Michigan State 29, Michigan 6 Comment Count

Ace November 2nd, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog

Michigan had two weeks to prepare for Michigan State. This resulted in a record-setting day.

It takes a special kind of failure to achieve such lows: complete, utter failure from top to bottom. The gameplan from Al Borges lacked coherence, an issue that's plagued him during his entire tenure at Michigan. The play-action from under center isn't fooling anyone and still gets brought out several times a game, yet the shotgun runs somehow lack any sort of constraint or misdirection. A piecemeal offense isn't going to beat MSU's defense.

The offensive line couldn't open up holes for the running game, nor could they keep Devin Gardner upright. MSU registered nine sacks, and even with that yardage removed along with kneeldowns and a negative-20-yard bad snap, the Wolverines mustered 1.3 yards per carry.

Gardner often held the ball too long, for his part, and missed some open receivers, then capped the performance with an ugly interception when he hucked a designed back-shoulder fade three yards in front of Jeremy Gallon. By that point, however, he'd earned considerable respect simply for standing up and facing the inevitable beating.

Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

Michigan mustered 168 yards on a meager 2.8 yards per play despite Gardner averaging nearly eight yards per pass when he could actually get one off. The defense fought valiantly, holding the Spartans to just 237 yards and 16 points through three quarters and setting up the offense with a chance to make it a game when Raymon Taylor picked off Connor Cook and returned it to the MSU 41. The Wolverines subsequently took a five-yard loss on an blown-up option followed by consecutive sacks—burning a timeout before the second one—to lose 21 yards in three plays; a Matt Wile punt, his eighth of the afternoon, opened the fourth quarter.

By the time Jeremy Langford capped the scoring with a 40-yard touchdown run, Devin Gardner's day was done—it would've been unconscionable to put him out there for another possession—and fans from both sides steadily streamed out of Spartan Stadium.

On Michigan's final offensive play of the game, Shane Morris tried to scramble on fourth-and-four, only to faceplant at the line of scrimmage. It was a fitting coda to a miserable day.



November 2nd, 2013 at 7:45 PM ^

I thought Borges had a good game plan given the non-existent rushing game. My only complaint was the 2nd half under center PA that fooled no one and took Devin's eyes away from the 2 free rushers about to kill him.

If you want to blame Borges here, it's for his scheme and contributions to our inability to block, not the play calling in this one.


November 2nd, 2013 at 10:43 PM ^

You can give a one armed man as much preparation as you want before he steps into the boxing ring, but he's still a one armed man.

That is to say, some deficiencies are as such that no amount of scheming or preparation will get you the W. State is just a better football team, and it just so happens that our major deficiencies line up with their strengths.

You can blame the coaches for failing to develop any competent interior O-Linemen in the 3 years they've been here, but play calling and a lack of preparation were not the reasons we lost that game.


November 2nd, 2013 at 11:36 PM ^

On the one armed boxer comment guy. How the hell can anyone blame Al Borgess for this. We can't block shit. We can't block shit. We can't block shit. We look soft. We look soft. We look soft. All the talent. DO SOMETHING WITH IT. At least gardener didn't throw 3 INTs in the first qtr. we can't blame it on him can we. Let's just face it. We are a slightly above average football team with many flaws. Hope we have a high ceiling and start actually achieving.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 3rd, 2013 at 8:40 AM ^

The key point is this team HAS talent and can't seem to develop it on the offensive line. Other teams would kill to have the talent we have on the oline and they would turn them into a man eating machine, but Funk and company have done nothing in three years with the oline. 

In their first year they took over a group that had some experience and were trained and developed under a different staff. That was the last time this team had a decent o-line. Despigte the fact that they have got better talent now then they did then, the line is a shambles and has been the last two years.

I can't blame the play calling on Borges, as said above he is working with a team that can't execute on the oline. We can, however, blame Borges for the fact that his oline coach has yet to develop a single player in three years. Don't throw Lewan and Schofiled at me either, because those two were both good before this staff got here. Look at the ones that either a) came after the coaching change or b) were underclassmen when they arrived. There isn't a single example of anyone getting better. 

