Analysis of second half redzone attempts versus Air Force

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on September 18th, 2017 at 12:36 AM

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.

Speight: +++

Perry: +

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.





September 18th, 2017 at 8:44 AM ^

Harbaugh made an analogy about a jar of pickles. He compared it to our offense. He said sometimes the jar is so full of pickles that you can't get one to slide out. But once one comes out it frees up all the others. I think he's trying to calm people down. He said we are in fact moving the offense down the field. Just stalling in red zone. Thinks it will come eventually. Thus the analogy to full jar or pickles. It's there....just has happened yet....

Here is to hoping. Really really tired theme with the fan base regarding the Oline. I think everyone just expected this to pan out like Harbaugh at Stanford. Hope our young players make major strides on the Oline between now and end of season.

I watched MSU beat up WMU and to be quite honest, their Oline looks better than ours and the pressure they will undoubtedly know to bring from watching us and how we handle it could be....well... let's just not talk about that.

Just keep improving guys. WIN THE GAMES.


September 18th, 2017 at 1:07 AM ^

He faced a blitz on every pass attempt except the flat pass to Perry (which, as I said in the OP, seemed like a bad play call live, but really was just a fantastic RPS by Air Force).

But again, they never sent more rushers than blockers, so credit to them for disguising their blitzes well, and hopefully Drevno, Frey, and Harbaugh find a way to get these young OL guys to see the light.


September 18th, 2017 at 1:10 AM ^

My takeaway is to be encouraged. The most and costliest mistakes are being made by the group that has the largest capacity for week over week improvement. A little incremental improvement there, and we put up 40 or 50 in this game. So... fixable.

Also, we obviously did well at other times. The mistakes just came in the worst place for it.

So basically... what Harbaugh said




September 18th, 2017 at 8:49 AM ^

Way more negative. Players are different. You can complain at the end of the year of they don't improve. Some of the players you listed never had a chance to get full teaching from these coaches. I trust these coaches to make them learn.

I Like Burgers

September 18th, 2017 at 10:33 AM ^

OL just takes time to develop.  The problem is that outside of Kugler and Cole, there aren't any upperclassmen on the OL. Ulizio is a redshirt sophomore, and Onwenu and Bredeson are true sophomores.  Having three sophomores on your OL is pretty much always a recipe for OL problems.

If Michigan is having problems next year with the OL, then maybe you can address some development concerns.


September 18th, 2017 at 1:11 AM ^

Disagree on your judgment of Speight's throw on the first down of the 2nd drive. I don't think the ball got away from Speight or that mechanics were the cause. I think he threw it exactly where he wanted to, and I think he was right to throw it there. If he earns a minus there it is because he rushed the throw, meaning McDoom wasn't in the window -- but that is the windows the ball had to go to.

It goes incomplete because he had to throw it behind the defender who just vacated that spot. If he throws the ball nearer to McDoom, the defender probably picks it off. I don't know if McDoom was late out of his break or if he was meant to break harder inside instead of drifting a bit; it's also possible that Speight needed to hold onto the ball for a tick longer (there was some pressure, so maybe he rushed it).


September 18th, 2017 at 3:03 AM ^

There are two yards of space between his front foot and the middle of the line (though the gap was closing). If anything, I was too hard on the OL. That protection, on another watch, is as good as it needs to be. When Speight releases the ball, McDoom is at the 7 yard line and beating his man cleanly.

McDoom is clearly going to beat his man, who is caught flat-footed.

There is not only time but tons of space in an unguarded endzone to throw the ball into and give McDoom a chance to make the play. Speight had a pretty giant window to throw the ball. It was almost a great throw, but Speight made it much harder on himself by throwing it too soon and not giving McDoom room to use the wide open back and/or right side of the endzone.

This was probably the worst throw (along with the first Perry miss throw), and I should probably have been more down on Speight for this one and easier on him for previous plays in the first half.


September 18th, 2017 at 7:42 AM ^

Thanks for the pics. Again, I think it's probably on him for letting it go too early, but in another second he won't have time to step into the throw.

But what Im referring to is exactly what you're saying. He has plenty of room deeper and towards the center of the field. But Perry isn't going to make it to that empty area, so that is a moot point. Speight has to throw it closer to Perry, but he can't put it right on him because the defender is in good position against that type of throw.

Picture 2 shows what I mean -- yeah he was flat footed and going to lose the receiver, but he's going to jump a throw that is right on Perry's numbers. Speight has to throw the receiver open, and like you said, he almost makes a great throw.

So yeah, give Speight the minus if you want. But like I said, I don't think it's a mechanics issue, I think it's a timing issue.

I Like Burgers

September 18th, 2017 at 10:37 AM ^

Its also only a 15yd throw.  You can only throw a guy open by so much.  Throw it a couple of yards closer to the middle of the field and there's just no way Perry is going to make it there in the time its going to take the ball to get there.  And given Perry's movement, there's also no reason for Speight to think that Perry is going to be inclined to head that direction either.


September 18th, 2017 at 3:05 PM ^

How long do you think the ball takes to travel that far? He would have to throw the slowest ball possible, letting it hang up there forever, if he and Perry are to take advantage of that open field. You're asking him to throw the ball where the receiver isn't.

Speight missed him by a yard or so inside. It seems like you're asking him to miss by a hard or so deep. What's the difference?

In fact, leading him deep could leave a chance for the defender to make a play, whereas Speight's throw left no chance of that (or Perry catching it, for what it's worth).


