At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
My Irrational Gametime Borges Emotion Meter flipped from disgusted to enthralled back to disgusted on a series of three plays on Michigan's second drive. The first play was the second and twelve play action on which an unimpressed defensive end flew upfield and sacked Robinson without giving any thought to the tailback supposedly getting the ball. Running second and twelve play action from a big I-Form set makes Homer crazy.
This is another way to high-low the corner, something this series has discussed in the context of curl-flat routes against UConn and Notre Dame. In this instance the flood worked for a big-time completion as Roundtree beat the safety to the corner route and the cornerback sucked up on the Hemingway deep out.
Grady at the 20. Hemingway at the 35 with the cover-two corner. Roundtree at the 45 beating the safety to the outside.
On the next play Borges did the exact same thing, but he did it completely differently. He flooded a zoning cornerback and high-lowed him for a big gain. It was the same guy. He'd just gotten beaten over the top and sank back into the deep route, leaving the intermediate guy wide open. Gardner ignored the blitheringly wide open guy, instead chucking a terrible interception. Live this flipped me back to disgusted mode, and this lasted long enough for me to complain about two-man routes on the podcast. I was wrong. Borges engaged a decided schematic advantage here only to see a freshman (-ish) quarterback derp it.
Michigan comes out in a Gardner formation with Robinson as the slot receiver.
Now for something completely the same
Before the snap they motion Hemingway tighter to the line. The cornerback's reaction and the two deep safeties imply another zone.
On the snap they fake a handoff and then fake the end around. The coverage is revealed to be Not Cover 2. Both corners are headed deep and one safety steps up into a robber zone in the middle. This is cover three:
robber in red, three-deep in blue
Gallon is running straight downfield and will take both the corner and the topmost safety with him—Hemingway cuts his route off and he has no other vertical threats and can double. The two linebackers you see have their eyes in the backfield, preparing for an end-around. By the time it's certain Gardner has the ball Hemingway is ten yards downfield, running hard, with inside position on the robber. The linebackers are done.
Now it's a little bit of a problem that Gardner took his eyes off the defense for a long time as he executed both handoff fakes, but he is literally eight yards from the nearest defender as he sets up. He has plenty of time to read the corner Michigan is trying to high-low.
doo dee doo dee doo
You can see the playside LB heading out for Robinson's wheel route, which doesn't seem like a real option but still demands attention. There's no one checking Hemingway except that robber, who is improvising in the time-honored tradition of anyone who sees something going very wrong and runs at the red button screaming "oh shiiiiiiiiii—."
Gardner loads up and fires…
…over the head of a wide open Hemingway hanging out 20 yards downfield…
…to the bracketed Gallon…
…and throws it way short to add interception to injury. Derp.
Items of Interest
This is the same passing concept out of a totally different play. Michigan goes from a three-wide stack with a rollout to that side to an ace set with a couple of play action fakes, but it's the same thing for the quarterback: three options of varying depth along the left sideline. (Depending on how real the Denard wheel is. If it's not it should be.) On both plays the depths are five yards, 20 yards, and 40 yards. On both plays the playside corner is the main dude to read.
Use multiple formations and motions to confuse the defense or gain an advantage in numbers or leverage. This approach tries to turn the defense against itself by never giving the defense a chance to get settled or to identify what the offense may do. Moreover, sometimes the defense simply fails to adjust, and the offense gains some new advantage. The downside of this approach is it leaves little time and fewer clues for the offense to make adjustments, but the idea is that “motion causes emotion” (to use the old adage) and the offense has an advantage in that it knows where it is going. This is the method employed by Boise State.
The other two are changing the play before the snap and using good old option football to force the opponent to be wrong.
The advantage of the multiple look is that it gets complex for the defense while remaining simple for the offense, particularly the critical guy with the ball in his hands every play. On back-to-back plays a zone flood wins, getting receivers open for huge chunks. Since the flood develops differently the defense has a hard time picking up on the tendency. Here the quarterback switch mitigates the effect of having the QB get to make the same read he just successfully executed, but in a normal situation you get the advantage of familiarity while the defense does not.
