The Lesser of Two Weevils

The Lesser of Two Weevils Comment Count

Seth June 10th, 2015 at 4:45 PM

What is the difference between this run:

…and this run:

?

If you guessed "the one Harbaugh/Drevno were coaching got yards and the one from Hoke/Borges didn't" you win a running theme of the 2015 offseason. The results are certainly stark; why that's true is what we're interested in.

The Power Play

These are both the same play by the offense, and the same play Brady Hoke promised to make into Michigan's base because it is the manliest of plays. It is Power-O, the one where you pull the backside guard and try to run between the tackles.

imageimage

You can click for biggers

The play is relatively simple to draw up and complex to execute because it uses a lot of the things zone blocking does, including having the blocking and back react to what the defense does. For all the "manball" talk this isn't ISO, where you slam into each other quickly. Depending on how the coach wants to play it and what defensive alignment you see, the basic gist is to get a double or scoop of the playside DT and kick out the playside DE, then have an avalanche of bodies pour into that hole—if the defense is leaping into that gap you adjust by trying a different hole further outside. Leaving two blockers to seal off the backside, one blocker, usually the backside guard, pulls and becomes the lead blocker—it's up to him to adjust to what he sees when he arrives.

You can run this out of different formations with different personnel, and the one immediately apparent difference in the above diagrams is Michigan was more spread—a flanker (Z) is out on the opposite numbers and the strongside is to the boundary; after the motion this is an "Ace Twins". Stanford ran this with a heavy "22-I" formation, meaning two backs (RB and FB) and two tight ends (Y and H) in an I-form. The benefit Michigan gets from its formation is the guy Stanford would have to block with its fullback Michigan has removed from the play entirely by forcing him to cover the opposite sideline.

What Stanford gets in return for its fullback is matchup problems: the open side of the field is going to be two tight ends and a fullback versus two safeties and a cornerback. Run or pass that can go badly for the defense as these size mismatches turn into lithe safeties eating low-centered fullbacks, and dainty corners on manbeast TEs.

In War of 1812 terms, Michigan is the Americans, sending the fast-sailing frigate Essex in the Pacific so the enemy has to move ships to the Galapagos instead of harassing the Carolinas. Stanford is the British, parking 74-guns ships of the line where engaging them cannot be avoided and trusting the outcome of any forced engagement should turn in their favor. The point is both work to the advantages and disadvantages of the talent on hand. (In this analogy Borges is a guy trying to use Horatio Nelson tactics with a Navy of sloops and brigs).

That being said, it still works as well as anything—people did in fact score points before the spread, and those who scored a lot of them could do so by keeping defenses off balance and with good execution. As we'll see both of those factors played a big role.

[after the jump]

Comments

Mailbag: More Sad Football Things, All Caps Sad Football Section

Mailbag: More Sad Football Things, All Caps Sad Football Section Comment Count

Brian November 15th, 2013 at 11:59 AM

10770781156_6945156a37_z[1]

Bryan Fuller

Hi Brian,

I don't pretend to know the intricacies of football but during the Nebraska game it seemed that Toussaint, in pass protection, would wait for his blocking assignment to come to him before engaging the player. Seeing as Toussaint is significantly smaller then the LB or lineman he's been assigned to block this usually resulted in Toussaint getting pushed backwards (physics and all). Is this how RBs are typically coached to play pass protection?

Thanks,
Jack C.

I mostly stay away from the how of any particular technique failing; more of a "what" guy since I didn't play the game, etc. But to me Toussaint's blocking issues stem from three problems:

  1. Michigan's line has to resort to slide protections that often expose him to a pass-rushing DE. This is a bad matchup for anyone.
  2. He's part of that need to resort to slide protections since his recognition isn't good; when he is tasked with identifying guys to pick up he often catches them. Vincent Smith and Mike Hart would find guys and then get some momentum before making contact.
  3. He hits guys too high sometimes, which makes it easy for them to shed him and attack. Smith and Hart got low, or in Smith's case existed in a perpetual state of low-ness.

3 is his problem, 2 is part his and part a holistic inability to pick up blitzes, and 1 is not his fault.

What's different about this year?

Greetings –

Regarding the offensive line, I saw some comments that intrigued me that intrigued me the other day and I’m curious your perspective.

Borges indicated that another variable in the mix this year is that it’s “the first year in the scheme we’ve wanted to move to.”  Based on your work therefore, do you conclude that:

1) There is a significant difference this year in scheme, protections, and what the offense is asking of the o’line?

