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

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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

WNY in Savannah

October 14th, 2013 at 3:50 PM ^

I used to think Borges was the problem with the playcalling, but I have come to believe it is Hoke.  He doesn't wear the headset, but he has said more than once that he is calling the "big picture" shots.  Two possibilities:  1) Hoke is telling Al to keep trying to run into the wall; or 2) It's Al's idea to keep running into the wall Hoke is not overruling him.  Either of those is on Hoke.

For further evidence, I look at the defense this year.  We have all love Mattison, but something seems different this year.  There used to be blitzers all the time, people never knew where they were coming from, and they still managed to not get beat deep.  How many times have we heard the mantra "inside and in front" this year?  They keep saying it and keep playing soft "bend but don't break".  I don't ever remember hearing that phrase in year 1 or 2.  Maybe it's just an old man's selective memory.  But I remember loving the aggressiveness of the defense when Mattison arrived.  I also loved Hoke's aggressiveness in game decisions.  He'd go for it on fourth down.  He'd go for the end zone instead of playing conservative for a field goal.  Where has that aggressiveness gone?  There must be a reason, but I can't fathom what it could be.

I think one reason for so many runs is that they desperately want to be that Alabama/Stanford kind of running team.  But I think another reason is that they don't trust Gardner to throw.  They are deathly afraid of his turnovers, which I understand.  But they came back and took the lead on Saturday when they finally opened up a little.  And what kills me over and over is that they won't throw simple short passes that are there.  Gallon, Dileo, and Funchess can all get short yards consistently if you let them.

And finally, to tie this together, the other thing that kills me is that Michigan wants to play more soft defense this year because they are afraid of getting burned with big plays.  Yet every team that plays Michigan sends their defenders to the line like mad men to blow up our runs...and we never seem to be able to make them pay for this.  Why is that?  With so many teams flying to the line so often against's M's offense, why I M never able to burn them deep?  And if it is so hard to burn a team deep that is doing this, then why does M's defense not want to ever do it?

I love Hoke as a recruiter and as a person and as a Michigan representative, but I am seriously concerned.  I don't see him removing any of his assistants and I am not 100% sure that he isn't putting them in these situations anyway.  And I hate saying that because I really want him to work as Michigan's head coach.

delmarblue

October 14th, 2013 at 3:57 PM ^

Al DeBordges and Brady Zooke.  Does our redshirt junior quarterback have absolutely no sense of time/urgency?  Obviously dealy of game penalties are inexcusable.  During the game it also seemed, that despite the fact that he almost always had very little time to throw, there was no recognition or urgency that he needed to find a receiver fast, or take off or even possibly throw it away.  Isn't this something that could have been coached over the last 2.5+ years?

uncleFred

October 14th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

Clearly Michigan has made a terrible mistake. They can solve all the problems with the football program by hiring a dozen or so folks here to replace the coaching staff. May as well do it tomorrow, since clearly the rest of the season is lost in a giant tire fire.

One game. It was a single game. I realize it was an ugly game I watched it from beginning to end. However Borges doesn't need to be fired. Which is good because is isn't going to be, at least not this year. Funk doesn't need to be fired. Hoke was asked if he needed to look at the Oline coaching given the problems on the offensive line. The answer was a dimissive no.

You folks are too much. "If Hoke loves this team..." Seriously? If anyone doubts for a moment that Hoke loves his players and wants only the best for them, they need to check in what reality they reside.

Get a grip. This is the ugly side of rebuilding. It's going to be like this all season.

Amutnal

October 14th, 2013 at 11:07 PM ^

We lost to the crater that is PSU football. 60 something scholarships and a freshman QB. You can use the rebuilding card if we were playing Ohio state. There is no excuse for Michigan to get beat by the team who just got pounded by Indiani a week earlier. Take your blinders off. We have serious coaching problems that will not get better unless heads roll.

uncleFred

October 15th, 2013 at 9:38 AM ^

in D-1. Then successfully rebuild a team pretty much from scratch. You get bonus points for their perfect play during rebuilding and perfectly called games. At that point your opinion about the quality of the coaching staff will carry some weight.

Michigan's inconsistencies lost the game, and not by much. It was an ugly ugly game, with poor performances at critical junctures by the players and the coaches. However, it is still a single loss. Coach's heads do not roll when you are 5-1 six games into the season. As I said above, get a grip.

bluenectarine

October 14th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

on Mattison/Hoke's defense this year...It is all pussy "bend but don't break" (and you are correct on years 1&2 vs. this year)...How about dialing up some blitzes on the last PSU drive? Hell, MAKE THE KID BEAT YOU!!!.....I have been a Hoke champion since day one...But this season/the PSU game is all on Hoke...not Borges, Mattison or Funk...Hoke and only Hoke...He is playing Pussyball...Not Manball!!!

