What Went Wrong: Michigan State (from Maize n Brew)

Submitted by mnb zach on November 5th, 2013 at 3:13 PM

In the spirit of trying to figure out just how much Borges, Gardner, or the OL screwed the pooch in Saturday's game, I went through a few plays in the first half and pulled some pictures to show the breakdowns that it looked like were the biggest reasons Michigan struggled.


It is by no means scientific or complete, but I think it sheds a little more light on some of Michigan's offensive issues in this game and overall this season.

(Big credit to Space Coyote for talking me through a lot of these things, as well as Brian for years of UFRs)



November 5th, 2013 at 3:26 PM ^

I posted my comments over on the MnB site.  It's a great read. 

As I noted in my comments there, my hope is the MSU game will serve as a learning experience for the young offensive line.  They saw the best.  They got blown up by the best, but they saw what it looks like.


November 5th, 2013 at 3:30 PM ^

that article pretty much summed it all up...it was a good combination of many things going wrong that led to the ass-whoopin...hopefully things get better, but right now I just don't see Michigan winning more than 8 games with losses @ Iowa and Ohio


November 5th, 2013 at 3:52 PM ^

UM can certainly lose that game, but NU concerns me more because of their spread and the two weeks they will have to prepare for Michigan. Iowa has a freshman QB, bland receivers, a decent TE, and an overrated defense that is not up to the usual Iowa standards.

Space Coyote

November 5th, 2013 at 5:02 PM ^

DL controls well at the point of attack and lets the LBs flow freely. They can be heavily exploited on PA though, especially their young DBs. I doubt it'll be a high scoring game, but Michigan is more than capable of putting up enough points to win.


November 6th, 2013 at 2:35 PM ^

I don't have enough points to post, but wouldn't have been better to at least play 

Schofield at RG  and play  either Braden or Magnuson at RT ?

The line would look like this....

Lewan  ----  Kalis  ----  Glasgow  ----  Schofield  ----  Magnuson/Braden

This way there is at least some semblance on experience on the interior, where I think it is far more critical, than the right tackle spot.  This then doesn't make the gut incredibly raw.

Can someone please tell me if this was a bad idea and why?????


November 5th, 2013 at 3:42 PM ^

is this.  Borges knew our offensive line was in trouble.  He knew their defensive line was deadly.  In the first slide in this post, Zach highlights a wide open Funchess on a hitch.  There were countless other times during that game where State was actually giving our receivers a cushion at the line of scrimmage.

I don't care if Borges is fired.  In fact, I don't like to see anybody have their livelihood taken away.  I wish him no ill.  But going into this game, I said, with a reasonable amount of certainty that our game plan against this obvious issue was going to be short, quick passes, and a lot of them, in order to stay ahead of the chains.  I understand that Borges began to do this late in the 3rd quarter, when in all honesty the game was already over.  As a well respected offensive coordinator, why was this not his gameplan from the first snap?  Why would such an obvious concept require a late game adjustment?   I am not the "bubble screen guy," and I know it has become a bit, but why does Borges refuse to deploy this kind of scheme?  Does anybody know the answer?  Has he ever been asked? 


November 5th, 2013 at 3:54 PM ^

He's spent three years making things harder than they need to be and people have blamed Denard, Devin, and two full sets of interior linemen for the issues (not to mention a bevy of talented/productive skill players). 

Roy Roundtree catches fewer balls, he's not that good really (except for saving our ass against ND, Northwestern, and nearly OSU last year).  Denard throws more picks and his completion percentage plummets, he's not a real QB, Devin will be better because he's got NFL skills.  Devin throws even more interceptions, errggg, the line sucks.  You said that last year.  Well these guys are too young.  What was wrong with the 5th year seniors last year?  Well they aren't the type of players we're bringing in.  You mean the young guys who suck this year?  What we need is a tight end and a fullback.  Well, you know Al, you can just line that giant monster athlete outside and throw him the ball since he is bigger and faster than the guys covering him, he doesn't have to block guys, it ain't in the rulebook.  But, the toughness!!!  Yeah, you're teams look super tough not scoring TDs @ND, two years in a row against MSU, and not putting a single point on the board in the 2nd half @OSU.  Well, we do understand the importance of our big rivalry games here at MEEECHIGAN.



