Position To Fail

Submitted by Brian on October 14th, 2013 at 12:21 PM

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


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.


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.


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.


Bryan Fuller


Via BTN:




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.]


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.



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.



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.


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.



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.



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.


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.



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.


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?



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.


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.


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.


El Jeffe

October 14th, 2013 at 1:36 PM ^

The sad part of all of this to me is that M has the players to play a version of what Hoke ultimately wants--ball control offense that doesn't turn it over and keeps the defense fresh. One way to do that is an Alabama-style punishing running attack with enough PA to keep the LBs honest. But it's not the only way.

Put Devin in the shotgun/pistol, run enough QB isos, zone reads, quick screens, counter tosses, passes in the flat to Dileo/Norfleet, and then run PA off of the shotgun/pistol to go over the top to Funchess et al.

I don't really understand the a priori argument for downhill running from under center unless the coaches believe it's the best way to control the clock and keep the defense fresh. But it clearly is not. So while I don't think a valid argument would be to ask Hoke/Borges to scrap the basic goal of the offense and try to become Oregon, I do think it's valid to expect them to achieve it a different way.


October 14th, 2013 at 1:38 PM ^

Okay, let's look at it this way:

Borges has been dealt a bad hand. He is supposed to call a running-and-playaction offense with a horrible OL, and the best counter for that running game is a short passing offense in which his QB has repeatedly made awful, game-changing turnovers.

It was the TOs that made Akron and UConn close, and that put Michigan behind against PSU, forcing the plan to open up. So avoiding TOs is the highest priority--Borges must toe the line between a running game that doesn't work and a QB he can't trust. It's the hand he's been dealt, and I think he's doing okay with it.

Here's the problem: He is also, at least in part, the one dealing the cards. And that is where the responsibility lies.


October 14th, 2013 at 1:38 PM ^

Devin Gardner has 13 turnovers this year. Two of them on Saturday were directly to defenders. We have a less mistake prone QB and not only do we win all of our games up to this point, we win them in a more convincing fashion. Cut those turnovers in half, and everything is fine.

The games that everyone uses to point to coaching ineptitude are Akron, UConn, and this Penn State debacle. And what do you know? All of them are three turnover days for Gardner. Our OLine is what it is, and Fitz will never create anything for himself. But Gardner is the one that's killing us, plain and simple.

Monocle Smile

October 14th, 2013 at 1:46 PM ^

I don't think anyone points to Akron as an offensive coaching debacle given the turnovers, and UConn was more fluky than anything (although it did feature some dead horse beating).

Gardner had zero turnovers in the second half when we marched to a commanding lead on his arm and legs and were up ten with like half a quarter remaining. So of course we go into a shell Carr-style and try to burn a ton of football by taking the ball out of his hands.

Gardner is the only thing keeping us ALIVE despite the turnovers. In other words, shut it.

P.S. Borges is also the QB coach. Just in case you were wondering.


October 14th, 2013 at 2:03 PM ^

Gardner helps us survive his own mistakes. He's responsible for 14 of Penn State's points. Clearly that ten point lead in the second wasn't so commanding.

Last week we are super vanilla. Gardner throws zero picks, and we cruise. We could have done the exact same thing this game provided he's doesn't throw balls directly to defenders.

Monocle Smile

October 14th, 2013 at 2:17 PM ^

If you really think the only difference between the Minnesota and Penn State games was Gardner throwing two picks, then you need to watch a LOT more football and get your eyes checked. They were similar in very, very few ways.

That ten-point lead WAS commanding. We were kicking ass. The last three drives before DOOM were FG, TD, TD. Then we curled up and hoped for the best.


October 14th, 2013 at 2:27 PM ^

Because clearly fewer turnovers are better, and fewer Saturday probably meant a victory. But victory is not enough (see UCONN, Akron) when you are evaluating the chances against good teams later on, and trying to figure out your best strategy for victories. We are not putting our offense or Devin in the best position to succeed, and that is a coaching issue, not a turnover one.


October 14th, 2013 at 1:55 PM ^

Wrong. Try again.

I didn't mind the turnovers... because when Penn State was winning in regulation, Michigan's play calling was aggressive. If Gardner doesn't turn the ball over 3 times against Penn State, Michigan may win the game, but you would have watched Fitz run for 40 yards on 50 carries.

