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Film Focus: Michigan vs. Utah

For the second straight game against a Power 5 school, not only did Michigan's offense fail to score a touchdown, it failed to enter the red zone once. "Film Focus" reviews the tape, discovers what went wrong, and determines whether Michigan is broken beyond repair.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

So THAT happened. Let's just skip the pleasantries and get on with the horror show.

As usual, screen shots are courtesy of MGoVideo.

The Quarterbacks: Devin Gardner vs. Shane Morris

I have not hidden that I have been one of Devin Gardner's staunchest supporters. In the preseason, I found it quite absurd that people were advocating for a quarterback change when Gardner was a fifth-year senior and had just turned in one of the best statistical seasons ever by a Michigan quarterback. And, to an extent, I maintained that position last week when, in this same space, I charted all of Gardner's throws versus an inferior Miami (OH) and found that he performed much better than his critics were claiming. There was no doubt that Gardner has his flaws, mostly the result of poor vision and footwork, but I firmly believed that Gardner gave Michigan the best chance to win.

I am not so sure anymore.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts this week: Gardner was bad versus Utah. Period. Yes, he still made some fantastic throws -- like fitting a pass to Devin Funchess on a corner route perfectly between Utah's zone defense for 19 yards or, with pressure in his face, throwing Funchess open on a 24-yard dig on the next play -- but Gardner's vision was poor and his mechanics erratic most of the contest. Some of this can be attributed to the play of the offensive line, which will be addressed below, but, mostly, this is just regression by Gardner.

His vision was never worse than this play here:


Michigan is in a four-wide shotgun set with twin receivers to each side. ESPN's camera is zoomed in, so you cannot see Jehu Chesson in the slot or A.J. Williams as the flanker at the top of the frame. The call is four verts (woo!), which means all four of Michigan's receivers will streak down the field in a straight line. Against the Cover 3 blitz Utah dials up, this is the perfect call because not all three Ute defenders in deep zones can cover all four of Michigan's receivers.


Gardner takes the snap, and, after looking flustered for a brief second thinking Utah's five-man blitz would get through, he realizes his offensive line has given him a clean pocket. And I mean a clean pocket. Gardner has all the time in the world and looks to his left where Amara Darboh and Funchess are sprinting in a straight line. Darboh is blanketed, and, although he appears open, Funchess is covered by the Utah safety playing center field.


However, Gardner does not read this fast enough because, on the other sideline, Williams is all alone and waving at Gardner to throw him the football. This is why four verts is so effective against a Cover 3 zone. The Utah defensive back must choose between covering Chesson or Williams. While it would have been in his best interest to split the difference, he opts to stick with Chesson, freeing up Williams for what should be an easy 50-yard touchdown.


But Gardner does not see Williams until it's too late. As pressure finally closes in on Gardner, he chucks one up off his back foot in the general direction of Chesson and Williams. I say this because I actually believe this is intended for Williams, but Gardner's footwork is so sloppy that the throw lacks the needed velocity to reach Williams. Chesson just happens to be the only receiver in the vicinity to make a play on the football but cannot reel it in.

Gardner needs to read this play faster. He knows his receivers are running four verts and should recognize quickly that Utah is in Cover 3. He should then know one of his receivers will spring open, so his reads should just be boom, boom, boom until he finds the open target, especially given the time he had in the pocket. But Gardner's initial reaction to Utah's blitz disrupted his timing, and he did not move off Funchess when he needed to. This has been a repetitive problem for Gardner, and it cost Michigan seven points here.

Also, this pass demonstrates the poor mechanics and footwork Gardner had. For much of the contest, he did not step into his passes, rather throwing them off his back foot, while off-balance, or while jumping in the air. And it's quite difficult to be accurate when doing this. But what was more concerning was how this affected Gardner's arm strength. Too many times his passes either were under-thrown or fluttered in the air. I believe this due to his footwork, but there is the possibility that Gardner is dealing with an undisclosed injury. Either way, it happened on the play diagrammed above and it happened here:


Michigan is deep in its own territory, needing a big play to move the chains. The Wolverines come out in a three-wide shotgun "deep" formation because Justice Hayes is set just a tad behind Gardner. Each Michigan route is shown, but the key route is Funchess' out-and-up in the boundary because this will be Gardner's target. Utah chooses to play soft, rushing only three players and dropping into what I believe is Cover 3 but may be Cover 4.


