Mike Lantry, 1972
This is as close as the Internet provides:
Now stop being creepy.
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Since the last edition of this particular column Michigan was swept in the Showcase and on the road against CCHA leader Miami before turning it around with 4-2 and 7-3 victories over Nebraska-Omaha. Michigan now stands 11-5-1 on the season at the Christmas break. Their record is a realistic reflection of how they've played.
Argh! Pending; somehow I got two copies of the Friday game on my DVR, and I forgot the magic incantation that makes Conversion Step 2 go. Will update this space and notify on the front page when they become available.
- I think Michigan's problems in the defensive zone have more to do with Eric Werner's departure than anyone could have logically anticipated. Werner tended to gamble when posted at the point, but in his own zone he was at least adequate and when the puck got on his stick and his smooth skating and clean outlet passes were the kind of thing you don't miss until they're gone. Right now Michigan has two, maybe two-and-a-half guys who can come close to replicating that ability: Hunwick, Johnson, and possibly Dest, though he's no Werner. UNO's first goal came after Dest flubbed an easy clearance attempt.
- I'd like to reiterate my seconding of Yost Built's "split Hunwick and Johnson" campaign. I think they'd work better paired with less rambunctious partners, and splitting their ability to do that Werner thing over two pairings would probably help Michigan's breakout issues.
- Andrew Ebbett has been the best player on the team in recent weeks, living up to the C on his chest. Dest's shorthanded goal on Friday was set up by Ebbett's effort and clever passing; Kal's powerplay goal was off an intelligently soft shot that was intended to be deflected on its way in; he kills penalties and gives effort every shift.
- Good to see Kal blast one past the poor, shelled UNO goalie on Saturday. Kal's rumored to have Steve McNair-level nagging injuries, but he was very good this weekend.
- If the video had gone to plan you could have seen Cogliano's shortie on Saturday, which was straight freak nasty: one on one with a defender, Cogs manuevers into position to get a shot off using him as a screen, then rifles top corner against the flow of the goaltender's motion. Ridiculous.
- Yost Built has his own notes for both Friday and Saturday.
Note: now that there's somewhat meaningful data for the numbers, any and all references to polls will be dropped in this space. They're irrelevant since the NCAA hockey tournament's selection and seeding is a strictly mathematical affair. In their stead come KRACH, which is really fleebing complicated, PWR, which is mildly fleebing complicated, and RPI, which isn't complicated at all. PWR is the money rating, the one the NCAA uses for the tourney.
Surprisingly, Michigan stands third in each ranking system, probably because KRACH rates the Michigan schedule #2 in the nation at the moment. Michigan's losses to Wisconsin and Miami don't matter much because no one has been able to beat either team (they stand #1 and #2, respectively)--outside of those ignominious events Michigan features a loss to Minnesota, a loss to UAF, a tie against MSU, and 11 wins.
There are four number one seeds given out by the NCAA each year. Obviously, if the season were to end today Michigan, Miami, and Wisconsin would get three. Guess who would be number four? You get nine chances. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
Lake State(!). Apparently unyoking the Lakers from Crazy Frank Anazalone had a liberating effect not unlike that experienced by the post-Larry Brown Pistons. LSSU is 9-5-4 against a decent-to-good schedule. In other news, Rutgers is in a bowl... they are? Goddammit. In other news, the basketball team is undefeat... okay, okay. In other news, something extremely unlikely but unspecified happened!
Michigan's sweep of UNO draws them four points closer to the league-leading Miami Redhawks. Michigan now trails by six points with a game in hand. Four teams trail Michigan by two or three points in the CCHA's traditional "we almost made the tournament yay" middle. Everyone's chasing Miami, essentially.
More important is the following earthquake-inducing statement: nine CCHA teams have above .500 nonconference records. Seriously:
- LSSU: 4-0-2, including three-point weekends against Bemjidi State(9-4-1) and Colgate(10-2-3)
- Miami: 2-1-1, loss to Nodak, win over 10-5-1 Clarkson
- OSU: 3-2-1, split with CC on the road, but dropped 3 of 4 to Alabama-Huntsville.
- Ferris: 4-2 with a win over Bemjidi
- MSU: 3-2 with a win over Nodak and a split against 8-3-1 Cornell
- UNO: 4-1 with a win over UNH.
- NMU: 3-1
- UAF: 2-1-1 with a win and a tie at Minnesota.
An impressive list of scalps that is night and day from the conference's recent ECAC West impression.
The upshot of all this is great for the CCHA and Michigan in particular. There's a smattering of very good wins, but more important is the regular smacking around of teams like Bemjidi, the ECAC contenders, and Mercyhurst: all those teams have good records against weak competition. The RPI takes both your opponents' record and your opponents' opponents' record into account. Michigan gets bonus credit for playing a team like LSSU because they beat a team with a good record; they do not get the RPI drag the Lakers do for Colgate's trashy schedule. For the first time in years Michigan will be propped up by the relative strength of the league, not dragged down to a #3 seed by it. Now there's the matter of beating 'em with that wonky backline.
The Nonconference Opponents
Uh, yeah... Qunnipiac's quick start (an eight-game winstreak following a season opening sweep at the hands of Michigan) came to a screeching halt. Since that time the Bobcats have lost 7 of 8, the bastards. Play better!