The FannMan

October 14th, 2013 at 1:53 PM ^

Defenses are stopping the run attack by loading up to stop it.  They don't worry about Devin throwing because the defensive players have such a good shot at catching it when he does.  Those two picks in the first half were brutal and led to 14 points.  He also had Fuchness well behind the defense on a play he scrambled out of the pocket and almost threw another pick.  (Full credit for the scramble, but it's meaningless unless he makes the throw).   He seems very tentative which suggests that he doesn't read defenses well.  He is also inaccurate.  (I am beginning to doubt whether those great back-shoulder throws he has made were intentional or just underthrown balls that Gallon managed to get.)   Letting Devin sling the ball around isn't the solution.

I am not defending Borgess.  The offense needs to be changed.  However, as we all know, coaches only have a limited amount of time with the kids.  At this point, I think the necessary changes are too big to get done.  So, we are just basically screwed.  Borgess's big mistakes were made in April and August.

Maybe every play should be three verts and Devin and heave it to either Fuchness, Gallon or Chesson.  Given our punt coverage, it couldn't be worse than runnnig the ball three times.



October 14th, 2013 at 2:04 PM ^

Its not too late. Im my opinion the changes they need are not so drastic. They don't need a complete philosophy change. They need go about it in a different way. They need to use more 3 wide and 4 wide sets while still under center. They can run the power play from those sets and get more favorable numbers in the box. Will they do this? I don't know. But I think that would at least give them a chance in the running game, which is more then they have now.


October 14th, 2013 at 1:57 PM ^

I have no problem with Michigan wanting to be a an under center, power offense.  The problem have I have with Borges is how formation predictable he has become.  When is the last time we lined up undercenter and ran a simple 3 step drop and threw a slant, hitch out?  In reality you can pretty much ran most plays out of any formation.  Our offense equates to under center equals run/play action pass, shotgun equals QB run, etc.  Also, why not implement simple run pass reads from base plays.  Those don't require a check at the line, the Packers and Broncos runn them all the time.  The o-line blocks like a run play, the RB assumes he is getting the ball.  Devin simply has to get to the line, see where the LB is lined up and either hand if off or throw the quick slant.  You can run the same thing out of shot gun as well.  Borges needs to decide if we are an under center team or a shotgun team and just run the offese from there.  In reality we should be a pistol team and run the full gamit from there. 


October 14th, 2013 at 2:25 PM ^

This is exactly what I have said in three other posts in this thread. Everyone here and apparently the offensive staff as well thinks there is only one end of the extreme or the other. I see many posts saying "under center isnt working....". Under center doesn't have to be with a fullback and 2 tight ends. You can spread defenses out from under center as well with 3 wide and 4 wide sets. Get 7 and 6 guys in the box and give yourself a chance to succeed on the ground.

And I also said the same thing about the 3 step pass. Not once this whole year has Gardner done a straight 3 or 5 step drop from under center. Always play action.


October 14th, 2013 at 2:47 PM ^

I'm with you man we can run whatever offense we want to run out of under center or shotgun.  The problem is we just need to pick one and run our full set of plays out of it.  You coud literally script the first 10 plays out of the same formation and have whatever run pass balance you want.  Our problem is our plays are based on formations.  I think Borges needs to pick 10-15 plays and run them to death out of every formation.  Then as the game progresses run plays off of those.  Okay so you've thrown a couple of hitches, slants, outs, now make them out and ups, etc.  You've ran 4 verticals, okay now run draws, Qb runs, screens.  Also, how about some simple sprint roll-outs instead of the usuall play action roll-out where Gardner has to turn his back to the LOS.  And wouldn't it you know it you can run the sprint draw counter off of that.  Michigan's problem using that play for example is they never run a sprint-roll out so the counter draw doesn't make sense.  I honestly think the best thing for this team going forward is to pick a set of plays and then practice them like hell out of a variety of formations for the week.  Then based off tape of who you are playing, add some wrinkles off a them. 

The FannMan

October 14th, 2013 at 8:43 PM ^

Each of those formations/plays have to be learned by 18 to 22 years who have limited practice time.  You can't just hit a button and change formations/plays.  There is just not enough time in a week to get this done.

I assume that they haven't been working on any of this stuff before now.  I really hope I amd dead wrog about this and  they can run all of it any time they want.  If so, I will gladly admit I am wrong.  However, if they have this, where the unholy fuck has it been?


October 14th, 2013 at 2:08 PM ^

Say what you like about Lloyd, but he produced some excellent football teams and a national champion. 

