4 minute offense

Submitted by Drew_Silver on January 11th, 2017 at 9:05 AM

It is my understanding that one of the more common hopes for 2017 is the offense improves its OL.  The improved OL will enable UofM to run a 4 minute offense i.e. bleed time off the clock at the end of a game we are winning (see Iowa and OSU).  Or am I wrong, is this a RB issue?


My basic question for the board is this a reasonable ask?


I don't have numbers in front of me, but it always seems like the losing team has the ball at the end of the game due to time outs.


I know a good 4 minute offense would give the opposition the least amount of time possible, as well as rest the defense, but it is not reasonable to expect every game to end with a UofM kneel down.


What is the appropriate level of success for the OL / 4 minute offense next year?  

Not surrender any 4th quarter leads?


Ali G Bomaye

January 11th, 2017 at 9:12 AM ^

If you're hoping to blow out every opponent, I don't think anybody has been able to do that since Nebraska in 1995.

Saying we should just build big leads on everyone so we don't need to run a four minute offense is like Mike DeBord saying you don't need offensive creativity as long as everybody executes perfectly.

Other Andrew

January 11th, 2017 at 9:16 AM ^

Is the lack of "end of game first downs" due to:

  • OL?
  • RBs?
  • Playcalling?
  • General disarray / poor execution?

I'm cerainly no expert, and I imagine the advanced metrics would be telling. What we can say is that it seemed very rare this season that O-line blocks effectively made it to the second level, particularly against the better teams. Perhaps on some playcalls that is not the design, but most of the times a running back was "sprung" it was due to his own jukes or broken tackles. Especially since Newsome's injury.

That indicates that during the flow of the game the run blocking was far from top-notch. What does that mean for end-of-game drives with nine in the box on defense? Maybe not much. Let's see what happens next year with a new (albeit younger) line.

Again, I probably don't know what I'm talking about...


January 11th, 2017 at 9:18 AM ^

Our running game needs to get more consistent, but  to possess the ball long enough to kill the clock at the end of a close game almost always requires some conversions through the air.  That's where we fell short against Iowa and OSU.




January 11th, 2017 at 9:34 AM ^

Absolutely spot on my man. Speight played pretty good all year and I think got us the game in east lansing, but just doesn't instill confidence when you just need a short pass to seal the deal or move the sticks. I think our o-line will be better this year and our running game will be better if not lights out. Were we may take a step back is defense....maybe. This year is fun because nobody except maybe big Jim knows what we have. Really looking forward to guard play as I see two all americans in bredeson and big mike onwenu. Too bad jabril left because this team IMO is going to be better than anyone knows. Very bullish for sure. We had no business even losing a game last year imo but we have to move on. I think the move is trending upward for Michigan.


January 11th, 2017 at 10:01 AM ^

I don't know if there are any numbers to back this up, but I believe that you have a better chance of converting if you throw on 2nd down due to the element of surprise.  

I think we would've put the ball up earlier than 3rd down against Iowa and OSU if Speight didn't have his arm injury.




January 11th, 2017 at 10:52 AM ^

put the ball up earlier than 3rd down against OSU.  Once OSU cut it to 3, UM's playcalling went:

1st and 10:  8 yd pass to Darboh

2nd and 2:  Higdon run for 3

1st and 10:  incomplete pass to Perry

2nd and 10:  Evans run for 5

3rd and 5:  incomplete pass to Perry

next possession

1st and 10:  incomplete pass to Poggi

2nd and 10:  Higdon run for no gain

3rd and 10:  sacked

next possession:

1st and 10:  Smith run for 2

2nd and 8:  Smith run for 4

3rd and 4:  incomplete pass to Darboh


January 11th, 2017 at 9:21 AM ^

Of course will help.  I loved De'Veon but he's not necessarily built to prolong drives at the end of the game when the defense is expecting the run.  Seems like we needed a quicker back and also a little variety in play calling.  Then again, I'm not going to pretend I can coach.  Just casual observation from a frustrated Michigan fan.  We lost 3 games by 5 points so I think we all felt that pain this year.  Easy to Monday morning quarterback.  I think we had a great season and am proud of Team 137.  Extremely hopeful for Team 138.



