In The End, A Parlor Trick

Submitted by Brian on November 26th, 2012 at 11:53 AM

11/24/2012 – Michigan 21, Ohio State 26 – 8-4, 6-2 Big Ten

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Bryan Fuller

In 1997, Michigan had a multidimensional weapon they'd take out of the garage for a couple dozen plays a game. His name was Charles Woodson, and I distinctly remember the disappointment that would wash over me 70% of the time he came in for an offense snap. This disappointment was because Woodson didn't get the ball. He ran a route, and something else happened.

Despite the disappointment, I got it. You can't just give the ball to the dynamic guy every time he comes in the game because if you do putting him in the game is tantamount to holding up a huge sign that says THIS IS THE PLAY WE ARE RUNNING. You can't flip up your hole cards before you bet.

Al Borges disagrees. If you've poked around the flaming wreckage of the Michigan internet in the aftermath of Saturday, you have undoubtedly heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth because of that. But the thing is so stark it has to be marveled at again: when Denard Robinson entered the game against Ohio State, every play but one was Denard Robinson doing something. Once it was fail to chip Ryan Shazier and try to get out for a screen; all other times it was run the ball, sometimes with a pitch included. The fakeout was a six-yard completion to Mike Kwiatkowski in the first quarter, and there ended any attempt at deception.

Devin Gardner was at quarterback for three of these plays. Michigan held up a sign that said RUN or PASS, and didn't even try the token fakeout where Robinson goes over the top when the safeties suck up. Gardner ran three times. Denard passed zero. Ohio State figured it out. Surprise!

Denard got a dozen snaps and watched from the sideline as Gardner tried to drive Michigan 70 yards for the win. There were six minutes left, and Michigan was reduced to throwing every down as a guy who might break the all-time rushing record for a quarterback watched.

What can you say? It's indefensible. It's a failure without any possible explanation. It caused legions of neutral observers to laugh or fume or sit slack-jawed as they watched it unfold. Sean McDonough was dumbfounded. Orson, in the stands, marveled. Twitter burst at the seams with furious mockery from people who don't care about Michigan but do hate to see Denard Robinson end his final Ohio State game on the bench, having averaged 11 yards a carry on ten attempts.

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Here is a list of things Denard Robinson could have productively done on Saturday that did not necessarily involve him getting the ball.

  • Be a running back on the inverted veer.
  • Stand in a two-back set, then motion out a la Vincent Smith on a pre-emptive flare route.
  • Run a flare from the backfield
  • Line up in the slot and get a fake jet handoff, then run a wheel.
  • Line up in the slot, run a bubble.
  • Run a route you ignore but the defense cannot.
  • Fake a screen to him and screen to the other side.

There were ways to work around the fact that Denard can't block, primarily running your best play with your best two players. What can possibly be so hard about telling Denard "now you're the other guy on the play we run all the time"? Even if it's play action, it draws everyone. If he's on the field, one to three people are concerned with him, and if that's at the edge of the field that's as good as a block. It's a fantastic block. It is a much better block than most of the folk on Michigan's offensive line were capable of.

And nothing. Nothing. Here is a sign that says whether we are running or passing.

“They were a little bit predictable in the first half,” said Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers. “You know, they put 16 (Robinson) back there, he was gonna run it. And they put 12 (Gardner) back there, they were gonna throw it. And after a while that became something that we keyed on.”

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On the other side of the ball, things made sense. Ohio State's offense is a coherent whole that ruthlessly exploits every edge it can. Michigan spent the first couple drives unable to substitute as Ohio State went up-tempo. Afterwards they started running on right after the play; Michigan struggled to get set at times. When OSU slowed it down, they made a playcall after seeing how the defense lined up. They took every advantage the game gives them.

Once JT Floyd got turned around by Devin Smith on OSU's first drive, Michigan was faced with the prospect of repeating last year's festival of deep bombs or giving Floyd help. They chose the latter, and chose to contain Braxton Miller at all costs. To do this they had to give up two things: the underneath flats and the guy in the box that can be a free hitter.

The results: Miller was 14 of 18. Avery blew a deep corner route on a third and long early and there was the bomb. There ended downfield passing. Miller's other 12 completions averaged 9.8 yards a pop on a series of screens and quick throws in the soft outside section of the field. Carlos Hyde surged up the middle over and over again, picking up 146 yards on 26 carries with no Michigan player available to hit. Stat of the game: Will Campbell had ten assisted tackles.

The dispiriting thing is watching that and not being frustrated with anyone in particular when the other team moves the ball. There was no screaming some guy's name, no rolling your eyes and saying "come on make a tackle." When Michigan stopped them, it was a good play by someone. When they did not, it was because you can't play the wide receivers one on one so everyone's got a blocker.