The real scary part is that they have got commitments from several "project" type oline the past two classes and we don't have a guy who can develop them.

Again, I don't think Borges can blamed too much for his playcalling considering what he is working with, but he's working with what he is because of the staff under him, and that is his fault. If people can blame RR for his defense as an offensively minded head coach (which they fairly did) they can certainly blame the OC for his assistants not being able to develop talent. The question is whether anyone will have the balls and good sense to do something about this offseason (or sooner preferably...just look at the difference in Texas since firing their DC, you can do it mid-season and get favorable results).


November 2nd, 2013 at 11:51 PM ^

I don't get this 2 week BS, which Ace talks about also. You don't think an OC with decades of experience can draw up a plan in a week? What's supposed to be so much better about having 2 weeks to prepare for a team? Someone did some analysis here about bye weeks. I can't remember the exact results, but I'm pretty sure there wasn't anything to suggest they give you a significantly better chance to win. It doesn't mean Borges had a good plan, but I don't think the 2 weeks has anything to do with it.

coastal blue

November 3rd, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

In the past, people on this site used MSU tending to get a bye week before Michigan as an excuse for Michigan losses. Also, for a lot of people a disheartening loss to Penn State off a bye week in 2010 signalled the death knell for Rich Rodriguez. Oddly enough, a lot of the same people who were calling for his head after an incredibly poor defensive performance in 2010 with an incredibly young defense are now asking for patience after an incredibly poor offensive performance in 2013, despite the offense really only being young at the center of the offensive line (and that is where the most young talent lies, i.e. 4 and 5 star players). 

Its strange how people get out their torch and pitchfork over 2 and 3 star freshmen defenders screwing up, blaming the staff from the head coach on down, but then find youth to be a convenient excuse when 4 and 5 star freshmen can't block anyone on the offensive line, excusing the staff (outside of Funk).


November 3rd, 2013 at 2:19 PM ^

Not a double standard. Hoke won more games in 1.5 seasons than RR won in 3 full seasons. None of M's offenses offenses were ranked in the triple digits in terms of production. Hoke isn't recruiting poorly like RR did. The only thing they really have in common is the 3-3-5 for RR is basically MANBAWL for this current bunch.


November 3rd, 2013 at 3:04 PM ^

I dunno. The defense RR inherited should've been solid at least. Taylor and Graham on the DL, Trent/Brown/Warren/Harrison in the secondary. The offense I'll give you because they had nothing from the season prior on the line and no QB's. But he had a (IMO) solid (on paper) stable of backs and a solid core of receivers. He also had a much more talented class coming in than Hoke had. The likes of Martin, Koger, Stonum, Cissoko and McGuffie were highly touted out of HS.


November 2nd, 2013 at 7:53 PM ^

I was very critical of Borges after the PSU game, but I'm not sure what people want here.  He didn't line up and try to run at MSU out of the I.  He did the only thing his personnel allowed him to do, namely attack MSU deep.  MSU gambles that you won't be able to execute well enough to beat them deep, and there are reasons whey they are one of the best defenses in the country. For one, beating anyone deep is hard.  It requires your OL, QB, and receivers to all perform well.  Today, we saw a hesitant DG (though I don't blame him given how much he's no doubt been told not to turn the ball over), a receiving corp that dropped passes and in one case fumbled, and an OL that was totally overmatched, to say the least. 

If you believe Borges should be able to coach true freshman and redshirt freshman OLs to stop MSU, okay.  I don't know what his role w/ the OL is.  But he had precious little to work with today.

Indiana Blue

November 2nd, 2013 at 8:10 PM ^

if Devin was being hesitant, if you were not at the game.  The tv view doesn't let you see the routes or coverage of all the receivers.  He did miss Funchess late for a long TD - but Devin got beaten up today, period.  

The Oline issue is NOT new.  With msu's pressure blitz's (that everyone knew were coming) the game plan should have included short underneath stuff and maybe hitting the RB coming out into the flat (which they did run ... once), something that would slow down the pressure, but it sure seemed to me like we tried to go deep an awful lot.

