Analysis of first half redzone attempts versus Air Force

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on September 17th, 2017 at 7:53 PM

I’m feeling super hermit crabby today and I’m too impatient to wait for Brian’s UFR so I decided to use WD’s highlights ( to break down where the redzone drives went wrong. Mods feel free to move this to the Diary section or delete it if it is stepping too hard on Brian’s toes, whatever you see fit. Also, I set out to do the whole game but got too tired/frustrated and only did the first half. If the response is positive I’ll do the second half tonight.


I don’t want to put the tl;dr here because I fear nobody will actually read the rest and blow this off as a hot take (and I’m acknowledging right now the out huuuuge sample size asterisk), but, here it is:

-  The play-calling was very solid except for maybe one or two exceptions. Specifically, I thought the calls were good on 7.5/9 plays.

- Perry is a fantastic route runner and got open on almost every play.

- The pass protection was as bad as they looked live. Air Force called some great disguised blitzes that will probably make Don Brown nod in respect during film sessions, and our OL was devastated even though we had equal or sometimes more blockers than rushers on every play.

- We left a TE and RB on pass pro on 4/6 throws, but they still got pressure on 2 of those plays. Woof.

- The run blocking on the McDoom sweep cost us a TD.

- Speight was terrible. Yes, this is a teensy tiny sample size. Yes, the OL was relatively more terrible. But watching it live, I thought that the OL was so bad that it gave Speight no chance to make any plays. And it almost was. But on 6 pass plays, he missed a huge pass or read on 4/5 throws, and had 1 inexcusable fumble that almost cost us 3 points.


Redzone #1 (11:40 in the 1st quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 18: Air Force only rushes 4—and never shows blitz—but we leave Gentry and Isaac in for pass pro (woof). Protection is thankfully great given it’s 7v4. Perry runs a great sloping out route that shreds their zone D, gets open by a couple steps, but Speight misses the somewhat lengthy throw wide.

-1 Speight: missed throw

2nd & 10 @ the 18: Air Force has 7 in the box, we have 6 blockers. Shotgun inside hand-off to Higdon, Mckeon pulls to block inside (which looks by design), leaving an unblocked edge DE who makes the tackle after a 1-yard gain.

-1 Speight or coaching: needed to audible out of that run call

3rd & 9 @ the 17: We have 5 wide w/ 5 blockers. Air Force shows 6 rushers but drops the D tackle and one LB into underneath coverage after only mini rushes. This leaves Bredneson blocking air as the edge LB gets a free rush onto Speight from the blind side, hitting Speight as he throws. Speight misses a pretty well-covered Perry too high by a half-foot on a go route in the end zone.

-1 OL: blitz pick-up


Air Force won the RPS battle on each play, and shredded our OL on 2/3 plays. The first down route by Perry was still excellent and Speight flat missed him, which was a total drive-changer. The second down play was never going to work because it left DE unblocked, which was clear before the snap, so either Speight or the press-box needed to audible there. The third down play call was fine—if Speight has more time to throw that ball better, I think Perry can make that catch even though it was covered well. Air Force just had a great disguised blitz called and our OL didn’t pick it up.

Play-calling: 2/3


Redzone #2 (12:40 in the 2st quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 9: Air Force has 7 in the box. We run-fake out of the gun to Higdon and leave in Gentry and Higdon to block. Air Force brings only 6 (but has 1 LB taken out by play fake/covering Higdon). However, Ulizio and Gentry both block the DE, leaving an unblocked rusher who gets into Speight’s face in a hurry. Speight sails a fade to totally covered Crawford out the back of the endzone. Speight is locked into Crawford the whole way, and while he doesn’t have any time to get through his progression given the free rusher, he has Tarik Black 1-on-1 on the opposite side of the field. If Speight reads this pre-snap, it’s an easy TD as Black easily gets inside leverage on his slant route.

