Penn State Snowflakes: The Offense

Submitted by LSAClassOf2000 on November 4th, 2018 at 11:00 AM

This will be the thread for your snowflakes and hot takes regarding the offense and offensive playcalling.




November 3rd, 2018 at 7:07 PM ^

These mid games where we let teams hang are stressful. OSU and (gulp) playoff teams have weapons. 

But it seems like there’s another gear available if Michigan needs it. Really does. 

BTW fire Pep just cause. 


November 3rd, 2018 at 7:15 PM ^

Do you watch other college teams play at all? Georgia and Kentucky? Or OSU at home versus Nebraska? That’s part of most quality games with ranked teams—those not involving Alabama. Have you not seen Penn state play other teams? The last two teams to dominate them are Michigan and Michigan. 

Harbaugh grinds it. I wish people would get that. He’s not interested in the deep bombs. He wants his teams to crush the other team, physically, first. Some of us find that pretty fun.


November 3rd, 2018 at 8:24 PM ^

The problem with the theory that Michigan should just go ahead and score a bazillion points in the first half is that there's another team out there trying to keep them from doing that.  

The scoring comes from the grinding.  Michigan can't just wish itself points, it has to earn them.  Harbaugh's way is to establish the run and then punish the opposing team when it adjusts.  Your way, the RichRod way, doesn't allow that final demoralizing drive that pushes the enemy to despair.  LAst year, the RichRod "balls to the wall" gambling method would probably have been better than what Harbaugh tried, because he didn't have the tools for Harball.  This year, though, he has the horses to win the slow but sure way, and I find the complaining to be bizarre.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 3rd, 2018 at 9:00 PM ^

You are missing the point.  First, who on this board has been calling for a "RichRod method" (whatever that is)?

Against Wisc, MSU, and PSU Michigan dominated the 1st half, but did not really convert that dominance into a lot of points.  

This habit is not some sort of master plan to wear out the opposing D for later in the game.  It is just that the O kind of lets drives stall too often in the first half of games against teams with decent or better Ds.

Don't think the people pointing out that the offense is not scoring as much as it should in first half is saying that the offense is terrible.  In fact the offense is pretty good.  But there is still plenty of margin for getting even better in the last 3 regular season games. 

The pieces are starting to come together.  But it is still not fully engaged and developed to the level needed to win in the playoffs against teams like Clemson or Alabama.  Still some things that need to be improved, and some wrinkles that need to be added. 

Tl:DR:  Offense is pretty good, has a lot of weapons, and is improving every week.  Still has to get better over the rest of November. 


November 3rd, 2018 at 9:34 PM ^

RichRod ran exactly the kind of high-risk high-reward offense you are advocating.  His teams often scored a lot of points in the first half, but were unable to deal with the opponents' adjustments after halftime.  harbaugh is the opposite.  He sets up the foe for a second hlf in which he breaks the trends established in the first.  That is going to mean that Michigan will not be a great first-half team when it comes to scoring.  I can live with that, because the payoff is so impressive.

Of course there is room for improvement, and there would be if Michigan had scored 28 points in the first half and forteen in the second to keep you happy.  Alabama's defense is much like our offense, and we don't match up poorly against them at all.  

Tl:DR:  Offense is pretty good, has a lot of weapons, and is improving every week.  Still has to get better over the rest of November, but I disagree that one of those things needed is to try harder to score in the first half rather than the second.


November 4th, 2018 at 12:01 PM ^

These are mere words.  You claim that Michigan punishing the opposing team and establishing trends in the first half to exploit them in the second is false, and yet you provide no evidence for it (and ignore all of the evidence that it is true).    42-7 is a pretty impressive victory, and you don't like it.  Whatever.


