Will you keep the same five offensive linemen that you ended the game with?
“We’ll see. It’s going to be competitive, but those five guys did a pretty good job during the game. It’s going to get tougher. And we’re going to have to demonstrate some consistency. But if they can do that, they will be the five offensive linemen. But we’re not eliminating anybody. We still have some talented kids in the wings. We’re trying to keep this thing competitive. Do we want the five guys? Yes, we do. I’ll answer the question before you ask it. But that being said, we got to this point where we’re pretty functional now because we’ve kept it competitive. We don’t like doing it this way. We’d rather just have the same five from the beginning, but it hasn’t worked out that way.”
MGoQuestion: After looking at the film, did you think Kyle Bosch and Erik Magnuson an upgrade at the guard positions?
“I don’t know if they were an upgrade. They were an alternative, and they had a chance to prove what they can do. They didn’t do a bad job. Upgrade is a pretty strong word. I wouldn’t say that.”
FORMATION NOTES: More tackle over stuff. This is the aforementioned play in Picture Pages that's just an I-Form with Lewan and Schofield flipped, mostly notable for PSU's super heavy package on the DL. Penn State brought this out three or four times.
They had one snap in an offset pro-form with Hayes in the backfield.
And, of course… this.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Gardner all the way at QB save one Morris snap after Gardner's helmet popped off. Toussaint almost all the way at RB; some scattered Green, and one Justice Hayes snap in a two-back look. Norfleet got one snap, a fake jet sweep that led to a middle screen.
At TE, Butt and Williams played a ton; Funchess put his hand down every once in a while but was mostly part of the WR rotation. That rotation has almost entirely come down to Gallon, Chesson, Funchess, and Dileo; Jackson got one snap IIRC and Reynolds none.
The OL was a revolving door. Magnuson first came in to replace Williams in tackle over sets after Williams gave up a sack, then replaced Lewan, with Schofield moving to left tackle and Magnuson generally existing on the right. Burzynski first replaced Kalis after his personal foul and then played most of the second half and overtime in place of Bryant.
“Well, getting ready for Indiana and getting ready for the rest of our season. It’s playing fast. Teams we play send a lot of tempo at you, and sometimes the next play is in 7 seven. It’s guys getting back to the huddle, it’s guys getting the signal on the fly, all those things. The good thing is we’ve been working on the rotation all along. If a guy has to play five plays rather than three plays, fine, we’ll get them in and out that way.”
Some teams prepare for a high tempo offense by having two entire scout offenses rotate in and out. Do you do that at all?
“Well Brady does a great job with that. We’ve played against this kind of offense before. Brady does a great job getting the tempo as fast as it can be.”
10/12/2013 – Michigan 40, Penn State 43 (4OT) – 5-1, 1-1 Big Ten
Mace triptych, by Eric Upchurch
Devin Gardner dropped back to pass. He had two guys in the route, both of them headed to the endzone from the 40 yard line. Two seconds later he ate a blindside sack, because Taylor Lewan was pretending he was a tight end and AJ Williams was pretending he was a left tackle.
Last year in Notre Dame Stadium, Denard Robinson faked a handoff and turned around to find Stephon Tuitt in his face. He reacted badly, because he always reacted badly in that situation.
This fall, Michigan told the offensive line they should do that stretch blocking thing the coaches had run maybe six times the previous two years.
Drew Dileo watched most of these things from the bench and Dennis Norfleet all of them because Michigan would rather play underclass tight ends who couldn't shove a toddler into a ball pit in three tries.
Any individual play can be blamed on a player. Any structural issue in the first couple years can be attached to the previous coach. But there's a breaking point at which it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with the guys in charge, and this Penn State game was the offensive equivalent of watching Matt McGloin shred a clueless JT Floyd and company in 2010.
I went back into Michigan's statistics archive, which goes back to 1949, and pulled out the top 200 running back games in that database in terms of carries (the max allowed). The sample ranges from 51 to 23, and here's the bottom of it in YPC:
We're talking about the worst game from a tailback in the history of the program here, and nothing about it was actually Toussaint's fault. This is Greg Robinson level output. The only faith you can have in the offensive coaching is that two to four times a year they will come out with a gameplan so clueless that you spend four quarters telling yourself that you won't send that BORGERG tweet out. It's time to break the seal.
