27 For 27: A Document

Submitted by Brian on October 16th, 2013 at 3:53 PM

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

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

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

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



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

Why it didn't work:

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

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



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

Why it didn't work:

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

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



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

Why it didn't work:

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

Blame: Everyone is happy!



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

Why it didn't work:

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

Blame: 80% playcall, 20% OL.

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



Play: Tricky edge pitch
Formation: Tackle over I-Form
Yards: 1

Why it didn't work:

  1. PSU has a DE flared out to the short side of the field who stays at the LOS and shuffles out to tackle.
  2. Toussaint can't run through five PSU players.

Blame: 100% playcall.



Play: Inside zone read
Formation: Pistol 2TE twins
Yards: 1

Why it didn't work:

  1. Gardner should pull.
  2. Bryant doesn't come off a double and an aggressive PSU MLB shoots a gap.
  3. Kalis gets no motion on a DT.

Blame: 50% Gardner, 50% OL. (Eight in the box is OK since they are trying to option one off.)



Play: Zone stretch
Formation: Tackle over I-Form twins
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. Glasgow and Kalis can't scoop the NT; seems like a Kalis issue.
  2. Schofield gets driven back by other DT.
  3. Penn State has 4 DTs and a DE on the field.

Blame: 50% playcall, 50% OL.



Play: Iso
Formation: I-Form
Yards: 2

Why it didn't work:

  1. Playside LBs are already at the LOS when the handoff is made.
  2. Eighth guy in the box is unblocked and there to deal with a good-idea cutback from Toussaint.
  3. Maybe Kalis doesn't get off his block fast enough but with LBs plunging down like this very difficult for him to do so.

Blame: 90% playcall, 10% OL.



Play: Zone stretch
Formation: WTF
Yards: –2

Why it didn't work:

  1. Michigan runs a stretch into the boundary with an unbalanced line.
  2. Six blockers against eight defenders.
  3. LOL

Blame: 100% playcall



Play: Zone stretch
Formation: Ace 3-wide
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. Kalis, Bryant, and Funchess get obliterated.

Blame: 80% OL, 20% TE/FB



Play: Power O
Formation: Goal line
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. No OL movement.
  2. Butt gets pancaked on a kickout block.

Blame: 50% OL, 50% TE/FB

(End of first half.)



Play: Power O
Formation: Tackle over twins H
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. Eight in the box with three guys flowing to a hole that will have two blockers in it.
  2. Butt runs past a LB to try and hit a DB, misses, but Bryant gets hit two yards in the backfield so it's not really relevant.
  3. When Fitz cuts back that blows up Magnuson's blocking angle. (Michigan is still running tackle over with Lewan out.)

Blame: 100% playcall.



Play: Power O
Formation: I-Form
Yards: –1

Why it didn't work:

  1. Shane Morris is in after Gardner's helmet gets knocked off.
  2. Williams loses a downblock against a DE.
  3. Bryant doesn't block either of the two guys who show.
  4. Kerridge picks off a DB instead of a LB.

Blame: 50% bloody fate, 30% TE/FB, 20% OL.



Play: Inside zone
Formation: Ace twins
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. PSU has 4 DTs and a DE on the field.
  2. They have nine in the box.
  3. Kalis and Williams get destroyed.

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



Play: Iso
Formation: I-Form
Yards: 4

Why it didn't work:

  1. We'll count this one as working. Woo!
  2. PSU has two deep safeties.
  3. Blocking's good.
  4. Iso is generally not something that breaks for a lot of yards.

Blame: Ain't no blame on second and six. /highfive



Play: Zone stretch
Formation: Ace twin TE twins
Yards: 8

Why it didn't work:

  1. It did! Two in a row.
  2. M gets lucky as their blocking is gross but when Toussaint cuts back the backside end is unable to close it down.

Blame: we're cookin' now



Play: Power O
Formation: Ace twins H
Yards: 4

Why it didn't work:

  1. It did again. Three in a row.
  2. Da'Quan Jones trips on Kalis, falls.
  3. Nice kicks from Williams and Butt open up a lane.
  4. Safety makes contact two yards downfield.

Blame: this is almost like offense



Play: Zone stretch
Formation: Ace twin TE
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. Despite doubling a LB at the LOS, the two TEs neither kick nor seal him.
  2. M has no angle to get a MLB
  3. Williams then releases and blocks air.
  4. Toussaint bounces into a free corner since Chesson cracked down on a safety who is guy 7.5 in the box.