Boston College, on the other hand, is still Boston College. They're 9-4-1 and one of the HE favorites. That win will help us all year. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota are very good teams; our losses to them won't hurt us much against the rest of the world as long as they continue to win. It would be nice if Minnesota's RPI remained securely below ours. That combined with the divergent UAF results will probably keep us in front of them despite our H2H loss.
- In case you were wondering if the SE Michigan sporting zeitgeist extends to Ann Arbor, yes, there were "Fire Millen" chants at both Friday and Saturday games.
The Next Weekend
Michigan is off until the GLI, at which point whoever's left will wave helplessly at Colorado College forwards. Expect Matt Hunwick and Jason Dest to get run into the ground and Michigan to shift one forward or another back to defense, maybe Ebbett or Fardig. Without five regulars, it'll be an uphill battle all the way.
Ok, ok. You may have noticed a distinct slowdown in content of late. There is a very good reason for this that will hopefully have a very cool end result. (Granted, this is only for a certain uncool value of "cool," one that does not involve helicopters or babes or luxurious mustaches.) This involves grabbing the data available on the NCAA statistics page, cramming it into my own database, and then, um, unleashing it and stuff. With authorita.
No doubt this would be a simple process, right? Take some regularly-formatted text, extract the appropriate data, and repeat for thousands of plays over hundreds of games: viola, totally awesome weapon of mass statistics at my disposal. This, eh... has not so much happened. If I had only one word to describe the state of this data it would be "I hate you, NCAA person who either designed or did not design this thing, more likely the latter, you useless git, though you probably don't exist."
What the hell am I talking about?
Okay, this is a fairly normal play sequence from the Central Michigan-Akron contest:
- (1st and 10) SNEED, Ontario rush for 10 yards to the CMU41, 1ST DOWN CMU (PACE, Chevin).
- (1st and 10) PENALTY CMU false start 5 yards to the CMU36.
- (1st and 15) SMITH, Kent pass incomplete to HARPER, Justin.
After much blithering about, this works. Here's a fumble. Notice that the yardage is totally omitted?
- (1st and 10) BIGGS, Brett rush to the AKRON41, fumble forced by WILLIAMS, T., fumble by BIGGS, Brett recovered by AKRON SCHEPP, Mike at AKRON43.
Now I have to tease out that piece of data from the yard lines provided. This is what's colloquially referred to in the coding business as a "giant pain in the ass." With sprinkles. Here's a play from the Akron-Kent State tussle:
- (1st and 10) MACHEN pass complete to PRUDEN for 4 yards to the KSU5 (CORNER, Reggie).
- (2nd and 6) JENKINS rush for loss of 4 yards to the KSU1 (REID, Jermaine).
- (3rd and 10) MACHEN pass incomplete to HILL.
That's right, everyone on Kent State has decided to go with just the one name. Maybe they're all Brazilian. Or models. I dunno. What I do know is that my hacked up parsing code vomited on this, causing me to revisit it. More hours down the drain. Oh, and then there's this spectacular sequence:
|2||1||Akron||FUMB||13:36||opp 16||TD||13:36||opp 16||0||0||0:00|
Maybe this is just indication that the MAC blows something fierce and can't be bothered to submit correct reports. They don't even list punts! There's not a goddamned punt in any of the MAC games! I mean, I saw that UW-BGSU game but that's an abberation, right? Meanwhile, the overzealous SEC does this...
- (2nd and 6) [SHOT], Rafael Little rush for 3 yards to the UT42 (Ryan Karl).
- (3rd and 3) Timeout Kentucky, clock 01:04.
- (3rd and 3) [SHOT], Curtis Pulley rush for 1 yard to the UT41 (Roshaun Fellows;Justin Harrell).
Medic! And then there's this, from extra-overzealous Alabama, of course:
- (2nd and 8) Brodie Croyle sideline pass complete to Keith Brown for 26 yards to the LSU30, 1ST DOWN ALABAMA, out-of-bounds (Chevis Jackson).
- (1st and 10) Kenneth Darby rush over left end for 1 yard to the LSU29 (Ronnie Prude;Kyle Williams).
- (2nd and 9) Brodie Croyle RF pass incomplete to Le'Ron McClain, QB hurry by Kyle Williams.
- (3rd and 9) Brodie Croyle crossing pass incomplete to Ezekial Knight, dropped pass.
... which is potentially cool--it would be fascinating to see the statistical breakdowns of the different routes--but mostly just makes my mind, which is futilely attempting to reconcile all these different data presentations in one hunk of code that does not make any goddamn sense to anyone, including me, bleed. So, yeah, the NCAA spent all that time spanking naughty mascots when they could have been normalizing their play-by-play submission process. Before I didn't care. Now I'm wicked pissed.
I'm pretty sure this post--being a discussion of how hard it is to parse football play by play data--is the most boring in the history of this blog, but this is by way of explaining any (extra) crotchety-old-man-ness you may see in this space over the next few days. Don't blame me. Blame the NCAA.
First... FYI: full-fledged hockey blowout coming tomorrow, con video both good and bad. Also: someone convinced me a basketball UFR would be a good idea, so I will do one for the upcoming UCLA game. Watch me stumble my way in a sport I know even less about(!).