Michigan was lucky not to give up 30 or 40 points. Ohio State is rickety. Botched snaps, penalties, and some heroic individual plays—Ryan checking Miller in space, Jibreel Black and Frank Clark combining to get Miller down on third and goal when Michigan had put four guys against three to the field—prevented that, but it was there. It will be there next year, and the year after, and the year after that. They will not be as rough as this outfit in its first year.

Michigan can only beat it by winning one-on-one matchups, lots of them. That's tough to do. Possible—see Stanford—but tough, and sometimes even if you're Stanford the Oregons of the world blitz you for 40.

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Most of the time, actually.

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Fuller

One mistake is all it takes.

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The Hoke hire was alarming to me (for about two weeks) because it seemed like waving a white flag and going back to the Carr era philosophy that had seen Michigan slip definitively behind Ohio State over the last six or seven years of Carr's career. In a lot of ways, those concerns have proved unfounded. Carr was a puntosaur; Hoke is amongst the most aggressive coaches in the country. Mattison is as modern as defensive coordinators come. Whatever his flaws, Borges is a far cry from DeBord. He wants to score, for one.

There are two ways in which those concerns have been true, one tiny, one large. The tiny one is the spread punt. You've seen the coverage, seen what everyone else is doing, heard me complain about it, etc. I asked Heiko to bring it up a couple times over the past few years, and we did get an answer of a sort as to why Michigan doesn't run it:

MGoFollowup: Were you aware that they could run a fake out of the spread punt formation?

“Sure. Yeah. They had done it before, right up the middle.”

MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?

“Uh, we don’t use it.”

MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?

“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”

That is a dull, unthinking answer. Heiko shot it to me as soon as he transcribed it and it depressed both of us.

Here is where the comparison to Beilein goes. Beilein, who has discovered the alley-oop and ditched the 1-3-1 except when it wins a game against Pitt, and wiped out his coaching staff to start anew. Beilein took his comfort level and chucked it out the window. We all stand to benefit. In the wake of this loss, I hope the football staff takes a similarly stark look at itself.

I wonder what possible use a huddle is now. I've had this Smart Football post lying around for months, as I was going to make a post about it:

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that huddling is an archaism destined for the dustbin. I say it’s a slight exaggeration because there is a value to huddling, primarily when you have a great leader at quarterback as a huddle is an opportunity for him to show his leadership skills. But otherwise, it’s inherently inferior to going no-huddle. It’s slower, which is a problem both in games but also in practice where your offense gets fewer reps, and, maybe most importantly, the safety net of a huddle leads coaches to transform plays that can be communicated in just one or two words into multi-syllabic monstrosities.

The Patriots don't use it, Ohio State doesn't use it, Oregon lol huddle, etc. And I see Michigan get out of one with 15 seconds on the playclock having determined what they're going to do without getting information from the defense and with little time to change what they're doing. And I think about comfort, and how dangerous it is to slip into old habits just because they are old.

It feels like Michigan is on the wrong side of history here. After Rodriguez the spread offense is anathema. It's the one thing that keeps Nick Saban enraged at night, and it feels like Michigan's going to ignore it because Rich Rodriguez's defense couldn't stop a six-year-old child, instead of for any defensible rationale. I'm not sure that's going to cut it against Urban Meyer.

Highlights

OSU guy did this one but it's got all the important stuff:

A shorter but HQ reel from mgovideo:

Also pressers from Hoke and players.

Awards

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Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Well… this is close but since Jake Ryan saw something like 60 snaps instead of a dozen, his nine tackles two TFLs, sack, and impressive non-tackle of Braxton Miller get him the nod. One on one, he won his matchup. Now we just need five to six more of that guy.

Honorable Mention. Denard(obvious), Roy Roundtree (touchdown), Jeremy Gallon (six catches), possibly Will Campbell (ten assists!).

Epic Double Point Standings.

4: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois, OSU)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota), Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota, Northwestern)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska), Devin Gardner(Iowa)

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Obvious.

Honorable mention: Roy Roundtree uses one man-Dileo convoy to score 75-yard touchdown, Frank Clark levels Braxton Miller a couple times, Denard turns not much into 30 yards on Michigan's first snap.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.

11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over.
11/17/2012: Denard WOOPS Tanner Miller in Big House finale.
11/24/2012: Denard uses PHYSICS to score a touchdown

Offense

Rawls lacks YAC, so what's the point? Michigan ended up in fourth and three on their first drive of the third quarter after a one-yard Rawls carry, a six yard Denard carry, and a zero-yard Rawls carry. The third down attempt was pretty much stuffed but Rawls could not manufacture even one yard after contact, something that has been a pattern after he got everyone's hopes up by running over some Purdue safeties.

But the real killer was the first down play, when Michigan successfully blocked everyone and got Rawls the edge. One on one in space with cornerback Bradley Roby, Rawls ran straight into him and went down. One yard.

