If you enjoyed my first half take, here's the second half. Tried to take some of the critiques my first half anaysis into account on this go around.
- Air Force really called some great defensive plays, as Harbaugh said.
- I’m much more down on the play calling on these two drives. Yes, sometimes the defense just calls the perfect play. But, coaches didn’t do our offense any favors on several calls.
- Out of 9 plays, I thought the play calling was good on 3. There were 3-4 plays that require too much of an esoteric discussion for me to decide if they are good or bad. There were 2-3 plays that I think were objectively bad.
- Speight made 1 amazingly great throw (which doesn’t count in the redzone stats because it was from the 21 yard line) in the face of the blitz. He followed that up on the next drive with 1 bad throw from a better pocket, and turned a very low probability pass into a zero by throwing it out of bounds. These are very very very small sample sizes, but I’m still not reassured. Sue me.
- Surprise! Perry gets open again.
- The OL failed terribly on every run attempt in the redzone this game. It did fair slightly better on pass protection.
- Michigan kept a TE and RB in just about every pass try, but interestingly, Air Force never adjusted to bring extra rushers, instead leaving 2 players completely neutralized as they guarded potential leaks from the TE or RB position. (Not that they needed any more rushers.)
Redzone #1 (5:15 in the 3rd quarter)
1st & 10 @ the 21: Speight makes a crazy impressive throw. Another play where we keep in the TE (Mckeon) and RB (Higdon) for pass pro. Air Force brings the house and its 7v7 for the first time. But Ulizio and Mckeon block the same guy so Air Force has an extra rusher. Luckily, the pass pro is otherwise solid, so the free rusher takes quite some time to get there. This gives Perry enough time to do his thing, getting open on a slow developing out route. Speight does a great job to stay in the pocket (especially given the pressure he’s previously faced), and makes a crazy throw that I don’t really understand the physics (looks like he throws sideways) that hits Perry in stride for 13 yards. Really amazing throw.
OL: -0.5 for leaving free rusher but still gives exactly enough time for Speight to make the throw
Play-calling: Push. This was a very slow developing pass, which doesn’t really make sense given the pressure that was getting there all day. I guess they were betting on their OL to do its job for the first time, which is either stubbornness or luckiness depending on the shade of your glasses. IMO, it isn’t a great adjustment from the first half, but it worked, so que sera, sera.
1st & goal @ the 8: We have 3 TEs and a FB in for the first rush on first down from the redzone. I think the trio of TEs are Gentry on the rush side and Bunting + Mckeon on the weakside (but can’t really see clearly). Tl;dr, the blocking on this was bad, but I’ll wait for Brian to tell me who to blame. This is a stretch play with Higdon. My take: the inside TE (either Bunting or Mckeon) on the weakside misses his block, Ulizio misses his, and Onwenu and Krugler and up both slip upfield to block the same LB. Overall, not good, Bob. Higdon gets stuffed for a half-yard gain.
OL: -1 run blocking
Play calling: +1. Have to expect your OL to be able to block this basic play.
2nd & goal @ the 7.5: This was a fantastic play call by the Air Force D. They have 6 in the box and show all as blitzing. This is the first time nobody actually blitzes. Michigan keeps the TE and RB in the backfield once again for pass pro, leaving us at 7v4. Air Force +++. We make a play call that expects the blitz, a short flat route to Perry that still requires a relatively impressive play from the Air Force corner to stuff for no gain.
Speight: Push. This was a designed play and there’s nothing else there.
OL: Push. At least they didn’t get beat on 7v4.
Play calling: Push. Air Force just made a better call on this play. This play call made sense, but, as Harbaugh said in the presser, Air Force guessed right that it was coming. I think he was really referring on the second half play calls by Air Force, and this one especially.
3rd & goal @ the 8: The Isaac draw play. This play was never going to work and, like in the first half run, either Speight or the booth failed for not changing it based on the pre-snap blitz. We had 5 blockers for 7 rushers, that was never never never going to work.