This may be why it feels like Michigan increasingly has no "base." Here's Boise State's RB coach on what they do on offense:
“We run plays, we don’t have an offense. It makes it difficult to defend.” At that time he was working with the running backs. Before this project, I wondered how an offense can’t be a system. Coordinators pride themselves on establishing identities: “It’s what we do” is a common mantra among the coaching profession. Urban Meyer at Florida has his spread option, Chip Kelly at Oregon has his QB run game, Steve Sarkasian at Washington has his pro-style offense that he developed at USC. Well, apparently Boise was the Seinfeld of college football — their lack of identity is their identity.
I've described the offense as "grab-bag," "cute," and "gimmickball" at various points during the year because they don't have a core play—at least not one that works COUGH power COUGH—that forces opponents to cheat and opens up your constraint plays.
Michigan fans have never seen an offense like this. Rodriguez varied his base but there was always the zone, inside and out, or the QB iso offense. DeBord literally ran a zone stretch left on the first play 90% of the time. Before that Michigan based its offense off pro-style power running (even though they couldn't run). They always had a Thing They Did.
This year Michigan has done the following things on the ground: iso, power, pitch sweep, speed option, inside zone, outside zone, inverted veer, down G, sprint counter, jet sweep. That is damn near everything possible short of triple option and trapping, and it moves from week to week. Most people, including myself, have believed this is a transitional cost of fitting Borges into an offense he didn't build. I am beginning to doubt that conclusion.
Maybe this should have been obvious given the multiplicity of Borges's SDSU offense but there's a big difference between watching a team and living it.
Even though this should be simple for the QB Gardner biffs spectacularly. Man is this a terrible decision. This isn't the error he made against State by throwing to Hemingway instead of the free touchdown offered Hopkins. Hemingway was kind of open and a good throw is a potential touchdown.
Here he's got a hand-wavingly open guy and a double-covered one. He's reading one guy, the playside corner. He's got enough time to take tea in the backfield. The playside corner is booking it downfield with his back to the guy underneath him. And Gardner still throws to the double-covered guy. If Borges didn't throw something in the press box he's a better man than I.
Anyone calling for Gardner to start should be shown this play over and over.
I kind of like the way Boise State's coach describes their offense.....and I like how that leads to sheer utter confusion on the defense not knowing what they need to drill to stop or what base plays we will run and what constraints we will run off those base plays.
Kind of means you never know what the hell we might do! Makes our offense......
It seems like something like this formation could also be used to throw a screen to Denard...get Denard out in space with a blocker (Hemingway in this case) and assuming Hemingway can occupy at least one corner, having to beat only 1 person for a Big gain. Or maybe I'm just crazy??
When we were a pro-style power running team that couldn't run
About 2000-2007. Brian pulls up our annual YPC figures every so often to make it clear how Carr's last half dozen or so teams were relatively unsuccessful at running the ball. I believe this also coincides with a change in OL coach - I remember a post where Brian looks at "hit" rates (i.e. success rates) of OL before and after that coaching change.
Yeah, some of those seasons were definitely impressive. Here are some aggregate team numbers, *inclusive* of sacks (so the YPC are depressed):
2001 - 3.6 YPC
2002 - 3.8 YPC
2004 - 3.8 YPC
2005 - 3.9 YPC
2007 - 4.0 YPC
Again, sacks are in there - I didn't take the time to find the "true" values - so a grain of salt is needed. I don't think it's so much that we *couldn't* run the football, so much as there were a number of years when we weren't relatively good at it but we did it an awful lot anyway.
We actually switched to become a predominantly zone team in 2006 (or 2005?), when de Bord returned, to take advantage of Hart's ability to read his holes. IIRC, ypc went up but third and short effectiveness dropped significantly.
The pro-style years were really the Terry Malone years, which did include Perry's awesome 2003, but also some relatively bad running years (esp 2001-2).
