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

Brian October 15th, 2013 at 1:44 PM

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


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


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

I think this is a run.


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


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

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


This looks familiar.


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


…if Kalis's guy doesn't do it first.


Third and ten.



Items of Interest

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



October 15th, 2013 at 2:36 PM ^

The sad part is you don't even have to be fast paced to run the quick WR throw. For example if its part of your offense on every run play the WR assumes he's going to get the ball based on defensive alignment. It's up to the QB to see it and make the throw. Michigan could take all the time it wanted getting to the line and still throw the quick pass if it was built into the offense. Sadly it's not.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:06 PM ^

I still think that the inside screen to Chesson into a stacked box is the most idiotic play of the game. You've been bashing your head into a 9 man refusing to throw it to loosen that up and when you finally throw it, where do you throw it? Right into the MFing center of the stacked box.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

Not sure why they did that, but it didn't really matter. We were shorter on time than on downs. We kicked on 3rd down because time ran out, not on 4th down because we were out of downs. Although, if you back up to the challenge of the PSU reception at the 2 yard line, we took a TO coming out of the challenge for no reason I could see. That could have been very useful to run one more play.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:07 PM ^

I'm waiting for the Borges apologists to show up here "in defense of Borges" to explain why this is actually a GOOD thing. If there is anything more frustrating than stupid bloggers defending an even more stupid OC it's the now seemingly stupid Head Coach defending his insanely stupid OC.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:23 PM ^

I may not be an apologist for long, but I will say this: between Michigan's 2nd drive through most of the 3rd quarter he did open up the field with throws. They weren't bubble screens, but they had the same effect. He also brought back the read option/veer plays to good effect, and dialed up some scrambles for good effect. He also punished the defense over the top several times, twice for TDs. We did score a bunch of points in a fairly short amount of time, and would have scored more if not for a couple easy drops. Sure we decided to trot this idiocy out here and there, but we had two series killed by negative running plays into the box to start the game and he did ajust before regressing at the end of the game.

This stuff Brian points out is infuriating and I have no defense of why we continue to do it. It's almost more infuriating in light of the above. Borges *can* not be a stubborn asshole, it's in there somewhere but he seems to fall back to it eventually as if pulled by some perpetual force of gravity. It's even more frustrating that he seems to regress at the worst possible times.


October 15th, 2013 at 3:01 PM ^

Time to stop apologizing. Borges may be a nice man, but his inability to do recognize how the game is played today is costing this team wins. Brady needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with him. I'd also suggest a skip-level meeting between Brandon and Borges. "Al - take your head out of your ass and take what the defense gives you."


October 15th, 2013 at 3:09 PM ^

Yes, and despite that he managed to put up 34 points in regulaton. I'm not saying there aren't massive problems with the way he runs the offense at times, nor do I have any answers for why he refuses to take the easy yards. What I am saying is you have to take the game as a whole and not just cherry pick the plays you don't like.


October 15th, 2013 at 3:23 PM ^

WRONG.  His "offense" put up 24 points in regulation.  7 came from Frank Clark on the scoop and score.  And 3 came after an INT deep in PSU territory that we did nothing with and kicked a field goal.  Borges doesn't get credit for those 3 points. 


October 15th, 2013 at 3:56 PM ^

For one thing, 14 points came off of deep bombs to Funchess.

For another, most of the offense's points came when Al wasn't doing this - we actually opened things up quite a bit in the second half, and then sort of explicably stopped when we went to bleed clock mode, and then inexplicably did not open up again in OT.


October 15th, 2013 at 4:23 PM ^

That's exactly my point. Somewhere, deep down in there is a switch that let's Al not be Al. For a shining glorious moment there he flicked it and we were moving the ball nicely and hitting long bombs. Then, inexpicably, Al went back to being Al. Maybe Brady told him to be safe and bleed clock and he just went back into his I-form pound it up the gut shell, I don't know. He seems capable of doing good things so long as he can get out of his own way and he has in the past too. Maybe I'm just being the contrarian here, but you can't just filter away the good stuff because you want to hate the guy now.


October 15th, 2013 at 10:20 PM ^

Maybe Brady told him to be safe and bleed clock 

Count on it.  Hoke plays to his defense.  Offense is just something to kill time until the defense is on the field.

We are . . . Michigan State.  There's a reason Hoke is such good friends with Dantonio.  They are simpatico.





October 15th, 2013 at 5:19 PM ^

And yet Gardner ran 27 times for over 100 yards. Who called those great plays?

