A Coach's POV - 2nd Quarter Play by Play

Justin K. Aller

In this post, I'm not attempting to say what I would do in these situations. I'm trying to show what Borges is seeing and why, from his perspective, he is calling the plays he is. I'm also trying to show how Borges is reacting to what PSU is giving him, how he's adjusting, and how he's trying to be ahead of the curve so as not to be so "obvious". Also, I look at the defense. There will be posts for each quarter.

Link to 1st Quarter Post

Michigan Drive 6 - 14:32 2nd 10-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan runs a 2 TE play action with 2 WRs to the top. PSU counters with 8 in the box, meaning one of the receivers to the top of the screen will get single coverage. They are in max protect, which means only 2 receivers are in routes. Bryant kind of watches a guy run around him when Fitz is expecting help, as he should. Because of that, Fitz is out of position to make the block, kind of reaches at the defender and misses, and he comes in a hits DG from the blind side. FWIW, DG is also very late in his read, or more accurately, doesn't trust his read as he turns. He should be able to turn, see coverage deep, and Gallon wide open on his snag route. But he sees him, then looks off of him again, and by the time he gets back to him he's close to the sideline and the pass is quite difficult to make. Gallon still catches it and does a nice job trying to make a play in space, but it turns out to be a loss.

Play 2 - 2nd and 12 - Pistol veer option. DG doesn't make the read this time, and Fitz is forced to try to pick his way in space across the formation. A free blocker gets through because Bryant never releases from his combo to the second level LB despite the fact that only he can make a play on him here with the LB charging down. This means there is a free hitter in the backfield and Fitz takes what he can get. This is 8 blockers on 8 defenders plus a read option. This should be easy yards, you not only have blockers for every defender, you have an extra blocker. The idea here is to get back to manageable after the first down shot. They should, and didn't.

Play 3 - 3rd and 11 - Glasgow pretty clearly doesn't make the correct block and passes on the NT to no one. Michigan has 3 blockers on the bottom for 3 defenders (not counting the center), and 2 above the center for 3 blockers. Glasgow should pick up the most dangerous defender where PSU has numbers. Fitz will pick up B-gap on the side he's lined up on. So a relatively easy pass pro is busted. Then Gardner makes magic and gets a first down.

Play 4 - 1st and 10 - Tackle over Power from Michigan. PSU has 7.5 in the box, but backside isn't making a play here on the front side. Michigan has 7 blockers. They are in good shape with 7 blockers for 7 defenders. PSU does a nice job beating the puller to the hole, and because of that Green is able to hit an open hole for a decent first down gain and that half box player is able to make a play down the field after a 3 or 4 yard gain.

Play 5 - 2nd and 7 - Pistol look. Michigan has 2 wide and 2 TE mirrored. PSU walks down and 8th defender into the box and Michigan runs play action out of the stacked look. Green runs the wrong direction, so the LB doesn't have to hold up before his drop and he undercuts the route. Gardner never sees the underneath defender, which he probably should, but that defender shouldn't be able to make a play if Green runs to the correct side of the formation. This is why it's risky to play freshman.

PSU Drive 6 - 11:37 2nd 10-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - PSU in a 3 wide set. Michigan in a cover 1 out of their 4-3 over with the safety walked down over the slot. Both Ryan and Bolden fail to carry the TE deep, not giving Wilson a chance to get over the top. Pretty sure this is more on Bolden not taking the correct initial drop, but Ryan can do better off the LOS.

Michigan Drive 7 - 11:27 2nd 10-14

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Twins tackle over. PSU with 7 in the box, so Michigan should be able to run here. They run stretch to strength, and no one on the OL gets to their 2nd level blocks. Gardner could help by switching sides of the formation, as PSU has shifted their personnel to strength rather heavily. If Michigan could run counter... Either way this is a first down in which you have a defense conceding run and you lose yardage, whereas if the OL is even relatively decent at their job it's at worst 2nd and 7.