Blame: 50% TE/FB, 50% OL



Play: Zone stretch
Formation: Ace
Yards: 3

Why it didn't work:

  1. Fitz finds a hole as Jones gets upfield and there's a big gap between him and the backside DT.
  2. Glasgow helps create this hole with a shove and then blocks the MLB, which is probably wrong since that's Burzynski's guy.
  3. SAM is headed outside as that momentarily looks dangerous and slips as he cuts back with Toussaint, tackling Toussaint in the actual gap.

Blame: 100% OL, but amplitude decreased since this almost kind of worked.



Play: Power O
Formation: Ace H twins
Yards: 1

Why it didn't work:

  1. Butt gets rocked back by the LB in the hole.
  2. Magnuson gets pushed back by Jones, Burzynski trips over him.
  3. PSU is desperate to preserve clock and M kill it so they know it's a run.

Blame: 50% OL, 50% FB/TE

Twenty One


Play: Inside zone
Formation: Ace
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. MLB shoots interior gap on the snap before anyone has a prayer of reacting.
  2. Seriously, I don't know how you stop this.

Blame: 100% playcall



Play: Zone stretch
Formation: I-Form Big
Yards: –3

Why it didn't work:

  1. PSU has all DTs in.
  2. One of them beats up Williams.
  3. Glasgow and Kalis can't execute a scoop.
  4. Schofield gets good motion on playside DT with help from Burzynski but then peels off to shove a linebacker. This shove pushes him right past what would have been Kerridge's block and into Toussaint.

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

Twenty Three


Play: Zone stretch
Formation: Ace twins twin TE
Yards: 1

Why it didn't work:

  1. Burzynski/Jones matchup doesn't go well(surprise!).
  2. Schofield gets blown up by the WLB, who penetrates.

Blame: 100% OL.

Twenty Four


Play: Iso.
Formation: I-Form
Yards: 2

Why it didn't work:

  1. PSU aligns two LBs basically holding hands and shoots both of them into the A gap. There is one blocker in there, Kerridge.

Blame: 100% playcall.

Twenty Five


Play: Inside zone
Formation: Pistol 3-wide
Yards: 3

Why it didn't work:

  1. Glasgow gets beat by the NT but because of the nature of the play there's a cutback lane; PSU LBs much more hesitant here.
  2. Burzynski gets thrown away by the WLB.
  3. Toussaint is trying to cut and it looks like he slips, so he does not get any YAC.

Blame: 50% OL, 50% Toussaint.

Twenty Six


Play: Iso
Formation: I-Form
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. Eight in the box, with every linebacker shooting forward on the snap.
  2. PSU stuffs up the hole, but M actually gets decent motion and there will be a cutback for Toussaint.
  3. Except the eighth guy roars in unblocked from behind and ends it.

Blame: 100% playcall

Twenty Seven


Play: Down G
Formation: Goal line
Yards: 0

Why it didn't work:

  1. Burzynski gets shot back into the hole by Jones.
  2. Magnuson gets pushed back.

Blame: 100% OL

Final Tally

Ten points per play were awarded.

  2. OL: 91
  3. FB/TE: 30
  4. FATE: 5
  6. GARDNER: 5

I'm impressed you got to the end of this. Hang in there, man.


Indiana Blue

October 17th, 2013 at 9:47 AM ^

if Devin walks up to the LOS and sees 9 men in the box and the play call was a run, then it is 100% play calling that led to a failed play.  No offensive line in the country is going to succeed against 4 defensive tackles, 4 linebackers and the safety playing the run.



October 16th, 2013 at 4:07 PM ^

Kudos for doing this. For all your Borges rage, it's nice to see you actually try to quantify the blame objectively.


One question: How much do you think is playcalling as in the initial play from the box, and how much is not checking out of plays. Play seven would be a good example, since it's impossible for Borges to know what the defensive personel, let alone alignment would be when calling that. You still assign 50% playcalling though, so I would assume that's all due to not having a check. I know it's hard to qualify because A) Borges never sees defensive alignment first but on the other hand B) he has to know based on prior experience what they probably will do. I'm not asking for a number here, just gut feel percentage.


EDIT: Also, I disagree on ten. Bryant and Funchess do get blown back, but they manage to seal inside and outside respectively enough for Fitz to get by. Glasgow give Kalis no help before releasing and puts him in a bad spot right off the bat.