Rawls's five carries netted two yards. Since he started picking up non-garbage-time carries against Minnesota this brings him to 68 yards on 32 carries, 2.1 per carry. Yeah, the line has something to do with that and Rawls is getting goal-line carries, but since he's getting so many goal line carries because he's bouncing outside the tackles or going down on first contact I don't think that's much to hang your hat on.

Yeah, he'll probably get better as he ages but at this point it would be a shock if he ever ends up anything but a short-yardage back. Chalk another one up to the Fred Jackson Hyperbole Curse.

This is a reason I'm skeptical about Drake Johnson making an impact. Guys Jackson personally campaigns for have a poor track record.

Bad time to get beat for the first(?) time this year. Michigan's first drive ended with a blindside sack and fumble yielded by Taylor Lewan, which was like… that can happen? I think Alabama got a blindside sack in the first game; since then nothing. Bad time for a bad play.

This of course means that he will slide down draft boards and return. That's the ticket.

Devin flaws exposed. It was coming, and it came: against a more talented defense than Gardner had seen so far he was hesitant. His throws were off, mostly deep, and throw after throw was a second late. Against Iowa and Northwestern and Minnesota it didn't matter, but Ohio State's defense is a really good unit that implodes to yield long touchdowns twice a game; when they were not doing that they're pretty good about closing down space.

All that's understandable. Hopefully we see a more polished version in the bowl game and go into 2013 with some confidence under center.

The stuff they got. Ohio State is a defense that is good, and then explodes spectacularly, and that's what they did on the Roundtree touchdown, which was just CJ Barnett making a terrible play. Good for Gardner to recognize that coverage; not a huge credit to the play itself. And then Denard used science(!) to burst through two tacklers on the 67-yarder.

That play was a credit to Borges as it was pretty much exactly what OSU ran some last week, a fake veer that turns into an outside play with a convoy of blockers. Michigan ran it to good effect in the first half, and then died in the second half because OSU adjusted.

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"boy I hope this guy spends most of the second half on the bench" –nobody (Fuller)

Speaking of that play… find me the Michigan fan who was not in full FFFFFFUUUUUUUU mode the instant before after Michigan got the ball back with 1:30, ran for eight yards on first down, and then spent 30 seconds lining up. You can't even put it on Denard this time since there was the option to go to Gardner. Denard bailed them out of another hack job of a two-minute drill.

Rodriguez comparison point. That game was reminiscent of early Rodriguez offensive forays that worked fairly well for a half—think introducing MINOR RAGE against Penn State en route to 17-14 halftime lead—and then evaporated when the opponent took the fancy new stuff away and Michigan had no other way to move the ball. They came in with a couple things that worked, and then Ohio State said "we are not letting Denard run" and that was that.

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Fuller

Speaking of that concept… on the fourth and three to open the second half Michigan ran that same play again. The above picture is from the touchdown; on the stop, Barnum's guy shot outside and upfield, forcing a cutback, and Lewan didn't have an angle to get on an equally hard-charging Shazier. It's almost like they spent halftime preparing to stop it.

“My comment was, after I saw Denard Robinson sneak outta there for a long run, stop the quarterback run,” Meyer said. “That’s the input I had. Probably the same — I think 107,000 people said that as well.”

The most baffling thing… hmm. Not running your extremely fast guy who can actually throw the ball makes the top 20 of baffling decisions Saturday. What are you saving him for?

2013 peek ahead. I'm drafting a "22 Tickets for Team 134" feature that'll tackle this in more detail, but for now Michigan loses the following folks after the bowl:

  • Denard
  • WR Roy Roundtree
  • TE Mike Kwiatkowski
  • OL Taylor Lewan (probably), Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Patrick Omameh

The likely replacements:

  • Devin
  • WR Amarah Darboh(?)
  • TE AJ Williams
  • OL Ben Braden, Kyle Kalis, Jack Miller, and Chris Bryant

Bryant is admittedly speculative; Fitzgerald Toussaint may not make it back. How do we feel about this? On the one hand, four new starters on the offensive line. On the other, the interior guys are probably going to be better even if they're young. Possibly a lot better. While Schofield isn't Lewan he was a solid pass protector this year and should be able to cope.

The most important thing is getting those tight ends in shape. Funchess was a crappy blocker this year; more alarmingly, AJ Williams was hardly better. I don't know much about OL technique but Williams has stood out as so spectacularly unrefined that even a layman like myself can look at him and think "that doesn't look right."

Defense

Story of the season. Defense hangs in against good offense as offense curls up and dies, putting them in bad spots time and again, eventually cracks a little, and fades late as exhaustion sets in. Ohio State neared 400 yards and put up 26 points but I'm not even a little mad at what happened. It was all so obvious.

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this was an actual tackle (Fuller)

Most impressive non-tackle of the season. Jake Ryan in space against Braxton Miller was a little different than Jake Ryan in space against most people, but he did hold Miller up long enough for the cavalry to rally. On the day, nine tackles, a TFL, and a number of "oh thank God you are large and fast" moments. All Big Ten, surely.

