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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Rangers: Mission 4:10

10 seconds on the clock. Michigan with the ball on the Spartan 47, 4th and 2.

Time outs were called. The situation was discussed.

First, Cook in the 4th was 4 of 14 with 2 sacks in the 4th. Not good.

Second, neither team had much success running the ball. For the game, UM: 1.9 yds/carry. MSU: 1.8 yds/carry.

Then there was that 74 yard pass from Cook to Pendleton that might have weighed on Harbaugh's psyche.

To hear Harbaugh speak after the game, he was also concerned about possible penalties. Is it possible he recognized the number of times Lewis committed PIs on Burbridge that were not called? Maybe. Maybe not.

Fumbles could not have been a concern. Up to 59:50, UM had just one fumble on a kick-off return.

Harbaugh also would not have been concerned about an MSU field goal. After all, Coach Dantonio twice chose to go for it on 4th down rather than try the field goal. Message to Harbaugh, the Spartan kicking is not clicking. One has to wonder how much of that was deception.The failed 4th downs were at the UM 28 (1Q)  and at the UM 32 (4Q).

Last factor: O'Neill had made that 80 yard punt. It was a bit over 40 yards in the air and rolled the rest of the way. His other punts were 30, 32, 41, 37, 44, and 48.

Decision time.

Harbaugh's choices:

[1] Throw the ball.
Maybe pick up the 1st down, maybe not. The UM passing game was not doing very well, but in the 4th, Rudock was 4 of 9 with 1 sack. Incomplete and MSU gets the ball at the 47 with maybe 7 seconds left. Interception? Who knows.
Remember, time management. Remember, incomplete passes stop the clock.
Net result Hail Mary with very little time left, but the clock does not start until the snap.
It seems Harbaugh had little faith in the UM offense, especially Rudock, who was really in his first high-stakes, big-time game.

[2] Run the ball.
Either (A) to burn time or (B) to try to get the 1st down.
The running game both ways was non-existent, so the burning the clock approach would have been better than going for the 1st down. Remember, time management. Remember, only out of bounds stops the clock. Keep it in-bounds and the clock stops long enough to set the chains, then it starts again.
It seems Harbaugh had little faith in the UM offense, especially Smith, who was only 2.4 yards/carry with a long of 8 yards.

[3] Punt.
This was his choice. Punt. He set gunners. Why? He was trying to back MSU up to the goal line hoping for a 1st and 99 situation. Harbaugh did not seem to notice there was no return man for MSU. If he did, he thought it was to his benefit in pinning the Spartans at the 1, or at least inside the 10.

Time outs were called. The situation was discussed.

On 2 prior UM punts, the snap was not good and O'Neill had to take an extra half second to recover to make the punt.
On 1 prior UM punt, there was a gap coverage let down.
O'Neill was from Australian football and his punt takes a second or 2 longer than the standard US punt. This was his first high-stakes, big-time game.

Decision time.

Dantonio made his decision without deliberation. Rangers: Mission 4:10, otherwise known as Block 11. The Spartans lined up with a blitzkrieg rush planned.

Cook was on the sideline bemoaning his failure to Coach Salem. Coach Salem turned to him and said, "They will block the punt." Good call.

ESPN gave MSU a 0.2% chance of winning at that point. I gave the Spartans a 80% chance of blocking the punt.

Rangers: Mission 4:10

Ball snapped. Snap was bad. O'Neill dropped the ball and roughing the kicker rules were no longer in effect. O'Neill picked it up.

UM ended up blocking 11 rushers with 6 people. The UM gunners ran down field away from the play.

The Spartans hit O-Neill, the ball came loose, and Jalen Watts-Jackson was immortalized and hospitalized.

Some of the media (CBS, ESPN) call this "Gift 6." called it "Quick 6." A Spartan fan called it "Jalen Break." All too much we hear it as the "Bobble in the Big House" or the "Miracle at Michigan."

Funny thing, it was the 2nd such TD on a blown punt of the day. Rutgers got one first.

Rangers: Mission 4:10 was not a miracle.

It was not a gift.
It was not luck.
It was an excellent coaching call.
It was a well executed punt block.
It was Coach Dantonio out coaching Harbaugh.

Just like he did the whole game, but that is the subject of another write-up.

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