October 16th, 2013 at 4:58 PM ^

... to see equal blame. But then I got to thinking.  At what point do you blame playcalling knowing you have a pretty bad offensive line.  There are things you can do, such as not calling runs, if you know that there is a greater than 50% chance one of your offensive linemen will not execute and you will lose yardage. 

I know the other option -- Devin passing or running -- can be terrifying, but is it the lesser of two evils that has higher variability but a greater average expected performance?


October 16th, 2013 at 5:32 PM ^

Yeah, assigning blame to play calling is always going to be a feelings ball type exercise. Borges does need to have some level of feel for what the team is capable of, what the defensive tendencies are, etc. That's his job in essence. At the same time, the players still need to execute something well, and do it consistently.

Borges got a ton of flak for saying in his presser that "just because running the ball isn't working doesn't mean you can abandoning it completely," but it's completely true. You can do other stuff, but sooner or later defenses will adapt. Bad OL play or not, you have to call a couple here and there and expect them to execute or else the defense just cheats to stop you.

Also, I think the lack of audibles at the line is absolutely killing us. Inherently, the OC has to show his hand first and if we don't have a way to respond to what the opposing DC does, it puts us at a huge disadvantage.

MI Expat NY

October 16th, 2013 at 5:41 PM ^

I read blame on playcalling simply to mean that the play could not work as designed.  That does not mean it is necesserily Borges' fault.  Gardner could have missed a check.  The defensive call could have simply been perfect.  Even when coaches call great games, certain play calls will fail (thus negative RPS plays in the UFR).  It's only when you add everything up and see a high total of blame being assigned to play calling can you fairly safely conclude that coaching/game planning was not good.


October 16th, 2013 at 7:17 PM ^

Yep, that's where I was going with my question. I wanted to get Brian's read on how many were WTF calls from Borges vs good ideas that met with better ideas from the PSU defensive coordinator. One, it was for my own curiousity, and two I wanted Brian to delineate between the two so the "Fire Borges" crowd wouldn't just interpret every "playcalling" attribution as Borges is an idiot and scream "OMG Borges #1 Problem!!"


October 17th, 2013 at 1:41 AM ^

absolutely right, but as I'm sure you're aware this goes both ways.  There will be plenty of plays where the blame might be 100% between the o-line and tight ends, but running a play that theoretically could work but relies on 5 lineman plus the tight end and fullback all executing isn't necessarily a good playcall in actuality when many of the guys you are relying on are guys who aren't reliable at executing their blocking assignments in the run game.

Anyway, very interesting post. I was really curious about this because I think everyone knew that we didn't have a great line but many of us were wondering how much they are struggling to execute and how much they're being crippled by impossible to execute playcalls.  Looks like it's some of each.

Space Coyote

October 16th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

They got exactly what they wanted on both counter plays and OL didn't correctly target. The counter pitch should have been 1 on 1 with a defender in space for Fitz, instead it was 1 v 5 because no one sealed inside.

Other counter was a combo not getting to MIKE.

Other than that I don't have any real big issues with the break down.

Space Coyote

October 16th, 2013 at 4:13 PM ^

MIKE bit a bit on the counter when I watched video. Glasgow shoots off at a 45 degree angle, when he needs to work up field and then out to the LB. He takes a bad target angle IMO.

On the counter pitch Magnuson sticks on the combo far too long and Kalis still doesn't seal it. He never gets off to the LB. He should barely touch the guy inside of him and work pretty much straight to the playside LB, which seals others inside. It's not a huge gain. But it should be 3-5 once Fitz beats the DE inside and pursuit gets to him.

Kalis also got absolutely destroyed on a fairly easy reach block on the Worst play ever that would have given that play yards, but I still think playcall isn't great, just not 100%, but I won't convince people of that.

Space Coyote

October 16th, 2013 at 4:25 PM ^

He's making a lot of small mistakes with footwork and fundamentals still. You see the talent when he latches on but it's been of a bit of a struggle getting there

EDIT: this is a reply from someone on the App that asked about Kalis "looking like a RS Fr"

Space Coyote

October 16th, 2013 at 4:21 PM ^

MIKE bites pretty hard because of the Tackle Over look. Bites on initial laterally and forward. It's not as simple as I first thought, but Glasgow should be targeting at least MIKE's playside shoulder, which means he should be going straight up field rather than at an angle. For whatever reason he looks like he's not even going for MIKE initially, or anticating that MIKE will completely bug out, which he doesn't. It's a bad path though by Glasgow either way.



