According to Pat Forde, Notre Dame is interviewing Al Borges this week for their OC Position.
According to Pat Forde, Notre Dame is interviewing Al Borges this week for their OC Position.
Some comments on the locker room issues thread got me thinking. Or datamining, anyway, I don't know how much thinking was involved.
RockinLoud and Johnvand suggested Hoke might be forcing Nussmeier to play a style he didn't necessarily want to play, the offensive problems now being "eerily reminiscent" of the defense under RR.
Of course with RR we had clear evidence that this was happening because they were running a 3-3-5 that neither of the coordinators ever ran before or since. I didn't see anything similar happening now but Gobgoblue pointed out that Alabama had more of a vertical passing game last year than Michigan has now.
Well, that's something that might leave a tangible mark in the box score, so I pulled some stats from Nussmeier's offenses since he became an OC: the percentage of play calls that are runs (sacks are included here of course but they don't impact the percentages all that much), and yards per completion, which might serve as a measure of route depth. Anything over 13 is a pretty big number; over 15 is mad-bomber territory unless you're running a triple option and only throwing a few times per game.
|2008 Fresno St.||56.3%||12.1|
The run/pass mix hasn't changed, but yards per completion are definitely down.
The problem is, YPC only measures the ones you catch. Are we not throwing the ball downfield, or are we just not completing the downfield balls we throw? That's impossible to tell from the box scores, we'd need charts of Alabama's offense to know.
The next chart's more interesting. Here's Al Borges's career:
When Borges and Hoke first hooked up, Al passed more than he ever had before. Even the second year when they had Ronnie Hillman running rampant the run/pass mix was still at the low end of Borges's career numbers.
And then they came to Michigan and it turned upside down.
Yes. Denard. True. But in 2013 when Denard was gone and the run game had collapsed they were still running the ball more than they had with Hillman.
Something happened between 2010 and 2011 and it wasn't Brady Hoke because, thankfully, the experiment was constructed so that variable was held constant.
What changed was the move from San Diego to Ann Arbor, not the coaches. And my unfounded suspicion is that a decision was taken to rebrand Michigan football.
We can change coaches all we want. As long as the brand is more important than the product, this isn't going to get fixed.
Continuity, establishing an identity, that I understand. These 180-degree turnarounds in philosophy are damaging; you want the players you recruit to get to play in a system that works for them. But if the managing of public perceptions starts influencing coaching decisions, it's a problem.
Interesting article on Doug Nussmeier and how he'll "simplify and fortify" the offense. Really good take, imo, on Borges and gives some clues on the approach Nussmeier will bring. Includes some simple concepts and film of what Nuss used at Alabama, and looks like they might fit well here.
Earlier this year I read a bunch of tea leaves, and suggested that we could explain our fortunes using George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels as metaphor. I planned to do a post-mortem, but got lazy/depressed by our bowl game performance and then Seth beat me to it. So this post isn't really about the past so much as what our SHINY NEW OC promises for our future (preview: zone blocking). But first, the perfunctory conclusion:
Our season is either A Dance with Dragons, if you prefer the preseason scheme--a meandering and listless journey through something and then something else, which has its moments but ultimately leaves you frustrated at the huge investment of time in an mediocre book that failed to live up to your expectations. Or, if you prefer the version written in the throes of alcohol-fueled post-Sparty misery, The Hedge Knight, described at the time as "a third-rate garbage time-waster," whatever that means.
Like many of you, I have mixed feelings about Al Borges’ tenure in Ann Arbor. When he came on board in 2011, he was basically tasked with not cratering Rich Rodriguez’ offense while introducing some West Coast/pro-style concepts into the mix (man blocking, pulling, route progressions, etc.). And I think he did an admirable job—not only holding serve in most respects, but also getting better production out of the running back position than we’d had in 2010. While overall performance declined in 2012, that can be attributed to three factors: a much more difficult schedule, which had us play the eventual AP #s 1, 2, 3 and 4; the graduation of David Molk; and Denard’s injury against Nebraska. The only thing I can really blame Al for would be the decision to go with Russell Bellomy rather than Devin Gardner as Denard’s backup—despite Gardner’s clear talent advantage and Denard’s propensity for coming out of games injured. Well, that and the INT problem, which actually began in 2011.
