Questions about MSU defense

Submitted by massblue on January 2nd, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Three questions about MSU defense.

1.  Are they playing a version of Bear defense that Ryan ran in Chicago?  I remember that they would load the box as well and would not give QBs any time to complete a pass down field.

 

2.  Does one need elite CB to run the MSU/Bear defense?  I suppose the answer is yes at pro level, but how about college level?

 

3.  Are MSU's CBs and Safeties really fast and quick or is it the scheme and technique that let them play at high level?  Pressure up front is a big help to them but it seemed to me that the pressure up front was not as much of a factor in shutting down the passing game last night (compared to what happened to us or OSU).

 

Comments

AriGold

January 2nd, 2014 at 10:34 AM ^

they played right into the strength of MSU's defense and went away from the pass game that I thought was working pretty well for them...MSU has been killing teams all year that try to run on them, I have no idea why Shaw thought that his team could be the differnce maker...I am prediciting that Standford will go back to mediocrity once Harbaugh's recruits are all gone

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 10:36 AM ^

Every offense that didn't flat out beat up on a defense went "conservative" and had terrible play calling. This is what I mean when I say the OCs are the easiest scape goats in all of sports, people think they know better, and they understand the problems, etc. The next time I actually hear someone talk about the adjustments the defense made to stop some of the things that the offense was doing well originally will be the first. But it's always easy to complain in hindsight. If it worked once and they tried something else, they should have stuck with what was working. If it worked once and they kept doing it and it didn't work, then they should have gone to something else. That's the simplicity with which a lot of the fans that think they know better than OCs works.

I just find it funny that there are so many people that know so very little about something that can be so critical and act like they do know more. But apparently every OC that doesn't have great offensive output every game is just terrible and forgets how to call plays and things.

snarling wolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:08 PM ^

I still like Shaw a lot.  I don't see Stanford as a team loaded with talent all over the place, outside of perhaps the OL.  I think they did very well to win the Pac-12 this year.

A few playcalls weren't the best (which can be said for just about any coach), but still, they had the ball with a chance to win the game with 2 minutes left - hardly an embarrassing performance.

 

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:04 AM ^

So you don't see the comparison? Other than say the insistence on running into the line over and over again when its hardly gaining you anything positive (Stanford's longest run in the second half was four yards), similar to Michigan against Nebraska or Penn State? At least in our bowl game Al Borges acknowledged that he (and lets be honest you were as well) was wrong earlier in the season to continue slamming backs into the line when it was never going to yield anything but a yard or two. 

Meanwhile, according to you, the OC is almost never at fault for anything that goes wrong on offense and his entire gameplan is usually flawless, with perhaps one or two plays being questionable, but on second thought, yeah I see what he was doing there. Execution! Youth! 

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:25 AM ^

But I can exaggerate your position on this as well, you just want every team to go to a spread air raid offense in-game if they aren't running the ball successfully, because it's as easy as changing the playbook in a video game. See, exaggerating someone's view is rather easy.

Stanford has a style of play, they run the ball and set up play action. You can't simply abandon it completely. I wasn't in love with Stanford's play calling, but people using it as a complete scapegoat for why they lost are fooling themselves.

I'm not getting into the Michigan stuff with you again, because I'm annoyed with debating you and I think others on this blog are as well. I never said the OC is almost never at fault for anything that goes wrong on offense, or that the gameplan is usually flawless. I never said anything close to that, actually. But it's much more complicated than people make it seem. It's not as simple as "pass is working, let's pass". There are other things teams see, and they try to attack things within their scheme. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but no college OC is going out there and calling plays without reason.

Yup, execution is a big part of it. Youth sometimes is a reason execution suffers. And all that is on the coaches too (God I hate the fact that I have to reiterate that in every post I make about execution). But I'm done having this conversation with you. You have your style of debate which I find annoying, and frankly I don't enjoy talking with you. I think you're an overreactive troll that is rude to people with differing opinions and you continue to use strawman logic and continue to be a debbie downer, negative nancy poster in everything you write, as if by you saying something more and being more negative and spitting the same things time and time again is anything but annoying. We get it, you don't like the OC. You can move on to filling your posts with other things now.

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And before you respond, because I know you love to talk about word count in my posts because frankly I try to explain things instead of use poor logic or unfounded information, the word count before this sentence was 353.

