Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Nebraska

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Nebraska

Submitted by Brian on November 13th, 2013 at 4:05 PM

TUBE NOTES: They didn't put the tubes on TV! ABC –1,000,000. WHERE ARE MY TUBES, ABC?

FORMATION NOTES: Nebraska often responded to Michigan going under center with running an under package with a safety walked down, sometimes to the line, like below…


…they blitzed a ton from this.

Michigan is occasionally having Funchess in a three-point stance but split out about a body length from the tackle. I have not given this its own name yet; we'll see if it sticks around.


You can't see the outside receiver here, but this is "shotgun trips inner stack TE". Shotgun = obvious. Trips = three WRs to one side. Inner stack: look, they're stacked. TE: there is a TE.


And there was this.


It has been discussed; Funchess is covered for reasons of sorcery.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Michigan is settling down for better or worse. Gardner the whole way, Toussaint most of the way and occasionally replaced by Green on plays that were almost all runs because Michigan is more afraid of him as a blitz pickup guy than Toussaint. WRs were Funchess and Gallon primarily with Chesson getting the bulk of the remaining snaps. Dileo had only a few snaps, most obviously the last one.

OL was the usual now: Lewan/Bosch/Glasgow/Magnuson/Schofield. Kalis made a couple of appearances in goal line type sets as a sixth OL.

Michigan's main churn at this point is at tight end. Butt is the main guy now. Paskorz got some snaps, as did Williams, though Williams seems to be getting fewer and fewer as the season goes along. Michigan tried a couple plays with Houma as a wing TE, which didn't work too well.

[After THE JUMP: I regret to inform you that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle does not apply to football games and observing this left it just the same.]

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-12-13: Al Borges

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-12-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on November 13th, 2013 at 2:12 PM


“Fire away. Come on.”

Do you ever get to the point where you start beating your head against a wall?

“Oh yeah. Sometimes I do. I think everybody does with their job at one point in time. I’ve never had two back-to-back games playing so poorly. So yeah, absolutely. The one thing that you always have to do in my position is maintain your perspective and understand what you have to do to get better. This is – if you want to change the situation, change your attitude. Yeah, you might beat your head against the wall a little bit, but you can’t keep beating your head against the wall, because there’s another game to play …

“I don’t remember playing two [bad games] back to back. It’s bound to happen I guess at one point in time. WE have to think about what we’re doing next, not what happened last week. We have to fix what we do next by what happened last week as a reference.”

Picture Pages: Blowing Up The Inverted Veer

Picture Pages: Blowing Up The Inverted Veer

Submitted by Brian on November 12th, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Michigan couldn't get yard one with the veer against Nebraska, and most of them ended up with an unblocked Nebraska player blowing up Gardner. It is time to look at them. For some reason. Why didn't I start a blog about 1980s hairstyles? 1980s hairstyles never make you want to rub your face in gravel.

I digress. The first one comes on Michigan's first drive. A late blitz has just seen a power O slanted to and blown up for a one yard loss; it's second and eleven on the 24.

Michigan comes out with an H-back and two tailbacks in a twins formation, which necessarily means that the slot receiver is not an eligible receiver. Nebraska responds with 7.5 in the box, with the gray area defender just about splitting the difference between Funchess and the tackle.


On the snap Bosch pulls and the gray area guy sits and stares the backfield down.

Michigan shows veer action with Kerridge leading Toussaint to the outside; Michigan blocks the playside end, which would mean they're expecting to option the slot defender except 1) Kerridge is out there, so they're using one of their blockers on him anyway and 2) Gardner does not appear to be reading him but something further inside, if he's in fact reading anything. Gardner's awareness of this slot defender seems to start after the mesh point.


You can see that Gardner's helmet is not pointed at the slot defender as he starts making his decision:


What's he reading? Is he reading anything? I don't know. it doesn't seem like it. Watch the video in real time to get a feel for it. Toussaint does react like a guy who might get the ball, juking the blitzer, so I guess they're reading something. What is unclear.

Meanwhile, Kerridge is expecting the slot guy to contain upfield; instead he shoots upfield inside of him hard, too hard for him to adjust to.


Gardner pulls and seems to sense a disturbance in the force now; he goes straight upfield.


