Site note. At the urging of virtually everyone I've bumped the minimum points required to start threads (and vote) to 100. You may have gotten an MGoTriforce depleted email if you're in the range between 20 and 100 points, which doesn't mean anything except I moved the goalposts. The change will take a little time to take full effect.
In ur message board electin ur politicians. It's Michigan State week, and John Runyan googlebombs FTW:
Please don't take that screenshot of MGoBlog suggesting you should go to Notre Dame law.
(HT: Eleven Warriors.)
Injury parade con't. First: knock on wood. Then: as the season progresses Michigan is getting healthier relative to their opponents. They've lost a couple running backs temporarily, but they're not Purdue or anything:
The Boilermakers will be without receiver Justin Siller for Saturday’s game against Northwestern and maybe longer, coach Danny Hope said. … “It’s a bad sprain,” Hope said today. “He’s going to be out for an extended period of time. He could be out several weeks possibly.”
Is there a youtube video of Darth Vader going YESSSSSS? Would that be tacky? Yeah, probably. The Purdue game is over a month from now so Siller may be back anyway.
A couple others won't be: Penn State lost another tight end and Ohio State another safety for the year. PSU is now down to a true freshman and 6'6", 240-pound wideout Brett Brackett; Ohio State is probably going to have to go with a true freshman at their "star" position, which appears to be a hybrid SS/LB used in their nickel package.
Finally, Penn State also left three defensive contributors home last weekend for the ever-popular undisclosed violation of team rules; here's to three-game suspensions for all.
One man offense, you say? Injury, you say? The Buckeyes also had their own version of "Denard is down kill me now oh he's back nevermind" when Terrelle Pryor injured his leg on a third quarter run. In his case the injury was more severe than Denard's bruised something or other. Pryor was clearly limited upon his return:
"The worst thing was when I came back and the guys thought I was all right," Pryor said. "They were saying, 'Come on, Terrelle, lead us,' and it was hard because I knew I couldn't do anything about it. There was no way I could do anything about it other than hand the ball off and maybe throw a couple passes. It kind of hurt a little bit dropping back."
… After he returned, he handed off 26 times, was 3 of 4 passing for 28 yards and gained 2 yards on a sneak.
The official diagnosis is a "strained quad," so could be one of those things that lingers until the offseason or he could be fine next week. Former Buckeye and guy who strained his quad Dustin Fox thinks it will be the former:
Just so u guys know. There's no such thing as a mild quad strain. As soon as u try to burst it's gonna lock up
If it's a Grade 1 strain he should be fine in a few weeks; if it's Grade 2 he could be limited for up to two months. Re-aggravation is possible since OSU has little choice but to ride Pryor as far as he can take them. Their backup quarterback situation is grim and a lot of their praise for Boom Herron's workmanlike performance reads like it's from Michigan fans hoping Vincent Smith is better than he seems right now. This slight window of hope will be followed by Pryor pulling a Denard against their next opponent, which is… Indiana. (Welcome to the Big Ten season, Hoosiers. Yeesh.)
Penn State jealousy update! Kevin Newsome: still backing up a true freshman. Anthony Fera, who Michigan recruited as a kicker:
By my count, Anthony Fera had four mediocre and one really, really bad punt.
They're still 39th in net punting and Michigan is 88th, but we're catching up after being in triple digits last week. While we're on Penn State, that game continues to look very plausible but I don't like this bit:
Credit where it's due: despite being harried and pounded on for pretty much the entire game (and dealing with a difficult night-game atmosphere in Kinnick; it got LOUD on multiple occasions), Robert Bolden seemed to keep his composure well and he did a nice job of leading the Penn State offense down the field on those two drives on either side of halftime. The coaches made things easier on him by using a lot of quick roll-outs and short passes, but he looked pretty calm in executing that gameplan. Things got more ragged in the fourth quarter and he threw a lot more balls that could have (and should have) been intercepted (including the one that was, by Shaun Prater late in the fourth quarter), but freshmen quarterbacks are going to take their lumps; Bolden seems like he could be a pretty good quarterback for PSU in the not-too-distant future.
Who hates quick rollouts and short passes? You do, because Michigan can't defend them. That's another game in which I have no idea what will happen. That's a big step forward from the beginning of the season. As a bonus, JoePa punted on fourth and six down 14 with 4:36 left: that's not a game in which fear of Denard will make coaches go Romer.
All hat. Remember when we were all excited about getting Les Miles and despondent when he said GTFO?
(HT: The War Eagle Reader.)
