Mailbag: We Should Have Been Screwed, Funk Position Paper

Submitted by Brian on November 19th, 2013 at 11:28 AM


"I hope we're all up on the latest changes to the NCAA rule book." [Fuller]

Wait, substitution. Wait. Wait, what?

Yo Brian,

So when the bearded lady rushed into the center ring to launch the football out of the cannon through the flaming uprights at the end of the Evanston Circus, Michigan obviously made a substitution.  Northwestern did not make a substitution, but they, according to the Rules, could have.  If they did, it seems like that would have taken more time before the official gave the ready for play, and potentially wasted enough time to run the clock out.  In this parallel universe game which is crazier than the actual circus which unfolded, does Michigan get to attempt the field goal? How are the rules applied in that situation (which thankfully did not happen)?


UPDATE: NEVERMIND the below, as I missed this section in the rulebook:

Late in the first half Team A is out of timeouts. A pass play on third down ends inbounds at the B-25 short of the line to gain with the game clock showing 0:10. Facing fourth down and three, Team A immediately hurries its field goal team onto the field. RULING: Team B should reasonably expect that Team A will attempt a field goal in this situationand should have its field-goal defense unit ready. The umpire will not stand over the ball, as there should be no issue of the defense being uncertain about the next play.

Thanks to Maize and Blue Wahoo. I will self-immolate now like a Northwestern fan observing his team playing football.


We should have been screwed. The NCAA rulebook has a specific mention of this very scenario:

Late in the first half Team A is out of timeouts. A pass play on third down ends inbounds at the B-25 short of the line to gain with the game clock showing 0:30. Facing fourth down and three, Team A gives no indication as to its next play until the game clock reads 0:10. They then rush their field goal unit onto the field, and Team B then hurries to respond.

RULING: The umpire moves to the ball to prevent the snap until Team B has had a reasonable opportunity to get its field-goal defense unit onto the field. The umpire will step away when he judges that the defense has had enough time. If the game clock reads 0:00 before the ball is snapped after the umpire steps away, the half is over.

That is in blue along with various other new rules (like "minimum time for spiking the ball") this year, so it must have just been added. If Fitz tried to substitute, the rulebook says that the refs have to let him and the clock would then run out.

This is of course terrible since it prevents the sort of exciting thing that happened against Northwestern and replaces it with the clock running out because the defense can't get aligned in time and should be immediately stricken in the name of fun… except maybe it doesn't exist?

Game ref Bill LeMonnier:

“When a team is coming out and it’s the last play of the game and they substitute with their field-goal team, the defense is not given the opportunity,” referee Bill LeMonnier said. “Usually there’s match-up time on substitutions. When it’s the field-goal attempt like that on the last play of the half, then there’s no match-up given.”

This is in direct contradiction of the rulebook. So… yeah. I don't know. The only thing that may reconcile these two points of view is the rulebook stating that the team getting the FG unit out there spent 20 seconds doing nothing, whereas Michigan was clearly going GO GO GO as soon as Gallon was tackled.

Spiritually, if you can't get your FG block team on the field in that situation and the other team can get the play off, screw your field goal block team. Fire drills forever.

[After THE JUMP: talking Funk, safety rotation, and the latest bizarre email.]


GIS throws this at you when you google for Darrell Funk, so congrats Firstbase

Funk position paper.


I'm surprised that I can't recall hearing you say anything negative about Darrell Funk. I keep getting the feeling the Al Borges calls the game that he thinks Funk should be able to deliver based on the talent they have and the competition they're facing. I keep thinking, "Oh, Al's pissed at Darrell again, and wants us all to know it." Not being able to pick the best five in fall camp, or even in the first half of the season, is on Funk, isn't it?

Firing Borges would make us look like we're totally lost, but firing Funk might make us look like we figured out the problem and we're fixing it. In terms of recruiting, I mean. Another way of looking at it is, How will Funk be able to continue recruiting good linemen in the future given his past results?