Go Blue! 


November 2nd, 2013 at 8:36 PM ^

When the linebackers are in your backfield, that pretty much tells you there is a void on the backside of the defensive line. Al failed to attack what MSU gave him - 5-7 yards in the middle most of the game. Instead he thought it best to try 20+ yard passes....because after all the protection was most surely there.


November 2nd, 2013 at 8:58 PM ^

It takes time to develop long routes and Devin did not have time to wait for downfield plays to develop. This is 'hindsight' of course but Coach Borges knew he had a porus offensive line and he knew MSU had a great defense; for a guy with a big playbook and two weeks to prepare, he did poorly.

That said, he was only at fault for some of this. Execution sucked today; between the blocking and the quarterbacking I don't know if any game plan would have worked.

snarling wolverine

November 2nd, 2013 at 11:01 PM ^

It seemed to me like we ran that quick hitter to Funchess over the middle a bunch of times, but it was often dropped or broken up.  It was almost never really open - there was always a lot of traffic.

On a lot of pass plays it seemed like Devin simply had no chance - the pocket collapsed almost instantly.



November 2nd, 2013 at 9:37 PM ^

I will tell you, when sacked with that much regularity you eventually begin to see and hear shit...real or otherwise. I've been highly critical of a lot of things but today...hats off to MSU. We were forced and schemed and blitzed into humiliation. they punched us hard and bloodied our noses...
Devin did all he could, the game planning was wide open, but we were outmatched. The line does look confused as hell, from inexperience, poor coaching, poor scheming, whatevs. We got beat hard, own up to it. time to put egos and snobbery aside and admit we are not atop the foodchain.

the unsilent m…

November 2nd, 2013 at 10:14 PM ^

I was at the game... I've been to many games... I've watched all of the games... the plot has not changed, and we are at the same point we have been at for the last several years.   There is no successful offensive scheme available when you have a quarterback that cannot read a defense and make them pay for their aggressiveness.  Defenses do not, and have not had ANY respect for our downfield attack for years, and rightfully so.  They throw 8-9 guys in the box, tee off up the gut, and take away the running lanes COMPLETELY.  I don't care how inexperienced our line is, it comes down to simple math: when the other team rushes more guys than you have blockers, bad things will happen (-48 rushing yards).  Normally, the forward pass is used to counter such a defensive scheme. Too many times we gush(ed) over Devin's running ability, or Denard's running ability, but at the end of the day we have just another running back in the back field, and when we come up against a defense  that is strong up the gut (see all typical Big Ten defenses; see further our record against the Big Ten), WE ARE DONE.  Therefore, IMO, judgment should be withheld from the rest of the offensive unit until we get a quarterback who can utilize the forward pass.    


November 3rd, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

The blame was on the personnel on the oline and they changed the personnel.  Same outcome.  Changing QBs wouldn't have changed anything.  I can't think of a QB who could have held up under that pressure.  

I am not sure if it is the line, the blocking, the scheme or the coaching.  Reason tells me it is the scheme based on the simple math of the number of defenders rushing vs. the number of blockers.  Too often Gardiner was being hit/sacked by multiple defenders.  They were just better!



November 3rd, 2013 at 12:45 PM ^

+1000 to you if I could.... your post is spot-on.

Until we get a cerebral qb who can, you know, actually play the qb position and read defenses, then its gonna be pain.....these running qbs do precisely that because they rarely can read and tear up a defense...thats why they take off and run.. We need a cerebral qb as fast as possible. Unless Gardner miraclously morphs into a cerebral qb overnight, then play Morris as fast as possible to take his lumps and get started.   Realize that MSU beat us with a sophomore qb and we lost with a senior qb.

And the most disappointing part of it is that in crunch time, both Denard and Gardner have wilted and cowered, unable to handle the pressure.  After I saw Gardner cower not going for the first down, I am bailing on him.... thats a coward who cannot handle this mentally..... PUT IN MORRIS.