Dodged an enormous penis-shaped bullet there. What looked like enormous balls and a refreshing ability to do that Romer stuff we've been talking about all day turns out to be an inability to comprehend the conventional wisdom or the clock rules. You've seen this, right? It's seven minutes but if you didn't see how this went down you have to repair this immediately:
There are no words. If you insist that there are, Orson has you covered:
The clock runs. You do two things when you might want to stop the clock on the goal-line down 14-10 with a running clock. You may spike it---wait, that's not happening. There's a thing about spiking the ball at LSU, if you'll recall. They could call time out, but they have no timeouts because Les Miles is pretty sure the federal government demands those back at the end of the year if you don't spend them all. Though they've been on the two yard line ever since the pass interference penalty, the LSU offensive staff suddenly remembers OH MY GOD WE HAVE A GOAL LINE PACKAGE and sets off a fire drill the People's Republic of China would call "disgracefully hurried and chaotic."
Imagine if the smoldering tire fire that is Michigan's secondary was inside the head coaches' skull. LSU recruited Russell Shepard, a five-star dual threat QB Michigan thought was more talented than anyone they've recruited at the position and moved him to wide receiver so Jordan Jefferson could play. Guh.
BONUS: The Alphabetical's D, E, and F all concern the Michigan-Indiana tennis match, with Denard ascending past Woody Danztler in Orson's pantheon of spread quarterbacks.
"I'm feeling good. Feeling alright. Just got done lifting." He felt pretty good yesterday after the Indiana game. Staying healthy - "I guess every Big Ten game's going to be a big game. I've been working out, I've gotten treatment, doing everything I can to take care of my body."
"I love people, so it's not that bad" getting recognized around campus.
"I've made some bad reads, and I kind of overthrew a couple guys. There's always time for improvement." Doesn't worry about his stats, so he doesn't care what people are saying about him. "Just don't watch it, don't read it, stay away from it."
Teammates can make plays "don't try to make too many plays."
On Roundtree: "Roy, just give him the ball and he's going to make something happen." He just makes plays. "We could do that with all our receivers, but he's standing out right now."
OL has been performing every week. "That's who I've gotta give thanks to all the time. Them and God."
Doesn't get any bigger than M-MSU [Ed: just wait a few weeks, son], it's going to be a hard-fought game. "They're a great team, they're a physical team, and they come to play. It's going to be a hard game." Everybody gets pumped up for this game, especially in-state guys.
"I was playing with him. I felt like I was in the game and just playing with him." During Tate's comeback at MSU last year.
Greg Jones is a fast, physical player who can hit. "As a quarterback, you've gotta read everybody else, not just one player." Nobody's tried to spy Denard with one player yet, we'll see what MSU does.
"Mike Shaw is doing good." He told Roundtree he's ready for Saturday. Just needs to go in, watch film, and get ready.
Denard is always worried about getting better, and that's what he's doing. "Man, Shoelace just too fast... Coach Rod just tells him 'run straight,' and once he runs, he runs." Depth at QB means that the offense doesn't struggle too much when Denard goes out. Denard is humble, and doesn't worry about the Heisman hype he's getting. "This week, he's gotta get better, and get us right." The skill players like to have the quarterback motivate them.
Roy works hard and listens to the coaches to get better. "It's showing Saturdays, but I know I've got a lot to improve."
"When we're out there, we don't really know the stats and whatnot. We just go out there and play Michigan football." Not worried about how many yards they got. Happy for Junior's big game against IU after the fact.
Everybody knows their offensive assignments now, the team is prepared well.
Intense this week? "Come on man, it's Michigan State, it's rivalry week." This will be the biggest game Roy's played at Michigan Stadium outside of Ohio State last year. Need to have a great attitude this week to get the win. "This week is like a different intensity level."
"You just gotta be ready, man. It's all preparation." Can stay undefeated and clinch bowl eligibility this game. "What happened last year was last year. You know, it hurt all of us. But we've gotta do what we've gotta do today to get ready for Michigan State."
"I still get nervous each game, so it don't really bother me." Prepares hard, which makes him confident for each play he's out there.
They've played tough defenses, not worried about putting up stats, just getting ready for the next D they'll face.
On Denard- "Any time he breaks through there, we know he's gone, which is a great feeling to have." The more yards Denard gains, the better it is for the offense.
Confident in the offense even if Denard goes out. Tate and Devin getting snaps, and they can spread the ball around. "I'm pretty confident in our offense no matter who's out there. Obviously 16's a special player."
You're getting the job done if you score quickly on offense.
