Position To Fail Comment Count

Brian October 14th, 2013 at 12:21 PM

10/12/2013 – Michigan 40, Penn State 43 (4OT) – 5-1, 1-1 Big Ten

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Mace triptych, by Eric Upchurch

Devin Gardner dropped back to pass. He had two guys in the route, both of them headed to the endzone from the 40 yard line. Two seconds later he ate a blindside sack, because Taylor Lewan was pretending he was a tight end and AJ Williams was pretending he was a left tackle.

Last year in Notre Dame Stadium, Denard Robinson faked a handoff and turned around to find Stephon Tuitt in his face. He reacted badly, because he always reacted badly in that situation.

This fall, Michigan told the offensive line they should do that stretch blocking thing the coaches had run maybe six times the previous two years.

Drew Dileo watched most of these things from the bench and Dennis Norfleet all of them because Michigan would rather play underclass tight ends who couldn't shove a toddler into a ball pit in three tries.

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Any individual play can be blamed on a player. Any structural issue in the first couple years can be attached to the previous coach. But there's a breaking point at which it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with the guys in charge, and this Penn State game was the offensive equivalent of watching Matt McGloin shred a clueless JT Floyd and company in 2010.

I went back into Michigan's statistics archive, which goes back to 1949, and pulled out the top 200 running back games in that database in terms of carries (the max allowed). The sample ranges from 51 to 23, and here's the bottom of it in YPC:

Name Att Net Yd Yd/Att TD Lng Season Opponent
Ron Johnson 33 84 2.5 2   1968 Minnesota
Don Moorhead 25 57 2.3 0   1969 Michigan State
Anthony Thomas 29 60 2.1 0 8 2000 Ohio State
Jamie Morris 27 52 1.9 1 7 1987 Iowa
Fitzgerald Toussaint 27 27 1 0 12 2013 Penn State

We're talking about the worst game from a tailback in the history of the program here, and nothing about it was actually Toussaint's fault. This is Greg Robinson level output. The only faith you can have in the offensive coaching is that two to four times a year they will come out with a gameplan so clueless that you spend four quarters telling yourself that you won't send that BORGERG tweet out. It's time to break the seal.

There are ways to work around the personnel limitations Michigan has, but they are not the ones Michigan wants to run. They want to be a rough and tumble Stanford offense; they spend large chunks of games with one wide receiver and three guys vaguely inclined towards blocking, and they've spent almost a month of precious practice time installing an unbalanced formation that resulted in the above table as soon as an opponent saw it on tape. This has been a miscalculation as bad as believing Russell Bellomy was ready to back up the oft-injured Denard Robinson, with results exactly like the second half of last year's Nebraska game.

This is nothing like what Rodriguez did on offense because there was no offense in which Stephen Threet, Nick Sheridan, seven scholarship OL, and a parade of freshmen at wide receiver would be effective. It is instead exactly like what he did on defense: faithlessly pretend to fit personnel to scheme early, ditch that at the first sign of trouble, shoehorn players into roles they are not fit for, make alarmingly large mid-season changes, and get the minimum possible out of available talent. Michigan is 117th in tackles for loss allowed, giving up eight per game.

No offensive line is bad enough to pave the way for 27 yards on 27 carries, because teams running for one god damn yard an attempt stop doing it.

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There are problems up and down the team that I can list if you like. Devin Gardner has Miley Cyrus-level ball security. Taylor Lewan went out. Rich Rodriguez didn't recruit any offensive linemen. Brendan Gibbons should be able to make a 33-yard field goal in the dead center of the field. Yes, all of these things. Granted. At some point, though, you zoom out from the micro issues that can be explained away and you get this:

  1. Michigan 14, MSU 28: 250 yards of offense
  2. Michigan 16, Iowa 24: 323 yards of offense, 166 50 minutes into the game when M went into hurry-up shotgun throwing
  3. Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT): 184 yards of offense
  4. Michigan 6, ND 13: 299 yards of offense and 5 INTs
  5. Michigan 9, Nebraska 23: 188 yards of offense and 3 INTs
  6. Michigan 21, Ohio State 26: 279 yards of offense and 4 TOs
  7. Michigan 28, UConn 24: 284 yards of offense and 3 TOs
  8. Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4OT): 389 yards of offense in 19 opportunities, zero OT TDs, 3 TO, worst rushing performance ever by a Michigan tailback

If you are so inclined you can add games against Alabama and MSU last year plus the 2011 Notre Dame game to the pile; I certainly don't think anything about UTL was to Borges's credit.

There have been some brilliant games over the last three years, but we're one upcoming debacle away from having a third straight year in which a quarter of Michigan's games feature offensive performances that are (almost) impossible to win with. Some of those could be explained away by injury or bad luck or a flood of turnovers from the quarterback, except that the offensive coordinator is also the quarterbacks coach.