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:34 AM ^

That's been your whole tired, defense of our OC all season: Read my column/long response! See how I break down the plays! See how they make sense in a textbook sort of way! Now that's why I think we should keep Al Borges! (Yes, you bring up execution, but this doesn't seem to matter as much to you because you come to the same conclusion here that you do with the playcalling). 

Honestly, as long as you continue to post the nonsense you do, I'll continue to respond (I actually enjoy some of your columns, I just find your conclusions to be silly). 

Stanford backs had 14 carries for 13 yards in the second half before the pivotal, final play. Before the final drive Stanford had 11 carries for four yards in the second half. 

So on the pivotal final play, they plowed into the line and were stuffed. And before that, they decided to run the ball three times. 

So in this case it goes beyond simple execution and into coaching: Why continue to do something that simply is not working? Because that's what the coach/OC decided and thus the failure is his fault. 

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:45 AM ^

So that's nice.

And you way over-simplify the things I say, just like you over-simplify most of the things you talk about. You continue to claim I speak in a vacuum ("textbook sort of way"), despite the fact that I have a better understanding of how things work outside of that than you do. You take parts of my post and act like it's all I've said, and do it time and again. You talk like I only speak of specific plays, which is inaccurate. And then you insult. Rinse and repeat, there is a response from you.

I didn't agree with Stanford's handling of the final drive, but I do understand it. They were trying to get a first down with a defense that was playing back (until the final play) before getting into a quicker paced offense, it's how they work. They weren't going to do something completely new and foreign right there. They went to their bread-and-butter against a defense they thought was playing the pass. When MSU knew teams were passing all year, teams not only failed to convert, they got killed, Stanford just wanted to get something going first and maybe pop a long run, I understand it even if I don't necessarily agree with it.

What happened so far the rest of the half is only part of the equation as well. There is a lot more information that goes into what a team calls in certain situations, and it's far from all on the play calls, as you want to make it seem.

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:10 PM ^

"I didn't agree with Stanford's handling of the final drive, but I do understand it."

 
I know. I have a nice time-saver for you: Instead of typing out really long posts, you could just type:
 
I did/didn't agree with Team X/Coach X's handling of the game/play/final drive, but I do understand it.
 
This is exactly my point. Any football person can "understand" or explain a sequence that ends up poorly, which is why I always find your conclusions so wrong.
 
David Shaw/Mike Bloomgren could simply say after the game "Well, we've been successful on the ground all year, so we went with the strategy that got us here and it didn't work. It happens". And he could break it down and show us how it should have worked and why it was a good call the same way you do for Al Borges after his offense puts up less than 200 yards. But it doesn't change the fact that the most relevant evidence (the entire half leading up to that point against the actual team they were playing) said it was a bad idea.
 

MI Expat NY

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:14 AM ^

It's equally annoying when coaches seem to think play calling is never the problem.  

In a game of relatively equally matched talent, it's usually somewhere in the middle between players unable to execute a solid game plan and coaches being unable to put forth a workable game plan.  

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:35 AM ^

People just put way more emphasis on it then they should, and discuss it without logic or real understanding of how the game works. Certainly, gameplans could be better. Certainly, with the benefit of hindsight, play calls could be much better. But there is logic and reason behind coaches calling plays. You don't have to like them, you don't have to agree with them.

I would personally do a lot of things differently than a lot of playcallers do, including different than Borges. But I also understand that he has a system, gameplan, scouting, philosophy, strengths and weaknesses - just like any other OC - and they have to play within those constraints. That's where most fan logic fails.

To honestly think fans are better fit than coaches that spend 80+ hours a week working with their team and scouting opponents and understand the nuances of football signficantly more than the vast majority of fans and know what to look for based on their play calls and their scouting and game planning, which fans do not because they aren't privy to that information is borderline asinine. The fact that so many people not only just question some of the things coaches do, which is understandable, but downright say it was wrong, is asinine. I disagree with many things coaches do, but acknowledge the limited scope of my knowledge of the things they know, not just because they know football better, but because of all the other things.

MI Expat NY

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:48 AM ^

I guess this has always been my thing with your defenses of Borges.  I get where you're coming from.  You're a coach.  You know that every play ever designed has some logical basis.  And there is no OC who makes it to the D1 level that will put together a game plan without a reason for its ultimate design.  So you only want to view through that prism of what was Borges' logic for that play design or that play's role in the overall scheme or game plan.  This is a coach's mentality.  I get it.  I grew up around tons of coaches, I understand how they think.  