As you can see, Funchess' double move is successful as he gets on top of the Utah defensive back. There is not much separation at the moment, but Funchess also has inside position, meaning, if Gardner places a ball over the top and a bit inside, Funchess should pick up the critical third-down conversion and run for additional yards. This is especially true because Utah's safety is out of position and will not be able to provide adequate support in time.


However, Gardner fails to put enough oomph into the throw and under-throws Funchess, who never has a chance to make a play for the ball. It is not as if this is a long pass for Gardner as Funchess is only 30 yards down field. This is a throw every starting quarterback should be able to make. But Gardner, due to poor footwork that is not shown in these screen shots, short-arms it, and Michigan is forced to punt, which Utah proceeds to return for a critical touchdown.

And, finally, there was Gardner's second interception that not only forced Brady Hoke to sub in Shane Morris but encompassed everything that has been hampering Gardner's growth as a quarterback:


Given the situation, Michigan needs a touchdown here ... badly. The Wolverines are in a two-wide shotgun set after Dennis Norfleet motions into the backfield next to Gardner. The key routes here are Funchess' post and Freddy Canteen's dig across the middle. Utah is okay allowing short gains, so it rushes three and drops back into Cover 3.


Gardner fakes a handoff to Green and drops back to pass. His two options down field are Funchess on a post to his left and Canteen coming across on a dig from his right. Gardner unsurprisingly looks at Funchess first. The circled Utah linebacker reads Gardner's eyes and shades to that side of the field. Funchess looks like he will be open, but Gardner seems unsure and moves to his second read. As you can see, Canteen is about to run into a enormous window between two Utah linebackers through which Gardner can throw. Gardner sees this and should unleash the football immediately.


But Gardner hesitates. The circled Utah linebacker then reads Gardner's eyes and creeps backs to the middle of the field, shrinking a passing window that was already closing because Gardner needs to place the ball in front of a sprinting Canteen. At this point, Gardner should check down to Norfleet or Green because he needs a perfect throw to thread this now-tiny hole in the coverage.


Yet Gardner does not throw a perfect pass. Far from it. Once again, he fails to step into this throw, using only his upper body to try to generate velocity. There are some spots when a quarterback can get away with this. Throwing into a tight window is not one of those spots. With Gardner's pass lacking the speed it needs to split the defenders, the Utah linebacker that was reading Gardner's eyes steps in front of the pass and it intercepts it easily, sealing Michigan's fate and closing the books on Gardner's poor performance.

So what should Michigan do going forward? You may think I am crazy -- and you might be correct -- but I still think Gardner gives Michigan the best chance to win each week. There is no doubt that Gardner had his worst game of the season thus far this past Saturday, but we have seen the good that Gardner is capable of. He still can be a play-maker in this offense with his arm and his legs, which may be necessary behind a below-average offensive line. Plus, one of the main reasons why advocates for Shane Morris want Gardner replaced is Gardner's lack of ball security. However, Morris may be even more turnover-prone. In just 67 career pass attempts, Morris has thrown four interceptions, which gives him a much higher interception rate (5.97 pct.) than Gardner's rate (3.86 pct.). I do not think inserting Morris will solve Michigan's turnover problem. If anything, and I know this is hard to believe, it may make it worse.

On the other hand, I cannot deny that Gardner looks like a shell of his former self. The theory that is floating around -- and I am beginning to believe it -- is that he has David Carr Syndrome. What is this? It is when a good quarterback regresses because he has been hit so many times in his career that he always expects to be hit, which screws up his timing and instincts. And we know how much Gardner was hit behind that offensive line last season. It helps explain why he is missing open receivers on secondary reads and throwing jump passes when there is no pressure. He is so focused on the pass rush that he cannot make the proper play. The issue is mental, and it does not appear to be one that can be fixed with one week's worth of practice.

Nonetheless, my recommendation is to give Gardner one more start this Saturday at home against Minnesota and see if he can rediscover the confidence and instincts that made him one of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks last season. But, if it starts going south quickly and Gardner begins to look flustered once again, Hoke should make the move to Morris and stick with Morris for the remainder of the year. And, if Hoke opts to start Morris and give him a shot, I will not be one to argue.

The Other Skill Players: Running Backs & Receivers

This section will brief because I want to focus on other areas. I will start with Derrick Green, who has set himself apart as Michigan's best running back. Not only has the weight loss helped his burst, but his comfort running behind a zone-blocking scheme is growing. There were a few different runs against Utah when he displayed great patience waiting for his blocks to develop before he exploded through a gap for a sizable gain. His vision is improving, although there are still yards to be had as he missed open holes on a few runs. And I am still waiting for Green to run through defenders or scoot past them. But there is progress, and I think that will continue with more reps.