November 3rd, 2018 at 11:08 PM ^

You're taking things too far with this 'explanation'.  Nobody said anything about running a RR offense.  But there were some plain shit calls in the first half that went nowhere - and started with no chance of going anywhere.  There's also a lot of play calls that never get made - easy yards aren't taken very often.  The best receiver and route runner on the team - Grant Perry - is simply not part of this offense.  There are no quick plays to get Evans or Hidden out in space, no toss sweeps or quick outs (we saw one tonight to Evans, and it went for a big chunk).  Need more of that rather than another Down G back cut into crashing LB's and safeties.

I love this offense.  I love the way it destroys, suffocates, eats alive, etc, the opponent.  But it can do more...  And, if Alabama is on the horizon, it will need to.

Durham Blue

November 3rd, 2018 at 11:52 PM ^

Well said.  You put into words what crept into my mind during the game.  But I also think Harbaugh wants to run it down their throat until he knows it won't work.  Thankfully it did work today and it has been very successful this season.  And the D is very good at protecting any kind of lead.  IDK, my hope is that the quick strike playbook is earmarked when the CFP run commences.


November 4th, 2018 at 12:06 PM ^

Merely arguing that the offence "can do more" isn't taking a controversial stance.  That's Captain Obvious stuff.  It's true that Michigan didn't break out much new against Penn State, but I'm happy to keep some things under wraps and only win by 35 against te #15 team in the country.

As for Grant Perry's lack of use, I also find it mysterious.  What I don't find is that it is sinister; some evidence that Michigan's coaches are doing it wrong.  We can agree to disagree on whether Michigan' offense is well-coached.


November 3rd, 2018 at 10:00 PM ^

It looks to me like they pretty much do the same thing all game. But the defense being so damn good forces their defense out on the field so much that the grind turns them to dust by the 3rd/4th quarter.

Then, our drives don't stall as much because we're getting larger chunks per play. They have to respond to this, making stuff available that maybe wasn't there in the first half. It builds on itself because the opponent's offense also has to start taking risks, which leads to pick sixes, and such.

I like it.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 3rd, 2018 at 11:08 PM ^

There is a lot of truth in this.  It is not like M brings out some different offense for the 2nd half.  It is the same offense, with some smart 2nd half adjustments.

But isn't the main reason the offense has been much better in the 2nd half at converting plays/drives into points mostly due to the incredible D?

Against Wisc, MSU, and Penn State, the opposing Ds did get worn down later in games.  But that is not really because Michigan's O wore them down in the 1st half.

It is mostly because Michigan's D is so good that opposing Ds get very little rest between drives.  Opposing Os cannot sustain drives, so their Ds are on the field way too long.

Anyway, converting more scores in first halfs does not require the Harbaugh abandons the kind of offense M has been running.  Just requires a few select misdirection plays, or passes to TEs,  in the seam, etc.., here and there.  I bet we see more of that in the 1st half against OSU. 


November 3rd, 2018 at 11:13 PM ^

Going to slightly disagree with you here, a little.  M's offense, despite leaving points on the board, is still controlling the ball quite well in the first half.  They still run it down your throat for 30-40 yard drives before they stall.  That eats the opponent D as much as anything.  

It's a well balanced effort between D and O right now.  But yeah, the offense could do more...

Ghost of Fritz…

November 4th, 2018 at 12:06 AM ^

I do not think we disagree at all.  If M had a terrible O unable to get very many first downs at all in 1st halfs then opposing Ds would not ever wear down (see MSU offense this year).  So it does help that M is able to rack up yards and several 40 yrd drives (if not a ton of points) in 1st halfs. 

But that only works well when your D is as good as M's D, and the opponent can't get many 40 yard drives too.  So that really leaves M's incredible D as the main reason that opposing O's eventually wear down. 

Further, M is a realistic playoff team now.  And for teams at that level saying 'hey, we got a lot of yards in the first half (but did not actually score much)' is not really so great.  Its o.k.  But it is not really the goal

So I guess I have a high standard.  But that is appropriate given that the goal this year is the finish November better than in 2016, get into the playoff, and then be good enough to beat Clemson or Alabama.

