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Week 11 - Nebraska Coaching Points

Quick look at some thoughts of Michigan vs Nebraska from a coaching perspective. Find these tweets and more by following Space Coyote on Twitter.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Before I get to the coaching points, I'm going to say a few things because of the stance I've taken (and still have) and because of questions I've received since the end of the game.

Borges Shouldn't be Fired

Trust me when I say that I don't say this just to be contrarian. It's exhausting arguing this side. Not only am I now up against most people, but most if not every other writer on this site that I respectfully disagree with. Before we get too far along, I want to say that I do believe Borges made some bad mistakes in this game. Now, I could go through and do something like I did with PSU and find reasoning for most of Borges's playcalls. I actually thought his game plan coming in was the correct one. But there were a couple I can't, most namely the 2nd and 9 call, which after calling an Iso, Borges called a Power and lost 2 yards.

I do think Michigan came out in the 2nd half with good adjustments. It showed. They started moving the ball and it looked like they'd take over the game. Then Nebraska adjusted to Michigan's bunch set by playing a match up coverage against the bunch formations. I still would have liked to see Borges try more come back routes on the edge, attack a bit more often with the fade off of it (a quick way of winning over the top), and certainly would have liked more than the 3-4 screens they ran.

But when Michigan adjusted and had success and then Nebraska adjusted to that, it seemed like Borges just adjusted back to the original plan. He didn't completely, but I don't think his reaction to Nebraska was correct, and that bothered me.

My other biggest complaint, and what hurt me the most: watch the last 3rd down play again and watch the WRs on the replay. Gardner rolls left and everything is covered. So he goes back to the right to try to pick up some time and hopefully get around Nebraska's contain. But watch the WRs. None of them participate in the scramble drill. Sure, it would have been difficult as most of their routes were designed to go left, but this wasn't the first time they screwed up in the scramble drill, or perhaps more disheartening, didn't try. It's not that the players don't care or don't know how, we've seen them do both with the scramble drill. It's that they were frustrated and gave up. And I think their reason for this is the same as mine (which is explained in the next section).

So, I've come clean with that. Why do I believe Borges shouldn't be fired again?

Funk Needs to Go

I've never seen a worse offensive line at Michigan. I'm not sure ND's 2007 OL was worse. In fact, I don't think it was. That says a lot. So how does this excuse Borges? Well, I hear a lot about how bad Nebraska's defense is and how if Borges can't put up points on them then it must be on him. But why is Nebraska's defense terrible? It's because they get destroyed against the run consistently. Their DTs get put on skates and straight into the LBs. The LBs hesitate in space and OL can get out on them. This forces them to put 8 in the box and play the run, which slows down their pass rush. This leaves their talented (yes, I said talented) DBs to defend the whole field.

None of that happened Saturday. But it's why I defended Borges's initial game plan. For as terrible as Michigan's run blocking has been, Nebraska has been even worse defending the run. This should have been similar to Indiana. But it wasn't. Michigan got nothing against the run. And it wasn't just because Nebraska was putting bodies in to defend it. Nebraska didn't even respect the fact that Michigan would run the football. This allowed them to send pass rusher after pass rusher straight to Gardner again. And yet, Michigan's OL could do nothing.

Now Nebraska's DBs didn't even have to respect the deep pass when they blitzed. This is why Nebraska DBs were in Michigan's WR's hip pocket when they ran crossing routes and such to try to beat the blitz. It's because they never once even considered Michigan would have time to win over the top. Then, because Michigan was so worried about the pass rush, when Nebraska dropped bodies instead of bringing them, Michigan didn't have receivers in routes. Literally all of Michigan's issues on offense come directly back to the OL.

Magnus over at Touch the Banner said something similar to what I said during the game, when Schofield went into an easy slide block pass protection scheme, looked at the guy rushing directly at him, and passed him on to a surprised (rightfully) Fitz, it was apparent even the Seniors were regressing. This was something I had suspected coming into the game, but it wasn't clear if it was really them or because of others around them. But that was the last straw for me with regards to Funk.

Things I Don't Want to Hear About

I've already seen it stated on twitter: people complaining that on Michigan's last 3rd down that Borges rolled Gardner left. A couple things:

  1. You have to be able to roll both directions, otherwise the defense can blitz into the roll and blow it up before the play begins. Most of Nebraska's blitzes were up the interior and to Michigan's right. Rolling right may not have been the best move.
  2. Michigan had already rolled right several times. There is a realistic chance Nebraska was anticipating Michigan to roll right. On top of that, Michigan had already botched a pass pick up on the interior when rolling right. Yes, the OL was that bad.
  3. Rolling left out of shotgun isn't difficult on a QB. In fact, if a QB is looking to throw to the sideline or to the flat, rolling left is actually easier as turning the shoulder is similar to cocking the shoulder. It's more natural for a pass to the sideline rolling left from gun because you don't have to work so hard to get your hips back up field.
So I don't want to hear about rolling left being a problem

I also don't want to hear about it all being on the offense. I know the offense was awful, but the defense wasn't very good either. In fact, the defense should have performed much better. That was disappointing.

[Edit: I'm going to clear this up, as it's a bit misleading. The defense wasn't the reason Michigan lost the game. They gave up 17 points and were stuck with poor field position most of the game. But the safety play was awful. The LBs and DL made a lot of fundamental mistakes in their own right. And why Michigan still can't defend the speed option 2/3s of the time, over a year after they were gashed by Air Force, is beyond me. Again, the offense is the main culprit, but against Nebraska's offense, the defense could have performed much better than they did. Now, should they have had to? Ha, no]

Why Can't We Go Back to the Way Things Were

I've received several questions asking why we can't go back to the offensive line we had during the ND game. I honestly think people are mis-remembering things. Or perhaps they were told misinformation.

