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A Coach's POV - 1st Quarter Play by Play

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.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

This is note intended to serve the same purpose as Brian's UFR over at MGoBlog. This is intended to look at things from a coach's perspective, namely, the two Michigan coordinators and why they are doing what they're doing. I will have one for each quarter and OT.

Michigan Drive 1 - 15:00 1st 0-0

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Tackle over Power. Glasgow missed assignment and didn't down block (instead deciding to triple the playside DT when that wasn't his job against this front). Butt didn't hold block anyway. Absolutely no problem running this here. It's first play, you see what the defense is giving. CB 6 yards off. Only 8 in box from PSU. PSU was set up to give up yards on the run, missed assignments killed the play. But you see what PSU is giving you early and it should set up things for later. Need to be executed better.


3 on 1 eh? Welp, see ya later.

Play 2 - 2nd and 14 - Designed QB Power off read option look. Kalis needs to do better in the hole on a small defender. Bryant needs to actually maintain his block. This should have been a big gain. Nice design to essentially block a couple defenders with the outside zone look to Fitz.

Play 3 - 3rd and 10 - Good roll call away from middle blitz. Outside receiver bracketed and slipped. Miscommunication on routes as there is no levels or inside/out concept here.

PSU Drive 1 - 13:20 1st 0-0

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Washington got too occupied on someone obviously the backside OG on an inside zone. Lined up playside of center, needs to beat center's head across or at least pin BSG and scrape quicker. Morgan needs to do better to disengage and leave shoulder free.

Play 2 - 2nd and 2 - DL plays run, but it's a roll out. Taylor in single coverage on the outside, needs to respect deep and come back in cover 1.

Play 3 - 1st and 10 - Clark needs to do a better job of setting the edge immediately, though he does a good job of shedding blocker and getting there eventually. DL flows buy no one wraps up RB who is able to drive the pile.

Play 4 - 2nd and 4 - Straight cover 3 look from Michigan, with an inverted line. Wilson does a good job staying over top of the receiver and then coming down as PSU TE tries to sit between levels from their 4 vert look that I described here. Wilson understands concept, and if TE tries to take the look deep then Wilson's body is in position to prevent the TE from getting there.

Michigan Drive 2 - 11:57 1st 0-0

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Tackle over. PSU gives a different look, starts with 9 in the box, motions late to 10 and then one safety backs off the bring it back to 9. CB is 7 yards off the LOS, which isn't deep enough to just throw it out there, need a designed route if you want to do that, but it's still early so you are still probing the defense a bit; I still don't have a problem here really. Run zone stretch away from strength and see how they play it out of the look. The one safety is going to step back into coverage, which means you have 5 blockers for 5 defenders. The fact that the entire OL (and a TE which is more understandable, but you expect your TE to be able to block a DE) can't block anyone is infuriating. But we move on. We know how they will play it and we can use that to our advantage later.

Play 2 - 2nd and 14 - This play was one of those that Brian screamed about for a bubble screen. Well, they end up running a play on the back end of this Y-stick that should be just as effective. They run two quick outs from the #2 and #3 and run off the outside CB with a streak route. This is the equivalent to the bubble screen but with an easier throwing angle for the QB. The problem is that Gardner has become too dependent on the Y-stick concept to get going and to get comfortable. For whatever reason here though, Gardner isn't even checking the safety any more. Watch his eyes, and they go straight to the key defender. At no time does he hold the defense or even think of going backside. Either the coaches have over-simplified the concept and reads for him, or they haven't taught him what to look for well enough. But it's in the play design to take advantage of the soft coverage from this alignment. My guess is Borges wanted an easy pass to get DG some confidence and get the play into 3rd and manageable. Remember, this is still the script portion of the play calling.

Play 3 - 3rd and 8 - PSU runs cover 3 and Gardner never reads his 2nd key defender (first read is playside CB who is backing out), who is clearly fanning out into the flat. This is the correct play call by Borges, who runs routes past the sticks and gives Gardner an easy in/out read on the flat defender, and Dileo the option of hitching or running an in on the LB. Dileo runs the hitch, which is wide open because the flat defender is bugging out to undercut the route, and Gardner just doesn't read it. This should be an easy first down as this is as simple of a read that Gardner can get. In fact, it's a read PSU runs all the time with their FR QB.

