Hokepoints Gets Nothing for the Spread, Thanks Borges for Trying

Hokepoints Gets Nothing for the Spread, Thanks Borges for Trying

Submitted by Seth on November 26th, 2013 at 12:04 PM


Note: Most of of my long "here's a handy guide for Borges complaining" post got deleted. Here's a few bits of it.

So I did the thing where I update (finally) the UFR database, then self-UFR the last game because this damn column comes before Brian does the UFR for the latest one, and then I say things about all the things. Let's just cut to the things:

Yards per play (# attempts in parentheses) of normal downs by formation.

Opponent Shotgun Ace I-Form Pistol Tackle Over Goal line Total YPP
Central Michigan 6.7 (17) 7.7 (21) 7 (19) 3 (2) - 1.5 (2) 6.8
Notre Dame 7.4 (14) 10.6 (22) 3.2 (13) 4.4 (14) - - 7.0
Akron 21.8 (11) 5.6 (19) 4.5 (18) -1.8 (5) - - 7.6
Connecticut 5 (25) 2.8 (19) 1.8 (12) 3.5 (4) - 4 (1) 3.6
Minnesota 6.1 (9) 4.9 (7) 1.7 (7) - 5.8 (20) - 5.0
Penn State 3.6 (16) 7.7 (22) 3.8 (9) 6.4 (7) 0.8 (11) - 4.8
Indiana 7.2 (34) 14.1 (14) 8.8 (16) 4 (1) 11 (8) - 9.2
Michigan State 5.3 (23) 7.4 (7) 1.8 (4) 0.1 (12) - - 4.0
Nebraska 4 (23) 0.3 (7) 1.8 (12) 6.3 (6) - 0 (1) 3.1
Northwestern 5.4 (16) 4.7 (21) 5 (24) 11 (3) - -1 (2) 5.1
Iowa 2.7 (23) 1.2 (9) 5 (13) 4 (2) - - 3.1
Total 6.1 (33%) 6.7 (27%) 4.6 (23%) 3.6 (9%) 5.5 (6%) 0.8 (1%) 5.6

What's left out are 2-minute drills, 3rd/4th down and longer than 6, and any short situations.

And yards per play by how spread, i.e. the  # of receivers in formation, they got each game, with % of plays they lined up that way in parentheses:

Opponent Avg WRs None Big 2-wide 3-wide 4-wide Empty
Central Michigan 2.33 1.5 (3%) 2 (3%) 8.1 (56%) 7 (33%) -1.3 (5%) -
Notre Dame 2.29 - -0.8 (6%) 8.6 (59%) 5.5 (35%) - -
Akron 2.23 - 9 (4%) 5.5 (70%) 13.5 (26%) - -
Connecticut 2.33 4 (2%) 2.5 (7%) 2.9 (49%) 4.5 (43%) - -
Minnesota 1.70 2 (5%) 4 (35%) 5.4 (47%) 7.7 (14%) - -
Penn State 2.14 - 5.7 (14%) 5.2 (58%) 3.7 (28%) - -
Indiana 2.66 -0.5 (3%) 16.2 (7%) 9.7 (40%) 10.7 (23%) 6.5 (27%) -
Michigan State 3.00 - -8 (2%) 4.1 (26%) 4.8 (41%) 3.6 (30%) -
Nebraska 2.47 0 (2%) 3.7 (6%) 0.5 (43%) 6.3 (41%) 1.3 (8%) -
Northwestern 2.15 -1 (3%) 2.2 (8%) 4.9 (64%) 5.7 (23%) 18.0 (3%) -
Iowa 2.91 - -1 (2%) 3.6 (38%) 2.1 (30%) 3.8 (26%) 3.5 (4%)
All games 2.38 0.8 (2%) 4.6 (8%) 5.7 (51%) 6.2 (30%) 4.8 (9%) 3.5 (<1%)

My base assumption was that when Michigan goes more spread they're putting the B+ receiving threat of Dileo, or the C+ receiving of Chesson on the field, and usually moving the C- blocking/D- receiving of A.J. Williams or Joe Kerridge off of it.

The Fetal Position Theory of Offense

However going to wider looks didn't seem to do much good against Iowa or Michigan State (that one at least M was behind for a good portion). That's because of a lot of things, one of those being that despite spreading it out, Michigan's been leaving those guys anyway. Both players are probably the best blockers of their position groups, but that's not saying much. Meanwhile they give up pretty much any threat of doing something other than blocking, and opponents have used that opportunity to tee off. Since neither is good enough to pick up a majority of those blitzes, there've been a lot of messes in the backfield as a result.

Iowa blew up Michigan's penultimate drive with back-to-back A-gap blitzes. On the first Kerridge was in to pass block and got lit up by the blitzer, who was immediately into Gardner. On the second they had Green in there and had him run a pattern that the defense ignored. With immediate pressure Gardner ignored Green and chucked a pass into an unready Funchess's back. That is progress, but the lesson is just doing the thing you ought to be good at doesn't fix the problem; you have to practice doing it as well.

Execution Issue

But even when they do spread like a boss, there's a lot of things going wrong. Look that this play, the penultimate (so rare you get to use that word twice in a day) offensive one of the game for Michigan:

Starts at 0:53:38 if browser player isn't working.

There's so many ways to win here, but nothing comes of them.