Play 2 - 2nd and 10 - Shotgun, trio to the top and TE to the bottom. RB lined up behind TE. This formation has screamed Y-stick since ND. Michigan runs inverted veer which should kill because you see PSU's backside defenders starting to play Y-stick. Gardner correctly keeps, but then Bryant lunges at a defender with his eyes down on his pull and completely whiffs him because he was reaching and didn't keep his eyes on the defender. Bryant makes this block even a little bit and it's at least 10 yards. This is Borges calling a play based on what he saw from his scripted plays and taking advantage of PSU's defense, and instead of it being extremely successful it isn't because of a terribly missed, easy assignment.

Play 3 - 3rd and 8 - This is the same concept as Michigan's first TE run. They have a 2 high beater to the field for a high/low read and a single high to the top. Gallon (taking Funchess's route) sits as there is a defender over the top of him, and Funchess's route (Gallon's previously) is a bit shorter because of the timing of the drop, this gives a high/low but also an in/out concept against cover 3 and makes it difficult for the LB to cover the TE in the flat, as we've seen Ross struggle with out of cover 3. But this is an easy read for Gardner on both sides of the formation depending on his initial read of the safeties and then a single key defender. Gardner reads it correctly, doesn't throw a great ball, but this should be caught again. This is Borges giving Gardner easy reads to the outside of the field to avoid confusion for him. It's easy 1-2 progression and then scramble. Both times he has found his guy, both should have been big plays.

PSU Drive 8 - 9:45 2nd 10-14

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan puts a safety over the slot, and tips it's single high coverage. Motion tips cover 1 rather than cover 3. PSU runs to Ryan, who does decent on the edge, but it's Gordon coming down quickly in run support, setting the edge, and finishing the play.

Play 2 - 2nd and 8 - Michigan in obvious cover 1 as the corner has switched the field to line up both CBs over the 2 WR side. This allows Gordon to be the backside support player against the run, which is a nice switch up so that PSU can't pick on the CB as the free tackler in the run game. PSU runs play action off of it, MO does a good job not chasing the play, pressuring Hack to throw on the run to a well covered TE.

Play 3 - 3rd and 8 - Michigan goes cover 1, forcing Ross to cover the TE man to man. Ross takes away the inside nicely, but can't break underneath the route quick enough to make a play. Tackles right at the catch.

Play 4 - 1st and 10 - Should be no gain. The playside DL just stands up PSU OL. But Wormley gets turned around and can't find ball and Countess doesn't fill properly, so the RB can escape out where Gordon makes a big ankle tackle to prevent a big run.

Play 5 - 2nd and 5 - This looks like straight outs from PSU, but the #2 receivers have option routes here (they run outs because of the coverage). Michigan in cover 3 and it's an easy in/out read from Hack.

Play 6 - 1st and 10 - Mario swims his blocker and squeezes down quickly to make a great play against the run.

Play 7 - 2nd and 10 - Man coverage again here. Think there is a miscommunication between Cam and Ross, as Ross hesitates as if he's playing the RB out of the backfield. My guess is Ross is actually correct here, and this is an in/out coverage from the 2 LBs.

Play 8 - 1st and 10 - Michigan slants, Black blows up the play big time, and the rest of the DL pretty easily beats their counterparts and the RB can't go anywhere.

Play 9 - 2nd and 11 - Believe Michigan is in cover 4 here and Ross is picked on. Tough position for Ross who must flow to run and cover the flat. It's incomplete though.

Play 10 - 3rd and 11 - Cover 3 dime look. Avery is in perfect position to make a play on the ball and doesn't. Never actually finds the ball, which shouldn't happen in this situation. If you are playing inside, force the receiver tighter to the sideline and get the eyes around so you can break this up.

Michigan Drive 9 - 7:00 2nd 10-21

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan tries to go with a weakside Iso against an 8 man front (the safety walks up late to put the 8th guy in the box). You'd like to see Gardner see that and check, but frankly the front side is the same as it would be if PSU was in a 7 man front, so the numbers are still there. The difference here is what happens if you're forced to cut back. That happens here. If this is a 7 man box, Fitz breaks a big one. But the walk down safety does a nice job filling the cut back hole. Late movement made it so Gardner didn't check.