PSU Drive 2 - 10:29 1st 0-0

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Gordon does a great job from his SAM position to get upfield and anchor, effectively sealing the edge and forcing the cutback, where the DE is scrapping across and constricting the hole. Washington has corrected his mistake from earlier and allows the RB to only get into one place, which the LB is filling.

Play 2 - 2nd and 9 - Michigan looks like they're in cover 2. Some miscommunication from the LB and Taylor as neither slides down on the underneath guy. PSU is trying to run a levels concept on Michigan. Taylor cannot squeeze here because he cannot allow the TE to run a corner over top of him in his cover 2 zone, so he's alright, the LB is the one who has to release. MIKE needs to do a better job of hedging this off and stepping into this I believe as well. Not terribly defended, but a half step slow in getting their assignments down should have resulted in a catch with no YAC.

Play 3 - 3rd and 9 - Michigan goes cover 4 look here. PSU given too much time. But still, Gordon gets sucked up on a crossing route, which he should be looking for, but Taylor also believes he has inside help, which he doesn't get. Gordon needs to do better here, Taylor should be the one coming off the guy and collecting the cross underneath here.

I like cover 4 here and don't mind the three man rush. You are filling up every possible throwing window in this situation in a condensed field. As long as the DL even gets token pressure this play is successful. Can't go to the well every time, but at this point I think this is a perfectly fine call on 3rd and 9 near the end zone. Knowing a FR QB with confidence in his arm, he's quite likely to try to fit it into a window that doesn't exist with all the bodies back there.

Michigan Drive 3 - 9:32 1st 0-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan in tackle over with twins to the top. PSU only has about 7.5 in the box, which is essentially the same look they gave on the first play. This means Michigan has a huge advantage in numbers, they run power again, and it goes for a big gain. You also now notice the backside LB flowing hard to the play. This play should be big playside but Kalis takes an awful angle to the LB, and instead of cutting him off is forced to watch him down. Luckily the backside LB took himself too far playside instead of properly scraping over the top.

Play 2 - 1st and 10 - Michigan go pistol 2 TE look. Runs the veer option. DG correctly reads the DE starting the squeeze and picks up an easy first down. Remember, squeeze or sit is a keep look. Only literally containing is give, because the RB needs to be able to cut between the DE and the inside defenders for the give to be successful.

Play 3 - 1st and 10 - Double twins look with Gallon stacked over Funchess at the bottom of the screen. Draw action from Gardner. Fitz makes a great pass pro pick up and DG has done better to learn to step into the pocket instead of trying to escape around it (improvement guys). Funchess reads a single high coverage and carries the seam, but Gallon was wide open on his out as well as PSU ran a cover 3 look behind the CB blitz. FWIW, this is actually a corner post play that Gallon breaks out because the deep third defender is playing hang coverage. Both receivers make the correct adjustment to the coverage. On the backside you have a high/low look that Gardner would have looked to against 2 high safeties.

FWIW, if the safety gets over the top of Funchess, Funchess will sit in the void, just as I described the PSU TE doing on his 4 vert concept. We'll see that later.

PSU Drive 3 - 8:19 1st 7-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan in cover 1. Gordon and MIKE do a great job not biting on the out fake by the TEs, MIKE knows he has over the top help from the FS and carries his TE deep before releasing, meanwhile Gordon stays over top of his TE so that he can't go anywhere. This is a mirrored play, so both things are happening the same on both sides. Hack checks to the hitch late but Taylor has it well covered by now, and then he's lost and ends up eating a sack. If Hack gave his initial read enough time he might have had something develop behind the MIKE, but that's a very tight window.

Play 2 - 2nd and 12 - Delayed draw and black just dominates his 1v1 match up, which is huge with OL releasing to LBs. Clark actually does a good job waiting for the RB to cross his plane before fighting back inside. I'm pretty sure the OT gets away with a bit of a hold, but Clark has to be better at disengaging here. Anyway, Taylor does a great job shooting the alley and stepping up and making a play on a powerful RB.

