Michigan First downs in the First Half

Submitted by tasnyder01 on October 20th, 2013 at 2:29 AM

Since I've seen a lot of arguments regarding what we do on first downs, and a few people think that Borges still called a bad game re: first downs, I've tried to quantify the play-calls on our first downs through the first half. (Sorry about the table. It's not working for some weird reason?)

PA to gallon Gallon drops it
Toussaint run 9 yards
Pass Complete to Gallon for 15 yards
Toussaint Run 10 yards
Gardner Run 13 yards and TD
PA screen 70 yards Gallon to IND 11
Toussaint Run -4 yards
Toussaint run 5 yards
Pass INC
Green run 7 yards
Green rush 2 yards
Pass Incomplete
Pass attempt Sack for -5 yards
Green run 3 yards
Pass To Gallon, 17 yards
Toussaint run 5 yards
Pass INC (to Gallon)
Pass to Gallon for ten yards
Green rush -1 yard
Gardner rush 14 yards, and new first down
Pass 12 yards, to Jackson
That's a 10/9/2 pass/rush/Gardner-run ratio. (I can't recall if those runs were designed or scrambles, so I'm putting them in their own category).  That's a pretty good ratio, and there were never more than 2 first-down runs in a row. We opened the game up with a PA to Gallon, and most of those passes on first down were PA.
I really don't see how anyone could say this wasn't a great game in terms of playcalling, but that's besides the point. The main point is to quantify this new style of play-calling, and to show that Borges did adjust to the failures of the PSU game, or at least the first-down playcalling failure.
Now, will this type of play-calling continue? I don't see how it couldn't. This new balanced attack just put up record numbers, whereas the old style put up the wrong type of record numbers. And to those saying "we only played IU, so these stats don't mean anything", I really don't know what to tell you. We just broke records, records which also got posted on horrible defenses. Yes, IU is not good on defense. We still put up numbers that were better than anyone else who has ever played crappy defenses. And in the passing game, which I hope shows Borges where we need to go in the future.



October 20th, 2013 at 6:14 PM ^

I thought he was pretty good too. He looked a little shaky here and there, not very polished, but did a great job fighting through the whistle and in some cases even though he got beat initially, he was able to recover and still get a good shove on a guy.

For whatever reason, I was thinking back to the 1v1 drill video that got released during fall camp and I remember some of the more observant posters say that Kalis was slow off the ball. That, it seems, was foreshadowing of doom to come. Kalis's few snaps this game looked pretty rough again. He almost false started on a couple and other times he was noticeably slow off the snap and let guys come to him. Still plenty of time for him to work through his issues though.


October 20th, 2013 at 3:24 AM ^

The way this blog and forum has behaved the last week, sheesh. The last thing they want is a rational analysis of data. All I've seen around here the last week has been an all-out conniption because we lost one game, on the road, at Penn State. Never mind that it's a road game against a conference opponent who recruits well. And nevermind the fact that Michigan wins if not for ALL of the following being true:

Gave up 80-yard drive in less than 1 minute including perfect passes from true freshman QB that were good by inches.

Missed 50-yd field goal at the end of regulation.

Blocked 40-yd field goal in overtime.

Missed 33-yd field goal in overtime.

Failed to stop on 4th-and-1 in overtime.


To string all that together into a loss required some serious bad luck -- again, on the road, against a quality conference opponent. Yeah, I didn't agree with all the calls either in that games, especially the third down play in the first overtime when Gardner just planted in the middle of the field for a long field goal attempt. But, empirically, it's hard to argue with what they got. Michigan had to be very unlucky to lose that game.

Borges has been fine. To expect an offensive line with three new starters, chocked with youth on the interior, to just go dominate running the ball is foolish. The offense has been fine, and Borges has been fine. We have a loss because we have a QB who hasn't started that much who has a serious issue with turning over the ball, and because we were VERY unlucky in that Penn St. game.

But this is not the place for empiricism. This is the place for wailing and gnashing of teeth. What's that you say, we set an all-time school record for yards and barely won a shootout game? Well, one thing's for sure, when the subject is Al Gorgeous after a game like this: Mgoblog is NOT impressed.


October 20th, 2013 at 8:13 AM ^

I agree with much of what you wrote, but any "rational analysis" has to include what I understand to be the worst RB performance (27 carries, 27 yards) in the modern era of UMich football.

I don't know who (Borges / O-line / Touissant / Brady-behind-the-scenes) is at fault there, but I tend to believe that a more balanced and unpredictable offensive game plan would've made bad luck irrelevant.