Speaking of the basketball team, trust me when I say that you can take very little away from their blowout win over USF. The Bulls started Functional Dani Wohl at point guard--a development Michigan was well prepared for after starting Actual Dani Wohl at times last year--and appear headed to the Big East basement, express-style. Michigan played to rapidly developing stereotype by pounding the boards, suffocating their opponents on defense, shooting well, and turning the ball over with alarming regularity.
Joey is tentatively happy but has logical reservations:
I don't want to take anything away from Michigan because its start has been admirable, but I can't shake the feeling that UM is going to look a lot worse when it plays teams with some, like, talent. The UM big men have pretty bad hands; Courtney Sims is not going to be effective against better "bigs"; and Dion Harris has lost his mid-range game.
I'm also holding back from declaring this team to be a Big Ten contender, but I was pleasantly surprised at Courtney's performance against ND's Torin Francis and the Miami posts. The 'Canes were fairly crappy, granted, but they were definitely big mofos. Michigan is making a concerted effort to go to Sims when he's fronted--too many times last year the guards would just give up when someone got in front of him. Now they're trying to go over the top, which is risky but required.
(Mostly) non-partisan observer Big Ten Wonk plays Devil's Advocate against himself:
Reasons to finally believe. Two words: Graham Brown. This was his line Saturday: two points on 1-of-3 shooting, two assists, one turnover, 25 minutes--and 10 boards. He exists only to rebound and, assuming a night of reality-based board work for Ohio State's J.J. Sullinger tonight against Norfolk State, Brown will likely wake up tomorrow morning atop Wonk's list of the Big Ten's best rebounders.
Reasons to again disbelieve. Right now the Wolverine offense is a high-turnover, kinda-low offensive rebound production being carried by OK shooting (and overshadowed by outstanding defense). History suggests the "high-turnover" part of the equation is likely to continue--the shooting and defense will need to stay strong.
Obligatory "but Brent Petway's out" in 3... 2... 1... but, Wonk, Brent Petway's out! If you ask me, the outstanding defense (tops in the league in defensive rebounding, second in opponent eFG percentage) will be the key. Is it a mirage based on playing the Delaware States and USFs of the world, or is it actually quite good? As Wonk says, defense "tends to be a more loyal companion than that fickle mistress called outside shooting." Michigan will sink or swim based on it.
The college hockey world resumed spinning on its axis as Michigan swept UNO 4-2 and 7-3, though the Saturday night game featured the weakest fighting major I've yet seen. Since all fighting majors in college hockey are accompanied by a minimum one-game suspension, David Rohlfs, the recipient of said weak call, will miss the opening game of the GLI against... yep, CC and the Wonder Scoring Midgets. That's three defensemen gone for that game with Johnson and Mitera off at the WJC. Left are Hunwick, Dest, Cook, and, um, nobody. Yeah. Kevin Porter and (almost assuredly) Andrew Cogliano will also be gone. I would strongly suggest watching the GLI on TV. With the TV off.
In less frustrating news, tbarr scouted 2008 hockey recruit AJ Jenks at his latest game for Honeybaked Midget and was kind enough to provide a detailed scouting report. Also, Yost Built has a set of bullets on the 4-2 win on Friday with an interesting idea that I endorse:
-I think they need to split up Johnson and Hunwick. Yeah they're probably our two best dmen, but they're also our two best offensive dmen, and there's not a ton of production out there from the other guys. One of them would look great with Mitera because he's always in position on defense. Put the other with Dest or Rohlfs.
Seconded. Prior to this year I had regarded Hunwick as a steady, conservative defenseman well suited to any situation, but he appears to be absorbing Johnson's hyper-aggressivity via osmosis. At times it looks like there are two giant, mean Eric Werners out there, which is certainly... uh... exciting, but maybe one giant, mean Eric Werner is enough per pairing and the non-Werner could, you know, prevent the D from getting split towards the end of close games.
Glass! Glass! Rasheed Wallace was in full insane blossom against Andres Nocioni and the Bulls a week or so ago, causing this particular blogger to use the "rewind live TV" function of his DVR for the first time ever. Graphics-intensive Pistons blog Need 4 Sheed assembled a highlight video of said whipping, if you're interested. And you are.
Delegation. Sweet. NKOTB Winged Helmets took some weight off my shoulders by adding up the defensive +/- from this year's Upon Further Review archive and posting a colorful chart. I'm struck by a few things:
- The +/- numbers are biased towards +. This is something I was well aware of. Most plays that ended up with a net 0 were either screwups by the offensive team, 2-4 yard runs, or downfield completions that were difficult to blame on any one player. When Michigan gets a stop there will invariably be some plusses along the way, but it's possible no one to be cited for a long touchdown drive with a series of plays that yield large chunks of yardage.
- The numbers for the defensive backs are muted because it's only infrequently that the video provides enough data to make an assessment of the coverage. The prevelance of zone also had something to do with it. Who is at fault when four guys are three yards from the receiver?
- A comparison of Burgess' and Graham's numbers is interesting. Neither exactly covered themselves in glory (Burgess was +1, Graham -5), but what stands out to me is the sheer quantity of points on Burgess' chart, both good and bad. Graham did little all year; Burgess did a ton, half good, half ugh. I think that implies that Burgess has the potentia
l to improve greatly but Graham not so much.
