A Coach's POV - 3rd Quarter Play by Play

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

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 and 2nd Quarter

PSU Drive 10 - 15:00 3rd 10-21
Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Black is very quick to get penetration, gets a little too deep but realizes it and really squeezes the play. Ross, in the process of wrapping up (this is why you wrap up) rakes down right on the football and it kicks to Clark, who returns it for a TD.

PSU Drive 11 - 14:44 3rd 17-21
Play 1 - 1st and 10 - PSU in a mirrored solo set and Michigan in a 4-3 Under with Clark standing up on the near side. Michigan runs a double A gap twist with their LBs, Heck scrambles and throws right at Clark, who almost makes an eerily similar INT as Zettel did on his zone blitz drop. This is a great job by Clark, who had originally started chasing the QB, seeing that someone was leaking behind him and regaining depth to get underneath the route and break it up.

This play is a nice way of getting 7 guys in pretty much every gap and making the zone blocks difficult for the OL. The drops from SAM and WDE still allow these players to hold the edge.

Play 2 - 2nd and 10 - PSU goes 4 wide. Ross undercuts the OT as soon as he releases and the DT does a nice job getting his outside arm free. This means that both sides are closed for the RB to run through. Ross does a good job of riding so support can clean up.

Play 3 - 3rd and 8 - PSU 4 wide again, stacking receivers to the field and wing and on receiver to field. It's interesting that both Michigan and PSU have run this formation multiple times. Everyone standing up for Michigan as they go into their Okie package. They bring 4 and Ross is delayed as he's checking the RB first. The OT and OG just completely miscommunicate the coverage and Black says thank you very much, splits them, and applies quick pressure to force a quick throw and incomplete pass.

Michigan Drive 11 - 13:40 3rd 17-21

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Shotgun from a solo set (meaning both TEs are on opposite sides of the ball and on the LOS) and two WR to the field. Fitz is behind the Butt, who is the lone receiver to the boundary. 8 Man front. The fake read option just holds the back side, the pulling guard shows that this is QB Power. Front side is initially blocked very well. Just as exciting is that the backside has done very well also. Gardner sees a safety filling fast, reverses field, and gets a nice block from Funchess to spring 9 yards. The most exciting thing about this is that it is blocked well at every point, and a RB probably hits this playside and gains 4-5 yards. That's a confidence boost for the OL that halftime adjustments worked.

Play 2 - 2nd and 1 - Tackle over from Michigan. Michigan again runs power. Kalis does not recognize the a safety has walked down playside to form an 8 man block. The 8 man box isn't the problem though, the problem is that Kalis still targets the guy that was originally WILL, rather than now targeting the nominal WILL, which is MIKE. This is just as much on Schofield as it is on Kalis though, and with the alignment of the MIKE, I think Kalis needs to be the one to take over the combo and have Schofield get to the MIKE. SAM is still gunning the hole, but Bryant will just alter his lead block into a kick block and Fitz can ride behind him. WILL can probably scrape over and limit this to a couple yards, but it would pick up the first down. Kalis then does something mean.

Play 3 - 3rd and 16 - 3 by 1 receivers on third and long. It looks like Gardner can initial escape laterally, and earlier in the year he would have bailed right away. But he stays patient as long as he can in the pocket, steps up and out between the DE and DT. Gardner is a half step or just a block held just a moment longer from breaking this into the second level with one or two defenders between him and a first down. All because he didn't panic, he tried to let his receivers get into their routes, he allowed his OTs to wash the outside rush down and almost got around the DT. I'm impressed with DG improved pocket presence in this game, and that's exactly what even gave this play a chance in the face of a heavy rush.

PSU Drive 12 - 11:43 3rd 17-21

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Guard bugging out away from action should signal a boot to the LBs, who are a bit late to picking it up. Michigan goes cover 1 behind it with Countess responsible for backside leverage. That heavy run look causes Countess to bite on the PA a bit as well, and the dip route from the slot also sells that, when he breaks back out he's open but Hack struggling to throw on the run. PSU chop blocks and that's not nice.

Play 2 - 1st and 25 - PSU goes 5 wide and Michigan threatens two LBs up the A gaps. I like this because Hack isn't very mobile and has struggled to throw on the run. They send six and PSU has 5 plus a TE chip. That means Hack has to throw a quick out, which at most is 5 yards, and even if it's complete 2nd and 20 is pretty good position for the defense.

