Breakdown Sports - Coaching Points: Michigan vs OSU

Submitted by Space Coyote on November 26th, 2018 at 1:19 PM

I went into some depth with my thoughts on the game, still based off the original watch.

Offensive Summary:

  • Michigan believed based on film that their core playbook was sufficient for what they wanted to do offensively, and provided the highest likelihood for success (vs the idea of drastically altering things for one game in an effort to catch the opponent off guard, it's a risk balance equation)
  • Michigan did add some new wrinkles, as they do in most game. There were some things OSU hadn't seen on film that in theory were good additions. Mixed results overall, but the new wrinkles were basically the scope of wrinkles added week-to-week
  • Some plays that are in the playbook were missing, and I question some of that.
  • Gameplan going into the game was mostly sound - they rode what got them there - but did not adjust quick enough when defense started struggling
  • Don't like handling of backup QB. Other personnel issues aren't significant.

Defensive Summary:

  • Game plan going in was bad
  • Brown made quick adjustments and then extensive adjustments at half; the game snow balled on him though
  • OSU was extremely well prepared. They knew what parts of their core playbook they would start with, and understood Michigan's checks and adjustments and were consistently step-for-step with anything Brown threw at them
  • Pressure didn't get home, to small degree there was a schematic reason (to protect against the run), but mostly was about execution on OSU's part
  • Some questions about what to do going forward.


  • There are no excuses. Michigan got whooped. Schematically, adjustments, talent; and then it snowballed on them. I don't think either side of the ball needs to drastically change. I think they need to adjust some things, add a few new wrinkles to help when the game situation changes on both offense and defense, and do a good self-scout so that opponents aren't so prepared to change with you when you do.




November 26th, 2018 at 1:24 PM ^

I'm curious as to everyone's issue with the backup QB thing. We were down 3 scores and a 2pt conversion with about 6 mins left, why is this even a thing? I really don't see the big deal. 

Space Coyote

November 26th, 2018 at 1:30 PM ^

Because it splits reps in practice. Peters was quite obviously the primary backup, and was potentially needed in this game, yet Michigan is splitting those reps. On top of that, you are throwing Milton into a terrible position with little upside. I don't disagree the game was mostly out of reach at that point, but either Milton is your backup or not, and if he's not, then don't throw him in that situation (where he promptly threw an INT into double coverage behind protection that was getting beat most of the day).


November 26th, 2018 at 2:49 PM ^

I suspect the QB plan for Indiana (get comfortably ahead, put in Peters for a series or two, and then let Milton play much of the second half) had to be put off when the Indiana game was much closer than necessary.

Then when Michigan couldn't still couldn't stop Ohio State after Peters scored, they figured let Peters come out on a positive note, and get Milton some reps they'd been looking for while still preserving his redshirt.



November 26th, 2018 at 1:27 PM ^

Your very last point is what stands out to me.  Harbaugh & Co. don't seem to do a great job of putting themselves in the other staff's shoes and anticipating what they will do in response to what Michigan generally does. 

Another thought: Don Brown no doubt has pants that know more about football than I do.  But even I could see going into the Game that Haskins, OSU's short passing game, and OSU's use of crossing routes was going to fit very well (for the Buckeyes) with what Michigan usually does on defense.  I know you can't simply become a different unit in a week, but I was frustrated to see that Michigan seemed to do on defense exactly what one would have expected from watching them all year.  OSU's offense was the most talented unit Michigan faced all year, and Meyer is a truly great coach.  That wasn't going to work.

Space Coyote

November 26th, 2018 at 1:36 PM ^

I was surprised Brown was that comfortable rolling out Cover 1 early. He clearly knew there was a high likelihood he was going to need to adjust, as he did right away to zone, but I think it was a poor judgement to start the game and they really didn't have the wrinkles or self-scout needed to surprise OSU with anything. Rough game to watch defensively.


November 26th, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

We got outschemed on defense all day, which is shocking considering that Don Brown is our defensive coordinator. We lost every play pre-snap. They were getting the matchups they wanted with Gil and Watson 1-on-1 with much faster receivers. Devin Bush was totally neutralized-OSU was motioning to get him covering someone on the boundary, outside of the CBs, and then running plays to the middle/opposite side of the field. Haskins rarely had to even look to his second receiver, and even when he did he had all day to throw because our DTs were getting pushed back. When Gary and Chase got pressure Haskins could just step right up the middle to where the DTs should have been if they were winning their battles. Ryan Day deserves a ton of credit, they won the chess match. 

Space Coyote

November 26th, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

Agree, when the DEs were able to get around, Haskins was very comfortable and good stepping up into voids because the interior pressure failed.

It's also a good point about Bush. Michigan started putting him outside (as many said would fix coverage problems), he got picked on a little out there as well, but that opened things up in the middle. Unfortunately, you can't just have two of Devin Bush, so you pick your poison (move him out or keep him in).


November 26th, 2018 at 3:26 PM ^

Why was Gil playing?  Josh Ross has seemed to be the better alternative in every single game, at least according to the UFR grading and every comment I read.  Ross is faster, Gil was obviously being targeted because he was too slow to cover and yet Gil stayed in the game.  Seemed nuts to me, but I would appreciate any explanation anyone can provide.


November 26th, 2018 at 3:27 PM ^

Why was Gil playing?  Josh Ross has seemed to be the better alternative in every single game, at least according to the UFR grading and every comment I read.  Ross is faster, Gil was obviously being targeted because he was too slow to cover and yet Gil stayed in the game.  Seemed nuts to me, but I would appreciate any explanation anyone can provide.