- Overall the chart seems accurate in its assessment of the best players on the Michigan defense. There are three very good players (Branch, Woodley, Harris), a bunch of okay to good ones, and then a couple of gaping holes.
Things that should be linked. BC&RS describes the Best. Call. Ever. Postmodernists will be happy since it is, in fact, no call at all. SMQ busts out the stat wonkery in not one but two places; petulant complaining about linkage lack begone! (PS: that huge picture used for the "rap sheet" is very, very large in my RSS reader! Make it small, I beg.)
So, MGoBlog turns one year old today... ish. (The date slipped by about five days thanks to the UFR for OSU fiasco.) You will have to forgive the impending brick of narcissism, but before we start I would like to thank everyone who read, emailed, and commented over the past year. My output is greatly aided by the idea that people are reading. I appreciate your patronage.
Now your Obligatory Look Back. I didn't know what I was getting into when I posted Blog.Init last year... I figured a few links, a snide comment or two, and then a return to normal life. That didn't so much happen. You want proof? I used a Firefox plugin to count all the words that showed up over the past year, and though the following number is too high since it counts all the things I quoted and hundreds of instances of the words "trackback," "comments," and their ilk, I think you can mentally revise it downward by quite a bit and still be somewhat stunned, especially if you're me. Here goes:
So what have we learned?
- Lists are awesome.
- The words "basically," "actually," "generally," and "essentially" are wastes of space that somehow manage to insinuate themselves into sentences on a regular basis and must be eradicated 9 of 10 times.
- The Elements of Style could have been "OMG omit needless words LOL!" 753 times.
- The colon and its bastard cousin the semicolon are useful for breaking up the monotony of "clause, yay more sentence, but what if not sentence?"
- Intentionally mangling the English langauge is interesting (in moderation, Scoop).
- When you're down on your luck, kitten idolatry is a pick-me-up and how. Especially when one of 'em's got a rifle.
- I have a lot of pent up anger about sports media.
- Tyler Ecker kills bunnies. Also, MSU OL Roland Martin is, uh... not smart.
- Pat Massey... eh... not so much.
- Michigan == Sufjan.
Brian Hates Things
I wish there wasn't as much of this in the archives as there is, but I get the feeling that people who are totally satisfied with the media's coverage of the field they are passionate about don't start blogs. What would the point be?
The wonderful thing about sports blogging is the rich array of ego-boosting targets the journalism of same provides. This goes double for Detroit, a vast wasteland of sports punditry. And it goes like eleventy billion for ESPN. How quickly did I hate Scoop Jackson? He had me at hello:
What. The. Hell. Look, I watch MTV Jams. I know what "skeet skeet skeet" means. I think Flipmode is the greatest. But I have no goddamn idea what Scoop Jackson is talking about. His debut article on Illinois... is it self-parody? Is he subtly mocking, Jonathan Swift-style, the influx of retarded bravado that plagues sports journalism, radio, and television across the country?
I regret to say that I have concluded that he is not.
Ouch: not one but two extraneous thats in the final sentence. At least I'm not Terry Foster:
...I head over to Foster's new home and I see paragraphs without spaces between them, the word "pixie" spelled "pixy," and this goofy little passage:
All of a sudden you have a Philly team that did not believe, thinking it can win at The Palace. It is a can of worms you do not want to deal with.
Hurray for extraneous commas! Hurray for sentences that sound like a robot attempting to master hoonam slang!
HELLO CARL. WE ARE TO TALK THE SLANG. IT IS A CAN OF WORMS YOU DO NOT WANT TO DEAL WITH. I WILL EXECUTE THE WHOOP-ASS ON YOUR ASSOCIATED PROCESSES. DIVIDE BY ZERO ERROR!!! NULL REFERENCE EXCEPTION!!! I AM DYING I AM DYING. WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME CRUEL MASTER?
I think the meanest thing I said all year was directed at Frank Deford in an embryonic Unverified Voracity:
Frank Deford further confirms that the correct answer to the question "When is Frank Deford going to die?" is definitely "Not soon enough."
Damn! Even I think that's cold.
But mostly I hate small children:
[After the 25-23 Michigan loss to ND] I was attempting to stalk my way out of the stadium as angrily as possible when I saw a child and his father approach me. "Aha!" I exclaimed. "Perfect!" They were in the sweet spot: The child was young enough so that he posed little threatâ€” a swift kick to the head and he would be down, crying for his motherâ€”while the father was old enough that, having dispatched with the son, I could batter him without fear of serious repercussion. All I needed was the most tenuous justification and the cathartic beatdown could commence posthaste. This is when the horror comes in.
The child, a towheaded young boy, maybe eight, maybe nine, approached me and looked up. He opened his mouth; I awaited the beautiful slur that would unleash my inner Wolverine, as it were.
I swear to God, the Devil, and Charles Woodson that these are the exact words that came out of the boy's mouth (the exact words):
"Good game, mister."
