A Coach's POV - Overtime 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".

(Full Game Links: 1st Quarter2nd Quarter3rd Quarter4th Quarter)

Michigan 1st Drive of OT 34-34 (PSU missed FG in first half of OT)

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - A few things are important to note coming into this series. Gibbons missed a FG at the end of regulation, but the kick was dead on target. He also he a 42 yarder or so earlier in the game with plenty of leg to spare. So being at the 25 yard line, a 42 yard kick, is fine. Any extra is essentially icing on the cake giving what was known of Gibbons before this OT period. He is money inside of 40. Get inside 40 and get out with a win.

Michigan lines up with the TE-wing to hash and two WRs to field. They are likely expecting PSU to go back to the 7 man front with a CB in the box as they did every down before the last 3 in which Michigan tried to kill the clock. But they stay in their 8 man front. The original call makes sense before Borges sees how the defense aligns. All evidence points to them going back to that and Michigan being able to run this. And remember, any additional yards is icing on the cake.

Alas, PSU is thinking Michigan is going to be conservative and stacks the box. Corners are well back. Yes, an extended hand off would be nice here, no doubt about it. But before you saw this, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the play call. This is hindsight theory working for people. And this is probably a situation in which Borges doesn't want Gardner to check because if those CBs approach at the last second, it could result in a pointless turnover. No problem with this play call given what the situation is and what the situation appeared to be going into the down.

Play 2 - 2nd and 9 - Michigan goes to a pro I set in an effort to get PSU out of the 8 man front. Remember the situation, yards are just icing on the cake. PSU goes cover 4, which you should expect, so you can't go stretch, it needs to be a run up the middle. Michigan runs Iso and gains about 2 yards. That's pretty much exactly what Michigan wants.

Play 3 - 3rd and 7 - Yeah, I just don't like this. I mean, I get the point, trying to center it and all, but it's a wasted down. Maybe this is an effort to just minimize the bad, so you can't get a 3 yard loss, but in my opinion run a run that at least gives you a chance to gain a few. Other than that, I have no problem keeping it on the ground in these circumstance.

Michigan 2nd drive OT 34-34
Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Alright, let's look at this logically. After the 3rd Quarter, PSU only stacked the box on the clock killing drive and when yards were just icing on the cake in the first OT. So you expect them to get back to what they were doing originally now that Michigan will tend to open up the offense. That's going into the drive, you haven't seen anything yet. Think about what you actually know and what you should actually expect to see from PSU.

Michigan comes out in a pistol set with 3 WRs. This is the formation that has given them the best gains all day. Perfect. PSU has 7 in the box, so Michigan can run veer option with it. Perfect. It's exactly what you want. The DE stays, forcing DG to give. Fitz, if he doesn't slip gets at least 4, probably 5. But he slips and he gets 3.

There is nothing conservative about this play call. This is how they produced a lot of yards in the 3rd quarter, with this very play. Play should have picked up half the first down yardage, didn't because of a slip, it happens, but we are on a decent track.

Play 2 - 2nd and 7 - Michigan again comes out in the pistol look with 3 WRs. Same look from PSU and you know you can be successful against it because you just saw it the previous play. PSU knows this too. Corners play soft, safeties walk up. PSU sells out on it and Michigan runs a pop pass to the backside. Perfect play call to take advantage of the defense. Nothing conservative about it, this is going for a TD and moving the sticks.

Play 3 - 1st and 10 - 2 TEs now but again the pistol look. 8 in the box for PSU which is fine because the 8th man is optioned off. PSU crashes the mesh point, just as they did earlier. The defense crashes down on the run. Alright, it's unfortunate, but there is no way that Borges could have known they would sell out like that when they haven't before to this look, and still the play can be blocked and is blocked if DG gives. Fitz has a cut back to the front side that is open if DG gives. Sure, extended hand off is nice. Screen is nice. Close to the end zone it's also very risky. On 1st and 10 on a play that has worked all night, I just don't see the big thing to complain about outside of you want a check that they just didn't happen to make.