Play 3 - 2nd and 25 - Same look from PSU and Michigan. Same blitz from Michigan. Black determines he can't get there and drops to gain depth to try to undercut any shallow route. Hack is forced to go to the out on the field side and picks up about 7, which is 3rd and 18 and still a win for the defense. Until PSU threatens to beat this over the top, Mattison has decided to keep running it.

Play 4 - 3rd and 18 - PSU puts a RB in to protect the 3 WR and a TE. Michigan in cover 4 (they drop right away as they aren't worried about the run). Because the TE stays in to protect, Taylor knows he can be very aggressive with his coverage because he has a safety bracketing inside and deep. When Hack tries to throw the deep hook, Taylor undercuts for the INT.

Michigan Drive 12 - 10:42 3rd 17-21

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan in solo pistol with two WR split to the field. 8 in the box for PSU, so option is available. CBs 7 yards off so no quick pass available out of design. Veer option and the DE gives Gardner an easy read. He almost closes down on the mesh point, but Gardner is able to use his long arms to stiff arm and then pick up big yards. Great job by DG riding the mesh point to force the DE to commit one way or the other deep in the backfield. This is similar to what would happen in OT, FWIW.

Play 2 - 1st and G (9) - Shotgun with trio to the top and a solo WR to the bottom. Designed draw (a bit obvious but that's alright). PSU blitzes into it, again, meaning if you get past the initial rush it's probably a TD. Jackson is out there and... oh come on. Just get in front or mess with the LB and it's a TD. Just kind of stood and watched him instead. 2 yard gain and DG's helmet comes off.

Play 3 - 2nd and G (5) - PSU in obvious cover 4, meaning there is an equivalent of 7 and two halves in the box. I probably would have run Iso instead of Power just because run is obvious here and your goal is just to stay on track long enough for DG to come back in. No way I'm putting the ball in the air with a true FR QB cold off the bench away at night in the RZ. The OL can actually block this well enough to gain a couple, they don't and it's a loss.

Play 4 - 3rd and G (6) - Three wide and a TE split 2x2 and a RB to the boundary. Formation tips man coverage on the outside and probably bracket coverage on the inside receivers. Back shoulder fade to Funchess against a corner seems like it should be a win more times than not. Millen says Gardner throws a good enough ball, which is inaccurate. DG throws a perfect ball on the back shoulder fade and Funchess just drops it. The reason why he drops it is because he gets his hands up late, which he is supposed to. Getting hands up early will come back to be one of the ways a similar play doesn't work in OT.

PSU Drive 13 - 8:46 3rd 20-21

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Straight pro I from PSU. Michigan in 4-3 Over. Ryan does a great job meeting the LB in the hole and blowing up the intended running lane. Michigan runs cover 1 robber behind it, which is a good run support defense. FWIW, it is Gordon that is playing much more of the box safety this week rather than Wilson, which is a change that makes sense to me.

Play 2 - 2nd and 8 - Michigan zone blitzes off the double A gap blitz again. Pressure is a bit late to get there, someone horse collars Ross who otherwise gets to the QB and it doesn't get called. Long time for Clark to defend in the flat.

FWIW, this seems like a pretty clear change in philosophy from the first half. More zone blitzes, getting pressure, forcing Hack to move. Zone dropping into flats to pick up the TEs rather than try to cover them straight up.

Play 3 - 1st and 10 - Michigan is inverting the line here, but Clark doesn't get outside leverage which allows the RB to get to the edge and have a big run pick up. Same thing though as far as picking up the flats, they are trying to drop guys into them to get underneath the out routes to the TEs.

Play 4 - 1st and 10 - Draw action, and both SAM and MIKE are focused on carrying the TE. Beyer needs to release him to MIKE, who is in proper position, and get back to the flat on the RB, who leaks out and catches.

Play 5 - 2nd and 1 - Shotgun, inside zone. Can't really see much but Wormley sticks him 1 yard down field, just enough to pick up the first.

Play 6 - 1st and 10 - PSU goes pro I. Michigan brings a safety down to get 8 in the box. Gordon is worried about the dig and tries to drop into that area, and doesn't get enough lateral movement to take away the quick hitch.

Play 7 - 1st and 10 - PSU in pro I again. Michigan goes straight cover 1 with 7 in the box. They run draw at it. Wormley gets good push and gets hands on the OT so he can handle him. But gets too much depth and by the time he fights back he can't make a play. Still the LBs and box safety aren't really fooled and it's only 3 yards.