No, wait... mostly I hate Columbus, Ohio:
We would soon learn that whenever an Ohio State fan does not have anything else to say, he says "Fuck Michigan." It is appropriate for any situation you find yourself in, from meeting a new coworker to cops busting your meth lab to being confronted with your infidelity on Jerry Springer. It's a "Roll Tide" for the gap-toothed central Ohio set. I heard or read "Fuck Michigan" probably over 100 times during my brief sojourn in Columbus. Perhaps this will suffice to explain the thing's magnitude: I assume the "Ruck Fival" t-shirt scourge is a nationwide thing. You've all seen the slack-jawed moron who wears this incredibly clever shirt into the stadium. These things exist because you can't wear a shirt that says "Fuck Rival" into a stadium... unless that stadium is Ohio Stadium and that opponent is Michigan, in which case approximately 10% of the crowd can and will wear shirts that say "Fuck Rival" and declare to fans of Rival who pass by that Rival can indeed get fucked and how.
No, wait... I think what I hate the most is 2005.
Brian Loves Things
Foremost among them--and now would be a good time to mention this is all totally platonic--bizarre little Japanese girls. Somehow I ran across the picture at right while doing a Google image search for Rasheed Wallace. The website that hosted it opened up a brave new world of bizarre Japanese girls and their wonderful, hallucinatory drawings of giant-eyed NB
A stars. The Free Press even made mention of it, though it didn't cite mgoblog as the source. Frowny face. Angry face.
I loved maniacal defenseman Eric Werner, now departed:
He represents everything I love about Berenson's high seas adventure style of hockey, and given the choice between remembering him skating back into his zone furiously after giving up yet another two-on-one or plunging into the slot--cutlass gripped between his teeth, eyepatch askew, parrot panicking, singing a song with lots of "yo-ho-ho"ing--to fire one past a confused landlubber of a goalie, I'll take the latter, dammit, and something for my scurvy while you're at it. (How about that sentence? Take that, Faulkner!)
Obviously my love extends to pirates and sentences tortured to the point of collapse as well.
And the Pistons, well, it's a good thing this isn't a Pistons blog or it would be really mindless and treacly. When I do post, things like this get said:
If this country is ever attacked by robot Nazi KKK members, Billups, Sheed, Ben, Rip, and Tayshaun will rise up at the last moment and say "No. This country is not being taken over by the robot Nazi KKK. Not while we totally kick ass." Then they will beat the robot Nazi KKK on their home floor, Space Jam-style. Billups will be MVP.
I discovered that I, too, love MacGuyver--just like pitcher Jenny Ritter--during what's likely the first recorded instance of a softball liveblog. An extra-innings leadoff double sets up this sequence:
... the winning run is on third with one out.
10:18: It's Dodd at the plate. Ritter throws three straight balls, looks like she's just staying away from anything she could possibly get into the outfield. Walked her on four pitches. Sets up a potential inning-ending DP, that was probably as close to an intentional walk as you'll see without actually getting one.
10:21: Infield pop fly for the huuuuge second out. UCLA needs a hit now. OMG WTG!!!
10:23: They be intentionally walking Duran for the force at any plate. Tara Henry is the make or break batter here.
10:26: Strike one. Strike two. And a ground out. WE WIN THE NATIONAL CHANCE TO KEEP PLAYINGSHIP.
Mostly, though, I love football. Even though this season was ultimately the most disappointing I can remember, there was still one moment where the sport grabbed even cynical Wolverine fans and reminded them why they went through all this. It created The New Math:
Then, then... after we had blown it, blown it all to hell, we were sitting on the ten with one second that Lloyd Carr had verbally eviscerated the referees to get, one little second and his little second pal, with one play into seven guys sitting in a zone. Henne dropped, and fired, and Manningham cradled the ball, and incoherent things came out of my mouth for a good minute. I think there was WOOOO. I think there was HOOOO. It was a good time.
86? 86? At that moment, if he had ripped off his outer jersey and revealed the gleaming 1 underneath we all would have understood. At that moment, if he had decided he was going to fly we all would have understood.
Now that we are three hours away from this season's termination there are few actual events to impinge upon the steadily accelerating train of optimism that will have me on the phone sometime in August, screaming:
Hungry Armenian: FOOTBALL!
mgoblog: AAAH! FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL!!!!
Hungry Armenian: AAAH!!!
In short, hurray football! Hurray blog! I hope you thought this enterprise was worthwhile and useful... at least parts of it, anyway. The future holds many things, probably tables and ALL CAPS EXCLAMATIONS!!! and zone-bemoaning. I hope you'll, you know, read it and stuff.
