Upon Further Review 2012: Offense vs MSU Comment Count

Brian October 25th, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Formation notes: MSU's defense is very simple, with few substitutions or wacky formations. They spent most of the game in a 4-3 even with linebackers shaded to the slot. Like so:


Shotgun 2TE twins for M

They would go into an okie package with two deep safeties on passing downs:


Shotgun 3-wide for M

When Michigan split their WRs this was the preferred look:


Also shotgun 3-wide

MSU screwed their corners down into press man and walked their safeties up to about nine yards deep, ready to roar downhill at any run action. You won't get any bubble complaints from me in this game—it wasn't there.

This is "Ace Triple Stack" as a reminder:


Yes, throwback screen obvs.

Substitution notes: Few surprises here. Line all starters; TE rotation about as it has been. No RBs other than Toussaint and Smith made appearances; Gardner was not announced as a starter and got a lot fewer snaps than he has previously. Speculation is he's carrying some sort of injury. Joe Reynolds got his first snaps in a heated situation—all were runs. More about that later.

Shew shew.

[……IS BEHIND THE JUMP! There are lot of embeds this week and I've gotten some complaints that UFRs bog people's browsers down—hmmm wonder why—so taking most of the junk off the front page should help in that regard.]

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 4-3 even Run QB sweep Robinson 0 – 9 Pen
Funchess(-2) stacked behind Gallon to the boundary. He's supposed to crack down on Gholston; Gholston is slanting behind as soon as he sees the pull and gets between the two pulling linemen. He picks off Mealer; Funchess does not abort and slams into Schofield. No lead blockers left save Toussaint, free run for Bullough. RPS -1; attempt to be clever with this run pattern just ended up having two Michigan players thwock into each other and let Gholston shoot a gap. Lewan(hypothetical -2) picks up a dumb personal foul the refs probably let go if this game didn't feature thugtastic MSU play last year.
M9 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 1
Gallon comes in to take an end around fake; likely not a read. Barnum(-2) dominated by the NT. Lewan(-1) whiffs a free release block on Bullough; slot LB is crashing hard so Funchess can't do anything about it. Omameh(+1) has to set up in the backfield to deal with that LB and chucks him past the play, giving Denard what would be a crease if not for the playside OL not being able to block anyone. Almost another RPS -1 but they at least had guys who could block enough people here to get some kind of gain.
M10 3 18 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Run Inverted veer give Toussaint 10
Three man front with linebackers in the gaps and safeties playing back. Ends up being no contain for the handoff, so it's handed off. A give up and punt, though, so no pluses handed out when the opposition doesn't even care.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 10 min 1st Q. Michigan at least picks up 17 yards on the exchange of punts.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 0
No MSU player deeper than nine yards. LBs charging at snap; Norman meets Toussaint(-1) two yards in the backfield and Fitz gets clocked. Safety filling hard forces Denard away from space, safety still tackles at the LOS. RPS -2, safety tackles at LOS and linebacker makes contact with slight RB in backfield. Omameh(+1) and Schofield(+1) had blown up a playside DT and walled off Bullough; Kwiatkowski(+0.5) kicked the other DT. Nice hole, well blocked, no chance. Picture paged by BWS.
M19 2 10 Ace triple stack TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Gallon 22
Jackson motions away from the stack before the snap. When that happens the safety backs out and Norman scoots over to give MSU two on two near the LOS, and then MSU busts something. Gholston chases the lame handoff fake; Norman is charging inside and upfield, which is weird because what is he going to do? He runs himself out of the play to such a huge extent that two offensive linemen run by him before his lightbulb goes off. Schofield(+0.5) misses a running lunge at an MSU safety but did so in a position that gives Gallon(+1) an interior lane as Omameh(+0.5) got the easy seal on Norman. Roundtree(+1) has locked up the CB. Fuggin' Bullough manages to track it down twenty yards downfield as Gallon attempts to cut it back outside Roundtree. Jebus. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)
M41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run End around Gallon 3
Funchess(-1) in the slot; he cracks down on nobody, letting Norman fly by. Omameh can't get outside on him anyway and probably isn't supposed to since on a pull he would need to kick it out. Playside DE flares to contain. Toussaint blocks him, S attacks hard and comes inside to tackle at the sticks. RPS -1, safety tackle at LOS.
M44 2 7 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 1
MSU tips double A gap, M runs into it. Like, directly into it. Kwiatkowski eats Norman a yard in the backfield and Denard has to cut behind. Barnum(+1) buries the backside DT; Kerridge can't cut Gholston as he redirects back inside—he's blocking him as if Toussaint has the ball. Robinson can dance for a yard or two. I do not know if this is a read or not, but I have to assume it is. Denard (-1); hand off after they tip they're blitzing into your face. Lewan(+1) had a badass block on the backside DT, which helped this get across the LOS.
M45 3 6 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass TE out Kwiatkowski 10
For whatever reason MSU's coverage here is very soft on the edge versus the two TE setup. Funchess hits the LB, then releases into an out; Kwiatkowski just runs an out and turns it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson -3
Reynolds in. Run. Look at this formation for MSU! There is one guy anywhere near the two receivers, a smash combo or curl/flat is guaranteed yards. They're treating Reynolds like he can't go downfield. MSU blitzes six guys. Michigan has a veer variant on where they're reading someone to the interior and blocking the end. I don't know what Denard's(-3) looking at, but whoever he is looking at is inside and he should hand, because it's that safety versus a Kerridge block and Toussaint.
O48 2 13 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Screen Toussaint -2
M catches a double A gap. Robinson has to throw the ball over the DL; it's high and tough for Toussaint but soft and still caught. MSU safety splits Mealer(-1) and Omameh(-1) when those guys can double team the guy and Toussaint is gone to the safety level. (MA, 2, screen, RPS +2)
50 3 15 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Cross Gardner 8
Stunt gets NT instantly past Mealer and in Robinson's face as Mealer(-1) and Barnum(-1) miscommunicate and get split. Barnum does realize it in time to push the guy past Robinson, who steps into the pocket nicely as Mealer engages a stunting Gholston, who slips to the ground. DEs now coming down as the movement has robbed the tackles of blocking angles; Denard's got no place to run, must throw. Deepest route currently 12 yards downfield on third and fifteen, Robinson gets what he can. (CA, 3, protection 0/2, Mealer -1, Barnum -1). RPS -1... no routes past sticks and play picks up eight useless yards when you're just going to punt it into the endzone from here anyway.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M16 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 4
Allen moves to the LOS as Gallon goes in motion, MSU blitzes off the corner. Corner blitz is the contain, Allen goes at the pull. Toussaint(+1) adjusts and slashes him to the ground impressively. Lewan(+2) shoves a slanting Gholston past the POA and ends up pancaking him. Barnum(+0.5) locks out NT White, but he was slating anyway and that's easy. Now just Denard versus unblocked MLB; he can slide inside thanks to the Lewan block. RPS -1; took two great blocks to gain four yards against unblocked MLB.
M20 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 0
Double A gap blitz. Funchess(-1) gets shed by Allen; Mealer(+1) picked up Bullough pretty well; Omameh smoked by a DL going upfield but given the play he can't do anything about it so not sure that's so bad. Ditto Lewan; Gholston waved an arm at Denard's legs as he went hard upfield. RPS -1.
M20 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Seam Dileo 22
MSU sends six. M just about picks it up. Schofield(-1) beat by Rush one on one, who gets slightly delayed edge pressure. Robinson finds Dileo going vertical past the first layer in the zone. His throw is a bit high but okay; Dileo makes a nice catch and holds on as a safety bangs him to the ground. (CA, 2, protection 2/3, Schofield -1)
M42 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Skinny post Roundtree Inc
Michigan runs play action for the first first down pass of the game and MSU doesn't even bite a little. Something is tipping this for the Spartans, and that thing is not pulling an OL. Robinson gets time, throws terrible pass that is deflected and could have been intercepted by two different Spartans. (BRX, 0, protection 2/2) Nobody open, but should have run it.
M42 2 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Smith -1
MSU has this scouted, I'm guessing, since I form with Vincent Smith in the backfield is this play a lot. S sets up at the line, moves to LOS on snap, fends off Gallon. Not really Gallon's fault. Mealer(-1) peels off to try get this guy and still can't. That's still a two for one there and the corner is now totally unmolested. Safety has split the blocking quickly enough to make a tackle on the catch anyway. (CA, 3, screen) RPS -1; MSU clearly waiting for this.
M41 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Okie two Pass Dig Dileo 15
Dileo gets chucked by Allen; he manages to get into his route; Denard throws this as Dileo is breaking inside, which means it's there before the safety is or Allen can recover from the chuck. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O44 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Down G Toussaint 38
Reynolds in, run. MSU brings a run blitz to the boundary, where there are no M blockers—the TE is covered up and cannot go downfield—and relies on a playside slant to cover for the two guys crashing on the backside. Michigan wins everything. Schofield(+2) takes a DT moving across his face on, seems to lose it, and then shuffles around him to finally cut him off from the hole. Tough, tough block, Omameh(+0.5) kicks the end. Kerridge(+1) thumps Norman at the POA; Toussaint(+2) reads all this and shoots the small gap provided. Mealer(+1) got White. Williams released to the second level immediately and walled off Bullough(+0.5); Reynolds(+2) initially cracks down on Norman but when he sees he can't get him he releases downfield and chops the filling safety out of his pants. NO PANTS. Toussaint into the secondary, getting an extra plus for fending off Lewis for 10-15 yards and running through an ankle tackle. RPS +2.