Patrick's been playing really well, Taylor's been showing what the players knew he could do.
The OL is confident in the running game, hopefully they can run for more yards and get the win (as the team who has rushed for more yards has won 30 of the past 33 matchups between these teams).
Was never into the Washington-Washington State rivalry. Michigan-MSU is a much bigger rivalry. "Even if you win the Big Ten, you didn't win the state championship" if you lose to MSU.
Seniors will explain the importance of this game to some of the younger guys. "If you come to Michigan and you don't understand the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State... it's almost set in stone." They'll also hear from some former players about the rivalry.
Doesn't hear from students about losing to MSU twice in a row. "I know the fanbase obviously wants to get a win." Lots of people want to beat State. Winning as a senior is the most important, because it's the one you remember. "To be able to go out with a win, and to be able to say you beat Michigan State in your senior year is huge."
"Michigan State's always a physical game." Not particularly concerned for Denard, because he's a tough guy. He understands the importance of the rivalry. Maybe a little more banged up than he lets on with his toughness, good leadership.
Schilling hopes Michigan's speed can trump State's size. Endurance will be a big factor as well. "Some of the non-conference teams were smaller" up front. Michigan State has more size. Big Ten teams in general are a bit bigger.
Greg Jones is almost always leading the nation in tackles. He powers through blocks and makes a lot of plays.
"It's a big test for us. Coming in undefeated, there's a lot of angles to kind of approach it." Lots of storylines, looking to come out of the game undefeated.
Big sack against Indiana - "It was an exciting play, a big play for our defense."
"I've seen still pictures of myself before I snap the ball, and it kind of scares myself" the faces he makes.
Creating turnovers is a big emphasis. Coach Robinson talks about it, because you have the opportunity to get the offense the ball more than the other team.
He was used some at DE against the Hoosiers. "It's a different look. Whenever you can give a different look to an opposing team, I think it confuses them." They'll practice it again this week.
Patterson is a good sub when Martin needs a rest.
It's nice seeing other defenses chasing Denard around, because Martin, Van Bergen, and Banks have to do it in practice all the time. "He's always been a hard worker."
Michigan State is a big game for both teams. Excited to prepare this week. "I always grew up watching Michigan, so I loved Michigan through thick and thin... I never really liked the color green."
Tough to lose the last two years, but it will help be motivated to get the win. "We do remember what happened in the past, and the past two years have been hard." It's made the team better overall and closer as a unit.
Making a bowl is a team goal, along with winning the Big Ten. "If we can just control what we can control" that's all you can ask for. "We always remind ourselves of our goals." Keeping it in sight reminds you of what you can do.
MSU's offense is good, Martin has already watched a bit of film. "We're just gonna prepare as best as we can. Guys are getting in the film room on their own."
"I love the fact that they're undefeated. That just makes this game even bigger. I think that ensures they give their best on Saturday, and I wouldn't want it any other way."
There's a bit more talking between teams in a heated, in-state rivalry game like this one.
MSU's line looks athletic, and they play hard. Both teams play a little harder in this game, because it's a big deal.
Doesn't worry about what outside people are saying about the defense. He knows the defense has its issues (as does the offense). "They're all correctable. Every team's going to have issues, and every unit's going to have issues. We have five new starters so we're kind of learning as we go here... We're undefeated and we haven't played our best football yet."
"It works in practice, so it should work in games." Some issues are people trying to do a bit too much. Defense is improving this year, taking strides inthe right direction.
It's good to win the games, but you know where to draw the line with letting it get to your head. "As soon as I leave here and go down to the biulding, I put on my business face and go to work."
Not worried about bowl eligibility right now. Try to win the game, and that will happen on its own. "Those rivalry games are always big for us... it doesn't matter if we haven't won a game going into those, it's always going to be a big game."
Want to stop the run against MSU - "that's usually the key to victory in most games." Get after the QB and punish their skill players. "I feel more needed" when the opponent will try to run the ball.
Was always interested in Michigan running backs growing up, so he was on the Michigan side. Was a RB in high school.
"Year-round I hear from all of my ex-classmates who have gone to Michigan State. A lot of the families back home are either Michigan or Michigan State." The in-state rivalry is an all-year thing.
"It's not easy, it's not fun" to lose two in a row and not have bragging rights. "That's part of our motivation is to go out and get those bragging rights back."
Do you root for MSU in other games? "I don't. I would like them to have as much success as possible before they play us." It doesn't rise to the level of rooting, though.
"I hope the crowd's really rocking on Saturday."