|1||10||O20||Run||-4||Branch(+2) owns two blockers and makes a TFL all by his lonesome.|
|2||14||O16||Pass||Inc||Trent(+1) makes a break on this ball about 15 yards downfield. No replay but it looks like Smith threw this behind his wide receiver.|
|3||14||O16||Pass||15||Crable as the standup DT, stunting around Woodley. Ohio State keeps seven in to block, including a TE to Woodley's side. The zone is wide open on the corner route.|
|1||10||O31||Penalty||-10||Branch(+1) draws an obvious holding call as he gets tackled on the option.|
|1||20||O21||Pass||11||Ugh. Michigan attempts to cover Ted Ginn with Jamar Adams, and that works about as well as you think it might. Clearly Ohio State has noticed our strange tendency to line up safeties and linebackers over slot receivers no matter who they are and immediately goes to it when it needs a play.|
|2||9||O32||Run||11||Massey(-1) is crushed off the snap and Burgess(-1) is sealed easily, dÃ©jÃ vu.|
|1||10||O43||Pass||15||Watson(-1) is offsides, it's declined. This is a simple screen out to Ginn that we have no chance of stopping just from the alignment. We have two DBs over two outside wide receivers and no one really on Ginn, who's in that weird wingback spot. Harris is lined up two or three yards inside of him and his first step on the snap is to the inside as Smith gives a just enough of a fake pitch to suck him in. By the time he throws, Ginn is at the hash and moving forward; Engelmon is about to get blocked five yards downfield, and Harris is wrong-footed in the dead center of the field.|
|1||10||M42||Run||1||QB draw, and our DL on this play has Van Alstyne and Johnson on it... Johnson(+1) actually makes a nice play to stop the draw.|
|2||9||M41||Run||11||Jeremy Van Alstyne(-2) gets killed on this play, completely losing contain and ceding the outside as Danielson points out that he has a third tackle lined up at TE, which might be a tipoff if we paid attention to stuff like that.|
|1||10||M30||Run||1||Strange draw here from a standard I into an eight man front. I don't know where this is supposed to go, but it's all jammed up. Woods with the tackle.|
|2||9||M29||Pass||8||Smith flicks a checkdown to Pittman.|
|3||1||M21||Pass||11||Hall lets er, Hall, sit down in a hole in the zone for an easy first down, as he had to come off to respect a deep route run by Gonzalez. I don't think he can cover two guys.|
|1||G||M10||Run||6||There's Burgess(-1) getting blocked by a wide receiver again. Branch hops inside the tackle here, too.|
|2||G||M4||Run||4||QB draw. Again. Touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(Missed XP), 0-6, 9 min 1st Q. Some good play here from Smith but a lot of this is Ohio State studying the Michigan film and running an array of plays that exploit all the tendencies we've shown this year. The two plays to Ginn, in particular, are plays we're dead on presnap, and the Hall completion is another play like Iowa's opening touchdown where the opponent runs a combo route at the zone they know is coming. Smith has to read one player (in this case Hall) and throw it to where he doesn't go. Easy.|
|1||10||O28||Pass||6||Dumpoff over the middle to the tight end.|
|2||4||O34||Run||3||Engelmon(-1) is unblocked and has an opportunity to make this play at the line of scrimmage or for a loss, but gets stiff-armed to the turf. This is one of the little things that separates these defenses; I think Salley or whoever makes this open field tackle.|
|3||1||O37||Pass||7||Third and one from the shotgun. Michigan: soft zone. Smith hits an open Ginn three yards past the marker.|
|1||10||O44||Pass||8||WR screen to Gonzalez, again taking advantage of the fact that we don't cover the slot receiver, instead tasking a linebacker lined up several yards inside who has to make a read to get over there. Burgess(+1) makes a valiant effort and a nice tackle given the situation he finds himself in, but this is a best-case scenario if Ohio State executes this properly. They do, and that's something about Smith to appreciate: both of the screens so far require Smith to hit them exactly since they rely on the WR moving forward on the catch, unlike a lot of ours which have the WR stationary or moving laterally.|
|2||2||M48||Run||2||Burgess comes up to fill but gets knocked backward after a moment, opening up a bit of a hole for Pittman to get the first down.|
|1||10||M46||Pass||6||Holmes on a crossing route underneath the zone. Apparently the first read.|
|2||4||M40||Run||5||This is mostly Branch(-1) getting crushed by the tackle/TE, unfortunately. Not you, too. Massey also gets crushed by single blocking.|
|1||10||M35||Pass||Inc||Smith overthrows Pittman. Trent gives him a pop afterwards.|
|2||10||M35||Scramble||1||Play action with an option followed by a dropback. Good coverage as Smith decides to take off and we bottle him up pretty well. Woods and Massey track him down.|
|3||8||M34||Pass||4||Um, okay. Play action on third and nine then follow it up with a first-read to the TE in the flat. Englemon(+1) goes pow with a nice hit to make a sure wrap.|
|Drive Notes: Field Goal(47), 0-9, 13 min 2nd Q. The zone is effective here to end the drive.|
|1||10||O40||Run||-4||Watson(+3) drives into the backfield, strips the ball, and recovers it. A huge play that prevents this from getting away early made by one man and one man alone.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-9, 9 min 2nd Q. Good thing he hardly played against Notre Dame.|
|1||10||O20||Pass||14||More zone. Smith nails Gonzalez between four different guys in the zone. Excellent timing and throw, but you know, zone evil evil zone.|
|1||10||O34||Run||3||Stupid cut by Pittman into Watson and Woodley holds this play down to only a few yards.|