Play 4 - 2nd and 13 - I'm going to go ahead and say this is a great call by Borges. He motions Butt to a bunch formation. It's going to look like a rub route to the flat, which is a call to get the play back into a manageable situation. That's what PSU thinks as well. The #2 receiver doesn't get a good rub, but it's fine, because this isn't a rub to the flat. The two receivers are going to flood the zone deep and take both corners with them. Either the LB will stay in his flat as his zone dictates or he's 1 on 1 with Jake Butt, which is a win if you're an OC.

I said earlier how Funchess got his hands up late, like he was supposed to, but that made him drop the back should throw. When Gardner releases this ball there should be two outcomes: TD or 1st down at the 2. If Gardner throws it correctly it's a TD. He throws it short, which is safe with a LB turned away from the QB. But then Butt puts his hands up and continues to fade on the route. If he stops and goes up to get the ball at its high point, it's a catch or pass interference. But Borges got exactly what he wanted on this play. He was aggressive on this play. This is a great play call that put a receiver in a very good position to succeed, because he'll be either wide open or matched up 1 on 1 with a LB.

Play 5 - 3rd and 13 - Michigan is anything but conservative. The motion from a trips stack, they still have stack to the top and the wing WR to the bottom. This is not a draw. This is the play that Gardner has been successful reading and throwing all game. It's not a conservative call. Fitz only goes out as a lead blocker once he sees Gardner decided to escape the pocket too early. Again, nothing conservative about this. This is a play that has time and time again put Michigan players in positions to succeed, both receivers and Gardner. It didn't work this time, but it's the right play call down at the end of the field. You need to run a play everyone is comfortable with the reads on because you also can't afford a TO.

Michigan 3rd drive OT 37-37 (PSU has fumbled the ball and Michigan only needs a FG)

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Remember the situation now. Similar as before. Michigan is conservative here and runs a weakside Iso. Not a huge fan of it, but it's not the end of the world. Borges is likely thinking stacked box, but wants to see how PSU reacts, and wants to run a quick hitting play that is the least likely to lose yards and pick up something. So am I a huge fan of it? No. But I do understand it perfectly. FWIW, CBs are 7 yards off so extended hand off is not an option.

Play 2 - 2nd and 10 - Borges has now seen how PSU is playing it this time against this formation. So what does Borges dial up? A PA Iso out route to a wide open receiver for what looks to me like an obvious first down. Either way, he just got the ball to the 15 yard line, not by being conservative, but by taking what the defense gave him and giving his kicker a chance. Complain about the last call, but in 2 plays Michigan picked up 10 yards because they set this up.

Play 3 - 3rd and 1 - Ball is on the hash. This is a 32 yard kick for a guy that is absolutely money from here. There is no reason to be anything but conservative. Yet he calls a play that should still be able to pick up a first down, but at worst centers the ball. It doesn't get the first, but there is nothing wrong with this call.

Michigan 4th drive OT 37-37

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - So scenario, how is PSU going to play it now? Aggressive like they did when Michigan could afford to be conservative? Or straight up. CBs are 7 yards off, they are playing cover 4 against Michigan's mirrored solo look. Borges tries to take advantage of this by running PA of the zone stretch. Michigan is flooding the field and giving DG a run/pass option. This isn't conservative. He is trying to attack the defense on the very first play for being aggressive and the DE makes a play to prevent it from succeeding.

Play 2 - 2nd and 10 - Michigan goes to a shotgun look. 3 WRs on the field, offense split 2x2. PSU has 6.5 in the box. Borges dials up a high low look to the outside to take advantage of the LB trying to sneak into the box. This is a pass to Drew Dileo covered by a LB and Dileo is running an option route to get open (hitch like earlier in the game for a big first down, or an out as is here). This isn't conservative, this is taking advantage absolutely of what the defense is giving. If this pass is on target, the only difference between this and a bubble is that Gallon has now run the CB into the end zone and Dileo can turn it up field and probably get inside the 10 easily, if not score a TD.