So it becomes easy for you to sit back and listen to complaints about "play-calling" or a specific play that didn't work and simply reject the criticism as coming from someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.  But what you miss is that you don't need to know the underlying logic of each and every play and how they fit together to recognize when something doesn't work.  Borges and co have had too many utter failures on offense for there NOT to be play calling and scheme deficiencies.  That you can identify a logical reason for why these failures occurred is almost immaterial.  At some point you have to see the forest for the trees.  

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:12 PM ^

And that it is civil, seriously, so while I disagree with your conclusion, +1.

That said, I do disagree with your conclusion. The fact that there is logic to the play calling leads to the issue likely being something else. While play calls are rarely optimal for any team, and getting into more optimal play calls is a thin line that separates some OCs from others, rarely is that the significant difference, in my mind.

Take MSU's defense, which we have a thread on. If it was about play calling, Narduzzi's defense would get eaten up. Stanford's offense would have stalled all year. Both those units are vanilla, predictable, stubborn, etc. So then why do they have success? Because they teach the philosophy and the scheme and the techniques well. The playbook is the playbook, it's designed to work, the plays have logic, the coaches understand most of what's going on. From the start, where I have been critical of this staff if you go back and read my stuff, has been with their ability to teach. Now, I think there are underlying constraints and limitations to this as well, but that, to me, screams of the issue.

It is execution, but it's execution based on a number of factors that include the coaches properly instilling the knowledge of scheme and technique and then the players not translating it to the field. It's on both. I freely have and do acknowledge that. But it is my belief that execution, much more than scheme, much more than playcalling, is the issue. And I think there is significant evidence to prove that when it comes to every single system and team. That is my stance, and maybe I don't state the 2nd part enough, but that has been my stance from the start.

Now, all that said, I've been on the fence about the offensive staff (I said after PSU that I wanted Funk to be let go, so there's my apologist stance) for their ability to teach, but I think the mitigating factors are enough to let them play it out another year (with Funk, I wouldn't be upset if he sticks around, despite my personal belief with limited knowledge of the situation), because I put more weight on those things and beleive the coaching staff, Hoke especially, is there every day to have a better feel for what the actual reasons are. If they don't improve next year than yes, they need to go, but it won't be because they called bad plays.

MI Expat NY

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:53 PM ^

I guess my question is do you believe a coach is ever simply bad at designing and calling plays?  I seriously think you can't rise to the level of D1 OC without being able to put together plays and a game plan without some level of logical reasoning.  Yet there are OC's that get fired every year because the offenses are outright bad.  Is it your opinion that these guys are pretty much awlays fired because of the other reasons you listed and not because they just weren't very good at designing and executing a scheme?  

To me, one element that I think you continue to deemphasize is that Borges has a frustrating habit of calling plays that we're bad at.  Yes, it's easy to say those are simply execution problems or a failure to "properly instill the knowledge of the scheme and technique," but to me, when you continue to call plays we're demonstrably bad at, at some point that's also bad play calling.  I think a lot of the complaints around here about "play-callin" are merely this. 

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 1:07 PM ^

I think player developement, fit with the staff, have something to do with it. I think, more so than not, sometimes you just need to change, honestly. I don't think what MSU is calling on offense now is significantly different than what they called under Roushar, not different schematically or the timing of the calls, but this year it works. But maybe MSU just needed someone different. Maybe that's the case with Michigan and Borges.

So, I have a hard time thinking it's merely about designing plays and schemes. Frankly, most schemes and plays are not original, everything, and I mean everything, is pretty much stolen and reapplied since the invent of progression passing by Gillman of the Eagles. Everything else has pretty much only been repackaging. The philosophies, schemes, etc haven't changed much.

Now, maybe that philosophy isn't where a team wants to go, maybe that scheme isn't what a team thinks is best, and in that sense, yes, maybe there is a change in philosophy that requires that. As almost everyone here knows, the spread-to-run that RR ran can work just fine, but there were reasons people wanted to go away from it, right or wrong. In that sense, Michigan wasn't going to hire a guy with that scheme.

snarling wolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 PM ^

I think it bears remembering that 1) Stanford really wasn't a high-scoring team to begin with and 2) they were facing the top-ranked defense in the country.

Look at Stanford's season and you'll see lots of games where they scored in the 20's.  They were a classic ball-control team that ate up the clock and got their D a lot of rest, but didn't actually light up the scoreboard.  UCLA held them to 24, Utah held them to 21, Oregon State to 20, USC to 17 . . . should we have expected an offensive explosion from them?