There are ways to work around the personnel limitations Michigan has, but they are not the ones Michigan wants to run. They want to be a rough and tumble Stanford offense; they spend large chunks of games with one wide receiver and three guys vaguely inclined towards blocking, and they've spent almost a month of precious practice time installing an unbalanced formation that resulted in the above table as soon as an opponent saw it on tape. This has been a miscalculation as bad as believing Russell Bellomy was ready to back up the oft-injured Denard Robinson, with results exactly like the second half of last year's Nebraska game.
This is nothing like what Rodriguez did on offense because there was no offense in which Stephen Threet, Nick Sheridan, seven scholarship OL, and a parade of freshmen at wide receiver would be effective. It is instead exactly like what he did on defense: faithlessly pretend to fit personnel to scheme early, ditch that at the first sign of trouble, shoehorn players into roles they are not fit for, make alarmingly large mid-season changes, and get the minimum possible out of available talent. Michigan is 117th in tackles for loss allowed, giving up eight per game.
No offensive line is bad enough to pave the way for 27 yards on 27 carries, because teams running for one god damn yard an attempt stop doing it.
There are problems up and down the team that I can list if you like. Devin Gardner has Miley Cyrus-level ball security. Taylor Lewan went out. Rich Rodriguez didn't recruit any offensive linemen. Brendan Gibbons should be able to make a 33-yard field goal in the dead center of the field. Yes, all of these things. Granted. At some point, though, you zoom out from the micro issues that can be explained away and you get this:
Michigan 14, MSU 28: 250 yards of offense
Michigan 16, Iowa 24: 323 yards of offense, 166 50 minutes into the game when M went into hurry-up shotgun throwing
Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT): 184 yards of offense
Michigan 6, ND 13: 299 yards of offense and 5 INTs
Michigan 9, Nebraska 23: 188 yards of offense and 3 INTs
Michigan 21, Ohio State 26: 279 yards of offense and 4 TOs
Michigan 28, UConn 24: 284 yards of offense and 3 TOs
Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4OT): 389 yards of offense in 19 opportunities, zero OT TDs, 3 TO, worst rushing performance ever by a Michigan tailback
If you are so inclined you can add games against Alabama and MSU last year plus the 2011 Notre Dame game to the pile; I certainly don't think anything about UTL was to Borges's credit.
There have been some brilliant games over the last three years, but we're one upcoming debacle away from having a third straight year in which a quarter of Michigan's games feature offensive performances that are (almost) impossible to win with. Some of those could be explained away by injury or bad luck or a flood of turnovers from the quarterback, except that the offensive coordinator is also the quarterbacks coach.
After his year three at Michigan found high expectations dashed, John Beilein overhauled his program. Now he's coming off a national title game appearance, on the verge of making Michigan into a top-ten program. Unless there's a major turnaround, Brady Hoke's going to have some hard decisions this offseason.
Unless they're easy ones.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Frank Clark was in the right place at the right time to scoop a ball off the turf and score when Michigan opened the second half down eleven and added two sacks besides as part of the best damn 43-point performance college football's ever seen, so let's give it to him.
Honorable mention: Raymon Taylor had a pick and was generally avoided otherwise; Devin Funchess had another 100 yard game as a "tight end"; Jeremy Gallon remains an excellent safety blanket and all-around player.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (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. Should I even do this after that? I probably shouldn't. I will anyway: Funchess's second touchdown displayed his incredible potential, as he shot through the center of the defense to get over the top. This one wins because Penn State was actually trying to cover him this time.
Honorable mention: Gallon's shake gets him wide open for a touchdown; Chris Wormley rips through to sack Hack, as does Jibreel Black, as does Frank Clark a couple times; Fitzgerald Toussaint gets past the line of scrimmage that one time.
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?)
[After the JUMP: decisions, and the rest of things.]
“Oh come on. Daggone it. I thought that was a secret.”
Word of the day?
“Uh. Word of the day? ‘Improvement.’ How’s that?”
MGoQuestion: What kind of improvement did you see from the offensive line?