September 18th, 2017 at 10:23 AM ^

Sitting in the south end zone, it was easy to see an easy TD had Wilton just held onto the ball for an extra count. McDoom was breaking free and seperating and Speight had a nice pocket with room to step up or even hold his position and wait for the route to open up.  He just seems jittery and is trying to be too perfect sometimes.  The timing of the entire offense just seems a bit off from time to time.  I've seen several jet sweep fakes that are meant to move linebackers and they have been so poorly timed that they have no impact as a play fake? McDoom is faking taking a hand-off and he's already 2-3 steps past Speight?  Work in progress, but we all hope the progress comes sooner rather than later.

I Like Burgers

September 18th, 2017 at 10:13 AM ^

I'm not sure why the WRs keep getting a pass for the offense's problems.  To me, they are a big part of the problem.  Perry is easily the best of the bunch, Crawford looks like a downgrade from Chesson/Darboh and Black and DPJ look like freshman.

Through three games, I've seen a lot of drops and outside of Perry, none of them seem to get any separation and get open.  We've seen Speight drop back and have a long time to throw to only jack it to a WR on the sideline because that's all that's open.  And then people blame Speight for that.  If the WRs can't get open, which seems to be the case, then that really limits what you can do offensively.


September 18th, 2017 at 2:24 AM ^

The biggest issue moving forward is clearly the offensive line. People like me can knock Speight all we want, and even if his culpability is closer to my hot take than those with cooler heads, at the end of the day, there's only so much he can do when the OL is a sieve. My biggest worry is that, if the OL doesn't improve fast, Speight is going to regress into Poor Damn Devin Gardner mode. In fact, my new wild conspiracy theory is that Speight's seeming regression is stemming from practice, where he has to go against our terrifying defensive line with only this year's OL sieve, which is creating and worsening this PDDG process.

IMO, most deficiencies in play calling ultimately comes down to the OL. What are the coaches supposed to call if the OL can't execute basic rush blocking schemes in the redzone? What are the coaches supposed to call if the OL can't block when they have more blockers than pass rushers? We all want to see more TE routes, but Air Force was getting pressure while leaving a guy dedicated to any TE leaks. I do hope to see some quicker passes moving forward. If Black is truly gone for 6-8 weeks, I'm expecting to see Perry become a stronger and stronger safety blanket. That being said, I'm pretty torn on whether or not I believe we're holding back the playbook. Maybe those easy short throw dunkers are coming. It's hard for me to believe that Perry doesn't understand the playbook enough to feature him in those plays. But it's also very easy to believe that our OL and other young receivers are struggling so much executing the basic plays we called in this game for us to move forward with other plays. We shall see in the coming weeks.

Ultimately, our success this season against top competition relies on significant improvement from the OL. But, I think we all knew that without me having to write 3000 words on it.

Go Blue.


September 18th, 2017 at 2:09 AM ^

Air Force was undersized. We have a stable of huge tight ends and receivers. We didn't really call plays to take advantage of that. Instead the te's and rbs stayed in to block, because the line isn't holding up. Speight isn't great, but I think the problems are being placed too much on him at this point. The line is the problem I think, because their inability to protect is keeping more guys in the backfield.


September 18th, 2017 at 7:06 AM ^

Why not look at Perry as a wide out and get more snaps to McDoom? With Black going down especially. He seems to have the wheels for it. Toltally get it if this is a bad idea, just looking for ways to increase the overall explosiveness of the O.

Also, gotta believe Harbs will dial up a lot more TE targeting in BT play. He practically reinvented the position and has to be chomping at the bit.


September 18th, 2017 at 7:59 AM ^

You have to assume part of the reason Perry is in the slot is because he excels in these routes our offense asks of a slot. Now that Black is out, it could happen. If Speight is constantly under pressure than I'm sure he would like his go to WR in the slot vs outside. Closer throws when he needs to get the ball away quick

Blue in PA

September 18th, 2017 at 8:00 AM ^

I'm not sure why we aren't seeing Wheatley, Bunting and Gentry getting targeted in the red zone, all three being 6'7" and Wilt's knack for throwing over everyone.... seems like a perfect fit.

Everyone Murders

September 18th, 2017 at 8:03 AM ^

I think at the beginning of the season most of us viewed OL and the DBs as the two biggest question marks.  Three games in, the DBs have been better than expected, and the OL is a work in progress.

So we're about where we expected to be.  We just have to hope that Drevno, Frey & Co. are able to get the OL better on track moving forward. 

In any event, thanks to the OP for putting these together.  They're useful synopses, and the analysis seems fair (although we can always quibble with a point here or there).


September 18th, 2017 at 8:25 AM ^

are so far better than we dared to hope.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) the beastliness of of the D line and dicipline of the LBs are making it relatively easy on them.  Sure they're 1 on 1 a lot,  but that means the opposing QB is running in terror from Gary, Hurst, Winnovich, and a blitzing Bush!

Facing a an team with a better Oline/QB will test our DBs a bit more.

I Like Burgers

September 18th, 2017 at 10:28 AM ^

Think its way too early to say the DBs have been better than expected -- reserve your judgement until after the Purdue game.  So far they have played three offenses that that can't pass for shit.  By yards per game, Florida (91), Cincy (111), and Air Force (121) are some of the worst passing offenses in the country.   And Cincy had Michigan's seconday beaten pretty good a couple of times, but just couldn't catch the ball.  That's the main thing that concerns me about the Purdue game.  They will be by far the best offense (35) they've faced this year.

(And just for reference, Michigan has the No. 84 passing offense)


September 18th, 2017 at 10:48 AM ^

With the poor O-Line play and air force being super aggressive, why not run a play action roll out and dump it off to a crossing tight end or Perry? Or a screen pass to a rb/te? Aren't those plays designed to beat an aggressive defense?