It's pretty clear that Hoke & Staff are not up to that level. They blew this game, and are far more blameworthy than Gardner, though 2 more INTs certainly didn't help.

With the exception of Mattison, we do not have great coaching. To blame youth is misguided; we have the horses. The kids have the talent to win. As Brian says, they are not being put in a position to do that.

The run schemes are so clearly unsuited for these players that I wanted to gouge my eyeballs out instead of finish watching that game. I turned it off after the third OT.

What were they thinking? If something's not working, go to what's working, take what the defense gives you, until they prove they can stop it!

But we're going to run what we're being stuffed on, play after play?

If that isn't the very definition of insanity...


October 14th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

We have a pretty good real-life case study of the only realistic alternative we have on offense the rest of the year:  The first half of the CMU game.

We came out in spread shotgun & pistol formations at NASCAR pace to back them off from loading up the box.  It worked very well, even while Devin gave up an early pick.  The bad was still not enough to outweigh the good.

Unfortunately we have to make a decision when we hit November:  Do we want to keep practicing manball with inexperienced OL starters, or do we want to win games?  We are deluding ourselves if we think we can do both at this point.

Spread 'em out and let Devin be Devin, picks and all.


The FannMan

October 14th, 2013 at 8:55 PM ^

I hear where you are comng from,but I fear Devin slining it.  His picks gave PSU 14 points in  the first half.  He also missed a sure touchdown when he had Fuchness and Gallon behind the D and couldn't get it over a LB (who almost picked his poor throw). Even when he was on, the dude is innacute and tentative.  He also loves the turn your back spin move that is getting him nailed as D lines learn to anticipate it.  His ball secutity is beyond loaf of bread levels. 

The bottom line here is the Fitz into a brickwall offense blows.  But, we still had three potential game-winning FGS that were missed/blocked.  The offense scheme, as wretched as it was, should have worked.  Yes, we are dead against teams with a pluse and 85 scholies.  However, letting Devin turn the ball over does not seem like a solution to me.

(You and I are really just discussing if it is better to be burned to death or freeze to death.)


October 14th, 2013 at 2:14 PM ^

I have a problem with the dossier that Brian lists. While I agree that, at that moment in time, option 3 was the best option, it should have never existed. This list does not sufficiently bludgeon the point that our first 2 downs were completely burned (yes I know there are multiple references to down on fire throughout). Had we been playing for option 1 (end the game) the whole time, we likely arent looking at the long FG and have no reason to punt. Instead our options are 1. We've already ended the game b/c we got a 1st down, 2.Shorter, greater than 50/50 chance FG, 3. LOLPUNT? Why would we do that?!

Other than that, great write up. I hate everything.

Monocle Smile

October 14th, 2013 at 2:20 PM ^

The coaches put themselves in a situation where they could end up in a bad position, ended up in a bad position, then had a bad thing happen that was pretty much their fault (DoG penalty). They needed to nip that in the bud by going for the jugular.


October 14th, 2013 at 2:29 PM ^

You get one more first down and the game is essentially over.  You're either lining up in victory formation or letting Gibbons attempt a FG at worst between 30-35 yds to put your self up 10 with well under a minute left in the game.



October 14th, 2013 at 2:24 PM ^

one issue is I never saw Broges call for a quick out when they were playing YARDS off of Gallon. A simple quick out was open time and time again and would yield positives all over the place:

1. Quick 5 yard gain

2.Gives DG confidence in throwing

3. Opens up double move for deep gain

4. Opens up run game. 

And yet nothing like this was tried all game. Just confusing when you think how much these guys are paid to coach football.


October 14th, 2013 at 2:32 PM ^

don't know if I'm upset that I missed them actually running the play or that after picking up 10 yards they went away from it the rest of the game. Seriously? You have evidence of a play working for 10 yards so you decide to never go back to it and instead run into a stacked line for no gain 20 times?

Am I taking crazy pills?


October 14th, 2013 at 3:37 PM ^

but thought it was in one of the OTs.  What I do recall is how jarring it was to see that play out of nowhere - I was so (all-too-momentarily) relieved to see us pull it out and thought we were now playing to win.  But I think the next play was a run back into the teeth.

Cranky Dave

October 14th, 2013 at 2:25 PM ^

to effectively implement Manball?  The high level offensive stats since 2007 show a fairly quick improvement in moving to the spread from 2008-10 with total offense up by about 200 yds/game and YPP growing by 2.3 yds.  On the other hand from 2010 through the PSU game total offense is down 95 yds/game and YPP is almost 1 yd lower.  Interesting that this year's offense is still ahead of 2007 in in all categories (except turnovers).  However as several posters have pointed out in more detailed analysis the biggest reason this year's offensive performance isn't worse is because of DG's running ability and the big plays to Funchess the last two games. 