January 11th, 2017 at 9:30 AM ^

This year's team still had a lot of Hoke hangover from disappointments and failures and they didn't yet have the kind of confidence that being perennial winners instills. I think this will be different in 2017 as the team is domimated by Harbaugh recruits who have the swagger needed to close out opponents. The exception is Speight who I think is not the guy for the future and I am hoping will be replaced by Peters.


January 11th, 2017 at 9:41 AM ^

Like someone just said if N.C. state hits a chip shot field goal, clemson isn't even in the playoffs. Michigan was right there and in my opinion just flat out choked it away with the help of foul officiating and costly turnovers. No way we should lose to Iowa. That's the one that sticks with me. The thing is were right there and it will come with time. That I have no doubt about. Jim Harbaugh will have multiple championships with Michigan. Period!!. That's why everyone hopes he leaves except us of course. Go Blue

Wolverine 73

January 11th, 2017 at 10:40 AM ^

They were humiliated the week before they played us. They were not that bad, and were emotionally up for redemption. And we had a first year starter at QB playing on the road in a hostile environment. I was concerned about the game going in. Sometimes circumstances just work against you.


January 11th, 2017 at 11:18 AM ^

Which goes right back to the poor OL play. The PFF overall season grades for our OL were worse than poor. Like if the best one, Cole, was 5 times better he'd still have graded out as poor. Not saying we beat Alabama, or Clemson, but with just average OL play we're 13-0 and headed to the playoffs as the #2 seed. 

Having a RB like Dalvin Cook or Saquon Barkley can make up for iffy line play but if you have a great OL you can do a lot more, even with a lesser RB.

Look at Stanford under Harbaugh, the key to his ultimate success there (aside from Andrew Luck) was recruiting and developing outstanding NFL caliber OL. Harbaugh will do that here, he's already got a handful of his hand-picked guys from the '16/'17 classes. 


January 11th, 2017 at 9:43 AM ^

I go with the poor O line.  We certainly had times the RB's missed the holes, but it was more on the O line.  

At least if you don't get the first down you need to get in 3rd and short so the run and pass are both viable options on 3rd down.  We have been moaning about the O line for years now with good reason.        


January 11th, 2017 at 9:51 AM ^

Lloyd ball is fine if you get first downs. But you better fucking get first downs. And no stupid penalties (which I feel like do kill too many of our drives).


January 11th, 2017 at 10:33 AM ^

...2 dynamic playmakers
...1 accurate QB (preferrably with mobility)

You need the playmakers and a mobile QB to be able to shake/break tackles since folks will be keying on the run.  If you look at our closing drive against WSU in the Rose Bowl, you'll see Griese pick up a first down after the protection broke down and some shaking and breaking of tackles by our skill players. 

You need an accurate QB because coverage will be tight when you're trying to close out the game.  He has to fit the ball into tight coverage or hit a receiver downfield if you catch them by surprise with a deep pass and your receiver has a step on the defender.

Against Iowa, we left TDs on the field because our QB overthrew receivers who beat their coverage. We're talking 2-3 steps beaten.

Against OSU, we missed on passes late because the throws were not accurate enough to beat the tight coverage (tight because we were not a threat to throw downfield).

CRISPed in the DIAG

January 11th, 2017 at 10:08 AM ^

What is our expectation for performance? I am assuming we want an OL that is capable of getting into the Playoffs as opposed to an 8-10 win outfit.

We could go back to PFF/UFR and find that the OL performed near or at positive levels for at least half of the season. It performed below acceptable levels against elite competition and in situations when the defense could predict our play calling.



January 11th, 2017 at 10:09 AM ^

I'm just continuing to wait until Harbaugh has the depth at OL to fully Stanfordize his offense. 8/9 OL formations... Power, ISO, Wham, Trap.