2) That experienced lines would be impacted by such a scheme change?

3) That inexperienced players would unimpacted (i.e. just as inexperienced)?

4) That therefore the years experience/games experience would also be negatively impacted from a production standpoint.

So that in conclusion – there’s actually hope bc the ones that are young are young and the ones that are supposed to have experience have less experience than one would otherwise understand to be true.

And – that next year or the year after really will be better!

Keep up the good work.

-Andy

Unfortunately, I'm not seeing a whole lot of evidence for that rationale.

Borges's comments make no sense. This year started out with Michigan running a bunch of stretch plays, which was a departure from what they'd done the first two years… and a staple of the Rodriguez offense. If that's what he meant, he could have just, you know, kept running the stretch.

Instead Michigan was almost exclusively an inside zone and power team their first two years here, and the differences between running those things from under center versus the shotgun are minimal. There has been a more concerted effort to run plays from under center, but that shift was even more pronounced late last year after Gardner took the helm of the offense.

If anything's changed this year from last year in terms of blocking it's that Denard isn't around to bail it out. Borges trying to use him to cover his ass by claiming he somehow couldn't run the schemes he wanted to be cause the guy running behind them was also the one taking the snap is a weak excuse that throws Denard (of all people!) under the bus.

[After THE JUMP: WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER]

Comments

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Nebraska

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Nebraska Comment Count

Brian 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…

blitz-1

…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.

i-form-offset-h

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.

trips-inner-stack

And there was this.

wat-1

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.]

Comments

I AM OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

I AM OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL Comment Count

Brian November 11th, 2013 at 12:19 PM

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

10766148686_1ecb64869f_z[1]

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.

So.

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.

PURDUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE.

PURDUE

THESE YOBS

image

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?

Highlights

BTN:

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

Awards

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.]

Comments

Picture Pages: Resistance Is Futile, Your Plays Will Be Assimilated

Picture Pages: Resistance Is Futile, Your Plays Will Be Assimilated Comment Count

Brian November 5th, 2013 at 5:29 PM

As I'm going over the film here something is resonating that I read from Ace's VEQ last week.

I cannot tell you how many times in the last three years I've watched an opposing offense go for 50, 60, 70 yards on their first drive, kick a field goal, score a touchdown, flip field position, whatever, and then absolutely get downloaded by this defense. It happened just this last weekend at Illinois. Sometimes it takes more than one drive, some days it takes a half of football or so. But I, for example, watched Purdue experience some early success throwing little 12-15 yard out patterns beneath MSU's retreating zone cornerback on two third downs in quick succession to keep drives alive, and then the third time Purdue tried it, not only was the corner right there in man coverage, but there too was safety Isaiah Lewis flashing in front of the receiver and nearly collecting a pick-six. Stuff like that is a joy to watch.

That was the story of this game, as well. Michigan found snatches of success early, whereupon MSU adjusted and that was all she wrote. A play that finds success has been followed by a nothing play that MSU crushes with a creepy consistency so far. Without the context of MSU's stats this year it feels like Pat Narduzzi is the luckiest guy in the world for a while, and then it's like he's Doyle Brunson.

In one instance, it seems like it took MSU one play to assimilate something Michigan was doing. M debuted a run play that is basically power from the playside guard gussied up to look like inverted veer. The first instance of this sort of worked. The second did not. The yards were basically the same, but that's because Toussaint managed to evade a TFL on the second.

Debut

It's Michigan's first drive; they've hit a couple passes to Gallon to open up with 46 yards on their first two plays. They come out in a 2TE set featuring Paskorz and Butt with Funchess in the slot. Unusually for MSU, they flip a corner over Funchess. Both safeties are hanging out where they usually do: rolled up tight.

dg-iv-1

Butt will release. Lewan will block down on the playside end; Bosch will pull around. Since the end doesn't  get an initial block and Michigan makes its mesh point look like an inverted veer, he reads that and hangs outside, creating a wide crease for Toussaint to explore.

dg-iv-1

The design basically works. Lewan turns his guy inside and the veer appearance means Bosch isn't seriously challenged by the DE, who is trying to maintain outside contain.