 

 

snarling wolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:31 PM ^

So you basically wanted them to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  What they called all game is what they do.  Hogan's not the best passer; most of his success comes of play-action.  The WRs aren't that great.  Running the ball is their thing.  Not to mention that 1) Stanford led this game throughout the first half and 2) ball-control teams often have more success as the game goes on and the opposing D gets tired.  Why would they have decided at halftime, leading 17-14, to junk what they were doing?

Also, you're harping on them scoring 13, but you can't just throw out that defensive score.  The score of the game affects how you playcall.  Thanks in part to that TD, they never trailed by more than one score, so they weren't in an obvious passing context outside of perhaps the final drive.

The bottom line is that for all their "bad" coaching, they had the ball with a chance to win with 2 minutes left, at which point they turned it over on downs by a couple of inches.

AriGold

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:38 PM ^

reading comments from posters like you defending a failed game-plan and saying there is nothing that could have been done to change it....i wonder how that philosophy would work out in one's real life? I really can't imagine using that excuse for real problems like a leaking roof and not understanding why cardboard isn't stopping the rain from getting thru...but hey, you can't change the train of thinking so who am i to state the obvious!

Yeoman

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:47 PM ^

MSU's defense came in averaging 12 points a game. Stanford hadn't played a defense of anywhere close to that quality during the season, but against the five decent defenses they played (Washington, USC, UCLA, Oregon, ND) they averaged 25. Computer projections coming in were something like 18-17 Stanford.

20 doesn't seem like a failure to me. It's pretty much what they could have expected. Not great, not a failure.

Yeoman

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:58 PM ^

Tthe projections and averages I quote include defensive scores, and 13 vs. 18 wouldn't count as "failure" in any event.

Some basic stats classes would do this board a world of good. There's a fundamental lack of appreciation for what is and isn't a statistically significant difference.

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 1:58 PM ^

So do you think that opposing offenses averaged 5 points a game against Michigan State's defense and that they added a special teams/defensive touchdown each game to reach that 12 ppg figure? You know, since defensive/ST points were included? 

I would hardly call 35% of Stanford's scoring output insignificant. 20 offensive points is significantly different than 13, as it means you managed to score - more than likely - twice as many touchdowns. 

 

jmblue

January 2nd, 2014 at 1:38 PM ^

I get that you're mad MSU won (I'm not particularly thrilled about it either) but what Stanford did was nothing like what Borges & Co have done with our offense.  In fact, you actually seem to be calling for them to follow Borges's example.

For almost the entire year, Stanford stuck to the same script, power offense and occasional play-action.  One of the few games where they changed the script and tried to win through the air was Utah, and it backfired - Hogan struggled and their offense sputtered.  Losing that game cost them a spot in the national title game.  

Michigan, on the other hand, constantly changed things as the year went on.  The OL was shuffled on a near-weekly basis and gameplans often bore little resemblance from one week to another.  Most of these changes backfired, and after awhile, it seemed that we couldn't execute anything properly - probably because we didn't stick to one script.  

If you think an OC can just snap his fingers at halftime and say, "OK guys, we're a pass-first team now," well, that's not really how it works.  You can argue that Stanford should have made a few adjustments - change up a couple of blocking assignments, maybe run a few more QB draws, counters, etc., but ultimately, they were best off not deviating too far from what they've practiced all year.   Good teams figure out what they're good at (or what they want to be good at) and practice that constantly.  

 

 

umchicago

January 2nd, 2014 at 1:49 PM ^

i often like reading your analyses, but i too often disagree with your conclusions.  i am a baseball guy but can see similarities in strategies, etc between the sports.  for example, take this year's world series.  the red sox were the best SB team in the AL (3rd in SB but great % wise).  that said, they completely abandoned the run game when facing StL in the WS (with molina behind the plate).  those top of the order guys wreaked havoc all year but attempted just one SB the entire WS and that was by a guy off the bench.  imo, trying to continually steal on molina would be luck running up the middle over and over again w/o success.  my two cents.

Yeoman

January 2nd, 2014 at 3:59 PM ^

but MSU doesn't have some athletic freak at DT that takes away the opposition's ability to run power. They're a good defense that takes a lot of things away.

I think there's a different baseball analogy that's more appropriate, partly because it's a facet of the game that I think is closer in spirit to football playcalling and partly because it speaks directly to SC's point.

