Bag of Tricks?: Play Calling

Submitted by Bigku22 on November 26th, 2016 at 8:31 PM

First off, we should have won the game and obviously officiating played but a big part in the loss. But wanted to touch on some questionable play calling and the "we are going to throw everything at them". 

1) The Pepcat has not had any success against teams who have defenses with a pulse. Also running it on 3rd and goal from the 5? Not running any variation off of it past read option or direct snap run? It was basically wasting downs. 

2) Play action from our own goalline which lead to the pick 6, thought the risk/reward there is just foolish. Speight was basically in a toss it up or take a safety scenario with pressure. 

3) Maybe on a rewatch we can find some things, but did anybody notice any wrinkle or speciality play of any kind? Maybe the Speight injury limited our playbook but we ran a very vanilla gameplan. 

4) I didn't think we tested the edge enough in the run game, Smith averaged 2.9 YPC and was really not very effective. Our lack of a run game didn't allow us to control the clock, salt the game away when our defense was dominating. We just couldn't keep the football in the 2H and I am surprised at the lack of origination. 

Even with all this we should have won, but I didn't think Fisch/Drevno/Harbaugh had their best game. Not the primary reason we lost, but after the OSU games vs Wisky and MSU I was expecting more success. 


I Like Burgers

November 26th, 2016 at 9:05 PM ^

I legit hate seeing Peppers anytime he's back taking a snap.  All that formation has done for the last 4-5 weeks is gain 2 yards per play.  Which is fine if its 2nd or 3rd and 2. But when they keep calling it on 1st and 10 or 2nd and long, it just kills drives.  No idea why they haven't done anything different at all with that formation all season.


November 27th, 2016 at 1:49 AM ^

It's so crazy because the one single time we lined him up at RB and faked a pitch to him, he drew almost half of the defense.

I think Jim Harbaugh is a genius, but I really, really, really, freaking really don't understand why they didn't try more decoy with him more often.

Also, total tangent, we really missed not having both Houma and Kerridge on the roster from last year. They were so much more pivotal to our 2015 success than many people realize.

Our full-back game is nowhere near as good as it was last year (which is a statement that hasn't been made in the last 40 years).


November 26th, 2016 at 8:37 PM ^

We should have run more screen plays and jet sweeps. The delayed draw was a great call but (Higdon?) went outside his blocker rather than inside and turned it into a no gainer.


November 26th, 2016 at 9:24 PM ^

Higdon, why is he in? Hasn't played all day, not in the flow of the game. Evans threatens a chunk play on that and Smith gets 15 yards easy.

But that's really my only complaint. Not sure what people were expecting. The throw from the end zone is taking a risk. If he doesn't have (yet another) unblocked blitzer in his face, he can step through and probably completes that ball. The other pick was his fault. The fumble also, but didn't end up hurting Michigan.

Peppers packages weren't just keepers, they were extra blocker dives that OSU played well. He's not Denard, throwing isn't a cure-all, in fact it's very risky. Why put him in then? Because he's the best player on the team, those runs could have popped. The sum of many errors plus officiating lost this game. The playcalling was fine.


November 26th, 2016 at 11:35 PM ^

The linebacker got outside of Cole quickly (he might've recognized it from tape) so Higdon really needed to feint inside at minimum to shift McMillan and let Cole engage, or just go to the inside. Instead he just ran straight ahead to the right which made Cole's attempt to block futile. Rookie mistake and a costly one at that

The Fan in Fargo

November 27th, 2016 at 1:29 AM ^

Always wondered this too. I like Drevno and he's a great offensive line coach but I don't think he is a great play caller. He's not a bad one either but I think Fisch could do better from the box personally with Drev assisting. 


November 26th, 2016 at 8:58 PM ^

Perhaps a bit hyperbolic.


But I hear you.  The play calling against Iowa, Indiana, and toda against OSU was mind-numbingly stupid over and over and over and over again.  But because it's him, Fisch, and Harbaugh, tough to figure out who fucked up and when.  But today, the better team didn't win.  The officiating did suck, but the things that were in UM's control weren't controlled very well.


From "Pepcat" on obvious passing downs to the PA pass from the end zone, to the lack of jetsweeps and screens today and the last couple weeks in general, if it's Drevno as I and others suspect, that dude needs to take his head out of his ass.  