“No turnovers, number one. That’s the offense, not the offensive line. I’ve said it before, when the turnovers go away, a lot of the problems go away. They don’t all go away, but a lot of it, because you get possessions. That’s the key. You get to keep your possessions. You get to take advantage of them, because they’re precious. That’s really as much from an offensive perspective the reason we won the game as any.”
Our roundtable's obsession this bye: what to do if you're Borges. The cast:
Scott Bakula as Brian Cook, a quantum physicist who becomes trapped on the internet following an experiment with trying to understand zone stretch plays.
Dean Stockwell as Seth Fisher, a cavalier, cigar-smoking hologram sidekick who's always playing with his doohicky smartphone thing.
Deb Pratt as Mathlete, a super hybrid computer that runs Project Points Above Normal.
Dennis Wolfberg as Heiko, a programmer and doctor described as short and annoying.
Having Dileo in the slot blocks a SAM more effectively than asking Funchess to block that guy. [Upchurch]
Okay I'm out of Quantum Leap characters. Next person to respond gets to be the chimpanzee. That question:
By an extraordinary string of events that in no way represents unauthorized usage of the MGoBlog credit card, I have managed to procure for us one (1) trip via the Quantum Leap machine into the mind of Al Borges. We may send just one person--totally undetected--to control the mind of Borges from now until Minnesota kickoff, and must use it to fix Michigan's offense. Remember, once you are out of his head Borges takes over again. What would you do, implement, change, practice, and rep if this was you?
Heiko: Well I actually succeeded in doing this and it resulted in the last two weeks so I am staying away now.
My friend and I were having a discussion about the best way to compensate college players, and he came up with the idea of paying players based on performance, sort of how incentive laden contracts work in the NFL, with the stipulation that the players will not receive the money until they graduate or go pro. I thought his idea was awful and unrealistic, because the “student athletes” would now become paid employees of the university and we essentially would have a semi-pro league on our hands. BUT, that got me thinking about a possible solution…
The issue we have here is the balance of compensation between stars and bench-warmers, large schools and small schools, men’s sports and women’s sports (which could also very well be a legal issue), revenue-generating and non-revenue-generating sports, etc. Instead of trying to figure out that mess, let’s take the decision of compensation out of the universities’ hands.
The solution: allow the student athletes to sign endorsement deals. If a corporation is willing to pay for a player’s likeness, he deserves that money. However, the stipulation here is that all money earned by a student athlete through endorsements would have to be held in an escrow account, and the release of the money would be contingent upon the completion of the player’s eligibility or his/her declaration to go pro, whichever comes first. Now if a player is caught accepting benefits beforehand, the NCAA would not look hypocritical when laying down punishments. Student athletes get compensated, legal issues are avoided, and you won't have a bunch of teenagers running around campus with millions of dollars to blow/get into mischief with. What do you think? So crazy it just might work?
That's fine. It's a little paternalistic to tell the kids they can't have money until they get their degree, and that will be less effective at legitimizing the stuff under the table, because poor college kids will still want walking-around money. It's still fine.
I'm not sure why there's this widespread opposition to giving people money in exchange for services, but whatever middle ground you want to stake out that gives the kids their image rights and avoids Title IX issues is fine by me. Sign whatever you want, get whatever money you can acquire, and everything will be the same except compliance folk will have to find less mindlessly pedantic jobs. Worries about booster involvement are naïve—they're already involved.
The other major thing that the NCAA could do is get rid of their inane opposition to agents. If you're a legit agent with X number of current pro clients you can sign players regarded as prospects, and give them some advance on whatever they're going to make in the pros. (If you don't make the pros, that's just tough luck for the agent.) The NCAA doesn't even have to redirect any of the buckets of cash they're currently making to make the system
less impossible to manage
a more even playing field
fairer to the players
Yeah: a more even playing field. Right now no one is going to MAC schools over major offers, but schools willing to do under the table stuff—or just not stop it—have an advantage over schools that don't. And it's tough to figure out what the more moral position is there these days.
Sometimes in football, it seems that you just want to get the best guys on the field right? Do you think we might see a DL consisting of Beyer, Henry, Qwash, Black?