De'Veon Smith had a minor role on Saturday, so I want to discuss the other running back earning playing time: Justice Hayes. Since Vincent Smith and his "finger guns" left Ann Arbor, Michigan has been searching for a third-down back that can prove pass protection and be an outlet out of the backfield. The Wolverines have found that man in Hayes. His blocking was fantastic versus the Utes. Just look at this screen shot:


That is a blitzing linebacker that Hayes identified and rocked back on his crushing block. Although not all of his blocks had this much force, he showed no fear in taking on rushers of all sizes and did a great job protecting Devin Gardner. Hayes will be a solid asset as a third-down specialist for the Wolverines.

The only pass-catcher worth discussing is Devin Funchess because, of Garner's 26 throws, he was targeted 10 times while no other Wolverines was targeted more than thrice. Funchess once again proved why he's an incredible weapon, but the effects of his injury and being hung out to dry took their toll on Gardner's first interception. Funchess ran a quick slant as Utah rushed five. Gardner's throw was not on the numbers but was catchable, and, if caught, easily could have been a touchdown. But Funchess was timid and stuck out only one paw, off of which the football ricocheted before it fell into the arms of Utah's safety. I understand Funchess' inclination to fear another pass over the middle, but this mistake cost Michigan points in a game in which the offense was stuck in neutral.

Also, Funchess remains a liability as a blocker, even when on the edge. There was a drive during which Michigan had a 1st & 20 in Utah territory, and a bubble screen was called for Dennis Norfleet. Given Utah's defensive alignment, he had room to bounce it to the sideline for a big gain, but Funchess hesitated and never made contact with the defender he was supposed to block. Accordingly, the defender was able to penetrate past Funchess and cut down Norfleet for a four-yard gain when it should have been at least 15. Funchess' impact as a blocker has been mitigated with his move to the outside, but it still rears its ugly head from time to time.

To be clear, I am not trying to pick on Funchess. He still is by far Michigan's best offensive weapon. He must continue to be the focal point of Michigan's offense if it wants start putting points on the board against schools from Power 5 conferences. He is a mismatch against every defense in every sense of the word. However, I do worry that his leg injury will be one that lingers all season, limiting how effective he can truly be.

The Offensive Line: One Assignment Away & Tracking Twists

The difference between Michigan's offensive line last season and this season is night and day. Whereas last year's line seemed to melt down as a whole each play, this year's line is actually doing a decent job of getting into its assignments. However, there still appears to be one missed assignment on every play, and all it takes is one for a play to be blown up. So, while Michigan's offensive line is improving, the progress is only gradual, and the line still is below average overall.

This was evident versus a Utah defense that was undersized but fast and well-coached. When the Wolverines ran the football, too often did their offensive line miss a blocking assignment that forced them to settle for a short gain rather than break a long one. Here is a great example:


Michigan is in a three-wide Ace formation with twin receivers to the field. The run for Derrick Green will be to the weak side of the formation away from the tight end. Although the Utah outside linebacker lined up near Dennis Norfleet in the slot will crash down, the Utes have only six defenders in the box, meaning, if each Michigan blocker executes his assignment, Green will record a respectable gain.


As you can see, almost all of Michigan's six blockers execute their assignment. Mason Cole kicks out the defensive end. Erik Magnuson reaches the second level to pick off a Utah linebacker. Jack Miller does not quite perform a reach block but does enough to hold the defensive tackle to a stalemate. Ben Braden pancakes the other defensive tackle, while A.J. Williams stands up the near-side defensive end at the line of scrimmage.

But "almost" is not enough. Graham Glasgow stumbles trying to reach the second level and is unable to make any type of block on the near-side linebacker. This is critical because, if Glasgow makes this block, Green has two holes from which to choose: front or back side. The far-side linebacker crashes into the box and begins to fill the front-side gap, so a successful block by Glasgow will allow Green to hit the back side for what should be a 10-yard gain.


However, Glasgow stumbles, so the near-side linebacker is able to shut down the back-side gap. Accordingly, either gap Green selects will result in a minimal gain unless he breaks a tackle. Green decides to stay the course and run through the front-side gap, where he is struck by the far-side linebacker at the line of scrimmage. Green still pushes forward for a three-yard pick-up, but this is a disappointment given the opportunity Michigan had pre-snap.