1. There's bubble action. Though of course they don't throw it despite it being open because this isn't a check (Michigan's checks are only to ISO or the pistol speed option). And Funchess, not Gallon or—infinite ARRRGHHH—Norfleet, is still the designated bubble screen guy. Anyway with the safety deep and bailing, the bubble is 7-12 free yards if Michigan can recognize it and throw it, but that has to be built into the offense. The way Borges has been using the bubble screen is on called plays. It was cool that he threatened it out of a more open look—previously it seemed his capitulation to this one play was predicated solely on its usefulness for running from heavy sets. The way Rodriguez used—and the way Urban will deploy it against us on Saturday—is it was as an instant check to things opponents did to hamper his zone read game.

Fuller captured one of the ultra-rare instances of a shotgun-Kerridge play that wasn't him blocking.

2. Tipped zone blitz. That end spread out and the obviously blitzing linebackers suggests there's going to be a zone blitz pre-snap but there's just 6 seconds on the playclock at that moment so they don't really get to adjust to that. Still, this is a win for an outside run, since that DE is going to drop back and stand where a great block would normally deposit him.

3. Center and guard versus linebackers. This ought to be a win. Those LBs stunt their blitz a bit so that the first gets a 2-for-1 and the second can slice in free. By coming up pre-snap they made it harder for Glasgow to get off the combo and pick up his guy, but he just has to come off the double and take a half-step sideways to block that gap. Here's where agility in a spread center helps you, and where the lack of it hurts Glasgow, even when he knows what he's supposed to do.

4. Magnuson starts the play far to the playside of that tackle. That's a big advantage for the offense. The DT indeed slants into Mags, then chucks him and gets to the outside, totally blowing that advantage.

5. It's Devin Gardner and Fitz Toussaint in the backfield, so chances of a missed tackle are pretty good. However Gardner is at about 45% right now because he's been beat up so badly in the last few weeks, and Toussaint's pass blocking problems are part of what's inviting these interior blitzes, since the downside for the defense (having that guy violently cut to the ground while a receiver slants into the unoccupied territory) is unlikely from Michigan's offense.

Also Jackson's is hesitant with his block, and is set up to spring Funchess to the outside, so that nickel guy is going to be free to tackle after just a few.

So going to a spread isn't going to fix everything. The formation did give them more room and opened up the bubble, but Michigan can't access those yards because they come to the line too late to see anything in the defense and adjust to it, and hasn't practiced doing that. The defensive playcall made Glasgow's athleticism the key to the key block, but that's not Glasgow's strength. And crappy blocking elsewhere meant this play was still dead in four ways. Such is Michigan's offense. They're not all good at any one thing, and they don't do the things that some of them are good at, and the end result is a lot of plays where guys are forced to execute the things they're bad at.

The Little Bubble Package: Dead?

Here's how the Bubble-or-Run package has fared:

Opponent Runs Bubbles YPA
Michigan State 0 1 8.0
Northwestern 7 3 5.4
Iowa 5 2 2.4

They've adapted.


Iowa was crashing the backside SAM and had their safety ready to pounce on the bubble (even if Funchess didn't drop one). I think there's something you can do about that (dare I say rollout?). Running it against Northwestern was cool, but I would have expected Borges to know by now that's it's scouted and lead off with that third counter. Or add it to the scrap heap with the rest of the fancy things he's tried. I'm sure a picture pages is coming so I won't get further into it.

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs EMU

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs EMU

Submitted by Brian on September 22nd, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Gratuitous Video:

So my youtube account has been closed after a series of copyright claims by one of the companies that goes around doing that. Thus no video as I try to sort it out with them. They did get back to my email and I should get a call in w/ a relevant person shortly. We'll see how that goes.

Substitution notes: Status quo, mostly. Smith and Toussaint are obviously the top two backs this instant. Odoms is still an infrequent participant because of the cast; Dileo appears to be in front of Jackson and Jerald Robinson (who we still haven't seen) beyond Hemingway/Roundtree/Gallon on the depth chart.

Schofield got in a bit, once as a goal-line tight end and once spotting Barnum late. I believe that was a shoe issue.

Formation notes: A heavier dose of shotgun than Borges was calling for for obvious reasons. Michigan's using a little motion from the gun now, something RR never did, and this semi-stack formation is making somewhat frequent appearances:


That's still shotgun trips to me, FWIW.