O6 1 G Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint -6
This isn't on Borges or Denard, IME. It is Kerridge(-2) running by the containing DE, who isn't containing all that well and should be sealed on the handoff. Denard's give looks correct. Once Kerridge goes past Toussaint's got no shot because he's on the edge and the safety is charging. Toussaint gives up a couple more yards but it's not really his fault. If Denard keeps he's got a blitzer in his face. 
O12 2 G Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 5
MSU's DTs do a good job of not getting split here. Robinson has gaps between them and the ends but he has to go somewhere other than directly upfield, which takes away the second level blocks. Omameh(-1) could have helped by not giving as much ground but this is kind of a tip your hat kind of thing.
O7 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Throwaway N/A Inc
Double A gap. Toussaint whiffs his block—why is he even in the game when you have Smith—and Denard gets instant presure from Allen. He backfoots one well away from receivers and defenders alike. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Toussaint -2)
Drive Notes: FG(24), 3-0, 10 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M21 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB sweep Robinson 4
Funchess(+0.5) gets a seal on the playside end but can't really anchor and ends up giving a lot of ground; Denard has to continue outside. Mealer(+1) and Omameh(+0.5) blow up the playside DT. Barnum(-1) releases downfield but is too vertical and ends up allowing Allen to run past him. When Denard finally cuts upfield around the numbers, Allen is there to meet him. Schofield was looking for someone to block but asking him essentially turn around and get Allen is asking a lot. Allen's ability to get to the hole from the backside of the play is impressive.
M25 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Zone read keeper Robinson -3
Barnum(-2) busts as the line tries to run an inside zone. He whacks the backside DT, who Lewan is trying to whack, as Mealer steps past the NT, and the NT gets a free run up the middle. Denard pulls, which is probably not right since Rush is containing but since the DT is right in the middle of where Toussaint's supposed to run, I get it. Unfortunately, Mealer recovered enough to shove the NT past the play and Toussaint would have been able to get a few yards. Denard is now up against the containing end and Taiwan Jones, who blew past Jackson since he gets to attack up the middle.
M28 3 9 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Okie two Run QB draw Robinson 2
Barnum(-1) reads a stunt late and lets Gholston through; Smith just latches onto him as he comes through and Denard has to step up, through the outside of the pocket away from blockers. Omameh(-1) never bothered to release downfield. RPS -1, stunt blew this up and send Denard into an unblocked MSU LB.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass PA quick post Dileo 35
Michigan sends Funchess inside up the middle of the field as Smith comes for a mesh point, and the two interior OL combo the NT out to Allen; one M lineman is two yards downfield, which is in the zone where they don't normally call an illegal man. They don't here. The run action is successful at pulling up both interior LBs; Jones freezes, too, as do both safeties. Dileo hits a crease between those two guys, Denard nails him, big YAC before Dileo is run down from behind. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +3)
O35 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 4
Double A gap. Mealer(+1) has his head up and sees it coming and thus can take Bullough. Smith(+2) hits the right spot and puts his head into Allen's midsection, clearing the way up the middle of the field since the DTs shoot outside on this blitz to maintain gap integrity. The safety is sitting on this, though, and Roundtree can't get to him before he shoots up and tackles Robinson. Tough blocks, four yards.
O31 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Slant Roundtree Inc
This is open; Allen just manages to deflect it with an outstretched finger. Not much you can do about this as an offense. (BA, 0, protection 1/1)
O31 3 6 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 4-3 over Pass Fly Gardner Inc
Robinson has time, and throws it at a well, well covered Gardner, whose crappy route failed to get him over the top of a DB in nose to nose press coverage. Should have checked down to Smith. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: FG(48), 6-0, 1 min 2nd Q. Hail Mary at end of half not charted.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 8
Barnum(+1) buries Kittredge, the playside DE. Rush is containing. Kwiatkowski(-1) whiffs on an aggressive Bullough but Omameh(+1) can come around and kick him out. Mealer(+1) sealed off the other DT so there is a lane inside. Lewan(+0.5) gets an easy hop out on Allen; Norman and White converge some yards downfield. Safeties not actually at LOS!
M33 2 2 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inside zone Toussaint 5
MSU shows the double outside run blitz. M runs pretty much at it. Mealer(+1) pushes the slanting DT to Barnum(+1), who kicks the guy and seals him. Omameh(+1) gets movement on Gholston and when he tries to shed to the outside he has vacated his gap and Toussaint(+0.5) niftily cuts behind that block. He trips on Mealer's legs just as he's about to contact the safeties.
M38 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even press Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 14
MSU shows press man on the WRs and slides the LBs away from the WR side. LBs flow hard but it looks like there's a gap as Barnum(+1) seals Kittredge again and Kwiatkowski(+1) gets his Bullough block this time; Lewan is moving out to Allen but too much traffic to get there. This would be a nice gain; instead it's a very nice gain because Gholston(mental -3) goes nuts, shoots five yards upfield, get pushed past the play by Schofield(+1), and Denard (+2) reads the massive cutback lane provided and takes it. Bullough almost comes through but cannot make the ankle tackle. Denard WOOPS Lewis and is a step from touchdown time when Allen makes a last-ditch tackle. Stupid fast Denicos Allen mutter mutter. MSU's CB(!) is offsides; declined.
O48 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inside zone Toussaint 3
They go at White this time and things go less well. He stands up to the momentary double; Mealer(-1) does not step around him when given the chance and Omameh has to peel quickly since Allen is coming downhill fast. Toussaint(+1) runs through White's arm tackle. Schofield(+0.5) and Williams(+0.5) have doubled Gholston and blasted him three yards downfield, so Toussaint can burrow for a few. He might have been able to bounce outside that block if he wasn't busy not getting tackled by a 330 pound guy.
O45 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint -3
Gah, they leave Gholston unblocked and he splits the mesh point with his hugeness and athleticism. Mental +2; reminder that leaving him unblocked is a bad idea. Mealer(-2) lost White on a stunt and Denard is going to eat a TFL if he keeps, so he gives in case Toussaint may not. Toussaint gets around Gholston; Gholston slows him. He then cuts back behind Allen; Bullough took a should-have-been sealing block from Schofield(-1) and came under it and now tackles for loss.
O48 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Pass Slant Roundtree Inc
Rush package in with six in the box; S Lewis shows blitz then backs out into a deep zone presnap. Double A gap blitz gets through; Mealer(-1) gets smoked by Bullough and while blocking him wouldn't have prevented the pressure it would have bought Denard another beat or two. M has a couple routes under it that are now open and 50-50 for the first down depending on safety tackling; Denard turfs a slant. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Mealer –1, team -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-0, 12 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M33 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel even Run Iso Toussaint 0
Kerridge(-1) whiffs on Bullough. Mealer(-0.5) and Omameh(-0.5) cannot get control of Kittredge. Barnum(-0.5) does an eh job with White; no one really gets out on Allen because of the messed up frontside double and Toussaint eats both LBs essentially unblocked.
M33 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Pass PA quick post Dileo Inc
MSU adjusts to this after one attempt, possibly keying on Funchess being in the game. Two LBs are focused on leaping for this pass; Bullough gets it. (BA, 0, protection 1/1, RPS -1)
M33 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Another stunt. Barnum latches on to Gholston in a disadvantageous position; Smith(-1) runs by it instead of helping out. Barnum does a good job to keep pushing, which allows Robinson to step up in the pocket after Gholston tries a diving tackle attempt. Robinson now has to get rid of the ball because he knows Gholston's about to get up behind him, so he just fires it. It's a hard throw at a blanketed Roundtree that... wow. Is just off Roundtree's fingers. Anything not off Roundtree's fingers is a PBU for Dennard (not that Denard). So... yeah. (CA+, 0, protection ½, Smith -1.)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, 6 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass PA hitch Gallon Inc
Gallon beats a falling DB; at the last second White surges into the throwing lane and gets a finger on it. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)
M28 2 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even press Run Down G Toussaint -6
Michigan blows something here, taking both guys lined up over the playside DT and pulling them. Unblocked guy is unblocked, tackles; no read here. Lewan -3. Must be. Everyone else is blocking for Down G.
M22 3 16 Shotgun 4-wide tight 1 0 4 Okie two Pass Post Jackson Inc
Gholston times the snap and gets a good speed rush on Schofield(-1). Schofield does do an okay job to go with him and not make it horrendous. Robinson has to step up but can. He's now rolling to one side of the field, short Roundtree route covered. He could run for a few and probably should—Allen will track him down and force a punt—but instead just bombs it deep to a bracketed Jackson. Given the situation, whatever. An INT here is a punt; Michigan is punting on an incompletion anyway. Um. I guess this is (IN, 0, protection ½, Schofield -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, 3 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M43 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 12