After his year three at Michigan found high expectations dashed, John Beilein overhauled his program. Now he's coming off a national title game appearance, on the verge of making Michigan into a top-ten program. Unless there's a major turnaround, Brady Hoke's going to have some hard decisions this offseason.

Unless they're easy ones.

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Bryan Fuller

Highlights

Via BTN:

Awards

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Fuller

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3[1]Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Frank Clark was in the right place at the right time to scoop a ball off the turf and score when Michigan opened the second half down eleven and added two sacks besides as part of the best damn 43-point performance college football's ever seen, so let's give it to him.

Honorable mention: Raymon Taylor had a pick and was generally avoided otherwise; Devin Funchess had another 100 yard game as a "tight end"; Jeremy Gallon remains an excellent safety blanket and all-around player.

Epic Double Point Standings.

1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Should I even do this after that? I probably shouldn't. I will anyway: Funchess's second touchdown displayed his incredible potential, as he shot through the center of the defense to get over the top. This one wins because Penn State was actually trying to cover him this time.

Honorable mention: Gallon's shake gets him wide open for a touchdown; Chris Wormley rips through to sack Hack, as does Jibreel Black, as does Frank Clark a couple times; Fitzgerald Toussaint gets past the line of scrimmage that one time.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.

8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)

[After the JUMP: decisions, and the rest of things.]

Decisions

Complete dossier of late game faildowns. I didn't think the strategy completely went to hell until overtime, much to the dissatisfaction of some people on twitter. Clock management is another matter entirely—taking three delay of game penalties is ludicrous. But that's another spittle-flecked bullet point.

Sticking to the high-level decision-making, after the delay of game penalty it's third and fourteen from the 32. PSU is out of timeouts and there's about 1:40 on the clock when you snap. You're up a touchdown. You can either

  1. try to end the game by getting a first down
  2. try to pick up 5-10 yards for a long FG attempt
  3. guarantee Penn State has to drive 80+ yards with under a minute on the clock and no timeouts

In that situation I'm running and taking those 40 seconds instead of taking a 50/50 chance that I will gain any yards for a 50/50-ish chance at a long field goal. Those 40 seconds are huge. Once you run the ball for –3 yards, which is yet another spittle-flecked bullet point, the punt is obvious. The 15+ yards is more valuable than the vague shot you have at a 52-yard field goal.

That was a totally different situation than the one you might be thinking of in the 2005 OSU game. OSU had three minutes, was down two points, and Michigan had fourth and four. That was absolutely indefensible. Here the punt was the move. 

The strategy in overtime was purest sphincterball, enraging and depressing in equal parts. Michigan settles for a 40-yard field goal in their first shot at three-points-to-win, going so far as to set a down on fire by "centering" the ball almost on the opposite hash on third down. Blocked. On their next possession the scoring offense re-emerges, drives Michigan down to chip shot territory, and gets a field goal. They did so by isolating Gallon on one of PSU's crappy corners and giving Gardner an easy read. The second free shot to win is less of a decision issue since they had third and one. That's on Michigan's inability to get one god damn yard; more of an offense ineptitude and structure thing. Once it's fourth and one you kick for the win. 33 yards out is a chip shot.

The worst part is the pucker pucker is out of character for Hoke, who has consistently been able to put aside fears of something going wrong and make the right tactical move by being aggressive. Here Michigan lost because his opposite number did so (and could run for one goddamn yard, unlike Michigan… sorry, different spittle-flecked bullet point.)

BONUS dispiriting thing. Michigan threw away a possession that started with 90 seconds left in the first half. Turnover concerns are the excuse, but down eleven halfway through the game with zero run game outside of Gardner you're going to have to ride or die with the guy whether it's before halftime or after. You cannot allow that opportunity to slip through your hands.

Problem with the punt. Take a delay of game—also saving you a timeout—and give Wile more room. You want that extra buffer; in that situation every yard is precious and anything inside the 20 is a bonus. I mean: take Robinson's catch and move it back ten yards. You've still got a great chance to win.

Clock management debacle #854. Michigan's dedication to the slowest possible pace is enraging. It enrages to see opponents get to the line, see what Michigan is doing, and check to a play that uses that information. It is enraging to see Michigan get to the line of scrimmage with six seconds on the clock, unable to react to the defense, unable to even to have a snap count that might allow the offensive line to react to a tipped blitz. It is the most enraging to have Michigan eat critical delay of game penalties because the offensive coordinator is consistently having all these things happen and putting his players in a position to fail.

Gardner and Hoke share responsibility there, as well—Hoke moreso than Gardner, who's trying to get to the line, read the defense, and check with six seconds while Hoke should be on top of the playclock—but at root the issue is Michigan's dedication to the archaic art of huddling.