|2||7||O37||Scramble||9||Option play action that Branch gets out on well enough to force the scramble. Mason(-2) takes a terrible angle and comes up way too fast. Smith kust has to change direction a little and poof(!) gone.|
|1||10||O46||Run||1||Running right at Massey again, who crumples backwards under the force of two blockers, but there are two linebackers (Graham(+1) and Harris(+1)) who read the hole well and show up right when Pittman arrives.|
|2||9||O47||Pas s||Inc||Option play action again. Ginn is wide open 20 yards downfield and Smith nails him, but Ginn drops it. Heard footsteps from Barringer, who had him lined up for a killshot.|
|3||9||O47||Pass||23||So... angry... more standup Crable DT, and a double stunt but OSU has that scouted, so no pressure. Smith has a ton of time before the line gets to him eventually; he rolls out and finds Ginn open by five yards right along the sideline, just standing there.|
|1||10||M30||Scramble||4||Smith under center with Mangold temporarily out. He scrambles out after searching downfield for a beat or two; Woodley tracks him down.|
|2||6||M26||Run||14||A fake end around to Ginn draws the attention of Adams, who's tasked with spying on him this play, and Burgess, the OLB to the fake side. Watson(+1) penetrates and dives at Pittman's feet, disrupting the run, but he manages to cut between Massey and Branch to the outside after drawing Englemon(-1) up into the hole. The corner on that side (Trent) started six yards off the LOS and bailed out on the snap into a three deep zone, making him useless.|
|1||10||M12||Scramble||4||Danielson says that Holmes didn't get a Smith checkoff and I buy it; Smith scrambles in response.|
|2||6||M8||Run||0||Option pitch to Pittman; Burgess(+2) is the last player between him and the end zone and makes an impressive stick. The only plays we're getting are when someone makes a great play in the face of grim odds.|
|3||6||M8||Pass||Inc||Holy cow a blitz! Crable and Englemon both come clean and force an errant throw.|
|Drive Notes: Field Goal(25), 7-12, EOH. Should I bother about the efficacy of blitzing? No? Okay.|
|1||10||O25||Run||2||(Fumbled Ginn punt sets up the field position.) Pitch play is cut off well by Barringer(+1) and Harris(+1).|
|2||8||O27||Pass||4||Ginn underneath the zone. He's immediately smacked to the turf by Trent(+1).|
|3||4||O31||Pass||Sack, -11||This play is insane. Michigan rushes four with a delayed Crable blitz, but it's Woodley(+3) who splits two blockers to do the sack/strip thing and Branch(+1) who shoves Woodley's befuddled blockers out of the way and recovers the fumble.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-12, 12 min 3rd Q. Just an outstanding, outstanding individual play.|
|1||10||O20||Run||3||Branch(+1) fights a double team admirably while Engelmon takes the corner away. Pittman's forced to throw himself forward for a few.|
|2||7||O23||Pass||11||Option play action to one side against actual man coverage draws Harris a step towards the fake, which puts him two steps behind the TE Frost coming across the field on a crossing route against the grain. Strangely effective playcall... this one of the like three times all game we play man.|
|1||10||O34||Pass||Inc||Mason(+1) jumps the out route, forcing the incompletion.|
|2||10||O34||Run||2||Wow, impressive play by Crable(+2) at the standup DT spot. OSU sees it and calls a run right up the gut... good against the presumed stunt or just to go right at Crable, an OLB by trade. No stunt this time and Crable evades his blocker, then comes around to make a tackle right at the LOS.|
|3||8||O36||Pass||3||Three man line coupled with a delayed Crable(+1) blitz finds a gaping hole in the Buckeye OL as both Watson and Branch draw doubles. Smith is forced to dump off to Ginn and the zone reacts to force the punt. Key to this play is Crable's timing... he reached Smith as soon as he could, after letting the OL commit themselves.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-12, 8 min 3rd Q. Two good plays from Crable and a good call on third down from Herrmann.|
|1||10||O13||Run||1||Branch(+1) and Watson(+1) swallow Pittman as he attempts to plow offtackle. Uh... okay, you can run over there I guess.|
|2||9||O14||Pass||5||A screen that's set up well but Mason(+1) reads and reacts quickly to minimize the damage as much as possible.|
|3||4||O19||Pass||Inc||More miscommunication. Ginn runs a hook, Smith throws an out that Englemon(+1) nearly intercepts. Ginn immediately points to himself.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-12, 3 min 3rd Q. Even if Ginn had run the right route Michigan was all over the third down play.|
|1||10||O26||Run||5||Option pitch to Pittman; Hall's(-1) tackle is fairly arm-y and weak.|
|2||5||O31||Run||6||Clear evidence of Massey(-1) being a part of the opponent gameplan here. He's blown off the ball a couple yards by one blocker. The center doesn't even chip anyone and immediately plows into Harris. Watson(+1) drives his man as far back towards the hole as he can, valiantly attempting to plug the Massey gap, but fails. Burgess(-1) is also held by an end around fake, opening up a few more yards... Woodley had the end around covered.|
|1||10||O37||Run||4||Oof. Exactly the same play but Watson does crush the gap closed this time, forcing a Pittman cutback. Woodley has to respect the end around fake and this time Burgess is trying to guard the actual lane of attack, allowing Pittman an alley to run for a few yards before Woodley shuts him down.|
|2||6||O41||Run||5||A quarterback draw for Smith. Blocked well and Englemon is forced to hang back to take away the outside.|
|3||1||O46||Run||4||A better approach and tackle from Burgess(-1) punches OSU off the field here.|