Allen blitzes straight upfield, shooting the backside gap. Barnum(+2) does a great job to realize it, peel off his frontside block, and engage Allen. It's barely from the side, a lot from behind, but they never call that in the tackle box. Denard(+1) manages to cut behind the falling Allen. That's not what MSU expected and Bullough has to redirect. This gives Denard a window. He runs through two ankle tackles from unblocked guys, gets a block from Mealer(+1), and trips as the ankle tackles take effect at the same time he decides he wants to cut. RPS -1; took a miracle to get yards here.
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass Out and up Gardner Inc
PA fake does nothing as line pass blocks all the way. Doesn't matter as Gardner's out and up gets him open forty yards downfield. He starts running backwards(?) as Denard throws it to him; he has to leap to bring it in but maybe you shouldn't be running backwards, mmm? It's in his hands 40 yards downfield, CB impacts, ball comes out. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)
O45 2 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 over Pass Flare Toussaint 5
Little flare thing on which M starts blocking the playside LB right away. Denard's throw holds Toussaint up a bit, robbing him of his momentum. He stops, goes inside of the pursuing defender, and picks up a few. (MA, 3, protection 1/1)
O40 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Cross Roundtree 15
A cover four beater where Gardner takes the corner deep and a slot from the other side drags across the field to come open underneath it. Robinson reads it and soft-tosses it out to Roundtree. Throw is a little low and outside,borderline CA/MA, but does keep Roundtree on his feet. (CA, 2, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 2
No funny business, just the pure old iso. Omameh(+1) and Schofield(+1) club Kittredge and engulf Bullough. Smith(-1) gets clocked by Allen in the backfield and goes backwards; Robinson(-1) goes outside of that block instead of remaining vertical and probably gives up a few yards.
O23 2 8 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA wheel Funchess 13
Again not very effective PA but also a cover four beater as Gardner takes away the corner with a deep post and neither the playside LB or safety can get over to the quick wheel route in time to defend it. Robinson rifles it to Funchess in stride; he's cut down by the safety. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O10 1 G Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Down G Toussaint 7
Different scheme for M on the run here; I think this is what they were trying to do on the -6 yarder above. Lewan(+1) buries the playside end as Kwiatkowski(+1) releases into Bullough and controls him. Barnum(+1) pulls around and bangs the playside DE back, nice hole for Toussaint. He hits it; Norman and the backside DE flow down to tackle as he nears the goal line.
O3 2 G Ace 1 3 1 Goal line Pass Fade Funchess Inc
Goal line set with a late move of Funchess out to WR and Incredibly Surprising Funchess Fade debuts. This one's a bit short and broken up. Not awful, good D, could have been better. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)
O3 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 4-4 even Pass Slant Gallon Inc
Funchess starts in the backfield and goes on a wheel route that draws two defenders, wide open Gallon, ball hammered in behind Gallon and dropped. I get the ref/LB arguments but Gallon's so open that you just need to flick it to him gently. RUTHLESSNESS (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: FG(20), 9-7, 13 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even press Pass Comeback Gardner Inc
M pulls Barnum on their PA fake, which draws the LBs up... and they release no one downfield, leaving just the two WRs. Pocket's good, but there's no one open, no running lane, no leaking for a dumpoff. Coverage good everywhere, Denard eventually throws at a covered Gardner; meh throw since it should be outside, Gardner bumped off it, PBU. Victim of no-check since this is plain dumb to run against obvious man D. (MA, 1, protection 2/2, RPS -1)
M25 2 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 44
Kittredge shoots out of the hole on the snap. Barnum(+1) did get a pretty good shove. All other DL eliminate themselves. Denard to second level with Toussaint as a lead blocker. Toussaint(+1) bangs Allen effectively. Dileo(+0.5) gets a shove on Bullough; Denard(+3) cuts behind those two blocks, then cuts outside a safety. Jackson(+1) gets a block on Norman to provide the edge. Roundtree(+0.5) gets an easy block downfield and Denard is jetting for six. Lewis and fuggin Bullough have the speed to cut off the angle. Denard could get another five or six but steps out. RPS +2, easy hit.
O31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Down G Toussaint 6
Lewan(+1) blocks down on the playside DT and blows him out. Barnum(+1) pulls around and kicks out Rush well. Big gap. Kwiatkowski(+0.5) gets out on the MLB. Kerridge(+1) plows Norman and moves him back, eliminating him one on one. Roundtree(+1) does crack down on hyperaggressive safety this time. Corner dragged to the hole makes the tackle.
O25 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson -3
The worrrrst substitution tip ever. WRs are Reynolds and Jackson and Gallon on the outside. MSU runs a double A gap at a QB iso, which doesn't work so good. Gholston left unblocked(!) as Kwiatkowski moves to the second level to block no one since both LBs have blitzed. Toussaint tries to pick him up, Denard cuts behind, unblocked blitzing Allen tackles as Denard moves EW. RPS -3; blocking was as good as possible and M still lost a ton of yards and Michigan tipped this HARD.
O28 3 7 Shotgun trips stack TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Penalty False start Roundtree -5
O33 3 12 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 nickel Pass Post Roundtree Inc (Pen -10)
Schofield(-2) blown by, holds, legit call. Denard moves up in the pocket, but again knows his timer is expiring. He again has no one open at all and just chucks it deep because why the hell not. There is no running lane here, if you're interested. Pressure induced throw with absolutely no one open, best case scenario here. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Schofield -2, RPS -1). MSU takes the holding call.
O43 3 22 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 nickel Pass Fly Jackson Inc
MSU with three guys way deep at the snap. Allen stunts and gets under the guards. Smith manages to get a shove on him and Denard steps up past five guys into a big pocket. He's got no one in front of him and can take off, instead he chucks a ball to Jeremy Jackson. Sort of. It's way, way too long. (IN, 0, protection ½, team -1). If he takes off he almost certainly gets in FG range. Meanwhile, ugh Jeremy Jackson on a deep route.
Drive Notes: Punt, 9-10, 3 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Smith 12
Somewhat reminiscent of a play Illinois ran last year where Scheelhaase kept unwisely and then just followed the RB to pick up a nice gain. On this one, Denard(-2) gives for no earthly reason; Smith(+1) cuts inside into a gaping hole and actually picks Denard up as a (not good) lead blocker. Lewan(+1) blew up Kittredge and Omameh(+1) kicked Bullough; Allen had flown into the other gap as MSU blitzes. RPS +2; if Denard actually keeps here this is one on one with a safety for all the points. Man, when MSU is not hyper aggressive they are not able to deal with the ground game. Also Norman gets sucked outside the hash because of the trips setup. Gallon(+0.5) and Dileo(+0.5) combined to take out a safety. Picture-paged.
50 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 0
Barnum(-2) is not covered up and doesn't get anyone coming to him, so he just stands there. At some point he's got to either help Mealer(-1) with White, who chucks Mealer and gets into the gap straight upfield, or go block Allen. Instead he stands at the LOS. When Robinson cuts outside thanks to the White play, Allen shoots up into him; Robinson cuts backupfield directly into the stationary Barnum. Extremely frustrating since Gholston had shot way way upfield and if Barnum gets even a crappy block on Allen this is as big, big gain. RPS +1.
50 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Scramble Robinson 0 (Pen +5)
Gholston jumps offside. M rolls away from that and tries to use a smash concept to get either Dileo or Gallon open; MSU covers it. Denard runs OOB at the sticks. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2, RPS -1, no open receivers in two man route)
O45 2 5 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Dumpoff Smith 3
Double A gap sort of picked up; Toussaint(-1) attempts a cut block that Allen leaps over. He's got no momentum, giving Denard a brief window to throw but now he's just got to get rid of it. Smith is the checkdown, ball is deflected by the DT but still caught. Smith may have been able to turn up for the first down or get OOB without the deflection. Given the negative outcome of the play I'll file this as batted despite the completion. (BA, 2, protection 2/3, Toussaint -1)
O42 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 2
Oy. Omameh(+1) and Mealer(+1) blow up and pancake Kittredge, the playside DT. Funchess(-2) is blown back by the DE—both DEs are backups—and that guy is two-gapping him a yard in the backfield. Bullough hits the gap fast and Norman is coming down too hard for Dileo to do anything about. Denard(+1) doesn't like the frontside gap and cuts behind. Safety charges up and is dodged; Allen gets Denard; Denard manages to lay on bodies and extend for the first down. Denard's knee does look down for what would have been fourth and one, but they uphold the initial ruling.
O40 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Flare Toussaint -1
Gardner double covered deep; Roundtree runs a fly on the other side, Dileo just kind of stops. Dink flare the only thing open, and it's not open. Toussaint should at least get a couple yards and OOB but the pass is again deflected. Toussaint catches the ball anyway, losing a yard and staying in bounds, oy. (BA, 3 I guess, protection 1/1, RPS -1)
O41 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Angle Dileo 20
MSU stunts Allen inside; Michigan picks it up but Allen is driving past Barnum into the heart of the pocket. Denard starts a roll, then stops, finding Dileo as a window opens up since one of MSU's linebackers stopped when Denard did and the other did not. Denard moves up in the pocket and fires a dart that hits Dileo in the chest 20 yards downfield. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) HEYYYYY SEXY LADY
O21 1 10 Spike 1 1 3 4-3 even N/A Spike N/A N/A
Ball to turf.
Drive Notes: FG(38), 12-10, EOG