Toussaint dodges the blitzer, running into Gardner; Kerridge  is prone, Gardner starts stumbling, and his momentum is taking him into the chest of an unblocked LB.


It's now third and nine, and Gardner's soul is now worn 1% more.



Items Of Interest

Optioning no one. We're back here, in year three. Michigan has a rudimentary read option game on which their QB doesn't know what to do too often and gets plays blown up, but here we're back to last year's Alabama game, where the defense made it so that Michigan's option plays didn't actually option off a defender, with similar results. No matter what happens on the edge here, the play still spends Kerridge and Toussaint on one defender and leaves an unblocked guy.

It would be one thing if I'd ever seen this fullback on the edge thing work. I have not. At best it's wasted him as he blocks a guy shooting up on the edge who is trying to contain Toussaint; at worst:

I'm about to get some comments about how this is Gardner's issue or Kerridge's issue and that Borges can't be held responsible for the results of this play. Sure. Any one play can be traced back to some execution error by the offense.

These posts are an effort to explain trends I'm seeing in the offense with particular plays, though, and this kind of half-ass option is par for the course. Michigan cannot get the fullback to be useful on these read option plays, and hasn't made him useful for three solid years.


This is the kind of stuff Denard papered over by being Denard. Even when Michigan was eviscerating Ohio State two years ago, they weren't really optioning anyone and it was left to Denard to make the magic happen against an unblocked dude at the LOS:

Michigan was fortunate that was a freshman Ryan Shazier on one leg. When you don't have Denard and you've turned your quarterback's ribs into a fine paste already, you no longer get 41 yard touchdowns and instead your unblocked dude gets a tackle for minimal gain, or more likely a loss.

They've had Kerridge for three years now and Gardner that long and Toussaint that long and they still can't get them to execute a real option. Either they're not trying or they're not coaching. And either way…

How is this supposed to work? It seems like the idea here is for the slot guy to run himself upfield outside of Kerridge to maintain a force back inside and then for Gardner to hit the gap between him and the rest of the defense. Nebraska beats that idea by using the slot guy super-aggressively.

How do you make this play work? Nebraska understood that Michigan's formation meant Funchess was not eligible; the gray area defender had no thought of a pass and ended up blowing up the play. But you can still make this work since Nebraska is sitting so deep with the safeties. Michigan has two options here: shooting Kerridge at the LOS, leaving Toussaint to his own devices, or using Kerridge to attack the slot defender and put Toussaint on the edge into acres of space.

This is the kind of thing you could come back to later with a tweak and bust a big gain. Clearly there were no big gains on this day. This design isn't necessarily bad; the inability to see what Nebraska is doing and get rock to their scissors at some point is. I mean, if you get this again and block the dude the defense has no force player, which means you get a lot of yards. This move by Nebraska violates a cardinal tenet of sound defense and works because they win on RPS, and if you probe at what they're doing here you can beat that. Instead Nebraska just kept chewing up Michigan's offense.

Hooray covered slot receiver. Hooray. I will never understand the point of that. If Michigan had some package where the ability of the H-back to get to the backside of the play meant something, okay. Instead you get nothing and if the D recognizes it, as they seem to here, you're playing 10 on 11. Temporary voluntary red card.

Again, maybe this is some sort of genius but since I've never seen it do anything productive it just seems dumb.



Submitted by Brian on November 11th, 2013 at 12:19 PM

11/9/2013 – Michigan 13, Nebraska 17 – 6-3, 2-3 Big Ten


The Passion of the Gardner [Bryan Fuller]

I've turned off. This is my default reaction in moments of extreme stress, because when I was a kid I tended to hit things and scream like a banshee and there was counseling and whatnot, counseling that essentially boiled down to "you have to be a human. If you are a rabid badger your whole life it will go poorly for you." Still, it is a daily trial. I've made up a word for people whose incompetence is making me angry, and I think it in trivial situations, like when someone can't get a credit card to swipe or dares to drive the speed limit. Yobs. Yobs everywhere. The way I'm built, I am presented with a stark choice when the bile comes up: on or off.