This is only one example, but this was the story for much of the contest. Yes, there were times when Michigan's offensive line executed all of its assignments or failed miserably, but, for the most part, it seemed liked Michigan was always one assignment away from registering a nice run and moving the chains.

Conversely, Michigan had more struggles in pass protection. Although Cole committed errors typical for a true freshman against the speed of Utah's defensive ends, which may be problematic in conference play because the Big Ten has an army of speed rushers, what jumped off the film was how Utah attacked the right side of Michigan's line. It's clear that, while scouting Michigan, Utah's coaches noticed a weakness in Braden and Glasgow's pass protection and successfully exploited it.

The Utes repeatedly sent a linebacker aligned over the right side of Michigan's offensive line on a blitz. And, on many of these occasions, the defensive end engaged with Braden and pushed him inside in an attempt to open a lane for the blitzing linebacker on the outside. These were designed twists. Example:


It is 1st & 10 past midfield. Michigan is in a big Ace formation with two tight ends and plan to run a play-action pass. Utah is in a 4-3 Under and will blitz all three linebackers, while dropping back the near-side defensive end, to send six total rushers. The key blitz to watch is from Utah's MIKE, who will twist to the outside as the far-side defensive end drives Braden inside.


Gardner handles the snap and fakes the handoff to Green. Williams executes his assignment by sealing Utah's blitzing SAM to the outside, and the left side of Michigan's offensive line performs its job, too. A problem develops on the right side of the line with Glasgow and Braden, though. Utah's defensive end engages with Braden and pushes him inside towards Glasgow, opening a hole to the outside for the blitzing MIKE behind him.

There are two options Glasgow and Braden have to defend this twist: (1) Braden passes off the defensive end to Glasgow and blocks the blitzing MIKE himself; or (2) Glasgow recognizes the twist and slides underneath Braden into the open lane to block the MIKE. I am unsure what Glasgow and Braden have been taught to do here, but my preference is the first option.


But Glasgow and Braden select a different option, which is for Glasgow to slide above Braden and engage with the blitzing MIKE. There's a reason this was not one of the two options listed. Not only must Glasgow slide above Braden, he must also slide above the defensive end Braden is blocking. This is too much ground for Glasgow to cover when a linebacker is crashing down full speed to the outside. Glasgow has no chance to effectively block the MIKE, who surges past the line of scrimmage without much impediment.


Gardner feels the pressure and tries to scoot up in the pocket to release a quick pass. But he never has a chance to escape the blitzing MIKE, who creams Gardner and brings him down for a sack for a loss of four yards.

You can bet that Michigan's Big Ten brethren noticed how Utah took advantage of the right side of Michigan's offensive line when rushing the passer. Expect them to create exotic blitzes and twists that attack Glasgow and Braden, both of whom need to improve at identifying these twists quickly and communicating with one another. If I am Darrell Funk, I have both practicing how to pass off defensive linemen on stunts and twists all week. Otherwise, Michigan's quarterback, whether it is Gardner or Shane Morris, will find himself on his back more often than he wants.

Under-Center Formations on Obvious Passing Downs: Why?

This bothered me during the game and even more so when reviewing the tape. One of my biggest critiques of Al Borges was his use of under-center formations -- Ace, I-Form, I-Form Offset, and Goal Line -- on obvious passing downs, such as 2nd & 10+. It was frustrating because Borges would dial up a play-action pass almost every time. The fake to the running back did not fool me, and it certainly did not fool the defenses on the field. I hoped that these type of calls would be scrapped from the playbook with the arrival of Doug Nussmeier.


By my count, with Devin Gardner at quarterback, there were three times versus Utah when Michigan went under center on 2nd & 10+. Nussmeier called a pass all three times with two being play action. Results: (1) Utah brings a blitz into where Gardner plans to roll to his right, forcing him to throw an off-balanced, incomplete pass to Joe Kerridge in the flat; (2) Utah blitzes from Gardner's right and collapses the pocket, flushing him out and sacking him; and (3) Utah sends a blitz from Gardner's right, but, this time, he rolls to his left off the play-action fake and finds Khalid Hill in the flat for a four-yard gain.

See the pattern? Each time Michigan went under center in these obvious passing situations, Utah shockingly expected a pass and blitzed from Gardner's right side. The Utes blew up the play the first two times before Nussmeier finally rolled Gardner to his left away from pressure. Until Nussmeier begins to call runs from under center on 2nd & 10+, which may be never, defenses will not respect the run. Not only does this render the play-action fake meaningless, it also gives the defense's blitz more time to get home. Nussmeier needs to either stop using these formations or start calling draws to catch the defense off-guard on obvious passing downs.