Red is Blue

October 20th, 2013 at 9:22 AM ^

What was presented is a rational analysis.  If you've got a preconceived notion, the rational thing to do is pick out and analyze the data that supports your idea. Just to be clear, I'm not supporting what happened last week.  But, to try and invalidate people's reactions because it is based on the limited data of one game (which BTW I don't think is true, because Akron and UConn also played a role), by presenting an opposing set of limit data seems inconsistent.  It is just as bad to say "Al Borges: Vindicated" based on the IU game as it was to say "Al Borges:  Fired" based on the PSU game.


October 20th, 2013 at 10:28 AM ^

And Michigan State, Iowa, 3/4s of UTL I, and most of the Sugar Bowl ....

Oossibly throw in ND land Nebraska last year and QBs regressing.

There is a track of evidence at away games. This is driving the open questioning.

I am not necessarily calling for Borges' head on a pitchfork in the Blockham's back yard, but clearly Borges and Funk need to be put on a "performance plan" until these things stop happening and we see clear consistent improvement or they are asked to move on.

snarling wolverine

October 20th, 2013 at 10:43 AM ^

So basically, whenever the offense has a bad game, it's the coaches' fault?  Is it possible that sometimes the offense just has a bad game, and it's not really any one person's fault?  We seem much more level-headed when it comes to our analysis of the defense.  It's had its share of bad games too, but we don't fly off the handle when they happen.  But when the offense plays poorly, somehow it's the worst thing in the world and heads must roll everytime.  Sometimes it's hard to believe we've won over three-fourths of our games with this staff in charge the way people constantly complain about it.   

As for QBs "regressing," you don't think Gardner is coming along?  I think he's played very well the last three weeks overall.



October 20th, 2013 at 12:45 PM ^

Its not level-headedness that prevents them from criticizing Mattison, its lack of understanding of defensive principles, and the lack of a proper vocabulary. If Brian were to picture page "quarters coverage" as extensively as "buddle screen" or "zone read option", you can bet they'd be calling for quarters more often.
As it is, we get "play tighter coverage" and "blitz more". Well, we probably don't have the secondary to be able to blitz a lot more, especially really exotic blitzes that require he DBs to play man. And the tightness of coverage relies on the skill of the coverage man. Stribling can play great D and still give up a bomb. Someone else might play his zone properly but not be able to break on the guy who has entered it fast enough. But most of the board doesn't know this. It just looks like Mattison called a "soft defense".


October 20th, 2013 at 2:03 PM ^

that isn't working called over and over with no effective in game adjustment is the specific trend and issue leveled against Borges.

I think Funk gets one more year to get his recruits up to speed really.

Keep in mind the difference for an occasional bad game for Borges and one for Mattison is Mattison is a key recruiter and the defensive staff has a much better history of successful in game adjustments.

snarling wolverine

October 20th, 2013 at 9:36 AM ^

I tend to believe that a more balanced and unpredictable offensive game plan would've made bad luck irrelevant.

I don't think PSU was Borges's best game as a playcaller, but still, if you look at the Mathlete's analysis of the game, there were three different points in the 4th Q/OT where we had a 90+% chance of winning and we didn't.   At each of those points when we were super-close to victory and didn't finish the job, it wasn't the offense that was on the field.   People have singled Borges out like he was personally responsible, when clearly each unit of the team let us down at various points.  Apparently, there have only been six teams in all of college football in the last 10 years to go 80 yards in the final minute of a game with no timeouts - that's how rare that occurrence was.  And then the FG unit had three chances to put the game to bed and failed all three times.  Blame the whole staff for that game if you will, not one guy.  Or just acknowledge that it was one of those insane games that happens once in a blue moon.




October 20th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

"We’re going to try and do it every week. As soon as we have a bad game, you guys are going to be bashing us again.”

It was the bashing, not the facts, that many of us objected to. And anyone who says there wasn't a lynch mob out there is blind. Those people deserve ridicule. We lost a four-OT game and they peed themselves. 




October 20th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

Last week was pretty bad around here (and really, everywhere else M football is discussed).  Fans need to stop projecting all their bad memories onto the current team.  It's not the 2013 team's fault if the RR teams always went into a tailspin after the first loss.  This has not happened under a Hoke-led team, so there is no reason to assume it will now.




October 20th, 2013 at 3:37 AM ^

Who has said Borges called a bad game against Indiana? I haven't seen that said but maybe it has. I am curious who is saying that, or is this nothing but a strawman argument you are making?

What I have seen being said is that the opponent was Indiana who has a terrible defense. Therefore, it is hard to take seriously the numbers from today. That is a reasonable argument. Indiana gave up 42 to MSU who has had a dreadful offense all year.