I am off. The Nebraska game was a fugue state. When Michigan scored the thing with the kicking after that is worth six-ish points—torchclown or something—people around me stood and cheered, as they are wont to do. I sat down and tried to check twitter. The event had no impact on me at all. Turning that emotion on meant turning the rest of them on, and that could not be allowed to happen.

I'm familiar with this after the last half-decade of Michigan football, of course, and even more recently last year's hockey team. I've gotten quite good at sleepwalking through sporting events without being mentally present.

But all men have breaking points. Last year I had one when the hockey team lost to BGSU 5-1, had its first shot of the third period 15 minutes in, and watched an alternate captain get injured on a dirty hit without doing anything. That was banshee time.


Nebraska muffs a punt and Michigan gets it on the Cornhusker 26. They have not picked up one goddamn yard on the ground in weeks. First down: run from under center that Nebraska puts eight in the box in and blitzes. Second down: the same goddamn thing. Too much. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHY DO YOU THINK THAT HAS ANY CHANCE OF WORKING," I yelled at someone who could not hear me. "HAVE YOU WATCHED THIS TEAM PLAY YET?"

I hope he has, because if I have to watch this crap he should too. The evidence suggests otherwise.


It was one thing to get run off the field by what may be the best defense in the country. Michigan's offense sucks this year and when you suck that is the kind of thing that happens. It was complete agony, but everyone with two functioning eyes had already braced for impact.

It is another thing, a different thing, to get run off the field by a collection of country yokels higher on 'shine than Mary Sue Coleman who couldn't spell "run fit" if you spotted them "run fi" and exist in mortal terror that their coach will machine-gun cats at them if—when—they explode into little smithereens that once resembled a run defense.

"But coach, we're already spread across most of a three-state area," the yokels said. "YAHHHH EAT NINE HUNDRED MILE PER HOUR CAT," Bo Pelini said, cranking his catling gun. "Dawwww," the yokels said moments before their faces were obliterated by cats moving so fast air friction had caused them to burst into flame, "we probably shouldn't have given up two hundred yards rushing to Illinois. Or everyone else on the schedule not named Southern Miss or Purdue."

Two hundred yards. By every-damn-body. Nebraska could not stop a nine year old from going eighty yards in their spring game, and as the season progressed it became clear they were trying to. We can't call Nebraska's defense a "unit," since that would imply concerted collective action. So let's go with eleven gas molecules in the cold vacuum of Pelini.

Against eleven gas molecules in the cold vacuum of Pelini, Michigan farted out production worse than that which caused a mini civil war in the Michigan fanbase after Penn State (which at least featured Devin Gardner picking up bushels of yards). It was worse than Michigan's recent debacle against Michigan State, the top defense in the country. Hack out the sacks and snaps that a battered Devin Gardner can't deal with and Michigan ran for 22 yards on 29 attempts. Oh, for the halcyon days when Michigan could pick up one yard per attempt.

After the game, Nebraska informed the world of how this was possible when even Purdue acquired four yards a carry.

"Whatever formation they came out in, we knew what they were going to throw at us." -Randy Gregory

“We knew what they were going to do right before they did it." -Jason Ankrah

The last time Michigan fans heard this, they were duly livid. They'd just watched their team lose to Texas in the Rose Bowl 38-37 EDIT: USC in the Rose Bowl 28-14. That is one thing. This is another thing, a different thing.

This was the game where Michigan's Cheesecake Factory offense—they do everything terribly, but by God there's a lot of it—hit rock bottom. Michigan couldn't get one damn yard per carry because of many reasons, but #1 was unblocked Nebraska defenders plowing into Gardner and Toussaint in the backfield. Gardner was hit for TFLs on three separate inverted veers on which a Nebraska defender tore through unblocked, because there was no one to block him.

Michigan would go under center and run play action that did not cause a Nebraska player to step forward one single time; Gardner looked downfield and found his receivers bracketed. Once there was only one guy in the pattern, because Al Borges is smart. He was Devin Funchess, and he had three guys surrounding him.

This is comprehensive failure that goes beyond the limited talent at Michigan's disposal after Rich Rodriguez regarded offensive line recruiting as optional in his final two years at Michigan. There are dozens of teams around the country with less to work with than Michigan. Some of them have played Nebraska, and ripped them for 200 yards rushing. Even poor damn Purdue, currently chasing Big Ten futility records, acquired 82 yards on its 20 actual rushes. Purdue is more than four times as good at running the ball against Brownian motion as Michigan is.