I am going to hit you very hard now. Frank Clark was the main beneficiary of multiple all-out blitzes Mattison sent on third down.

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Fuller

A couple of these threatened to send Miller out of the game or dislodge the ball; most other times Michigan didn't even bother to rush him.

2013 peek ahead. I'm drafting a "22 Tickets for Team 134" feature that'll tackle this in more detail, but Michigan loses the following folks after the bowl:

  • SDE Craig Roh
  • 3TECH Will Campbell
  • MLB Kenny Demens
  • CB JT Floyd
  • S Jordan Kovacs

Likely replacements:

  • SDE: Jibreel Black/Tom Strobel
  • 3TECH: Matt Godin/Chris Wormley
  • MLB: Effectively James Ross since the bet here is Morgan slides over.
  • CB: Blake Countess
  • S: Jarrod Wilson

That's a lot of youth, with Black the only upperclassman mentioned. It is at least highly-touted youth. Wormley was going to see the field as a freshman, Countess had a breakout freshman year before the injury that cost him 2012, James Ross is a summer in the weight room away from being awesome, and… well, Wilson is not going to be Kovacs.

2013 will probably be just as good as this year, if not a little better, and then look out in 2014: the only projected starters to graduate after next year are Thomas Gordon and Quinton Washington. (Nickelback Courtney Avery also departs.) Washington will be replaced by a fully groomed Ondre Pipkins; Michigan has a few options to replace Gordon.

Miscellaneous

Fourth and three from the forty-eight. My thought at the time was that was a coinflip decision, statistically, and yup:

Stat Go4it Punt FG Att
Success Rate: 0.57 - 0.00
WP Success 0.61 0.56 0.67
WP Fail: 0.47 - 0.46
WP Total: 0.55 0.56 0.46
Break-Even: 0.64  

Those are NFL numbers, of course, and can't be taken as gospel. Whatever adjustment there is to the college game it's not going to push it into slam dunk territory either way. That decision is all about feel.

From my perspective that feel includes information like "interior line cannot block these guys" and I was more nervous than happy when Hoke went for it, but it's right on that line. OSU blew up the playcall, which was a fine playcall since it involved Denard having the ball, and Michigan gave it up. Oh well.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Since it's hard for people to get away from their base urges I prefer the guy who will be aggressive, even excessively so, since the vast majority of decisions to be aggressive will be correct, and even ones that seem weird like Saturday's are a push.

Yup. If you were wondering if the shirtsleeves would come off, nope:

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MANBALL (Fuller)

If it's sleeting I think the guy should put a jacket on just because it's hard to think when you get cold to your bones.

Just the right amount of shoving. Football games are at their best when there is harmless shoving on a half-dozen plays a game, and M-OSU delivers on this count.

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Fuller

This was immediately after Mike Jones became "that guy who got the dumb personal foul in the 2012 game" to Michigan fans, and never threatened to escalate past this business. They've done this for years now, and I approve.

Weekly Devin Gardner lookalike photo. Recycled from last week because Bryan didn't get a shot of it, but Devin definitely went Mr Burns after the long touchdown to Roundtree.

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Upchurch/Groening

I enjoy this being a thing.

Here

Inside The Box Score:

* The leading tackler was WLB Desmond Morgan with 11. Last week's leading tackler was also the WLB, James Ross III. I guess they are not kidding when they say there is an expectation for the position.
* Will Campbell had one of the craziest defensive stat lines I've ever seen: 0 solo tackles and 10 assisted tackles.
* Jake Ryan was back making plays all over the field, 9 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. On Thomas Gordon's sack, Ryan jumped on Gordon's back and tried to sack Gordon and the QB. It's been said of others, but I don't think it applies to anyone better than Jake Ryan, he plays like his hair's on fire.

Best And Worst:

Best:  MGoMeltdowns are awesome

So as is the custom around these parts, the traffic to the site after a loss follows the same trajectory as general internet traffic does whenever illicit pictures of some starlet are “leaked” to the the web totally-unexpectedly-but-right-before-my-new-movie-Crushed Blue Velvet Girlfriend 2-is-released.  For a graphical representation, here is a screenshot of the site about 4 minutes after the game ended

freakout

Click for full size

It will never approach RCMB or anything in the SEC not related to Vandy, but TWO redundant posts sarcastically “thanking” the coaches for losing the game, one out-and-out “Fire Borges” thread and one claiming he merely “sucked”, one thread already set for deletion, and about 1,100 posts in a game thread, 50% of them berating Al Borges and the team for a poor second half, is nothing to sneeze at.  Subsequent posts included petitions to fire Al Borges, a couple crying out for sanity, and one inferring a discussion about iCarly and Larry Hagman that felt appropriate for an 8th-grader’s “MySpace” profile.  Then Ace showed up with his usual quality summary and solid reasoning, which is like, Booo this man!