2013, though, was a different story. There are two basic theories of why our offense declined so precipitously: a) we didn’t scheme as much as throw a bunch of plays together; and b) we couldn’t execute plays that would have worked if we’d had different (i.e. more experienced) personnel. Both are true, and interrelated. While we certainly didn’t have experience in key areas, and especially the interior OL, we also insisted on running plays inexperienced offensive lines are unlikely to execute well. Compounding matters, there was no cohesiveness and not enough repetition to the things we ran, which meant guys on the OL weren’t put in position to improve over the course of the year. The result: TFLs, sacks, interceptions and lots of unmanageable 3rd downs.
In 2014, we looked to have the same problems in different places. While the whole interior OL was set to return (and likely to improve), we were also going to lose our two tackles to the NFL, as well as our most reliable receiver/Gardner’s safety blanket. Thus if we were to try to run a lot of different plays predicated on complex blocking schemes, as Borges clearly favored, we were going to run into similar problems to the ones that bedeviled us in 2013.
While I’ve always been convinced (and remain so) that Borges probably would have been successful by 2015 (when all his favored pieces would have beeen in place and we would have also been gifted with a favorable schedule), the fact is that our 2013 performance was so underwhelming that the fan base lost its patience. Were we to have another suboptimal year in 2014 (which our schedule and said roster changes suggest as a distinct possibility), it would have been likely to create problems for recruiting and probably put Hoke himself on the hot seat. So something had to change, and Al was the guy in the most precarious position.
Was it fair? Yes and no. We also played poorly on defense at times. The K State game in particular appeared to validate concerns about the awfulness of our “bend but don’t break” strategy this year. I mean, shout at Al Borges all you want, but it’s not his fault we gave up too many points to Akron, UCONN, Penn State, Indiana and Ohio. Without much pass rush from the DL, a mediocre secondary and a couple LBs who were just terrible in pass coverage, “the right to rush four” more often translated as “the right to sit back and wait for the other team to successfully execute yet another slow-developing crossing pattern.” This was not the defense we fielded in 2011 or 2012.
But on the other hand, the defense was young and didn’t feature 3 guys about to end up in the NFL, while Mattison is still the guy who turned our historically bad 2010 defense into the elite defense we fielded in 2011. And we looked poised to take a big leap forward on the defensive side in 2014, whereas we did not on offense.
The news that we’d canned Borges elicited a mix of relief and concern—that we’d endure another “Process,” that we’d eventually settle a GERG to follow Borges-Schafer, that we’d potentially lose out on prized recruits and, most troublingly of all, that we might embark on yet another chaos-inducing strategic/philosophic transformation. Never in a million years did I believe Saban's weird thing for Lane Kiffin would push his extremely competent OC into our arms (and not, say, into a head coaching position at a major school).
Make no mistake: Nussmeier is the best pro-style OC not currently a head coach somewhere, and is about as close to a sure thing as you get in this business. In his last two stints, he’s overseen a successful reclamation project at Washington and provided a significant performance boost to an already efficient Alabama offense. He’s known as an elite QB mentor, while Alabama’s performance from the OL and RB positions speak for themselves. Plus he represents a good fit for our personnel and the kind of kids we’re recruiting, so we won’t have to endure yet another multiyear vision quest to get to the proverbial promised land of elite offensive performance.
The Zone! The Zone! The Zone!
Keeping that in mind, Nussmeier does promise some significant changes to how we approach offensive football, particularly in how we block and run—the two biggest deficiencies of our 2013 offense.
Nussmeier’s system is built the simplest, most efficient base run play: Inside Zone. Why is this such a big deal? Consider what happened when Denard graduated. In 2010 our base run play was a QB Iso, which follows zone blocking. In 2011 and 2012 it was the Inverted Veer (to QB), which follows “Power O” blocking—a system that has elements in common with zone blocking, but which prefers the guard to pull and block a guy who's either covered by the blocker in his zone or optioned off. This worked in large part because we had Denard running behind a fairly experienced OL. Exit Denard and 3 starting OL and in 2013 we decided to go with a collection of plays usually associated with zone blocking and single-back formations, but featuring pulling guards and Power O blocking, fullbacks and general confusion. “Zone” Stretch Left and the various doomed attempts to power up the middle actually started pretty well, but cratered against Akron and got worse as the year went on.*
Here’s why Inside Zone is the solution to most, if not all, of our run blocking problems: because it’s the simplest play to block for, because you can run it from under center, shotgun or pistol, because you can run it with one or two backs and—crucially—wherever your team fits on this increasingly complicated Venn diagram, the blocking scheme does not need to change dramatically. The OL just blocks the guy in front of him, and if there’s no guy in front of him, he goes and blocks the next guy in his zone. It’s a relatively simple read that is basically designed to mitigate things like inexperience and being too small/weak, while still providing rewards for experience, size, speed and strength.