I mean…




But they won.

Mos def.

Ford Prefect?



I feel like we've gotten too deep in this UFR without complaining about Borges.

I was just going to say that.

But they won, I mean.


So. It's tough to judge Michigan's offense so far because there's been little middle ground. They've obliterated the #53, #72, #84, and PROVISIONAL BUT AWFUL defenses (in total yardage terms) of Illinois, Purdue, Air Force, and UMass. They've struggled—to say the least—against the #1, #5, and #6 defenses of Alabama, MSU, and Notre Dame*.

Just eyeballing it, though, Michigan's played three of the best defenses in the country and no one else worth a damn except sort of Purdue. It's similarly hard to judge MSU's defense. They've kept everyone they've played around 300 yards save OSU and their 380, but the offenses they've played have all been weak save OSU (40th yardage) and Indiana (25th, still Indiana).

So… I don't know man. No one has really done better than M, so there's that. OSU's 383 yards were offset by a –1 in the interception battle… but Denard tossed one directly at a linebacker, so that could be even.

It did seem like OSU had a more replicable way of matriculating down the field. They racked up 5.4 yards a carry with a long of 20; whatever they were doing it was more consistent at bashing out a few yards here and there than Michigan's TFL explosion of a day. So… for whatever reason, Michigan has a worse offense than OSU. Probably.

I'm still not hearing any complaints.

