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


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.


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.”


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.


Most of the time, actually.



One mistake is all it takes.


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.


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.



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


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.


"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.



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."


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.


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.



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.


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:


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.



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.



I enjoy this being a thing.


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


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.


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:



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.



November 26th, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

that Hoke is fully on board with Borges's decision-making, and sees no problem with it. If any reporter has the temerity to throw Withers's statement at him, I doubt whether BH will do anything other than dismiss it out of hand as irrelevant.


November 26th, 2012 at 2:25 PM ^

You're probably right, but if he wasn't on board with it you'd still get exactly the same response if you raised the issue with him.

Nobody, player or coach or support staff, ever gets thrown under the bus and intra-staff issues aren't the public's business. And as far as I'm concerned that's how it should be. The only place it should be discussed openly is when Hoke sits down with Borges and when Brandon sits down with Hoke.

los barcos

November 26th, 2012 at 2:09 PM ^


I will be waiting for Brian’s UFR but it seemed to me he had an efficient game…until the point it became clear the offense was sputtering and he started to press.  I thought he played well in the first half, at least well enough to feel confident moving into the second half.  After halftime though, he never seemed to get back into rhythm – which I blame on playcalls.  It seems like he would complete a pass on first down and get pulled out; or a run would lose yards on first down, and Devin would have to come in in a passing situation.  By the time he got extended play it was that last drive where he seemed to really be pressing and totally out of synch…

…unrelated but something worth mentioned was the 10 yard holding penalty on Schofield on the last drive, which I believe negated a Devin first down (on the OSU side of the field…).  That’s a huge call that went against us, as we had just put together two first downs.  That might have been the call that cost us the game.


November 26th, 2012 at 2:16 PM ^

was the lack of John Simon in this football game.  There's a part of me that insists that had Michigan not turned the ball over 4 times, the Wolverines would have put it's defense in better situations and probably won this game.

But that part of me forgot about Simon. Last year Simon was largely ineffective against Michigan, because he was assigned to spy Robinson all game long, which allowed some pretty amazing pass completions for Denard. This year Simon could have really pinned his ears back on Michigan's 3-step drops.   

Michigan was probably lucky not to have given up 30 or 40 on Saturday given Ohio's offensive effectiveness. On the other hand, having John Simon out of the game should have opened up more for Michigan and Borges than it did.


November 26th, 2012 at 2:17 PM ^

Two or three times on the blog someone's posted video or picture pages of the first 40 or so plays of SDSU's last game under Hoke/Borges.

I only remember one huddle--they huddled up before the first play of the first series. It's been a long time since I've seen the video, so maybe there were some huddles I don't remember, but on the picture pages they're always lined up and ready to go with 15-20 seconds on the play clock so if they ever huddled they sure weren't dawdling around.

Something caused them to use huddles with Michigan's offense when they got here. I'm not going to speculate what that something might have been, I don't think we'd get a straight answer if someone asked, and not knowing what it was I'm not going to try to decide if it was right or wrong, but something made them see value in huddling.


November 26th, 2012 at 3:27 PM ^

how about on the final drive?  i was actually expecting denard to be in there to throw the pass.  it would have been an epic point in UM history.  denard = robert redford in the natural.  "denard, do you have one more throw in that arm?" 

oh well, thanks again borges.


November 26th, 2012 at 2:43 PM ^

Two things I want to throw out:

First, Jake Ryan is a beast. The one Michigan player that I wish we had. Can you imagine him and Ryan Shazier in the same LB corps? We definitely missed out on him.

Second, my wife (who has a VERY casual knowledge of football) pointed out every time Denard was in the backfield and said, "It's going to be a run." Not trying to rub it in, but to illustrate the point many of you have made.


November 26th, 2012 at 2:44 PM ^

Not that anybody is disputing Hoke being the right man for the job or some calling the season a disappointment (I'm not, considering we lost to the #1, #2, #4, and probable Big Ten Champs with two of those losses coming by one possession and the other with a noodle-armed Bellomy at QB), but here's Hoke's first two years (with both a bowl win/loss factored in)

With Win:
Brady Hoke: 20-6 (12-4) vs MSU (1-1), vs ND (1-1), vs Ohio (1-1), Bowls (2-0, Sugar/Capital One)
With Loss:
Brady Hoke: 19-7 (12-4) vs MSU (1-1), vs ND (1-1), vs Ohio (1-1), Bowls (1-1, Sugar (W)/Capital One (L))

