I do not own a time machine. If I could go back in time and tell Dave Brandon what I suggested above, I certainly would. I'm pretty sure he could still have hired Brady Hoke in 2013 if it all really did go to shit.
What Went Wrong: Michigan State (from Maize n Brew)
I know you're "witty" and intentionally vague so that people can't hold you to any specific stance and therefore you can argue against their interpretations because "technically" you didn't say it. But are you implying that you would have preferred that Brandon kept Rich Rodriguez? If so, I will play along.
Let's go back to that near undefeated season you previously referenced. Perhaps had Rich Rodriguez been around we would have won the game against Iowa. I'll give you that. However, that is assuming he would have been able to hire a DC as good as Mattison. Anyway, Rich Rod's 2010 outfit only put up a meager 17 points against MSU (your response: "3 MOAR THAN BORGES!!!") which is barely better than the 14 put up in 2011. That same 2010 team only put up 7 points on Ohio State, 33 less than the 2011 team. Although Tressell was no longer coach in 2011, Fickell was the DC under Tressell in 2010. The 2010 team also capped off that banner year by only scoring 14 points in their bowl game to finish the season 7-6. The 2011 team scored 23 points in their bowl game, finishing 11-2. Additionally, the 2011 offense averaged slightly more than a half a point more/game than the 2010 offense (33.31 in 13 games to 32.77 in the same number of games).
If you compare Rich Rod's three years vs. Hoke's three years, the offense has averaged over six more points/game under Hoke (33.65 to 27.51). This years offense is averaging more points/game than any previous year under Hoke or Rodriguez at 37.88 over eight games. Even with the Indiana game removed (34.29 in seven games) the statement still stands. For comparison, Rich Rod's 2010 offense averaged 32.77 points/game. This doesn't even take into account the defensive side of the ball.
Under Rodriguez Michigan's defenses gave up on average 30.55 points/game. Under Hoke Michigan has only surrendered 21.41 points/game. In 2011, with Rodriguez's guys, "Hoke & Co" only gave up 17.38 points/game. Those same group of guys gave up 35.23 points/game in 2010. This year's defense is the "worst" under Hoke when it comes to scoring giving up 27 points in eight games. That is still a half a point better than Rodriguez's best unit in 2009.
What's the point? It seems as though you think the previous guy could have done a better job than Hoke and Borges. It seems as though you think we should have stuck it out during his transitional period. Perhaps you think Michigan needed a new DC, not a new head coach. I think the numbers speak for themselves. Hoke has been definitively more successful during his transitional period and in the midst of his worst season yet has this team on pace to make a bowl and feasibly win 8 games. Not to mention they are averaging more points/game than any previous Hoke or Rodriguez outfit. In other words, barring a major collapse, Hoke's worst year has been better than Rodriguez's best. If this is the type of production that this coaching staff can get from players they didn't recruit and young talent that they did recruit, I am confident that they will be successful with a depth chart full of veterans that they hand picked themselves.
I know you're "witty" and intentionally vague so that people can't hold you to any specific stance and therefore you can argue against their interpretations because "technically" you didn't say it.
This is why I've learned not to go down the PurpleStuff rabbit hole. I think he is a smart guy, and we've shared a lot of the same opinions in the past, but arguing with him is futile. It inevitably turns into a meta discussion about the discussion itself.
Within 3 posts he will be telling you how when he said green is purple what he actually meant is that it's orange.
Keep on twisting!!!
Don't worry, you'll get there.!You're just at the first picture for now!
And probably 5-6 pop passes. A lot of other short routes, like slants and hitches, will be covered up all day by MSU's defensive scheme.
all I am saying is that if the answer is that our quarterback can't throw a wide receiver screen or a quick hitch, have we not found a signficant source of the problem.
For the record, I didn't say Gardner can't ... I asked if perhaps that was a contributing factor.
I tend to ask questions here because (a) I like to stir up discussion and (b) I don't for a moment think I have the answers.
How much worse? Imagine if a Michigan QB put up a Russel Bellomy versus Nebraska type performance in that game. Gardner is also built to withstand the beating any QB was going to take under the circumstances, and kept it interesting up until throwing a pick at the Sparty 3 yard line. If that drive somehow goes another way (and it looked for a moment like it may), it's a different game. With all due respect to Shane Morris, I am not sure he would have been able to carry the team under the conditions Michigan faced on Saturday.
There can really be no doubt of that. A true freshman QB, and one that nearly every recruiter agreed was "super high celing and talent, but raw," with our offensive line against that defense? Please, the mere thought is ludicrous.
Shane had a QB coach to work with. Borges has no time and this could hurt us when we may need Morris the remainder of this season and next season and when he starts in 2015.