Bonus inanity: Michigan spiked the ball with the clock stopped on their final drive of regulation. That cost them a critical second that probably would have allowed them to take a shot at a closer field goal, if they'd saved the timeout they burned when Penn State had first and goal on the one.

Offense

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Give us your poor, huddled Toussaints yearning to be TFLed [Upchurch]

The thing. Fitzgerald Toussaint had 27 yards on 27 carries and I thought he got everything he could. UFR review, of course, but high up in the endzone is a pretty good vantage point to see a game and it looked like he was looking at a wall of dudes on every play and his cuts away from the playside were necessary if he was going to avoid a TFL/pick up one goddamn yard.

What can you say? There is no possible excuse there. The tackle over stuff was met with an array of blitzes that saw Penn State crush Michigan in the backfield, because Penn State had no respect for the idea Michigan would pass and Michigan still has no counters in their game. The plan was everyone's worst fears brought to life: Michigan lined up and said "we're running over here, try and stop it" and Penn State said "okay."

This was against a defense that just faced 27 carries from Indiana's tailbacks. They gave up 153 yards on those carries. It is literally impossible to overstate the fail here. They spent three weeks practicing this! They KEPT RUNNING TACKLE OVER WITH TAYLOR LEWAN ON THE SIDELINE.

!!!

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This was the only long pass to Funchess that wasn't a touchdown, and it was close to one. [Fuller]

Throw it to f***ing Funchess. At least take a shot. Even if you're seeing interceptions around every lamppost in overtime, how risky is just throwing up a punt to Devin Funchess? Or throwing a slant to Jeremy Gallon matched up against a defensive back who's gotten shook by yards in the second half?

It was quickly obvious that every first down run was a down set on fire, and that Devin Funchess was insane. 30 attempts from the running backs to 11 Funchess/Gallon catches should have been at least even.

Yes, Devin Gardner throws too many interceptions. I'm not inclined to cut the coaches any slack about that since they looked at Gardner and Bellomy last offseason and thought Bellomy could be viable. But even if Gardner throws too many interceptions, you can give him some easy throws to the field. When Denard was a sophomore, Rodriguez patched together some nascent passing offense by running a bunch of high/low stuff on the corner on which Denard's read was quick and easy. It didn't really work against high quality defenses, but Penn State's not one of those, what with their true sophomore converted WR at CB and such. There's a baby-steps passing offense that you can run out there.

FWIW, the fumble was not on him. It was the sack/strip on which Penn State ended up rushing their four defensive linemen; Michigan slid the line over and no one even blocked the DE. Gardner pumped because the wheel/hitch was covered and then he got nailed from the blindside.

Tackle over WTF. A gimmick. A gimmick that Michigan has practiced for almost a month now and leads to blindside sacks and less than a yard per attempt for Michigan's running backs. Ironic that the kind of person who comes up with this as a solution to Michigan's running issues harrumphs at the spread as a gimmick.

It was ominous that everything on the internet about unbalanced lines like the ones Michigan ran out the last two weeks described it as a way to mess with keys. What happens when the opponent's entire week is spent fixing those keys? That. Michigan dressed it up with a bunch of motion that attempted to get PSU misaligned; they did not misalign; game over.

Norfleet. Has disappeared because Michigan would rather hope nine guys execute nine blocks instead of one guy executing one.

Defense

Most valiant 43-point defensive effort ever. Penn State had one drive of more than 24 yards halfway into the third quarter, and by the end of the game they'd had a whopping 19(!) possessions, six of them starting at or around the Michigan 25 yard line. They acquired four turnovers and a four-and-out turnover on downs and scored a touchdown. Any criticisms of individual defensive plays should be taken in that context.

The Stribling-ing. The defense had one WTF coaches thing: Channing Stribling getting in on the final drive, covering Allen Robinson of all people on that fateful bomb. Your guess is as good as mine there. Mine is that they'd seen Courtney Avery get beat on a back-shoulder-throw-it-up thing in the second quarter, and that the significantly taller Stribling would be a better bet to defend heaved prayers.

They got those prayers at Stribling, the first of which he should have intercepted but somehow let go over his hands… or something? I'm still unclear even after watching it. The second was just a miracle ball that I don't think you can really blame him on. Yeah, he could have chosen to shove Robinson OOB instead of leaping for the ball but he doesn't know how everything's going to work out and he has time to look for, undercut, and leap for the ball. On anything except that exact throw and leap combination by Penn State, he wins. Sometimes you just get beat.

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Fuller

Outside of the Stribling-ing. Michigan gave up 79 yards on three passes on the desperate final drive and 5.5 YPA the rest of the day. Michigan did not match up Countess—or anyone—against Allen Robinson, playing it straight the whole way. The starting secondary did a pretty damn good job.