Show? Depleted show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M35 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 under Run Iso Toussaint 8
Running at the backside gap left by the under shift. Good combo block by Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) kicks out a DT and gets Omameh on to the MLB. Huyge(+1) locks out playside DT; McColgan(+1) crumbles WLB. Toussaint can just go straight upfield.
RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Huyge, McColgan RUN-:
M43 2 2 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-5 under Run Pin and pull zone Robinson 4
Both safeties in the box. Michigan goes to the pin and pull we've seen a few times that is apparently their preferred outside running play. EMU slants to it and prevents any of their guys from getting sealed(RPS -1). They have this killed, basically, except the backside DT gets way upfield and stumbles when he should be tackling Robinson on his slow-as-hell cutback. No points for anyone. Lucky. Q: why not throw the long handoff here? Or a hitch or something?
M47 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel under Pass Tunnel screen Robinson 14
Denard pulls it down. I'm not sure why since the WR seems open. Hesitant after last week, or can he see this is going to get crushed because a DT is going to release right into it? I guess I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Screen gone he's got guys in his face and Denards it for a first down. (SCR, N/A, N/A. Target: Gallon)
RUN+: Robinson(3) RUN-:
O39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-4 under Run Zone read dive Toussaint 4
Linebackers are already sprinting at the mesh point, so this is tough. Backside DE forms up; correct handoff. Omameh and Huyge(+1) execute a good combo block on the local DT, kicking him out. Omameh is about to release into the second level when the sprinting linebacker is in his face. Omameh manages to get a shove on him. Unblocked MLB sitting in the hole now; Toussaint cuts back, where Huyge's block and the delay on the backside DE by the read fake get him a few yards. RPS -1.
RUN+: Omameh, Huyge RUN-:
O35 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie? Run QB power Robinson 1
No one in a three point stance here as EMU gets fancy. Michigan runs power at it and has a huge hole... and a guy running at Robinson right behind the down-blocking Barnum(-2). Barnum's fault, sure, but also an RPS -1. The other blocks are easy by design here so no pluses. RUN-: Barnum(2)
O34 3 5 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel press Pass Dumpoff Smith Inc
Huyge(-1) beaten by the EMU DE. Bodes unwell. Robinson does have enough time to get to a second read after he doesn't like the first. Why? Not sure. Hemingway had separation and was running an open in for a first down, but the two(!) spies EMU is running are reading his eyes and might leap to bat it or worse. He checks to Smith running an out in front of a linebacker. Throw is a little bit off but Smith just drops this. (CA, 3, protection ½, Huyge)
O34 4 5 Shotgun trips 1 0 3 Nickel press Pass Hitch Hemingway Int
EMU sends two up the middle and it's picked up well enough by the rest of the line; Smith(-1) gets chucked on his block attempt and only delays his guy briefly. Denard throws a hitch to a pretty well covered Hemingway. He's got a window if he throws it a bit upfield; instead it's way too far inside and the EMU DB has a play on the ball. To his credit, he makes it. (IN, 0, protection 2/3, Smith –1)
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 9 min 1st Q. Both of these last two passes were accurate-ish but made more difficult by tight coverage.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M1 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-4 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 1
Koger(-2) stood up by the DE he's assigned to on the goal line; DE fights his way inside of him and completely prevents any hole outside. Toussaint sees this and starts cutting backside. He may have a hole but Koger's block was so poor his guy comes up to tackle. RUN-: Koger(2)
M2 2 9 I-Form 2 1 2 4-4 even Pass Hitch Roundtree Inc
Batted back in his face. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)
M2 3 9 Shotgun trips 1 0 3 Nickel Pass Rollout sack Robinson 0
Smith(-2) whiffs his cut on the edge and these routes, which all look long, do not have a chance to develop. Denard steps up and is swarmed. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 3 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M21 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint -1
Moore(-2) is blown up by the DE opposite him, who plows into the backfield and removes blockers and any semblance of a hole. Also they're running from the I against nine in the box. I remember handing out RPS -1s for these in the DeBord era. RUN-: Moore(2)
M20 2 11 Ace 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA Wheel Koger Inc
Yay second and 11 play action from a formation we average 2 YPC from. EMU has two deep safeties, a rarity, and the linebackers don't bite at all. One of them gets a chuck on Koger just as Denard releases the ball on his wheel route. This is pretty awesome: Koger fake blocks for three seconds and then releases and the EMU LB is right there waiting for him. I think this (no PI) is legit since the contact started before the ball was in the air and was not maintained too long. Actually a good throw without the coverage. The rare (CA, 0, protection 2/2, RPS -1)
M20 3 11 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Nickel Pass Panic ??? Inc
Four man rush on which Omameh and Molk block a guy, and then both stop blocking him. In Molk's case it was to peel off and block a guy who had beaten Barnum; Omameh blocks air. Denard is pressured, avoids a sack, avoids another sack, steps up, and rifles a ball eight yards over someone's head. Not even sure who. Tacopants special. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Barnum -1, Omameh -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 13 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M3 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Robinson 52
Why everyone has forgotten how to defend this I'll never know. Basic zone read, DE crashes down, TE heads for OLB, other LBs rush to frontside of play, Denard in open field. He accelerates past two guys and rips off a big one. Tree gets a great block AAAAAH. RPS +3.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Roundtree(2) RUN-:
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Down G Robinson 4
EMU DE does a great job recognizing the pull and backing out once he's left unblocked; he drops out, gets wide, picks off Toussaint, and forces the play inside. +2 that guy. Since Omameh and Molk have both pulled the backside D is running down the line—Barnum has no shot—and tackles from behind. They still get some yards because there's no one in front of Denard thanks to Huyge(+1) getting a good seal on the other NT and Koger(+1) improvising to peel off and block a linebacker after the DE exited stage left.
RUN+: Huyge, Koger RUN-:
O41 2 6 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB power Robinson -2
Barnum(-3) pulls and inexplicably runs by the blitzing LB, who plasters Denard. If that's picked up he might be able to dance for considerable yardage.
O43 3 8 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel press Run QB draw Robinson 22