Play 8 - 2nd and 7 - Pro I. Michigan brings a safety into the box. Michigan slants with 5 guys, there is miscommunication at the line and Michigan gets a free run at Hack. Lucky, because Morgan did not pick up his back out of the backfield, but Mattison has seen Hack struggle against pressure and continues to bring it.

Play 9 - 3rd and 14 - Trey to the field, split wide to the boundary. PSU in gun and Michigan in nickel. PSU has seen quite enough of the blitzes and runs a screen, a play I like with a young QB in this situation. While Michigan's DL don't recognize it well enough, the edge gets pressure quick enough to force Hack to dump it quickly, so the defense can converge at the same time the blockers are. This is exactly what allows Wilson, the alley player that would have otherwise been blocked, the ability to make the play.

Michigan drive 13 - 4:15 3rd 20-24

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - 2 TE set with WRs and TEs on both sides of the formation. Token stretch action. Gardner sees pressure coming and his blocker on one side of him. This means the defender has a free hit at DG. But DG, rather then trying to bail on the play, does a quick back step to escape the pressure wonderfully. Then he stays in the pocket and steps into a throw to Gallon for a nice strike. Poor protection again from the OL, but I am to the point now where I'm pretty ecstatic about DG's pocket mobility in this game, and that's even with knowing the eventual outcome.

Play 2 - 1st and 10 - Two TEs to boundary and 2 WRs to the top. Inside action max protect, so only 2 in a route. Michigan attempt to high/low the single deep safety here to take advantage of him. It turns out the defense is in cover 3, so the deep look is covered. DG checks to his second read, who is open. I think DG is a half pause too late on the throw, and over steps his stride a bit as he's trying to thread it in there. That causes the ball to be low. But correct read again.

Play 3 - 2nd and 10 - Solo set from shotgun. RB to boundary. PSU puts 8 in the box. Staggered safety shows single high coverage. Quick, 1-step shotgun drop. Quick hitch to try to pick up half the yards, stay on track, take advantage of soft outside coverage, and give Gallon a chance at YAC. PSU blitzes and this is about as good of a call as you can have here because the CB will retreat and Gallon will have time to turn and run in a lot of space, but Schofield does a poor job getting into the defender knowing quick pass. He needs to get into the defender and keep his hands down here. This is three plays in a row that Michigan has attacked in various ways the loaded box, giving PSU a different look.

The difference between this and a bubble screen or extended hand off: Bubble or EHO probably doesn't give time for DE to knock it down; quick hitch gets more separation and has the same effect but 5 yards down field; quick Hitch is an easier throw for the QB. There are pros and cons to both. But both should be easy pitch and catch.

Play 4 - 3rd and 10 - Shotgun 2x2. Michigan has run this play at least 3 times today. Has single high in/out beater to one side, high/low to other. DG makes a quick read, sees the underneath defender flare outside, hits Gallon on his hitch, who draws the PI.

Play 5 - 1st and 10 - Stacked to the boundary. TE and WR to the field. Michigan in a single back set under center. This is the same play that Michigan scored a TD with on the first play of the game. Defender is over the top so DG comes down to Gallon. Throws it short as his footwork seems a bit messed up.

Play 6 - 2nd and 10 - Shotgun. Trips to the field with a TE. QB power that is blocked very well once again.

Play 7 - 1st and 10 - Same look as last down. This time it's inverted veer. I like how this gives the same backfield action as the QB power but hits the opposite B-gap. This really stresses the defense. This is how two plays can be set up the same exact way and the offense can essentially run power to both sides of the formation. Gardner is a little too passive and could have hit the intended hole for a nice gain. Tries to make a big play, instead gets an alright gain.

Play 8 - 2nd and 6 - Motion to tackle over, which is interesting. What this also does is that is that, by not squeezing the TE right way (still lined up as if there is an invisible OT between him in the OG) is that it keeps the DE wider than he normally would. This helps the TE block this a bit more. Michigan give power action to the weakside, the 2 RBs will pick up any wash that tries to fight through that vacated hole along with the OG quickly stepping to fill. Play action with 8 in the box. DG might feel the pressure a bit quickly here, but he also sees a big hole and knows PSU brought a blitz, so he has a chance to break a long run, especially when a guy turned his back to the play in coverage. Gardner picks up enough for a first down.

Play 9 - 1st and 10 - Solo two TE on each side of the ball and two WR to the same side. 8 man box with a safety walking down late. Michigan will run stretch away from it again. PSU is very much aligned to the play side. This is not tackle over, this is lined up normal. Michigan is set with more than 10 on the play clock. I know in this situation DG can flip the run side. PSU has 5 playside and 3 on the backside. This is easy money the other way regardless of PSU being in a 5-2 set.