This is proof that the DL is improving, especially against the run. A lot of the day Michigan got playside of their blocker, didn't get pushed by the play but managed to scrape to the play under control. They were disruptive all day with much better hand technique and footwork.

Play 3 - 3rd and 10 - Michigan threatens a couple on the blitz but only brings the DL, dropping into a cover 3. Hack quickly reads the CB dropping off on a high/low concept to the sideline. Ross has outside hook/flat responsibility here, is worried about giving up the seam and is late getting outside, so this is close to a first down but they stop him short. Cover 3 is conservative here, but this should at most gain 6 yards, anything deeper than that should have been broken up by Ross.

Play 4 - 4th and 1 - PSU going for it, quickly line up. Michigan defense is prepared as they squeeze the line, get in 4 point stances and quickly drive into the OL's feet and therefore Hack's feet to stack the play up.

Michigan Drive 4 - 6:43 1st 7-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan in a tackle over look with a trio look to the outside. Each WR is eligible as is the TE to the top of the screen. I actually like this look, as it gives you a lot of strength to one side of the field, where you can run either power/zone to that side or even a pitch type play to attack the edge. You can also easily roll to the bunch/trio side for some easy pass plays to protect the backside TE in pass pro. There is nothing wrong with this formation.

What they do with it is actually run a lead counter to the weak side though because PSU is overplaying the strong side. This should work, because Michigan will have 4 blockers on 4 defenders. But Glasgow and Bryant completely whiff their combo block. The LBs bite quite a bit at the counter action, but Glasgow takes way to direct of an angle and doesn't gain depth to seal off the defender to the backside. His target is wrong, he targets where the LB is instead of where he needs to make his block on a LB that will work back to the ball. That whiff puts 2 blockers in the hole on what otherwise should be a very nice gain on first down. Again, play call is exactly what you want, the defense gave you exactly what you want, and the OL simply is not blocking it.

Play 2 - 2nd and 9 - Tackle over look again, straight I form with twins to strong side. This means Williams is an eligible receiver. Earlier in the game, the DE was squeezing down on Williams rather than getting up field, so you hope that helps protect him. What's worse is that Kalis doesn't keep his body in front of his man, so there is no pocket for Gardner to step into. Now, the coverage is soft on the outside, so there is likely a "bubble" type play that is quick that could work. There is also single coverage on the outside and you are only putting 2.5 guys out in routes off play action which should hold the defense. I'm not sure what the route concept was because we never get a chance to see it, but likely this is a hitch throw or hitch, hitch throw no matter what. In this situation you can't hold onto the ball, but either way it's the pressure up the middle that sacks this play, not the play design (which actually probably got exactly what it was looking for), but the interior blocking.

Play 3 - 3rd and 17 - Roll out to avoid pressure, essentially a throw it up and see what you can get. This is a post-streak concept to try to hold the safety inside and get Funchess singled up deep, which is what they got. Funchess is actually open as he gets over the top of his defender. You'd like this pass a little more outside, but Funchess needs to make this catch. Play was there to be made, need to execute that. FWIW, I like the play call because only picking up a chunk probably doesn't get you into comfortable field goal range at this point in the game, and you really need to pick up about 12 yards to feel comfortable getting a good 4th down play. That intermediate pick up is something that Gardner has already struggled on today, so I think this is the correct play call.

PSU Drive 4 - 4:59 1st 7-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Inside zone from PSU. MO sets the edge nicely right where he aligns so the play can't get stretched anymore. The 3 tech does a good job two gapping his guy. Washington gets some push, gets pushed back when he's scrapping, but ends up at the LOS which is a win. Wormley gets a bit too much depth before scrapping across, but doesn't allow for a cutback.

Play 2 - 2nd and 9 - Mattison overloads the OL and has a great play call on but Morgan doesn't breakdown and squeeze the cutback hole as he should. This should be a 3 yard loss, especially as there is an outside defender responsible for the roll out. Morgan got greedy here and wanted the PA sack. Gordon does a nice job filling backside and tackling in space.

