The offensive line just can't get any push upfield, which, against Air Force's undersized defensive front is a major red flag. It could be that the line is still trying to gel, but it seemed like Michigan was running power blocking techniques most of the game, which would negate many of the double teams that could cause confusion on the line.Rewatching the game, there are a lot of different plays where Michigan's offensive line just gets beat, but there were also plays that it's clear the restructured offensive line just needs more time to play together.
On the first play of Michigan's second drive, the team comes out in a three-wide set with stacked receivers to Denard's right. Fitz Toussaint and Stephen Hopkins are flanking Denard in the backfield. The playcall is a QB lead draw.
When the ball is snapped, center Elliott Mealer gets immediately into the Air Force nose tackle. Though he'll end up being at least partially at fault for the result of this play, how quickly he gets off the ball is impressive.
After pushing the nose tackle toward Patrick Omameh, Mealer begins to release to the second level to block the Air Force linebackers. Unfortunately, he identifies the wrong linebacker to block...
....and the inside 'backer has a step on Mealer.
Not only has Mealer been beaten by the inside linebacker, but next to him, Omameh is unable to block the nose tackle (highlighted).
Air Force now has two tacklers behind the offensive line and only Hopkins available to block them.
Denard has to juke the first defender and is eventually wrapped up behind the line of scrimmage.
A few things here. First, I believe this is a man-blocking scheme with a double team at the point of attack. I think Mealer is right to release to the second level so quickly--Omameh doesn't look caught off guard by the double team, but he does get beat on it--but he still fails to identify the correct linebacker to block. Regardless of who is ultimately at fault, this probably doesn't happen with David Molk at center.
The good news is that the biggest problem with this play appears to be communication/knowing the structure of the play rather than pure performance, though neither Mealer and Omameh come off looking good here. With another two weeks of practice and a cupcake game before Michigan faces Notre Dame, the offensive line will have plenty of time to watch film and get this sorted out.
The other think to watch, which isn't pertinent to the play, is Jeremy Gallon at the bottom of the screen, who bends out for a screen pass that isn't thrown. Michigan showed this motion a lot in the first two weeks but only threw the screen twice (both against Alabama, both for 8-yard gains). The Air Force defenders don't look at Gallon on this play, despite him waiting in the flat with a blocker in front of him. My hope is that eventually, this becomes a read for Denard and isn't just smoke and mirrors. If Borges is trying to use this formation/motion to draw defenders and keep the defense honest, opposing defenses actually have to react to it or Michigan will be wasting blockers who could be downfield.