I like the stretch here after Michigan has run PA off of it more than several times now. Force that DL to move a bit. But this is squarely on DG not switching sides. He is supposed to count defenders and run to the correct side, and didn't here. They had very easy blocks in the other direction.

Play 10 - 2nd and 10 - Shot gun, 3x1 with a TE on each side of the formation (boundary stays in to block). Draw action. Michigan runs a flood play to the field: seam-corner-delayed bench route and PSU can't cover it in their coverage. TD with easy reads to the outside for Gardner.

PSU Drive 14 - 0:28 3rd 27-24

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - PSU goes to gun 2x2. Michigan drops into a coverage they did early in the game and the two outs on each side is an easy pitch and catch to the TE against a LB.

Play 2 - 2nd and 5 - Single back with 2 TEs to one side and two WRs to the field. Black jumps, then hesitates, and that's why the inside zone gets big yards, because his hesitation made it so no one was between the RB and the second level going straight down hill.

Play 3 - 1st and 10 - Trio to the field, a split WR to the boundary. Shotgun from PSU. Michigan still in their 4-3. They blitz both ILB through the B-gaps, get quick pressure and Hack just throws it away. Pressure is clearly bothering him.

Play 4 - 2nd and 10 - 2x2 gun from PSU. Michigan goes cover 4. Something tips pass, because Mattison yells it out pre-snap. Ross does a poor job on his drop, which goes straight back, respecting the TE seam way too much with safety help taking anything over the top. This coverage should allow the LBs to be a bit more aggressive on the outs knowing they have safety help, but Ross is late. Right call, poor execution.

Play 5 - 1st and 10 - 2x2 again, this time PSU under center. It's inside zone. Black allows the OL to too easily release to the LBs as well as gets sealed inside without getting any movement. This creates a huge seam. Big run

Play 6 - 1st and 10 - Inside zone, can't see much because of up tempo. Michigan collapses a bunch of bodies around it.

Play 7 - 2nd and 8 - Double outs again. Michigan confused and the TE is wide open. Gets illegal substitution penalty. This is the advantage of changing tempos. Defense wasn't hurrying off field as they would if you're always NASCAR paced.

Play 8 - 1st and 10 - PSU goes to 4 verts look. Cover 1 from Michigan. It's a hitch and go on the outside. Countess jumps on the hitch, but he does so with his body in a position to disrupt the WR's route before he can get by him. If the WR gets by clean, this is a TD. But because Countess has better body position, it's an incomplete pass.

Play 9 - 2nd and 10 - Michigan bringing overload pressure on the zone blitz. This forces Hack to move and then throw the ball into a bracketed TE. Incomplete.

Play 10 - 3rd and 10 - Okie front from Michigan. They only bring the DL and the OL is confused. Every else drops into a cover 3 and Hack can't hit anyone against the pressure.

3rd Quarter Offense Conclusions

In my opinion, this was a great quarter by Borges. He got Michigan the lead back, moved the ball consistently, and had play calls that consistently took advantage of things the defense was giving. He mixed up first down calls. He ran a lot of PA. He ran some first down option. I know what's ahead. I know what is about to happen and I know the complains. But this is 3 quarters that people are forgetting, and it sums out to above average play calling so far (despite being only 20 offensive points in 3 quarters). Execution issues have really prevented this offense from taking off, and this is without your All-American OT, two RS Fr, a RS So, a walk on, and a senior on the line for much of the game. With no TE that is an upper classman. With a QB that has previously appeared shaken and as if his confidence was gone. Some easy missed assignments and turnovers stalled most of the drives early, much more than play calling, so the point result doesn't necessarily reflect the amount of points scored, but the execution does. Players were in position to succeed for the better part of the first 3 quarters.

Maybe all that is why people are as upset as they are as to what happens next, and I actually think Borges has some valid points coming up, even if he isn't perfect. But maybe the fact that the first three quarters I actually think he called an above average game, all things considered, have forced people hands in being even more upset to come.


3rd Quarter Defense Conclusions

Mattison went away from a lot of the basic cover 3 stuff that was getting eaten up by TE outs. To do so, he brought interior pressure and dropped his WDE and SAM to undercut a lot of these routes. Rather than try to stay with them, cover underneath and let a safety deal with the over the top stuff. Combined with the pressure, Hack really struggled to adjust and that's how Michigan succeeded defensively in this quarter. Nice half time adjustments on both sides of the ball.

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