"I think every defensive player takes that personal, and it makes us even hungrier for the win" when people talk down on the M defense.
Improvements are happening week-to-week, particularly the young guys. "I know it something that's surely going to show up in games."
Mike Martin played well against Indiana. "It worked out pretty well, he was definitely getting after the quarterback." Defense hurt themselves with some penalties, and that stuff is correctable.
The players may be fueled by losing the last two to Michigan State, but the past is in the past. "It doesn't matter if it's my first win or my fourth win against them, any time you can play Michigan State, you'd better be motivated."
Keys to the game: "It doesn't matter who your opponent is, any time you can make a team one-dimensional... you've got a chance of winning the game."
Cousins is a great QB, and they have a great offense. This should be the biggest challenge so far for the defense this year.
RBs are big guys that can move. Probably the best Michigan has seen this year.
Denard: "He's something else (laughs)." Other teams can try to contain him, but Kovacs doesn't know how they'll do it. "You've gotta have some speed, that's for sure."
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
- Shaw "should be OK to do everything."
- Toussaint day-to-day with shoulder.
- Banks: "Little calf issue." Defense played a lot of plays, so he'll need rest. Should be fine.
- Brandon Herron is OK.
Downfield throws for Denard? "He's missing three out of every ten. That's not bad." The couple deep misses Saturday were maybe rushed a bit, but he's been doing well.
"No matter who your quarterback is, you worry about him staying healthy" regardless of what type of offense you run. "I have the same concern every week as far as hoping the guys stay healthy. But you've gotta play the game." "He'll be a little limited [in Monday practice]. Just because he's been running so much. You want him 100% on Saturday."
Denard comeback - "There's no panic." Going to a no-huddle for the 2-minute drill isn't a change from regular offensive pace. Denard made a nice throw to Junior, Hemingway made a nice play on it. Offense is executing with a lot of confidence. They practice the 2-minute drill a couple times a week.
Denard has learned a lot since last year. He's just running the offense (he couldn't do all that last year). He has the capability to bust 10-yard runs for 50 or 60.
Offensive line - "As a group, whoever the five is out there, there's another level we can get to."
Dorrestein - "Perry has been really solid. He's a veteran guy, he knows the offense."
Taylor Lewan penalty: "From what I see... his left foot got tangled up as he was stepping over a pile... I didn't see it on film, maybe they saw something I didn't see." The scrum afterward was no big deal, the officials broke it up.
Field goals: "We were close to it in the last game. We were gonna center the ball for a game-winning field goal" [Ed: ...but you try keeping Denard from an end-zone he can see]. RR would rather score TDs, and fortunately the offense has been good at doing so. "There's gonna come a point in time where we've gotta make field goals" to win the game. They have guys who will be able to do it.
Hagerup has played a bit better. "He had a couple good punts, and he seemed composed, so hopefully the little nervousness is out of the way."
Woolfolk - "I saw him last week, he's still got a big old cast." He's doing upper-body work. Hard for him and Mike Jones to not be able to play because they're competitive guys. Woolfolk should be 100% next year after rehab.
Stonum KO returns. "It's been a little bit frustrating." Haven't come close to breaking one. The blocking isn't quite there at times, but Darryl has the ability to do that. "Boy would it be a good time to do that."
"We have not had an opportunity to return a lot of punts."
"I don't think you have to blitz all the time to have an aggressive mentality defensively." You get on your heels a bit when you've been giving up a lot of first downs. "We didn't make some key stops. Some of it was mental, and some of it was physical." The D is a little limited because they don't want to confuse younger guys.
Offensively, can make more in-game adjustments because of experience. On Defense, more limited in that regard. Can make some adjustments, but not as many. The D has improved in some respects. "There's some moments on defense where we've gotten a little better, but there's also some things we've not gotten better yet, and it's going to take some time." In a tough situation with a lack of experienced depth. Need to force more 3-and-outs and turnovers.
"You always want to play a little bit better. We've battled; it's not like the guys aren't trying." Injuries and other issues are mitigating factors. "We're 5-0, and as much troubles as we've had, I don't want to belabor the fact." When they've gotten sacks from Martin or others, the opposing offense has been able to convert on long-yardage, which is frustrating.
Michigan D stats? "You can learn some stuff from statistics. I don't have to look at them to know where our problems are." Some of the problems can't be solved overnight.
Worried about defense wearing down? "Our defense was playing too much and our offense wasn't on the field at all." Doesn't alter the offensive approach, but wants the defense to play as fast as they can. "We've just got to try to play better, and get a few stops."