I would think Black could flip back out to SDE pretty easily and could fold back in to 3 tech occasionally depending on the substitution patterns. To me that gets your best pass rushers on the field more regularly and is the most likely combo to soak up OL in the run game too.
You mentioned that you expect Beyer to take Clark's job when Ryan comes back, but why not just make that switch now? Wouldn't you rather get Gordon out there with Beyer than Clark at this point?
(This was sent before Clark played well against UConn.)
If Michigan was going to put out its best line for one particular play against an I-formation that might well be it, but with opponents running out all kinds of spread packages and Michigan responding by lifting their nose tackle, Black's snaps are mostly going to be spent as an interior rush-type against shotgun formations. It's probably not worth moving him midseason to get a marginal improvement. While I like what I've seen from Henry so far, there was a play against UConn where he got obliterated. (Michigan was fortunate that UConn didn't block the second level well and held the gain down.) He's a work in progress.
Meanwhile on Cam Gordon: for whatever reason they're not playing him, and it's to the point that his lack of playing time speaks to a lack of performance. Beyer's been good, but mostly as a guy with his hand in the dirt. When Beyer's been put in coverage he's shown some flaws. Gordon's not getting more time is probably just his fate at this point.
I don't get it, either. They've been giving him seemingly genuine praise for years now and when it comes down to it they just don't put him on the field.
[After THE JUMP: evaluating Michigan's coaching staff, plus Bo Pelini axe murder.]
"Okay. Anybody? Heiko, you don't have a question? You always have a question."
MGoIAmAboutToLookReallyStupidIn321: I do. I was just waiting for someone else to break the ice. Anyway, regarding the offensive line, a couple times during the game Akron lined up both of their defensive tackles in the A-gaps, and that sort of screwed up Jack Miller's blocking -- [MGoContext: Someone mentioned during the game that this happened. As it turns out, this may not have actually happened. MGoFail.]
"Well first of all, they didn't do that. They lined up in a double-eagle defense. Every time he blocks one direction he's covered the other direction, so the decision never should be bad, but it's all a matter of technique and fundamentals. On the first play of the game, he was lined up at nose guard and we just didn't get it covered. He stepped one direction and there was too much space between him and the left guard, and a guy leaked through. What they did in the game, they had done in other games. They didn't do it as much. They walked up on our weakside guard and was in essence a double-eagle or bear type defense, which wasn't anything new, it just wasn't run as often as we had seen on video. So we made some adjustments at halftime, handled it pretty good in the second half. We ran a little more directly at them the second half, a little less sideways, and that helped. That helped our running game."
MGoIcebreaker: Big win. Does that mean we get to have a word of the day? [MGoContext: Al stopped doing words of the day because "It's only cute if you win.']
" 'Big win.' Two words."
Other than the big mistake, the offense seemed to execute flawlessly. Were you pleased?
"Oh I wouldn't say flawlessly. But I think I was pleased with the result. I was certainly pleased with the effort. I mean we played pretty hard from the beginning to the end, and that was nice. We had a time during the game when the football gods were kind of frowning on us a little bit. We recovered nicely. That was probably as good as anything. That one part where we turned the ball over, had a couple bad things happen, but we recovered nicely from it, and all the coaches felt good about that."
The media trend of the last ten years is a demonstration of the power of hope. There are now three national networks covering recruiting, plus ESPN, plus a cottage industry of who-dat bloggers who get picked up by these national networks far faster than actual journalism majors get picked up by, you know, newspapers. (Michigan has no journalism major, which explains why you can't throw a rock at a sports editor without causing him to hire a Daily grad.) This site alone saw two guys snapped up and almost hired a third who was snapped up just a bit later. Meanwhile, newspapers continue to give us Drew Sharp and wonder why they're withering on the vine.
Here's all you need to know about recruiting sites: they can charge for content on the internet. Hope, man. Hope.
Because the next guy is always going to be The Guy. The Guy will rescue us from the purgatory of not being Alabama and deliver us unto glory. He may be a defensive back, or a running back, or a quarterback, or a defensive lineman. He is going to be Woodson or Adrian Peterson or Andrew Luck or Jadeveon Clowney—except Clowney's defense just got torched for 41 points and lost.
