It is first and 10 with exactly two minutes left on the clock. Michigan has just forced a three-and-out against MSU to get the ball back. Taking a tackle for loss here would be devastating: Michigan would either lose 10-15 seconds or have to burn its only remaining timeout. Michigan comes out in a four-wide, one-back set. MSU is in a nickel package with four down linemen. The playside defensive end is actually
As the ball is snapped,
Michigan is running the inverted veer here, so if the defensive end stays high like he is, Denard is supposed to pull the ball and head upfield. The linebacker that Denard is currently reading is actually the assignment of Patrick Omameh who is pulling across the formation. But because that linebacker is staying in the middle of the field rather than bouncing out to defend the Smith run, Denard hands the ball off.
Omameh has now pulled around the formation and is about to block the MSU linebacker that Denard was reading. Meanwhile, Bullough has started to move outside to contain Smith.
I mean holy crap:
[insert Chris Berman noise]
Denard squares up to block someone, but the rest is all Smith...
....sneaking through defenders to pick up the first down.
Under Borges' system, Denard has spent a lot of time reading linebackers on the option, but this is an emphatically bad read. MSU's best player had Vincent Smith dead-to-rights in the backfield on the game-winning drive until Smith reminded everyone why he's Michigan's best space player. There's a reason Rodriguez utilized Smith so much on passes out of the backfield and running plays: if you get him into the open field with a single defender, he's going to make that guy miss. Do you trust Fitz Toussaint to make that cut this year or would you expect him to try and bounce outside past Bullough? Not only does Smith keep this play alive, but he makes it past the first down marker, stopping the clock and allowing Michigan to set up the rest of the drive.
All hail Vincent Smith, Michigan's most underrated player for three-years running.