In this game the idea that Al Borges was waving flags literally telling the opposition defense what they were running went from highly likely to explicitly certain.

Despite this, in his post game presser Brady Hoke once again sighed "we just didn't execute." That is not an answer. There is nothing to execute when half the time a 'shine-addled yahoo has put his helmet through your neck without being acknowledged by anyone on your team.

"I have to do a better job coaching," which Hoke said seven times in 12 minutes, is also not an answer. It's clear that right now no one in Ann Arbor has any of those. Can we interest you in a tackle for loss?



Nebraska's official site has an embedding-disabled item.


brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_31Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. We will go with… uh… Matt Wile. Yes. It is only right. Wile pounded a 69-yard punt that flipped field position and helped Michigan enter the half down only 10-3 to a clownshow team. He averaged nearly 50 yards an attempt for the game. He also used Zoltan Mesko trademark eye laserz to force Jordan Westerkamp to fumble his last punt. A truly inspiring performance from the most important player on this year's team.

Honorable mention: All of Jibreel Black's tackles were behind the LOS. Cam Gordon finished a sack and forced a fumble that Michigan recovered. Devin Funchess still seems like a good player. James Ross was one of the main guys holding Armstrong to 1.1 YPC and Abdullah under 4 and had a thumping hit to prevent a big play.

Epic Double Point Standings.

2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU), Matt Wile (Nebraska)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Nebraska muffs a punt, giving Michigan the field position they cannot possibly acquire themselves.

Honorable mention: Funchess scores a torchclown. That one time Toussaint got four yards. Matt Wile pounds a 69-yard punt.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.

8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
11/9/2013: Nebraska muffs a punt through no action of Michigan's.

[AFTER THE JUMP: stations of the cross.]

Dear Diary Bans Brian

Dear Diary Bans Brian

Submitted by Seth on November 8th, 2013 at 10:41 AM


It would seem obvious

Event reminder: MGoBlog is coming to Chicago next Friday. Moe's Cantina, River North, 6-9 p.m.

The coping mechanisms kicked in about Tuesday, and the diaries flowed. The best, I thought, was by Ron Utah, who took this base alignment

…from the UFR and pointed out why it's hard to attack this in myriad ways because MSU's defense is good. That is true, but it doesn't invalidate the primary complaints: it isn't cohesive. Indiana faced the same defense and their OL isn't all that great, but they have committed themselves to running option routes and tempo, and it works because it puts the offense mostly on the shoulders of three really good receivers to execute. A short list of some of the hands Michigan gambled on:

  • Toussaint's pass blocking vs. Denicos Allen blitz
  • Funchess's threat as an inline blocker vs. MSU having watched Funchess this season at all
  • Half-hearted play-action on 2nd and 15 when Michigan hasn't shown a run out of that formation in ever vs. MSU safeties' ability to read play-action.

State's defense is great, and that gives teams limited options for beating them. But the offensive coaching was awful independent of that, on the game level more so on a macro level: They haven't been able to figure out from week to week what the hell kind of offense they are, let alone who's going to be playing it. Eventually they want to be a TE-mismatch outfit but right now there isn't a single TE or RB on the roster who can block. I get it, but it's not getting better because in three years nobody on that staff has been able to answer "what are we going to do about it?"

The OL can't block either. Well the freshmen can't and hey, they're freshmen. But since OL coaches are particularly difficult to judge (especially when their oldest recruits are all redshirt freshmen this year) Erik_in_Dayton went over all of Funk's previous OL charges going back to Ball State. No conclusions—almost everybody was a 2-star recruit—but interesting read.OlineExp

Meanwhile Gameboy has been trying all sorts of ways of assessing Michigan's O-line experience versus that of other teams. In three attempts he's got a bunch of data and no sense to make of it still because Michigan has two extremes and the coaches don't do things to cover up for their weak points. The chart at right shows O-line starts and game experience. His big mistake I think is averaging: Team One has a tackle with thirty starts and a left guard with none; Team Two has a tackle and guard who've started next to each other for fifteen games. Both average fifteen starts, but Team Two has a big advantage that is hidden by your method.

