Dear Diary at the Somme

Submitted by Seth on October 18th, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Here is dragonchild's summary of Michigan's offensive gameplan versus Penn State.

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Doing exactly what we've done 18 times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time! (Remote play prohibited; click the photo or here)

After studying abroad I spent two months backpacking Europe, marveling at their master works while being constantly amazed at the pointless waste accumulated over genera. Nearly every city and town has at least one monument (pre-Napoleonic ones are inside the churches) to townsfolk whose lives were the grist in one war or another's death mill. Overwhelming bodies marching toward an objective worked for the first Louis and Edward, and Europe kept running that same play—regardless of technology—for another thousand years.

Afterwards I spent a week ("The Long Shower") at a friend's apartment in London to get reacquainted with civilization, playing Perfect Dark, watching Black Adder tapes, and just appreciating the hell out of the fact that I was born to the one country in Western Civilization that expects tactical change whenever something isn't working. We lost one Custer (and frankly he probably deserved it) by telegraphing where our inferior force would be, then stopped doing that. From the Euro perspective America is the country that came to the trench war with tanks, and the tank war with an Air Force. Huddling isn't just outdated; it's un-American. As for sending barely trained draftees into machine gun emplacements…

It's not the Philosophy; It's the Fit. Here's Eye of the Tiger from his updated "Reading the Tea Leaves":

Now, as an aside, can we please bury the notion that this result had anything to do with inherent superiority of offensive scheme or philosophy? We didn’t lose because “MANBALL” (i.e. i-formations, power running, play-action and so forth) is inherently worse than “basketball on grass.” (i.e. shotgun spread formations, read-option running, constraint passing and so forth). We lost because our coaches called plays we don’t have the personnel for, then called them again and again when it should have been clear that we couldn’t execute them. Wisconsin, Stanford and Alabama can. We cannot. It’s that simple.

Before there was the UFR of the offense reshp1 tried his hand at identifying what went wrong with the run blocking. This leaves the coaches out of it and talks about the technique problems on the OL:

Conclusion. I can only imagine how frustrated the coaches are getting at this point. There is no one problem or even one guy. Quite the opposite, on any given play, we have the ability to screw up in 4-5 different ways, by anyone on the line save maybe Lewan. That’s wack-a-mole futility right there, where do you even start?

That was bumped. The other bump this week was bronxblue's Best and Worst weekly, which is beginning to really stand out for Sunday content after a game. Co-sign everything up until he says 5 wins and a crazy loss ain't so bad: immediately after it ended I was like "we deserved that," but each day since I'm convinced the level of persistent coach derp it exposed, has me terrified. How confident are you that they're saying to themselves "Wow, predicating our offense on the bet that our young guards will play like All-Americans was just about the dumbest thing we've ever coached; we need to take all of this criticism to heart." So how do things get better?

[More whining, after the Jump]

The other top weekly is ST3's Inside the Box Score. Long quote:

First half
19 plays were run from under center. 12 of those 19 plays gained zero or negative yards. Five plays lost yardage.
17 plays were run from the shotgun. 2 of those plays were incomplete passes that should have been caught, and three resulted in turnovers. The other 12 resulted in positive yards. There were no negative yardage plays.

Final 7 minutes of regulation
10 plays run from under center gain 9 yards total, with 5 producing zero or negative yards.
4 plays were run from the shotgun. They gained 55 yards and there were no turnovers.

He did each OT drive in detail. Theme: we ought to do the things that work and not the things that don't work.

Magnum P.I. summed up my thoughts on the matter in "Pride and Playcalling: Know They Team." IE Michigan's offensive coaching and play-calling follows a philosophy that does not match the talent on hand and does not lend itself to compromise: the "okay we'll do some of your spread stuff too" nets us an offense that's about as coherent as the latest federal budget. Th more the players are put in a position to fail the less likely they'll be to succeed when they're not. See: Toussaint (who got every yard available to him this game by the way so that's not a good example anymore).