January 11th, 2017 at 11:20 AM ^

Sadly, I agree. He has some the pieces but you can't reasonably rely on two true freshman (Ruiz and Filiaga) to play at a high level. 2018 is the year, should be 3/4 returning starters and the other 2 will likely have had either starting experience (Newsome) or a lot of reserve duty. 


January 11th, 2017 at 10:15 AM ^

Offensive line. Too often we had runs stopped by 4 and 5 man fronts. The online has to be good enough to beat one-on-one blocks a vast majority of the time to get 3-4 yards a run, to force the defense to commit a safety to help. THEN, the play action and all the fancy passing plays will work on 2nd/3rd downs, etc, etc, etc. One FSU dlinemen destroyed our entire interior line single-handedly, preventing us from running between the tackles. This allowed FSU to drop everyone and their second cousin twice removed back into coverage, creating great passing difficulties.

When in doubt, win the trenches... which we have done a poor job of doing in the last decade.


January 11th, 2017 at 10:17 AM ^

I'm optimistic that our running game can get more consistent. Fortunately, we have seen steady improvement in total rushing yards over the past few years. 

  • 2016 – 2768
  • 2015 – 2057
  • 2014 – 1954
  • 2013 – 1634 

The main thing, like others have mentioned, is being able to consistenly move the ball on the ground even against good defenses. Jim and Drev, make it so! 


January 11th, 2017 at 10:19 AM ^

If I recall we had some WR dropped passes that stopped some of these drives in OSU and Iowa. So my take is that it is really everything that goes into 4 min offense. OL RB QB WR coaching. Lol refs. Too


January 11th, 2017 at 10:30 AM ^

It would hardly matter if you had a very good back if you had one of those, along with good playcalling. If you have a poor line its not going to matter how good your back is, he's going to get stuffed enough that the only 4 minute offense you are going to need is the one where you are behind with 4 minutes to go.


January 11th, 2017 at 11:33 AM ^

offense when you need to score within the last four minutes. But how about two minutes or under 30 seconds? How about a defense that shuts down the other team's offense after your team scores and leaves enough time on the clock for the other team to win the game?

Michigan didn't lose to Iowa and Ohio State because it couldn't score at the end of those games. It lost those games because it couldn't sustain drives at the end of those games and put the burden for winning on the defense instead of running out the clock regardless of whether it scored. In the case of the Orange Bowl, it scored within the final four minutes and it scored with even a mediocre Oline after getting pummeled most of the contest.

Last minute offense wasn't the issue for this team, if was finding the right combination of mental discipline on both sides of the ball in closing out victories in tight games when it held the lead and just needed one more first down to make victory possible. That simply is a lesson learned by programs that don't let last minute adversity get in the way of winning. Knowing how to win and closing out victory is a mental hurdle more than a physical one.


January 11th, 2017 at 11:50 AM ^

in both the Iowa and FSU games, special teams weren't special at the end of the game either.  FSU had the massive kick off return that set them up with the great field position, and then UM had the face mask penalty on their last punt which let Iowa start their last possession on the UM 36.


January 11th, 2017 at 5:41 PM ^

I agree with your first point, but I want to point out that Michigan did close out Wisconsin, defensively, when they needed to. In fact, Wisconsin was given two possessions in the last 5 minutes of that game due to the inefficiency of the offense following the GW touchdown pass, albeit that the defense allowed no production and came up with two interceptions.

Idk, I think this was the most mentally-prepared Michigan team in recent memory, with the exception of the Iowa game. The kickoff was unfortunate by virtue of the stutter in the endzone which left one open field tackle to guard 80 yards of field, which didn't go our way. The OSU loss was due to attrition in the o-line in the 4th quarter, and changing defensive schemes which didn't match up well. We really have no way of assessing the 'mental discipline' of the team or really even know what that means at such a level of competition, unless it's so obvious like guys not running off the field during line-up changes and getting called for a penalty or stuff like that. This group has had years to learn their lesson in mental discipline, but there are only so many times that you can escape from a moment without thinking the skill just wasn't there in some regard, as most people agree was the o-line.