And we scored 27 offensive points in regulation. Its actually pretty shocking that we can do that when our RBs go 27 times for 27 yards. Must have been some good calls in there to get us some points.

I'm not a Borges apologist. I wouldn't care if they fired him tomorrow. What I will say is that I don't think anyone could produce a good offense with this line. Whoever is diagraming and calling plays will not be able to get anything out of our running backs. No one blocks. You want to fire him, fine. I'd like to give him a shot at developing a line before running him out. Sure, he doesn't throw bubble screens, but he does get WR wide open like on our first TD.


October 15th, 2013 at 10:24 PM ^

It is down to coaching, but its not all play design or play calling. Don't get me wrong, a lot of it is, but this line is shiiiiiiiiiiiiit. If power doesn't work and zone doesn't work, what could? More to the point, what coordinator could make a good offense out of a line that can't block man or zone?

Fire Borges man, but don't expect the next guy to be any better with this line is all I've been saying.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:09 PM ^

Brian, I think you're wrong about the WR off the screen on this play... I think it's even worse, I think we ran the play with 10 guys on the field (the missing man being AJ Williams who should be next to the LG).  Notice that we have 4 guys off the line already, plus Gallon is on, so I don't think there is another WR off the screen, I think Gallon should be covering the ineligible TE in their tackle over formation.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:15 PM ^

I'm pretty sure I'm right; from high up in Beaver Stadium I saw the tackle over paired with trips to the field and thought "WTF". You are right about the alignment, though. The guy off the screen had to be on the LOS, so Gallon wasn't an eligible WR. Which just makes it worse.


October 15th, 2013 at 10:25 PM ^

But he said the "mistake" was that the delay stopped the clock (as opposed to getting the play off in time, not calling a time out fast enough).  He had no intention of going for the FG at all, ever.



October 15th, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

they ran a -3 yard play afterwards to ensure we were out of filed goal range.  Honestly, that was infuriating to watch, while holding on to the time out. At that point, they are at the 27/28 yard line, which means you are definitely in field goal range, because a punt makes zero sense.  It is especially bad, since they didn't call the timeout on the "delay of game, but play goes off anyway, but damint, it's a fumble" play earlier in the game.  

And this play is worse than I even expected.  Having two guys outside of their most outside reciever and not throwing there, is incomprehensible.  


October 15th, 2013 at 2:29 PM ^

Do you have Heiko attempting to get answers on this today? I have been a big Borges supporter but I would really love to here what he says here. I supported him because I am big believe in the power running game. But his complete lack of willingness to ever take what the defense gives is becoming quite concerning.

Monocle Smile

October 15th, 2013 at 2:46 PM ^

You whined in the other thread about spread zealots on this blog, but you're just as bad in the other direction.

We suck at power running. We SUCK at power running. Until that changes, how about we not do it all the goddamn time? How about we do something we DON'T suck at? This has absolutely nothing to do with your favorite flavor of offense, and I wish you'd understand this.

Statistically, we run MUCH better from shotgun than from over-tackle or 2TE I-form. There is no argument here. And when your opponents' crappy corners are PLAYING IN THE PARKING LOT across from your receivers, several of whom are pretty good after the catch, you throw them the ball.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:48 PM ^

How I am just as bad in the other direction? I wasn't bitching for RR to change to the pro because thats what I wanted. I haven't blindly defended what this staff is doing at all. I've been on here the last two days saying over and over they aren't going anywhere using the approach we have seen.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:54 PM ^

What's the point? Other than registering the discontent with the situation, I can't think of any. And since everyone is already obviously pissed, there's really nothing that can be done. Either Hoke will get it together and can at least Borges (possibly Funk too) or he won't. Huge test of the direction of the program forthcoming.

Blue Durham

October 15th, 2013 at 6:35 PM ^

Actually, while I think that there actually were only 10 guys on the field, the following makes it even worse.

I went back to the DVR, and at 6:21 left in the 2nd, the screen does not show a player (and I think given the view and shot of the field, his helmet would seen (unless he is lined up a foot off the sideline which would be another example of incredibly stupid coaching).

There were 10 guys on the field for Michigan.

But this is a 2nd down play and comes RIGHT AFTER A MICHIGAN TIMEOUT. With this timeout, the coaches (1) couldn't get all of the personnel on the field and (2) failed to notice it when they didn't.

Either way, this whole play was full of fail.