Lets see if Borges goes back into his shell for MSU before acting like he has suddenly seen the light.



October 20th, 2013 at 6:46 AM ^

Called game. IU isn't an awful team as years past and I think their fast break offense will keep them in most games.

Much like against PSU we clearly were the better team, but unlike PSU(bad play call/coaching) it was the offensive style that kept IU in the game


October 20th, 2013 at 9:13 AM ^

They have the 121st ranked total defense and 112th ranked scoring defense both of which are significantly worse than any other team Michigan has played this year (CMU, Akron, UConn included).

Indiana is good-to-great on offense, but worst ever on defense. Almost an exact replica of 2010 Michigan!

Red is Blue

October 20th, 2013 at 9:30 AM ^

Granted IU is bad on D.  But, the rankings don't necessarily allow you to make a relative comparison between them and other individual teams unless they've played similar scheduled wrt the quality of the opposing offenses they've faced.  Also, IU plays so up-tempo that their D potentially faces a lot more plays which also hurts the ranking of the scoring D.


October 20th, 2013 at 9:36 AM ^

A team who scores in 1 min as often as we did under Rich Rid and as IU does will have bad defenses. IU's coach clearly has said I can't beat teams with better talent by playing them straight up.

My initial comment was a tip of the cap to the coach because he has a game plan he can pull off some upsets with.


October 20th, 2013 at 8:46 AM ^

I disagree.  I think  it was Indiana's defense that put up all those records.  Not since GERG has there been such a pathetic lack of defense in the B1G.  Pathetic.

snarling wolverine

October 20th, 2013 at 9:16 AM ^

Indiana's defense is obviously pretty bad, but prior to yesterday, it had never been this bad.

Against PSU, it gave up 24 points and 410 yards.  

Against MSU, it gave up 42 points and 473 yards.

We scored 63 and gained 751 yards.  That's an order of magnitude better than everyone else on their schedule has done.  



Mr. Yost

October 20th, 2013 at 9:07 AM ^

Why the need to defend Borges for THIS game?

Anyone who says he didn't call a good game is an idiot and you shouldn't waste your time trying to pull stats to prove what is CLEARLY correct.

That's like me saying "winter is coming" and defending my point with "it is getting cold, it's gettting darker earlier, birds are flying south, bug aren't as noticable, leaves are falling." No, it's October 20th...winter is a couple of months away. The date is all that's needed.

In your point, we scored 63 points without OT. Anyone who has a problem with the game Borges called vs. IU isn't worth the time of day.

Mr. Yost

October 20th, 2013 at 9:14 AM ^

...if you're saying this to justify Borges in previous games, most notably, PSU...then you've got work to do.

There's nothing that he could've done vs. Indiana at home that would justify the poor job he did vs. PSU or even in some of the earlier wins.

He's been erratic all season, just like Gardner. We just have to hope that he's officially scraped the MANBALL plan and he's going to stick to the spread as the primary offense with pro-style stuff sprinkled in.

As for his playcalling, it was a lot better. More 1st down passes, more screens, more off tackle and LESS stretch plays. As long as we stay in manageable down and distance I think most people are happy. It's when we run a stretch play on 1st down for a -3 yard loss that we all scream...and you should too.

Having Gardner in manageable situations puts SO much pressure on the defense. When Borges calls plays and we don't get that, he handcuffs the whole offense. Gardner isn't a threat to run and the playaction that we run so often doesn't work. That's a HUGE chunk of what we do!


October 20th, 2013 at 12:08 PM ^

This game DOES vindicate Borges in that it proves he is not a stupid person, which is what a lot of the people on here were led to believe. In the Podcast, Brian and Ace said something to the effect of, "I will never be comfortable with this guy calling plays". This is complete lunacy. That guy just put up 63 points and more yards than we've ever seen.

Of course it doesn't make up for the PSU game, but it should prove to you guys that he is not the worst offensive coordinator ever. That's all. And it seems pretty simple.


October 20th, 2013 at 9:22 AM ^

I could tell we passed a lot more on 1stdown. This is what ppl on the blog have been calling for since Akron. And it worked exactly like we thought it would. I just don't know why it took Borges Psu and 27 for 27 to figure it out. Instead we played to our weakness and it cost us an L. Just like MSU, Iowa, and OSU games before....

Let's see if he sticks with this type if game plan. he has done this before and reverted back to manball fail. Let's see if he continues with more shotgun and 1st down pa. I'm willing to bet he puckers up at MSU and crashes into the interior OL again for the entire first half


October 20th, 2013 at 10:02 AM ^

To add a little bit to this, we've been slightly more successful passing to get first downs as well, at least by my count, but strangely our use of this strategy - by the numbers - is far more varied throughout the year than rushing in this respect. Of course, there are numerous things that contribute to that - down and distance, run blocking issues, etc...