October 16th, 2013 at 4:38 PM ^

I don't know. To me thats a pretty tough block for him. Considering Bryant is going to be driving the nose into the path he needs to take to that backer. I've always considered this kind of tackle pull play more of an iso style scheme instead of gap so I would have like to see Bryant chip the nose and move onto the backer. And let Glasgow take the nose.

(Edit: With that said I think Glasgows block is still doable. I just wouldnt choose to draw it up that way. Either way I don't think its a bad play call.)

Space Coyote

October 16th, 2013 at 4:40 PM ^

But even the way they did it, which they seemed pretty confident in, it could have been done better. But that is a combo block I believe that either can release to the MIKE. I think they went the way they did because MIKE stepped to the counter action and forward and thought he would continue forward.

EDIT to your EDIT: I feel the exact same way. I think they got the motion they were looking for from the LBs with the counter action.

Ron Utah

October 16th, 2013 at 5:14 PM ^

I think you lose a lot of the deception on this play if your guards don't step right at the snap.  Bryant needs to block the NT to make the counter work, IMO.

I think Glasgow got faked out by the LB biting so hard on the counter.  He takes the wrong path, IMO, and that doesn't help.  I'm not sure he and Schofield block both of those LBs anyway, but it certainly could have been better.

I'd score this one 60% OL, 40% playcall.  I like that Al used the counter, but I'd rather be throwing against that front.


October 16th, 2013 at 5:39 PM ^

I see what you're saying but I think LB bite is coming from the action in the backfield. The LB is not really going to read Bryant down blocking as a zone play and bite like that. He's going to read a down block as a down block and probably fill that B gap in a hurry. Linebackers that are reading guards are usually reading and reacting in the following way:

Zone step - mirror the guard, keep outside shoulder free

down block - fill b gap now

pull - shoot opposite a gap (or whatever run thru opens there)

And the linebacker would cleary see this as down block and not a zone block IMO.


Ron Utah

October 16th, 2013 at 5:58 PM ^

I'm worried about the WILL, not the MIKE.  He is most definitely reading the guard (if he's doing his job) and should shoot that hole if the guard comes out to the MIKE.  There is no way Schofield gets there in time to block him if he shoots that gap.


October 16th, 2013 at 6:09 PM ^

Doesn't the WILL bump over here and play over the center and the CB bumps in? Could be wrong. I know that essentially turns him into the WILL, but I don't think that corner would be taught to read the guard in that situation.

Anyways, yes if there is a WILL there he's going to read the guard going to the MIKE or down blocking the NT as the same thing. They are both down blocks.



October 16th, 2013 at 5:46 PM ^

Depends what play this is a counter of. If the guards don't step right on power, why would they step right on the power counter? These plays are made to mess with LB keys. I don't have the video, so I don't know what the look is, but the play should essentially look just like the original play, aside from the pulling counter action.

I'd rather throw against that front too, though. I'm pretty sure Borges would, too. He likes to throw. But he hasn't given Gardner audible power, probably because he's not great at identifying coverages, as evidenced by his 11 INT in 146 attempts, which is just a dreadful ratio.


October 16th, 2013 at 5:56 PM ^

I am very impressed with your ability to continue to make negative (some might say accurate) comments about Gardner without Monocle Smile coming along and calling you a dumbass and saying something about a Straw Man.

I wasn't so lucky yesterday.



October 16th, 2013 at 6:08 PM ^

Don't know him.

I think that's a huge issue in our struggles. The line is shit. That makes almost everything hard to run. Our only hope is to have a transcendent player who can make up for it. For what its worth, I think Gardner can be that guy. But he hasn't shown enough in the passing game, and the coaches know it. So, a lot of this is us trying to make the run game work, because if it doesn't, we can't run Gardner into the ground and we can't have him throwing it all around the field either, since he's throwing a pick every 14 attempts or so. And the bad runs are shit, but at least they give you another shot and a chance to flip field position, which INTs don't do.


October 16th, 2013 at 6:17 PM ^

Agree 100% with this and most everything else you say on this board.

Moncole Smile changed his name from something else after he ripped someone else a few weeks ago for questioning dual threat QB's and someone called him out for being rude. He jumped on me yesterday when I said Gardner throws have made it tough for the WR's to have any YAC ability, let alone throwing it into a DE's chest.

Anyways, yes I do believe Gardner has done some really good things and can do some great things. But its not out of line to question the offensive staffs reasoning for not trusting him to throw it 40 times a game and check into hot routes at this point. But his scrambling ability alone has gotten this offense out of some really bad situations.