-0.5 Speight: missed read

-1 OL: blitz pick-up

2nd & 10 @ the 9: McDoom sweep that gets blown up for no gain. This should have been a TD. We have 3 blockers for the 3 edge Air Force defenders who can possibly make this tackle. Bunting completely blows it here by not identifying who he is supposed to block as he inexplicably doubles the corner that McKeon is easily blocking, leaving Cole in no-man’s land to either fight a losing battle to block Bunting’s LB or get out to the safety. Cole chooses the safety (still not his fault, he couldn’t have made the block), leaving the LB free to get the stop for no gain. Very frustrating.

-1 Bunting run block

3rd & 10 @ the 9: Michigan is in the gun with Isaac. Air Force initially shows 5 rushers but then brings the corner and LB from the strong side late, dropping the weakside LB into coverage to make it 6v6. But our OL gets absolutely crushed. Cole blocks nobody as he was expecting the weakside LB blitz. Onwenu can’t decide which of 3 rushers to block and ultimately doesn’t block anyone. Speight does an incredible job of rolling out and getting free. Unfortunately, he is locked on Crawford because he has Perry breaking wiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open on a devastatingly beautiful post route in the back corner of the endzone and there is nobody even close to him. Easy, easy, easy TD if he sees him. Instead, he can’t decide between running or throwing to a completely covered Crawford and chooses to patty cake pass it for an incompletion.

-1 Speight: missed read

-1 OL: blitz pick-up


Each of these plays could have been TDs if our guys make plays. On the first, Speight missed a read on having Black with 1-on-1 who runs a great route to get separation inside. On the second, Bunting makes a terrible mental mistake and misses his blocking assignment, turning a probably TD into no gain. On the third, Speight makes a fantastic play to roll out of pressure but doesn’t keep his eyes downfield and misses Perry, who ran a beautiful route to get utterly wide open. This is even less excusable because Perry is clearly the #1 WR given that Speight is looking at him before the pocket collapses.

On both pass plays, the Air Force blitzes were as impressively designed as the blocking was atrocious. Still, the TDs were there for the taking.

Play-calling: 2.5/3


Not technically redzone but close enough #3 (2:12 in the 2nd quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 24: I’m running out of steam and getting more frustrated. Perry is wide open on yet another great corner route which would have gone for ~11 yards in the air and, with a decent throw, he had enough separation to likely get in the endzone. Air Force has 7 in the box, but the corner on Perry shows blitz well before the snap, ends up being the only rusher as they send 5. We again leave Gentry and Isaac in for protection, and finally pick it up. Speight is looking towards the left at either Crawford or Perry (I’m praying it’s Crawford), and doesn’t see that Perry is wide wide wide wide open, and holds onto the ball until the pocket collapses and he scrambles out of bounds (rather than throw the ball away) for a loss of 4 yards that the ref bafflingly marks as only a loss of 1.

-1 Speight: missed read

2nd & 14 11 @ the 25: Pass out of the gun as we leave Eubanks and Isaac in again for pass pro. Air Force threatens 7 but only sends 6 (with one guy neutralized b/c he’s playing man on Isaac who doesn’t run a route), so it’s 6v7. Ulizio doesn’t identify whom to block and misses his blitzing LB assignment. The LB has a free run at Speight for the sack. Speight doesn’t have time for for the play to develop, which showed promise, as Crawford was breaking free down the middle for a solid chunk play, and Perry also looked like he was again going to get open. As Speight is getting sacked, he makes the most inexcusable decision of the game of trying to throw it away while going to the ground. His arm hits Ulizio as he’s doing this and he fumbles. The ball miraculously falls in front of Eubanks who makes a heady play to snag it, but after losing 3 additional yards.

-1 OL: blitz pick-up

-1 Speight: terrible fumble

3rd & 21 @ the 35: Isaac draw play for 4 yards to make the FG easier. Hard to fault the play call given the poor play from the OL and Speight up to that point. Also lucky for Ace that the ref missed those 3 yards from Speight’s scramble to make it a 49 yarder rather than 52 yarder (because we all know MVP Wild Thin’ Quinn Nordin woulda knocked that baby in from 60.)