Chunkums put up a survey to ask if you want to fire which coaches, but your feelings are irrelevant since this staff won't be budged unless there's wholesale failure the rest of the year and Dave Brandon's pimp hand has to step in. Even then, what are the chances Michigan grabs the soon-to-be-unemployed Nebraska OC we're pining over? What's that guy going to do with Morris and Speight? It's clear now that Borges should never have been brought here in the first place, but then a world where Michigan hung on to Calvin Magee for a few years (as OSU did with Fickell) comes with its own negatives. Either way the future is what matters now; if we're going to advocate anything maybe it's a consultant who can teach Borges constraint theory.

While you're assessing, here's a handy chart of Michigan's games under Hoke by dnak438, with the betting lines included. I think jamiemac once told me that Michigan's final lines, like ND's and other power programs, are worse predictors because they're responsive to the huge number of people who bet knowing nothing more than that Michigan is traditionally pretty good. Early lines are more accurate. By the way dnak took my suggestion of rotating the chart 45 degrees. This week I'm suggesting overlaying last week's to see progression:


[Jump to find out how Brian got banned, and you can too!]

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-5-13: Al Borges

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-5-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on November 5th, 2013 at 4:46 PM


“Anybody? You guys are always slow on the trigger.”

How hard is it to game plan when your offensive line is so young?

“It’s not hard to game plan. You just need to put the pieces together and hope like heck that under pressure your young players can perform. A couple weeks ago against a lesser defensive opponent, we did a pretty good job. But like you asked me a couple weeks ago, ‘Did you gain any confidence?’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you after this game.’ Well this brings you back down to earth on where you are against teams that you have to play – the margin of error against really good defensive teams is small. We had just too many errors put us in bad situations. And it wasn’t always the younger guys. The middle of our offensive line is young, and things come up sometimes.”

I Expected This, Just Not So Much Of It

I Expected This, Just Not So Much Of It

Submitted by Brian on November 4th, 2013 at 12:11 PM

11/2/2013 – Michigan 6, Michigan State 29 – 6-2, 2-2 Big Ten


Bryan Fuller

You put a brave face on, but some point your jersey is so dirty and your ribs so inflamed that you have to take a moment as you exit the field to breathe. You suck in, and it fucking hurts. You breathe out, and it fucking hurts. Everything fucking hurts.


the gif is by ace

You've looked like a coal miner after an explosion for the better part of four quarters and everything you do reminds your over-exerted nerves that in fact they have a job to do even if they really wanted to stop doing it two hours ago, and they raise their hand and say OH BY THE WAY THIS FEELS LIKE DEATH, and at some point you have to obey them. Space is infinite and cold and bereft of hope, and Devin Gardner is in it, waiting to die.


I didn't need a half-dozen people to tell me that they'd talked to people or had met the guy. I knew it. They all said Devin Gardner was a cocky son-of-a-gun and they all had different opinions about whether this boded well or terribly; none of them needed to tell me. All you need to know is Gardner's sense of humor, how he bobs his head during his starting-lineup intro at Michigan Stadium when he says "I'm a Michigan grad."

I know that bob. I was 19, in Canada, ordering "whiskey on the rocks" with that head-bob. I'd never had anything to drink, ever, and the table exploded with laughter. The waitress checked our IDs, saw that we were all 19 year old Americans, and got me some whiskey on the rocks. I am a cocky son-of-a-gun. I know that head bob.

I do not know what it's like to have dozens of 250-to-300-pound people deposit their helmeted heads into my ribs over the course of a few hours. I played Quiz Bowl in high school. It was slightly less demanding, physically. I have a comeback victory story in the Michigan tournament that I could tell you if you wanted to hear about nerd triumph. But that's not important.

What is: Gardner has had that cockiness literally beaten out of him by this football season. It started with the insane interception against Notre Dame and steadily built through interception after interception; Michigan resorted to running him a lot to actually move the offense forward, and he started having moments where you wondered if he'd get up. He laid on the turf after he took one particular shot to the chest against Minnesota, and it was a surprise when he got up and continued playing football. By Penn State his coaches were so afraid of him that they curled up into a ball in overtime.