I mean can anyone really believe that 'we got a lot of yards but not many points' in the first half is going to be good enough against Alabama? 

Fortunately, the offense has gotten much better over the last 4 weeks and is already pretty good.  If they continue to add small wrinkles, improve, etc., they really can be ready to beat Alabama.



November 3rd, 2018 at 11:08 PM ^

This is on point. Any fan who wasn't disappointed in leaving points on the field against MSU during the first half is crazy. The game was 7-7, and elite teams could've actually held on to the dropped pick, or an elite quarterback would've completed the open pass to a streaking receiver after Watson had an uncharacteristic slip today.


we can appreciate that this has been one of the best defenses to play on any team in at least a decade, and that we have a solid offensive plan to pair with it and grind out the game. At the same time, we can wish for a few more solid executions, a few deep balls when it looks like the opposing defense has figured out our base running play, or a few surprise plays (screens, rpos, etc.) that go for 20 yard chunks when it seems like we're stalling. VarBlue has a great post pointing out some of the offensive possibilities


We've definitely seen a mediocre offense let down the #1 defense before, but I definitely agree that it looks like this team has all the tools to put it all together.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 4th, 2018 at 9:15 AM ^

Don't think that is the right question...

Try this question:  If I told you Michigan would beat MSU 21-7, but in fact M easily could have scored 35 or 38 but just sort of left 14 to 17 points on the field in the first half, would you think Michigan is ready to beat Alabama?

Don't get me wrong people.  M has a very good offense right now.  Sooo much better than in week 1. 

But Harbaugh now has M on the cusp of the playoff.  The bar gets higher. 

The metric is no longer beating MSU, Wisc., and Penn State (all somewhere in the 10-25 rank).  The metric now is beating Clemson and Alabama.  And the O, while already pretty good, will have to get better than 'lots of yards but few points in the 1st half'  to do that. 

An offense that ends up scoring a lot on the 2nd halfs, racking up about 400 offensive yards, but perhaps fails to finish drives well or score much in the 1st half, is not a problem at all--if you are playing 2018 Penn State, Wisc, or MSU.  But it does make getting the W against Alabama or Clemson much less likely.

The O is already pretty good.   And the pieces are there to jump up to the 'holy cow its impossible to stop these guys' level.  O has improved almost every week this season.  No reason to think that improvement process will stop.  


November 3rd, 2018 at 8:10 PM ^

Yes, I watch those teams. Let's face it, though: Michigan is playing at an elite level. We think it's time we shoulder aside OSU and go to the playoff. To compete in the playoff you have to take some punches, even with our good defense, and score points.

I love the grinding. I'm not complaining that they're trying to run the ball; I just wanted to see another TD in there. PSU got one mistake when BWat fell down and whiffed a pass that McSorley can hit 8 times out of 10. He hits that and Michigan has a 7 point lead. Tua doesn't miss that throw. And, yeah, that's the kind of neighborhood we're hanging out in right now.

The offense has improved significantly. Patterson had some great throws and no bad ones that I can think of. By the fourth quarter the OL is crushing guys. 

It's probably enough to win the B1G. But I'm thinking ahead, too. And I think Michigan has that gear available if it needs it. 


November 4th, 2018 at 10:18 AM ^

There is no logical or rational reason why your original post should be disagreed with or criticized. It is simply objectively true that our offense- today - needs to be better to beat a Clemson or Alabama in the playoffs. That is obvious to any football watcher, or should be. We can be super happy about our team and its offense and still be objective, which you are being. 


November 3rd, 2018 at 7:09 PM ^

Ruiz signaled first down on a touchdown.  Have to work on that. 


Wish one time they would have a WR screen where the receiver didnt catch the ball flat footed but moving towards the line.  Pretty nit picking at that point, though. 


November 3rd, 2018 at 7:12 PM ^

This offense has some lingering jankiness that keeps them from quite paying off the statistical dominance into points at times, but damn, it feels like we're close