dg-iv-2

Meanwhile, Butt and Glasgow release immediately into the playside LBs. This gives Magnuson an impossible task on the other DL, but I think they figure that guy's not going to make a play on this play and that a significant percentage of the time he will get hung up on the other DL getting smoked. Either that or it's just another assignment screwup; in UFR I thought Bullough was more dangerous than the DT and passed on a minus.

dg-iv-3

By the time Toussaint gets the handoff there's a nice gap that is unfortunately being rapidly filled by that DT, but there's so much space that he can run away from it. Meanwhile, Funchess has come down and blocks… uh… Butt, kind of. He eventually does shove the corner on him back but that looks bizarre to me; seems like he should be carrying to the safety. In any case, gap is extant.

dg-iv-4

This is looking rather promising.

dg-iv-6

But MSU holds the damage down, as Calhoun comes off the Bosch block easily and spins Toussaint around, allowing the safety to come down and tackle after a modest gain.

dg-iv-7dg-iv-8

Three yards is a win, I guess?

Video

Slow:

Items Of Interest

It's new, and shiny, and created a hole. Hoorah. This play uses Lewan's strength to bash open a hole and while it doesn't actually option a guy off it uses the threat of a veer to make Bosch's job considerably easier.

I still don't understand M centers shooting to the second level immediately despite guys basically over them. It happens with such consistency that it might actually be the plan, but it drives me nuts every time it happens. Here Michigan issues Magnuson a blocking assignment that is flatly impossible and sends Glasgow out immediately; meanwhile on the back side of the play Schofield and Paskorz do combo the end, getting him sealed away. You can see the cost in the linebacker blocks: Glasgow gets into Bullough and gets him moving hard, providing a nice cutback lane… that the back cannot take because there's a DL flowing down the line. Meanwhile Allen gets playside of Schofield and is filling that hole.

To me it seems like you'd want to reverse this: shoot Schofield out immediately and say damn the backside end while getting that DT sealed away. It seems like whenever a M C or G ignores a nose tackle and gives someone else on the line a difficult task it results in doom, but it's happening almost all the time, and this doesn't seem like rocket science. The guy is in alignment X against you, you chip him so your partner can get around.

Michigan isn't doing this with a regularity that makes me think it's intentional, and the results are underwhelming. FMK: goofy assignments or guys who can't execute rule one of zone running.

Tight end blocking again an issue. Butt's block here gets hardly any motion and does allow the LB to slide off, or would if Funchess didn't add himself into the equation. Funchess, meanwhile, brings his corner into the fray and since the general rule of running when you suck at it (and probably even when you don't) is that most blocks are just opportunities to screw up a play, that is a negative.

I know what Funchess is thinking here, because Michigan would run this again against a more typical MSU D:

iv-1

His job is to go get that slot LB. Here his job is to… run the corner off or something, go bash the safety, but he screws it up, probably because Michigan was prepping him to run it against a gray area LB instead of a press corner.

MSU's alignment throws this off. Compare the screenshot right above with the presnap setup here:

dg-iv-1

Note the relation of the LB Butt is going for relative to himself. On this play, he's even; on the other play he's a player and a half inside of him. Much easier angle for Butt, more likely there's a gap away from the DE and a nice gain. That's why the linebacker blocks here don't really get Fitz a hole he clearly expects to be outside. (And maybe why Michigan's okay with leaving the DT: they expected a different D.)

The download. The next time Michigan ran this they got the above formation. Aaaaand:

download-1download-2

Slot LB rips down, Funchess has no shot, Toussaint does well to bounce around it and gets eaten by a safety after a similar gain. Is this sheer luck? On some level, sure. But the creepy mind-reading tendencies of the MSU defense are so consistent that it seems like something more. Could Narduzzi have executed this inference chain?

  1. Michigan has a new run play on which Funchess accidentally doubled a LB in a defense we don't run much.
  2. He's probably supposed to block the slot LB in our usual stuff.
  3. It's first and ten from the nine, probably a run.
  4. If it's the new toy, blitz slot LB.

I wouldn't put it past him. Seems hard given the chaos of football but if you're a DC with tons of experience and have a feel for this live, well, you might be quite good at your job.

Comments

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Indiana

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Indiana Comment Count

Brian October 24th, 2013 at 3:45 PM

HELLO NOTES:

blue-guy

HELLO! HI! I AM BLUE! I AM A TUBE! I HOPE AT LEAST TEN OTHER STUDENTS MAKE BLUE TUBES! HELLO! ISN'T LIFE EXICTING!

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.

o-iu-2-deep

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.