Meanwhile on the ground. PSU tailbacks ground out three yards a carry with a long of 13. While Zwinak isn't much of a big play threat, he was relegated to the backup in this one and Bill Belton, who is much more explosive, got 27 carries on which he gained more than one goddamn yard each. He got 3.1. It was irritating late when Penn State seemed to get five or six on the first play of every overtime drive.

Fourth down and game. Power at Black, stacked up pretty well, Morgan does not get outside of a tackle releasing and that's the crack. If Michigan had rolled down Wilson he's likely in position to stop it.

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Upchurch

Right to rush four? Hey, four sacks and all from the defensive line. That's actual progress. Michigan did a much better job of constricting the pocket, giving Hackenberg few opportunities to break contain and find a throw. When pressured he had no obviously good option as to where to move. The results were encouraging. They've been too stop-and-start to get that excited about what next week might bring, unfortunately. Have to see them string together some performances before the progress there seems real.

Wilson. I'm not going to get too bent out of shape about the pass interference in the endzone. It was, it wasn't a great play, he got beat, it happens. His interception was very nice, and I don't think either of the touchdowns after the Gardner INTs were on him. PSU's TE cleared the LBs before he could get over on the James one and the second he had nothing to do with.

Here

Chaos! Anarchy! Lots of people talking about running the ball! Here's Magnum PI:

Who are we as an offense? This is a tough question to answer. Let's start with who we are not. Yesterday, we ran 34 plays on first down. Here are the results:

Play call No. Yards per play <2 yard plays
Running back run 17 1.8 11
Quarterback run 8 8.4 1
Pass 12 13.8 5


In a power running offense, you rely on three to five yard runs on first and second down to gain short-yardage situations on third down. Yesterday we averaged 1.8 yards per play on first down runs, including 11 of 17 plays that went for one yard or less. When Devin Gardner ran on first down, he gained 8.4 yards per play with only one run for less than two yards. On the 12 occasions that passed on first down, we averaged 13.8 yards, including incomplete passes that gain zero yards.

We are not a power running team.

dragonchild presents Borges vs. Field Marshal Haig:

Melchett:       Field Marshal Haig has formulated a brilliant new tactical plan to ensure final victory in the field.

(lemme guess. . .)

2nd and 1 at MICH 29    Fitzgerald Toussaint rush for no gain to the Mich 29
3rd and 1 at MICH 29    Fitzgerald Toussaint rush for no gain to the Mich 29
2nd and 1 at MICH 48    Fitzgerald Toussaint rush for no gain to the Mich 33

Blackadder:     Now, would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking slowly towards the enemy sir?
Darling:        How can you possibly know that Blackadder? It's classified information.

Inside The Box Score brings back the Lizard Brain theory, noting that Michigan's reversion to what they are comfortable with—losing yards under center—was apparent in the results:

Final 7 minutes of regulation
10 plays run from under center gain 9 yards total, with 5 producing zero or negative yards.
4 plays were run from the shotgun. They gained 55 yards and there were no turnovers.

So on the first drive, three plays are run from under center that gain 2 yards. The 40 yard FG attempt is blocked. On the first drive, we just needed a FG to win, so Al went super conservative. He didn't want to risk the turnover by going to the shotgun, even though the turnovers were not related to the formation.

On the second drive, we needed a score, so Al went exclusively shotgun. We gained 18 yards on five plays, but are forced to kick a FG when the officials missed a blatant facemask on PSU. (Ripping a guy's helmet off has to be illegal, right? Refs -1.)

On the third drive, it's back to under center, as all we need is a FG to win. Two plays gain -1 yard, and one gains 10. On second viewing today, it's clear Gallon crossed the 15 yard line, so another -1 to the refs. Bill O'Brien goes for it in a similar situation. We kick the FG.

On the fourth drive, we start under center. PSU gets away with lining up offsides (-1 for the refs) on an incomplete pass, and it's back to shotgun (anyone getting dizzy yet?) An incomplete to Dileo and a delay of game penalty (-1 coaching staff) follow. Gardner gets 6 yards on a shotgun scramble, but we have to settle for a FG. PSU gets a TD and that's the ballgame.

Best And Worst managed to find some bests and sticks David Foster Wallace and pro wrestling into the same column. This is about people calling for players to be replaced but it's also indirectly about how that game played out:

I know this all stems from the potential of the unknown, the unreasonable belief that you’ll get the card you need on the river for the flush, that the prize behind door #3 is better than cash in hand, or that someone will catch that lob with no time left because, well, it’s happened before.  Just like Devin and Fitz weren’t ready for primetime when they stepped onto campus years ago, expecting either Morris or Green to perform adequately, let alone markedly better, than the current starters is reactionary and nearsighted.  In particular with Green, if the guy can’t earn more than a couple of snaps from the coaches against teams like Akron, UConn, and Minny, he’s just not where the coaches need him to be.