As a consequence, Inside Zone works equally well for both the little speedy Oregons and the big, muscular Wisconsins and Alabamas. Inside Zone has, furthermore, been the dominant base run play in the NFL since Mike Shannahan started using it with Denver in the late 1990s. Of more direct concern for us is how well it’s worked for Alabama, as this primer explains in detail.
Inside Zone has another advantage--flexibility:
The majority of the time in a zone blocking scheme the tailback will follow the design of the play, but occasionally the tailback will perform a cutback and change direction during the run. A cutback is when the tailback changes direction and runs away from where the linebackers are flowing (the tailback can only do this once and must not hesitate). This cutback made by the tailback is what makes zone blocking so dangerous because of how easily a cutback can lead to a big play. The cutback exaggerates the advantages of the zone-blocking scheme.
Watch this video highlighting Texas’ use of Inside Zone to see this point illustrated nicely, not only for cutbacks, but for alternate read options.
More importantly, for those of us scarred by the semirandom-collection-of-formations-and-plays approach pioneered in 2013, there’s also these tidbits from an ex-player on Saban's thinking on Inside Zone, which Nussmeier brings to Ann Arbor from Tuscaloosa:
Q. Is the inside zone a play, or a series of plays?
A. It’s a scheme. It’s a concept. You can have play-action off the inside zone. You can line up in the same exact formation and run the outside zone. The difference between inside zone and outside zone is just your aiming point and footwork. You’re still trying to accomplish the same thing. The backs end up going a little wider. As an offensive lineman, you’re aiming for the defender a little wider for leverage. What you’re trying to accomplish is the same thing. We run the zone out of several formations, but you can’t always tell if it’s inside zone or outside zone. You’ve got to read linemen and read running backs. It’s definitely not a play. There are many variations, formations. There’s a lot of stuff you can do out of it.
Q. How do you explain Alabama running this scheme so well?
A. On the first day of spring practice, the first day of training camp, the first play we install is the inside zone play. That’s kind of what everything else in the playbook evolves from. They get a lot of reps every single day. When it comes to those crucial moments when it’s something to lean on, those guys are very well prepared to execute it, no matter how good the front seven is or how big the nose guard is. They repeat it and take a lot of pride in it. There’s certainly an asterisk on it in Tuscaloosa.
Do those sound like philosophical concepts we missed in 2013, and to an extent throughout the Hoke/Borges era? They do to me.
For the schematically minded, here are some diagrams of Alabama's Inside Zone against a base 3-4 and base 4-3 (unfortunately a pdf, so not embedded). Here are more diagrams:
Passing behind Zone Blocking
The main disadvantage, of course, is the inferiority of zone blocking as a conduit to playaction, as this article from Smart Football describes. And Borges did dial up some wicket playaction in 2013. But I often found myself wondering: without a credible run game, wouldn’t simple designed pass plays without the fake work just as well, if not better?
Traditional thinking about zone blocking is that you prefer smaller, speedier guys for your run game whose performance doesn’t quite translate to pass protection, so you need fast developing pass plays that mitigate this disadvantage. Hitches, screens, slants, naked bootlegs and an expanded role for pass-catching RBs/TEs mark zone blocking schemes from early-2000s USC to, well, most of the others.
But Nussmeier’s system at Alabama wasn’t quite like that. His OL were, as a rule, massive and more capable of sustaining their blocks than is often the case in offenses that utilize zone blocking. Part of this is due to the insane multiyear recruiting bonanza Alabama has enjoyed under Saban (and which is undoubtedly buttressed by that whole oversigning thing). But Nussmeier has done an excellent job developing young and talented OL—exactly what we need someone to do. Yet like Borges, he isn’t so much about dink-and-dunk as setting up the opportunity to go vertical. This is, then, a playaction-friendly version of the zone blocking scheme.