Speight again missed a wide-open Perry for a bare minimum 11 yarder that easily could have scored. He followed that up with his worst basic mental error by not taking the sack and almost costing us 3 points. Pass pro finally picked up a disguised blitz, only to follow it up with the worst blow of the game on a 6v7 rush as Ulizio failed to identiy his assignment.

Play-calling: 3/3



September 17th, 2017 at 9:53 PM ^

I was impressed. I think you did a solid job breaking it down, and explaining it in a pretty simple way. I have to agree with your statements, I think a LOT of it was on Speight and just missing play calls, audibles, and maybe more importantly, remaining locked on a route instead of reading a progression.

Save me the excuses, he's a second year starter, he's at an elite program, expectations are high. Similarly, Dak Prescott is his reasonable peer...CLEAR difference in capability. I am not throwing blame on Speight, but there is a considerable issue with quarterback play, and by week four, if we are still struggling this badly, maybe pride needs to be put aside. Ruddok adjusted in one season. He can't seem to find the touch when he needs it, he has zero confidence in his reads, he is struggling mightily. THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM...when do we start to focus on the well being of the TEAM not the feelings of the student athlete? You play at Michigan, there are athletes lined up to prove they are better than you...

Longballs Dong…

September 17th, 2017 at 10:14 PM ^

so your assumption is that Harbaugh agrees with you that Speight should be benched but he doesn't want to hurt his feelings? Does that sound plausible to you? I'm not pleased either but we saw O'Korn already. Is that what you want out there? Peters is intriguing but apparently has no command of the offense. Who are you replacing Speight with?


September 17th, 2017 at 8:04 PM ^

And that was before yesterday.  QBs are usually not as good against the blitz, so Air Force is probably dialing up those blitzes because the numbers say that's the way to go.

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I'm hoping that this is just a matter of our offense getting used to a new passing game coordinator plus breaking in a new OL and skill players.  I've tried to equate this to an NFL preseason, but there is this nagging worry that this will be 2013 all over again from an offensive standpoint.


September 17th, 2017 at 8:15 PM ^

the blitzes weren't creating a numbers advantage for Air Force. They never brought more rushers than we had blockers. Our OL was just abysmal at identifying who to block.

Speight also just missed relatively easy reads. Yes, he was probably rattled by the pressure, but those are reads that a Michigan QB should be expected to make.


September 17th, 2017 at 8:41 PM ^

Really a shame with the receiving talent Michigan has that we have mediocre QB and abysmal line play. Looks like the offense will be the downfall once again as the rest of the team is NC caliber. Speight competes but really puts little pressure on a defense along with a o-line that is not even close to what a Michigan team should field. Speight can't read a blitz and if he could he would throw behind it and Michigan would roll in every game, thus offensive struggles continue. Of course Speight has zero to with blocking assignments and moving d-lineman off the ball. Shame this season's offensive line and qb will once again hold them back from being one of the best in the country.


September 17th, 2017 at 8:04 PM ^

And run the goddamn football. This playcalling is different from last year and it's obvious why. Michigan has backs and top 10 athletes. The air force is small and not nearly as athletic. We don't score in the red zone because we are running 3-5 wide out sets with no room to threaten the secondary. It's honestly not smart coaching.


September 17th, 2017 at 9:09 PM ^

I really feel this is a thing--the playcalling difference.  I don't see us using motion pre-snap to probe what the defense is doing nearly as much.  I feel like the play concepts being called are substantially more predictable then last year.  I've seen almost nothing short over the middle--for example behind blitzing LBs; the bevy of TEs we have seem to be way under-utilized in the passing game.  The balance to me also seems a bit pass heavy, especially given that our OL weaknesses are bigger in pass pro, and that the most questionable skill position right now is QB...  It's always been my sense that protecting weaknesses along the OL is best done by keeping the defense guessing, as opposed to constantly constraining the ball carrying/catching options by keeping 6 or 7 blockers.