This is a complete fiasco (RPS -1). EMU sends two blitzers; Michigan lets one through and picks up another at the expense of letting a DT through unblocked. Smith(+1) picks off one LB, and Denard(+3) jets past that DT—lucky. I think Barnum was right there to get the LB—closest to the play—and Lewan(-1) had to slide to make the far side DE the threat. After Denard passes the DT he's got smooth sailing since Molk(+2) and Omameh(+2) have kicked the crap out of two defenders. Denard cuts back for extra yardage, then fumbles(-3) because he's not carrying it high and tight.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Molk(2), Omameh(2), Smith RUN-: Lewan, Robinson(3)
O21 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA TE flat Koger 12
EMU in man; guy on Koger blasts into one of his own guys and falls. Wide open. Denard's getting quick pressure and flicks a soft one to Koger; he turns it up for good yardage. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
O9 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 0
Denard checks into a bad play; EMU slants to this. Molk(-1) senses the slant and tries to pass his guy off to Omameh(-1), who is unprepared. This is for no purpose since Lewan has handled the backside DE. Robinson cuts back right into this dude and gets planted. RUN-: Omameh, Molk
O9 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA quick seam Koger 9
Zone read fake into a quick seam. LBs take one step to the LOS and that's all M needs. Good timing, catch, touchdown. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-3, 9 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 5
EMU scrape exchange does not sucker Denard; he hands off. EMU slants playside; Toussaint(+1) cuts behind it. Unfortunately, Koger is blocking the backside DE along with Huyge so the MLB is unblocked and can react to the cutback. Need one of those guys to hit it up in the hole and Toussaint is into the secondary. I want to minus one of Koger or Huyge for a missed assignment but no idea who. Ohh: team. RUN-: Team
RUN+: Omameh, Toussaint RUN-: Team
M18 2 5 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-4 under Run Pin and pull zone Robinson -2
All right, I'm officially annoyed at this play. It's crap. It's hard to execute, never gives you cutbacks, and doesn't allow Molk to reach fools. Why not use the stretch? Here a blitzer off the edge gets past three blockers, forcing a cutback, where hard-flowing EMU defenders cut Denard down. RPS -2. RUN-: Shaw(2)
M16 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout fly Hemingway Inc
Too long. Stupid route package on third and medium-ish. Literally no short routes (RPS -1). (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 5 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Robinson 12
Derpity doo. Backside DE plunges inside; no scrape. Denard pulls. Slot LB chucks Dileo. Denard pulls, runs, etc. Stupidly easy. RPS +2.
RUN+: Lewan, Robinson RUN-:
M25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Down G Robinson 12
Omameh and Molk pull; Huyge(-1) ignores the playside DT. That's a problem, but it's kind of his job since he's pulling (RPS –1). DT gets into the pullers way fast. Denard has to hold up, reverse field, and beat everyone to the backside of the play. He breaks a kid's ankles out there for fun. No video : (
RUN+: Robinson(3) RUN-: Huyge(2)
M37 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 ??? Run Down G Smith 38
Finally they execute this stuff correctly, or at least I think so. It's possible Omameh still screwed up but we come to the play late as Lewan(+2) is plowing the playside DE inside and pullers are pulling. Barnum(+1) nails a linebacker. Koger(+2) kicks out a defensive end authoritatively. Smith(+1)... runs behind this stuff. Molk has no one to block, even. Hemingway(+2) plows an EMU DB into the sideline, allowing Smith to cut back behind him(+1) again, wherupon Molk(+1) whacks some pursuers. Keys here are Koger and Lewan and Barnum.
RUN+: Smith, Lewan(2), Koger, Barnum, Molk, Hemingway RUN-:
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 3
This opens up beautifully as EMU's dudes get way upfield (RPS +1) but Robinson cuts it backside when he's got Tousssaint leading him through a huge hole frontside. This kills all the blocking angles.
RUN+: Molk RUN-: Robinson(2)
O22 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 11
This is a lovely little run. EMU WLB is scraping on Robinson, albeit slowly. EMU is slanting over the top. Omameh(+1) pancakes his guy and Huyge(+1) controls his, shooting him down the line; Toussaint(+2) reads the blocking and has the darting agility to cut back behind the Huyge block, avoid the scraping LB's tackle as he recovers, come back inside Molk's block of the MLB, and almost burst into the secondary before an ankle tackle takes him down.
RUN+: Toussaint(2), Huyge, Omameh RUN-:
O11 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB power Robinson 11
EMU slants hard and M adjusts well. Playside DT slants past Lewan; Barnum(+1) finds him and kicks him down the line. He dead. Molk(+1) buries the other guy. Lewan(+2) releases straight downfield and clobberates the MLB, but it's Koger(+2) who wins block of the play by adjusting to a DE slanting under him and pounding him inside to pancake. From there it's easy.
RUN+: Koger(2), Lewan(2), Barnum, Molk RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-3, 39 sec 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power read Robinson 8
Insert scare quotes around read in that play description—I don't think this is an actual read. Line blocks down and Huyge pulls around, aiming for the hole between Barnum and Lewan. Both those guys get great kickout blocks(+1 each). Molk(+1) is aided by the sweep action that sucks the MLB a step the wrong way; he gets position and spends a long time controlling him. Huyge(+1) picks off the other LB and Denard has acres. Safety comes down quickly to hold the play down. RPS +1 for the ease of these blocks thanks to the misdirection.
RUN+: Molk, Lewan, Huyge, Barnum, Omameh RUN-:
M25 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Zone read dive Toussaint 0
EMU has a playcall on to defeat this play, with two guys on the backside of the defense. One heads right for Robinson; handoff. The inside guy hands right for Toussaint, who has to cut back because the over-shifted DL is slanting under the blocks. Toussaint gets nailed by the DT. RPS -2. No chance of this getting yards.
M25 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB power Robinson 2
Running at a crowded area. Adequate kickout from Koger; Omameh is also doing his job on a DT. Huyge(-1) gets chucked by the playside DE, who is now sitting playside where Barnum and Toussaint are trying to block guys. Denard cuts back behind this directly into a charging safety, who gives him a stiff shot. Denard manages to spin off it and just gets the first down.
RUN+: Robinson, Omameh RUN-: Huyge
M27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel under Pass Wheel oh noes Toussaint Inc
Draw fake into play action. Denard doesn't have much time because there's an unblocked DE in on him; he has to step back and loft one. Linebackers have sucked up, though, and Toussaint's wheel is open for a nice chunk. Denard gets it to him but Toussaint drops it. He then gets lit up because either the throw is too lofted (probably not) or late (probably); still, this should have been 15 yards or so. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