In sum, we look like we’ve landed the one guy who appears like both an extension of the upsides to the Borges era and a well-timed departure from its failings. I’ll miss Al as a personality and thank him for all the great games he called over the past few years (Notre Dame 2013, Nebraska 2011, etc.)—and certainly wish him and his family the best in all future endeavors. Like Rich Rod, there were better things on the horizon, but that horizon was still too far off, and there was too much uncertainty and disillusionment involved to continue down that path. As such, this hire really looks like move in the right direction.
*Note: we did run some Inside Zone this year--just not consistently or as a base run play except in a couple games towards the end.
Just post possibilities to replace Borges. No discussion: just post names and where they come from. If you are feeling extra generous, you can lay out the whole resume too.
My favorite album of all-time...sadly fitting for the 2013 football season
I'm taking a brief break from grading the position groups to
comment vent about the Copper Bowl and the program in general. Brian's post today was alarmingly similar to my feelings (usually he is far more emo than I am) about the game and the program in general.
What Brady Hoke and his supporters (myself included) has always been able to hang his hat on is that his teams play hard. They don't always play well, but they do play hard. Always.
The Copper Bowl was not just a failure to play defense (we allowed 6.56 yds/play and let KSU covert 7 of 11 third downs) or score TDs despite a surprisingly efficient first-half offense (finished the game at 4.92 yds/play...but only had 53 plays), but it was a failure to show-up.
This sums-up our 2013 season
After spending the entire season trying really hard and not getting good results due to a variety of factors (youth, play-calling, missed assignments, etc) the team was in too much pain to try to crack another coconut. Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison's defense--for the first time--simply didn't appear to have the will to put up another fight.
Those who believe the guillotine would be too kind of a punishment for Al Borges after this season might not want to admit it, but the offensive gameplan was pretty effective. Shane Morris has an unbelievable arm and can make throws that no Michigan QB since Drew Henson could even think about, but his decision-making isn't there yet, as evidenced by what happened late when he was asked to read the whole field and make throws into 8-man coverages. Borges understood this and designed a screen game that let shane make throws but avoided forcing him to pick which guy to throw to. We moved the ball and even tried a fade to Funchess in the endzone...but couldn't score a TD. The offense appeared to be giving effort for at least a few drives, but couldn't get it done. Then they gave-up too: we didn't even hurry when we were down 24-6 with 8:06 remaining.
For the first time in Brady Hoke's tenure, the team simply didn't appear to try. This is sad, alarming, and needs to be addressed. Obviously, Greg Mattison did not become a bad coach between the Ohio game and this debacle. And Hoke did not lose his powers of motivation. But what is clear is that if you give your full effort over-and-over and get nothing but pain, at some point, your body might just say, "not today."
I am someone who believes in looking at the whole picture. The 2013 season's failures are not on the shoulders of just one person (or even two or three) in my estimation; rather a confluence of many unfortunate factors fused into a nuclear disaster. And while there are many reasons for the meltdown, there must be some accountability for what happened in that bowl game.
All that said, if we put together a 10-win season in 2014 and win one of the MSU/OSU games (or both) we will be right back in the hunt as a B1G contender, and the positive momentum could push closer to our goal or returning to national prominence. On the other hand, if we slog to an eight-win (or worse) total in 2014, we risk becoming solidified as a second-tier team...until we re-build again.
Make no mistake about it: that bowl game showing has very real consequences. For the first time, a Brady Hoke team didn't even show-up. And that means 2014 just became even more important to the future of this program and the job-security of everyone on the staff.
Warning, I have a feeling this entry is going to be a little longer than my typical diary, bordering on TL:DR length. But that's OK, since this is my "own personal section of MGoBlog, to post in" as I like. If you don't like it, feel free to scroll down to the link.
If you check my avatar, you'll see I joined this Blog in September, 2010, for Rich Rod's last season. I spent that first season making ridiculous comparisons between Cam Gordon and Ronnie Lott. I was a freshman. For as many good posts that I made that first year, I metaphorically jumped offsides numerous times, a la Kyle Kalis. Once I got the hang of things around here, I think I started improving. Heck, Misopogon (as he was known back in the day) even bumped one of my board topics to the diary section at the start of my sophomore season. I've been bringing you the link to the boxscore ever since. Why do I do this? My reason back then was that I thought that something was missing from this Blog. Every sports section I read as a kid had a page of boxscores. How can one truly appreciate what happened in a game if one does not have numbers to back up their feelings? Quantitative analysis uber alles! Besides, I figured that you, the MGoReader, were going to go to MGoBlue.com anyway, so the least I could do for the blog is to provide a link and get a few more page views (read: advertising dollars) for the Blog, since I was too cheap to contribute to the Beveled Guilt.