Play 2 - 2nd and 8 - Brian picture paged this at mgoblog. I'll get into this a bit more at another point, but the 2 backside blockers are essentially out of the play here. So it becomes 6 blockers on 6 defenders. This play can still be blocked. The FB and TB have the same read: Lewan. If Lewan seals they can both go outside and this is still a big gain. Lewan can't, which is understandable, so you cut behind him. The problem is that Kalis has a guy lined up over his outside eye and can't manage to do the correct footwork to reach an interior DL. On top of that Bryant can't even cut the backside tackle because of poor and slow footwork. This actually should be a 4-5 yard gain. The play call isn't optimal against the formation, but the reason it isn't checked out of is because on the playside the offense is still reading what it wants. I won't sit here and say it's optimal, but it can work. This isn't the stupidest thing ever.

Play 3 - 3rd and 10 - Absolutely great job by Gardner stepping into the pocket and above the edge pressure. This allows him to step into the throw a rope to Funchess for a first down. Gardner has improved, for those taking notice. Confidence still needs to come along, but improvement will be obvious once it does.

Play 4 - 1st and 10 - 3 WR pistol look. Michigan blocks everyone inside well enough, but Dileo doesn't make his block. The problem is he not only misses it once, but twice. If he successfully cracks Gardner has a big gain outside. He misses crack, alright, then seal that guy outside and Gardner looks to cut it up, but then he misses that as well and then gets completely lost and it's no gain. Dileo doesn't have to do anything great here, he just needs to do something, but doesn't. Borges going back to plays that work but not going to the well too often so far. But clearly trying run game variety on first down to keep on track. This is a play the OL has blocked well enough, could have been a nice gain on first down.

Play 5 - 2nd and 9 - Borges out thinks himself a little here, and not because it's a "middle screen in a stacked box". All year, people haven't wanted run fakes to Norfleet. This is the equivalent of how Meyer uses the shovel pass. He gets the 2 playside guys to bite on Norfleet, so he has blocked two players with one guy. What actually bites him is the OLB not doing his job and following Fitz out of the backfield. Glasgow then doesn't wash his DT down nearly enough and the DT actually makes a nice play. To top it off, Glasgow doesn't go to block the correct guy because MIKE didn't bit toward the jet sweep, but instead to Fitz. PSU's mistakes actually stopped this play, along with a nice play by the DT. What I don't like (I'm guessing here) is that Michigan never went back to this look and threw the flare screen.

I actually like this play. PSU is flowing fast to action. The box defenders need to fast flow outside to defend the two misdirection plays and the middle of the field should be wide open. It's seeing things PSU is doing and trying to take advantage of them. It's just that PSU screwed up on their assignments a bit. Perhaps actually run the jet sweep to see PSU's response first, but then people complain that that's obvious, which it is.

Play 6 - 3rd and 8 - Michigan runs the same play they've essentially run three times now. High/low on one side to take advantage of 2 high, and an inside/out look on the top of the screen to take advantage of single high. Easy reads, last time it was dropped, this time they get a holding penalty.

Play 7 - 1st and 10 - 8 in the box for PSU against 12 personnel. 3 routes, one from the RB. Williams does not come off his block to pick up the 8th defender. Gardner steps in again, this squeezes the defense up and allows him to then escape out the back. Then he has an open receiver that he finds and actually makes a pretty nice throw except the PSU defender makes an amazing PBU. This is a flood concept to that side, which gives Gardner some easy reads, a post and then a high/low where he ends up going. But the OL/TEs need to pick up their blocks. Their eyes are not on their keys. Williams thought his man was playing a coverage and didn't keep his eyes on him and the delayed pressure got there.