Were there defensive changes with Martin at DE and Floyd at S? "It was more of a defensive package thing we're trying to do." Put guys in different positions to have some success. Martin and Floyd are experienced players, put them where they can make plays.
"Our numbers defensively were way down." That's trending toward the positive, but they need to help the young guys out with their schemes.
The team learns from winning close games. "You can develop a habit of expecting to experience that same thing again." Blowing the lead in the ND game, the guys never panicked to come back. Same thing with the win on Saturday.
Special teams have been average, need to improve there as well.
Better TO margin this season is offensive experience, guys maturing, and knowing how to take care of the ball. It's been a big point of emphasis for the team.
Tackled pretty well, defended IU's wildcat pretty well. "We don't want to give up 35 points to anybody, but they have some talented players, and they did a nice job pitching and catching."
"They're all big, but this one's bigger. I mean, the rivalry games are always bigger." The more you win, the more is at stake. Both teams undefeated. "A rivalry has enough significance." Not thinking about revenge, what matters is what's happening right now.
Doesn't worry about point spreads "Usually the home team gets a few points anyway."
In-state rivalry is a bigger deal "We recruit against each other, and a lot of our players know their players." "I know they talk about it quite a bit, but so do we." "I don't blame the fans for thinking that, because they're not coaching. They've got more time to think about it."
"It's just as important to me and I think all my players as it is to them. They've just won the last two games." Anything to the contrary is just talk. No countdown clock to a given game, just to the next game. "Trust me, we talk about it quite a bit. It's very very very important to us." For the rivalry, "Anything that we do, I would keep internally.. there's always things you do for rivalry games that make it a little bit unique."
Different parts of the fanbase emphasize different rivalries. In-state might be more intense, but you're not going to try harder just because it's a rivalry; you're always trying your hardest. "It's one of the biggest games we play every year."
"I'm sure Mark [Dantonio], his health is the most important thing." He'll do everything that the doctors allow him to do. RR would do the same "Most of the time, you're going to listen to the doctor." As much as you like to compete, have to worry about yourself. "Having a health issue at any time, whether you're a coach or not, is a tough thing to go through." Tough in-season too, because you want to be out there and compete every day. Nobody talks about the health of assistants "You've gotta remind your staff to do that" - watch their health.
MSU's defense is "the most experienced for sure. Presents some challenges. They've got a very good defense." Michigan has to execute well.
"I think Cousins is an outstanding player." Cousins was a great QB last year, and "he's even playing better this year." Can run, throw, is a great leader. "Defensively, we've got some things we've got to fix."
MSU runs the same schemes with all their backs; they're interchangeable parts. "You've still gotta have guys get off blocks and make tackles... If you do that, you'll have a better defense."
MSU's offense has "Great balance, no question. They have the ability to come downhill at you and pound away. And they're very good at play-action."
Might try to keep the ball away from KeShawn Martin. MSU will try to be confusing on kickoffs. "He wants to take every ball back."
"I don't have any expectations" of a shootout. The intensity will be there. "If we can squeeze more people in there, this would probably be the week that it would happen."
MSU Defense - "They got good players, they've got a good team." They'll tackle well and take away parts of the offense. "We're gonna have to execute. That's a key, no matter what." MSU has good team speed, MICH can't do too much dancing around. "I think you've gotta stay within your scheme." MSU can't just use Greg Jones to shadow Denard, because it's not within their usual scheme. "If you don't block him or attempt to block him, he's gonna make a lot of tackles."
M and MSU undefeated adds national interest. "The more you win, the more is at stake."
This game and recruiting - "It may make an impact on one or two guys." Most recruits don't look at one game, or even the season, they look at the whole package.
10/2/2010 – Michigan 42, Indiana 35 – 5-0, 1-0
When you want to watch ESPNU in Sedona, Arizona, you go to this place called "Sticks and Steaks." To get there you drive past a massive tourist art complex with a faux-native name, a sign exhorting you take advantage of Angel Lightfoot's magic healing crystal expertise, and an enormous, profligate fountain in the middle of the damn desert. Whatever Sedona's purpose was when someone said "screw it" and set up camp in 1902 is gone, replaced by a talent for taking money that was jammed into old ladies' bank accounts and circulating it through the economy again.
Inside this place you'll find TVs, horse betting, and a motley collection of people who would rather be home for three and a half hours on Saturday. In front of me there were a couple peeved Texas fans watching their team get punked by Oklahoma. Behind me there was a Wisconsin guy who asked if I was wearing my lucky Michigan tie. (I wasn't: I'd neglected to bring one and had to drive back to the next town over and stop at their outlet strip mall to get one.) A couple of old women who didn't care about football ate there; as they left one of them said they'd gone to Indiana and was surprised the game was even that close.