Okay… man, that thing about "not getting into a chess match at the line of scrimmage" is a depressing thing to hear. It's hard to believe Michigan walked into a game against a high profile defense and just decided they were going to run into whatever they called. You're not in a chess game because you tipped your king over before the play. A couple of basic checks to quick pass plays that MSU is not aligned to would back them off, force them to change up their defense, etc. Maybe Denard just can't handle it—Rodriguez was the guy checking at the line in 2010. If he can't that's another obvious transition cost from trying to jam him into a square peg.

Even setting aside the audibles, Michigan did few new things. There was a veer variant discussed below. They broke out a slight variation on their outside sweep play (they pulled a playside guard (down G) for a quick hitter) to get Toussaint his 38-yarder and some smaller chunks late. That was about it.

I mean, you know Michigan State is spending a crap ton of time scouting you. I get frustrated when Michigan goes run run run run against super aggressive safeties and then pulls out the world's most half-ass play action on their first first-down pass of the game. Run something that looks like QB power and then back out of it and I guarantee you won't find Denard chucking a BRX into two defenders, because they won't be there. When Michigan did go to authentic-looking play action they hit a big play that would have been a touchdown if Dileo was a little bit faster.

The gameplan, to me, was a little too Carr. Carr tipped plays with WR substitutions. Carr kept doing boring things in the teeth of stacked defenses to make the above plays more likely to be safe and successful; RR and pre-ND Borges mixed stuff in more frequently in an effort to keep the defense off balance. Carr wanted them leaning forward at all times, it seemed.

I get it. I mean, first time Denard has a chance to throw a horrible horrible interception on the half-ass play action he tries to throw the horrible horrible interception, and Carr won a lot of games. I'm just hoping they let out the sails a little more against teams who can put up points.

ALL THAT SAID, Michigan's RPS metric in this game was dead even. 18 up, 18 down, zero. Michigan put together its field goal drives late by taking the edges of the field on cover-four beaters, like this Funchess wheel route:

That's what I was talking about when I was like we need to test the outside of the field. That area is going to be open when you've got aggressive man coverage  on the outside and linebackers preoccupied with the run. Borges did get around to exploiting it, and then got Denard an easy touchdown when MSU overreacted to that exact route from Funchess on the Gallon miss. And at this point we don't now what the head guy has said to Borges, who for all his coachspeak is a guy who knows chicks dig the long ball.

I'll take even RPS and run given Spartan Overpreparation. What about the next guy?

*[I'm not going to bother looking up the advanced stats here because right now they're pretty ludicrous—Michigan has a top ten offense in S&P+ largely because it has played Alabama, which is why Arkansas is second, Ole Miss eighth. Maybe they'll pass a basic sanity check by the end of the year; right now no sale.]

Denard: good bad what I don't know tell me?

He had a tough day, though one significantly aided by the MSU D.

[Hennechart legend is updated. Hover over column headers for quick explanations]

2011 through MSU 13 66(12) 11(1) 34(1) 17 2 3 10 4 55%
2011 after MSU 9 77(9) 7 17 9 6(1) 5(2) 9 5 69%
Alabama 4 15(2) 1 4 3* - - 3(1) 1 71%
Air Force 1 14 3 2 1 - 2 1 - 75%
UMass 1 16(4) - 4 - 1 1 1 3 68%
Notre Dame 4 10(1) 2 4(1)* 2** 1 1 3 1 65%
Purdue 3 7(2) - 1(1) - 1 2 - - 73%
Illinois 3 6(2) - - 2 - - - - 78%
MSU 4 9(2) 3(1) 4 2* 1 5 2 - 48%

[I'm putting little asterisks in for BRX or INX plays now. One per.]

Oof on that DSR. I'm not sure how much of that is Denard and how much is MSU, though. Two of the INs were deep bombs to Jeremy Jackson on third and forever as Denard was getting moderate pressure; he probably should have taken off on the second. The first was a whatever kind of thing because he wasn't getting yards on the ground and had no one open.  One of the BRs was a deep throw to Gardner on which the corner had dominated the route. And the BAs are bad things to happen that also happen to be almost entirely out of the QB's control.

While you'd like to see Denard be able to adjust and turn some of those negative plays into scrambles or dumpoffs, the fact that Michigan receivers not named Dileo couldn't get an inch of separation all day mitigates the numbers above. Denard hasn't been particularly vulnerable to batted passes—he's never had more than a couple in a game before—so a lot of this can just be chalked up to one of those days against one of those defenses.


Denard's reads were terrible!

Yes and no. A number of plays that looked like bad reads were probably not reads at all given how fast the mesh point comes and goes. Michigan ran a play that looked a lot like the veer in the first half, handing it to Gallon on a jet sweep action, but on that play Toussaint blocked the containing end, allowing Gallon to cut inside of that guy (and get like three yards when a plunging safety redirected to tackle.) Michigan doesn't usually do that on the veer.

Others were damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations where MSU had blitzed or Michigan's OL had busted and both options were bad. For example, he pulled on a negative-three yard run despite the contain being there because Michigan had let a nose tackle shoot upfield without blocking him. A couple drives later he gave to Toussaint despite Gholston containing because a DT had stunted past Mealer and was going to blow him up.

But you know that Reynolds play highlighted in the Picture Pages? It was either going to be a six-yard loss or a huge gain if Denard handed off instead of keeping:

Either the safety gets upfield in time or not, and he's flying directly upfield on the snap. Kerridge is there to block him and Toussaint will have to pick a side. If it's the outside, he's sailing a long way. Denard is not reading the end, he's reading someone inside, and whoever it is in no position to defend Toussaint.

SCREWED UP ZONE READ IDENTIFICATION PROTIP: one second after the guy with the ball gets it he starts following the guy without the ball.

On the flipside, after seeing it live I tweeted out that Denard had to keep on the six-yard loss that turned first and goal from the six into a field goal, but now I think that was the right read.  The goal line play again saw the end blocked… or he was at least supposed to be blocked.

Denard appears to be reading the safety. Meanwhile, Kerridge arcs out to block the end and runs by him. If that block is made Toussaint probably has the edge and Michigan is in the endzone. BONUS REASON FOR ASSERTION: Reynolds in the slot.

The single Smith carry did leap off the page as a WTF moment—so much so that BWS picture-paged it.

Screen Shot 2012-10-22 at 2.23.55 PM[1]

Oy. Got a block, though.

That play reminded me of a similar "oh crap" moment on a zone read last year. Here's Nathan Scheelhaase turning a bad read into a nice gain:

In Michigan's case the roles of the QB and RB are inverted. Heiko got all excited about that and asked if they'll put it in the playbook because it's cool, and got shot down. The Scheelhaase version of it is more plausible because the RB is the lead blocker. I'll believe a play with a QB designed to be the lead blocker when I see it. Other than that Nebraska quick toss, but that had Burkhead as the QB-type-substance.

That was possibly the worst successful two minute drill ever.

This is how it went down:

  1. 2:00 – Michigan runs inverted veer give to Smith that should have been a keep, gets 12 yards. Clock stops at 1:54 to move the chains.
  2. 1:45 – Michigan snaps the ball for a QB draw that picks up zero yards but probably should have gotten many. Denard tackled at 1:41. Clock rolls.
  3. 1:21 – Michigan rolls the pocket; Denard finds no one open and runs OOB for no gain; Gholston hit with offsides call. Clock stops at 1:14.
  4. 1:14 – Double A gap blitz only partially picked up; Robinson checks down, gets pass deflected, Smith gains three and does not get out of bounds. Smith is tackled at 1:10. M substitutes. Denard does not get call from sideline immediately.
  5. 49 seconds – Michigan snaps the ball, runs QB power. Denard extends for the first down with 43 seconds left.
  6. 32 seconds – Refs call for a review of the previous play, uphold it.
  7. 26 seconds – Michigan snaps the ball six seconds after a video review! Flare pass to Toussaint is deflected, caught, augh. 21 seconds are on the clock when Toussaint goes down, takes a second or two for Michigan to decide to take TO, clock stops with 18 seconds.
  8. 18 seconds - Robinson to Dileo. Twelve seconds are on the clock when the refs stop the game to move the chains.
  9. 9 seconds – spike, FG, exhale.