You're a flamethrowing pitcher, with a high-90s fastball and a straight change off of it. You don't throw a slider and while you learned to throw a curve ball it's not very good--you can't consistently throw it for strikes and when it is in the strike zone there's a pretty good chance you've hung it.

Two outs, bases jammed, late innings and you've got a one-run lead. The hitter's a dead red fastball hitter, he was lethal until people realized you had better luck getting him out with breaking balls, especially sliders. How do you approach the at bat?

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OK, maybe you tried to get him with a couple of curve balls but it didn't work and he's run the count to 3-2. What do you throw?

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"Don't get beat on anything but your best pitch" is an old baseball adage. I think it's overdone and I wouldn't mind it if you threw the change, but I'll bet you wouldn't throw the curve in that spot and you sure as hell wouldn't throw a slider.

Which I think is SC's point--sure, you change your playcalling somewhat depending on what the other team is doing and what their strengths and weaknesses are, but you have to choose from what's in your arsenal.

snarling wolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:03 AM ^

went complete Al Borges play-calling in the 2nd half

An Al Borges game plan would have been more like Hogan throwing 40 passes and Gaffney getting 10 carries.

Al is a lot of things but he's not a conservative play caller. Witness our true freshman QB throwing 38 passes on Saturday night in his debut.

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:09 AM ^

Duh. We we were down 21-6 after halftime so you have to throw. While I commend Borges for going away from the run, acknowledging that it was a total failure to even try after the half, if the game had been close, he would have been slamming backs into the line with the same frequency in both halfs like he did against Nebraska, wasting play after play. 

snarling wolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:17 AM ^

Our tailbacks carried the ball seven times all game against KSU.  Shane was airing it out for four quarters.

When we played MSU, it was similar - our tailbacks only had a handful of carries.  The large majority of our playcalls that day were passes, although Gardner was sacked so much that our total "rushing attempts" looks somewhat balanced.  

The most valid criticism of Borges isn't that he's too conservative but that he grab-bags too much and doesn't have a set of bread-and-butter plays that we can reliably go to.  Stanford, in spite of yesterday's game, has a pretty sound philosophy - they obviously practice the crap out of a smallish playbook and are very good at executing it, at least when they aren't playing the top-ranked defense in the country.

 

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:43 AM ^

Eh, I suppose you're sort of right, but not all the way. It was 21-6 with 2 1/2 quarters to play and we had run the ball 5 times with our backs for -1 yards prior to their third touchdown. Had we kept it close, I imagine Borges would have kept slamming a RB into the line another 10-12 times for no yards. 

Against Nebraska, we ran the ball 9 times with our backs for something like 16 yards in the first half and then 8 times for something like 1 yard (I'm too lazy to go back and check) in the second. Excluding the final drive in which we had to pass, we actually rushed on a higher % of plays in the second half. The Stanford - MSU felt more like that, especially in the second half, so I see the comparison to Borges being at least partially valid. 

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:16 PM ^

No, what is like Stanford-MSU is going with a strategy that simply doesn't work for an extended period of time, a la the Nebraska game in which we continued to run our backs into the line with the same frequncy in both the first and second half, despite plenty of evidence that it would lead to nothing. Especially when you reach a particularly important segment of the game (our two straight runs after the turnover against Nebraska, Stanford's final possession). 

I'm also saying that had the game been, say 14-6 throughout most of it, Al Borges probably would have ran the ball 17-20 times for 15 yards despite it being a completely useless endeavour. However, because we were down 21-6 midway through the second quarter, he was forced to abandon the run and try to catch up. I actually think that its a positive going forward that he didn't keep trying to force it. 

So no, you don't see.

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:35 PM ^

Take out the 5 plays on the final drive (had to throw) and you get nearly identical numbers: 9 out of 28, 8 out of 29. 

Again, you've just displayed the same weakness you display over and over again: But I can explain it! 

Here's my response: 

It wasn't working. At all. So why keep doing it? The only reason you would keep doing it is if you were going by, again, a textbook way of thinking: But this is what Nebraska is bad at! It says so in the gameplan!! So why isn't it working??? These 36 diagrams and this 7 page essay I wrote says it should be!!!

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:46 PM ^

Which isn't realistic either, Michigan would have at least had 3 more plays, whether they were losing or not, and odds are (8/29 = 27.5%) those 3 plays wouldn't have been runs under normal circumstances. And still, 17 runs, say 18 normally, out of 60 (30%)  isn't something to go crazy about.