I don't know who to attribute this quote to, but someone once said of freshmen, the greatest thing about them is they become sophomores. I expect dramatic improvement from Kalis and all the other freshmen who saw the field this season, and from the few who were redshirted. I guess that leaves me cautiously optimistic about Team 135. I won't be predicting a 13-1 season for them like I did for Team 134 (yes, I seriously underestimated the effect that an inexperienced interior offensive line would have on the offense. I should know better.) Getting back to me for a moment. Metaphorically, I'm finishing up my senior season on the Blog. The question for me is, did I redshirt that first year with my ridiculous comments? Or is there some youngster out there with a tribal tattoo on his left biceps and a penchant for writing about boxscores? Should I step aside for him/her, oh who am I kidding, him, and start writing about the Detroit Lions' boxscores? Part of me says it's time to step aside. I feel the same way after a grueling fantasy baseball season, but come March, I'm first in line to sign back up. I'll see how I feel in August.
Since this is my personal section of MGoBlog, I want to take the opportunity to address the 800 pound gorilla, the 500 pound elephant, and the 90 pound mole on Ginny Sacrimoni's butt.* These items are, in order, "fickle fans," "mailing it in," and the decision to go for two. First, the "fickle fans" comment. I took a swipe at the students in my Rush song parody post earlier in the week. I apologize. Even though the now omnipresent empty rows at the top of the student section were once again visible, I saw hardly any red in that sea of yellow pom-poms. However, in the alumni section, while not quite a sea of red, numerous buckeyes were spotted. Maybe that's because it's harder to scalp student tickets. I don't know. I do know that the renovated Big House provides our team with one of the better home field advantages in college football, and it's a shame to give that up due to being 17 point underdogs. During the first half, as Michigan kept taking the lead, I began to sense the makings of the Bill Simmons classic, "No one believed in us game." Now, I don't think Brady Hoke called the fans fickle to build on that, "no one believes in you, let's go prove them wrong" mentality, but it didn't hurt. The players sure came out motivated to win one for THE TEAM, THE TEAM, THE TEAM. But like Brian, I was upset at Brady for calling out the fans, the ones who indirectly pay his salary.
Next up, "Mailing it in." I was recently assigned a mentee from the University of Michigan's College of Engineering. In our initial meeting, one of the things he mentioned that he'd like to get out of our partnership is an understanding of how I balance work and life. I've given this some thought, and I think the advice I'd give him or you or Brian, for whatever it's worth, is when you are starting out in your career, you should choose to put your career first. When I was a grad student at UofM, the first paper I had to give was at a conference that was scheduled the week after Thanksgiving. My experiments were not going as expected and I found myself a few charts short of a full presentation with a few days to go prior to my flight. As Thanksgiving approached, it dawned on me that I was going to have to choose between Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and getting that extra data that would make my talk more meaningful. So I worked till 5pm on Thanksgiving day, grabbed a couple students from Hong Kong who had nowhere else to go for Thanksgiving, and headed to the Grand Buffet. Of course, by 6pm on Thanksgiving, they were completely out of Turkey, and every other meat product, so I think I had soup, spaghetti, and garlic bread for dinner. Twenty years later, I'm established in my career. I'm happy where I'm at workwise, so I took Wednesday off and wrote a silly song parody for MGoBlog. Time and situations matter. Prince looked cool wearing a puffy shirt in the movie Purple Rain. Ten years later, Jerry Seinfeld made a whole episode around the puffy shirt. "But I don't want to look like a pirate!" So if Brian Cook decides to take a week off and not write up UFRs, I think that says more about the success of this blog than anything else. He has built something great here, and if he wants to spend Turkey Day with family, more power to him. But if the same urge hits next year, might I suggest assigning the defensive UFR to Heiko and the offense to Ace. Present it to them as a learning experience and an opportunity to take on a stretch assignment. They are young. They can write up the UFRs and then head to the Grand Buffet for soup and salad and complain about their boss.