So Michigan spent a total of 70 of their 120 seconds with the clock rolling in-between plays. Some of those were unavoidable. It took ten seconds for Michigan to snap the ball after Dileo hit the turf on the spike; for a play you're actually calling you may need another three to five seconds. Let's be conservative and assume 15 seconds is the reasonable minimum between snaps. The refs are setting the ball for play eight seconds after a first down; you should be able to snap the ball the second it's ready for play on the review.

Under that assumption, Michigan could have had an extra 23 seconds on the clock before second and 11. 41 seconds is forever; 18 seconds is basically two downfield shots and then you're rolling with whatever field position you've got. This same profligacy cost Michigan in the Iowa game last year when they got down to first and goal from the two and did not have enough time to even think about or threaten a run.

That's without thinking about the playcalling. That… well, I'm actually fine with that. Borges was unlucky when two throws to tailbacks moving to the sidelines were deflected but still caught for minimal yardage inbounds—the worst case scenario. The zero-yard QB draw was extremely likely to get a first down if Barnum gets the play call. The QB power was necessary to get the first down.

So the tempo is the whole complaint here. I'm not sure what the issue is here but when Michigan is substituting and clearly still getting the play in after a run (whatever happened to that whole call two plays in the huddle thing?) I doubt it's on the players much, if at all.

But hey, it worked! Barely! And by almost killing everyone in the stadium!



Offensive Line
Player + - Total Notes
Lewan 6.5 4 2.5 Busted huge on one 6 yard loss, otherwise good.
Barnum 9.5 8.5 1 Tough time with White, couple blow-bys suffered.
Mealer 8 6.5 1.5 Around even usually, which is meh.
Omameh 8.5 3.5 5 Had a lot of Kittredge duty.
Schofield 6 1 5 Rush, a smaller guy, didn't give him much trouble.
Kwiatkowski 3 1 2 Needs moar playing time.
Moore - - - DNP
Williams 1 - 1 Eh.
Funchess 0.5 6 -5.5 Guhhhhhhhhhh
TOTAL 43 30.5 58% A little subpar, but pretty close to that 2/3rds ratio. They hit it without Funchess.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 7 7 0 Reads missed.
Bellomy - - - DNP
Toussaint 5.5 1 4.5 Got some blocks, hit a hole.
Rawls - - - DNP
Smith 3 2 1 Saved the bacon late.
Hayes - - - DNP
Hopkins - - - DNC
Kerridge 2 3 -1 Oof missed goal line block.
TOTAL 17.5 13 4.5 Plays limited here.
Player + - T Notes
Gardner - - - -
Roundtree 2.5 - 2.5 -
Gallon 1.5 - 1.5 More touches more touches more touches x2
Jackson 1 - 1 Bounce-back.
Dileo 1 - 1  
Reynolds 2 - 2 DNC
Darboh - - - DNC
TOTAL 8 - 8 A big reason why the overall YPC numbers are okay.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 33 13 72% Schofield –4, Toussaint –3, Mealer –2, Barnum –1, Smith –1, Team -2
RPS 18 18 0 I'll take it.


Well, they did okay. Schofield was good, Omameh as well; three guys had meh outings, and then Funchess was really bad. Here's Lewan (probably) not blocking down on Kittredge on a Down G:

Kittredge sucks but you still have to block him. Here's what they were trying to do.

And Funchess is a receiver right now. His blocking is pretty much what you'd expect from a 6'5" 225 pound freshman.

I'm surprised they gave him as many at-bats as they did against MSU since he announced early that there wasn't anyone on that D he could block.

Schofield had another good day against the run and appears to be rounding into form somewhat—he did get nailed for a hold against Rush that was pretty bad in pass pro. The big Toussaint run came about because he sealed a guy slanting past him on a big run blitz:

That's a hyperaggressive version of the slanting we've been talking about recently where the two guys who would flow behind to clean up slant cutbacks are already where they're going on the snap, which means it's hard to get anything unless you crease a guy. Schofield's ability to do that above was the best block of the day.

Caveat: Kittredge was a huge liability for MSU and a lot of Michigan players took turns beating his head in. Still.

And a shout-out for the WRs, who didn't pick up a minus and paved the way for the two long long runs that kept Michigan's YPC above five(!) in a game against a tough opponent. If Reynolds doesn't plant that safety and a bunch of WRs don't help out on the long Denard draw and those plays are held to around ten yards, Michigan's YPC drops from five (woo!) to three (glargggg).

Speaking of wide receivers…

[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Gardner 1 0/1 0/1 1/1   11 0/4 1/4 14/15
Roundtree 3   1/1     8 0/2 3/3 9/10
Gallon 1     1/1   7 0/1 3/5 14/14
J. Robinson           1 0/1 0/1 2/2
Dileo     1/1 3/3   1 1/1 3/3 5/5
Jackson 2         3     3/4
Kwiatkowski       1/1         3/3
Funchess   0/1   1/1   2 2/3 1/2 8/8
Toussaint     1/1 2/2     0/2 1/2 4/4
Smith     1/1 1/1       1/2 4/4
Kerridge             0/1    

Most notable thing we're getting is Gardner's inability to catch anything that's not routine. Usually receivers have a pretty good rate on 2s.


The Threat, Drew Dileo. Um, sort of Denard. WR blocking.


Sort of Denard. Funchess's blocking was a problem.

What does it mean for Nebraska and the future?

I don't think Michigan is going to be able to get away with keeping the car in the garage for so long against a really good defense that happens to have even a mediocre offense paired against it, but… I don't see any of those on the schedule. Teams just trying to not get burned are a lot more cautious and I have to imagine that's where Nebraska is right now. Michigan was an ankle tackle away from big yards several times, and Lavonte David isn't stepping through that door.

I assume we'll see more of the same against Nebraska until such point as it stops working, which may not actually occur. At some point Michigan does have to ease back off the MANBALL throttle a little and let Denard throw some slants and outs and hitches just to keep people honest.

Michigan's personnel is what it is at this point. The line did a pretty good job against a tough DL and should be able to keep winning the battle until OSU; the receivers are unremarkable at best; Denard is a shoddy grenade factory—something explosive is happening, but you don't know to whom.

The season might come down to another few moments like we had at the end of the MSU game where Michigan's conservatism has put them in a do or die situation it doesn't seem like they have to be in but for the long shadow of the first half of Notre Dame. Pack your whiskey.



October 25th, 2012 at 3:34 PM ^

If we're just discounting them because they don't pass the eye test, why do we believe them when they confirm our beliefs?

I don't think we have a top 10 offense either, but if we're heard "but the advanced stats say..." dozens of times should we putting that much faith in them when we agree with them when they agree with us, but don't when they don't?  It seems like there's some flaws in their design whether we like them or not.


