucks, how does he have the nerve to let his players to blame themselves when the defense has set up against your run that one man is gonna be unblocked?
Wholeheartedly agree. It's almost as if he views it as a sign of weakness to call the play given that everyone else sees it's available and we dont take it.
Well.....not everybody. His boss must agree with him on some level for reasons unknown or this would get changed and fast. As much grief as we give Borgess on our unwillingness to take the 5-7 "free" yards on a bubble, Brady could change it if he wanted to.
Just curious why a 5 yard gain from Toussaint gets a ManPanda? Wouldn't that be a successful carry?
Well it wasn't too bad of a play but I'll let you be the judge of this: http://youtu.be/ZCOZy5i8vlg?t=27m57s
I didn't have space to write all my thoughts but I thought Barnum got away with holding and that's why his guy didn't make the play. Manpanda. If that block is legit then everyone did a good job and Michigan got 5 yards out of everyone on the line blocking well (4 yards) minus one from the safety reacting very quickly, plus two for Toussaint bowling that safety over for an extra 2 yards.
There's still a case that it's a crime against ManPanda, since the threat of Denard's legs is essentially zero on this play. Perfect execution by the O-line should be worth more than 5 yards with this offense.
I agree that may have been a hold although I recall many much worse that didn't get called either so I could go either way.
On the other hand, while perfect execution may indeed be worth 5+ yards, I don't think it qualifies as Crime Against ManPanda level as many very good offenses average 5 per carry. I'd call it more average execution versus perfect execution or Crime Against Man Panda. I remember many many 5 yard gains from Mike Hart and Co. with teams designed to block man v. man. If we hit 5 yards every time we ran the RB I'd be ecstatic.
"Perfect execution by the O-line should be worth more than 5 yards with this offense."
That should be true of any offense. If your O-line blocks everyone they're supposed to, fullback dives will go for 6 yards a pop, maybe more. Executing is scheme-independent.
Now if you're trying to say that perfect execution by our O-line with *players as exciting as Denard and Toussaint* should be more than 5 yards, that's a different story. The key there, though, is that you're wishing on their upside and ignoring their flaws.
Denard's upside is obvious - a untouched TD every time he touches the ball. The reality is that he will often get 3 yards and a cloud of turf, if that.
Anyway, this is more of a rant. TLDR: if you execute the play-call and scheme don't matter as much. Denard will make plays when he gets blocking and a few when he doesn't; the key will be better blocking.
I think you are misinterpreting AF's intentions with the run blitzes. They're not just designed to stop Fitz from running; they're designed to stop Denard from running. The reason they weren't able to stop Denard is that Fitz became an extra blocker/decoy on those plays, and our O-Line was able to stop their three mini-lineman and their LBs are not 'Bama/MSU quality.
Take a look at the play that starts at 26:05. It's 3rd and 1 and we're running QB off tackle play with a pulling guard (standard) and Fitz lead blocking. Some would call this the Power O. AF is blitzing the middle (a pretty standard short yardage defense), twisting their two middle LBs, a blitz that should remind Michigan fans of the nightmares vs. MSU last year. The main difference here is that the AF LBs aren't reading Mealer's mind and don't time their blitz perfectly to be in Denard's pants by the time the snap hits his hands.
The result is a nice gain and a first down. Notice that one of the twisting middle LBs actually makes the play, which is pretty impressive, actually. But make no mistake: this defensive play is designed to stop the run, not just Fitz.
On the next play (27:28) we see the zone read fake, Borges style. Instead of leaving the DE free on the weakside, the strongside tackle (Schofield) pulls back to the weakside to block for Denard. I am sure that Fitz is just a decoy here, and that this play is really designed for Denard. AF's little people get blocked up front, the MLB bites on the fake, and Denard gets an easy chunk of yardage.
This play is most definitely set-up by the outside zone read plays Michigan ran vs. 'Bama to great effect.
The problem is that MSU and ohio quality LBs probably don't bite on that fake, our O-Line has to move four big people instead of three little people. This should free-up the LBs to eat-up Denard on plays like this, unless the blocking improves dramatically.
At the end of the day the only solution to this challenge is to force teams to respect the outside of the field and not key on the run. How do we accomplish that? Clearly Borges prefers hitches, slants, and go routes to bubble screens, but the effect should be similar. Honestly, I'd love to see some jet sweeps and more plays like the one right after your analysis ends where Gallon motions and receives a pass where the blitz came from. We need to get those LBs moving sideways.
I also completely agree that we need to do better on pre-snap reads. Corner blitzes kill our running attack, and we need to make teams pay for that. On one play, a quick-hitter to Gardner gets us at least a few yards, and if he can make one guy miss, it's potentially a big play.
The reality is that to make the Borges Denard Fusion work, we Denard's arm. Hopefully Al starts running some jet sweeps, drag routes, and bubble screens, but I'm not sure this is going to happen. Noticably absent from the AF gameplan were RB screens...I'm not sure why. Those should be money plays against an aggressive run-blizting defense. Maybe we're saving those for ND...
Man, you just gave me the worst flashback of last season...I know they worked on that stuff after the game last year, but I hope that isn't a problem again.
They weren't always run blitzing, though I agree with you those were adjustments to stop Denard as well as Fitz.
The major adjustment I saw was they were slanting hard to the expected playside for a Fitz non-counter. Since the handoff out of the shotgun comes side-to-side, that makes it so then can defeat blocking to that side with the DL. If Denard keeps the LBs are responsible for coming in on the backs of the O-linemen. Unless that strongside linebacker over there is going to be pinched in to close off Denard's escape route, they're betting their MLB will read quickly enough to route Denard to a filling safety. That's Denard poison they've picked, and that's what happened on a majority of the plays I remember from the Air Force game.
Borges' statement after the Alabama game that he would not have changed any strategy was disappointing to sat the least. In other words, he's saying that his strategy was flawless and it's just the players not executing. That sounds pretty stubborn to me.
But I think what he meant was "we did everything we could, but Bama just outplayed us". Especially after seeing the offensive UFR, if the DBs weren't in our receivers' shirts every play, that gameplan could have worked quite well.
Stubborn seems to be Borges' MO. Same applies to not calling Denard runs in the Alabama game because they "just weren't going to let him run."
with all this talk of bubble screens what about the lack of a traditional screens? with all the blitzing going why weren't we screening to backs or shit even funchess?
That third play should be one of the easiest reads and audibles that someone could make. The CB is creeping up well before the snap, leaving Gardner wide open. Whether you call a quick pass for the one easiest 7+ yard gains in history or send him on a go route one-on-one against the smaller slower safety (TD probable), its a call that should be easy to make. It's hard to speculate who's at fault for not seeing or allowing those types of audibles to be made but I hope in the very near future they do get made. The yards couldn't really be coming any easier against a defense that his basically betting/praying the play won't go to Gardner