LSAClassOf2000 puts yardage for and against in a table.

Elsewhere

Figure you don't want to read crowing so right on to the other stuff…

Blog stuff. Hoover Street Rag:

In the end, I'm never going to understand this, I'm never going to understand them, I'm never going to understand that feeling.  Jim Tressel is honored during the first quarter break of the Michigan/Ohio State game for his 2002 National Championship season, and he is carried off the field by his players to a standing ovation at the Horseshoe.  Ohio proceeds to get its act together and win 26-21 to complete a perfect 12-0 season.  A season in which they are ineligible for a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions related to Jim Tressel's failure to report what he knew about illegal benefits being given to his players to his superiors.  A season in which they are ineligible for the B1G championship game next weekend because of the post-season sanctions.  But it doesn't matter, a standing ovation for what Tressel did, not how Tressel got caught.

Borges complaint section follows. Maize and Brew:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING RUNNING UP THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD WITH A RUNNING BACK BUILT LIKE A WATER BUG? WHY DID WE DO EXACTLY WHAT OHIO STATE WAS EXPECTING ON SECOND DOWN, AND THEN DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY EXPECTED ON THIRD DOWN AGAIN?! WE HAVE NOT ONE, BUT TWO EXTREMELY TALENTED AND MOBILE QBS, AND THESE ARE OUR PLAYS ON SHORT DOWNS?! WHERE ARE THE TRICK PLAYS TO ROBINSON AT TAILBACK?! ARGGGHHHHHH.

MVictors:

While Hoke never really talks about injuries, it’s not like there’s some gamesmanship required here—the bowl game is five weeks away.   And let’s say he was dinged up and couldn’t run the ball for some reason–toss him in the backfield as a decoy, no?  

Other than the lack of Denard down the stretch, the other frustration was how he was used in short yardage.   He showed no indication that he was ever going to pass it and really didn’t throw in warm-ups.    So if you aren’t going to have him throw it–at any point–then on short yardage put him in the backfield with Gardner and hand it or toss it to Denard, or fake it to #16 and have Gardner run it, or toss it to Gallon or ARGH.

After the 2001 Michigan State Spartan Bob game Lloyd Carr summed up how he felt about his team, when he said, “They deserve better.”  

MNB recap. M&GB recap. Sap's Decals. Maize and Blue Nation:

In the moments after the game, when I snapped this photo, the air was rich with the smell of marijuana, wafting down from the student section were people, from seemingly every direction flooded the field in a frenzy of drunken euphoria.

Between the Buckeye fans posing for photos in front of the team leaving the field with their heads hanging, and the idiots stupid enough to try and mix it up with Michigan players, it was all I could do to keep my composure and just walk away. I had to remember that I'm a credentialed media member and it's not my place to get involved. Just walk away. Props to the Michigan players for doing the same.

What a mess.

Papery stuff. Chantel Jennings scours instagram for Game photos. This one is from Channing Stribling:

Rothstein game story:

A week ago, the Wolverines appeared to have a devastating offense with two quarterbacks, including Denard Robinson, moving one of the most electrifying players in football all over the field. Not only did Michigan short-circuit on Saturday, the devastation was all their own unraveling.

"Yeah, we kind of knew what was coming when Denard was in and knew what was coming when [Gardner] was in," Ohio State defensive lineman Adolphus Washington said.

If Robinson was in the game, Michigan was going to run the ball without question. If Devin Gardner was in, there was a little bit more of a surprise, but more than likely the junior was going to throw the ball or try to.

Nowhere did this show up more than in the second half, when Ohio State adjusted to put nine players in the box when Robinson was in, essentially daring him to throw. Whether he couldn't or wouldn't, Robinson didn't. And that decision cost the Wolverines.

"Coach called the plays and we went with it," Robinson said.

I'll have to look at the fourth down to be sure but Robinson put it on himself after:

"I've got to come a little tighter and get outside a little more (there)," Robinson said after Michigan's 26-21 loss to Ohio State. "I made a bad read on the run, that's my fault."

Hoke as well:

"(Robinson) maybe should have been in a gap wider," Hoke said. "And, he had broken three (long plays) from that same run."

My initial take was that to do that he'd have to bounce into the backfield and the result may have been the same; I'll picture-page it.

Meinke on the end. Wojo gets in his WTF:

The play-calling went from scintillating to stubborn to baffling, and against a good defense, the quarterback combo of Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson was snapped in half. Gimmicky rotations are effective for a while, but in a game like this, in Urban Meyer's rivalry debut, lessons get delivered harshly.

"You know me, we want to run the football and we want to do a good job stopping the run," Brady Hoke said. "We didn't do either."

Nesbitt. Meinke column.