I think it was an attempt to comfort me, as I'd spent the hour they were there pulling my hair back over my skull and swearing under my breath. Sometimes not so under my breath, too. I said something about how IU's quarterback was outlandishly good and hoped it was true.
I do not have to tell you this but I will anyway: that game was bizarre.
In the aftermath it stands as a tribute to how useless time of possession is. Michigan's put-upon defense actually got better in the second half of their 98-play version of Ishtar, and it turns out that a touchdown scored in three plays is worth just as much as a touchdown scored in 14. We have sufficient evidence now to declare this finding statistically significant. So that's nice.
In progress it felt like dying from a thousand paper cuts only to be brought back with the crashing thunder of paddles, conscious and fully aware you were about to do it all over again. The opponent holding the ball for 42 minutes might not mean much statistically, but it does make most of the game an agonizing slog.
As a result, records were set across the Michigan fanbase for "most muted response to a 70-yard touchdown." Such a thing wouldn't have been possible even four years ago. I remember thinking to myself "that's 25% of the points we need to win" after the first drive of the '06 Ohio State game, and I was delighted through a whole commercial break. I grew up with angry cold Midwestern football where touchdowns were hard-earned things only somewhat less rare than goals in soccer. Each one was a major step towards your goal, and punting a guy down inside their ten was tantamount to getting the ball back on the fifty.
Now a touchdown is just holding serve. When Denard fumbled the snap on the one I thought "this is going to be a 99-yard touchdown drive," and then it was a 99-yard touchdown drive. It's disorienting, and as Indiana is driving down the field again you can't even figure out who to scream at because no one's in the same zip code as the receiver, and you hate everything about everything because this is MICHIGAN we don't do things like this.
On the other hand, "this is MICHIGAN" also applies to an offense that could end up loaded with NFL talent and still come nowhere near this one. Michigan still has Denard and its blitzkrieg of an offensive line and a bunch of wide-receivers who draw straws to determine who gets this week's monster day. One day when the defense is capable of covering guys here and there, Michigan will club people. At the moment it's about having the ball last.
I got somewhat demonstrative during all of this, which is why the Wisconsin guy asked me about my tie and the Indiana woman offered a ham-fisted attempt at comfort. People found me entertaining as I alternated between brief flashes of happiness and long stretches of sports Tourette's, I guess. I probably would have too.
As I was leaving this other guy who I hadn't even noticed added his bit, jovially saying "Hey, you survived." I had. They had, unlike Texas or Wisconsin or Indiana. The Texas folk hadn't even made it past halftime. The fiancée, still able to engage in small talk beyond grunts and squeaks, asked who he was rooting for. He said "USC, but they don't play yet." When they did, they lost to Washington for the second straight year. There are worse things than getting bombed for 480 yards by Ben Chappell even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
Stop it. I've defended the three man rush but good lord you have got to be kidding me. I defended the 3-3-5 but that's when I thought it would be used to create a wide variety of four-and-five man fronts with unpredictable blitzing. Michigan probably rushed more than three guys 10% of the time in the second half, and when they did that it was four. I can't support having Craig Roh and using him in zone coverage on every snap.
What's worse was the inane substitution pattern. Every Indiana run in the second half was a wasted down, and probably would have been a wasted down even if you replaced Banks with Roh and brought in a cornerback. One of this defense's few assets is the pass rushing ability of the outside linebackers, but Michigan is going out of its way to avoid using it.
Stop it, but the clock. I would have thrown a shoe at the TV if Michigan had botched time management at the end of the half like Indiana did. How do you get inside the 20 on that drive with a minute or so on the clock and end up with four seconds on third and goal? Indiana let the clock run from 13 seconds to 9 after a first and goal play before calling timeout, which meant they'd just blown an opportunity to run a fourth down. They got the TD anyway, but that was a sequence worthy of Les Miles.
Speaking of decisions like going for it on third there…
How Denard Robinson is like multi-way callers in a limit hold-em game. There is a phenomenon in limit hold-em called "schooling" where a bunch of weak players who call a lot of hands they should ditch accidentally make their play close to right, frustrating more experienced players with a strong hand they'd like to get heads up with.