Red is Blue

October 16th, 2013 at 8:13 PM ^

Of the 27 runs, we had what?  Somenthing like one of 12 yds and three > 3 yds.  The odds of using the bad runs to flip field postion seem pretty poor since the there is a low likelihood of getting a first down or having the bad run put you in position to get a first down through another means.  That being said something most have gone well offensively in this game afterall the did put up 27 in regulation (from O).  This obviously isn't WOW! territory, but it is not awful either.  Everyone points to Gardners two picks and while you can't ignore those, you can't also ignore his effort the rest of the evening which, in my view, approached transcendent.

Space Coyote

October 16th, 2013 at 4:42 PM ^

Backside LB essentially gets blocked by the counter action. He then should have to fight over the top of MIKE being blocked by the combo, meaning that he should be chasing behind Fitz who is closer to that spot than the LB is. If this is blocked correctly, the best case for the backside LB after he bites on the counter is to catch Fitz from behind when Fitz tries to beat the safety in the open field.


October 16th, 2013 at 4:44 PM ^

Sometimes you're going to have to.

The guy they don't block can't make that play until 4 yards at least anyways. (If they had blocked it playside correctly).

But sometimes you're just going to have to leave the backside end, backside OLB, or a safety that walked up to the backside unblocked. Sometimes Fitz is going to have to make the unblocked guy miss at 4 yards. He did in the Minnesota game.



October 16th, 2013 at 5:52 PM ^

Almost all plays leave a defender unaccounted for. Its usually a safety. The RBs job is to beat that man.

And usually, backside defender are either too far away from the play to do anything, or get stuck in the muck, or are essentially blocked by the QB in his boot action. I'm sure we all understand the idea of QB as blocker as it pertains to the read option. It still pertains here, although to a smaller degree on most plays.


October 16th, 2013 at 6:38 PM ^

I had a more complete thought, but was distracted by a shiny object and didn't finish it. It involved the ability of the MIKE to stay backside/counter-side longer because of the numerical advantage on the action side. But the argument has passed by, so I'll just go about my business.


October 16th, 2013 at 4:17 PM ^

On play 9? Because if there isn't, Michigan ran a stretch play with 8 in the box and a safety over the top with 10 men on the field. The safety is over the top eyeing the "TE" (Lewan?) who is actually ineligible. So basically this looks like a stretch play with 9 in the box with 10 men on the field. In.Excuse.Able.


October 16th, 2013 at 4:18 PM ^

Sad face. But at least I can complain more in this comment. That has to be the most ridiculous formation I've ever seen in my entire life.

The coaches are putting the players in position to FAIL.


October 16th, 2013 at 4:20 PM ^

Brian, I counted 10 screen shots from above that are wide enough to basically see all 22 players.  On 9 of them a simple quick throw to the WR gets 5 yards minimum.  I guess its really a simple question of would you rather have 45 yards or 27 yards?  Edit: those numbers are plays where Michigan actually had a WR to throw it to.

Space Coyote

October 16th, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

A CB playing 7 yards off is considered normal. That is far from 7 free yards. You also have to consider if the CB is retreating at the snap or is playing it where his initial movement can be down hill to the LOS. You also must consider late movement that doesn't necessarily tip this.

While I agree they could run some extended hand offs at times, I don't think it's as simple as you're making it out to be. I actually think the throw back screen that Borges dials up for Gallon should have been called a time or two to take advantage of these, as should have a flare screen based on what Michigan saw off of the middle screen.


October 16th, 2013 at 5:12 PM ^

I agree, some of the CB alignments shown above are better than others but on play number 8 the CB is literally 11 yards off of Chesson I believe.  And while I agree with you it's not as easy as it may look, it's really not that hard either.  The WR doesn't have to move.  All he has to do is turn towards the QB to expose his numbers.  Devin just has to play catch.  I'm pretty sure he's capable of doing that.  Would you rather have Gallon one on one with a CB or the cluster shown above again and again. 


October 16th, 2013 at 5:01 PM ^

You're not getting those extended hand-offs. Period. We mist live in this world, not the one we want to.

Maybe an even better play than the called one or the quick throw to the receiver is possible. Why isn't anyone arguing for that one? Because it ain't happening. It just ain't. We wish it would. Its not in our offense.

This post is dealing with who to blame for the plays that we ran. Lets talk about that.