Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Running into a brick wall

I said in my game column yesterday that Michigan's offense was incoherent against MSU: they didn't test the Spartans' defense deep despite safeties playing 8 yards from the line of scrimmage and they didn't test the defense horizontally to put a strain on overly aggressive linebackers. The other problem was that Borges called running plays on 19 of Michigan's 26 first downs, including 9 of 11 in the first half. What you'll see below will not surprise you: MSU's safeties are less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage on a 1st and 10 early in the game. Borges calls a running play, doesn't audible, and the results are exactly what you'd expect.

It's 1st and 10 early in the first quarter. There was absolutely no reason for MSU's safeties to be cheating as strongly as they are in this alignment other than Borges has obvious tendencies that can be exploited. As such, Michigan's three-wide, one-back set gets defended like this:

Jeremy Gallon begins to run across the formation on a jet sweep.

As the ball is snapped, look at the leverage of MSU's linebackers and safeties: all but one of them is on the balls of his toes and running toward the line of scrimmage.

By the time Gallon has passed Denard who will utilize Fitz Toussaint as a lead blocker, MSU's three linebackers are two yards from the line of scrimmage. Their two safeties are no more than six yards from the line of scrimmage.

One of MSU's linebackers is already beyond the LOS. Fitz Toussaint will block him as the lead blocker, leaving an MSU safety (highlighted) unblocked to hit Denard in the hole. Notice that both Denard and the safety are equidistant from the LOS.

Seeing an unblocked safety (highlighted) already at the line of scrimmage, Denard cuts back inside...

.... and is clobbered.


The Takeaway
This is fucking infuriating. There was no doubt in the minds of MSU's linebackers or safeties; Michigan is running and there's no chance of Denard pulling up to throw here. Look, for example, at Gallon who is effectively running a wheel route. Who's covering him? Roy Roundtree runs into the screen to try and block anyone, but if he had run a route downfield, he would've had one-on-one coverage. For Borges, a guy who claims to want to attack vertically, this should be his bread and butter. Instead, it's a one-yard loss because he ran the ball on 73% of Michigan's first downs. This is untenable. If Michigan doesn't develop play action off of its base offensive sets or at least start breaking tendency, mounting a consistent offensive attack against good defenses will be impossible.


dnak438 said...

I assume that this the coaching staff protecting Denard from an interception-fest in a game that they think they can win with a handful of points.

Guest said...

Yes, it was frustrating. We know MSU had a good run D but I think the coaches really wanted to avoid INTs and knew that eventually Denard and Fitz would/could break a long one. They each did to get UM deep into MSU terriortoy. We just didn't execute when the field got tight.

Also for all the running on 1st down. UM threw 7 times based on your analysis. They only completed 2 and one was for 1 yd the other for 35. How is this more effective then the running?

Perhaps you should picture page/video clip the 7 first down throws and we can all see what went wrong? After watching it live and then quickly rewatching the offensive plays again it seemed like passes getting batted down and a lack of check-down throws really hurt UM. I think a lot of that is on Denard since you could see the RBs making the runs into the flat...Denard never got to them though.

I do think Borges should call more plays where the deep to intermediate routes up the middle are decoys and the wheel routes and short outside plays are the primary. I agree with you on that. Granted its hard when they are playing quarters but with all their D coming in strong and into the middle to stop the inverted veer there must have been something that could have been done. I like UM's chances with Gallon or any of the TEs one-one outside the hash marks. Could have had some easy completions IMO that kept UM out of 3rd and long.

Guest said...

I can vividly recall pretty much everyone b*tching because Borges threw the ball too much last year in EL. Now he isn't throwing the ball enough? The guy simply cannot please UM fans.

Personally, I am in wait-and-see mode with Borges. He is forced to utilize a RB masquerading as a QB right now. If the offense is still "meh" in a two years from now when he has a Real QB (shout out to Brian at MGoBlog), then I will be concerned.

Alex G. said...

I would not lump us all in together. But some people don't like Borges and will complain regardless (look at the complaints- he is indifferent to winning etc- who can take this stuff seriously). There is no attempt here to weigh the advantages (which you mention- avoiding interceptions etc) and disadvantages of the playcalling, it is just a tirade focusing on a single narrow issue.

Then again, this is true of all fanbases. This is why there are 110 or so professional offensive coordinators in FBS college programs who are generally very good at their jobs, and thousands of bloggers with little or no experience who are sure that every last one of them are complete idiots.

The only thing that surprises me is that this happened after a win. It usually takes a loss to really get the venom to spew forth...

Keith Bado said...

Last year had hurricane like weather conditions. You are really comparing the two? I'd hope most michigan fans are actually smart enough to use common sense to figure out that these two events are different. Guess not.

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