While the team average yds/carry wasn't anything to write home about, a lot of that is because of sacks and back-ups. For the most part during that time period the starting running backs were pretty effective:
We were good during that time (8-9 wins) for the most part. I don't think we can be elite though with numbers like that unless we are passing a lot more, getting crazy ypc from our qb, or have a top 5 defense.
I think Brian said something about that in a post, that whether Carr had a crazy good defense or not, it seemed like the plan was to run the ball like he had one. I think he was talking about how in 2006 we had like a 60-40 run-pass play calling and that just seemed like an extension of previous years play calling
If you're doing nothing, how do you know when you're finished?
Denard makes everyone on the O better. If you watch the pass to Gallon that set up the winning TD against ND, ND kept a defender about 10 yards off the line of scrimmage spying on Denard, a defender who could have been covering the area where Gallon was wide open. Even with 30 seconds left in the game and M 70 or so yards from the end zone, ND felt compelled to keep a defender near the LOS for fear of Denard.
I'll admit that a few weeks ago I was definitely in the lets-give-Gardner-a-shot-at-QB camp, but after the boneheaded decisions/lack of field vision he has displayed in the MSU and Purdue games I now acknowledge that he simply isn't ready for primetime. He generally looks better, mechanics-wise, throwing the ball than Denard but...yeah.
Conclusion: We really need Shane Morris to be ready to go as soon as he steps on campus or Bellomy really needs to exceed his "meh" rankings because things could be pretty ugly at QB in 2013 if Devin doesn't get his sh*t together.
Side Note: Did anyone notice the "legacy" UM cheerleader (I assume an alumna back for homecoming) getting up and cheering as the Purdue DB picked off Devin's pass? WTH was that about?
Given time, with his arm and speed, I think Devin will be pretty good...More time in the film room and getting coached combined with actual live game experience before he actually has to start, I think when that time comes, Devin will be more than ready to take over
Geez - remember freshmen Navarre vs. junior/senior Navarre? Freshman Navarre made me want to tear my eyes out, while junior/senior Navarre was a pretty darn good QB
Or freshman Henne vs. junior/senior Henne? Freshman Henne just threw it up randomly 3-4 times a game, and got away with it because of BE. junior/senior Henne carved up most defenses he played when he had a functional throwing arm.
Vince Young was brutal as he was learning college football, and Gardner seems to have physical tools that are at least in the same ballpark as VY.
Assuming Gardner makes similar progress (not at all unlikely given the progression of past quarterbacks with a couple years in system), he'll be lights out in this offense in a couple years with his mobility, arm strength, and a couple years of seasoning (not to mention a couple recruiting classes for Borges to tailor his team to strengths.
Play design like this makes me feel more & more comfortable we're not regressing to DeBoring style of offense anytime soon. Great stuff as always Brian.
My memories of freshman Henne are pretty good ones ... Braylonfest, winning a tough Minnesota game with a clutch pass, a really good game in the Rose Bowl. He was bad against ND (and the coaches had him on a really short leash), and I don't remember anything about the OSU game). Now sophomore Henne, that's another story...
Henne seemed good his Freshman year because he had Braylon and better teamates around him which led to a good record. His sophomore year was disappointing because of the record but I felt like he improved every year.
You really have to read a lot of Brian's commentary to be able to synthesize the data, but with this installment, Brian is finally having the light bulb turn on in regards to Borges. Also what is difficult for everyone to comprehend is how much work the receivers have put in to learn all of these routes that Borges has installed in his hybrid system. On top of that, the QB has to learn all these routes, and this is the first year Denard or Devin have worked with them. Borges has stated repeatedly that because this is his first year, it also means Denard's experience with these plays is like a first year QB. So imagine how awesome this offense can be when Denard starts his second year with this system? And by the time Devin starts it's his 3RD year with the system?!? Now you are telling me that you think Shane Morris is going to beat out Devin when he's 3 years behind?