Play 8 - 2nd and 10 - Michigan goes gun with a bunch set to the top and a TE in. RB lined up to the weak side. Michigan has 4 blockers for 3 defenders on that side. PSU blitzes, making the draw play a perfect call because a large hole playside opens up as the OL washes the blitzers down and past the play. If Kalis gets his head to the correct side, Gardner probably picks up a few extra yards. As is, he picks a nice 5 yard gain to make 3rd down manageable.

Play 9 - 3rd and 5 - Borges goes to the play that Gardner is most comfortable with, though it's the Z-snag variation with Funchess playing Z. Gardner should have made the read quicker though and didn't. The OL had a slide coverage so no one picked up the backside DE. It's not the best pass pro call as it could have been, but Gardner should have seen the CB release the Z receiver and immediately hit Funchess. His hitch hesitation allowed the DE to get there. The OL didn't help, certainly, but he still could have made a play here.

PSU Drive 9 - 2:38 2nd 10-21

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Inside zone from PSU. Black washes his guy down and should have backside arm free, but never gets his arm out to slow the RB. Bolden does a nice job cutting under the OL to make a play here.

Play 2 - 2nd and 6 - Well blocked inside zone, Morgan does a great job of lining up the OL and disengaging to make a play on the ball carrier for a minimal gain.

Play 3 - 3rd and 2 - Play action, PSU runs essentially a double rub route, first with playside TE then with playside WR. FB leaks. Morgan gets caught up a little bit, but FB drops it. Would have been short gain, but enough for the first down. That drop probably saved Michigan at least 3 points.

Michigan Drive 10 - 1:30 2nd 10-21

Play 1 - Michigan has a packaged play, so when the corner comes to set the edge on the zone stretch, Gardner can hit the little pop pass behind it. This is a nice little response to the defense bringing a corner late into the box. The route is likely an adjustment (the hitch aspect) because the safety is playing over the top well. If PSU wouldn't have that safety come over the top Chesson completes the wheel route and this is a big gain. If Michigan got a first down I think they would have pressed the issue a bit more.

They wanted the option to keep the block running if they didn't get the first down. So they ran the football. If they pick up a first down I think they start pushing it and try to get in FG range. They didn't so they eat clock.

2nd Quarter Offense Conclusions

I'd still personally like to see a bit more pass on first down, but every first down run had a good chance at success if blockers just do a little bit. Still, Borges mixed it up a bit, he did some things based on how PSU reacted to offensive plays earlier, and was ahead of the curve on the middle screen that only got snuffed out because PSU messed up. I'll get more into the "Worst Play Ever" play at another time, but even that play had a chance to work. Is it the best thing there? Probably not. But the set up isn't the problem. It's certainly not my favorite play, and doesn't give the offense much leeway, but that's the closest thing to a real issue I have with any individual play calls against what the defense was doing. I'm still seeing a ton of offensive line problems, both in the run game and a lot in pass pro. That makes anything that gives Gardner an easy read difficult to call. It puts Borges in a bit of a bind.

In the first half, Borges called a few veer options, he ran an inverted veer, he ran a QB draw from a spread look, he ran a QB power from a spread look. He had run game variety. He only ran into a single stacked box on the first play of the 2nd drive. Other than that they had numbers playside (you can argue the "Worst Play Ever", but they had numbers playside even there) and often had numbers overall in the run game based on their formation and the defense's look.

Borges hasn't called a marvelous game by any means, but he has done things to set up the defense and put his players in a position to succeed. Michigan should have easily moved the ball on every drive in the 2nd quarter except for very simple execution mistakes, not even just "missed down blocks", but like "catching the football that's in your hands" or correctly blocking in pass pro.

I haven't seen the 2nd half yet, but in an isolated half, this was actually a very well called game, with big offensive line problems the reason it only produced 10 points. Because players were in position to make plays and there were a lot of points potentially left on the board because of simple execution issues, not execution issues where Borges put people in positions where they couldn't succeed.

2nd Quarter Defense Conclusions

PSU is clearly picking on Michigan's LBs in coverage again. To do that, it is important that they continue to run the football though. They have really picked on Ross early, and he's struggled a lot. But pretty much all PSU's success has been in the pass game against LB busts.

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