Inside the Boxscore - Team 134, Game 6

Submitted by ST3 on October 13th, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    I usually avoid making comments on this Blog immediately after games, especially after level 10 stomach punch games. But I couldn't help myself last night, and I repeatedly called for Borges to be fired. I realize I'm just a casual fan and no one is going to listen to me, but there was a chorus of people calling for heads to roll last night. It was mostly Borges, but Funk and Hoke were criticized as well.
    During the Denard years, this Blog discussed under center vs the shotgun formation to exhaustion. The idea being that it's easier on the quarterback to run the offense from the shotgun formation because they have a better view of the defense, don't have to turn their back to the defense, and can start running downhill immediately, as if they were another running back. This Blog also introduced me to the concept of the Lizard Brain:

The now rapidly developing lizard brain theory of college football coaching states that there is a certain level of pressure above which rationality goes out the window and coaches revert to who they really are.

    My general impression was that we did not fair well offensively when starting under center, and that most of our success came from shotgun plays. To quantify my feelings, I rewatched the first half, the last 7 minutes of regulation, and the four overtimes, focused only on the offense. My hypothesis was that Al Borges' lizard brain resurfaced during overtime, and that cost us the game. I'm including all plays, including penalties, passes, and turnovers. So without further ado, let me present my mini ST3FR:

First half
19 plays were run from under center. 12 of those 19 plays gained zero or negative yards. Five plays lost yardage.
17 plays were run from the shotgun. 2 of those plays were incomplete passes that should have been caught, and three resulted in turnovers. The other 12 resulted in positive yards. There were no negative yardage plays.

We head to halftime where mid-game adjustments should be made. I think, wow, let's avoid those negative yardage plays that are putting us in certain passing situations, where PSU can focus on Gallon and go for turnovers. Meanwhile, down 11, Al's Lizard brain kicks in and says, "Shotgun = turnovers, turnovers are bad, must run under center."

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.


We get to overtime where you start every drive at the 25 yard line. Other than a turnover, the worst thing that can happen is a negative yardage play that pushes you out of FG range. In regulation, I charted 29 plays from under center with 17 gaining no yardage or negative yardage. I charted 21 plays from shotgun and only 5 had negative or zero yardage plays. I'd go with the shotgun formation in OT, but that's just me, a stats guy.

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.

So a day later, do I still think we should fire Borges? I'm willing to give him the rest of the season to turn this around since mid-season changes can lead to chaos. What would I do instead? Devin Gardner is an incredible talent that is being misused. I'd have Al watch film from Vince Young's senior season, and have Heiko ask Borges every week about shotgun vs under center until some neural connection is made in that lizard brain of his.

Blergh of Impetus
* When Clark picked up PSU's fumble to start the second half and returned it for a TD, the impetus was squarely in M's favor. We rode it all the way to a 10 point lead. We kept it for the rest of the half until there was 3:10 left in regulation. Gardner gained 10 yards on a shotgun run to give us first and ten at PSU's 28. That's FG position, and a FG wins the game, so Borges Lizard brain takes over. 1 yard run. 0 yard run. Lizard Brain shutting down. What do I do? Delay of game penalty. We're out of FG position. Momentum inches back to PSU. A three yard loss leads to a punt, and the circus begins...
* We gave up 43 points, 34 in regulation, but the defense is not the reason we lost. PSU was held to 1.9 yards per carry, but I bet nobody is calling for their O-line coach to be fired, or maybe they are. Fans are fickle. We held PSU to 3 for 16 on third down AND turned them over 4 times AND stopped them on 4th down once AND had 4 sacks AND broke up 6 passes AND had 7 TFLs, YET WE LOST! My lizard brain is confused.
* JR3 led us with 10 tackles, a TFL and forced a fumble. Morgan had 8 tackles and Bolden had 6.
* During the first 5 games, Chris Wormley looked like just a guy. He had 4 tackles and 2 TFLs in this one and showed why he got all the hype. I think he belongs on the outside until he puts on some more weight.
* Heitzman blew up a couple plays, including the one time we stopped them on fourth down. He didn't record a stat, but he's my bet for being our Heininger Certainty Principle winner by the end of the year.
* Stribling had only 1 tackle and zero pass breakups. Perhaps if he had played the past three weeks, his timing would have been better.

Young 98
* Gardner was 15 for 28 passing for 2 TDs and 240 yards. Can someone please introduce him to Drew Dileo? Gardner continues to lock onto Jeremy Gallon, which directly led to the two first half INTs. I don't know, maybe pass to the guys who are single covered and six inches taller than their defenders.
* Gardner ran 24 times for 121 yards net, for an average of 5 yards per carry.

* This is the stat that everyone is throwing around today: Fitz Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards.
* His backup, Derrick Green, carried three times for 1 yard.
* Whose fault is that? The backs for not identifying the holes? The line for getting pushed back five yards into the backfield? The o-line coach for not instructing the line what the assignments are? The playcaller for continuing to call plays that aren't working? RichRod for not recruiting any linemen? Bad luck, in the form of an elbow to Lewan's ribcage? Penn State had 11 TFLs. ELEVEN!!!

V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Gallon had 7 catches for 95 yards, a TD, and drew three penalties against PSU.
* Funchess had 4 catches for 112 yards and two 2 TDs, but then mysteriously disappeared for the 4th quarter and the 4 OTs.

Norf and Souf
* Norfleet's role continues to lessen. I don't get it. He looks like a playmaker to me. I'd try to find ways to get him the ball. He did return three kicks for 88 yards.

Blergh Teams
* Wile averaged 63.7 yards on his kickoffs, with 5 touchbacks, and he averaged 40.8 yards punting. Hmmm, sounds like the guy has a pretty strong leg. Maybe he could make a 52 yarder.




October 13th, 2013 at 8:48 PM ^

This just confirms my feeling after the end of regulation. This had Lloyd-ball written all over it. Keep doing what you want to do despite it failing over and over and refusing to do what is working, depsite getting a lead by doing what was working.  Oh, then of course melting down and losing the lead and the game.  God, I seriously thought we were past this shit with Hoke, I thought he was better than that.  Now I'm not so sure.  Not sure this staff, particularly the offensive staff, has what it takes to be anymore than and a 9 win team on average, even with all the incoming talent.


October 13th, 2013 at 10:42 PM ^

The offense is incredibly frustrating to watch, but I wonder if the runs up the middle over and over are more of Hoke's doing than Al's.  I realize that Al is calling the plays, but everything I've heard Hoke say suggests that he is tied to this notion of absolutely having to establish the run no matter what.

I also think think we need to look at the defense though, too.  I don't think anyone disputes that Indiana has a dangerous offense and a really bad defense.  Guess what?  IU's D held Penn State to 24 points.  That may be comparing apples to oranges, but the defense has a ways to go too before Michigan can be expected to compete for anything other than a mediocre season.