The downside of next year is how the deparing seniors on the OL will impact next years OL. I think the coaches are literally praying that at least one of those 2012 recruits on OL can step in ASAP. If not, then a lot of games next year are going to resemble MSU.
I think our o line will be fine next year. Losing Molk will hurt but we essentially return 4 starters. Khoury, Molk's replacement, will be a RS Senior.
The biggest issue next year will be depth. But we will have Mealer, Bryant and Miller. A couple freshman might make the 2 deep but should redshirt unless they are just unbelievably talented and strong and will play better than a veteran, or there are significant injuries. The only one I see fitting that bill is Kalis. As talented as Magnuson is, he is too light and I would much rather have him as a RS senior than as a true freshman.
Whoa Logan88, let's not get carried away. Gardner isn't ready to start, but that doesn't mean he's not on track in development to be a starter. He just needs more snaps in games to get there, but there's no reason to think he can't be an excellent starting qb in the future.
While the offense during the last couple of years could be pretty effective at times, I never found it as interesting and diverse as I was expecting, especially wrt misdirection or ball fakery, in relation to my admittedly naive knowledge about RR's offense. What I saw against Purdue was as interesting a Michigan offense as I've ever seen on a sustained basis, and damn fun to watch as long as we weren't throwing interceptions. Give these kids another year working with Borges and the rest of the offensive staff and I think it can be truly lethal, especially if we have a defense that's getting us the ball back quickly.
Occasional excess is necessary to remedy the deadening effects of moderation.
Anyone that watched Penn State play Illinois this past Saturday knows that we could be far worse off at QB.
I really like the exploiting trips that Borges has just started to show, with a little coaching Denard and Devin will both be able to take advantage of this. These bunch/stack/trips/etc. formations seem to be the only interesting/effective thing that NFL offenses have innovated in the last 10 years IME.
NFL Matchup highlighted the Steelers' use of this a few weeks ago and they used it to a tee against the Patriots this past weekend.
...that Gardner should not have been in the game on this exact play. I'm curious if the same people are going to give Brian the same degree of derision for saying basically the exact same thing? I doubt it.
Substance-wise, I'm glad Brian has shown this for what it was: not a bad play, but one that was poorly executed by a player who should not have been put in there at that stage of the game.
Will Gardner eventually be an excellent starting QB? I think so.
Should he get reps whenever the game's result is beyond question? Again, I think so.
Should he be put in for a pass play when the game is tight and our starter has just thrown a 60-yard bomb on 3rd and 20? No, no, no, and once again, no.
When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing. -Bo
Is it possible that one of the WR ran a bad route?
Or after looking at the video, it seems like Hemingway wasn't even anticipating it and Gallon seemed to have his hands ready to catch it. Maybe the throw was very under thrown and should have been thrown towards the corner where Gallon seemed to be heading?
I'm trying to legitimize that interception somehow, b/c otherwise it was a TERRIBLE decision.
in here, I'd like to just throw out a few raw numbers. I didn't take sacks out of any of these numbers, I just took what was on the Michigan Football team's official website. In 2010 our team rushed for 5.6 yards per carry. This year, it's up to 5.9. The passing yardage per attempt bumped from 8.4 to 9.1 (obvious caveats about bomb passes being hauled in apply). Total offense bumped up from 6.8 to 7.0. The FEI rank has fallen from #2 to about #15 at last check. An increase in turnovers is an obvious negative to this years offense compared to last years.
Just thought I'd throw some raw numbers out there, point at that it's the first year in the Borges offense, and hopefully excite everyone about the possibility of Denard/Gardner in Year 2 of this offense.
We need to revisit these numbers after the season. Many of our remaining games will be as tough or tougher than anyone we've played so far. The end of season numbers last year certainly dropped our season average but our FEI remained high because of strength of schedule.
...was that Borges put Devin in. Denard has been plagued all year by "good Denard/bad Denard" moments -- largely related to what kind of momentum he has. This has been particularly true with his longer downfield throws.