Rich Rodriguez: 8-16 (3-13) vs MSU (0-2) vs ND (1-1), vs Ohio (0-2), Bowls (N/A)
Lloyd Carr: 17-8 (10-6) vs MSU (1-1), vs ND (N/A), vs Ohio (2-0), Bowls (0-2, Alamo/Outback)
Gary Moeller: (19-5) (14-2) vs MSU (1-1), vs ND (1-1), vs Ohio (2-0), Bowls (1-1, Gator (W)/Rose (L))
Bo: 17-5 (12-2) vs MSU (1-1), vs ND (N/A), vs Ohio (1-1), Bowls (0-1, Rose)
Bump Elliott: 9-9 (6-8) vs MSU (0-2), vs ND (N/A), vs Ohio (1-1), Bowls (N/A)

Regardless, his first two years are better than Carr's first two and, way better than Rich Rod/Bump, and slightly worse than Moeller and Bo (no Big 10 Champs). And, really, Hoke had a deeper hole thanks to some poor recruiting before he took over.


November 26th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

You know what's neat?

If you look at the last 4 meetings between Oregon and Stanford, the teams are 2-2 against each other. For some reason, that chart does not include the most recent meeting in which Oregon scored 14 points in an OT loss. I used the last 4 meeting because in 2007 and 2008 Stanford was 4-8 and 5-7 which didn't really seem very fair to Stanford.

If you wanted to view the (complete) data in a different way you could argue that Stanford has climbed out of a huge whole and caught up to Oregon pretty doggone fast.

I'm not saying that. I'm just saying there is more than one way to interpret the data.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 26th, 2012 at 3:35 PM ^

Much as I like the spread, "Manball" is the right side of history.  All the Moneyball recruiting advantages (which helped Rod put up his nice winning % at WVU) are gone for spread teams, and every defense knows how to defense the spread now.


November 26th, 2012 at 3:38 PM ^

... and it got crushed because we can't block any more?  One of the things that makes the veer work is that the QB is a threat to run; the other is that our QB is Denard.

Devin Gardner is not that kind of running QB.  He's an excellent scrambler and can pick his way through an open field, but he's not going to consistently run the ball to pick up yardage.  I would guess that inverted veers with Devin/Denard lead to OSU forcing Devin to keep and getting smacked around for +/- 2 yards.

Now, perhaps we should have made them prove that, but it's also possible that we ran something that OSU defensed similarly and the coaches saw it wouldn't work.

From my perspective, I see a weak OL that is better at pass-blocking than run-blocking, and a sideshow-at-best running game.  I would go in with a pass-first gameplan and minimize the number of times that Denard was in *because it gives us one less blocker*.

If we'd won, I think the fanbase would be more "Did you see Smith stone Hankins on Gardner's TD pass?" and more accepting of the "Why u no play Denard more?", but I don't want the coaches gameplanning based on what will make the fanbase less butthurt.


November 26th, 2012 at 3:58 PM ^

when you, me, the other teams fans, our fans, the other team, the other teams coaches, the announcers, and even non-football following friends know exactly what is coming when we line up on offense but somehow Borges does not see it (or is just oblivious somehow)

One time when we lined up in I-form with Vincent back there I was just saying "dont run power with vince done run power with vince dont run power with vince.....DAMMIT BORGES"


November 26th, 2012 at 4:25 PM ^

Brian Said:

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.

Did Brian ever say what the second, large concern was that has been true?  Is it using the huddle? 


November 26th, 2012 at 5:23 PM ^

Brian uses Hoke's aversion to the no-huddle (remember Hoke's dismissal of Oregon's offense as "basketball on grass") as an example as evidence of a larger possible unwillingness on Hoke's part to get out of his comfort zone (e.g. Beilein ditching the 1-3-1, practicing alley-oops, etc.). In other words, is Hoke truly able to embrace concepts or approaches he's not familiar with in order to field the best team possible -- even if that means going so far as replacing coordinators?


November 26th, 2012 at 6:23 PM ^

Thanks for the response.  I figured that is what he was talking about, especially after listening to the Podcast.  I also have to agree with Brian's sentiments.  We know Hoke isn't Lloyd.  I just hope he is more distinguishable than just not punting from your own 40. 

I was really discouraged by his answers in the press conference today.  He really seems to believe that their playcalling was not predictable, even going as far as saying they were the right calls.  Hoke has done much correctly but he would do better to acknowledge, or at least realize, that their third and fourth quarter playcalling will not lead you a victory against Ohio. 