Play 3 - 3rd and 5 - Cover 3 here puts Michigan in a bad position to cover hitches (which is why Michigan ran it earlier). Hack gets rid of the ball quickly after seeing the outside CB release back and the flat defender carry inside. But his pass is a little off target.

Michigan Drive 5 - 3:38 1st 7-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan comes out in a near look, which probably tips pass but not necessarily. Gardner actually looks like he has at least a couple receivers open on this play (this looks like Z-snag, which is a similar concept to Y-stick) but decides to scramble for good yards.

Play 2 - 1st and 10 - Counter pitch here, and Magnuson tries to stick on the misdirection too long rather than sealing the LB inside. That changes the play from 1 on 1 with Fitz in space (and every other box defender sealed inside, regardless of backside defenders that don't have someone directly on them) to two tacklers for Fitz to beat. On top of that, Kalis never seals his guy despite Magnuson helping him more than he should in his combo. So then a third defender is there when Fitz should only have to beat the EMOL, which he does. This is another misdirection play that Borges has dialed up to the weakside because PSU is flowing quickly to the initial movement. This is a great playcall at this time that should go for big yards but doesn't.

Play 3 - 2nd and 10 - Michigan goes back into gun with trey to the top of the screen and split to the bottom. Designed draw picks up 9 yards. First designed draw of the game and a nice situation to make third down manageable.

Play 4 - 3rd and 1 - Michigan finally gets enough push playside to open up a hole and should be able to pick up this third and short regardless of PSU's 9-man front. But DG fumbles and it's a wasted play.

Play 5.0 - 4th and 1 - They get a false start which forces them to kick a FG on the real play 5. But this is an Iso fake Gardner boot. The playside OG pulls and the playside DE crashes. Michigan has this pick up easily on 4th down but the OL moves early. So now Michigan not only didn't pick up a first down they otherwise would have, but they showed their look on what would have been a wildly successful play (Williams had playside LB so pulling OG had the only other defender out there that had a chance on DG). Double whammy.

FWIW, Gibbons hits a 47 yarder with plenty of leg (at least 5 yards), though he almost pushed it wide. This is important for decision making later.

PSU Drive 5 - 0:49 1st 10-7

Play 1 - 1st and 10 - Michigan goes cover 1 and walks down a safety into the weakside of the box, giving them 7 box defenders with the OLB split out over the slot receiver. PSU runs into it. Morgan makes a great play to attack down hill, get outside leverage, breakdown rather than gain too much depth, and force the RB back into scraping defenders for little gain.

Play 2 - 2nd and 9 - Essentially same initial look from both sides, but the safety doesn't walk down because it's cover 2. Ross does a poor job on his drop, dropping straight back when he has hook/curl responsibility. Needs to angle his drop to get into the TE rather than letting him get a free release on his out cut.

Play 3 - 3rd and 1 - PSU goes to 22 personnel. Michigan has 8 in the box. Michigan slants into the inside zone to the wide side of the field and stacks up the OL in space. The RB can't hit the backside cutback, and Bolden is there just in case he does try to flow back.

1st Quarter Offensive Drive Conclusions

I have yet to see a play call by Borges that was even close to completely reprehensible. The stretch into the 9/10 man front wasn't great, but considering it was the first play of the second drive, and could still be successful if executed properly, makes it understandable. The play action from Tackle Over was fine too. Earlier, there were things that made it look like that play could be successful, and we had seen Gardner step into the pocket. It's not a position that puts players in a great position, but it's a play where they should be able to get away with it for long enough to at least get the ball away. It's like a trick play almost, it's either going to be big or it should be nothing. It should have been nothing.

Anyway, in the first 5 drives I think Borges mixed up the type of play calling to put players in very good positions to succeed at times, especially on the two counters and as well as you can expect on the passing plays outside the one above. I would like to see some first down passing, but Borges mixed up option/spread concepts with some downhill type plays and each should have at least kept Michigan on track. I think most of the complaints come later, so I'll leave it at that.

1st Quarter Defensive Drive Conclusions

Essentially, it was one blown assignment on the run and one blown assignment in the pass and PSU managed to get 7 points out of it because of the circumstances. Defense has been really good so far, and has constantly been in position to make plays.