In this game Pat Narduzzi paid his five dollars to the carnie and whipped linebackers at him until he cracked. Pat Narduzzi is now the proud owner of a St. Bernard-sized Marvin the Martian. Devin Gardner is no longer bobbing his head, because doing so sends shooting pain down his right side. And his left side. And other sides that don't actually exist but still manage to send shooting pain signals to his brain. Cockiness has left the building.

Michigan fans have endured a similar trial, albeit without the helmets impacting us like bullets on kevlar and with the aid of sweet, sweet beer. Over the course of two months Michigan has gone from a program on a rapid upward sweep towards another Ten Year War, Jabrill Peppers in hand, to a shambles much worse than its 6-2 record and seemingly adrift. There's been no whisper of a program that seems as good as Michigan State is right now for seven years, and counting.

The nadir of nadirs was Taylor Lewan turning into Will Gholston, down to the helmet twist on a prone player. That's where this program is right now: talking tough, failing utterly, and taking out their anger on whoever happens to be around.

Anyone still deploying the "little brother" rhetoric should be hit on the head with an oversized mallet and mailed to Waziristan. That was definitive. We're going to need a bigger countdown clock.



Eric Upchurch


brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_31Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Dennis Norfleet was pretty good on punt coverage. But no points are awarded.

Honorable mention: LOL.

Epic Double Point Standings.

2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. The clock expires to end the game.

Honorable mention: Raymon Taylor's interception gives Michigan a sliver of hope; Michigan completes some passes early, moving the ball-type object some distance-type measures.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.

8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.

[After THE JUMP: brimstone.]

What To Expect When You're Expecting MSU

What To Expect When You're Expecting MSU

Submitted by Brian on October 30th, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Michigan State has a pretty good defense, as you may have heard, and this deep into Michigan State having pretty good defenses there's nothing you can say about it other than "I wish that was not the case." There is some Bud Foster action going on in East Lansing.

Let's review what went down the last two years, in an effort to figure out what Michigan's looking at and what they might do in response.



The trash tornado game. With winds howling around Spartan Stadium, Borges put the game on the arms of Robinson and Gardner and got little in return.

Shotgun or under center? This was almost entirely a shotgun game, and when Michigan went under center it was to throw. Setting aside the disastrous fourth-and-inch from the nine on which Michigan went goal line play action and Brandon Moore didn't block his guy, Michigan saw five snaps from the I-form (two more were penalties, one on each team). One of these was a pitch to Toussaint for four yards. The others were throws. The first was a wild, jinking 15-yard touchdown scramble for Robinson on Michigan's first drive; the others were a sack, a one-yard throwback screen, and an incompletion to Hopkins in the flat off play action.

First down approach? 16 passes, 11 runs. Not that it really mattered. Michigan got a 34-yard touchdown when Roy Roundtree broke a tackle on a slant. They had one other good gain, a 29-yarder acquired when Robinson ignored two open guys, threw at Hemingway as a linebacker was undercutting him, and threw it high enough to get over the LB but short enough for Hemingway to grab it—a lucky fluke. Their other first-down passes acquired a total of –3 yards.

Running was no better, with 36 yards on their 11 attempts. Four of these were Denard's (18 yard total), which boggles. Michigan had 27 opportunities to run Denard Robinson on first down and did it four times. But that's not really relevant with Gardner, who's much more of a dual-threat.

What worked? Virtually nothing. That one long completion where Roundtree beat a tackle in cover zero was the longest play, Denard's should-have-been-pick-six was #2, and #3 was a double A gap blitz on which Vincent Smith was hit in the backfield but managed to pop through a tackle. Breaking tackles to get more than five yards is no way to live.

The rest of it was Robinson running around: a scramble, a jet sweep, a run-around improv throw, a jet stretch, and a QB draw were Michigan's most successful plays outside of the aforementioned.

Was it really as bad as all that? Yes and no. Borges did rip open the MSU defense for several plays that should have been big gains only for his quarterbacks to throw it at covered guys.

Spielman's faith that Robinson would have found the open guy is probably optimistic, but inserting a clearly overwhelmed Gardner was a huge tactical misstep, as he blew multiple opportunities to gash MSU. This in turn may have led to the WR move, which in turn led to the Nebraska game, which… let's stop the counterfactual history of the Michigan program before our heads go numb.