0-line-confugration

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.]

Comments

Picture Pages: Whoops, Nope, Totally Packaged

Picture Pages: Whoops, Nope, Totally Packaged Comment Count

Brian October 24th, 2013 at 11:59 AM

So yeah, I concluded yesterday that the quick fire throw to Gallon in the second quarter was a presnap read, not a true packaged play, and then about two plays into the remainder of the UFR, Michigan runs the same thing with the cornerback showing blitz presnap and M runs it after he backs out. Timing: I do not have it.

To the screenshots!

It's first and ten; Michigan's trying to respond to Indiana drawing to within one and has first and ten on their own 23. Same setup as the last play: 3 wide, Gallon alone to the boundary, IU in their nickel-ish package. This time the corner is indicating blitz.

pnope-1

On the snap, though, he backs out. Gardner's checking on Gallon, seeing if he's got the hitch.

pnope-2

When it become clear that the CB is not coming, he changes his plan. Taylor Lewan has the same idea, as his initial reaction was to pick up the corner. He's flared out to do so, and now has to frantically try to get back into the play and block someone who's trying to defend what's actually occurring.

pnope-3

Which is a handoff.

Now: Lewan's flare has borked a couple of things. See 98 below? He is being doubled and will end up three yards downfield, where it is ideal for him to go in the eyes of the offense.

pnope-4

The other DT, though, is being single blocked by Glasgow and if he chooses can decide to go upfield of him to the outside, which he does. Glasgow locks him out and pushes him past the play; Toussaint has one lane straight up the middle. Bosch deals with a DE well, but there's no one for an ILB.

pnope-5

That's unfortunate, since a guy dealing with him is a big gain with the other LB on a pass drop he's convinced to take by Funchess releasing into the slot LB. Even if he doesn't take this the backwards direction of the other DT would make it difficult for him to get to the hole.

Lewan tries to recover; can't quite; Toussaint makes the guy miss, which gets him a decent gain before the shuffling backside end comes down from behind to tackle.

pnope-6pnope-7

Five yards.

Video

Slow:

Items of Interest

Nope, totally packaged. Gardner's first option is the hitch in the event of a CB blitz, and he decides that it's not there, so he hands off. Post snap read determining run or pass is the Smart Football-approved definition of a packaged play. Packaged.

An old bugaboo. This harkens back to some oddities Michigan had in their plays like this a couple years ago. When they ran the inverted veer in 2011, Michigan would often block the guy they were supposedly optioning with the pulling guard, leaving Denard to beat a guy if Michigan was going to pick up anything. This happened not infrequently, but it seemed pretty weird that you'd run an option and not option anyone.

This is a version of that old problem: Lewan flares out to block the corner when Michigan has a plan to deal with that. They're optioning him and they still block him, or would if he didn't back out into pass coverage. That leaves one of the ILBs free.

The rest of the line blocks it like they should if the corner blitz was coming; seems like someone on the OL made an adjustment to the blitz IU ostentatiously showed and backed out of.

A minor place. I don't want to make any grand conclusions from these two plays. A number of programs from the Okie State/WVU Hologorsen tree will build large chunks of their offense around packaged plays; Michigan has only dabbled in this department under Borges. They're still dabbling. The OL blocks this goofy because they are not on the same page as the play concept. If the guy making the line check understands that the corner is never a threat, this is a nice gain that doesn't require Toussaint to get his Hart on.

This isn't the first time they've tried these things—I remember pointing out a package to Smart Football a couple years ago. That didn't work, and it seemed like it got put on the shelf because the coaches weren't enthused with Denard's ability to read post-snap. Devin executed both of these; could they have been a test run for Michigan State?

Probably not, but here's hoping they've got something up their sleeve.

Bosch check. This was about par for Bosch's day. He got decent to good movement on his guys, probably better than Magnuson on average. Hopes were consistently tempered by the guy next to him, as when Lewan latched onto a dude he all but threw the dude into his teammates, ninjas-attacking-hero style. Indiana's terrible. He'll get a trial by fire next Saturday.

An accidental RPS. The other ILB's pass drop here is an interesting offshoot. He's reading Funchess and sees him release, and so goes to cover, as Funchess blocks (or attempts to block) IU's hybrid space player. That leaves the OL five on five in the box, which should be a profitable situation.