I know this year is ugly for the offensive line coach, and follows on an ugly one last year. But I want to see what happens when he has the same guys year-over-year before I get on the soapbox about pulling the trigger, because while I can see things I don't like about the offense as a whole, like turning Gardner around on second and goal from the nine so he can get instantly pressured by a defensive end who has eyes only for him, my offensive line knowledge is primitive at best.

Last year he had a couple good tackles, Patrick Omameh, and two seniors who'd never played much. He had no other options. This year his options after the three guys they started the year with were:

  • perpetually injured Chris Bryant,
  • a walk-on who immediately tore his ACL,
  • a 285 pound redshirt freshman tackle, and
  • a true freshman.

One of the guys they started with was also a walk-on. They revamped the line twice midseason and ran a bunch of stretch plays they hadn't in the previous two years. His offensive coordinator spent three weeks futzing with tackle over gimmicks and running six OL out there on standard downs. That 285 pound redshirt freshman has played LT, RG, and RT. Nebraska was basically in Michigan's huddle. And the blocking issues are exacerbated by the fact that the tight ends and tailbacks are really bad themselves.

This is no environment in which to declare Final Judgment. Given all of the above is it reasonable to think that the OL coach is just screwed? Yes. As to why I'm plenty willing to declare the same on Borges, it's a lot easier to see team after team eat up playcalls that they seem to know are coming than assign blame for crappiness in the arcane world of OL play between players, coaches, and scheme. And while I'd heave the OC overboard if I was in charge, hey look Greg Robinson. It's not as bad as it seems at this instant.

I want to see the interior OL get much better next year as the tackles cope, and if that doesn't happen I'll be cocking my eyebrow in the general direction of Funk.



As of right now, November 18, what are the odds Al Borges returns next year as OC?



Is safety rotation a thing?


free Thomas Gordon [Fuller]

Hi MGoBlog Team!

My question is on the recent safety rotation. I was at the Northwestern game and it looked like on a couple of drives (esp ones that started with a long field) Avery and Furman were out there, while on others, T Gordon and Wilson were the safeties. I couldn't tell if this corresponded to a switch of NU's quarterbacks or not, but I doubt it given that the M defense was out on the field before the offense on several occasions. Is switching safeties situationally something good teams do? Why would the coaches do this? Does football make any sense at all?

Stephen Bowie

Northwestern was flipping their quarterbacks from play to play and most of the time had Colter out there as a wide receiver when Siemian was at QB, so flipping the safeties based on that was difficult if not impossible. Michigan was not doing that.

So… they were just rotating guys. I can't say that's something I've ever seen a great defense do. Everyone rotates defensive linemen and will rotate through some at linebacker; usually the secondary is just the secondary save the addition or subtraction of a nickelback depending on the situation.

The secondary is a place where you have ridiculously in-shape dudes poised on the knife edge of an eight yard touchdown constantly. Coaches clutch guys who execute their assignments without fail to their chest. They put them in their marsupial pouch and call them pet names. They do not say "oh BINKLORD 3000, who I cherish and adore and bestow many fine gifts upon within NCAA regulations (which is to say nuts, fruit and bagels), while I esteem thee above all other safeties I request that you take this drive off. Please spend this drive luxuriating in my marsupial pouch. Yea." See: Jordan Kovacs, man who took 100% of Michigan's defensive snaps last year.

For whatever reason, then, the coaches think that Wilson and Gordon are not reliable enough to shower in nuts, fruit, and bagels and are giving others an opportunity to compete at the position. This is a total mystery to me. To the fuzzy long passing play safety judging metrics:

  • Plays of 10+ yards allowed: 97 (T-98th nationally)
  • Plays of 20+ yards allowed: 33 (T-68th)
  • Plays of 30+ yards allowed: 10 (T-10th)

This does not look like a defense with safety issues, especially since you are searching your memory for those 30+ yard plays and mostly coming up with fly routes on the sideline against cornerbacks on which the safeties are not really at fault. It looks like one with issues in short zones and with getting to the QB.