Play 3.0 - 3rd and 10 - This is absolutely stupid. No reason for this.

Play 3.1 - 3rd and 15 - I believe there are three deep options here for Gardner. So this is far from conservative on 3rd and 15. Borges has called a play to try to give Michigan a first down, he didn't call a play to try to pick up something to get a FG. He called three pass plays, took advantage of things PSU gave them, and was aggressive this whole OT.

OT Offensive Conclusions
I don't see it. OT1 he was conservative because he was already in a position where Gibbons had kicked and made a FG in this game. Gibbons last FG was on line but short. With that same exact kick he makes the FG in the first OT. He hits the ground, the ball is low, it gets blocked.

OT2 Borges comes out and runs veer option. He runs a pop pass to take advantage of what the defense is giving up. He runs a wheel route that gets Butt matched up 1 on 1 with a LB that should be a TD or at worst a first down inside the two. Then on third and long he dials up the pass play Gardner has been most successful at all day, trying and playing for a TD.

In OT3 he sees what the defense is giving him on first down. On 2nd down he takes advantage of that for a 10 yard gain. You now have set up at worst a 32 yard FG for a kicker that is money inside the 40. You run a play to try to pick up the first, but at worst center the ball for your kicker. It's a chip shot. If we're playing for skins it's a gimme. He missed.

In OT4 he starts off with PA off of stretch action that beat PSU the whole 3rd quarter. It doesn't work out. So he comes back with a play that matches up Dileo on a LB and runs off the CB. Again, he's taking advantage of the CB alignment doing something other than a bubble. In fact, this play is better than a bubble, it runs the CB all the way into the end zone before he gets blocked. It should be a safety coming from the center of the field trying to beat Dileo to the end zone. At worst it should get inside the 10. Then, after a stupid delay of game, he still tries to pick up a first down on 3rd and 15. He's still trying to win the game on 3rd and 15. There was nothing conservative about either OT2 or OT4 and there was little conservative in OT3. On top of that OT1 is understandable.

So here we are. I think people have to put themselves in Borges's shoes for a second. Get outside of a couple isolated plays and a love for bubble screens. Borges ran things to take advantage of soft coverage when the time was right to do so. He made adjustments at half time and called plays that put his players in a great position to succeed time and time again. He set up the defense, he called plays to take advantage of those set ups.

Borges didn't do anything within his system that Rich Rod or someone else would do within their own, especially in the 2nd half and OT. The system would change, you'd bubble instead of doing a quick out to get a WR on a LB. Alright, fine, but those are very minor differences. The play calling philosophy I actually think was correct, and I'll stand by that. I think the problem most people are falling into is the common problem: it didn't work so it must be the play calling. Or: It's not what I would call in that situation so it must be wrong. Well there is a significant difference between "it's different so it's wrong" and "it's different so it's different". Just because it's different doesn't make it wrong like many are stating. Just because he went conservative on one drive where he was attempting to kill clock, and did so successfully, doesn't mean the rest of the game was conservative to the detriment of the team. I think after PSU scored their tying TD, people started seeing what they wanted to see and not what actually happened. People searched for reason for the loss, and this was the simplest thing to grasp at.

I don't know. Maybe people just don't see it. Maybe people are angry because this was a game Michigan shouldn't have lost. But it wasn't the play calling that lost it. Maybe that's hard to swallow, that in fact it's more complex than the play calling. And that's not saying it isn't coaching, coaches have to teach players how to play. But the play calling was fine.

Maybe other people don't see it. Or maybe I don't see it. But what I'm pretty certain I just saw was a well called 2nd half and OT that was aggressive when it called for it and careful when it didn't. And I saw play calling that put players in positions to succeed.

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