Picture Pages: The Dumbest Play In The History Of Football

Submitted by Brian on October 15th, 2013 at 1:44 PM

I don't think I'm exaggerating. It's second and eight after one of Michigan's most successful RB runs of the night. Michigan trails 21-10 with six minutes left in the second quarter. They put some dudes on the field and move them around. When we come back from Matt Millen saying something about something, this process has already started.


Houma and Chesson are switching spots. What this is supposed to do to the defense remains unknown, because it did not happen. Now… there's something odd about this play. Since we don't ever see the outside WR, I don't remember if that's Funchess or Williams or whoever, but Michigan puts him off the screen to the field. Also…


They have no left tackle. They have put their left tackle at super right tackle.

I think this is a run.


Penn State thinks this is a run. They have eight guys in the box against six blockers.


ESPN's camera man thinks this is a run, zooming almost to the box before they even snap the ball.

It's a run. Specifically, it is a zone stretch to the boundary. Because this is the only run it could possibly be, Penn State is prepared for this. Kalis gets driven back. Bryant and Glasgow don't scoop the backside tackle (not that it really matters since there is an unblocked guy in the cutback lane and another unblocked guy checking Gardner).


This looks familiar.


Kalis finally finishes losing his guy, who pushes Toussaint to the edge of the field, where a ninth Penn State defender—a safety lined up over a formation that cannot have a tight end emerge from it to threaten downfield—comes up to tackle for loss…


…if Kalis's guy doesn't do it first.


Third and ten.



Items of Interest

This is the stupidest play in the history of plays. You can't pass because you don't have a right tackle and refuse to throw perimeter screens no matter how blitheringly open they are…


all of these occurred in the first 20 minutes of the game

…and Penn State knows this, so they put eight in the box against six blockers and have a safety overhanging who knows 100% that he has no immediate pass threat to deal with.

I mean, you can see the entire PSU D on the field here:


There is a wide receiver outside of Gallon. Only the dumbest playcall in history could allow a D to align like this and be successful.

You really confused them, though. Having Chesson and Houma switch places is the cherry on top here. Yeah, you fooled 'em up real good right there. Now Penn State's eight in the box against 5 OL and a WR is eight in the box against 5 OL and a FB. Green fields ahead, boys.

They're setting them up for something! If you don't have an automatic check to whatever your clever business is when you see two DBs on 3 WRs, you fail.

Line didn't do well, but whatever. Kalis gets blown up here, but since Michigan just told Penn State the play they were running it's not really the focus.

The bigger picture. This was insane and far from isolated. Michigan kept running tackle over stuff against a defense that was stuffing it even after Taylor Lewan went out. They asked AJ Williams to play left tackle, and because of Borges's increasingly legendary stubbornness they allowed Penn State to align in formations that doomed their crammed-together paleolithic run game without either testing PSU's young and not very quick corners or taking the buckets of free yards these alignments provided.

The bubble screen stuff took on a life of its own over the course of the last year, and it's come up again—a screenshot of Michigan's first snap of the first overtime screaming for a bubble has made the rounds of every message board. To reiterate, the bubble is a constraint: it prevents the defense from lining up in certain ways and thus simplifies your life as an offense since defenses can't pack the box as much without getting free yards on their face. Borges's allergy to getting the ball to guys in a ton of space went from annoying to crippling in this game.

How can anyone have faith in a guy who looks at this when he needs a field goal to win…


…and doesn't throw a bubble because it's not what Vince Lombardi would do? It boggles the mind. A lot of things lost this game for Michigan. Al Borges is high up on that list.


Crime Reporter

October 15th, 2013 at 4:26 PM ^

If they pull this shit again on Saturday, I'm done watching live. I can't even enjoy myself during the games anymore because I'm so nervous or pissed off. I get enough stress from work. This is my escape.

Like I said Sunday, I will probably start taping the games and find something else to occupy time. Later I will check the score and determine whether it's worth viewing.

Understand that I can take losing. The RR years gave me a better appreciation for wins. What I can't stand is this staff setting up our guys for failure. That to me is inexcusable.

Ty Butterfield

October 15th, 2013 at 4:55 PM ^

I stopped watching away games live beginning in 2007. I just couldn't do it anymore. I still attend every home game. I obviously didn't see this game but the loss still really got to me. I fear that Michigan will never be a dominate program again. Hoke seems to stubborn to make the necessary changes.

El Jeffe

October 15th, 2013 at 4:17 PM ^

The thing is, the whole point of a constraint play is not to base your offense around it but to make the D line up so you can run what you really want to run. So if we threw one, ONE bubble screen or zip screen or jet screen or whatever the fuck Borges wants to call it, then it's quite likely we'd never have to run it again in a game because the D would be forced to bacdafucup.

Or maybe we'd have to run it twice, fine. But we're not talking about shelving the whole offense and becoming Krazy Mike Leach's Slingapalooza or something.

Finally, imagine what would have happened if we had run a bubble to Funchess in that last TV-shot picture and ended the game on a 25-yard TD pass. The PSU boards would be aflame with how idiotic that defense was, giving up an obvious 10 if not 25 yards.

There is indeed a fine line between clever and stupid.