Do we have any evidence that what he is calling against MSU (14 points scored being the high water mark so far) is working?
No, clearly it isn't. Maybe Borges truly is a stubborn horse's ass who can't see the obvious in front of his face. Or maybe he's not, and he's working with player limitations we aren't aware of. Or maybe I don't really have any clue whatever. Yeah, I like that last one. It feels right.
We did try short passes in the second half, that was the number one half time adjustment. They're tough to hit with defense playing press coverage and as a result a lot were dropped, broken up, or plain missed because the timing was screwed up with the receiver not getting a free release. You can't scheme your way out of an OL that can't block, run or pass. Put it another way, it's way too easy for a D coordinator to take away what little you have left.
Now remember that this is 2nd and 5 early in the game. You don't know for sure MSU is sending this many blitzers. Borges philosophy, whether you agree or disagree, is that you only have hot reads for 7 or more blitzers. You have hot reads only because they can't get picked up. This blitz look can relatively simply be picked up. It's 6 blitzers for 7 blockers. A hot read becomes dangerous in this situation because you don't necessarily know if someone will drop out or undercut the quick route from one of those positions. It's a difficult read for the QB.
So, whether you agree or disagree, that's how his system works and why that quick pass wasn't made. Because the pass pro should have been successful rather easily and you want to give the play a chance to develop not knowing what the defensive play call is before the snap.
When you have the inverted veer though, you say it was a good call, and blame Funchess for a terible block. I agree with that. But I think what many would say is that Borges is the OC, he should know Funchess is a terrible blocker, so assuming he's going to make that play is a failure.
It isn't necessarily a mistake by Funchess. The mistake could be the lack of communication. Now, the problem could be Funchess too, it could be he's supposed to know that the outside guy is considered a box defender, but these are things that can be communicated to help him out.
I defer to your football knowledge, but what evidence is there that Funchess will make a serviceable block even if the communications are perfect? It seems more likely that the playcall is asking a player to do something that he has proven he can't do at this point in his development. A playcall that puts a player in a position where they will likely fail is not "good".
It may not be as simple as "well Funchess doesn't even know who to block".
FWIW, the coaches had somewhat limited options, and this is a play that they have worked extensively with Funchess to block. The likely reason is because they want the pop pass threat off of it. So they have tried to reduce the number of blocking assingments they give him, but have clearly worked with him on this play because they have consistently run this to his side throughout the year, to admittedly mixed results.
I just don't see how "This play would have worked if Devin Funchess makes the key block on the edge" isn't seen as a glaring indictment of what has been wrong with the offensive staff for three years now.
The failure to take advantage of that Double A blitz with the quick pass (How long would the line really have to hold up?) is mind boggling as well. Is it really a surprise they are going to do that? And what was the better plan that totally would have worked if the line had held up? Same goes for the loping play action fakes on 2nd and 3rd and long when our RB gets 8 carries on the day.
We've got some very talented players when they have an opportunity to make a play, but we run way too much STUPIDBALL stuff like that.
"Everything went according to plan, unfortunately Jordan Morgan did not hit that corner 3 pointer we freed him up for to tie the game or it would have been the perfect call."
Here's the problem with this philosophy of yours: it doesn't account for what MSU did the majority of the time. MSU runs a cover for and they utilize their OLBs to stop any short crossing route. The strength of their cover 4 is in the middle, where you want that crossing route to go.
On many of the blitz plays, MSU ran what is called a "spy blitz". A spy blitz usually has the MIKE (but not necessarily) read the QB and the OL. If it's a 7-step drop, he looks for the opening and tries to shoot the gap. If it's a 3 or 5 step drop, he tries to read the QB's eyes and flow to the pattern, before he comes on his blitz. So, in this case, this shallow cross play you so desperately want is exactly what MSU wants you to run, so they can trick the QB into thinking "blitz" when in reality they have a player set up to under cut that route right away.
So you can look at a play here or there when MSU ran a double A-gap blitz and say, "here's how you beat it". Well, if Borges knew exactly when MSU was running that blitz scheme and the down and distance was correct to run it, then maybe he would have run it. Otherwise, the vast majority of the time it isn't that great of a call at all.
Instead, he kept 7 blockers in for 6 blitzers, which theoretically gives the opportunity for any play/route combinations to develop and work.
So there's that...
I don't mean for this to come off as an attack, but rather an indication of what an OC is looking at and why it isn't so easy to just call a certain play and it'll work. There are positives and negatives to everything, and yes, if MSU is running a double A-gap blitz and playing their cover 3 behind it, then the shallow cross is a great way to beat it.
FWIW, you all can get more of this type of analysis later at Maize n Brew when I write up a post addressing a lot of the suggestions. Sure, there are positives to the shallow cross, but it isn't as simple necessarily seems.