  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Rushing 165 148 186 239 222 184 173
Passing 220 143 199 250 183 199 223
Total Offense 385 291 385 489 405 383 396
YPP 27.2 20.3 29.5 328 33.3 29.8 39
Scoring 5.2 4.41 5.61 6.75 6.23 6.07 5.8 

I'm not in favor of firing coordinators or head coaches midway through the season unless a team is heading for a 0 or 1 win season anyway.  However, I do wonder when/if the offensive transition will be successful. 


October 14th, 2013 at 2:27 PM ^

down to the pussy way the coaches (and I blame Hoke for this) ended the game. Everyone is having a conniption fit about Borges but we scored 37 points! come on, what else do you want. To me the key plays of the game was the delay of game and subsequent run. But the delay of game was the key...compare that to O'Brien on their OT 4th and 1...Hoke lets the DOG happen, no biggie, no anything...O'Brien went frickin lunatic trying to get a timeout BEFORE they ran the 4th and 1...Had Hoke went lunatic to call time-out BEFORE the DOG, we don't lose 5 yards and try a makeable FG....PUSSY stuff....


October 14th, 2013 at 2:29 PM ^

To me it sounds more a product of Hoke than Borges.  Isn't Borges some sort of West Coast guru that could have them slinging the ball all over the field, pass to set up run lanes?  The offense performs well without the turnovers and the propensity to go into a shell of run, run, run.  So who is making the decision to slam into the stacked defense?

Blue Durham

October 14th, 2013 at 3:07 PM ^

are reminiscent of some of the problems under Bo, but much more acute.

A couple of comments from above From UMGradMSUDad:

Hoke's comments to the reporter at half time, something to the effect of "we have to do a better job of establishing the run," ... Getting rid of Borges isn't the solution, because it's not Borges who is insisting on running between the tackles almost every first and second down.

"Establishing the run" was a favorite meme of Bo's, and he often finished that phrase with "in order to set up the pass." But what does that mean, exactly?

My translation is: "We want to be able to cram the ball down the defense's throat when the defense, the opposing coaching staff, and every fan in the stands knows that we will try to do it." Well, yeah, that worked against over-matched opponents like EMU, Iowa, and Indiana, and like-minded teams like those coached by Woody Hayes, but failed, almost every time, against bowl opponents. Nobody ever asked Bo why would anyone want to pass if the run is "established."

This is one of the the most absurd mindsets in all of football, and our head coach has it.

From UMGradMSUDad further below:

...The West Coast offense has nothing to do with running between the tackles on first and second down. It would be interesting to look back at Al Borges career, but I'm pretty sure he's never before coordinated an offense so bent on establishing runs up the middle...

Kind of like Greg Robinson running the 3-3-5 for Rich Rodriguez? But regardless, no coach is going to win games by being so rigid and refusing to adapt what the other side of the ball is doing (like stacking the box on every first down).

From Wolverine1987

... a general problem with coaches is that they fail to see that their strategy CAUSES poor execution, instead believing that poor execution undermined their strategy. I fear that Hoke believes that the run game was so poor because guys didn't execute, when instead it may be a case of asking guys to do something they aren't good at.

Exactly, calling extremely predictable plays given down and yardage puts your players in a position to fail in two ways. On the down the play is called, and the subsequent 2nd and 3rd and long.

Our players have been so handicapped by the game planning that their execution have little room for error. When they barely succeed (Akron and UConn) or fail (Penn State), the staff blames them instead of asking them selves "what could we have done to make their jobs easier as players in order to be more successful?"

Nope, the mantra is/will be that it was the players failing to execute.


October 14th, 2013 at 3:07 PM ^

I'm surprised that, unless I've missed it, no one has raised the question of why Michigan didn't take another delay of game penalty once they decided to punt before the fateful PSU TD drive. There's likely a better chance of downing the ball inside the ten when you're punting with the line of scrimmage at the 40 rather than at the 35.

Also I'm not going to quibble with running the ball on third down from the 33, but wouldn't some sort of Gardner run have had a much better chance of gaining 5-7 yards?