November 5th, 2013 at 4:01 PM ^

you have some good arguments with regards to Borges/play-calling...but MSU was going to burst up the middle no matter what (given the interior o-line and the lack of blitz pick-ups)....but yeah I feel you, not passing to Funchess was upsetting

Indiana Blue

November 5th, 2013 at 4:15 PM ^

that the highest % of pressure would be from the middle.  So why is Lewan double teaming with the tight end (play #1 of the link) on their DE ?  Lewan can hold his own against any DE.  The formation for max protection should have included the TE in the backfield with the RB ... and then maybe he or the RB could have gone into the flat as safety valve?

Go Blue!

Space Coyote

November 5th, 2013 at 4:37 PM ^

Likely doesn't know how to properly block out of the backfield, which is completely different than blocking from the LOS or H-back position. From that standpoint, what will most likely happen, is you'll have a TE in the backfield not stepping up and meeting the blocker, then, because he's a very tall and inexperienced player, he'll either get completely run over or pushed into the backfield.

The solution here certainly isn't moving the TE into the backfield, especially on 2nd and 5 when the defense is hopefully still respecting the whole playbook. The reason the TE and Lewan are doubling is because you don't know if the safety that is lined up over the TE is coming on a twist blitz himself. They are playing a 2-on-2 blocking scheme all along the line. This is a normal 7 man protection in which a RB is responsible for picking up a LB. The issue is likely Bosch not getting the direction of the call (Rip) because it appears he thinks his tandem block is with Glasgow and not Fitz, but it seems fairly clear it is with Fitz by the way he is stepping.

Now, why call this protection here? Because it allows Fitz to pick up the smallest of the LBs. It also should allow each man on the defense to be accounted for with a blocker at the LOS to form a nice pocket for DG to step into.

Indiana Blue

November 5th, 2013 at 7:36 PM ^

and then motion him, their D ins't going to know pre-snap if its max protect or not.  We often put the TE in motion from the LOS, so from the backfield shouldn't change their blocking assignment.

Also as MnB pointed out the call was a quick pass to Funchess from the slot, which on the play would have been successful against their gap blitz..  Again the preconcieved notion is that MSU is going to blitz over the center.  Isn't this their most obvious tendency?  

Go Blue!

Space Coyote

November 5th, 2013 at 7:43 PM ^

But I think I can answer either way. I'm not certain if you're talking about a TE being off-line, like in a U-back position, or actually in the backfield like a RB. As a U-back, his blocking assignment would change little than what he's doing as a TE. In the backfield he is going to have trouble because he hasn't had reps blocking from a RB position, which is a good deal different than pass pro from a TE position. At the end of the day, if you take a blocker out of the backfield and move him out to a TE/U-back position, then there is a real possibility that one will have to pick up a DL, which isn't optimal (we saw this later when a simplified pass protection scheme lead to Fitz picking up a TE). You have a back in there so you can ensure that you're RB is picking up a 2nd or 3rd level defender within the blocking scheme that is being used.

I also disagree with the premise that there is a quick pass here, because a hot route won't get put on when you have more blockers than defenders coming after the QB. So I don't think that's really an option in this case (the quick pass to Funchess).

snarling wolverine

November 5th, 2013 at 5:09 PM ^

Yeah, you're teams look super tough not scoring TDs @ND, two years in a row against MSU, and not putting a single point on the board in the 2nd half @OSU. Well, we do understand the importance of our big rivalry games here at MEEECHIGAN.

Dude, weren't you just saying before the MSU game that things were fine offensively and citing our PPG as evidence?


November 5th, 2013 at 3:52 PM ^

Do we have evidence Gardner is very good at this quick pass?

Serious question.  Maybe the issue is they've tried to implement this but for whatever reason Gardner requires a tick more time to get rid of the ball.   Not every QB is equally good at the quick release.


November 5th, 2013 at 3:56 PM ^

If that is true, would it not be time to see if Shane Morris is any better at the quick pass than Gardner.  I mean, you have to give yourself the best chance to win right, if Gardner is incapable of doing possibly the most important thing with the personnel available, I mean..........

I know I know, I am a jackass, he is a true freshman, I should jump off a bridge, I agree with all of that.  But how much worse could it be than Saturday?  Seriously, how much worse?


November 5th, 2013 at 4:04 PM ^

I'd like to see it.  The redshirt is gone, so we may as well work Morris in more.  We saw a bit of him in the MSU game when Gardner was hurt.  If memory serves, his first play was a rollout left and an underthrown pass into the flat.