I think about this every time an opposing coach defies his inner Lovie Smith and goes for it on a fourth-and-Romer down against Michigan or eschews a half-ending field goal attempt in an effort to score the seven it's obvious they'll need to keep up with Denard. Michigan has now faced 15 fourth down attempts on the season, which is double the next-highest total in the Big Ten and triple the average*. They've converted nine of these, turning a bunch of drives that would have been punts or field goal attempts against a less terrifying offense into touchdowns.
The difference is that the coaches' decisions are statistically correct, not just less wrong. Which is not so good for Michigan. Bill Lynch did manage to punt from the Michigan 42 on fourth and short, which just goes to show that it is the nature of all coaches to play it safe. I'm hoping as we get into the stodgy section of the schedule we'll see more insane decisions to punt when Michigan scrapes together a stop. Someone can tell Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz and Joe Paterno that they should go for it, but what are the chances they listen? Maybe 40%?
*(FWIW, I disagree with the author's assertion that the reason Michigan's opponents are exceeding their yardage season averages when they play M is because Michigan is the "red-letter" game on the schedule. It's just because Michigan's defense sucks.)
Same thing on our side of the ball. Michigan should have gone for it on fourth and one in the second half; instead they sent Forcier out to pooch it. I'm fine with the pooch punting in general, as it's impossible to return or even catch one. Michigan netted 39 yards on Forcier's attempt, which would be good for 23rd nationally as a season-long average.
But punting in that situation? No thanks. When your offense is tearing through the opposition like M's offense was that Mathlete chart about correct decisions swings way towards going for it there.
Part of the problem may be the apparent lack of faith in Michigan's bigger backs. Cox didn't appear at all and Hopkins was just used as a blocker; when Vincent Smith is your best TB option (blocking or running) short yardage is less of a certainty. I'm still not a fan of Smith this year despite the long run against IU. He didn't have to do anything except run through a gaping void and run through an attempt to tackle him from behind. He's reliable, but having him at tailback is like having Greg Mathews on punt returns.
It could not be clearer that Michigan doesn't need much time to score.
But what the Wolverines do need is the ability to keep their defense off the field. This defense is young, and it's still learning, and without the Michigan offense, its flaws would be that much more evident.
The Daily's Joe Stapleton also offered something along those lines.
Anyone who's read this blog for longer than a couple weeks knows the general outline of what's to come but whatever here goes: a touchdown is worth seven points no matter how long it takes to score, and having an offense that rips down the field in three or four plays against Indiana is not a bad thing. Against better defenses those opportunities will be much rarer. And what is Denard supposed to do, anyway? Kneel down at the 20?
It's the defense's job to get off the field. The offense is a thing to score points with. Was it good that Roy Roundtree got caught at the three? Not so much. If Michigan wants to bring TOP closer to even they'll have to get much better or blitz like madmen, but since that's a stupid goal to have they should only do the latter if it also makes it more likely they'll get stops.
Slight mitigation. One effect of Michigan's rapid-fire touchdown drives was to inflate Indiana's opportunities. Both teams had twelve bonafide drives in the game. That's 50% more than the opener against UConn; Michigan would have expected to give up 23 points if they'd faced eight IU drives. Which is still terrible, but maybe slightly less so than it seemed.
I was in transit yesterday so no VOAV; apologies. Here's the Michigan defense highlight reel:
Something slightly longer from WH:
In non-video items: a serendipitous sideline photo gallery. Michigan's ridiculous "on pace for" numbers. Mike DeSimone has resumed his incredibly useful photo collecting. Wow, Les Miles. Wow Denard from the Indy Star:
There are certain moments that reveal a potential Heisman Trophy winner's essence, and that came on that final five-play, 73-yard game-winning drive that sealed the 42-35 victory.
"Shoelace'' has got my Heisman vote, and it would take an act of God to make me change my mind.
ESPN's Heisman watch says it's "Robinson and everyone else":
Now it's just getting ridiculous. I mean, at some point shouldn't we stop being amazed? We've seen it for five weeks now. Shouldn't we be used to it? I'm talking, of course, about Michigan QB Denard Robinson, and the answer is no. We haven't seen this type of college football playmaker since … Barry Sanders?
Postgame GERG-RR stills from MVictors are… not so happy. Ace asks if we're jaded already. I'll talk about this more in a bit but despite the stuff about the three-man rush above, complaints like those of BWS…
The real story is that Greg Robinson's defensive schemes do not work. No longer is this a question of defensive talent or improper personnel. No, sadly, this is far more systematic: Greg Robinson's schemes Do Not Work.