Every time a DE shuffles like this I want Gardner to pull, which is probably irrational. I don't think he should, but I have this visceral thing where it's like GO GIT EM, because is anyone in that position really keeping up with Gardner on the corner? I say no, especially when you've got Funchess bothering the slot LB. All DEs are shuffling and Gardner has beat them all around the edge. Sometimes there's help out there; that is the only thing that keeps these plays down.

Triple option? On this play it's asking a lot of him to read the corner and then come across the field to read the end, so the pull here is almost certainly not something that he has in the toolbox anyway. So, no, just a single option I think. The read option nature of the play does let you sort of option off two guys, though, except "optioning off" the corner is really just nerfing the corner blitz.

Comments

27 For 27: A Document

27 For 27: A Document Comment Count

Brian October 16th, 2013 at 3:53 PM

[SITE NOTE: Due to a confluence of things including a long drive home, four overtimes, thrilling CONCACAF qualifier business, the Tigers, this post, and a desire to stab my eyeballs whenever I look at the tape, UFR is not quite done and will go up tomorrow.]

Fitzgerald Toussaint set a Michigan record for sustained futility on Saturday by running for 27 yards on 27 carries. Since 1949, no other back has gotten as many carries without gaining at least twice as many yards. Posterity demands that someone detail what happened.

A note: blame is apportioned. When things are designated playcall it's because I don't believe it's reasonable to expect Michigan to block player X, either because he's an extra guy in the box or he's tearing towards the line of scrimmage on the snap because he has no fear of a pass. You can adjust your personal indignation levels on this based on how reasonable you thought running into stacked boxes was vis a vis Devin Gardner's 13 YPA and constant turnover threat; I'm just trying to figure out how much of the run splat was preordained by playcalls.

Ready? No. I know you're not. But here we go anyway.

One

27f27-1

Play: Power O
Formation: Tackle over I Form H
Yards: -3

Why it didn't work:

  1. Graham Glasgow ignored the NT.
  2. Predictable playcall sees PSU linebackers flow hard with effectively nine in the box.
  3. Jake Butt gets beat badly by a PSU LB in the hole.

Blame: 80% OL, 10% playcall, %10 TE/FB

Two

27f27-2

Play: Zone stretch.
Formation: Tackle over I Form big
Yards: -3

Why it didn't work:

  1. PSU has straight up nine in the box.
  2. Michigan tries to be clever by running at Williams and Bryant, both of whom get destroyed.
  3. Schofield leaves immediately, so Lewan has no shot at the backside tackle.

Blame: 30% TE/FB, 30% OL, 40% playcall

Three

27f27-3

Play: Power O
Formation: Tackle over Ace H
Yards: 12

Why it didn't work:

  1. Actually it did work.
  2. It works because Schofield gets nice push, giving Toussaint a crease. Glasgow gets movement on a DT and the eighth guy in the box for PSU tries to get over to the frontside when he should probably stack this up near the LOS.

Blame: Everyone is happy!

Four

27f27-4

Play: Counter
Formation: Tackle over trips TE
Yards: 1

Why it didn't work:

  1. Seven guys in the box against six blockers; extra guy makes the stop.
  2. PSU WLB doesn't get suckered by the counter, gives Glasgow no shot to block him.
  3. Kalis gets shed, falling to the ground.

Blame: 80% playcall, 20% OL.

[After THE JUMP: just don't click through. I'm sorry I even did this.]

Comments

Picture Pages: The Dumbest Play In The History Of Football

Picture Pages: The Dumbest Play In The History Of Football Comment Count

Brian October 15th, 2013 at 1:44 PM

I don't think I'm exaggerating. It's second and eight after one of Michigan's most successful RB runs of the night. Michigan trails 21-10 with six minutes left in the second quarter. They put some dudes on the field and move them around. When we come back from Matt Millen saying something about something, this process has already started.

dumbest-play-0

Houma and Chesson are switching spots. What this is supposed to do to the defense remains unknown, because it did not happen. Now… there's something odd about this play. Since we don't ever see the outside WR, I don't remember if that's Funchess or Williams or whoever, but Michigan puts him off the screen to the field. Also…

dumbest-play-1

They have no left tackle. They have put their left tackle at super right tackle.

I think this is a run.

dumbest-play-1

Penn State thinks this is a run. They have eight guys in the box against six blockers.

dumbest-play-2

ESPN's camera man thinks this is a run, zooming almost to the box before they even snap the ball.