November 5th, 2013 at 4:14 PM ^

People were saying the same shit last year about how much better Devin would be than Denard.  But before that he totally had to move to WR because we didn't have any good players there (like a dude who led the team in receiving in 2010 and the guy who has led it the last two years, both of whom set all-time single game records here at UM).  On the line it was supposed to be Kalis and Bryant (who both really probably should have been playing last year, we swear) who were going to show how much more talented they were than those poor bums Mealer and Barnum.  That turned out great too, didn't it?  And I'm sure glad Devin Funchess spent all last year blocking guys instead of being thrown the ball.  Clearly the practice has paid off!

Space Coyote

November 5th, 2013 at 5:10 PM ^

But was always a better pure passer than Denard. That's why Borges tried to have him throw some of the deep balls at MSU back in '11, because he knew Gardner had better arm strength and could push the ball over the top more effectively than Denard.

Michigan also didn't have a WR that had much size on the roster last year outside of Jackson, who, well, yeah. Devin still actually has great upside as a WR, probably better than Denard. The fact that they moved him to WR has less to do with the QB situation as it did with the lack of WRs of that type. For how much you puff up Roundtree, he was a mediocre route runner with average hands that wasn't extremely quick. Most of his yards came off the "QB Whoops" play, not off of designed routes or in situations where he had to create his own separation. Yet Roundtree improved. He got better at his route running later in the year. This gave him a chance to play in the NFL.

As for Funchess last year, we had how many TEs on the roster last year. We had, lets see, Williams and a walk-on. Funchess upside is still significantly higher as a TE, even if he becomes only a decent blocker. Deciding his FR year, when you've brought in other WRs, one a bigger bodied guy that just so happened to get hurt before this season started, doesn't mean it was stupid to play him at TE. In fact, realistically, if Michigan had some depth at the position and more bodies at WR, he'd still be there and be learning the position and only put in limited situations where he's forced to block. But they are still recruiting the position. And hey, how about that, they got some depth by recruiting the position and having Butt on the roster so I guess they could move him outside until the rest of the WR position gets up to speed and he learns how to block, so, you know, he can go back to his more natural position where he has a lot more upside.


November 5th, 2013 at 6:00 PM ^

Devin is better than Denard, so that excuses Denard's accuracy and ball security diminishing dramatically under Borges and Devin's being not much better.  Have to understand he's raw.  Can't expect a 4th year blue chip recruit to have any polish applied by the coaching staff.

Roundtree isn't good even though he gained a lot of yards for reasons that didn't stop him from gaining all those yards.  The coaches are smart for not doing the things that gained him those yards (that would be almost cheating if we fooled the defense into leaving a guy wide open) and instead substituting height for actual production.  God knows you need height.  And besides, that Russell Bellomy looks like a gamer, recruiting profile be damned.

Funchess (who, what do you know, has that all imortant height we need so badly) had to play TE because you have to play a TE.  It's the rules.  ALABAMA does it!  And being a shitty blocker with way fewer catches shows infinitely more promise than scoring TDs and being awesome.  Tyler Eifert's making them big bucks from blocking.

All aboard the Hoke era logic train.  CHOOOOOOO! CHOOOOOO!



November 5th, 2013 at 6:37 PM ^

Did Denard's accuracy actually get worse or was it a case of him no longer having hand wavingly open guys to throw to? This is a serious question and not one I am pretending to already know the answer to. I believe there may have been an attempt to answer this question at some point last year (via. front page post or diary) but I don't remember definitively.

No, Al Borges is not Rich Rodriguez/Calvin Magee and he is apparently not well-versed in their coaching methods. He has been trying to ween this offense from the spread and move them towards MANBALL or whatever the hell we're calling it. Obviously there are going to be growing pains and it's going to cost us some games in the meantime but the transition has to come. If it doesn't, this team will continue to lack an offensive identity and we can expect more of the same bastardized offensive gameplans we've seen.

I think it will take a few years before we can honestly determine whether or not Al Borges is the right OC for this program. He is working with guys from two different regimes. The veterans were recruited for one style of offense and the guys that Borges/Hoke have recruited are still extremely young. If we're still seeing crap output in a couple of years from veterans that Hoke/Borges recruited and are running the kind of offense Borges wants to run then, and only then, is it fair to say that he sucks, should be fired, is a bad OC, etc.

Regarding Devin, he is a fourth year guy with one year under Rodriguez, a sophomore year as a backup learning a new system, a third year that had half of it spent trying to learn WR and now is in his first year as "the guy". It is dishonest to paint it as though he has spent four years with the same staff at the same position.