January 11th, 2017 at 11:39 AM ^

Unfortunately, our OL will almost certainly be rougher than last year.

Say what you want about them, but they were a 5th year senior heavy class. Replacing veterans with very young players is very rarely optimal. None of them are 5-star instant-impact plugins.

That said, there's no reason to believe they can't improve a great deal and end up being better in the long run.


January 11th, 2017 at 12:01 PM ^

We will be fielding one of the most inexperienced offensive lines in recent memory. Unless you have 5 star freshmen this is never reassuring. I don't know the numbers but I'd bet Cole will have double the combined starts than the rest our O line put together when we open against Florida.


January 11th, 2017 at 12:04 PM ^

I'd rather just throw the ball. Sure you risk a dropped pass stopping the clock but rushing for one yard each down is just asking for trouble. I think that this a playcalling thing. Harbaugh was probably worried about a Speight interception especially in the OSU game but you have to keep your offense on the field.


January 11th, 2017 at 12:40 PM ^

In 2016, you saw the results of 2 years of Drevno coaching 4th & 5th year OLinemen who were 4 & 5 stars coming out of high school.  Why in the world would anyone expect better results in 2017?   


January 11th, 2017 at 5:28 PM ^

Braden was a 3 star, Magnuson and Kalis were both 4 stars. Also, Grant was rated as a lower 4 star than Magnuson and Kalis, but somehow developed better, and in three less years. Maybe it has something to do with how Grant was ONLY coached by Drevno, or whatever. The point is that we only have scouting reports and a faith in the coaching staff. It's happened before, and it could just be that a younger 2017 o-line will be better than a more experienced 2016 line. 


January 11th, 2017 at 2:12 PM ^

the biggest thing a team needs to win on the big stage is a mobile qb.  I'm not saying they have to be Denard, but they cannot be frozen in the pocket.  Wilton did a decent job with that this year, but as a team you need the qb to be a threat to take off from time to time, otherwise that defense has an advantage over a qb who doesn't move.  Add a killer Oline in there two and you're good for business. 


January 11th, 2017 at 2:31 PM ^

The line was not responsible for that loss. Facts are stubborn things.


Read the play-by-play. Begin with our drive that started with 0:15 left in the 3rd quarter. This is what happened.

Evans 7 yard run, Evans 6 yard run, Smith 2 yard run, Speight 4 yard run

Speight 17 yard pass

Evans 6 yard run



Drive resumes after Iowa penalty

6 yard run

3 yard run

-6 yard run trying to block 11 guys in the box with 9. Watch the play in the UFR. That's an RPS -3,  not poor line blocking. They ran a sweep right into a corner blitz.

Next drive:

Evans 2 yard run, Peppers 4 yard run, Speight pass for 4, Smith 7 yard run, Smith 2 yard run, Hill 2 yard run, McDoom -2 yard run (I've been told the o-line is not responsible for those gimmick plays)

Speight run for 3


Last drive

1 yard run, 1 yard run, INCOMPLETE PASS


January 11th, 2017 at 7:45 PM ^

This is interesting. Always seemed to me like run game struggled late in games. Even MSU we couldn't seem to put them away. I guess after years of watching teams put us away in the 4th quarter, I just assumed all good teams could do this with ease. I think OL improvement is key, but our offense needs more playmakers everywhere in order to put people away on a regular basis. Fwiw I don't know that I would call the jet sweep a gimmick play, tho.

I dumped the Dope

January 11th, 2017 at 4:26 PM ^

Basically the way you had RR go dead on OL recruiting.  Then Hoke had to recruit a monster sized class and push with the best 5 for 4 years.  Now, those guys are graduating and we are back to a clean start (almost).  Newsome was the cog in clawing to continuity where there's guys in all phases of development, viable backups and there isn't this boom/bust or feast/famine phenomenon with the OL, replace 1-2 guys each year and carry the torch onward.  Unfortunately the guy got badly injured...I hope he can return to play again.