Elsewhere

HSR:

Al Borges's vindication for this game does exist (I have seen two of them, which refer to games in the future, perhaps games not imaginary), but those who went in quest of Al Borges's Vindication failed to recall that the chance of a man finding his Vindication, or some perfidious version of his, can be calculated to be zero.

MVictors:

The coaches can argue they put the team in position plenty of times to win the game and players need to make plays.  That’s fair to a certain extent, but if you’re on the sideline and you can see clearly that the coaching staff has no balls, doesn’t that affect you at some point?

Also:

mood_thumb[1]

Sap's Decals:

YOU – If you watched the entire game and maintained your dignity for the duration– congrats, you get a decal.

I don't get a decal.

TTB:

Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Dennis Norfleet. If Norfleet's going to be a slot receiver, he needs to be on the field. And not just in special packages where it's a near certainty that he'll get the ball. I somewhat understand not putting him out there a ton if he's your full-time returner, but now that Drew Dileo has taken over the punt return duties, Norfleet's duties have essentially been cut in half. Michigan needs to spend more time in the spread and less time with two or three tight ends and a fullback. And if that happens, Michigan will have to spell some guys with the likes of Norfleet.

Fouad:

Here's why: imagine yourself as anything other than Michigan fan, and picture yourself watching this team. What do you see? If you're being honest, you'll see a average squad with exceptional talent and ability in spots, but not enough to produce a consistent effort on either side of the ball. Michigan turns it over a lot (i.e. like a bad team). Almost entirely irrespective of its opponent, Michigan runs the ball like an FCS team trying to run into the teeth of Alabama's defense.

Maize and Go Blue. Maize and Blue Nation. Big House Report. Baumgardner:

In football, this stuff always catches up with you.

Three turnovers. Countless missed blocks. Questionable play calls. Questionable game management. Missed field goals.

Please, allow me a second to catch my breath.

Penalties. Blown coverages. Dropped passes. Lack of toughness. Lack of grit. Overall carelessness.

Need I go on?

Deadspin has video of the macing and a report from the stands.

Comments

yossarians tree

October 14th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

Agreed that this is on Hoke, and I hope he is a fast learner because this is not fucking Ball State or the University of San Diego. Yeah, you want a team that can run the power, but in this day and age if you announce that to the other team and think they can't stop you, you are delusional. Bo and Woody are dead. You should, and CAN, have an offense that will quickly assess the defense at the line of scrimmage and RUN THE BEST FUCKING PLAY TO BEAT THAT ALIGNMENT. Like basically every football team in the country. Fuck Manball. How about Smartball?

I love Hoke's demeanor, his passion, his recruiting. He'd better learn how to coach his coaches and his team on the field.

AriGold

October 14th, 2013 at 1:27 PM ^

play smart and hard then destroy opponents when doing both...Borges will have to go, it will be ugly and Borges defenders will bitch but it needs to be done...2.5 years and nothing has changed other than our team getting consistently shittier on the offensive side of the ball

jblaze

October 14th, 2013 at 2:18 PM ^

but if he stayed after the OSU game last year, he's never getting fired.

Who would replace him anyway? Please not some other failure (I'm looking at you Cam Cameron, as I was a Dolphin fan when you were HC)

ldoublee

October 14th, 2013 at 7:30 PM ^

Give me Zach Mettenberger and their two wide receivers...I could call up some good plays too.

 

I'm a Dolphin fan and will always harbor hatred for Cam Cameron.

BlueTimesTwo

October 15th, 2013 at 1:03 AM ^

But we do have Gallon and Funchess, and that doesn't stop Borges from going away from them even when nothing else is working.  Other teams know that if Gardner throws some early picks, then Borges will turtle and pull the plug on the passing game, and the opposing defense can tee off on our ineffective run game.

While I was getting very sick of the Hackenberg = Brady nonsense, I give BOB credit for continuing to let him throw the ball even after some bad turnovers.

ChuckieWoodson

October 14th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

thing for me is what Brian touched on here - having players that are not capabale of performing certian actions keep trying them over and over again.  The best coaches take what they have in terms of players and fit a scheme around them.  This was the classic RR blunder - now it appears more than ever that Borges can't get his head around the fact that the Oline is garbage.  I guess I just don't understand why after getting Fitz stuffed 10 times for 1 yard or less we wouldn't try something else.  A trick play, a reverse, anything.  The lack of desire to open up the playbook is baffling to me.

Edit: Which, in addition to I think is probably due somewhat to a lack of confidence in your players to perform other plays.  Obviously he must feel they're incapable of performing different plays?