M27 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Zone read dive Smith 27
Again Smith is blessed with acres of space as EMU blitzes a linebacker to the frontside of the play; Huyge(+1) kicks him way upfield. Omameh(+1) controls the DT to that side and there's a big gap that opens with no one there to contain. Smith(+1) reads it and is off, his little legs bumping and his little head waving back and forth as he just tries to go so fast. And it does seem like he's outrunning this EMU safety just before he uses the last bits of his angle to tackle. RPS+2; there are like three dudes on the backside surrounding Robinson by the time Smith breaks outside.
RUN+: Omameh, Huyge, Smith RUN-:
O46 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Smith 5
LBs slide to the Denard side of a hypothetical zone read. This is a spot where there should be an auto-check to a bubble. EMU line slants playside; backside DE pulls up for contain and Denard hands off. Barnum(+1) is not going to seal his guy and so adjusts, blowing him down the line and providing a cutback lane. Omameh(+1) and Molk(+1) blow up their dudes; Lewan(-1) gets a second level block but that guy pops off to the interior to tackle.
RUN+: Barnum, Omameh, Molk RUN-: Lewan
O41 2 5 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 3-4 base Run Zone read keeper Robinson 8
And then EMU forgets how to defend this again. EMLOS is kicked out by Koger; playside LB blitzes at the RB. Backside DT gets so hammered by Huyge(+1) that Omameh gets nailed by that block as he tries to get out on the MLB, so he can scrape. Robinson sees this and tries to pop outside Koger, does, stops when the contain comes, pops back inside the now-helmetless Koger(+1 for picking up another block), and shoots up for a first down. I think he basically had the first down if he just slams it up, but +1 for entertainment value alone. RPS +1.
RUN+: Robinson, Koger, Huyge RUN-:
O33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass PA TE flat Koger Inc
Don't like this PA because it's stretch action. Michigan hasn't run a stretch this year. The backside LB does not bite and backs off. Koger is still open; Denard wings it high. Would have been five yards and an instant tackle if accurate. (IN, 2, protection N/A)
O33 2 10 I-Form twins 1 2 2 4-4 even Pass Fake dive to pitch Smith 14
I have no idea why this should work. It's second and ten. If M hands it to the fullback, EMU OLB, you don't have to care. Unblocked EMLOS sucks in; playside LB does too; Lewan(+1) kills that guy; Molk(+1) gets the other LB, doesn't really matter because the EMLOS is now chasing Smith outside. Once on the corner he gets a fantastic mountain goat block from Odoms(+2) and an almost as good block from Gallon(+1) to pick up the first. He's actually tackled by the pursuing DE; he gets through that and he could be going a long way. RPS +1.
RUN+: Odoms(2), Lewan, Molk, Gallon RUN-:
O19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 12
Opens up as Barnum(+1) blows the DT past his intended spot and Robinson holds the EMLOS outside. Molk(+1) and Lewan(+1) get linebackers and this opens up cavernously. Toussaint makes an inexplicable decision to cut back outside instead of trying to shoot past the safety for the endzone but makes up for it by spinning through three(!) EMU tacklers and picking up the first.
RUN+: Barnum, Molk, Lewan, Toussaint RUN-:
O7 1 G Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB power Robinson 0
Molk(+1) and Barnum(+1) seal and erase the backside DL; big cutback hole. EMU has overloaded the frontside and prevented a gap from forming despite decent blocking out there; Omameh(-1) does not adjust to the reality of the play and runs up Lewan's back; Robinson(-2) misses an obvious cutback lane that would be six points.
RUN+: Molk, Barnum RUN-: Omameh, Robinson(2)
O7 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass PA rollout scramble Robinson 6
Again: stretch action we only use for PA. This is the same play we scored that TD with in the first RR game except this time instead of Shaw releasing into the flat it's Koger. Opponents have this scouted and Koger is blanketed, as is Grady. Robinson engages Tate Mode, starts running around like a lunatic, totally fails to see Toussaint alone in the endzone, and runs down to the one. That's just how he do. (SCR, N/A, N/A)
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan, Barnum RUN-:
O1 3 G Goal line 2 0 3 Goal line Run FB dive Toussaint 1
The third TE is actually Schofield, lined up at LT while Lewan lines up next to Huyge on the right. Borges loves FB dives from the one and orders one up; Toussaint leaps over the pile before EMU defenders can react.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-3, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB draw Robinson 0
More of a last year play than the power stuff we've gotten a lot of; Rawls(-1) is the RB and his lead block is running straight into the secondary. Omameh(-1) is shoved back and can't get much of a handle on his DT; Koger(-1) runs straight up his back instead of adjusting, and Denard runs into Koger. Last year these QB draw-type plays were MANBALL plays with both DTs getting doubled, and usually blown off the ball... this draw action is a little goofy given the context. RUN-: Omameh, Rawls, Koger
M25 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
I don't understand defenses this year! DE crashes down, no scraper, pull, problems for D. The playside LB does get outside Lewan, forcing a cutback that's relevant because Molk got confused because he had no one to block, looked around, and ended up not taking the overhang guy to the short side. That guy tackles. RPS +1
RUN+: Robinson RUN-: Molk
M30 3 5 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Drag Gallon 18
Gallon motions in from the outside to more of a slot-type position. EMU sends five on a zone blitz; picked up. Denard has a great pocket and finds Gallon on his drag in front of the zone. Gallon grabs the ball, runs through a tackle, and picks up a nice gain. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)
M48 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Pin and pull zone Smith 5
Argh. The totally unblocked NT follows Molk's pull, causes Molk to peel off to block. Unblocked playside DE takes out the other puller. Lewan(+2) got a great sealing block that gives the weakside LB a terrible choice; he goes upfield and around and erases himself, except he doesn't because a filling safety forces Smith back inside and gets him. This gets five yards with great play from virtually the entire O. RPS -1.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Smith, Molk RUN-:
O47 2 5 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass Tunnel screen Gallon 1
This never works. You know what would be more effective than this? Throwing it directly to Gallon. His corner is ten yards off him. RPS -1. Also EMU zone blitzes such that they have a DL in a short zone right in front of this. No chance; Gallon does well to get a yard and gets lit up for his trouble. (CA, 3, screen)
O48 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Scramble Robinson 19
EMU sends five; picked up. They're in man behind it, so when Omameh blasts the DT way upfield and a lane opens it's easy for Denard to pick up the first. RPS +1.