October 15th, 2013 at 4:44 PM ^

After the usc loss someone from the fanbase literally emailed the article to Jim Tressel (the smart fooball articles posted above). Someone needs to forward this Picture pages post and the game column from monday to Borges


October 15th, 2013 at 4:55 PM ^

in refusing to throw the ball to set up the run is mind boggling. Almost the entire defense is stacked in the box to prevent the run. The receivers have nothing but daylight in front of them. The tight-ends didn't have a soul covering them the whole game. Even the most lowly of playcallers should be able to recognize what is being given there. Take what the defense gives you. Do not try to continue to force what. Is. Not. Working. You'd think after the 23rd attempt up the middle for no gain that Borges would get the hint. But no. He seems to be getting more and more stubborn the longer he goes.

Cranky Dave

October 15th, 2013 at 5:29 PM ^

Chris Brown on Smart Football wrote this article on packaging plays


In particular given Brian's reference to the bubble screen

"1. Run plays combined with a backside pass concept

This concept is the simplest and most readily integrated. Indeed, this is all the vaunted “bubble screen”" is: a run play where the quarterback can flip it to a receiver if the defense fails to cover them with numbers. The bubble or fast screen is run when there are multiple receivers to a side. 

But also common and useful is the “smoke” concept or “look” pass. This is a one-step hitch by the receiver where he simply turns his numbers back to the quarterback. For everyone else, the play is a run, but if the defense gives that receiver an excessive cushion — and the flat defender is located inside the box looking for the run — the quarterback simply throws it to wide receiver. Below are some cutups of the bubble and the look pass". 

Maybe Chris is interested in becoming our new OC?



October 15th, 2013 at 5:47 PM ^

I've officially had it with Uncle Fester and his arrogant stubborn ways. I had my doubts after Iowa and State in 2011 and the. In 2012 when Denard regressed, Bellomy was Sheridan, and we choked away the 2nd half against Ohio. But this season perfectly captures all my fears about Borges (and Hokes) refusal or inability to adapt their scheme to their teams own strengths and what the defense gives them. We are basically doomed on offense until we get a Stanford-esque line which won't happen until 2016 if at all.


October 15th, 2013 at 6:28 PM ^

Bottom line... we are screwed. Not just now, but for the future. After all, as Hoke said, "We have a great OC."  However, I feel no anger... only resignation. Maybe in another 5 years, Michigan will have enough talent and experience, that not even Borges can screw it up. So, might as well just kick back, and listen to the band play as the Titanic sinks.


October 15th, 2013 at 7:05 PM ^

A couple of other posters have touched on this, but Borges' problem doesn't seem to be crafting a gameplan, but rather adjusting that gameplan throughout the game. We ran the ball down Minnesota's throats all day. Borges figured we'd do the same against Penn State. When that didn't work, there was no *counter*, because the gameplan was power run, power run, play action pass.

When the power run didn't work, there was nothing in Borges' bag of tricks because he has no bag of tricks. It's Option A, over and over and over again.

We all saw the same thing during the 2011 Iowa game.

For the record, Hoke's lost 8 games and I think you can attribute them like so...


2011 Iowa,

2013 Penn State


2011 Sparty (trash tornado, let's throw the ball a bunch)

2012 Ohio (2nd half only)


2013 Notre Dame


2012 Nebraska


2012 S. Carolina


2012 Alabama

I've got Borges down as being directly responsible for 4 losses, Denard for one, cruel fate for another, and the foul-stenched demon that is Saban for another.

eamus_caeruli (not verified)

October 15th, 2013 at 8:32 PM ^

I am really worried Borges is too much like Mile Martz. I mean, I kind of want to say that Gardner needs to see the number problem and either check down to a backside ISO with fullback or as well documented a screen, swing pass or simply move to a new set play.

So, either Gardner can't count, or doesn't have the confidence to, or go ahead from the coaches to make the audible.

WNY in Savannah

October 15th, 2013 at 9:41 PM ^

As others have said, regardless of the overall scheme, you can make the quick throw to the uncovered receiver for a free bundle of yards.  "Establish the run?"  In overtime?!  The uncovered receivers were there the entire game.  If all of us can see this, Hoke and Borges have to be able to see it, right?  There is just no way they don't.  So they see it and still don't want to do it.  I have been trying to figure out what they are thinking.  Someone please help me out.  What can they be thinking?  What possible justification is there?  Early in the game you want to get the RB going.  It won't work against that defense, but I can at least understand the desire.  But then what about in OT?  You don't want to throw long because your QB throws too many interceptions.  I can understand that fear.  But we're talking about an immediate throw to a receiver on the line with no one within 10 yards.  There is zero chance of an INT.  There is very little chance even of an incompletion.  What can the reason possibly be for not doing this?


October 16th, 2013 at 8:59 AM ^

a simple look to the receiver, hand guesture, whatever...it's age old dinosaur stuff...insane. It's frustrating to know we have talent that can run with any team in the B1G...but coaching that can't. I see no cure in the forseable future with stubborn play calling. NO WAY IN HELL should we lose to PSU. NO WAY. What I see happening is Mattison becoming frustrated and either going back to the NFL or just retiring...THAT is more likely to happen than fester being fired/replaced. Hoke isn't much different than Rich Rodriguez in that regard...Gerg vs. Fester...same deal, similar results. Just more talent in the cupboards...


October 16th, 2013 at 8:46 PM ^

There is no way in hell there is an 11th guy on the field...unless this was a Charlie Brown sideline play. When the picture pans in from break there is no reciever to the bottom of the screen. Also exemplified by the fact that we would have had to be on the line thus making (Gallon?) at the bottom ineligible.
Further proof of dumbest play ever.
Otherwise the dude is WIDE FUCKING OPEN with nobody within 15 yards of him. All 11 PSU defenders are in the screen shot.
Further proof of dumbest play ever.