October 25th, 2012 at 6:55 PM ^

Why do you think the reason is that, as chitown so aptly puts it, they pass the sanity test at the end of the season, but not halfway though it? I understand more data = good, but if it seems that out of whack with nearly half of all your data in, what evens it out to "sane" in the second half? Is it just the balancing out of schedules by everyone paying more similar competition?

Not trying to take the piss out of you; just as some who understands stats but is hardly a statistician, wondering what input they choose that makes things so whacky early but ultimately evens out.


October 25th, 2012 at 3:48 PM ^

Ok, after the pressers and then reading all the info provided in this UFR, I will go ahead and state the obvious. It seemed to be the intentions of the coaching staff to try to win the game strictly by playing defense. On offense it defenitely seemed like they just wanted to make sure to not make any mistakes, and if some cool shit happened in the process, YAY! Well not much cool really ended up happening offensively, other than being able to get just enough yards when it mattered. I was actually screaming "Where the fuck is Rawls? We need MOAR power!!" Many times. I now feel sorry for my wife. Anyways, I understand that the whole idea was to force MSU to beat the Michigan defense in this particular game rather than risk Denard having another ND meltdown. It worked, but I pray to god the playcalling is a little more liberal this week.


October 25th, 2012 at 4:57 PM ^

Look, I was as frustrated by the boring and non-inventive play-call as anyone.  But after reading both the pressers and the UFRs, I think that I get it.  The coaches will never say it, but ultimately, they simply do not have confidence in Denard as a QB to run the offense.  Basically, the coaches have now shown that they will avoid throwing at all costs.  They have stated straight out that they do not allow Denard to audible.  And, we know from UFR that despite being in his 3rd season, Denard continues to miss reads.

The take away that most do not want to acknowledge is that while Denard is probably the best athlete on the team, and definitely the fastest runner, he is simply a terrible decision-maker - which is perhaps the most crucial skill-sets of a QB.  As a result of his decision-making and somewhat limited passing game, he is ineffective as a QB against decent to good defenses.

Al and Hoke, being with the team day in and day out, have probably finally come to the conclusion that no matter how much they coach him up, Denard's decision making and accuracy are not going to improve enough to make a difference.

So, if I am right and this is their conclusion, what do they do?  Some options:

(1) bench Denard.  Obviously, this is a silly option.  Despite his obvious limitations, he still gives us the best shot because teams do have to sell out to stop his legs.  He also at least has some experience.  Our only other options are Devin (needed at WR, likely still needs work at QB because he has devoted so much time at WR, didn;t look remotely good when playing last year) or Bellamy (inexperienced, didn't look even close to ready in admittedly limited opportunities).  Also, benching Denard is just not a reality - as much as Hoke claims not to care about media and fan perception, as the HC of Michigan, he has to manage the program and benching Denard is simply not an option.

(2) Continue to allow Denard to throw, make complicated decision, and hope for improvement?  Also not a realistic option.  After 3 years, Denard is what he is and he is unlikely to change.  If we keep doing what we have done with him, we can't be surprised when the results are the same.  Against good defenses that stack the line, Denard has never successfully punished them with his arm, and when he tries, he throws tons of picks.  (Also, while some will argue that this is the result of Borges' offense not being suited to Denard, the results were exactly the same under RR in an offense tailored to Denard's skills-  he could not even move the ball against decent to good teams).

(3) Recognizing that denard is your QB for the rest of the season, go with a game plan that minimized the number of opportunities for him to gift the other team free 7 points or great field position.  Our defense is good this year.  Recognizing that, the coaches seem to believe that the defense can keep teams under a certain number of points - we are not required to score massive points to win anymore.  While it is obviously in our best interest to score more, the risk of that is that we will turn the ball over and give teams free points off of turnovers, and even the best defense will not win games for us.

To me, while I would like to see something more on offense, I am ok with  a strategy that says "first do no harm."


Eye of the Tiger

October 25th, 2012 at 7:03 PM ^

I'd suggest this was a unique situation. Because:

a) MSU's defense is probably the second best we've faced, and possibly the second best we'll face all year

b) They were fired up and playing about as well as they can

c) MSU's offense, by contrast, is among the more containable of the non-baby seals on our schedule

In other words, this was one of the few games we really could win with defense. I don't see that replicated on our schedule, except maybe for Iowa. Nebraska and Northwestern are the exact opposite--we'll need points, but should have little trouble scoring them. Ohio perhaps as well.



October 25th, 2012 at 8:39 PM ^

I think that we may be saying the same thing. What I wrote was somewhat general - Brady and al will probably be more conservative than before - but definitely specific to MSU. In that game, we didn't need the offense to win it - just don't lose it.

Against Nebraska this week, we will definitely need to score some points. That said, given their offense, if Denard hands them free points and possessions, they have the fire power to beat us badly. So, while I expect more offensive aggressiveness, I still expect and hope for a safe game plan.


October 26th, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

I dunno. I think the conservative O is here to stay.

You gotta figure that against teams with D's not as good as MSU's we will be able to drive down the field just fine even when we use the conservative O. It's simple but it's also good. The UM running game is also capable of BIG run plays via Denard so it has big play/quick scoring potential too.

I think we will see this against Neb this week. There O is much better than MSU's but there defense is worse. I think we are going to pound away and break off a few big runs. We'll keep the Neb O off the field and let our D keep us in the game (or hopefully ahead).

I also thought it was telling that Drew Dielo started ahead of Gardner...and as it turned out saw a lot more time on the field this game. I think the coaches realize that he can get open in the short to intermediate routes (ie safe throws) and he catches everything. That seems to fit the mold of the new O gameplan better than Gardner. He can run straight real fast but can't catch anything.


There are no teams left on the schedule with great defenses (Bama, MSU) so the conservative O should be able to score 24+. That should be enough.

If we play a team with a great D and good O then we will be in trouble (see Bama). Not too many of those. Oregon, Bama, UF, KSU?, S Carolina.


October 25th, 2012 at 7:36 PM ^

That might be the best summation of the situation I have seen so far...

Ultimately it all dissolves into the battle over Denard's net value to the team which basically hovers just over even enough to be positive over all but not nearly as amazing as some would ahve you think.  And of course the people who are praying for the day Denard is gone are equally as crazy. lol

anyway, well said,



Ali G Bomaye

October 25th, 2012 at 3:47 PM ^

My hope is that Borges shows adaptability based on what is working and how defenses are attacking, like he did last year.

At the beginning of last year, he tried to MANBALL it up, which led to anemic offensive performances against crappy defenses in the EMU and SDSU games.  By the end of the season, and after a few hiccups against MSU and Iowa, he had molded the offense into a multifaceted attack that put up 40 points against a decent Ohio defense.

This year, it seems like it's pretty easy to identify where the offense is broken: opponents don't respect the perimeter enough, Omameh shouldn't be pulling, and we need to keep defenses more honest on first down.  My hope is that Borges will use his years of experience to apply simple fixes to these problems (hey, he's even put in a bubble screen!).  If he does that, we certainly have the talent to score a bunch against anybody left on the schedule.


October 25th, 2012 at 4:06 PM ^

If MANBALL means running a lot of plays out of the I with gap blocking, we didn't do that much of that against EMU or SDSU last year.  The problem in those games was that our passing game was ineffective.