Meanwhile, on the ground:

  • Plays of 10+ yards allowed: 37 (T-15th nationally)
  • Plays of 20+ yards allowed: 3 (T-2nd)
  • Plays of 30+ yards allowed: 2 (T-8th)

Michigan is a bend but don't break sort of team, and they're bending, but not breaking. Obvious safety mistakes this year have been limited to that time Thomas Gordon managed to get juked by Mike Trumpy on Saturday and a couple other instances where they were one step from making a play.

We get less information on the safeties than any other position. That said, I think Thomas Gordon is quite good, and Jarrod Wilson becoming quite good, and the safety shakeup makes no sense to me.

This man desperately needs to make it back to the portal before he can never return to the universe he came from.


In a recent mailbag column, you predicted that Michigan is going to have another horrible season next year and won't be back to respectability in 2015 either as the team breaks in a new quarterback. My question concerns the Big Ten as a whole. It seems that the coaching in the conference is on the upswing. MSU is probably losing Narduzzi soon, but Dantonio himself is defensive minded so they'll likely keep chugging along (shudder). Despite Jerry Kill's health issues, Minnesota is on the rise. O'Brien is doing a remarkable job considering the situation he walked into. And Meyer is just as win at all costs as Tressel ever was. I remember when I was in college and the Big Ten was the top conference in the country. Do you see that becoming the case anytime soon? If it does happen, will the media even notice or is the SEC their eternal king now?


Did I predict another horrible season? I think I predicted a very stout defense opposite a frustrating but probably improved offense. That is not this year. And in 2015 the QB that's being broken in is likely a junior, so… yeah. I'm not expecting to go undefeated either year; I am expecting to contend for a swell bowl game in 2014, on pain of me being really mad at the coaching staff and saying snarky things if I am not satisfied.

The Big Ten will be given respect again when they win some nonconference/bowl games. I'm midlly bullish on the conference in the medium term, as it seems like most of the power programs have found stable coaching situations that are improvements on their recent situations: MSU is better than they've been in forever, OSU skipped the whole Tressel senescence and lucked into Meyer, Bill O'Brien seems very good, Gary Andersen is an upgrade as a person and probably just as good of a coach as Bielema. And for all Michigan's problems they're about to have a lot of talent and roster stability under Hoke. Once PSU gets out from under sanctions, which will happen much faster now, the Big Ten may once again become respectable.

HOWEVA, I have no idea when this period of time that the Big Ten was the best conference in the country may have transpired and it's never happening again. Can I talk to you about some basketball, perhaps?

This is probably going to happen.




I'm having this recurring dream that this nightmare of a season on offense is all an elaborate plot by Al Borges (who probably realized the offense wasn't all that talented somewhere between halftime of Akron and third quarter of UConn) to pull the ultimate DeBord and goes all "2008 Capital One Bowl" by unleashing a floodgate of trick plays and new looks against Ohio. 

I swear to god, in this dream we hang 50+ on Urban, it happens at least twice a week and as a result, I fully believe with my entire soul that we will beat Ohio and that's the only thing fueling my hope in this football team. 

So having said that, my question is:

Are the chances that this lucid pattern of sleep is either the result of:

A.  I'm onto something and a Borges vs. Ohio offense looks something like a Sparty-we-overprepared-the-shit-for-this game and are some-fucking-how going to win in Ann Arbor on November 30th.

B.  Heavy binge drinking after each game on Saturday that lasts into early Sunday morning that disrupts my sleep patterns (and therefore my subconscious) for the remainder of the week.

C.  Accidentally coinciding my decision to quit smoking with the start of Michigan football season, often resulting in me forgetting to take my Nicotine patches off before I sleep.  (Anyone who's done this before knows that dreams on Nicotine patches resembles something Inception mixed with a Dali painting while on acid, listening to Dark Side of the Moon on repeat).