RUN+: Robinson, Omameh RUN-:
O29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Zone read dive Smith 6
Blitzer off the corner for contain; Robinson hands it off. Another guy on the edge is there for the cutback and gets inside of Koger, but it's not his fault. Lewan(+1) gets a good block to shove the slanting DL down the line and Smith(+1) sees the lane, hitting it for decent yardage. EMU had a good call on and M still got yards. RPS: confused.
RUN+: Smith, Lewan RUN-:
O23 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass PA Rollout comeback Roundtree Inc
More PA that uses stretch action M never runs. DE out in Robinson's face because he knows Rawls isn't getting the ball. Robinson forms up and has to throw; it's upfield of Roundtree and not a super great throw but he has to get it away from the DB and this isn't that difficult a catch. It's a 2, but with a guy in your face a 16 yard 2 is okay. The real problem is Hemingway was wiiide open for a TD because of a bust and Robinson missed him. Guy in his face, though. (CA, 2, protection N/A, RPS -1)
O23 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB iso Robinson 4
Schofield in. This is closer to last year's play. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) double the NT and proceed to drive him back. Molk(+1) then peels off to nail the MLB. The play seems to be going off tackle behind Omameh(-1) but he just passively sits and accepts the opponent like it's a draw. Last year he'd be doubling with the tackle. Denard has to cut behind Omameh, is hesitant, and then hits it up; Lewan(-1) did not control his guy and he comes off to tackle at the sticks.
RUN+: Molk(2), Schofield RUN-: Lewan, Omameh
O19 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Pin and pull zone Smith 0
Clown show: Omameh(-2) pulls and gets three yards upfield, blocking no one ever. Molk was trying to pull too and couldn't because doing so would let the NT into the backfield. Two unblocked LBs tackle Smith at the LOS. RPS -2.
RUN-: Omameh(2), Koger
O19 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Oh Noes Dileo 19
QB iso to throw, you know the drill. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +3)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-3, 1 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M12 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Shaw 3
Linebackers crashing on handoff, whatever, 28-3, no more RPS. Still think Denard should keep since his contain guy is getting nailed by Dileo; the handoff ain't right. Barnum does okay with his guy but he's slanting; cutback. The contain guy destined for Shaw thumps him. Any yards available because of Lewan.
RUN+: Lewan RUN-: Robinson
M15 2 7 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 under Pass PA Hitch Jackson 12
This is the kind of thing I am talking about. PA zone read sucks six EMU defenders in because it is an inside zone and Robinson has his choice of targets. Dileo looks tantalizing again, but Denard goes with Jackson on a five-yard hitch. Denard hits him, Jackson makes an orbit step around the defender trying to tackle and picks up the first. Vintage 2010. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
M27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB power Robinson 9
An accidental combo block from Huyge, who is taking on the playside DE, and Barnum, who is pulling on the power. Huyge blocks the DE and slides off him. He finds himself downfield, so he blocks the MLB who has slid playside. Barnum(+1) comes around to kick out the DE who slid off Huyge. This gives Denard a lane because Omameh(+1) sealed the playside DT away. Denard(+1) sees the lane and makes the cut for near first down yardage.
RUN+: Huyge, Barnum, Omameh, Robinson RUN-:
M36 2 1 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Pin and pull zone Toussaint -1
I really hate this play. The playside EMU DT reads the pull over him and pulls himself, avoiding Lewan's block and turning himself into an extra defender. EMU LB gets outside Barnum, another takes on Molk, and there is nowhere for Toussaint to go. Pulling DT(!) makes a TFL. RPS -2.
M35 3 2 Ace trips bunch 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Pitch sweep Smith 11
I called this from the stands: again, this is a play that has no relation to anything M has previously run and almost gives itself away by formation. Still works. It does so because Huyge(+2) gets playside of the playside DE and when he threatens to come under to flow down the line he adjusts beautifully to kick him away, which also gets rid of the playside DT. A sad Jackson(-1) cut block just gets him out of the play and EMU is flowing hard down the line, but Smith(+2) reads all this and cuts behind it, then jukes a safety for a good chunk more.
RUN+: Smith(2), Huyge(2) RUN-: Jackson
M46 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 under Run Zone read dive Smith 12
Good kickout of playside DT by Barnum(+1); Molk(+1) gets out on the MLB and nails him. Omameh can't get playside of his DT, which would be hard; Smith(+2) is able to slice through the narrow gap that results. Secondary converges.
RUN+: Smith(2), Barnum, Molk RUN-:
M44 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 under Pass PA Post Roundtree Inc
Motion into twins reveals man. Robinson makes a terrible decision to throw into double coverage when he had acres of space to run in and maybe Koger if he really insisted on throwing. Pass is broken up. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
M44 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-4 over Run QB power Robinson 5
Late motion seems to confuse EMU D. Koger(+1) gets a good seal on the playside DE. Dileo(-1) whiffs on the nickelback and this forces Denard(+1) to cut outside, evading the guy. Bounce robs Odoms of an angle on his guy; that guy runs Robinson OOB.
RUN+: Robinson, Koger RUN-: Dileo
M49 3 5 Shotgun trips TE 1 0 4 Okie? Pass Post Gallon 38
EMU blitzes for five rushers; picked up. With a great pocket, Denard's first read is Gallon on a post similar to the one he missed against ND late. This time he zings it into Gallon for tons of yards. (DO, 3, protection 3/3)
O13 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 6
Momentary double from Molk helps Barnum(+1) destroy the playside DT; Molk(+2) then gets out on the LB. That's basically the play. Omameh does okay with the other DT, but he flows down the line. Toussaint has room afforded by the annihilation of the other dude and does all he can to hit that hole fast for good yardage.
RUN+: Molk(2), Barnum RUN-:
O7 2 4 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 3
It seems like these guys are way more mechanical on the power than they are on the zone. Here Omameh pulls around. Okay, fine. Barnum blocks down on the playside DT, he gets a little penetration, Omameh has a tough angle to get around. He does. And then he runs right into Lewan for no friggin reason, because Lewan is blocking a dude and EMU has two LB/S types to the inside. Slow your roll, block a dude. Lewan's excellent push and Denard keeping his balance after being hit gets this near the sticks.
RUN+: Lewan, Robinson RUN-: Omameh
O4 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Pass PA TE out Koger Inc
PA fake to waggle gets Koger open, but Robinson just misses. (IN, 0, protection N/A, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: FG, 31-3, 4 min 4th Q. Last drive not charted.