On the downside: Michigan had no answer for MSU timing their snaps, both with double A blitzes and plain old running at the quarterback. This was maddening since it had just happened the year before; there were no adjustments. And they relied on Brandon Moore, who had seen virtually no meaningful snaps in his career, on that deadly fourth down. When that guy doesn't execute, you share in the blame for putting a guy who'd never seen live bullets in a stressful situation. But he's a tight end, and all tight ends must tight end even if they obviously can't tight end.

Wurrfle furffle torghern furfen. Michigan abdicated without really trying here. See: 4 first down Denard runs. The constant snap issues were a coaching issue, not a toughness one. Ditto the thing where Molk put his head up a nanosecond before the snap and had to figure out which of the two linebackers he was going to block and which one he was going to let scream up the middle unmolested.

[2012 and 2013 after the jump]

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-29-13: Al Borges

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-29-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on October 29th, 2013 at 4:31 PM

What’s the secret to moving the ball against this Michigan State defense?

“Uh. Well, the first thing you have to make sure is you don’t give it to them. Same deal, because they’ve done a great job of feeding off turnovers, either creating opportunities for offense or literally scoring themselves, which is amazing how many times they’ve done that. So that’s the starting point. Take care of the football and minimizing the damage, if in fact there is damage. Making what could be a bad play not into a disaster. That’s number one. Number two is getting your bodies on their bodies, making sure your plays get started, so you give your skill guys a chance to do what they do best, whether it be in the open field or around the line of scrimmage. Those are really key points. If you’re getting hit in the backfield as soon as you hand the ball off, you’re not going anywhere, and they’ve done a lot of that.”

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Indiana

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Indiana

Submitted by Brian on October 24th, 2013 at 3:45 PM




THING NOTES: Torrent had no audio this week, so neither do the clips. Good news for people who get creeped out by the walrus lovemaking noises in the slow ones.

FORMATION NOTES: A note on nomenclature here: Indiana had a kind of weird system where they had a linebacker/safety type (6'1", 225) out over the slot.


That in itself isn't too weird against spread formations, but he still hung out over the slot when there was one in I-form twins packages and the like, and Indiana brought down a safety.


I designated IU formations  with that guy in the gray area (and no safety down) "nickel" since the defensive formation thing is more about what the O is looking at than personnel packages the opponent has in and I felt their slot LB was a Hybrid Space Player, but I understand if you think IU was just in a 4-3 all game.

As for Michigan, they did not do much exotic in terms of formations. A lot of shotgun 3-wide stuff, some ace, some I-Form, etc. A couple things: I've changed Funchess to a WR in my personnel set tracking, so if you see "shotgun 3-wide" with four WRs that's because Funchess is the TE-type-substance. Also, when there are only four skill position players that's because Michigan has brought in an extra offensive lineman. Tackle over was still employed but rather rare.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Hoo boy. First: QB and RB were pretty obvious, with Green getting more run than he has in some other games in the past. FB was about split between Kerridge and Houma.

WR was a ton of Gallon and Funchess. Dileo went out early with an injury, leaving Jeremy Jackson to pick up most of the slot snaps. Chesson got in a bit but has clearly ceded a lot of PT to Funchess; Reynolds got a few snaps.

TE was mostly Butt and Williams; Williams ceded snaps to a sixth OL and also Jordan Paskorz, who got in some good blocks in the middle of the game. Funchess also lined up at TE from time to time.

And the OL. Burzynski started, tore his ACL, was replaced by Bosch. Glasgow was the C. Lewan was the LT, Magnuson the RG, Schofield the RT, except when guys were flipping all over the place. This game's version of tackle over was almost always a 6 OL with Kalis reclaiming his RG spot and Lewan flanking someone else: Schofield on the left and Magnuson on the right. Much less likely to get your QB murdered.

I noted OL changes in the notes below. Anyone not mentioned is playing their usual position. Apologies for cutesy name shortenings, but you try writing "Burzynski" and "Magnuson" for 80 plays. (Schofield defies shortening.)

[After the JUMP: nuclear samba Gallon.]