Third, the "go for 2" decision. I'm going to focus on this more in the sections after the link. In defense of Brady's decision, I should just point out that Lou Holtz thought he should go to OT and leave it at that. Pardon the war metaphor, but I think it gets my point across. We are in a battle with Ohio State. So far, we are winning the war, 58-45-6, but OSU is catching up quicker than we'd like. There are a couple sports-related things that I'd prefer not to witness in my lifetime. One is having some team catch us in all-time wins, and two is Ohio State taking the edge in the all-time record. While we lost the battle this year, I think Brady's decision to go for two will help us in the future. Recruits like uniformz and coaches with onions. Brady is a players' coach and a guy I'd want to go to war with. That can only help with recruiting. The future is, dare I say it, bright. Highlighter yellow bright.
*I watched the series finale of the Soprano's on Friday. I watched the earlier seasons numerous times. It seems every time I'd introduce the show to someone else, I'd start from the beginning and rewatch the series. So I probably saw season one 7 times, season two 6 times, and so on and so forth. I recently realized that I haven't rewatched the final season since watching the final episode that left me wanting more answers. As I sat watching that final episode again, I felt myself hoping for a different ending, as crazy as that sounds. But then, when Steve Perry sang, "Don't Stop," that final time, the realization sunk in that the ending is set in stone. I may not like it (I don't) but I'm going to have to live with it. What does this have to do with football? I suspect that sometime in the future, say 5 to 10 years from now, ESPN Classic or the B1G Network will reshow this UofM / OSU game and label it as a classic. I'll probably watch a few minutes until remembering how the game ends, and then I will sadly change the channel. For however great this game was (especially for fans of offensive football) the ending will always be the same, and that sucks.
Burst of Impetus
* On our first possession, Gardner threw a screen to Gallon that went for 84 yards. On one play, we accumulated more than half the yardage we put up against Iowa. We effectively said to Ohio State, "If you want to dress like Indiana, we're going to treat you like Indiana." Eventually, the impetus faded and Ohio State was able to build a 14 point lead and seemingly take control of the game. However, Michigan never gave up. A huge forced fumble got us back in the game (hey, Todd Blackledge, STFU, that was not a "gift" turnover. Michigan raked that ball free.) After the Penn State game, and after I calmed down a little, I rescinded my call to fire Borges. Instead, I said he should be evaluated at season's end. Before the game, I thought he was dead man walking (hence, the Ballad of Borges.) Now? I just don't know. The team did not quit on him like they did with Rodriguez. Call me crazy, but if Devin comes back for a 5th season, and I think and hope he will, I think he and Borges deserve an opportunity to finish what they started. Handing Devin another new coordinator in year 5 just continues the chaos.
* I know, no politics or religion, but the pun was unavoidable. Ben Gedeon, Thomas Gordon, and Raymon Taylor led us with 6 tackles each. Joe Bolden was 4th with 5 tackles. The young linebackers played well at times, but they were dealing with OSU linemen seemingly on every play. Perhaps Ross would have more quickness to avoid some blocks, but I think he's a little undersized and would get trucked by Hyde like everyone else.
* We had 18 players in the defensive stats to Ohio's 20. That may be the first time that the opposition has had more players show up in the defensive stats. That's partly due to Michigan running 82 plays to Ohio's 61, and our depth being hurt due to injuries.
* Frank Clark only had one tackle. We needed more production out of him. He did have one QH that wasn't credited to him. OK, I'll admit it, I have no idea what constitutes a QH. I thought it was a QB hurry or QB hit, but Clark deposited Miller on his backside early in the game and doesn't have a QH to show for it.
* QWash didn't register a stat. If he was commanding double teams and freeing up linebackers, that would be acceptable. Instead, Ohio averaged 8.5 YPC.
* I don't know how to defend the spread. The folks that claimed it wouldn't work in the Big Ten are swimming around aimlessly in a fetid soup of cognitive dissonance today. I saw numerous posters after the game complain that Mattison didn't put 8 or 9 in the box to stop Hyde. What, and leave two wide receivers completely uncovered? The best you can do against the spread is put 7 in the box and go man-to-man with the WRs. But then you need your 4th best cover corner to stay with their WR, and if the running back breaks through the box, there is no safety to clean up. No, the best you can hope for is to win one-on-one battles along the line and get to the mesh point before they can option you. We did this once with Jake Ryan. Auburn did this numerous times to Oregon in the championship game a few years ago when Fairly and some other dude shut down Oregon. We don't have the Fairly and other dudes we need on the d-line yet.