Let's get to the spread/shotgun comparison.

Impatient, I see. This week the run breakdown is close: 7.8 yards from the shotgun and 7.2 from under center. Vincent Smith helped by ripping off a 38-yarder from an ace three-wide set. Here's another number: Michigan averaged 11.2 yards per carry on the zone read, which was called 15(!) times. A full breakdown follows.

  • Down G: 3 carries at 18 YPC thanks to long Smith run, 12 yarder from Robinson.
  • Pin and pull zone: 5 carries at 1.2 YPC. I may have confused some of these with Down G. I picked up an ID point in the comments of the linked Smart Football post so I'll be better about it in the future.
  • Pitch sweep: 1 for 11 yards.
  • Iso: 2 for 6 YPC.
  • Traditional QB draws: 3 for 8.3 YPC, though the bulk of those were on a "complete fiasco" Denard turned into magic.
  • Power: 12 for 3.1 YPC. This includes a single "power read"
  • Inside zone read: 15 at 11.2 YPC.

Opponents' sudden inability to defend the zone read, which seemed like a solved problem, remains mystifying. Borges isn't doing anything fancy: the TE flares out to hit the playside LB, they run inside zone, and four times a game Robinson has no one covering him. Is it a combo with all the (unsuccessful) power from the shotgun? I don't know yet, but I'll try to figure it out.

So, here you make the complaints about MANBALL.

The numbers speak for themselves, I think. I'll look into the possibility the heavy dose of power is opening up the zone reads.

And Denard?

Here we must—

I'm afraid. Hold me.


[Hey: sorry about dropping the table legend out the past couple weeks. It returns. Hit the UFR FAQ for a fuller explanation of the abbreviations, but basically the first five columns are regular old throws in decreasing order of quality (dead on, catchable, marginal, inaccurate, and bad read) and the remainder are exceptional events that do not result in a catchable pass downfield (throwaway, batted, pressure, scramble).

UPDATE: I actually put the legend back in this time. Seriously. Hover over column headers.]

2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%
EMU '11 1 10(1) - 5 1 - 1 1 1 59%

Denard didn't throw into double coverage all day—he only did it once—but that downfield accuracy remains troublesome. I don't think Denard got a lot of help from certain playcalls, about which more later, but the issues are still there.

He could have gotten some help from his receivers, though:

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - - - 2 - 3/4 1/2
Roundtree 1 - 0/1 - 1 1/2 1/2 2/2
Odoms - - - - - - - -
Grady - - - - 2 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon 1


- 3/3 1 - - 7/7
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - 1/1 - 0/1 1/1 -
Jackson - - - 1/1 - - - -
Koger 1 - 0/1 2/2 2 1/1 1/2 3/3
Moore - - - - 2 - - -
Toussaint - - - 0/1 - - - 0/1
Shaw - - - - - - - -
Smith - - - 0/1 - - - 2/3
Hopkins - - - - - - - -
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

Two flat drops and two failures to make help-me-out-here catches in 11 opportunities to catch a ball is a drag, man. Pick up three of the four and Denard's day looks a little less turrible statistically.