Comments

Nosce Te Ipsum

November 26th, 2012 at 1:56 PM ^

2006 was heart breaking but the coaches put the players in a position to win. Maybe it was worse but as I watched Meyer take his head set off I zoned out until my phone rang. Looking at the clock I realized that I had been lying on the floor for almost half an hour staring at the wall. I've had similar responses to crushing defeat but none so prolonged. The rest of the weekend everything was white noise and blurs in the periphery. 

profitgoblue

November 26th, 2012 at 2:04 PM ^

Its funny but I felt almost the opposite.  If it had ended after the first half and OSU on top somehow, I would have felt the same as you.  But watching the second half and seeing the futility made the loss easier to stomach as a fan, somehow.  I felt terrible for the seniors but more angry at how things transpired.  As others have noted, I'll never understand how the best player is not on the field at all times, even if just a decoy.  Unless he was unable to go (he did not appear to be unable), there is no excuse for not having him out there.  It was Denard's last regular season game, his last chance at winning streak against OSU, and he is/was clearly the best weapon Borges has.  After the game ended, I felt bad for Denard, bad that Borges could never truly find a way to maximize his abilities and sustain that for the entire season.  Its a shame, really.

saveferris

November 26th, 2012 at 12:48 PM ^

The Game is always huge and always important, but there are those select few games where Michigan is able to deal a massive blow to the Buckeye psyche and this was one of those games.  We had one chance to blast a hole right through the myth of invincibility that the Buckeye faithful have attributed to Urban Meyer and we let it slip away.

That's the part that stings the most.  It wasn't Ohio imposing it's will on us as in other recent games.  This game was ripe for the stealing.  The defense, getting stuck in tons of tough spots, came through in spades.  We just couldn't find a way to manufacture one more score?  That wasn't the 2002 Ohio defense out there on Saturday.  Damnit, it's just so fucking frustrating.

DelhiGoBlue

November 26th, 2012 at 7:09 PM ^

the coaching staffs, the 105K fans in the stadium, the hundreds of journalists in attendance, the two marching bands, the millions watching on TV at home, there were exactly two people fooled by Michigan's play calling in the 2nd half.  Al Borgess and Brady Hoke.  That should, at the very least, be disconcerting to Michigan fans.

 

RationalBuckeye

November 26th, 2012 at 12:07 PM ^

As much as the playcalling was poor in the second half, I just dont think its fair to throw it on Borges and dismiss it. You bring in a guy who fits a prostyle game, put the team in this transitionary mold, and make it clear that that's where you're going, and then suddenly you tell Al, "hey you have to win this game with option reads, QB runs, and generally not the stuff you're paid to run."

Criticizing him for that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

MGlobules

November 26th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

Borges has tried. I don't think that it's so hard, in the end, for a guy who has mastered the nuances of many offenses to use spread principles; he gets them. It's game-time situational adaptation that's in question; it's having OSU openly saying you were numbingly predictable. In several critical situations this year Borges came up short. 

I like the guy more than most--get a kick out of his demeanor; clearly bright as hell. But at this point you have to acknowledge the screw-ups. Bellomy was a screw-up, as Wojo notes. The yellow flag is flying and the breeze is pretty stiff. 

funkywolve

November 26th, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

To me this is a tricky subject.  There didn't seem to be to many missed assignments last year with a multi year starter and Rimmington Award winner at center.  This year with a first year starter there seemed to be plenty.  Did the coaches do a poor job of getting Mealer and the rest of the line prepped for what they needed to do?  Did Mealer and the rest of the line make poor calls for their blocking assignments?  Was it a combination of the two?

PurpleStuff

November 26th, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

To both of your points, I think having a hybrid offense built around some read-option principles (with a WCO passing game grafted on) and some conventional sets/plays produced a lot of these problems. 

College teams don't get a very long time to practice.  Wisconsin and Stanford spend that time running power so that their guys know that shit backwards and forwards.  Oregon spends that time going 100 miles an hour making QB reads on every play.  Then they add wrinkles and passing game elements to complement the run game.

These last two Michigan teams haven't been able to get to that second step because they are doing so many disparate things.  We could line up in the shotgun and run a speed option or we could line up in the I and run ISO but we couldn't run things that look like those but take advantage of the defense overplaying them.  I find it hard to believe that Al Borges isn't trying to fool defenses or doesn't understand how to do it.  I just think the decision to run two kinds of offense at various times made it difficult to succeed at either one, both because the linemen were regularly confused (and not having a 4-year starter who is fantastic at the position and super smart at center doesn't help) and because we didn't ever have a counter to anything that worked successfully.

When we have two backs next to Denard and one goes in motion I know it is a speed option just like the defense does.  When Devin is in the I I know he's making a play fake, dropping back and chucking it deep, just like the defense does.  In order to do both of those things, we lost the ability to, say, throw in a play-action pass off the speed option look.

This shouldn't be an issue next year and hopefully that results in an improved offensive performance.