October 20th, 2013 at 10:49 AM ^

Borges' game plan against MSU will be completely different because it will be a completely different game. It will be a grind it out game, and if we get 20 points that will likely be enough to win. TOs will be our doom. Borges will smartly call a safer game (I don't mean run on every 1st down). If it works all is well. If we lose, Borges will be criticized for not using the IU game plan.


October 20th, 2013 at 11:06 AM ^

For a huge percentage of mogokids, Borges will be criticized no matter what he does.  The offense had a monster game yesterday -- and people use that as grounds for retroactive criticism, going back to THAT trick play against ND last year, and THAT trick play against MSU two years ago.  It's laughable, really.

BRIAN -- any of the MODS -- install an "ignore" or "block user" function on this website.  PLEASE.  


October 20th, 2013 at 11:26 AM ^

you say you don't mean run on every 1st down but you know safe means manball running on 1st down and TFLs...that equals 3rd and 13s which are NOT SAFE.

I can guarantee you that UM run/pass will be more run heavy vs. MSU on 1st down and they will blitz the A gap like crazy and get multiple TFLs in the 1st half.

Why should the gameplan play into this? Why not PA pass or straight up shotgun  on 1st down just like we did against IU? Would it not be more effective against an MSU team loading the box and leaving DBs on islands? Would manball be more effective than the screens we actually threw this game. The quick hitters to gallon in the flat? the rub route to get Funchess the edge outside the numbers? All these faster developing plays on the edge that WE DID NOT SEE vs PSU...

why does reverting back to manball up the geu and 3rd and 13s seem like the better strategy against a load the box team with ball hawks at CB??? I ask why bc we know we will see it in 2 weeks. UM will go "safe" and put Gardner in very tough 3rd and longs..




October 20th, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

Remember 2011 v. MSU.

I don't have the numbers, but I did a breakdown a after it happened. We passed on most first downs, and it backfired. Denard had a terrible passing day. On those first downs, we had something like 2 penalties, 1 INT that iced the game, to go along with horrible numbers but one long TD.

So, Borges has already called an aggressive pass-first and early game against MSU on the road. You guys started the Fire Borges movement after it backfired. This is the problem with criticisms of coordinators: they are almost 100% reliant on outcome, especially since, on passes, TV doesn't show you what we have downfield. Doesn't show you whether the call got guys open or not.

Anyways, he could play it safer, if he is gun why after 2011. Or, he could open it up, which he wanted to do at their house but couldn't do to a lack of a passer. I suspect he'll go in guns blazing. No better way to beat a blitz than to protect and throw into those vacated areas.


October 20th, 2013 at 12:35 PM ^

And that does not work with a marginal OL. I'll take your word on the 2011 game but Gardner is a better passer than denard. Sure he throws bad ints which could kill us but his best chance is throwing more in 1st down. Putting him in obs passing downs is exactly what you don't want. We gotta avoid 3rd and longs and I am convinced that 1st down passes to funchess and gallon are the key to 3rd and short. Running on early downs consistently will lead to 3rd and longs.

MSU will sell out to stop the run. This is a fact. We shoul spread them out and go shotgun to give the team it's best chance. Or go unbalanced and throw a quick pa pass like we did vs IU. We have the play calls, we just saw them vs IU. Much more creativity in getting the ball to playmakers in the flats.


October 20th, 2013 at 12:52 PM ^

I agree. Passing on early downs can be a good thing. But again, it will depend on outcome for you guys. If we have a terrible day like in 2011 on first down passing, you won't say, "Good game plan, bad execution, bad luck", you'll say, "why not run Gardner more on first down when that was the only thing that was working?" There wont be any RPS +, for wide open guys who the QB doesn't see or who the line doesn't block long enough to hit.

FWIW, Gardner is a better passer than Denard, which is why I think Borges will open with a similar plan to the one in 2011. We just have to hope it works early, which will serve to soften up their defense, pull the safeties back, and reduce the frequency of blitzes.


October 20th, 2013 at 2:06 PM ^

I, for one, never had a problem with the 2011 MSU gameplan.  I don't know why it gets cited as one of Borges's weaker ones.  2011 Iowa and 2012 OSU, I can understand the criticism, but in '11 MSU, we took what the defense gave us.  MSU shut down the run and dared Denard to beat them with his arm, and we tried that.  We weren't successful (partly because of the poor weather conditions) but I don't think we'd have been any more successful running the ball 50 times.  To beat a Narduzzi defense, you've got to pass to set up the run.