However, the play that annoyed me the most was the 4th & 3 Michigan failed to convert late in the third quarter. Much of my annoyance is derived from Nussmeier's play call, but I also have some grievances I must air with how the play was executed.


This is a critical play. If Michigan converts this fourth down, it has a great opportunity to score and cut Utah's lead to one score. A failure to pick up a first down will take the wind out of Michigan's sails as the Wolverines have a tough hole out of which to climb. So Michigan cannot afford to call the wrong play here.

So what formation does Nussmeier go with on 4th & 3? A bunched Ace formation with two tight ends and two H-backs in Kerridge and Amara Darboh. I do not get this. At all. If this is 4th & 1 or 4th & 2, this formation would be acceptable because there is a real threat that Derrick Green could take a handoff up the gut. But on 4th & 3? No chance. And Utah knows this, which is why the Utes have only seven in the box against Michigan's bunched formation.


Further evidence that Utah does not expect a run here is the movement of its linebackers at the snap. Gardner pretends that he will give the football to Green, and, yet, only one Utah linebacker has made movement towards the line of scrimmage. If this was 4th & 1 or 4th & 2, I would bet that all three of these linebackers would be crashing towards the line to provide run support. Instead, knowing that it is 4th & 3, these linebackers hang back a bit and wait to see if Green does indeed receive the handoff.


Green does not receive the handoff, breaking into the flat as Gardner rolls to his right predictably. This is a pass-run option for Gardner. He can pass the ball to either Darboh, who is out of the frame, or Green or scramble for the first down. Green is covered by the outside linebacker, and I presume Darboh is covered down field. So Gardner brings the ball down and starts running for the marker. However, because none of the linebackers bit on the obvious play-action fake, the MIKE has a great angle on the play and is in pursuit from the middle of the field.


Here is where my beef with the play call comes to end -- for the most part. As Gardner inches near the first-down marker on his rollout, Utah's outside linebacker has to choose to either stick with Green or pressure Gardner. He sees that Gardner has tucked the ball away and peels off Green to stop Gardner's scramble.

This is where the play falls apart. If Gardner sees the outside linebacker peel off Green, then he must know that he can flip it quickly to Green for the first down. Green should recognize this and turn his head to be an outlet for Gardner. But look at Green. His head is turned upfield away from the play as if he is searching for a player to block. This generally would be fine if Green sees Gardner tuck the ball down to scramble except Green fails to block any of the three Utes closing in on Gardner, including the one that was just covering his route. Because of this, Gardner needs to weave through three Utes to get the three yards for the first down.


Gardner cuts inside of the outside linebacker that initially covered Green's route but is unable to slip past both the crashing defensive end and middle linebacker. Yes, that is the same middle linebacker that did not bite on the obvious play-action fake that Nussmeier called. As Gardner falls to the ground, he tries to extend the ball past the first-down marker, but he is unable to do so. Utah forces the turnover on downs and maintains its two-score lead late in the third quarter.

While this play still could have worked if Gardner and Green were on the same page, I am not a fan of this call and this formation on a 4th & 3. Defenses know Michigan will not actually give the ball to the running back here, so the only two options are a drop-back pass or play-action pass. Given Gardner's mobility and his history of rolling out on bootlegs in these situations in the past, the call here was obvious, which is why Utah's linebackers did not bite on the fake and were able to reach Gardner before he picked up the first down.

In the future, Nussmeier needs to utilize either shotgun or pistol when it is 4th & 3+. These formations at least provide the threat that the call will be a designed quarterback draw or designed run up the middle. Otherwise, Michigan will limit what it can do on these critical downs, and the defense will have a much easier time defending the play.

Curtailing the Cornerback Blitz

Michigan's defense was exceptional against Utah. Not only did the Wolverines hold the explosive Utes to 286 total yards, 4.47 yards per play, and fewer than 20 offensive points, the defense scored a touchdown of its own when Willie Henry snagged a screen pass out of the air and rumbled seven yards into the end zone. Michigan's defense has allowed fewer than 300 total yards in all four games, and I think it's safe to say it could be one of the best in the Big Ten, if not the nation.

Although I should praise the play of Henry, Ryan Glasgow, Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, and Jourdan Lewis, the theme of this week's column has been Michigan's mistakes. So I will pick nits. No, I am not referring to Utah's 67-yard screen, which was the perfect call against Michigan's Cover 0 blitz. I am referring to the cornerback blitz, which is killing Michigan. Greg Mattison has called it often this season, but it has had little success. Sometimes the blitzing corner has shut down a front-side gap when the opponent runs the football, but it has not been effective at all against the pass.