MGlobules

November 26th, 2012 at 9:37 PM ^

doesn't understand how to do it.  I just think the decision to run two kinds of offense at various times made it difficult to succeed at either one, both because the linemen were regularly confused (and not having a 4-year starter who is fantastic at the position and super smart at center doesn't help) and because we didn't ever have a counter to anything that worked successfully."

Sounds really plausible. It's probably something that Heiko could straight up put to him, in a hypothetical way; wonder how he would respond. I would love to see Borges succeed, myself, on sentimental grounds. 

RationalBuckeye

November 26th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

I get what you're saying, but in construct, Borges is a pro-style guy, who, like you said has an understanding, but not mastery of the spread. So suddenly, when you ask him to a run a spread style, option, tricky offense that confuses guys that DO have a mastery of the spread, it seems like way too much to ask. Alot of comes from the coaches hands being tied because they had basically no RB to work with, but OSU isn't Iowa. They're a defense that sees option plays run every single day in practice, and they learn from watching some of the best minds in the spread offense community. Sure, I don't advocate Borges being clear of blame, but he was in a game designed for him to lose given the circumstances

InterM

November 26th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

Just watch last year's OSU game - Michigan put up 40 points, and it wasn't with a pro-style offense.  If you give Borges credit for that (and I do), he gets his share of the blame for what happened on Saturday.  Borges had plenty of time to figure out how to use the personnel he had for this year's game.

RationalBuckeye

November 26th, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^

I definitely agree with you there. Like I said, there was definitely some iffy playcalling, and that is definitely on Borges. But if he were in Columbus, I wouldn't be calling for his firing quite yet. Hell, I'm a Browns fan that still wants to give Pat Shurmer a chance, for God's sake.

To those offering the empirics, be clear, I see the flaws in his game, but there were other things at play here. Just look at the Denard health debate, look at some of the throws Gardner made in the game, and look at the decisions a coach has to make here. I don't put Borges blame free here, but i also feel that Hoke, as a head coach that knows the game, is burdened to step in at times, and that no one should be terminated over circumstances like these

profitgoblue

November 26th, 2012 at 2:07 PM ^

You may be right, but you have to admit that there is absolutely no explanation for not having Denard on the field for the vast majority of the plays, even if they are "pro style" plays.  Put him as the RB in the I-formation if you must.  Just put him out there.  He was arguably the best player in the stadium (no offense to Miller).

chitownblue2

November 26th, 2012 at 2:11 PM ^

Did you see him try to pass-block? Would you want him pass-blocking with that elbow?

Our RB's need to protect. Denard can't. You can only line him up there if:

a) he's running the ball

b) you're screening to him (hell, we even gave up a sack trying this)

c) you're decoying with him

I wish we did more of C, but that's not an offensive system, it's something you can do a few times.

funkywolve

November 26th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

The frustrating thing to me is the stark contrast between the Iowa game and the OSU game with regards to play calling.  The Iowa game had Denard and Devin in the backfield together a decent amount of time as well as triple reverse, throw back screen to Smith.  It didn't seem that way in the OSU game.   It's like Borges brought this out in the Iowa game for the sole reason of giving OSU more plays to prep for.  Even during the weekly press conference when Borges was asked about how much of a package he had for Denard and Devin being in the backfield together, he refused to answer the question saying somthing to the effect of I don't want to give to much away (for OSU to prep for).  I was expecting to see some twists and new wrinkles with those two in the backfield.  Now, they did try a couple things - 1) Spielman thought one play where Gardner ran the ball was set up to possibly be a shuttle pass to Denard, 2) one of Devin's sacks was going to be a screen pass to Denard.  However, I was expecting to see more twists and wrinkles with the Denard/Devin package in the backfield.  I was expecting the Denard/Devin package to be the staple of the offense and it seemed like it rarely was.

ijohnb

November 26th, 2012 at 1:01 PM ^

would have if the second half field position was not such a disaster.  Aside from the fumble recovery we never started in a position to be aggressive like that in the second half.  That is the primary reason that I think Brian is wrong about the 4th down on the first position being a 50/50 move.  We had flipped the field on them already and were in all likelihood going to pin them deep.  Instead we had our backs to the wall the entire third quarter and were really limited in terms of what was available to run.  Puntosauras is no good, but neither is a decision to go for it on 4th and 3 on your own side of the field just because "it might work."  That 4th down call was a really bad one by Hoke and shaped a good portion of the rest of the game.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 26th, 2012 at 1:04 PM ^

I mean...we have been aggressive in other games with poor field position, you can't blame our troubles on that. Also, I was pretty happy with the move to go for it, just not happy with the play call. At the very least we should have had Devin at QB and Denard at RB to give the illusion that it may be something other than a 100% run.

ijohnb

November 26th, 2012 at 1:09 PM ^

I just don't know why.  I mean usually when you go for it on 4th down there is an obvious reason why going for it is the move.  In this instance, we are on our own side of the field, we have the lead, we have a good defense, and it is 3 full yards not six inches.  Nothing about that jumps out to me to say "go for it."  I was pissed they actually burned a timeout thinking about it and was outright baffled when the offensive unit was sent back out.

wolverine1987

November 26th, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

to know that your best player should be on the field at all times for the biggest game of the year. That is all on Borges (and some on Hoke for not demanding it).  The most frustrating thing about the loss on offense was that we ALREADY DID IT FOR IOWA. But in the biggest game of the year we leave it in the garage. Borges deserves credit for figuring out how to get Denard in the game and confound defenses against Iowa--and all of that credit disappears into cinders and goes to negative credit when you don't even really try it the next week against your biggest rival.