November 5th, 2013 at 7:00 PM ^

I'm so glad we didn't do everything in our power to win games in a year we went 11-2 and lost two close games thanks to offensive ineptitude, so that now I can watch us plow behind Hoke's Hosses for 1 ypc @PSU and -40 whatever it was @MSU.  Lining Denard up under center and running ISO @Iowa has born fruit.

Totally worth it.

Sten Carlson

November 5th, 2013 at 7:26 PM ^


What is so annoying to me about the complainers is that they absolutely REFUSE to see from whence the program came, understand that we're in a transition of schemes, and trying to overcome deep and destructive roster issues. Either one of these things can cause a program to struggle to meet expectations. When BOTH are happening at the same time, the results aren't always pretty. But, as you point out, the transition MUST happen or else Michigan will perpetually be transitioning. Short term pain, long term gain.


November 5th, 2013 at 7:57 PM ^

We ran ISO out of the I-formation regularly against them in 2011 and scored 16 points,  losing a game in a season where we went 11-2.  Can't remember the split being as dramatic, but we were under center regularly against MSU (especially on the diastrous 4th and short) in a game we lost where we posted 14 points.  Both games would have been won with a decent offensive performance.

None of the linemen or RBs who will play next year were even on the team at that point.  If you're cool with not going undefeated so that in 2013 we can put up 27 for 27 and -40whateveritwas (apparently the sweet tradeoff to all this transition), you are a fucking nincompoop.

Sten Carlson

November 5th, 2013 at 8:09 PM ^

You understand nothing dude -- absosmurfly nothing what's worse that your blathering ignorance is your overwhelming arrogance and near inability to discuss issues with coming off as snarky and downright hateful. I trust Hoke &Co. I think they're working through a tough time and in the long run the program will be better for it. You don't, you seem to want blood and are so hurt by poor performances that you lash out at everyone whom you, in your infinite wisdom, deem at fault. I don't think change will do as much good as harm right now. I think we need to keep on keeping on and get the roster back in shape. If you don't, fine. But, you're going to be disappointed because Brandon will NOT risk more change, and neither will Hoke. So keep being so hateful and angry if you must. I for one am enjoying the process as best I can. I hate losing more than anyone, but I also try to understand why things are the way they are and it helps me calm down after a loss.

I am sure glad YOU don't run things and would be willing to you don't run anything of much importance. I


November 5th, 2013 at 8:26 PM ^

I never said anything about change.  Hoke should get at least 5 years no questions asked, just like any coach you hire.  Said it before, will always say it.  He and Al and the whole gang can keep all of their cholesterol rich blood.  I'll pass.

I just think it's gonna be a bumpy ride to Shittown, and I don't like the screwdrivers they've been sticking in the wheels so far.  Happy to bet you a dollar on it.  I also don't like people defending stupidity for no logical reason except "I trust Hoke&Co."  I will point it that out from time to time when I see it.


November 5th, 2013 at 10:28 PM ^

Your comment didn't really address any of the points he made. Rather than calling him names, why don't you respond to his post? He's not a troll and he's not flaming around here with bogus statements and poor references. He is looking at the data we all are and is drawing different conclusions. However, he is supporting those conclusions and - you - decide to personally attack him about it. Well done.


November 5th, 2013 at 9:18 PM ^

Was I unhappy with the Iowa and MSU games in 2011? Absolutely. Does it still sting? Sure. However if you think that we would have run the table and won a championship if we ran from the shotgun or threw hitches all the way downfield (or whatever your ideal playcall would be because I know how your responses go: "Did I say hitches!??!?!") against Iowa then you, sir, are the nincompoop.  I don't see what Michigan not going undefeated in 2011 has to do with 27 for 27 or the most recent MSU game unless you are implying that the same logic that cost us a couple games in 2011 is what is currently costing us games now.

Also, who the hell do you think is responsible for bringing Mattison to Ann Arbor? Without his wizard performance with the defense in 2011 Michigan doesn't even have a chance to sniff the undefeated mark.

I wish Al Borges was the perfect OC but he isn't. I wish he incorporated more spread elements into his offense but he doesnt. The question is whether or not he will be successful running his plays with his players. Currently the roster is comprised of Rich Rod players and very young "Hoke & Co" players. We have yet to see how Borges' offense will run with seasoned, high-talent players.