October 25th, 2012 at 5:02 PM ^

The difference between 2011 and 2012 on offense appears to be Junior.  His leaping ability was able to bail out many enard jump balls, and those long jump balls advanced the ball in chunks.  Also, he commended safety support, freeing up the field for Denard.

This year, we have nobody equivalent.  Our offense is struggling because our receivers are really underwhelming, our RB committee is woefully underwhelming and our QB is not good at the whole throwing / deciding thing.

Sorry to be a downer - I am just really tired of people blaming Borges for the offense when he is working with talent that simply is not that great.  The future is bright (assuming that we can start to land a few more top skill guys like Greene and Treadwell), but for this year and next, we are still working our way through the talent gap that the coaching change left.


October 25th, 2012 at 5:28 PM ^

It does hurt to hear what you're writing but I believe it to be true too.  However, I do believe that Borges is to blame as well for his inability to recognize that there are some throws from the previous offense that Denard could make that he could be used more often.  Bubble screens (I know, I know), QB Oh Noes, etc.  All the short stuff that Rodriguez won.  They won't move the ball downfield quickly but they would at least spread the field a bit more and keep the safeties on teams with strong front 7 honest.  So I agree with you about Denard but I also think Borges could maximize his abilities a little better rather than deciding to hide in his run run run shell.



October 25th, 2012 at 5:38 PM ^

This I agree with - I definitely don't think that Borges gets off without any blame.  Sure, Denard has deficiencies a plenty, but there is absolutely no reason not to at least use some easy short stuff just to open up the field - bubbles, slants, jet sweeps (I like using Gallon here, but why not Norfleet?), etc. would force the stacked front to at least spread out a bit, giving Denard more room to run.  Also, with Devin and Denard on the field at the same time on just about every play, I actually would have liked to see the return of the 2-QB set here and there, just to shake things up when nothing seems to be working.

I really do like Al, and I have faith that in 2014 when we have non-Freshman Morris at QB, non-freshmen Funchess, and non-freshmen, non-midgit WRs, along with a big, powerful (Greene??) RB, he is going to do things that we will all love, but he is just not all that good at using Denard and company.


October 25th, 2012 at 5:55 PM ^

What I try to remember about Borges is that he's adapted quite a bit to Michigan's current personnel - as much as any coordinator anywhere that I can think of, in fact...That said, it's very hard to watch an uncovered slot guy go unused. 


October 26th, 2012 at 12:26 AM ^

Since that play made it's debut, they haven't really needed it.  I think it was pretty obvious against both Illinois and Purdue that the offense was working and they weren't going to need any tricks.  Where as with MSU, they run blitz a lot and their LB's are almost overly aggressive against the run.  Considering that UM almost never audibles, the last thing Borges probably wanted was a somewhat slow developing play that initially looks like a run and Gardner slowing up and standing 5-7 yds behind the line of scrimmage (especially if MSU had a run blitz dialed up).  I'd actually be pretty stunned if we don't see it again before the season ends (although it would help if they lined Gardner up in the backfield every now and then so teams didn't know if it was going to be the Garnder pass or a Denard run). 


October 25th, 2012 at 11:49 PM ^

Great posts michgoblue (the one above also).  I agree with just about everything you and profitgoblue are saying.  It's taken a bit of time, though I didn't just realize this yesterday by any means, but it's really starting to settle in my mind that our QB is and has a limited "QB" skill set.  Oh well and so what, at this point.  He still wins us some games and at times does show why he became a collegiate QB.  And to further agree, yes our OC does need to utilize more plays and implement a few more things if they aren't already (adapt a little further, if you will) in order to put our beloved QB in a more advantageous position; I know we're all "just fans" but some of us are intelligent enough in regards to the game of football to realize more can be done to utilize the threat Denard is, even if his arm/decision-making/etc. is "limited".  Go Blue. 

kevin holt

October 25th, 2012 at 3:55 PM ^

On that actually-play-action slant where Dileo gets a TD if he's faster, Roundtree could have given him one if he blocked his own guy instead of that LB (?)

I loved that hit at first, but I replayed the play over and over and the guy he blasted wasn't going to catch up. If he turned around and blocked his own CB, Dileo has the sideline and can get away from his pursuer, for at least another 10 yards if not paydirt. Thoughts?

To be fair, 'Tree had his back to his own guy and likely didn't know he was there. But he was blocking the guy by just being in between until he slammed the other player. It was still a great block, but maybe the wrong decision?

kevin holt

October 25th, 2012 at 4:31 PM ^

I would think that if Brian notices a bad or good block away from the line that affects the play, then it would be eligible for a point tick. I think Reynolds got one for cutting that safety out of his pants, right?

But he didn't mention Roundtree on this one so I don't know if he saw it or thought it was important. It's very possible that Roundtree knew he was there but couldnt get around, or even that Dileo gets caught either way. He laid some lumber on a state player which I'm sure is a positive in some respects.

Also, I can't imagine turning around when you're running full speed is easy or even feasible. If he tries to turn, that CB might get around him anyway, at the angle they were both running.


October 25th, 2012 at 3:58 PM ^

Can we get Heiko to ask why they don't pull guards on PA off of inverted veer? It seems like the safety wouldn't have even been in the vicinity of Dileo on that pass if it had actually looked like a run play that we actually use several times a game.


October 25th, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^

The more interesting question would be, why don't we run draws or even just basic zone plays with no pulling guards?

When you run play action but leave clear keys in place that show the play to be a pass, a decent coach will exploit it. And, frankly, it's depressing, because it puts our players (none of whom are exactly setting NFL scouts on fire) in unecessarily hard places to succeed.


October 25th, 2012 at 3:59 PM ^

He's used to a perfect sports car, something like a top of the line Boxster S. Can do everything well, balanced, fast, etc.

Except now he's driving a 60's Camaro with a 454 and so much horsepower that he's not sure he can ever turn without spinning out.

I'm with Brian, I don't see any other major challengers on the schedule.



With the defense we've got, Al can keep it at 50% throttle most the time and win. If he ever does floor it though, it'll be great or terrible.


October 26th, 2012 at 9:14 AM ^

Al has had some darn good offensive talent (the Porsche is a great car), but now he's dealing with something completely different that he's trying to do the best he can with (again, that Camaro would be fast. But if you didn't build it and aren't used to it, you might not be able to drive it straight). Also, it's not like he had a total NFL offense like he would have at USC (thus I didn't say he was used to a Veyron).

This analogy just gets better and better.

/pats self on back


October 26th, 2012 at 7:00 PM ^

But I'm also a car guy, so yeah...

If anything it gets even better when you consider that the Camaro has a backseat, which the Porshe completely lacks; much like how our offense have a QB run game that Borges's traditional offenses completely lack.  How to use the extra space can be baffling, but he's figuring it out.

I think the opposing defense determines the "road" and the Camero is every bit as good (maybe better) than the Porshe when that road is relatively straight and flat, but Alabama and Michigan State presented a narrow, twisty mountain pass.  ND gave road through rolling foothills and sweeping turns but Borges put the pedal to the metal like he could in the Porshe and it backfired...

Fortunately our defense is getting itself into "twisty mountain pass" territory, so we should be able to overwhelm the rest of our remaining schedule by slowing them down or by out-running them.  Even Wiscy doesn't worry me too much...  the PAC12 Champ (or runner up) could be trouble though...