November 26th, 2016 at 9:00 PM ^

I will take vanilla if it is working everytime, and I will agree our base passing game (sans turnovers) was rather effective. However, we could have used something in the 4Q to keep possession and the clock moving. The ole cliche "pass to score, run to win", we couldn't run when we REALLY needed to and I would have liked to see something unorthodox to pick up yardage/first downs. 


November 26th, 2016 at 8:51 PM ^

I don't think that's correct. 

Harbaugh is fairly creative. But when it comes down to crunch time, he doesn't believe in razzle dazzle and prefers to try to "out-execute" teams (like someone else said). He tightens up, in some ways. That's why the Iowa, Indiana, Michigan State, and Ohio State games were played so close to the vest. They might have had an occasional "trick play" (Speight lining up behind the right guard), but those games were called pretty tight.


November 26th, 2016 at 10:51 PM ^

Risk and reward is a judgment call and these guys make millions with these decisions. Urban is now 5-0 vs UM so he must make more good judgment calls than not. JH is 0-2 vs OSU and 1-1 vs MSU so his judgment is in question. If you want to go back even further, Urban's choices are even stronger based solely on results.

It's hard to view this game in a lens other than Urban's choices paid off.  We can debatte scheme and technical aspects, but he won and added to his 4-0 record vs UM.

Is Urban a smarter coach or better game manager? Coachaes are their record.

Blue Mike

November 26th, 2016 at 10:09 PM ^

Tell me again how Urban "coached to win" this game? Or last week's game? He has superior athletes that make plays time and time again for him. He basically called one of two running plays or a short pass all day long. He wasn't aggresive at all. 4th and 6 inches calls aren't aggresive, they're common sense.

I think the fake punt was an option for the punter (like we had Blake do last year against MSU or somebody), not a gutsy call; Urban was furious at it.

The only explosive play of the game was Barrett's 40 yard run, and that was pretty obviously all on him, not a play call.

And don't get me started on "aggresive" Dantonio. His aggresive playcalls are usually pretty stupid. Until this year, he has just had a combination of luck and a great defense to bail him out.

Cranky Dave

November 26th, 2016 at 8:41 PM ^

And am curious to hear whether the staff and coaches on here agree. We had success on screens (minus Cole's face mask) but only ran 2. One jet sweep and a toss sweep to Evans. Isaac gotno carried. Everything between the tackles.


November 26th, 2016 at 8:55 PM ^

We don't have the speed to outrun OSU to the sideline, except for Chesson, McDoom, etc. So everything was bound to be run inside.

I agree that we could have run more screens.

Isaac didn't get any carries, maybe because he screwed up a pass protection early in the game. But it was mostly Smith and Evans, the top two guys on the depth chart. They tightened up the running back rotation in this game.

Cranky Dave

November 26th, 2016 at 8:41 PM ^

And am curious to hear whether the staff and coaches on here agree. We had success on screens (minus Cole's face mask) but only ran 2. One jet sweep and a toss sweep to Evans. Isaac gotno carried. Everything between the tackles.


November 26th, 2016 at 8:43 PM ^

I'm disappointed in how we used Peppers on offense overall this season (and his career). He is the most electric player Michigan has ever had, and we simply botched his potential use on offense. The only real success he ever had was against Rutgers. That 3rd down goalline call was indefensible. The playcalling overall is so frustrating because we have stretches of mastery and then just mind boggling stupid calls.

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November 26th, 2016 at 9:39 PM ^

was better at football. But by most electric player I basically mean player with most physical talent and ability with ball in his hands. Woodson's punt returns were good vision and great blocking. Peppers returns this year have been good vision and unreal athleticism. I am not going to blame Peppers one iota for the idiotic play calling and utilization over the last two years. His offensive failures are entirely on the shoulders of the coaching staff, and frankly a huge disappointment. I am confident if he went to an OSU or Clemson or Louisville, etc., he'd be standing on the podium in NYC with his Heisman this year.


November 26th, 2016 at 10:19 PM ^

Absolutely agree than Peppers was under- and mis-utilized on offense. I grew to hate seeing the Pepcat, knowing it would amount to nothing when he tried to run into the teeth of the D. Assuming Peppers can catch passes close to as well as he can catch punts, why not throw a screen to a Peppers in motion, or out in the flat? Get him the ball in space and let him do his thing.

And the most electric Wolverine with a ball in his hands in recent memory IMO was Denard. Woodson was outstanding as well, and I've watched M football long enough to have seen AC with the ball, that was exciting too.