BlueTimesTwo

October 15th, 2013 at 1:08 AM ^

If you don't trust your offense enough to let them try to gain positive yardage and to make plays, despite having weapons like Gardner, Gallon, Funchess and Norfleet at your disposal, then you don't deserve to be the OC.  If your entire approach to the game is to run plays that are highly likely to fail just because the outcome of those plays is predictable, then it is definitely time to step aside and let someone maximize the talent that we do have.

turd ferguson

October 14th, 2013 at 1:14 PM ^

I'm really not a Borges defender, but I think it's stupid to call for firings six games into a 12-14 game schedule during which we get a lot more information each week.  I'm as infuriated as anyone with the offensive coaching on Saturday (and through most of this season), but I can see many realistic scenarios for the rest of this season that make the early season sins forgivable.  My view of Borges's performance here is this: 

  • In 2011, our offense vastly outperformed my expectations.  I expected a major drop-off when the guys in charge didn't have any idea how to run the offense in place, and I really didn't see that drop-off.  Borges gets credit here.
  • In 2012, our offense was a rollercoaster (with real ups against Iowa, South Carolina, etc.) but on balance disappointing (with the huge, WTF downer being OSU).
  • In 2013, the offense was outstanding in the first two weeks - and bailed us out against ND - and has basically sucked balls since.

If this season keeps up (keeps down?), I think a change needs to be made.  If we go 2012 Iowa / 2013 ND against most of the rest of our schedule, including MSU and OSU, and if it looks like there's some learning and direction happening, I'll argue for keeping him.  I think it's stupid to do this now.  Football sets us up beautifully for week-to-week emotional overreactions.  I try not to do that, either on the ups or the downs.

stephenrjking

October 14th, 2013 at 1:19 PM ^

It's easy to see these struggles and blame it all on Borges, but there are layers to unravel here. Clearly, the staff is unable to produce its ideal offense based on what they want.

But how much rests on Hoke's dogged determination to have a Stanford running game? If Borges doesn't have the freedom to give up on the run, he's just calling what he can. Remember when USC smoked us in the second half in the 2007 Rose Bowl? Kiffin and Sark went to Carroll (who was often sans headset) and asked to abandon the running game completely, and he said sure.

Does Borges have that freedom? If Hoke told him to get plays in quicker, as they did early against CMU and never did again, could Borges do it effectively? I don't know. But it needs to be answered.

And the OL coaching needs to be fixed, or these big recruits are going to start bailing. One guy not developing is one thing, but when all these young guys are lost, that's a problem.

BILG

October 14th, 2013 at 2:33 PM ^

He has little to no input on game day calls on either side of the ball.  He does not at all appear to be the micro-managing type.  I could be wrong, but I HIGHLY doubt he has put Borges in a box as to what he is allowed to call.  Do they want a Manball offense, yes.  But no matter how dogmatic Hoke is, unless Borges is beaten with a whip during the week for every QB option run out of a shotgun formation on game days, I can't see how this is about Hoke's overbearing influene, other than having too much faith in Borges.  Al needs to go.

MGlobules

October 14th, 2013 at 3:25 PM ^

if Borges is doing this strictly of his own volition, fine--it's not working, spectacularly. But even if he's play-calling with total freedom down to down on game day, the vision is Hoke's, or his and Hoke's, etcetera. 

At very least, these chain of command questions need to be answered. (Hey, someone really COULD ask both of them.) I have a hard time believing Borges is as much of a dolt as he's being charged with. 

You could easily fire Borges and not have dealt with the problem. We'd have won the game by not letting the clock run out on Devin Saturday night, with a stolid, if not very disengaged Hoke on the sideline. 

Is a figurehead coach the answer? Love the guy, but I doubt it. 

Now--having said this--it would be quite easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater once again. Because the problem with the spread wasn't RichRod, and the problem with manball may or may not be Hoke or Borges. 

Fail spectacularly twice in a row. . . THEN we'll know from tire fires. By November we may be looking at real disaster. It was certainly lurking there Saturday night. 

lewan_long

October 14th, 2013 at 6:04 PM ^

Don't know about Cam Cameron but I know there will be plenty of capable candidates if Borges is fired.

Not really familar with college coaches / names associated with Michigan, but even looking at Penn State's schedule, we see UCF's coordinator Charlie Taaffe doesn a pretty good job. And since 2009 each year his QBs improve, and there's a 2 QB system in place ,similar to northwestern, so 2012 Unprepared Russell Bellomy won't happen (remember Al Borges is also the QB coach and has 2 years to develop Gardner and Bellomy)

On offensive line, there are Michigan connections like Andy Moeller, and excellent recruiter/coach like UCLA's Adrian Klemm

sneaker1freak

October 14th, 2013 at 3:25 PM ^

I am not one to call for anyone being fired... ever. With that said Borges has never done a good job with this offense since he has been here. Now im not saying they havent put up points at times, but he sure hasnt maximized his players skills. Denard could have had so much better of a career if they would have ran all of the spread passing concepts that should put defenders in conflict with the spread run plays. Borges has ran some spread run plays in his time here, but has never blended them with the bubble screens and playaction seem routes that got Roy Roundtree WIDE OPEN all of 2010 and made him out to a much better player than he was. Lets not forget Denard was the most efficient returning starting QB entering Borges' first season... thats not an opinion, its a statistical fact

Nick

October 15th, 2013 at 3:09 AM ^

but I highly doubt hed throw a fit over it.