Etc. Coach Schiano mapped the score guesses in last week's Guess the Score, Win Stuff, which is taking a week off because the guys who have to service that are sending out the books. 1484 wrote about the visit. Turnover analysis says to avoid turnovers THROW the ball (Woody Hayes dies (Again. (Not sorry (a little sorry)))). LSA's stat check. MGoBlueline points out the hockey team is good news.

Best of the Board

SPACE COYOTE: DON'T BLAME BORGES FOR OT!

The article was on MNB but the discussion happens here, as usual, and because it looks like a contrarian viewpoint from Brian's it gets down to the thin replies. Other than the "they're just setting up for a high-percentage field goal" things we agree on, so far as I can tell his argument boils down to "the burned downs showed him what he needed to see to get the passing matchups."

Except everyone in America already know what PSU was going to do when Michigan lined up like that (tackle over to the left). If they ran PA it's two receivers on two cornerbacks and a safety. Who didn't know this? If you say "yeah I'm not a fan but I know what he was thinking" that is just a nicer version of "I know what he was thinking and it was stupid."

RUN VS. PASS BY FORMATION

Victors5 took the UFR (you guys I keep a database that pulls this stuff up instantly if you ever need it) to see what Michigan's formation says about Michigan's pass/run breakdown. Well?

Shotgun - 32 run, 108 pass, 77% pass

Pistol - 22 run, 12 pass, 65% run

I Form - 75 run, 15 pass, 83% run

Ace - 50 run, 58 pass, 54% pass

Tackle Over - 29 run, 5 pass, 85% run

GAMEBOY: DO BLAME MATTISON FOR IT!

Interesting stat box on number of rushers versus YPA for M's defense vs. PSU:

Rush Count Completion % Avg Yards TD Allowed Sacks YPA
Three 5 60% 15.7 2 0 9.4
Four 34 50% 13.2 1 1 6.6
Five 11 63.6% 2.9 0 3 1.8
Six 1 0% 0 0 0 0

The more you do something the less effective it's going to be, but I totally agree with his assessment about rushing three linemen against a freshman quarterback. That's an ultra-conservative changeup you throw against a guy like Tommy Rees to punish him for checking into quick-hitters he thinks he sees, and it's less of a good idea the less you trust your pass rushers to beat doubles. However the 1-to-3 ratio of one-man blitzes seems to be doing a good job of preserving the effectiveness of a blitz while holding most downs to 6.6 YPA—a decent line vs. a passing offense. To reiterate something Ace mentioned a few podcasts ago: if Mattison is broken then it's already cliff jumping time anyway.

WERE THERE 10 MEN ON THE FIELD FOR THIS?

to-iform-trips

The 11th (EDIT: TENTH!) guy's helmet is right above the 'PE' in the score. You're just I am confused because there's only one defender out there and no defensive coordinator in the world would give up 10 yards like that unless he was convinced his opposing coordinator is the kind of idiot who'd run into that. Hamburgers.

STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT JUST GET TO THE PART WITH ANTHONY CARTER AND ZEN ALREADY!

YES. Wolverine Historian with the top 10 plays against Indiana. No guesses which is number 1.

Trivia: name the last time a guy at Michigan wearing #1 threw a pass to a guy wearing #2.

Indiana highlights are mostly "oh thank god we didn't lose to Indiana this time" highlights. Another 10 would have to include the Odoms over-the-shoulder catch, or the contested interception by Donovan Warren, or Brady to "Terrell is loose." A third 10 could be Desmond Howard kick returns.

Back when I had a greater capacity to appreciate greatness in other teams there was that perfect running toss by Antwaan Randle El (5:39 of this) which convinced me that guy deserved to win the '99 Heisman and made me a Randle El fan for life. I mean…he's leaping backwards, he's got James Hall about to rip his shoulder blades from his back and Victor Hobson (I think—just seeing his huge shoulder pads) is coming up to make sure his head isn't attached when that occurs, and he lays it into his receiver's hands 50 yards downfield so gently…man. They ought to show that one all the time instead of Kordell Stewart chucking a lucky Hail Mary.