November 3rd, 2013 at 1:17 PM ^

You need to get your head checked. O line was awful, worse than awful, he had no chance.

Also, this whole "running qb's can't be smart qb's " bullshit is wearing fucking thin. It's thinly vieled racism. No one ever said that about Steve Young or Fran Tartkenton. You think a Qb can't be smart and tear up defenses because they like to run? Tell that to Jameis Winston or Johnny Manziel, or Marcus Mariotta, or Cam Newton, or Dennis Dixon, or RGIII, or Russel Wilson, or Collin Kaepernick, or Braxton Miller, or Andrew Luck, or Brett Hundley, or Tahj Boyd...should I keep going?


November 3rd, 2013 at 2:09 PM ^

Christian ponder = running WHITE qb = terrible qb. It was a valid point about running qb's. I still think the o line is the problem, but I would I really wonder how much of the play book Devin has control over.


November 3rd, 2013 at 10:13 PM ^

As mentioned they somehow incorrectly ruled that drop by Gallon a fumble, and what made it worse it wasn't properly called even on review. They also missed two obvious PI's on MSU. One on Gallon when it was 22-6, prior to the INT, where he was being mugged beyond belief. There was also one on a first half drive where the DB got there way too early and made a good amount of contact (ABC never showed a replay, but it was pretty clear live).

Not to say those calls would have made a real difference in the outcome, when you get thrashed the way they did, but I don't see how anybody can say the officials did a good job when they blew at least 3 obvious calls.


November 2nd, 2013 at 8:14 PM ^

Erik in Dayton this is very astute. 

State wins this game 7 of ten times because you have grown men 21-22 years old palying against 18-20 year old walk ons and red shirt freshman.  This game was lost along the line in recruting before Hoke arrived.  Other then play action shotgun and asking Toussaint to block LB's and DE's he was limited with options.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 3rd, 2013 at 8:50 AM ^

That's all I can say to this. Honestly, 10 years from now people will still be blaming RR for losses.He got 3 years and during that time people were screaming for his firing. This staff has been here just as long now (save for a couple of months) but still some think no blame should be placed at their feet. I just don't get it. 

coastal blue

November 3rd, 2013 at 2:20 PM ^

Agreed. However, if we are being reasonable, this excuse did not fly when Rodriguez was here. Now, with our young offensive line struggling, those who were incredibly smug after Coach Hoke's first season ("see it was just coaching all along!") find themselves in an incredibly hypocritical situation. Do they blame youth when youth could never be an excuse before? Or do they blame coaching, when they were so sure these coaches were the perfect fit? 

Personally, I think our OLine will be better in time (probably two years if we keep things the same), but the lack of growth they've shown makes me realize (as we saw with Greg Robinson and Tony Gibson) we can do better with an OC and line coach upgrade. This game has me leaning towards Borges (Funk has to go) taking a walk at the end of the season, but he's got 4 chances to prove otherwise. 

gustave ferbert

November 2nd, 2013 at 10:50 PM ^

the inability to prepare this team for a road game. . . three years now and we have yet to have a compelling signature win on the road.  And we have yet to beat our major rivals in E.Lansing,, S. Bend or Columbus.  couple that of course with the embarrassment of penn state.


November 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 PM ^

I agree 100%.

Brian could have been calling the plays alongside Rich Rod from atop a unicorn that shits rainbows while stomping on the visage of Al Borges and it wouldn't have changed jack shit with the way our offensive line played.

After the game offensive coordinator Brian would have mumbled about "execution" while blog writer Brian made snarky comments about him as the universe imploded on itself.

Maybe a few play calls could have been better but overall they would have been the difference between death by getting shoved into a wood chipper, and the kinder, gentler, bullet to the forehead.

Either way, you're getting put down.


November 2nd, 2013 at 11:06 PM ^

I remember when the last coach said Vince Lombardi couldn't get anything out of his defense. Three years into the new regime, and I suppose Bill Walsh couldn't get any more out of this offense.