Al Borges CMU press conference:
"He's a third play guy. You guys have heard me talk about the third play, right? He's a third play guy."
Devin Gardner's ridiculous redzone efficiency last year has gone to ludicrous this year. The standard answer we've been giving for this is "well his legs and size" but there's been more to it. I grabbed this one play from the ND game because it shows several things that Gardner and Borges have been doing to defeat what should have been one of their toughest redzone opponents.
What you saw: Michigan gets a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line after a pass interference. They line up in…is that an unbalanced formation? Then Devin checks out of it, runs what seems like an option play, then dives through the whole thing suddenly for the score. Afterward we learn Hoke was trying to call timeout.
Play the First: Ace 2TE Twins Unbalanced HB Dive:
It is unbalanced: Funchess (on the l.o.s. just outside the left hash) is covered by Reynolds, and Schofield
is an eligible receiver would be eligible if he had a non-OL number on. There's also some epic space between the end (Sheldon Day) and the linebacker to his side (Shembo).
The middle linebackers are seeing this and pointing. Let 'em; we're motioning to something else anyway.
[after the jump]
Play the First B: Just kidding it was an ISO!
Michigan motions Butt to fullback so now he's in a better position to be a lead blocker (this is one example of why you want your U-Tight End to be fullbackian). Boom: ISO to the face.
ND has already been shifting down to defend the dive. As Domers do, the DOG (their version of SAM--actually he's on the weak side but whatever) puts his hand in the dirt and they're in a 4-3 under.
As a result an ISO here would end up as one of those goal line plays where there's a wad of bodies all shooting for the same spot and whoever gets there first and has more size and momentum gets to decide where the pile goes. In this case the key matchup is slanting Nix versus Glasgow (Miller's block wouldn't be able to do much in that case), which is a bet ND will gladly take. After this fun stuff there are 7 seconds left to snap it.
But screw it; let's audible anyway.
Play the Second: Pistol Sprint Right Option
Gardner backs up, says "you go over there Jake." Butt runs to the Y, gets set, snap.
Off screen I'm guessing Reynolds has backed up off the line so it's not an illegal formation (WR isn't going to get to hear the audible well so it's good to have a guy like Reynolds with a head on his shoulders over there to prevent that). As some folks have pointed out to me, it's not an illegal formation if he stays put.
ND is in a total clusterf— trying to realign again. MLB Tyler Plantz is telling Nix he needs to scoot over. Shumate was having a conversation with Shembo about how weird it would be if there was a tree right there (I'm guessing) and then realizes his man (Butt) is on the complete other side of the formation. As a result, at the snap the Irish are aligned in a defense that's like a mirror I-formation.
The efficiency with which Michigan gets into this play shows it was quite practiced (Borges red zone coaching FTW). Funchess is pulling right across Sheldon Day's face and is in position for a reach(!) block if anyone were to show up there. Lewan is holding the backside, Schofield is releasing downfield, and everyone else is zone blocking. Gardner is optioning the middle linebacker, Plantz, who was caught out of position and is now booking for the outside. Actually they're all booking for the outside. Omigod ND defended this!
Play the Third: Fake Sprint Right Option QB Dive
Here's where Devin's quick thinking and athleticism make him the ultimate redzone trump card. Everybody's momentum is taking them outside, so Devin quickly cuts inside, where Funchess has walled off the EMLOS without realizing it, and that gaping hole between Lewan and Glasgow at the snap is now a clear shot to the end zone. Nix and Shumate read the backside cut and try to get back but now it's Gardner forward momentum versus hopeful diving attempt. Touchdown.
Oh and Hoke was calling a timeout: d'oh well.
Things: Gardner's redzone efficiency is on display here, and it's not just about athleticism. He saw the Irish react well to the motion, got into the checkdown play, put the freshman where he needed to be, and then cooly went off the page with his option when the defense over-pursued the play. Michigan may not package plays offensively like most of the other great offenses in college football do these days. However whatever they lose in not packaging looks and stuff they make up by having the ability to attack in so many places after the snap. And if you're a defense there's just so many possible things that can happen to you so quickly there's still plenty of room to wind up confused as hell at the snap.