The guy in the photo I'm referencing is not covered off the line of scrimmage. The linebacker is flying in on the blitz when the photo is snapped. Devin could throw it to him immediately or as soon as the guy commits. Going forward, standing still, flaring out for a screen, or heading downfield. Whatever. Like other teams do. Instead nobody is looking for that throw at all. We perpetually allow teams not to defend the entire width of the field or to cheat against what we're trying to do. We don't seem to have any hot or quick read throw that we can use to any effect either, even when everybody in the world is asking Gorgeous Al about how to defend against just what State is doing on that particular play.
If what MSU is doing is so obvious, then why hasn't this staff figured out a way to score more than 14 points in three seasons?
As for a quick pass, they did run the pop pass a lot this game. And that's considering: a) you don't know pre-snap that the LB is coming; b) the safety is likely lined up about 8-9 yards off the LOS here directly over Funchess and his first step is not backward; c) the CB to the outside is in press coverage, could come on a blitz, or crash down on that if he reads it, and this also makes it extremely difficult for the WR outside to get leverage.
So to answer your question, despite it not being nearly as simple as you make it out to be and outside of the context aobut how most teams utilize hot reads, Michigan still did run plays that took advantage of that opening, including reading the outside CB backing off so they could run a bubble.
Every play is impossible to run.
I get that the X's and O's are more complicated than I care to get into, but this offense does nothing to simplify them and has had the same problems the entire time Borges has been here. Teams cheat against what we're doing (PSU against the run, ND not respecting the flats, etc.) and the coaches blame the players for a lack of execution.
I frankly don't want to get into that argument. But Michigan did attack the flats probably more than most other teams do against MSU, because MSU is adament about taking away anything quick in the flats.
I'm glad we can respectfully have this debate, but I'm going to end it here because I still have a post to write of my own for later this week and I don't feel like having all my whole post already written for everyone to read before I even write it. But really, I do appreciate the civil debate and discussion.
our what we do but it's not uncommon for a staff with, say, only two consistent OL to pair then next to each other so you can at least have a side of strength. Schofield would have been moved to LG by now on many teams. Mags/Braden playing RT. This affords a righty QB more trust of his blind side and, when not telegraph'n the run, give you a spot of strength to the left and defenses would let to that side potentially making it easier on the C-Right side. Moving the weakness to one side, the outside, makes coaching easier for them. When passing: RT = immediately push your man outside/around the pocket, simply don't give up the inside. RG+C= Inside bunch man on man or kick to help beaten (if) RT to inside. talents like Lewan & Schofield (plus potential TE) can handle individual matches OR the defense focuses on that side making the right side's job easier. It's HS ball, man. Basic principals don't change.
should add this is especially a rule/system with a mobile QB.
Instead of moving Schofield to LG, we moved Lewan to TE next to Schofield for packages so he can totally maul an OLB or S while the guys who are struggling have to deal with the actual d-line. Or they can both double team one guy. Genius stuff if you ask me.
To further the basketball analogy above, we decided to have Shaq shadow their backup point guard and stuff every shot he tries to take. Seems like a winner.
The Maize & Brew link should come with a warning that it'll raise your blood pressure and cause you to beat your kids.
"This was the game plan you roll out if you want to attack Michigan State's defense. Unfortunately, there were just too many breakdowns to do so."
This is in reference to the run / pass mix, and I agree with this. From the standpoint of method, we tried to do precisely the right thing. MSU is vulnerable deep, so this is what was attempted as the primary attack, but if the line play isn't where it should be (for a myriad of reasons) and Devin can't get the time to make those throws, then your chances of beating that defense aren't too promising.
Great article, and thanks for sharing it!
90% coaching 10%percent players
There is an offensive counter for every defense alignment and play. Borges was trying to make MSUs D react and adjust our O..he failed miserably. Once he couldn't make them adjust he needed to adjust. He files miserably at that too. Honestly I feel like nwestern( assuming they're healthy). Has a decent shot at MSU just because their o is quick hitting and nothing takes long to develop.
There is an offensive counter for every defense alignment and play
Assuming the offense can execute the counters. When the OL can't pass protect or run block you don't have any counters. The only thing you have quick throws and we tried that and failed because MSU knew that's all we have left. They just jam the receivers at the line because they know they'll never get beat over the top because our OL won't give the QB enough time.
Disagree. You can play with a mediocre line. They're being asked to do more than what they're capable of. There were minimal quick throws, zero screens and zero throws to Rbs in the back field.
This is a lie. I'm not going further into it because what you said as far as support for being able to play with a mediocre line is just completely factually incorrect.
The thing is, when the o-line is totally inept that's still on the coaches.