Magnum P.I.

October 14th, 2013 at 4:08 PM ^

The most painful part of the season, for me, has been the realization that Hoke and Co. have not built a strong foundation.

To be honest, I can take losing to good teams on the road, losing bowl games, losing to ohio on the road, and even losing to ohio at home every once in a while.

What I can't take is losing to Illinois, Toledo, Purdue, getting manhandled by sparty. These are the things that we had to experience during RR. Not just losing aw shucks we gave our best shot type games. Losing in humiliating fashion. Not really have a chance. Utterly failing at very very basic functions of football playing.

I thought we were through with that with Hoke. I never expected and don't expect Hoke to put us among the elite teams in the country. To satisfy the little piece of my life devoted to football, it's realy enough for me to go 9-3 every year, beat sparty, beat ohio every other year, and win a Big Ten championship every once in a while.

Now, it feels like even that is being taken away again.  

Mannix

October 14th, 2013 at 4:28 PM ^

As a Funchess catch and run while simultaneously knowing a power I run is forthcoming into a pit of doom.

When those majestic moments happen, does the coaching staff think, "Enough of that, time for more man ball"?

Gallon, Funchess and Gardner are the playmakers. Dileo is dependable. These are the guys who will get it done and they need to be targeted early and often. When D's work to take that away, maybe they can run Fitz into brick walls and the masonry will crack a bit more.

Get Gardner in space, take away half the field if nec. And have at it.

GREAT READ BRIAN.

uofmdds96

October 14th, 2013 at 4:37 PM ^

Fitz is running the ball like the ND running back running through the Gauntlet backwards.  In fact, if run 100 times, the ND back would still have less rushes for loss than Fitz.

Eyzwidopn

October 14th, 2013 at 4:44 PM ^

Like so many are saying, UofM played not to lose instead of fighting to win, but the reason is because Hoke and Borges thought they were protecting Gardner, not wanting to put him in a situation to make a mistake in OT that would cost them the game. That type of "scared" coaching sends a bad message to your QB and the rest of the team.
This team has plenty of problems but "identity" seems to be the biggest because when you can't do the things UofM football is traditionally identified with then who are you? Why can't our 300+ lineman move anybody off the ball? Why can't our RB's create big plays out of nothing sometimes? Why are the DB's giving up big plays in obvious Hail Mary situations? Why can't our QB protect the ball? Why is our D-line porous at times? Why are the coaches mis-managing games, being too predictable on offense and not adjusting to defensive schemes, etc.? 
This team has been dodging bullets since Akron so it deserved to lose against PS since UofM is not improving on the mistakes that have plagued it all year. Going forward, I'm more concerned with whether Hoke & Co. have that championship style coaching mentality to bring out the best in their players like a Saban does, or are we seeing signs after 3 years that we don't have a great coaching staff, just a good one... at best?

Durham Blue

October 14th, 2013 at 4:44 PM ^

"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."

Amen.  Lack of offensive production aside, slow pace huddle offenses are still boring as fuck to watch.

Loid

October 14th, 2013 at 4:51 PM ^

I was waiting with great anticipation for Brian's comments on Saturday's debacle.  I have come to greatly appreciate Brian's analysis, and fandom as well.  He is often very good at talking the collective fanbase off the ledge, or alternatively, articulating very well whatever the relevant issue was.  That said, I am a bit disappointed that his post today didn't pack more punch to it.  He is obviously disappointed as well, but doesn't come out and state well enough what the cure is.  Lacking that, here are today's list of woes:

1.  Michigan can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like no other program I am aware of.

2.  Change comes ridiculously slowly when it comes to Michigan football.  They are more inclined to go into bunker mentality/circle the wagons, rather than make changes which are obvious to most.  The changes that need to be made may not be a clear cut as we see them, but the staff (Hoke) needs to offer up why changes should not be made (and they need to make sense), and he hasn't done so.

3.  Sick of excuses-Oh, we didn't have Lewan in there....Oh, we have too many redshirt freshman.....blah, blah, blah........News flash.........the Penn State QB is a freshman.  Not a red shirt freshman, but an actual freshman.  No apologies being made for him.  Also, the way you season your backups/youngsters, is that you play like you are capable, and blow out teams like Akron and UConn, and rest the starters in the 2nd half.  Then in the future, whether it be due to graduation or injury, this 2nd line is a bit more capable.  See the Ohio State playbook in this regard.  Not wanting to emulate tOSU in much of anything, but I wager their tailbacks would go for a bit more than 27 yards in 27 carries against a D that was shredded by Indiana.