Comments

Alton

October 18th, 2013 at 12:09 PM ^

No, there is no minimum for the line in the NCAA.

In 2011, the NCAA rule was changed from "minimum 7 men on the line" to "maximum 4 men in the backfield."  They changed the rule because the refs responsible for enforcing this rule (the linesman and the line judge) were just counting the backfield anyway.

6 on the line and 4 in the backfield is legal in the NCAA, even though it is not legal in the NFL.

MGlobules

October 18th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

doesn't quite come off. Something you something something history adapting something. Something will Hoke/Borges/Mattison change something wrong Space Coyote something. 

And much as I appreciate Wolvie Historian's work, the Indiana highlights could use more context. 

Blue Durham

October 18th, 2013 at 11:46 AM ^

There are only 10 Michigan players on the field in your screen shot. Go back to the tape of the game, freeze it at the very beginning after the timeout and count. This is the broadest view of the field for the entire play.

Tacopants

October 18th, 2013 at 11:53 AM ^

Aren't you missing out on the WW1 criticism that the US entered the war and disregarded the lessons learned the previous 2.5 years and still used outdated tactics, leading to much higher casualty rates for the AEF than the French or British at that point?

Seth

October 18th, 2013 at 12:05 PM ^

1914-17: Europe learns everything there is to know about trench warfare.

1917: U.S. announces we're coming.

1918: U.S. mostly training and building while saying "we're coming"; sends a few 'Over There' and gets caught up on the stuff learned by the guys who spent the last 5 years in trench warfare.

1919: U.S. arrives in full force that summer, with machinery. War ends shortly after, but it takes a few weeks to get that message out to everyone so more people die in the fall.

MGlobules

October 18th, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

and went over. Apparently he's written up in some chronicles as having developed a reputation as often being the only guy who came back from several missions. "Killer K," they called him. Some family suspected that he was just doing his own guys to nurture the scary rep. He was nothing but shoe leather once I caught up to him as a terrified grandson. 

M Fanfare

October 18th, 2013 at 2:02 PM ^

As others have pointed out, the war ended in November 1918. Only about 1/4 of the US Army was in France at the time, and only part of that was at the front. But what's key is that the US had very little of its own equipment. They had French and British tanks, mostly French artillery, mostly French and some British airplanes, French and British machine guns, and so on. The reason is shipping capacity. The US had the ability to raise a massive army and to equip it, but it needed help from the French and British to ship that army across the Atlantic. They agreed to help, but only if we would give up our equipment so as to get as many soldiers into France as possible (they both hoped to absorb American units into their own armies, but we refused except for a few occasions). So the US Army went to the front with mostly foreign equipment and having been trained by foreign officers (mainly the French).

M Fanfare

October 18th, 2013 at 1:55 PM ^

Well, the Gallipoli Campaign began less than a year after the start of the war and only a few months after it had developed into a trench war on the Western Front. So at that point, there were not yet any lessons to ignore (other than don't vastly underestimate the capabilities of your enemy, but that's no unique to World War I).

jbibiza

October 18th, 2013 at 12:37 PM ^

Actually it was the British who brought the first tanks into battle in WWI.  In our relatively brief appearance we did not even have a tank force - first developed one after the war was over.

Planes to WWII?  I would say the Germans were the first to really take advantage of that technology.  They were also the ones who totally changed the nature of tactics through the use of tanks.  To our credit, we learned quickly.  Soon after we entered the war our planes became the best, and we were able to vastly out-produce the enemy.

None of this excuses Borges for constantly running on first down when it was hopeless.  The reference to the Black Adder piece was brilliant!

mgobaran

October 18th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

We could always try running out of this.