November 26th, 2018 at 3:31 PM ^

The only problem with that is Brown handles his defense like we do normally. You're a high end recruit with talent. It's your job to guard that guy there across from you. 

Switching to a zone scheme, especially middle of a game, would be very tough on the players. I did like his partial zone he tried with the middle of the field, I just don't think the players were used to it and still got shelled. 



November 26th, 2018 at 5:26 PM ^

Like Oklahoma.

The best defenses (and offenses) for that matter at the college level and below tend to be pretty straightforward. As a coach and player, you know what the holes are in the coverage or run fits and practice the shit out of those issues so they aren't as problematic. You have some basic adjustments you can make if something is hurting you.


November 26th, 2018 at 4:58 PM ^

I like the way you are approaching this.  While none of us are anything remotely resembling experts, it does seem like a huge disconnect.  How was this defensive plan ever going to work?  It would be nice to understand the thinking behind it.  Apparently they were two steps ahead on the adjustments so there was no way M was going to recover defensively.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 26th, 2018 at 1:30 PM ^

Great post.  Agree or disagree, Space Coyote always brings thoughtful analysis.

Specific request:  Can Space Coyote or others offer thoughts on whether Michigan needs to be able to add a competent zone and zone blitz package going forward to deal with the Meyer/Day offense?

IOW, I am requesting expansion on the "add a few new wrinkles..." idea on the OP. 

My speculation is that what Meyer/Day do is really good at exploiting mismatches in a press man D.  Mixing in zone and zone blitz can help Michigan slow them down.  And right now Michigan does not use this stuff enough to be good at it (as seen on Saturday) and use it as an adjustment.  To slow down the new Meyer/Day offense maybe Michigan has to become a credible multiple D.

But I would love to see comments from others, like Space Coyote, with better X/O bona fides...

Space Coyote

November 26th, 2018 at 1:38 PM ^

They played some zone, it got burnt too. He has a lot of it in his playbook. One of the biggest issues is they couldn't get pass rush, and that limits a big chunk of the playbook on standard downs with getting burned so badly on those short crossing routes. Need to add some adjustments to defend those in different ways I think is the primary takeaway, and then the rest will fall into place.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 26th, 2018 at 1:54 PM ^

Yes, the lack of pressure from the d-line was the ball game, so it almost does not matter what scheme you use.  That was the ball game right there. 

Seemed like even with a decent pass rush, however, press man with one safety is still not a good way to go against crossing routes and mesh, given the match-ups.

Yeah they have zone coverages in the play book.  But they used them only infrequently in games  and, therefore, are not going to again be good at it against OSU when you have to use it. 

My speculation is that running a competent zone (won't be competent unless it becomes something you use maybe 30%+ of the snaps all year) would avoid a crossing route turning into a 25 yard gain, and would also force Haskins to process more.  Throwing in a zone blitz here and there could have done the same. 

[edit: reading the link was useful and addresses some of this].


November 26th, 2018 at 1:30 PM ^

Space - would really like to know your take on why our pass rush completely disapeared for this game.  Playing press man coverage with a one high safety is a recipe for a 62 point bomb if the pass rush cant get home at least periodically and if Haskins was touched once I missed it.

Therin lies the game IMO.  No pass rush = no Don Brown defense.


November 26th, 2018 at 2:01 PM ^

I havent looked at the game again (I am masochist, but even I have limits) but it seemed like OSU copied Indiana's strategy of doubling the DEs and leaving the DTs in one or one matchups.

But this seems like something that Don Brown should have been able to adjust for (e.g. using more stunts, or moving Gary inside, or blitzing more) so im not sure what else i am missing.


November 26th, 2018 at 1:32 PM ^


How similar was OSU offensively compared to last year when Haskins came into the game? I'm going strictly off memory but I recall a few big hitting crossing routes when he came in and am somewhat surprised Michigan didn't seem to have an answer for them this time around.

And secondly, how many adjustments has Michigan had to make defensively this year? I felt watching the game that the adjustments arguably made things worse. In other words, doing stuff you haven't really practiced or run in games isn't a recipe for success.

Space Coyote

November 26th, 2018 at 1:41 PM ^

They were pretty similar to when Haskins entered last year (although they were still more run heavy at that point because JT was getting the majority of the reps, but pass concepts similar). To be fair to Michigan, it wasn't really known how they were going to play with him at that point last year. This year they had tape.

Brown has made a lot of good adjustments in game and week-to-week. They've done some creative things to stop the slants (LINK) and they adjusted a bit in-game vs OSU. But OSU seemed to have the adjustments and checks downloaded, so it usually limited the effectiveness to a few snaps. Your playbook only goes so deep, so you can't do everything, this one just really snowballed on Michigan, especially when they could never get the pass rush home (and that's on the rush and the coverage)

The Mad Hatter

November 26th, 2018 at 1:37 PM ^

So a complete failure on all levels, with a little extra helping of failure from the defense.

That's why this loss is just so hard to take.  We witnessed, for really the first time in the Harbaugh era, a complete asskicking.  Our players were outplayed and our coaches were outcoached.

Yes, it's happened before, but there was always some mitigating factors (Durking checking out, Speight hurt, JOK throwing to Tacopants, etc).

This was a talented and (mostly) healthy team that was beat the fuck down.  I still can't make sense of it in my head.


November 26th, 2018 at 2:44 PM ^

PSU last year was an abject ass kicking too. We just wrote it off because the QB play was so bad. 

I'm not sure which game is the worst example of coaching in the Harbaugh at Michigan era but it seems to be between USC last year and OSU this year. At least OSU had stud athletes all over the field. USC... didn't.