4.  Loyalty is an admirable thing, but what do you think it will take for Hoke to replace someone, for example his offensive line coach?  Short of child porn on the guy's computer, I don't think Hoke will ever replace anyone, taking a page from Lloyd's playbook.  Top programs see a deficiency, and they go out and hire the best guy in the country.  Who wouldn't want to come to Michigan as a position coach??????  Saban does it, Spurrier did it in specific examples I know of, and I am sure there are many others.  

I hate to see current and future talent wasted.  If some of the position coaches were territory sales managers in a for profit company, they would have been sh*t-canned a long time ago.  Michigan will have a hard time being great again, until they quit being complacent with mediocrity.

ca_prophet

October 14th, 2013 at 5:34 PM ^

If you can't get half a yard with a lead blocker and a senior RB, it doesn't matter what you call; you can't block it anyway. We can't run inverted veer becuase we can't block that either. We can't run Gardner because we can't block for him - it looked to me like he got his yards freelancing and scrambling.

You can't take advantage of weak corners if you don't have a pocket to throw from. You can run the four horizontal offense we all LOL at, I suppose, but if the corner doesn't respect the deep route because you can't get the throw off those will be covered too.

We have talent on the line but not experience, particularly without Lewan, and our 2nd half line had never played in a game as a unit before. It is entirely possible that what we need is just time and game reps for the blocking to solidify. I wonder if we'll see the UFR show that our non-Lewan OL took turns blowing blocks? That would be more hopeful than "Bryant -2" again and again.

I also disagree that the tackle-over is a gimmick. It takes time to learn and we're clearly at the "get the basics" stage. But it has three virtues: it puts the onus on our two best lineman, it puts our weakest blocker at the least relevant spot, and it has simple reads for most blockers. (The counters are half-rolling the pocket into a Worst Waldo pass play as everyone sucks up and getting the pass out before that backside DE gets you, or reverse, or ...). It's not, more's the pity, a panacea.

I get the frustration. But I will be shocked if anyone gets fired for doing the best they can with a crappy hand, especially when some indications are that some good work is being done (Glasgow, the ND game, etc.)

sharkhunter

October 14th, 2013 at 5:49 PM ^

Bill O'Brien is touting every game as a "bowl" game.  This game could only be the Euthanasia Bowl.  Both teams begging for the other to end their agony. In the end, PSU barely showed more life than Michigan and was spared.

 

 photo drjackk_playcalling_zpsd70d93b5.jpg

Goblue89

October 14th, 2013 at 7:22 PM ^

As a Packer fan this a play Rodgers runs all the time, they have a running play called and he simply looks out and sees the defensive alignment, takes the snap and throws it out to the WR. Everyone else runs the play like they think its a running play. It's not a called play and is simple to execute. You don't have run no huddle to do it. You just have to have a QB who can identify the defense and give a quick signal to the WR. I have no idea why Michigan doesn't have a run/pass option on plays like this. The Packers are notoriously bad at running the ball and basically have had a 100 yd back the last 4 games because they do things like I described above that open up the box for running plays

johnvand

October 14th, 2013 at 8:17 PM ^

It's so frustrating.  Scott Fucking Frost is currently coordinating one of the most prolific offenses in the country.  Scott Fucking Frost.  And we can't even check out of a run into an 8 man box to take an easy 5 yards on a pass that I could throw left handed.

I hate everything.

WNY in Savannah

October 14th, 2013 at 9:08 PM ^

This is completely depressing.  I remember yelling at the tv several times about scenes like this:  "Just throw it out there to him!  No one is there!  You can't run and they are giving you free yards!"  I am absolutely baffled about why they refuse to do this.  8 yards minimum here and with a block on that corner you could be inside the 10.  But no, it's probably better to run into the brick wall.  This is completely depressing.

mGrowOld

October 14th, 2013 at 9:59 PM ^

No dammit because men do NOT run pussified girl plays like "bubble screens". Men line up and run straight at you and if you have more people than us then dammit we men just need to push a little bit harder.

I so wish the Borges apologists could try and explain this. But the can't....so they won't.

MichiganStudent

October 15th, 2013 at 12:16 AM ^

I would love for someone to bring this up in a press conference. To me, this is one of the simplest concepts of offense or being an offensive coordinator. Play to the fucking numbers and/or play to what the defense is giving you. Its not fool proof, but its obvious that you will have a better chance at running at 6 guys in the box compared to 8.

This makes me very concerned is an understatement...

Goblue89

October 14th, 2013 at 11:32 PM ^

The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results. Therefore one could argue our coaches and game plan were insane (running Fitz 27 times for 27 yds). Just sayin'