I've been advocating a man coverage package for the last three weeks. Robinson has shown it sparingly. Not that I'm more qualified to run this defense, but Robinson's inability--or maybe stubbornness--to show new looks is far and away the most disappointing aspect of this season. Play after play (and now game after game), teams are running quick slants and seven-yard hitch routes and absolutely shredding Michigan's defense. And it's not that the defense looks athletically overmatched. They look unprepared and poorly coached.
…are kind of ridiculous. James Rogers cannot change direction. Jordan Kovacs cannot cover people man to man. There are massive personnel deficiencies that need covering up.
Rolling into the sixth week already Michigan's recruiting has started to pick up steam. This week's and next week's games will both be big for visitors. We could (should?) see a few commitments along the way. Here's an update on a few prospects with a look at the visitors this weekend scheduled so far.
6'5", 320 lbs.
Ray has been on Michigan's radar for awhile now, and it had seemed as though Wisconsin was the school to beat. Michigan is still looking to add a few offensive linemen to this class and Ball is one of those targets.
I would say that Michigan and Wisconsin are tied at the top right now. Once I go up to both schools I will know who is where on my leader board. I'm visiting Wisconsin on October 16th, and I haven't set it up yet but I think the Illinois game will be the best for my official to Michigan.
Ray said that his decision will come down to who has more to offer and who comes out with a bang on his visit. Wisconsin's visit could vault them ahead of Michigan, but if he takes his visit to Wisconsin and doesn't commit then M should have a good shot. Ball may be competing with Chris Bryant for the final offensive line slot in the class.
6'4", 215 lbs.
Michigan is also looking for a few linebackers in this class, and Sean Duggan is a target. Duggan has somewhat pushed his recruitment to the back burner to focus on school and his team. He has started to set up his official visits though.
I'm going to Boston College on the weekend of the Clemson game, and Michigan either the first or second week of December. Depending on if I'm still playing or not, I'll go up to Duke and Virginia after my season.
Wisconsin was removed from his final list because they're full at his position. So Michigan is in the top four and will get a visit. I think they have some ground to make up on Boston College but it definitely helps that Wisconsin is no longer in the picture. You can tell by Duggan's list that he's a serious about academics.
5'8", 190 lbs.
Demetrius is making his final decision on Friday of this week. He'll be notifying the coaches of each school if he'll be playing for them next season. This is hard for me because I can't really share a lot of info this close to a decision.
I know that's not what any of you want to hear, but I don't want to ruin anything for Demetrius. I've been saying this for awhile now, and it's not speculation, Auburn is not as big of a threat as people are saying. I have a call scheduled with the family today, so I'll share what they allow me to, but don't expect a lot before the decision. I don't really like giving hints about where he's going, but I will let you know of any negatives to watch out for.
I will create a separate list in the diaries for this, but here are the visitors (that I have confirmed so far) coming in for the game this weekend. You'll notice that Kris Frost is not on this list. He's not sure if he's going to make it or not. He wants his parents there, and they're not sure if they can make the trip.:
- Devondrick Nealy (5'10", 175 lbs., Running Back/Slot) Jefferson County/Florida - Nealy said when he received his Michigan offer that it was "One of the biggest scholarships yet," and that he was very excited. Michigan is recruiting him more for a slot receiver and he has a top four of Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, and Minnesota (yeah, Minnesota). He doesn't plan on making his decision until the end of the year.
- Marquise Williams (6'3", 218 lbs, Quarterback) Mallard Creek/North Carolina - Williams is a North Carolina commit and friend of Michigan target Kris Frost. I spoke with Williams about the NCAA allegations and how it effects North Carolina and he didn't seem too thrilled about what was happening. This is an odd situation because Michigan currently has QB Kevin Sousa committed.
- Kellen Jones - Michigan commit.
- Jack Miller - Michigan commit.
- Jake Fisher - Michigan commit.
- Kishon Wilcher - Cass Tech athlete and son of Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher. He does not have an offer from Michigan, and thinks they want him to walk on. He's not sure if he would be willing to do that because he doesn't want his parents to have to pay for college. He does have a Toledo offer.
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2012 Cass Tech linebacker.
- Terry Richardson - 2012 Cass Tech DB.
- Brian Blackburn - 2012 Crockett quarterback.
I moved to a full resume ballot this week, so some of the deltas may seem a little bit off. The full chart of resumes can be found here, listed from most to least impressive victories.
There are a few things I'm not certain of (there is a case to be made for Michigan State above Florida, for example, and as usual, there could be a number of other teams at the end of the poll).
I'm open for suggestions, corrections, etc., so comment and I'll try to respond and/or include your contributions.