Wendyk5

November 26th, 2012 at 2:13 PM ^

In Hoke's presser today, he said Borges called a good game. Now, of course, he's not going to throw him under the bus but A) If he really thinks this, we're in trouble. And B) If he doesn't think this, I think he needs to find a way to acknowledge a poorly called second half, and communicate that the team will learn from it. Nothing wrong with that. 

xcrunner1617

November 26th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

This has been probably been brought up already, but does anyone know Borges's role in recruiting?  My current understanding is that he doesn't do much in regards to it.  This seems rather odd considering our other coordinator, Mattison, may be the best recruiter on the coaching staff.  I feel like if Borges is looking for certain types of players for his offense he would want to go out on the recruiting trail and convince them to come to Michigan.  I think this would especially be the case since it has been shown Borges clearly struggles to effectively utilize the talents of players who don't fit his system.  If this were me, I would be out there personally recruiting the players I wanted as much as possible instead of relying upon other people to do that task. 

In addition, this may be a partial explanation for the lack of big-time playmakers (RB and WR) committing to Michigan.  It seems like a much tougher sell when the guy coordinating the entire offense isn't the guy actively recruiting you. 

CRex

November 26th, 2012 at 12:47 PM ^

My understanding is that Borges handles command and control in Ann Arbor while everyone else is out making visits.  Basically he minds the store, keeps the GAs in line, keeps an eye on the younger players, etc.   He's more of the strategic guy and the other guys handle the tactical stuff in the field.

From talking with some friends who work for other athletic departments this is not an uncommon arrangement.  Often one coordinator or a very senior posistion coach is left home to handle admin duties, keep an eye on the 80+ scholarship players you currently have, be on call for any recruits that come into town on short notice for a campus visit, etc.  Basically Borges being at home lets Mattison, Hoke, etc leave town for extended periods of time without having to check in and clean up fires back at the home office.  

snoopblue

November 26th, 2012 at 12:25 PM ^

"boy I hope this guy spends most of the second half on the bench" –nobody

LOL - Great read! This might be a strange request, but can we get a post of all the regular poster's (Brian, Ace, Heiko, etc.) feelings/thoughts right after that game and maybe the thoughts a few hours/days later after emotion is removed from the situation. Most of the time, when I see a MGoMeltdown I laugh because I see the two different type of fans in the fanbase, those who overreact and those who are patient. This past Saturday, though, I really only saw people angry and generally in regards the same thing, the only difference was the levels of anger.

dahblue

November 26th, 2012 at 12:31 PM ^

Having a hard time even reading all of this stuff ("this" being anything written about the game, anywhere), so I keep clicking mgoblog hoping for something different.  Hey, bball game tomorrow! That said, I'm still stuck trying not to be bummed that we lost to Ohio.

I don't know what the fuck the "snowball" threads are about (though it sounds very gay porn, nothing against gays or porn).  I don't know why Borges went stupid in the second half.  I don't know why Denard ever runs up the middle when he's lethal to the outside.  I don't know why Rawls likes getting tackled.  I don't know why Devin fumbled/threw a bad pick.  I don't know why our O-line decided to audition as bullfighters.  I don't know why Borges felt anyone was fooled by Denard taking snaps.  I don't know why Hoke doesn't wear a jacket (I love you Brady, but you're going to catch a cold).  I don't know how Ohio can honor Tressel at halftime and complain about their (lack of) punishment for the sins of that sweet, sweet man.  

I'm just hopeful that I know how good our team will be going forward and that we'll beat these hillbillies next year.

oakapple

November 26th, 2012 at 12:30 PM ^

It wound up not mattering, but . . . .

The go/punt decision ought to be like the 2-point conversion decision. The coach should have a chart, and 95 percent of the time it ought to be automatic, rather than burning a time-out to think it over.

It did NOT bother me that they failed to convert. These "smart football" decisions are a matter of playing the odds. Hoke's decisions have paid off most of the time. You're not going to get them all.

But the play-call, especially coming out of a time-out, was awfully pedestrian. If ever there was a time to try and fake-out the defense, wasn't this it?

chitownblue2

November 26th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

Fine. But that's post-hoc reasoning. Hoke doesn't make the decision with benefit of knowing what occured following it. They were equally defensible choices. The tendency of people to have your reaction are why pro coaches punt almost always.