1. It would probably end up for a loss of yards on first down.
2. This formation is in the NFL, so it is fair game for Al now.

Indiana Blue

October 18th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

can defend having just 10 men on the field as another brilliant move by Borges to conceal what the true intention was .....   ie  -  "Penn State will never think we're running the football if we only have 10 men on the field,  hahaha what kind a fucking idiot would do that.  I've got them now ... "

Go Blue! 

Indiana Blue

October 18th, 2013 at 1:23 PM ^

doesn't add good information to the blog, but he has really extended his credibility when it comes to the play calling last week.  Very simply - it was indefensible and to attempt to defend it is illogical.  The facts are indisputable ... to call running plays after 57 minutes of football had produced NO logical reason to call them is beyond definition.

Go Blue! 

Blue Durham

October 18th, 2013 at 2:24 PM ^

Indiana Blue, I understand. My attitude is more in line with yours than you know, but I just think that Space Coyote deserves an added modicum of consideration given his contributions.

But it doesn't mean that we can't address what Space Coyote says. In my opinion, a lot has been discussed about the last drive and the overtimes. These bother me the least. I take great issue with the first halt. That was an offensive apocalypse that put us in a huge hole.

Michigan should have never been behind in this game. That we were, and to such an extent, was all on the offense's shortcomings. The first half was the brain-child of Al Borges week of preparation.

The complete loss of the first half gave Penn State the chance to win the game. Without it, the randomness of our sure-footed kicker Gibbons missing FGs does not affect the outcome of the game, only the final winning margin.

animalfarm84

October 18th, 2013 at 1:32 PM ^

Not to put words in anyone's mouth, but my take on what SC has been saying is that one can't look exclusively to the play calling as the culprit; you have to look at failed execution too.

Play calling looks terrible when nobody can execute a block regardless of what you call. Having said that, my own layperson view is that calling tackle over a million times and stubbornly refusing to call constraint plays is on the play caller--even if you're getting the defense to react how you'd like and, in theory, the 15th time you run tackle over it should be successful, when you've failed the first 14 times it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

But I think SC's posts over at MnB go a long way to show that even with the awful results in a lot of cases, the underlying play call may not have been that bad.  Further, SC himself has acknowledged that by not assigning blame to the playcalling, he is not absolving Al, but instead shifting blame to the coaches' inability thus far to get the OL up to a competent level of execution.

Grumpy52

October 18th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

I'd like to see Michigan run Oklahoma's Wishbone under Barry Switzer. Or better yet... run out of a 3 I-Back formation. Al could call it, "The Most Powerful I"... for when regular manball just won't do.

M-Wolverine

October 18th, 2013 at 2:28 PM ^

How we revere a play against Indiana with AC that in this day and age we'd have spent all week KILLING Bo for because it took a last second miracle play to beat lowly Indiana....

Blue Durham

October 18th, 2013 at 2:53 PM ^

I was on campus then. Not all of the discussion regarding Bo was full of worship. Much, and I mean a whole lot, of what you are hearing now (obvious formation leading to obvious plays, predictability of play selection given down and distance, the fact that the talent Bo had at his disposal was vastly greater than that of his opponent) was all said back then.

A big difference between now and then. Only a couple of teams on the schedule had a chance to beat the Michigans, Ohio States, Oklahomas and Alabamas of the world. There was a huge disparity between the haves and have nots, and the game was much less competitive than today. Bo could steam roller over half his opponents each season, and everyone knew it. Hoke and Borges do not have that luxury.

M-Wolverine

October 18th, 2013 at 3:33 PM ^

It's just amusing how time changes things. Now it's all "Bo beat every loser team by 500 points, and yelled at them for not beating them by 501."  And that play is probably the most storied single play in Michigan history. Or at least the most replayed. But if he gets tripped up on a great designed play of Carter basically saying "screw the play, throw it to me" it's a loss to just an ok Indiana team. But no one looks at it that way now.