September 17th, 2017 at 10:45 PM ^

I agree. It seems that they are trying not to overwhelm the new line. So they keep the play calls relatively predictable and don't ask the line to hold their blocks too long. They also keep back extra blockers to help. But pressure is still coming and I don't think Speight trusts his line or blocking fully. So he locks on his receiver and tries to avoid taking a sack. There aren't many options because everybody is blocking.

This is on the coaches. We are going to face better defenders and defenses. If Speight gets time, he'll go through his progressions and find the open guy. Each week is an opportunity to improve and hopefully they are quick learners.


September 18th, 2017 at 1:58 AM ^

I get that Pep wants to spread it out with 4-5 wide and play NFL style but we don't have the pass pro or the crisp route running (from anyone but Perry) OR the QB play to do what they're trying to do there.

Run the ball more with misdirection, counters, etc.  That's our strength.  Except on 3rd and 8!  Don't get get cute.


September 21st, 2017 at 6:47 PM ^

is very, very different than at midfield against Florida because the safeties are going to be way further from the line playing pass so draws work well in that case.

AFA wasn't playing pass on any downs, least of all from the 8 yard line.  It was 9 guys in the box, hell-bent on stopping the run every play so it was a terrible call in this game.


September 17th, 2017 at 8:18 PM ^

If you read AJDrain's diary post, it seems like Speight was really thriving until he got into the redzone. Watching live, I thought the playcalling was terrible and it was all on the coaches + OL.

But after re-watching those redzone drives, Speight was just simply bad and missing easy easy reads.


September 18th, 2017 at 4:18 AM ^

That was absolutely not a bad decision. It's fourth and goal, you have to throw it and give someone a chance. The play was a pic to the panda with speight rolling out. If hill is not is not open the only option is Crawford because the other wr running a curl is going to have guys all over him trying to get to hill.
His options where: 1) throw it out the end zone, 2, try to fit it in to hill or the other wr closest to him, with Gators all over them. 3) try and run it in, which ends very bad. 4) run out of bounds or throw it at hills feet. 5) throw it to the only guy not being surrounded.
He made the only decisions. You simply can not go for it in Fourth and goal from the 3 or 4 if the QB is not allowed to throw it to his 3rd read because your afraid of a pick.
In fact, if he doesn't try to hit Crawford everyone here would be calling him out because he has to try on fourth down. And they would not be wrong.


September 17th, 2017 at 9:12 PM ^

I'm so tired of the "You're not a fan if you question Speight", or the "Shut up about Speight, because JH".  Speight is not performing well.  This is supposed to be a meritocracy.  If he's the best we have... ummm...


September 17th, 2017 at 9:59 PM ^

'best' is apparently perception based. My understanding was, Speight was the vocal leader, and had the best command of the huddle. What I witnessed from the spring game, Peters looked like he could manage the plays and physically get it done. Maybe in practice he doesn't show the moxy, but at what point do you see what he does under fire? He was a high school leader, he was good enough to use a scholarship on...MAYBE he needs to be told HE'S THE MAN GO DO IT...sometimes with underclassmen there is a subtle right of passage and reluctancy to step up if you feel it isn't your place or the staff isn't showing you confidence...hard to say.

I truly struggle to believe Speight is the best...if he is, we sure did a shitty job recruiting qbs...that's my hot take.


September 18th, 2017 at 12:37 AM ^

It's not difficult to understand.  I'm not trying to argue that Speight *isn't* our best option. I'm just noting that given Speight *is* the best option--as demonstrated by the fact he's playing--then I think it's fair to be concerned about (1) Speight's performance to date, and what that augers for the future, and (2) O'Korn and Peters, who aren't, performance-wise, where we might hope they'd be, given that they are behind Speight, who isn't performing very well.