I think the more interesting question pertains to the constraints with which Borges is working.  Are predictable 1st down runs from under center Hoke mandated?  It seems the lack of QB depth is affecting entire gameplans to their detriment, not allowing them to run backside read option or inverted veer as much as they should.

 Is the failure to install any constraint plays a systematic stubborness on Borges part?  They have occasional counters but only seem to use them once and then abandon it, and the counters they do have arent the best way of addressing the issue.  For example, their counter to linebackers overpursuing the stretch play is to run a counter play to the same side, which is all fine and dandy if they didnt have 8 in the box ready to negate any advantage you gained.  They refuse to run a bubble screen or any other similar method of taking the yards by alignment that the DEFENSE IS GIVING YOU!!!  A bubble or similar WR screen play shouldnt be a predetrmined playcall, it should be a fucking check at the line that a 12 year old QB can make when he sees 1 corner on 2 recievers or corners playing way off.

There is a fundamental stubborness to establishing their under center run game.  These coaches dont seem to realize what they are best at, or they know what theyre doing is suboptimal and ignore it.

If I was Dave Brandon, Id be having a long talk to Hoke about fixing the offense and its structural approach, and trying to glean if the problems start with Hoke boxing Borges into a philosophy they dont have the talent to execute, or if the problem is Borges refusing to accept the easiest ways of doing things given his perssonel (shotgun, spread run game, playaction in spread sets off run fakes and not just easy to read max protect pa from under center on 2nd and 11)

I dont like Borges and wouldnt revolt if he were gone, but my worst fear is that the offensive issues are more Hoke influenced than we realize. Given that Borges isnt afraid to sling it downfield, he doesnt seem the type to run into the line for 1 yard a pop over and over again.  I like Hoke because of the following: hired Mattison, helped fix the D, recruiting his ass off, is a probability smart in game coach, seems to be a good leader, understands Michigans traditions.  However I was concerned that when he talked about returning to Michigan football, hed take it so far as to be delusional about their ability to play that manball style.  Gameplans like the ones Brian laid out above reek of joint Hoke Borges efforts to manball it up at all costs and dont stop until youre on the verge of losing.

Ron Utah

October 14th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

Borges had a bad game.  At this point, Hoke also bears some heavy responsibility for the play-calling, since he can always say, "Al, stop the under center crap and throw to Funchess and Gallon."  In fact, he must say that.

Gardner's two picks can't be excused either--TOs continue to cost us games.  The O-Line can't be excused either.  Nor can the few defensive breakdowns you pointed out.

But Borges called 30 RB carries that netted 28 yards.  That's inexcusable.  The YPA is bad enough...but 30 times?

We ran 54 times and threw 28 (and one spike).  That's not okay on a team with Gallon and Funchess, and role players like Dileo, Chesson, and even Butt that are capable receivers.

Before Minnesota, Borges had more of an excuse to run when Gallon is doubled.  Now that Funchess has emerged as an unstoppable threat, he needs to alter his gameplans, and make teams prove they can cover one of the better pairs of receiving threats in all of college football.

And Hoke needs to make him do it.

M-Dog

October 14th, 2013 at 12:50 PM ^

There is the distinct possibility that Hoke is the one telling Borges to run under center.

I recall a quote from Borges along the lines of "I'd like to play more wide open, but that's not who we are here."  It did not sound like his heart was in it.

Will be interesting to see what his tone is at the presser.

 

los barcos

October 14th, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

The assumption here is that Borges is free to call any plays he wants but chooses to still run the ball into the line over and over again.  I am not sure that's the case.  We'll never know for sure, but my guess is that Hoke is dictating what he wants to see.  I think we may be seeing the 3-3-5 all over again, but on offense...

93Grad

October 14th, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

It was pretty clear that Carr gave the same mandate to his OC's and we know that did not end well.  My worst fear when we hired Hoke was that he was Carr 2.0.  Unless Peppers really is better than Woodson, I don't think we will see anything like 1997.  More like a lot of 2005 and 2007. 

ish

October 14th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

through telepathy?  he can only do that if he wears the headphone.  i'm actually not getting into the headphone debate.  i just mean that borges can't know what hoke is thinking without talking to him and i'm sure hoke didn't say "if we get to overtime and we've been unable to run all game do it anyway."

los barcos

October 14th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

debate is a red herring.  Aside from the point the poster above makes, Hoke has a guy next to him who keeps him informed about the playcalls.  He's mentioned this before in press conferences and you can even see him on the sidelines.  Hoke knows the plays and knows what is going on, both on offense and defense.  He doesn't need a headset to keep his hand on the pulse.  

ksgill99

October 14th, 2013 at 1:26 PM ^

I hope someone asks Borges about this. I mean, why was it not plainly obvious to him that running the ball from the tailback position was not working? It was to a lot of people who, like me, know a lot less about football than he does.