So the moment he completed the long pass to Roundtree, I said to my buddy "that was beautiful! Good Denard is emerging!" And then he gets pulled at QB the very next play. I can't think of any better way to kill the guy's positive momentum than to pull him just as he is getting going.
While the announcers kept complaining about using Devin in the MSU game (why pull your best player off the field?), I had no problem putting Devin in there, as Denard's passing was awful. But in this game -- man, this was not the time to pull him.
Yeah, to me this was Borges outsmarting himself. I do worry about that with him. Like he's got all these neato plays he CAN run; the question is which plays he SHOULD run. Once the offense is up and running I bet it won't matter 99% of the time.
And then he'll have Denard turn his back to the defense on 4th and 1 and... aaaaaAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Y U NO RUN DENARD SHOTGUN??????!!!!!!!!!11
Devin because of Denard's presence on the wheel route. The defense has to account for Denard on every play, and he will be covered on that route, thus opening up one of the other two guys.
I suspect that they have run this in practice with this exact personnel. I also think Borges had exactly who he wanted on the field, got what he wanted, but all failed because Devin threw it to the wrong receiver.
Any chance Devin made the right read and overthrew Hemmingway instead of the wrong read and underthrowing Gallon? I didn't think so during the game, but looking at the picture, Hemmingway is pretty much as close to the ball as Gallon when it comes down. Did Hemmingway adjust to it in the air better? I think the wind was blowing from right to left so if anything it knocked the ball down on that play which doesn't support my theory. Just wondering if anyone knows for sure that Devin was targetting Gallon. I don't think so, but the thought crossed my mind.
If he was throwing to Hemingway, there was no reason to put that much air under it. He's got a strong arm, he should be able to make the Hemingway throw pretty much on a line. I think it was just a terrible decision by an inexperienced QB.
If that's going to happen, best that it be against Purdue.
The next play was when Martin blew up his blocking and sacked the QB for a safety. Perhaps it was in Borges' gameplan to throw a deep interception that ends < 5 yards from Purdue's goal line so they can get 2 points and the chance for more.
I'm glad you made the comment about Gardner at the end. I said the same thing when watching the game live.
It's a simple mistake, can be corrected with more reps and playing time, but it proves the point that it isn't necessary to pull Denard. Dendard made some really nice throws in key situations on Saturday.
I'm fine with Denard throwing 14 times in a game, as long as he is converting those key 3rd downs (obvious passing situations), like the 3rd and 20 bomb (even though it was underthrown).
As other comments mentioned, Denard at QB makes the offense better because the defense has to key in on him, even if he is faking an end around.
Are we to take our "baseless offense" as a good thing or a bad thing? Boise State has been very succesful, but the tone of the piece doesn't really sound laudatory either.
Frankly I love it. When RichRod was hired, I was more excited about the fact that maybe we would be less predictable than adopting the spread offense. The Lloyd years often had plays you saw coming from a mile away, even as a simple armchair fan.
"Anyone calling for Gardner to start should be shown this play over and over."
I was questioning Denard considerably after the MSU game. My feeling on him changes week to week. Right now I definitely want him to be our starter. But to be fair, there are a plethora of plays showing Denard doing this exact same thing, from this season even.
This is also why read mgoblog. I have been thinking about this play all week. Even though it happened right in front of me, I could not figure out who devin was throwing to. At first, I thought it was to Tacopants but then I realized that not even Tacopants could get to this ball. My next thought was that a reciever (Gallon) must have run a wrong route or that Devin forgot where the reciever was going on this particular play. Thanks Brian for this excellent post.
Devin will be a very good quarterback and I think we will all be wishing he had another year of eligibility in 3 years. I am not one to bash Rich Rod and I actually think that most of his decisions were with the intent of bettering the team and the program. His decision not to redshirt Devin was IMO more motivated by a desire to put Forcier "in his place" than anything. We lost a year of eligibility for Devin for what, like 10 min. of play? This decision irks me more than anything else Rich Rod did or didn't do during his time here.