Please tell me I'm onto something.  Tell me that my hope is at least somewhat probable and is not an insane theory fueled by individual withdrawals of so many addicting chemicals and there's a 95.82% chance that I'll be watching next year's home opener in a room padded with mattresses on every wall. 

Go Blue and help me,

-- Chris in Houston. 

It's totally A! I'm rushing out to bet on Michigan straight up, with all of the moneys! You should probably not see a therapist at all! We're totally going to win you guys! The next time you're sad just end a bunch of sentences in a row with exclamation points! It'll momentarily convince you that you're really alert!



November 19th, 2013 at 2:59 PM ^

Your comment about us not knowing who the center was going to be is amazing.

What we know counts for nothing. The coaches knew that one of two guys would he the center. They held a competition. One guy won it. The other guy couldn't snap. So?

That being said, I'm on Brian's team. We wait to see what Funk can do next year, when at least 4 of his 5 starters will have started a game before the year. Its really hard to fire a guy who simply doesn't have the raw material to produce a good product.

But I am puzzled by Brian's stance on Borges. I get that he knows more about offensive theory than offensive line play and that the things he dislikes are easier to spot, but the line is bad, and this has hurt Borges's ability to call the game he'd like to call. I'm getting into Section 1 level obsession here, but I ask: what gameplan/playcall is a good one behind a line that blocks no play well and protects even worse? I think the answers that most would have given have been tried (max protect, moving pockets, three-step drops, reliance on zone stretch or power, etc.) and failed. We ALL wanted a quick passing game after the MSU massacre, and we got it against NW. Six sacks and 4-6 throws to the defender leads me to believe the short passing game is better in theory than in practice.


November 19th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

While I agree that the Big Ten hasn't been the country's best conference in my lifetime, I suspect that they had an argument in the mid-to-late 1960s when Michigan State and Ohio State were consistently amoung the top ten, and Michigan made national noise at least in 1964 and 1969.

Regarding Penn State, SI and others said that the sanctions would end their program status as a national program.  From the start, I felt that if they could survive (meaning win at least 4-5) the first two years they'd be fine as from then on recruits would see the light at the end of the tunnel, which appears to be what happened.


November 19th, 2013 at 2:47 PM ^

So one game in two years? I know that wasn't the point and I am not trying to start another one of these arguments, but the fact that people have a short list of "good" Borges games on hand isn't a positive sign for a guy going through his 3 year at um.


November 19th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

I am having the same wicked Al Borges thoughts about Ohio game plan, only, none of the reasons he proffers apply to me.

Maybe just flashbacks?

No, I have broken through the time barrier.

We beat Ohio and the players carry Hoke around the field on their shouldgers.

Michigan Arrogance

November 19th, 2013 at 1:41 PM ^

I think the excuse of youth along the OL should be placed in front of the position coaches name, not the OCs, since the position coach is they guy directly responsible for the development of individual players. As Magnus and SC have hinted at in the past, perhaps the rate of development is not quite what they expected. Is there a way to measure the second derivative of OL play?

The responsibility of the OC is to take what is available and put the players in a position to succeed and thus make the best of what is available.


November 19th, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

I thought last year that Borges would unleash a ton of wild plays on Ohio State, since he had Denard and Devin to deploy at the same time. Unfortunately...nothing happened. It was very anticlimactic. 


November 19th, 2013 at 4:29 PM ^

that this shit show of an offense will show up strong against OSU. Not saying Michigan will win, but I think it's going to be a dog fight! Michigan 34 OSU-37. The bucknuts win on a late FG. :-(


November 19th, 2013 at 9:20 PM ^

Does the simple fact that Hoke does not realize the grand incompetence of Al Borges, despite working alongside him for several years, suggest that Hoke can't be a top 5 coach? On the contrary, can someone please explain how Brady Hoke can be top tier coach while electively employing a terrible OC such as Borges?