Jadeveon Clowney! Indisputably The Guy, and somehow still not. If Jadeveon Clowney can't be the guy, well… there's always the recruiting sites. It's college football. The next arrival is always just around the corner.
Devin Gardner turned in what I can confidently state is the worst play in the history of organized football—I have watched all of it from Pop Warner on up—and was still awesome Saturday night. Awesome. I do not mean this in the Spots-gave-me-extra-wings way. I mean this in the light-from-the-sky, tremble-at-the-power, bow-down-lest-we-all-perish kind of way. If I could use the words "yea" and "lo" genuinely, I would deploy them now. The numbers are amazing. The numbers do not do it justice.
Here's the thing about Notre Dame's defense: it's going to be just fine. Gardner ate plenty of defensive lineman Saturday, usually after delivering a perfectly-placed dart. Notre Dame blitzed him almost two-thirds of the time and got the one huge mistake and nothing else. Notre Dame defensive backs were, with rare exceptions, in position to make a play on anything other than a perfectly-placed ball. They could not make plays without committing pass interference, called or not, because Devin Gardner was spitting hot death all night long.
If you happen to rewatch that game you'll see did-that-just-happen surgical strikes even more impressive the second time around.
On third and goal from the 14, Drew Dileo screwed up his route. He ran next to Gallon, bringing a third defender into the area. Gardner fired a ball in between all three guys that hit Gallon in the hands instead of the chest because KeiVarae Russell was riding him like a horse. Earlier in the drive he'd tossed up that back-shoulder throw that he might have been attempting against Central Michigan when he got hit, and Gallon plucked it out of the air. Russell was there. He just couldn't do anything about it.
By the fourth quarter, Gardner and Gallon had become so proficient at the back shoulder fade that Notre Dame was actually sitting on it, which I have never seen before. There were a lot of things last night that I haven't seen before in a winged helmet, that have traditionally been the province of passing specialists like Texas Tech. They tried to man up Crab, once, and Texas Tech beat the #1 team in the country without a running game or defense. Michigan has at least one of those.
In the aftermath, Michael Crabtree looked a lot like you did at some point last night:
IS THIS REAL LIFE
Oh and Gardner led the team in rushing at 7.5 yards an attempt. He might be The Guy. Gardner hinted at this kind of thing over the last six games, and now he has delivered. You could feel it coming, maybe, but Michigan just graduated a guy who was The Guy, like Jadeveon Clowney is, and could not get over the hump, like Clowney. Even in the world where talent comes through it doesn't always end up steamrolling the opposition.
Devin Gardner just left Notre Dame a two-dimensional smudge in the rear view mirror, and now it's downhill for a while. Shovel on a little more coal, and let's watch old 98 roll.
Parkinggod has the Michigan stuff:
And Notre Dame has some things that Notre Dame did right:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. How does a guy who threw four touchdowns at nearly 10 YPA and ran for 90 additional yards split this award? Well, to get the award by himself he has to be a separate entity from guy who caught eight of his passes for 184 yards. This does not appear to be the case. DevinJeremy GardnerGallon, come on down.
Honorable Mention. Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson (invisible all game in a good way), Drew Dileo (THROW IT TO DILEO), Brendan Gibbons (your record-holder for kicking consistency /2009 version of your head explodes), Blake Countess (drifted off his man for critical INT), Brian Kelly (thanks for not running the ball).
SPECIAL NEW RULE. Doubling points from this game because I can.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND) 0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Since it featured Borges screwing with ND, an NFL dart from Gardner, a crazy spin move from Gallon, and Chesson The Destroyer reveling in the blood of the fallen, this is an easy pick:
Honorable mention: Countess's game-changing interception, Jeremy Jackson catching a long handoff for seven yards because ND is playing in the parking lot against Jeremy Jackson for some reason, Fitz Toussaint using a tackle attempt as an awesome juke to dart 20 yards when Michigan really needed something, either of Gardner's perfect back-shoulder throws to Gallon, Gardner nailing Gallon 40 yards downfield, and Gardner taking off on a zone read so open you'd think Stephen Threet was running it.
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.
[After THE JUMP: offense, defense, and everything in-between. Plus incredible chicken gif!]