And it's not a "textbook answer". You run to keep defenses honest, which is what Borges was doing. Say you struggle in pass protection, a team is playing press cover 1 on the outside to take away the short/intermediate routes. Well, completely going away from the run probably isn't the best option. Running about 30% of the time is in a range that at least keeps the defense respecting the run instead of teeing off on your poor pass protection unit. But of course, that's all so "textbook". So besides it being Nebraska's weakness (hence, the game plan) and a way for Michigan to even try to open up other things, I see what you're saying.

And again with the strawman about lengthy posts and diagrams, when will it end? I find it funny that you attack me providing knowledge, information, and logic as a flaw, while you can't do that, and some how that makes your argument better.

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211 words

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:54 PM ^

Because long texts and diagram are how you attempt to explain away your incorrect conclusions. You seem to feel like if you can put enough of them together to explain away the failure, that will somehow make you correct, but you're arguing against simple logic: If something has no chance of success, why continue to do so? The only reason you would continue to do so is because you've bound yourself so tightly to the textbook that says what you're doing SHOULD work that you refuse to stop doing it. 

 

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

Sure. So are you saying our offense is a pass heavy offense that needs to run 30% of the time to keep the defense honest? I understand that logic. 

Here's my problem: Our trade-off for keeping those defenses honest is basically wasting a down. It means we go from three chances for a first down to two chances. With our running game, especially in the second half of a game like Nebraska or Iowa, running the ball essentially meant we had two plays to get 9+ yards. So I'm not sure its really worth it to try and make a defense think they have to defend the run when they aren't remotely scared of the run and the run isn't at all effective. 

Yeoman

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:37 PM ^

He called 5 runs out of 23 plays, and then he "abandoned the run"?

It's not that unusual for teams to run 20% of the time and it typically isn't viewed as a sign of some irrational stubborn attachment to a run game. Even if they aren't having success with it, they still call a few just to keep the defense somewhat honest.

westwardwolverine

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:46 PM ^

Well, in the following 2.5 quarters, he called 3 RB runs on thirty plays over a longer period of time, so yes, he pretty much abandoned the run. 

And I suppose that could be the case if you were averaging, say 2 yards a carry, instead of negative yards or .20 or whatever it is that Michigan tended to average this year. 

Space Coyote

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:54 AM ^

Is absolutely correct. They have a small playbook, a package of bread-and-butter plays, and they run them to death. Now, when those things get stopped, they don't have many other places to go, because they rely so heavily on the power run game.

It's the issue with many spread teams, just in the opposite direction. Things are simplified to a point that you hope to execute them so well and work within them so well that it will always work, but it doesn't always work. The only way to always have something work is to become more multiple, but then you don't execute anything as well.

There is a tradeoff to going in both directions with philosophy, and teams and coaches try to find the fine line in which to rest with respects to their team.

I personally think Michigan should have started with what they were working on over the spring and stuck with it. They realized they weren't very good at that thing and went away from it in fall camp and went to more of a zone stretch thing. Then the changes kept happening. In hindsight, that looks like an issue. At the same time, if we don't run what is pretty much a significantly different system vs ND, do we win that game? Do we beat Minnesota if we don't? Are we even competitive with PSU? We don't know. For all we know, the constant switches may have been the thing that gave Michigan as much of a chance to win their games as it did. I suspect it backfired, and the coaches regret that, but they had to work with what they knew to try to help the team win. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. And all we have to go on is what we know based on 3.5 hours on Saturdays and the eventual results, the rest is hypothetical and extrapolation.

umchicago

January 2nd, 2014 at 2:13 PM ^

but this has been my biggest problem with borges going back to denard.  i'm guessing that every year since he arrived, borges has been working on manball each spring and summer.  then low and behold come the actual games, it fails (you know personnel and all).  in 2011 it was pro style until we fell behind, then it became "denard save us, or arm punt".  borges just seems to "flail away" week-to-week far too often.  this year was the worst of that sort of strategy.  the OL flip flops is further support of just throwing crap at the wall and hoping something sticks.  offensively, i think this year was practically a total waste.  despite the playing time, i really doubt our OL gained much in terms of improvement going into next year.

Rabbit21

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:12 AM ^

Could not agree more.  Stanford's playcalling in the 2nd half took on a distinct air of unreality.  The whatever and short in which they ran up the middle into the MSU blitzes became so hard to watch after awhile.