It's a run. Specifically, it is a zone stretch to the boundary. Because this is the only run it could possibly be, Penn State is prepared for this. Kalis gets driven back. Bryant and Glasgow don't scoop the backside tackle (not that it really matters since there is an unblocked guy in the cutback lane and another unblocked guy checking Gardner).

dumbest-play-3

This looks familiar.

dumbest-play-4

Kalis finally finishes losing his guy, who pushes Toussaint to the edge of the field, where a ninth Penn State defender—a safety lined up over a formation that cannot have a tight end emerge from it to threaten downfield—comes up to tackle for loss…

dumbest-play-5

…if Kalis's guy doesn't do it first.

dumbest-play-6

Third and ten.

Video

Slow:

Items of Interest

This is the stupidest play in the history of plays. You can't pass because you don't have a right tackle and refuse to throw perimeter screens no matter how blitheringly open they are…

bubble-1bubble-2bubble-3bubble-4

all of these occurred in the first 20 minutes of the game

…and Penn State knows this, so they put eight in the box against six blockers and have a safety overhanging who knows 100% that he has no immediate pass threat to deal with.

I mean, you can see the entire PSU D on the field here:

dumbest-play-0

There is a wide receiver outside of Gallon. Only the dumbest playcall in history could allow a D to align like this and be successful.

You really confused them, though. Having Chesson and Houma switch places is the cherry on top here. Yeah, you fooled 'em up real good right there. Now Penn State's eight in the box against 5 OL and a WR is eight in the box against 5 OL and a FB. Green fields ahead, boys.

They're setting them up for something! If you don't have an automatic check to whatever your clever business is when you see two DBs on 3 WRs, you fail.

Line didn't do well, but whatever. Kalis gets blown up here, but since Michigan just told Penn State the play they were running it's not really the focus.

The bigger picture. This was insane and far from isolated. Michigan kept running tackle over stuff against a defense that was stuffing it even after Taylor Lewan went out. They asked AJ Williams to play left tackle, and because of Borges's increasingly legendary stubbornness they allowed Penn State to align in formations that doomed their crammed-together paleolithic run game without either testing PSU's young and not very quick corners or taking the buckets of free yards these alignments provided.

The bubble screen stuff took on a life of its own over the course of the last year, and it's come up again—a screenshot of Michigan's first snap of the first overtime screaming for a bubble has made the rounds of every message board. To reiterate, the bubble is a constraint: it prevents the defense from lining up in certain ways and thus simplifies your life as an offense since defenses can't pack the box as much without getting free yards on their face. Borges's allergy to getting the ball to guys in a ton of space went from annoying to crippling in this game.

How can anyone have faith in a guy who looks at this when he needs a field goal to win…

eFlqGZa[1]

…and doesn't throw a bubble because it's not what Vince Lombardi would do? It boggles the mind. A lot of things lost this game for Michigan. Al Borges is high up on that list.

Comments

Position To Fail

Position To Fail Comment Count

Brian October 14th, 2013 at 12:21 PM

10/12/2013 – Michigan 40, Penn State 43 (4OT) – 5-1, 1-1 Big Ten

10268848885_2917380b57_b[1]10268835064_2e431ff4cb_b[1]10268925246_ce09bfacd3_b[1]

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:

Name Att Net Yd Yd/Att TD Lng Season Opponent
Ron Johnson 33 84 2.5 2   1968 Minnesota
Don Moorhead 25 57 2.3 0   1969 Michigan State
Anthony Thomas 29 60 2.1 0 8 2000 Ohio State
Jamie Morris 27 52 1.9 1 7 1987 Iowa
Fitzgerald Toussaint 27 27 1 0 12 2013 Penn State

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:

  1. Michigan 14, MSU 28: 250 yards of offense
  2. Michigan 16, Iowa 24: 323 yards of offense, 166 50 minutes into the game when M went into hurry-up shotgun throwing
  3. Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT): 184 yards of offense
  4. Michigan 6, ND 13: 299 yards of offense and 5 INTs
  5. Michigan 9, Nebraska 23: 188 yards of offense and 3 INTs
  6. Michigan 21, Ohio State 26: 279 yards of offense and 4 TOs
  7. Michigan 28, UConn 24: 284 yards of offense and 3 TOs
  8. 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.

10259441905_e704092064_c[1]

Bryan Fuller

Highlights

Via BTN:

Awards

10259309256_78df831b2a_z[1]

Fuller

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3[1]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.]

Comments