* Gardner finished 32 for 45 for 451 yards and 4 TDs. That's good for 71%. So getting back to the end-of-game situation. A successful pass basically wins the game. He's 71% for the day. That beats a 50/50 chance in OT. Additionally, he couldn't walk anymore, so that somewhat limits your attack in OT.
* ABC showed that Gardner had thrown 110 passes without an interception, as if trying to jinx him into a poor throw. DAMN YOU ABC!!! And yet, according to Todd Blackledge, Gardner has turnover problems. I see pro quarterbacks throw INTs all the time. Yes, I watch the Lions, how did you know? I think Gardner is being held up to a ridiculously high standard. Yes, I'd like to see fewer INTs next year, and better ball control, but stuff happens. Even the great and powerful Carlos Hyde fumbles occassionally.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* We have a running game to talk about, whoo-hoo! A week after I noticed that De'Veon Smith had exactly one yard lost this season, in the season of TFLs, he led us with 57 yards on 7 carries. That was boosted by a 38 yard run, but again, he had no carries of negative yardage. (I thought I saw Kalis trip him up in the backfield for a yard loss, but the boxscore doesn't lie.) Smith runs north and south and gets to the hole quickly. He may miss some gaping holes as a result, but the negative plays are minimized. I like the way he runs. I wish he had 4 years of eligibility left.
* Derrick Green had 12 carries and no lost yards.
* Fitz Toussaint had 5 carries and no lost yards.
* Imagine what the odds would have been for Michigan running the ball 24 times with RBs and having zero lost yards. All this behind an offensive line starting it's 5th different left guard of the season. Kudos to Kyle Kalis for not giving up, fighting back, and earning his starting spot again.
* I thought Kerridge's blocking was much improved, except for one pass block where he got shoved into Gardner. I'd rather he attack the defender than try to backpedal while staying in front of the defender.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* What more can be said about Jeremy Gallon? He'll go down as one of the all-time greats.
* What was truly impressive about the receiving stats is that 9 different players caught passes. That kind of diversity prevents the defense from focusing on two receivers, helping everybody get open. Jake Butt caught five balls for 85 yards and a TD, and caused me to exclaim, "WIDE OPEN BUTT," and "GO BUTT!"
* Dileo caught five passes, and a few of them were not 4 yard button hooks that the defense knows is coming. Regarding the 2 point conversion, I watched the first two Michigan drives again this morning. On the second TD, we were lined up just like we were for the 2 point play. Instead of passing to Dileo, Gardner ran the option away from the triple stack and basically waltzed into the endzone untouched. I think that would have worked again, assuming Gardner still had the ability to move his legs. The TD occurred 3 hours earlier, so I think the Ohio defense would have forgotten about it by then. Oh well. I really shouldn't complain about one bad play call out of 82.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet had the kick return we were all waiting for called back by a bogus holding call. The blocker had his hands inside the defender's jersey, the defender was backpedaling, and a third player bumped into the M blocker and ohio defender. This caused the ohio guy to lose his balance and get pancaked. How was that a holding penalty? If that's holding, you could call Ohio's o-line for holding every play. It seems they are coached up to grab the defender by the name on the back of his jersey and shove him where they want.
Go for the Win
* In overtime, you need 25 yards to score a TD. I checked the drive chart, thinking this would confirm my gut feeling that going for 2 was the right call. Ohio State had 11 real possessions. They gained at least 25 yards on 7 of them. Michigan had 11 real drives (not counting the end of half because Brady didn't try to mount a drive.) We gained at least 25 yards on 8 of them. Hmmm, maybe Lou Holtz was right.
* We had 31 first downs to their 23. So our offense was at least as consistent as their's, if not moreso. Hmmm, I'm really starting to doubt myself.
* Yeah, but Ohio State averaged 8.6 yards per play. That's basically a TD in OT every three plays. Yeah, but we averaged 7.4 yards per play, that's hardly a significant difference.
* But we gained our yards passing while they gained their's running, and more bad things can happen passing than running (sacks, incompletions, interceptions.)
* In addition, our starting FG kicker was in street clothes and our QB was a bag of bones loosely held together by duct-tape and chewing gum.
* OK, I convinced me, go for the win. Everything was perfect, except for the final play when the guy with the members only jacket emerged from the bathroom and put a bullet in our collective temple. We never saw it coming.