October 14th, 2013 at 3:30 PM ^

I think that the mind-bogglingly stupid end of game lizard brain play calling is probably more on Hoke than Borges.  Borges doesn't strike me as the type of guy who runs into the pile for less than a yard per carry when his team is getting 10+ yards per pass attempt (in the second half).  At the end of the day, it's irrelevant.  The guy in charge is the guy in charge.  I have a sinking feeling that firing Borges wouldn't do any good.

Firing Funk, however...

Somebody above made a great comparison to the 2009 Illinois game.  This one was a big turning point for me and my perception of Brady Hoke.  The incredibly dumb end game management by Hoke is unforgiveable.  It is the stupidest 7 or so minutes of football that I have ever witnessed in the 25 years or so that I have been watching college football passionately.  It is like taking the 2005 Ohio State punt, Bo Schembecler's worst clock management, Les Miles's dumbest ever moment.  Kirk Frerentz's dumbest punt, and Ron Zook's dumbest decision ever, and distilling them all into a purified powder and snorting it. Maybe Hoke is our Ron Zook.  Or, he's Bret Bielema, sans the ability to actually develop players that fit the scheme that he wants.  I lost a ton of faith in Hoke this weekend.  We can no longer say that in-game calls are a strength of his.  Any hope that he can adapt his tactics and playcalling to the situation at hand to maximize the likelihood of victory is now gone.  His only remaining strength is recruiting.  And it is a very big strength.  But it only gets you so far -- just ask Lane Kiffin (and five years ago, everyone was going ga-ga over Ron Zook's recruiting).  Eventually, you've got to win or you lose credibility. 

Ty Butterfield

October 14th, 2013 at 3:44 PM ^

I think at this point it is safe to say that Gardner is not getting drafted as a QB. He may be able to get drafted as a WR. However, what happens if he returns next year?


October 14th, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

I think DG stays at QB, but the offense is still a jumbled mess. We likely replace Fitz with Green. I think DG is best suited running read option / pistol type plays, while Green is more of a power runner. We may have big power blocking guard Bryant next to lean tackle Magnuson. DG also loses his security blanket - Gallon. Maybe with Chesson, Darboh and Funchess on the outside, we run 3 WRs all the time and it's bombs away.


October 14th, 2013 at 3:49 PM ^

For those clamoring for the RR offense...it put up numbers and was exciting against shit teams, but never gashed a good defense.  So simply saying Hoke is the antithesis of RR (Good defensive coaching, shit offensive coaching) is overly simplistic.  I hate what Hoke/Borges did this past weekend, it was Lloyd ball at its worst.  But I also hate when this turns into the simplistic spread vs. Man Ball argument.  You can be creative without running a spread. Its not the system, its how you run it. And people have really short memories when it comes to RR spread not doing shit against MSU, OSU, or any defense with a pulse during his tenure. 


October 14th, 2013 at 3:57 PM ^

I charted ~60 plays from the game. About half were I-formation, and half were shotgun. The problem is, we're still trying to run two systems and not perfecting either one. They don't have time to install effective counters because they are practicing the basics of two distinct sytems. But FWIW, the shotgun-based plays were dramatically more effective than the under center stuff, except for the turnovers and the bomb to Funchess. But the turnovers were caused by us being in must-pass situations, from the horrible under center running plays. And if the Funchess bomb was what Borges was trying to set up with all the -3 yard runs, why did he run 27 times and throw the bomb once? Granted, I'm oversimplifying but the point remains. 


October 14th, 2013 at 4:17 PM ^

They can install counter plays with the same exact blocking scheme they use on the power play they run all the time. I don't think thats the problem.  Honestly I really don't know why they don't ever counter anything. I also wonder why they don't do a 3 step drop from under center ever.

The shotgun vs. under center argument is too simplistic. They aren't failing because they are under center.  Its annoying that everyone thinks thats the problem. The are running a formation from under center that invites the 8th and 9th man into the box. They need to lose the fullback and extra tight end. Everyone is calling for them to run more gun stuff. Sure it could work but like Hoke said today they don't want Gardner taking a beating. He already looks beat up. They need to spread the defense out with 3 and 4 wide sets that can still be run from under center. Shotgun has nothing to do with it. And they can still run the power play from those formations.


October 14th, 2013 at 8:28 PM ^


And people have really short memories when it comes to RR spread not doing shit against MSU, OSU, or any defense with a pulse during his tenure.


This is a terrible meme, and has never been true. It's a waste of web space to explain for the quadrillionth time why; given there's no argument in support of your position, you too can give it a rest.