John L. Smith's "the players are playing their butts off and the coaching are screwing it up" was running over and over in my mind the entire second half like a broken record.


November 26th, 2012 at 8:23 PM ^

Here's some video so you can all see for yourselves how much he and Borges hate the no-huddle. I mentioned the Navy game above but here's another in case anyone thinks it's just something they trotted out for their bowl game.

There's a lot of video of that team available on line, but two games worth should probably be enough to convince you that this isn't about Hoke's "comfort zone". Either there was something about SDSU's personnel that made them think it would be especially effective there, or there was something about Michigan's personnel that made them think it would be ineffective here.


November 26th, 2012 at 4:48 PM ^

Not sure if we'll need to get Wolverine Historian involved in this or if someone else knows the answer, but ever since Devin came on against Bowling Green in 2010 and rolled out in a goal-to-goal situation and beat everyone to the corner for a TD, I've seen both RR/Borges run that with Gardner in almost every 3rd/4th down goal-line situation where he's been in the game.  Borges especially loves, loves sending Gardner for the corner with a run/pass option, though Devin always trusts his legs and never seems to be wrong about his ability to take the corner.

Question:  can anyone think of an instance where Devin took off for the corner and failed to get it?  It's a call that Borges hearts, so I suppose I'm just throwing wood on the bafflement pile here, but unless I missed it, that's a play that never happened in any of our short-yardage situations on Saturday.  Unless I'm just traumatized and not remembering clearly.  Which is non-zero in probability.


November 26th, 2012 at 5:29 PM ^

Brian, pretty good writeup. But I just don't see how Michigan is on the wrong side of history. Right now, Notre Dame is number one while running honestly the most conservative pro-type spread offense you'll see in football. And they do it because, well, their defense allows them to. Alabama, Georgia, Florida...what types of offenses do they run? Oh sure, they're far from the best offenses in the world, but their goal is the same as Oregon's get to the championship. Four of teh top five got there by virtue of their defensive prowess. In your harsh criticism of the offense and Borges right now (which I mostly agree with), don't mistake that to mean Michigan is on the wrong side of history necessarily. It might be true, but at this point it's still pretty much pure speculation. With Mattison on the other side and Hoke teh aggressor leading them, the future for Michigan as a team is still bright. And I have a sneaking suspicion Borges will improve too, once he has an offense that's less "cheap parlor tricks that sometimes work when not utterly predictable" and more "hey, we have the right personnel to run what I want to run"

One more thing to add: even the most dynamic offenses in the country get stymied against some of the great defenses in the nation. It has happened to literally every single great offense this season at least once. Oregon against Stanford. Oklahoma against Notre Dame (and KState). Texas A&M against Florida and LSU. West Virginia got stymied by Texas Tech and KState. It happens, that's football. I say this only to further curtail the "wrong side of history" doom and gloom that really is grinding on me right now. 


November 26th, 2012 at 6:44 PM ^

              to hire the almighty Chris Brown as an OC, this whole problem would be solved.  He's the greatest football mind in the history of ever, but no team seems to have the money to pry him from his blogging."




November 26th, 2012 at 8:48 PM ^

Hoke's Manball Machismo is dogma that's quickly losing its luster. (I get it that post-Rodriquez it was a good persona to project.) But the luster of positive change is becoming dull as is his tired explanations that the reason Al's boneheaded playcalling wasn't working is because of the lack of blocking execution. For someone who claims it's "all about the kids," he sure places a lot of blame on them instead of on the people really responsible -- Borges and himself. There's a fine line between being Old School and simply ignorant of -- maybe it's arrogance or stupidity -- the advances of modern football. Let's be clear, the decisions by these two men are the main reason for at least two games this year. It wasn't the O-line that didn't have Devin ready to step in during the Nebraska game.

So now we have a bowl game to look forward to. If last year's is any indication, we have more embarrassing and ineffective Borges playcalls in store. But don't worry, Brady can always blame the O-line...again.


November 26th, 2012 at 9:36 PM ^

I never thought I'd see the day that Stanford's defense would be held up as a model unit.  On a Michigan blog.  Miracles do happen.

Stanford's defense is vastly improved this year.  You could see it in the spring game.  It's a lot like the miracles that Mattison has performed here.  Players improve, schemes are good, defense looks great.  Of course, it also helps that they faced an overrated freshman Oregon QB.


November 26th, 2012 at 10:07 PM ^

Godfather exclaiming "You can act like a MAN!" notwithstanding, I may never fully get this game out of my craw. Among the bitterest pill to swallow.
Goddamn man.