If Sparty is truly as good as they looked last Saturday, this is a solid premise. Under this scenario Michigan got beat by one of the better defenses in the country, more or less by losing man-to-man battles between young and experienced blockers and talented and experienced defenders, as is illustrated in your post.
It is truly hard to get perspective mid-season, after a disappointing loss in a rivalry game, but generally speaking this is where I come down as well. (Michigan didn't do anything necessarily bone-headed gameplan wise, like run Touissant 20+ times.)
I just hope the team is putting the game behind them and focusing on the opportunities coming up.
Thanks for posting. In a week in which irrational, inflammatory, reactionary comments have seemed to consume this board your article served as a nice reminder of why I continue to visit MGoBlog. It was informative in a way that felt digestable and agenda free. It also made me optimistic for the future when the depth chart is more mature and more compatible with what the staff is trying to accomplish.
I agree that Borges' game plan against state was significantly better than what we've seen in other games during his tenure (particularly penn state this year, and both Ohio and Iowa last year), but it's not like he's blameless in this one either.
The third and 2 call near the goal line was inexcusable, not to mention all the slow-developing play action on clear passing downs, which didn't slow down state's pass rush at all and forced Devin to turn his back to the line
I find it odd that every article like this turns into a defense of Borges.
Maybe it's because every thread turns into FIRE BORGES
as much as a deeper look at some of the things that happened and why some of these plays didn't work as well as what the defense was doing. I still think he has a hand in some of these plays not working, but there are enough instances of players just failing to execute relatively simple things (Funchess whiffing the downblock on an IV) that you can't put it all on Borges.
I'm not really a big fan of Borges and his play calling style or offensive philosophy (spread 4 life). However, I think the offensive line issues in this one were a bigger issue than anything he did or didn't do, so I wanted to look a little closer at some of those and hopefully get people like SC to jump in with more nuanced explanations of what I was seeing (or what I missed).
Lately it seems like a lot of people just want to jump on board the "fire Borges" bandwagon. I'm not quite ready to do so (nor do I think it matters because he isn't getting fired this year anyway). I just want to get a better idea why an offensive performance like this happens.
A good bit disappointing that the A-gap blitzes were still pwning us. It's not like MSU has been running those like mad men for the last 2-3 years
This is a paraphrase, but a very close one, to what he said after the game. I understand youth and that O-line argument. But if it is true that they ran the exact same blitzes as two years ago (and I imagine last year's couldn't have been so different) why can't we coach our young offensive lineman to recognize and pick these up? What am I missing?
It seems to me I see a contradiction in your reasoning: you state it isn't all on Borges, but later make an observation, and I'm paraphrasing, that they (M) called some good plays but MSU was prepared for them. If MSU is prepared for Borges' playcalling, blows it out of the water, and he can't adjust--then who is that on? I agree the O-line play was abysmal. I have never seen worse in the 35 or so years I've been a Michigan football junkie. However, Michigan schematically had no answer for what MSU threw at them. In terms of preparation, Narduzzi kicked Al's ass up and down the field. Personally, I would call it at least a 60/40 split leaning toward preparation. I guess it really doesn't matter since both aspects, preparation and execution, were collectively a tire fire in a dumpster.
MSU's defense is really good. Sometimes a defense just makes a great play or beats you with RPS type calls. You could still have made a solid play call and just gotten beat by a great defense.
The thing is I wasn't trying to really establish blame here. Just look at some of the things that went wrong and better understand them.
Assigning blame on the internet is a worthless endevour. All we can hope to do is understand things better.
Why is our line so young inside?
What I mean by that specifically is: Why aren't Bryant and/or Miller and/or Bars and/or Braden and/or Kalis playing over a true freshman? Part of me says "obvs because they weren't getting the job done" but another part of me asks "is it them, or is it coaching?" Hoke's brought in quite a few guard/center prospects in some pretty loaded Oline classes, and Funks had years to work with average-to-top talent, and none of them are even remotely serviceable over a (now injured) walk on and a true frosh? Why? Why are so many kids still relatively incapable of blocking?
I know nothing, I freely admit that, but to me the best cure for our line would be lining up our best few together and running that-a-way, with max protect beefing up the weaker side. Lewan-Schofield-Glasgow-Kalis-Magnuson or maybe Magnuson-Braden on the right would've been preferrable in Lansing.
How many times a game do we snap the ball and immediately throw it to Devin Funchess, forcing a DB to tackle him in space. Or Gallon for that matter.
I'll hang up and listen.
Michigan threw him a WR screen and about 5 pop passes, some of which were dropped. So, about 6 or 7 when they were given against MSU. And that's a lot, considering MSU typically tries really, really hard to take those things away. That might be more than any team outside Indiana has tried to throw on MSU.