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Josh Gattis takes responsibility for fourth down play calls, says Michigan must execute better

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Gattis says he is being given full license to make those calls if he has a play he likes.

Anthony Broome / Maize n Brew

Josh Gattis and the Michigan offense have had a rough go of it at times through the first two games of the 2019 season, especially as they tried to close out Saturday’s win over Army in regulation, but were unable to do so.

Heading into the bye week, the offensive coordinator spoke to the media about the state of his side of the ball and his summation of what he has seen early on in the year. One particular plot thread of note is the fourth down playcalling, namely on a key moment late in the game where the Wolverines passed on a 36-yard field goal in favor of going for a 4th-and-3 that yield no results and gave Army the football back.

“We wanted to be aggressive throughout the game,” Gattis said. “We had three fourth downs and we were one-for-three. Analytics supported all three as far as going for it from that standpoint. We felt like the last one we wanted to be really aggressive. The situation going into the last drive, we get the ball backed up on our own 20 and there is six minutes left to go in the game. And we go on an 11-play drive there where we eat up four minutes off the clock and Army only has one timeout left.

“So we knew they are not a two-minute team because they have got to run their plays in from the sideline, so I wanted to use as much clock as possible and if we could have converted there on fourth down, we could have ended the game on our own terms. Had it gone any other way, we would have given the ball back to them with a ton of time left and an opportunity to get even closer for a field goal. I felt like we had a great call, but we just have to execute it and we have got to be able to put them in a better position with some of the things we do from that standpoint.”

A lot of people seemed to run with the notion that head coach Jim Harbaugh took the playsheet away from Gattis and went back to a more “vintage” offensive approach, especially on those critical fourth down opportunities. Gattis denied that and said that Harbaugh is giving him the license to make that call if the analytics support it and the coordinator has a play dialed up that he likes.

“That’s a discussion that we have throughout the series. ‘Hey look, analytics says fourth-and-three or less’...coach says, ‘Hey, do you have a call? Do you like the call?’ Yes, I like my call. And I’m going to be put our faith in our guys every time. That’s the mentality that we’re going to have. Obviously, you have situations where you want to take the points or you need to take the points. It’s two ways to look at it. You can take the points and you still are giving the ball back to them with plenty of time. Or you choose to end it on your own terms. And we felt good and at the time we were moving the ball and had hit a fourth down conversion earlier than that and we just..you know, I’ll do a better job putting our guys in a position to be successful and expect the pressure and we just gotta go out there and execute.”

For more from Gattis’ 20-minute session with the media, here is the full video from Monday’s press availability.

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