Michigan's OL was pretty awful at that time too. I know, I know, people are thinking "pretty awful, that sounds pretty damn good compared to where we are", but there are some important and extreme differences.

Gardner was pressured none stop early in the season too. The fact that he gutted out an amazing performance against ND and saved his OL's skin covers some of that up, but he constantly had people in his face. Perhaps more importantly: at that time defenses were so terrified of DG escaping out the back (and knew very well he was awful at stepping up in the pocket) so they blitzed from the edges. Teams were constantly attacking the edges because they feared Gardner.

Well, now Michigan has been exposed. It's not the edges that you need to attack, because DG isn't necessarily a guy that can win despite everything being terrible around him as we once thought. It's been exposed that Michigan's interior is awful and can't protect DG worth a lick. They've been forced to go to high school level slide protection schemes because they are performing so terribly. And now teams know this and they are sending pass rushers knowing that the pressure will get home. It's not that the early addition of the OL was better, it's that they weren't yet exposed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anyway, if you have anymore questions, put them in the comments and I'll answer them. I'm not going to strongly debate my POV about Borges, especially if it's not looking like it'll be civil (and frankly, I don't have much energy to do more than that). I understand people's anger there, I really do. But I think Borges is far from the reason this offense is awful, especially lately.

1st Half

  • 3rd and Long Nebr conversion was a post from slot WR. Furman struggled breaking down on post, got flat footed
  • Like MSU last week, UM sent 3 tech into A gap and flared DE outside, forcing Nebraska OG to pick up in pass pro. He didn't
  • Great punt by Wile into the sideline. Michigan had coverage but never squeezed the ball. Get to level, squeeze down, and make the tackle. While I'm an advocate of the shield (spread out) punt formation, this return had nothing to do with that. There were bodies there that didn't make a play.
  • So far I have been unimpressed by safety change. Furman: poor break on post, poor run fill as box safety. Avery: Run over on tackle (Avery would later do a poor job in middle third, not covering dig or post behind him).
  • Fitz didn't do well on either pass pro pick up (needs to do better stepping up into defender), but DG not helping him right now.
  • DG perceiving pressure right now before it arrives and looking at the pass rush. Keep eyes downfield and throw ball. Being beat by MSU again
  • (First Nebraska TD Drive)
  • So many awful mistakes on that drive by Michigan's defense.
  • On 2nd and long QB run early, Nebr was reading DT. Michigan blitzed B gap and had two free rushers. Both missed QB
  • LBs failing to flow over the top. Getting too caught up on LBs. Saw LB try to go underneath block from far side on a speed option.
  • Furman was way too far off receiver on that PI. That's why he had to take a path he did and time it perfectly, because he started out of pos
  • I had a lot more to say about that drive, but so much bad happened I forgot most of it. Needless to say, I have absolutely no clue why Furman is playing right now. He has been a step back in every category so far.
  • Michigan already saying F it in pass pro. Back to slide protections which is a simpler gap scheme, but often times leads to worse match ups for blockers.
  • Fitz clearly told last week that leverage wins in pass pro. Now he's getting low and lunging. This is missing defenders completely
  • DG felt a lot of pressure that wasn't there that drive. Took about a 13 step drop on 3rd down conversion on Gallon's drag route
  • 1st 3rd down Michigan had there they ran power knowing they were going for it on 4th down. 2 plays to get 3 yards
  • 4th down conversion was sprint out to a 3 receiver side. Both throwback screen and wheel route can be set up off that look.
  • Missed 3rd down conv play was a down G run, a play that Michigan has been really successful running near EZ this year.
  • As defensive as I've been of Borges, and I understand the Down G call on 3rd down, I don't wanna see the GL personnel on field outside of GL
  • Taylor played his inside coverage perfect on 3rd down stop. Got on upfield shoulder and hugged WR so other receiver couldn't pick him.
  • Ryan probably makes safety if healthy. Ross makes safety if he brings arms. Got leverage, but RB slid off tackle

2nd Half

  • Well called drive. Only peeve on drive is I've seen UM flip TEs twice now, both times covering Funchess in process (so Butt can lead block). Don't cover your 2nd best receiver so you can get a mediocre lead blocker in position. Threaten D with Funchess instead. (Michigan TD Drive)
  • Gordon played speed option great until the end. He stretched it out, allowed support to come, then squeezed QB early. -1 yards becomes 3
  • Twist stunt took advantage of young Nebraska OL. Nice to see another OL get taken advantage of
  • ichigan being forced into slide protections are really hurting them. Twice on that drive bad match ups for RBs. But it's because of int OL
  • A lot of these issues come back to bad pass pro. Gallon can't get separation because Nebr knows they don't have time to get deep, no threat
  • Cam Gordon has made some mistakes today. But he's constantly been very active. Getting to ball. That's what happens w/ great effort
  • Need some PA off inverted veer. Block it with a normal protection scheme, short mesh, throw quick. Needs to be immediate or D is already in
  • How are people getting through interior so easily on a roll out? That's how bad this interior OL is. Easy assignment botched by Bosch
  • Still haven't seen anything from the play on the field that indicates Avery or Furman should be playing most of the game. Avery looks like a guy that is playing FS for the first time ever this season... wait...
  • That sack is 100% on Schofield. Fitz expected rightly that he was only going to have to chip, so wasn't square on pass rusher
  • I don't mind one of the two run plays last drive. But I don't like the two back to back
  • Also, this is how I felt after the game Bysc-9zieaah_ms_medium

    via This is from @PictureEuphoria and sums of Wolverine fans emotions post game