September 17th, 2017 at 10:56 PM ^

But that doesn't make you right. It doesn't necessarily make you wrong either, but it's pretty silly to blame just the QB here. Growing pains with a completely new O-line (yeah, Cole but he's LT not center this year), new WRs, and new tight ends (we lost Butt and Asiasi, even though the other guys were around they didn't produce as much). We also lost Fisch & Wheatley and have some new coaches. So, maybe your expectations are way out of whack? To suggest that we throw in a new QB on top of all the rest sounds like madness.


September 18th, 2017 at 8:34 AM ^

Yeesh. So what does that make him outside the red zone? That's like a third of he's total incompletions! Outside the red zone he's 64% for almost 9 YPA. That's a crazy dichotomy.


September 17th, 2017 at 8:06 PM ^

And he was not replaced with an equally great Coach. Also we consistently put Speight in positions that are outside of his comfort zone and we don't lean on the run game to open the secondary up. Speight is not getting it done but we are NOT helping him.


September 17th, 2017 at 8:06 PM ^

And he was not replaced with an equally great Coach. Also we consistently put Speight in positions that are outside of his comfort zone and we don't lean on the run game to open the secondary up. Speight is not getting it done but we are NOT helping him.


September 18th, 2017 at 2:24 AM ^

At least, my take on the first play here is that Speight missed the read to Black coming across the middle.  He's more open, it's an easier throw and no reason not to go there on first down.  Choosing to go all the way across the field to Perry, who had a safety coming up behind him, was a bad decision because it's a tough throw.

The one where he eventually ended up throwing the jump pass was tough because he had to turn and scrample to his left which was tough right when he tucked it and then as he got to the LOS, Crawford oddly went to the inside and it looked like he was in the way of Perry by that time.

The one from the 24 with a similar route that Perry got up on the out (to the field side) wasn't really Speight's fault because the pressure got there before he could get to that read in the progression, and also the pressure was directly in the line of sight/path of the ball.

Lot of pressure making these almost impossible plays to make.


September 18th, 2017 at 2:39 AM ^

to Perry under extreme duress in the second half (discussed in my second half redzone analysis). It's a relatively tough throw, sure, but Speight can make it. It was a fine read and he just missed it.

The jump pass has been heavily discussed in this thread and I agree with everyone now. It was a tough play. Brian will not agree with my take, that much is clear.

On the Perry out play from the 24, I hear what you're saying, but if you watch it a couple of times, you will see that Perry gets open very fast and is his primary read. Yes, the pressure gets there quick, but Speight has to make that read and throw the ball. He's staring right at him.


September 18th, 2017 at 4:26 AM ^

So if Perry is the 2-3 read in the progression what exactly is speight supposed to do when he get instant pressure in his face?
That us a situation that you really have no option but lock on to the first read and put the ball we're only he can catch it and throw it fast.


September 17th, 2017 at 8:20 PM ^

I have never made a post criticizing Speight, but he needs to make better decisions.  

3rd Quarter up 16-13 with 10:38 left on the clock and a 3rd and 5.  The Oline picks up all 4 rushers well.  Speight has a clean pocket to throw from and no pressure.  He chooses to force a throw into tight coverage for an incompletion and a punt.

He could have hit Ty Isaac for a first down in the flat who released from protection and was open enough to pick it up or he could have waited another moment to look elsewhere.

He has to make better decisions too.  



September 18th, 2017 at 1:41 AM ^

You're usually trying to fit the ball into the tight ends between the LBs and safeties.  When you're say at midfield you can a send one or two wr's deep so the safeties have to respect that and possible fade backwards some and it makes the window between the LBs biting on play action and safeties fading to cover the deep routes a bit bigger.

Once you're in the red zone the safeties don't have to worry about covering deep - deep is out of the endzone.  The window the QB has between the LBs and safeites isn't very big.


September 18th, 2017 at 4:39 AM ^

Yep, the tight ends need to get into the game plan in the redzone. But, play action post are not it. They can yse play action where the te blocks then releases to flat with boot action from the QB. Or have them chip then release up the seem. I like both but the seem seems enticing for a guy like Gentry. Speight is good with throws down the middle, so why not list the fades to the outside for jump balls to Gentry on a seem route?