Speight: -1 for not calling an audible.
OL: Push. Put in a position to fail.
Play calling: -1 for not calling an audible or time out. This was never going to work.
Speight made the best throw from the redzone(-ish) area and then the play calling was outdone by Air Force. The 3rd & goal play call was the only inexcusable one. The others were just failed execution and/or Air Force making the right call.
Not technically yet the Redzone #2 (00:37 in the 3rd quarter)
1st & 10 @ the 29: Corner is giving Black 6 yards of cushion and Speight zings it over for an easy 8 yards.
Speight: Good throw.
Play calling: +1. This was frustrating to watch live because it seemed like it was begging to be called earlier in the game. But, better late than never.
2nd & 3 @ the 21.5: Sweep play to Higdon. Onwenu pulls and blocks nobody until going to the second level. Higdon does a good job to battle for 2 yards and the refs reward him with an extra yard on the marking to give us the first down.
OL: -1 on Onwenu blocking air.
RB: Higdon +1 for grinding out yards.
Refs: +1 for extra yard given.
Play calling: +1. The call made sense. Again, it wasn’t executed well.
1st @ 10 @ the 19: Air Force has 7 in the box and brings an 8th prior to the snap. Michigan leaves the TE and RB in once again, this time on a play fake. Air Force only brings 5 but is still confusingly leaving 2 players to spy the TE and RB, neutralizing them on the play. The OL does serviceable in a 7v5 situation, but there is some push up the middle, which seemingly spooks Speight. Speight lets it go half a second too early and throws off his back foot, even though he does have room to step into the throw. This causes the throw to go a step past McDoom, who breaks free in the endzone at the last second on a solid post route.
Speight: -0.75. Yes, Speight missed the throw because he released it from his back foot and did so a moment too early. But, it was understandable given how much of a sieve the OL had been up to this point. Would have liked to see him build on his previous amazing play where he stayed in the pocket and delivered, but again, can’t be thaaaaat down on him given the circumstance.
OL: -0.5 for ceding too a little too much ground given the 7v5 blocking advantage. Still did enough to get the job done.
Play calling: Push. Again, hard to say this slow developing play makes 100% sense given the OL struggles. Would have liked to see a quicker pass. But, the play succeeded to get a player open as called, the OL did hold up enough, Speight just didn’t deliver.
2nd & 10 @ the 19: Counter run play that fails miserably. Again, I’m not too great at understanding run blocking schemes, but Gentry blocks air, which gets a Not Good, Bob. Onwenu releases to the second level to block an LB, which leaves Ulizio in a tough position to make a block on the DE who already has inside leverage. Ulizio cannot make the block, and the DE swallows Higdon for no gain.
OL: -2 for Gentry blocking air and the right side doing inexperienced right side things.
Play calling: I mean, what are they supposed to do when the OL can’t pass protect or run block?
3rd & 10 @ the 19: Michigan again keeps the TE and RB in for pass protection. Air Force brings 6 and it’s 7v6. Pass protection holds up. Routes are a fly by Crawford, an in by Perry, and a hitch by DPJ. Perry is bracketed and not open for the first time all day, DPJ’s hitch would take a perfectly timed pass and could easily be intercepted if thrown, and Speight goes with the what looks like the primary read which is Crawford’s fly route. This is a very low percentage throw and very difficult pass. Speight doesn’t keep it in bounds to give Crawford a chance.
Speight: -0.25 for not keeping the ball in bounds. But, this is a very low probability play anyways.
OL: +1 for solid blitz pick up.
Play calling: -1. Not a lot of good options on 3rd and long when the OL hasn’t been great at pass blocking. An incredibly tough fly fade is not a good option.
An offense isn’t going to do well in the redzone when it can’t run block down there. Speight throwing off his back foot to miss a TD doesn’t put warm, fuzzy feelings in your belly, but by that point, the pass protection had to be giving him a little bit of Devin Gardner syndrome. Otherwise, uninspiring play calls.