One reason for this is Michigan's inability to hide these blitzes. Too many times the corner has started creeping towards the quarterback pre-snap. This tips off the quarterback that the corner is coming. The quarterback sees this and checks to a different protection scheme to ensure the corner is accounted for. Plus, when a quarterback knows from where a corner is blitzing, he knows that his receiver to that side of the field will be covered by a safety. This is a mismatch the quarterback understands he can exploit, and Utah did just that twice on key plays in the second half.


It's Utah's opening drive of the third quarter, and the Utes are marching down the field. Utah is in an obvious passing down, so Mattison dials up a corner blitz from the boundary against Utah's four-wide shotgun formation -- the fourth wide receiver is below the frame. What you also cannot see in the frame is that, a few seconds earlier, Utah's quarterback noticed that Blake Countess tipped his blitz and went to the line of scrimmage to adjust the protection.


As you can see, Utah is ready for Coutness' blitz as the right tackle kicks out to engage him while the other four offensive linemen handle Michigan's four defensive linemen. Therefore, the blitz is unsuccessful and leaves Michigan, which is in a Cover 1 man defense, with a safety on Utah's receiver to the boundary. The safety is Dymonte Thomas, who is filling in for the injured Jarrod Wilson. The receiver is Dres Anderson, only the most explosive player on the field.

So how does Utah exploit this mismatch? The Utes run Anderson on a drag route underneath and have another receiver cross over the top to create traffic. This means that, at this moment, Thomas needs to be on his high horse and sprint across the field to stick with Anderson and prevent him from getting into open space.


But Thomas hesitates and allows the crossing route of the other Ute receiver to obstruct his path to Anderson. This allows Anderson to come free all alone underneath. Utah's quarterback tosses him an easy pass...


... and Anderson explodes into the open space. Because of Anderson's speed, Thomas never has a chance to recover, and Anderson waltzes 28 yards into the end zone for Utah's only offensive touchdown of the contest.

And then Utah did it again late in the third quarter:


This is the Utah possession after Michigan failed to convert the 4th & 3. If the Wolverines can hold here, there still may be hope for them to come back and win. However, once again, Utah's quarterback reads that Michigan's boundary corner -- Channing Stribling, not Countess, this time -- will blitz, so he makes a check at the line of scrimmage. And, now, both teams essentially are running the same play as the one previously diagrammed. Bad news for Michigan.


At the snap, Stribling blitzes, and Thomas has man coverage on Utah's boundary receiver. Thomas takes a few steps down and outside where he thinks his man will be. But he fails to realize fast enough that the receiver has begun a shallow drag route and is already running to the inside.


Those first few missteps were all it took for Thomas to be completely out of position. He no longer has an angle to catch up with the receiver running the shallow drag across the middle of the field, and, as a safety, he does not have the speed to recover either. And it only makes matters worse that Michigan is in man coverage because Thomas has no help or support. This is a pure one-on-one matchup, and he loses badly.


This is an easy toss and catch for Utah. The receiver hauls in the pass and turns up field for a 22-yard gain that not only extends the drive but also puts the Utes in field-goal range. Michigan would get a stop on the ensuing third-down play, but the Utes still were able to add three points to the scoreboard with a 48-yard field goal, further burying the Wolverines.

In this contest, Utah had four offensive plays that went for at least 20 yards, and two of them were these shallow drag routes against Michigan's corner blitz, one of which resulted in a touchdown. This is a problem. I would understand if Michigan continued to call these corner blitzes if they worked occasionally. But they do not. At the moment, all they do is leave Michigan's secondary vulnerable in the back, especially when Michigan's best safety is on the sidelines due to an injury.

So, if Mattison wants his defense working on all cylinders in Big Ten play, he needs to address this. There are four options for him: (1) teach his cornerbacks to stop tipping the blitz; (2) encourage his defense to check into a different play if the quarterback recognizes the corner blitz pre-snap, which never seems to happen; (3) reduce the number of corner blitzes he sends; or (4) wait to send them so frequently until Wilson returns. My preference is for either the first or second options. Corner blitzes can be very effective when disguised. But, because Michigan's corners are having such difficult time doing that currently, I would not mind if Mattison curtailed the corner blitzes for the time being.

Facepalm Frame of the Week

Want to know a key reason why Utah returned Michigan's punt for a touchdown?