The Pin and Pull. MGoBlog was happy to see that the pin and pull worked against Purdue. In reality, that's only half true: the pin and pull worked against Purdue when it was run from under center. Michigan first debuted the play against Eastern Michigan. At the time, I couldn't identify it as the pin and pull but I said this of the formation:
I don't understand why Michigan would run this blocking scheme instead of zone blocking the play. We already know that Molk is adept at reach blocking, so reaching and sealing defensive tackles will free Barnum to block EMU's linebackers. The same goes for Moore blocking on the edge; if Lewan and Moore double the playside defensive end and seal him to the outside quickly, Lewan will be able to release to the second level. However, with this pulling scheme, EMU stretches the play out to the boundary as Molk and Lewan attempt to pull into their gaps. This gives Eastern's pursuit defenders time to close off any cutback lanes.The problem with the play has been that Denard is forced to wait for his offensive linemen to pull before he can head upfield. This stretches the play out and allows defenses to close off running lanes as Denard waits for his linemen. However, when the team runs it from under center, it gives the pulling linemen time to get into position because Denard has to hand the ball off. In addition, it forces the opposing linebackers to be cognizant of play action (even if it never works from under center). I'm officially in favor of the pin and pull as long as it's run from under center. The few times that Michigan did run it from the shotgun, Purdue was able to bottle it up.
Throw the ball fergodsakes. No seriously, throw the ball fergodsakes:
This is suicide. Purdue has seven defenders in the box, a strong safety overhanging on the strongside of the field, and a "deep" safety that's nine yards off the line of scrimmage. Instead of optioning to a passing play or simply heaving the ball up to Hemingway (top of the screen) who has single coverage against a guy who's 5'11", they stick with the original playcall and hand the ball off to Toussaint. The play ends as a loss of two yards because, well, duh.
I understand that Al Borges either doesn't like the bubble screen or has simply decided not to throw it, but at some point it's just willful ignorance. I mean:
OK, fine, maybe I'm just bashing my head against the wall, but this shouldn't happen. I don't care if you throw a quick hitch to either of the inside receivers here and let them turn it upfield. But allowing a defense to align like this without punishing them is not only doing a disservice to your offense, but it's flat out bad playcalling. Not calling a screen here is the worst thing Borges can do.
This leads to the bigger issue of making checks at the line. It's possible that in future years, with Shane Morris under center, the coaches will give the QB more opportunities to call audibles (which is typically the case in pro-style offenses, instead of the coach making the checks from the sideline in the spread), but this is a check that needs to be made right now. Either allow Denard to make checks at the line and call for screen passes when the defense is giving up 8 free yards or find a way to call in audibles from the sideline. This is officially my bugaboo of 2011. I hate this.
Al Borges reads SmartFootball. One of the most frustrating screen captures of the Greg Robinson years (for me anyway) came via SmartFootball during an explanation of attacking a two-deep formation with trips receivers. To wit:
The first time Michigan showed their three stacked receivers against Purdue, they ran exactly this play. Roundtree was the post route, Hemingway the hitch, and Grady the flat route. Denard threw the hitch route to Hemingway for a critical first down on Michigan's opening drive.
Michigan showed the same formation later in the game on a 3rd and 20 call and were able to pick up the first down because of a slight change in the routes.
Here, Purdue is in a cover-two shell with five underneath zone defenders and four down linemen who rush. Instead of Hemingway (the receiver in the middle) running a hitch route to the inside, he runs a 10-yard out route, creating a high-low decision for the safety:
These are the kinds of passing formations I like to see from Borges. Michigan floods the defensive zones and forces the safeties/corners to make a high-low decision. In very Michigan 2009 fashion, Purdue's safety bites on the Hemingway out route just long enough for Roundtree to get open on the corner route.
I suppose as long as Borges keeps bringing out play calls like this, I won't get totally annoyed with his lack of bubble screens. I guess...