Notre Dame was similarly not surprised by the play and Denard did the Denard thing and threw a ball off his back foot that was eventually intercepted. I'm not convinced that this is a bad play call by Borges, however (about which more later).
Michigan comes out in an I-formation with Devin Funchess lined up as an H-back. Notre Dame is in a 4-3 look.
Devin Funchess motions across the formation.
As the ball is snapped, Notre Dame's defensive end Stephon Tuitt and the weakside linebacker are left unblocked. You'll see that neither of them cares about the potential hand off.
Tuitt continues to stare down Denard and isn't flowing down the line to make a tackle on a potential handoff.
Tuitt has seen Denard pull the ball and knows to head straight upfield. However, look at Gallon (highlighted; explanation below).
Tuitt is now bearing down on Denard.
Denard shuffles his feet to make a throw....
...and heaves the ball without stepping into it.
This play is not as bad as the interwebs will have you believe. The defensive end doesn't bite on the play action, but look at the strongside and middle linebackers in the video: both of them step toward the play action and are taken out of their coverage zones. Jeremy Gallon (the intended receiver) is wide open on this play because the linebackers bite on the play action. Are there better ways to pick up 12 yards with Denard? Probably, but this is Al Borges' offense.
The thing people seem unwilling to talk about: QBs get hit a lot when they're throwing the ball. Stepping into your throws and taking those hits is what
It doesn't help that there's a second defender in Denard's face because Michael Schofield once again gets beaten off the line. I understand the tendency to blame Borges for calling this play, but Denard is a senior quarterback that still hasn't figured out how to throw the ball away or refuses to stand tall in the pocket. Quarterbacks get pressure in their face; many of them make the right decision, but Denard never does. With an offensive line that's clearly not up to par right now, Denard is going to see more pressure as the season wears on. His ability to throw the ball away and recognize when a play is dead--or take the hit--will be crucial to this team winning games against more talented opponents.