The OL:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 13 3 10 The most natural fit in donkey hating offense
Barnum 10 5 5 Struggled early (was –5 at one point) and recovered well
Molk 16 2 14 Ass kicking day.
Omameh 10 7 3 Pulling not a specialty
Huyge 9 2 7 Surprising amount of power run over him.
Schofield 1 - - A few plays.
Mealer - - - DNP
Moore - 2 -2 One major whiff
Koger 7 4 3 Pretty good.
TOTAL 66 25 41 The kind of numbers you put up after rushing for 376 yards. Also a TEAM –1 in here.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 18 8 10 Fumble was –3 and ultimately harmless.
Gardner - - - Not charted
Toussaint 3 - 3 Still think he's better than Smith…
Shaw - 2 -2 Hardly got a carry. Whiffed one block.
Smith 9 - 9 …but my numbers don't. Caveat: Smith –3 pass blocking.
Hopkins - - - Doghouse
Rawls - 1 -1 Comical missed block
McColgan 1 - - Early iso, then gone.
TOTAL 31 9 22 Contributions from non-Denards: can they last?
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway 2 - 2 One good block.
Odoms 2 - 2 I'm so mad about the video. Need moar mountain goat.
Gallon 1 - 1 --
Roundtree 2 - 2 AAAH block on one Denard keeper
Grady - - - --
Jackson - 1 -1 weak cut
Dileo - 1 -1 --
TOTAL 7 2 5 Productive downfield.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 15 6 71% Smith 3, Barnum 1, Omameh 1, Huyge 1
RPS 16 17 -1 not worried about this vs EMU

That's the usual crushing day you'd expect an OL to have when you average 7.5 YPC against an EMU-type opponent. The big takeaway above is Vincent Smith.

I thought you were all like "no, Vincent Smith, go away, be a complementary player, boo Vincent Smith, boo"?

You are exceptionally aggressive this year, fictional alter-ego. As to your question, well, yeah, kinda. I mean, these are the kind of holes he was offered:


It takes vision to find the offensive linemen on plays like this, not the hole. He still seems to be moving in slow motion to me, though on one run—this one, actually—it looks like he's outrunning the safety as the guy completes his pursuit. I'm a bit concerned he won't be able to get the corner or into the secondary against teams faster than the Eagles.

That said, he did pick up a lot of positives in nine carries (some were for blocking) and he seems to remain healthy. I like Toussaint better—I think he's got more upside—but Smith's earned a hunk of the carries. Let the two of them fight it out on the field.

Are you less of a sourpuss about the offensive design now?

I'm not exactly happy that we can't run from under center against the likes of Eastern Michigan, but I have to admit my reaction to the pro-style aspects of the first quarter was a lot like watching Jonathan Bornstein in a pre-World Cup friendly: if it's going to be bad I want it to be so bad that not even Bob Bradley thinks it's a good idea to keep it up when things count for real*. Twenty-six Denard carries later that seems established.

*[If we're extending this metaphor to its logical conclusion, the pro-style will be forced onto the field by events beyond the coaches' control during the Big Ten season and be surprisingly serviceable before being exiled to the dustbin of history.]

So… somewhat. I'm still mystified why they keep running this pin and pull zone, which seems incredibly vulnerable to slants and the like and doesn't seem to, like, work. Ever. It's a play that gets to the outside. I know the zone stretch is like drinking the wrong kind of light beer made from rice and by Europeans, but we're good at drinking those.

And then, you know, it's like… I'm just…


This should never happen. Michigan should not allow opponents to align like this without putting a bubble in their face. They'd run Smith for five, which is good, I guess, but there's an obvious risk of not getting that five that is not there if you throw the bubble. Lloyd threw the bubble. It's okay!

And then I'm all like just you know…


This ended up being a Gallon tunnel screen for zero yards when just throwing it to the dude is a first down. Tunnel screens may work in offenses where you have a bunch of guys roaring upfield because they need pass rush. In this offense you have a bunch of guys being extraordinarily careful not to give Denard rushing lanes and always extra guys in the box. I mean…


…that's not good eats. Okay, this was a zone blitz that got lucky, but they gave you a first down by alignment. Take the first down! Don't throw screens into the box when there are extra guys in the box! Death to the tunnel screen!



So by "somewhat" you mean not at all, then.

These are admittedly nits. If you're ever going to RPS yourself into a bloody forehead it should be against Eastern, and Michigan didn't even do that thanks to everyone's inexplicable ability to defend a zone read.

The thing that concerns me for the immediate future is the grab-bag nature of the offense. Many of the misdirection plays not copped from last year's offense (ie oh noes) are not actually alternatives to the things we actually run. The throwback screen against ND is a great example. That played off our offense's tendency to… roll the pocket from under center on first and ten? That worked once. It won't work consistently.

The best example of this is Michigan's rollout play action from the shotgun, which is an exact replica of what Rodriguez used to do. The problem: it uses stretch action and Michigan's stretch count this year is… zero. If you see stretch blocking it has been 100% PA this year. Eastern was wise to this.

Usual disclaimers apply: Borges is a smart dude. Dragging the throwback screen out did work. I enjoy the coordinator pressers so, so hard.


Most of the offensive line with special commendation to Molk and Lewan. Ground Denard. Vincent Smith.


Air Denard.

What does it mean for SDSU and the future?

We keep moving more towards a spread offense that uses Denard's legs to get receivers open enough for Denard's arms to hit them. "Moving towards" might be a understating it after Robinson had 26 carries for 198 yards against Eastern. In retrospect, I kind of think the odd decision to have Denard out there running with a 28-3 lead on EMU was less about getting the offense practice and more about getting Borges practice.

So, expect Michigan to come out next week with Denard's legs as the focus early; SDSU will be an opponent to respect for at least 45 minutes and probably 60. Borges knows Long pretty well but Long doesn't know what Borges will do with Denard, largely because I'm not sure Borges does. I doubt we'll see stuff from under center until the second quarter. I'm hoping we see more pieces that fit together this week.

Long term, this is still Denard's offense, which means Borges has to get him in his comfort zone throwing. They also have to either tighten up their power game or consider wussy basketball on grass, because the manball is not operational yet.