CLord

October 14th, 2013 at 3:24 PM ^

I love it.  The latest in the line of clever Borges defense mechanisms.

First it was Denard and not the right parts.

Then it was inexperience at O line even though he has the top O lineman in the nation.

Now it's that he doesn't have control, and that Hoke is forcing him to be terrible.

Can't wait for the next one.  In the meantime, 8-4 at best looms, and we should be underdogs against the rest of the schedule, including Indiana. 

CompleteLunacy

October 14th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

You know, I've generally supported Borges and thought thr criticism was too much. But even I'm starting to think that he's just not good. Predictability doomed Michigan. I don't get it. YOU CAN RUN OUT OF SHOTGUN TOO! And I don't care that they huddle that much, but I don't get why they are incapable of going up-tempo. I mean, Bill O'Brien's offense isn't exactly spreadtacular (he is from the NFL, after all), yet how many times did he go up-tempo and catch M's defense off-guard on Saturday?

zlionsfan

October 14th, 2013 at 12:54 PM ^

is that he does not insist on running the ball when the team is not good at it. In 2011 (let's forget 2012 - no, really), the Lions were 31st in rushing attempts, just 10 carries ahead of a 4-12 Tampa Bay team that was probably worse than their record. He didn't go away from the run because the Lions sucked, he did it because the running game sucked.

Of course he also had/has Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and a bunch of receivers not named Calvin Johnson who can still get open from time to time, and Borges does not (although Borges has a TE who can catch, at least until he officially becomes a WR), and Detroit is running the ball more this season because they have a back who can run in that offense ... but that just means Linehan is tailoring his play calls to the ability of his players. He is not calling power run after power run and hoping that his opponents magically do not detect the huge POWER RUN indicator in six-foot-tall letters above the formation he's just sent in.

CLord

October 14th, 2013 at 3:26 PM ^

Just starting to think Borges is not good is like just starting to think Japan bombed Pearl Harbor 70 years ago.  The writing has been on the wall all the way back to the second half of last year's Nebraska game going forward.

CompleteLunacy

October 14th, 2013 at 4:00 PM ^

It's kind of hard to stick around this blog when every response to a not-popular opinion is effectively "you're an idiot". 

No, it's not like "just starting to think Japan bombed Pearl Harbor 70 years ago". It's just not. Borges has called some pretty damn good games around these parts too. Unless you think ND UTL II was a fluke? Or the first Nebraska dismantling. Or the first victory against OSU in what, 8 years? I sure as hell don't. He's called some good games. Obviously he did not two days ago.

 

MGoManBall

October 14th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

"If you're on the sideline and you can see clearly that the coaching staff has no balls, doesn't that affect you at some point?"

Bingo. How is a team supposed to play with confidence when the coaching staff has none in them? The coaching staff said, "Hey Devin, go out there and hand the ball off 3 times and we'll kick a 40 yard field goal in OT. That's how much confidence we have in you."

Also: "Hey Shane, go out there and waste a play for us while Devin puts his helmet back on. Everybody knows it's going to be a run and we don't trust you to throw a play-action pass."

Both our QBs were 5* recruits in high school. They aren't babies. They know how to play the game of football. Our coaching staff isn't letting the kids compete.

rpmi

October 14th, 2013 at 1:00 PM ^

Playing to lose and then losing this battle of who could suck less, I also believe that the coaches have done a bad job of instilling confidence. Others have fairly debated who is to blame for the suicidal playcalling (Hoke/Borges/Funk's O-line). Keep in mind we have now seen both Robinson and Gardner regress as passers over time. Bellomy was also put in a position to fail last year.

Something has to change. I still think there can be redemption for the running game this year (perhaps merely by passing more?). I think this is a great opportunity for Borges to earn his keep. If there is no improvement, factoring in that the defenses are generally better going forward (yikes!), I think Borges and Funk have to go.

Indiana Blue

October 14th, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

My son and I both said when Devin left ... "gotta throw here, absolutely no one will be thinking about a pass".   Would have worked ... but this coaching staff didn't pull out ANYTHING UNEXPECTED ... save for punting when a FG seals the victory.  Play to win vs, playing not to lose.  Sorry ... but punting there was simply playing not to lose and guess what .. you lost.

BiSB

October 14th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

Brady Hoke's going to have some hard decisions this offseason.

Unless they're easy ones.

Some may be hard. But by now, one has moved beyond "easy" to "blitheringly obvious."