|1||10||50||Pass||13||Option play action followed by a dumpoff to Pittman on a swing pass; the zone's been run off by the WRs to that side.|
|1||10||M37||Run||1||A wad of players in the middle. Branch(+1) removes all creases from the immediate area.|
|2||9||M36||Pass||Inc||Crable(+1) bats the pass down.|
|3||9||M36||Pass||7||Same play from earlier: option play action followed by the Pittman swing. Mason(+1) sticks Pittman short of the first down.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(46), 18-12, 12 min 4th Q. I wonder about Crable's future as this standup DT. He's made a number of plays from that position, even one against the run in this game, but the inevitable stunt is too predictable unless he can get pass rush from the interior sometimes.|
|1||10||O32||Pass||28||Again with the pooch punt, giving away critical yards... and followed up by Smith bulleting the ball downfield against the zone. The damn zone. No switchup whatsoever.|
|1||10||M40||Pass||Inc||Option play action; Woodley(+1) hits him, forcing an overthrow.|
|2||10||M40||Pass||Inc||The blitz again forces a quick, inaccurate Smith throw. Englemon(+1) is there to hit the WR as the ball gets there, completely removing the possibility of a great catch.|
|3||10||M40||Scramble||14||Ugh... a scramble from Smith that would end a few yards short of the first down with Woodley and Englemon converging on him, but Smith manages to juke past the charging Woodley and get the first down. Woodley's 270... can't change direction that fast.|
|1||10||M26||Pass||26||Touchdown. Tampa 2 with Burgess coming way back in the zone against Holmes but Smith wedges it in between him and Englemon... a great throw. Celebration penalty is tenuous.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-19, 6 min 4th Q. That was quick. Smith is throwing darts with superb timing.|
|1||10||O12||Pass||9||Fake counter draw, Smith rollout finds Holmes in front of Hall. Any proof you require about Woodley's health: he is not in.|
|2||1||O21||Run||2||Again with the fake end around, holding Woods just long enough for Pittman to move up a couple yards.|
|1||10||O23||Pass||Inc||Smith throws this one well over Gonzalez's head.|
|2||10||O23||Pass||11||Woods(+1) avoids the TE's chip block on this play action and should have Smith sacked, but he spins away and hits Ginn just past the first down marker.|
|1||10||O34||Pass||6||Ginn underneath Hall... decent enough play from Hall.|
|2||4||O40||Pass||7||I don't know what this defense is. All three linebackers fake a blitz and end up within a yard of the LOS. The five players dropping back in a zone can't possibly cover anyone tightly. The worst of all possible worlds: no pass rush coupled with five guys in a zone.|
|1||10||O47||Pass||10||Easy pitch and catch underneath the zone; the defender is no fewer than eight yards off the LOS.|
|1||10||M43||Run||5||Quarterback draw. Englemon(+1) makes a nice play. OSU is planning to run the clock out already from the 43.|
|2||5||M38||Pass||7||We blitz. Mason attempts to jump the route but does not get there. He barely manages to trip Holmes up.|
|1||10||M30||Pass||27||Smith looks like he's going to scramble but then changes direction when Harris comes up to plug him, lofting the ball down to Gonzalez, who catches it. And goddammit, yes, Gonzalez went out bounds of his own volition and this is an obvious illegal touching penalty. Would it matter? Probably not, but it's fitting that our year of disasters ends with a refereeing disaster following a coaching disaster in a game of injury disaster. Eff 2005.|
|Drive Notes: Whatever, you know what happened.|
I will stand back and watch you explode.
I'm not that mad, actually. The two dagger plays on the final drive--the Smith spin and the Gonzalez OOB play--were fantastic individual efforts from Smith and his downfield throws were frighteningly accurate all day. At some point you have to tip your cap to his performance and give his phone number to Drew Rosenhaus.
I'm not totally un-mad, though. Michigan's defense failed at the beginning and at the end for like the sixth time this year, which goes beyond coincidence. It was blindingly frustrating to see corners lined up eight, ten, even fifteen yards off the line of scrimmage. Danielson kept remarking about how Ohio State hadn't gone deep all day, and the reason was that Michigan's presnap alignment on every play was cowering in fear of the deep ball. Pat Massey's total failure to exist--obvious to everyone from mouthbreathing Internet trolls to handsome, combative bloggers to opposing coaches--never troubled them all year. What plays they got were more the result of Michigan's talent defying design than Herrmann dialing up a clever playcall (with some exceptions). A holistic view of the season does not yield the impression that Michigan is well coached.
What is the deal with the opening drive touchdowns?
We're amazingly predictable on those opening drives. We come out, zone up, and don't blitz. We respond to multiple WR looks with safeties or linebackers over slot receivers. We rotate our backup defensive linemen in. We prevent the big play. The result is that it's easy for teams to put in a special set of plays that get us off balance, exploit our tendencies, and march down the field. In short, the Michigan defense is reactive, not proactive, and until we have something to react to we allow things ("touchdowns") to happen to us.
At least... that's my best guess.
And then what's the deal with the late game failures?
More of the same predictability. It should be noted that even on the one blitz Michigan sent they were still in a zone, and then on the weird fake blitz they were in a zone behind that, too. There was an umbrella of three players attempting to prevent the deep ball on all plays--blitzing is not aggressive when backed up by a three-deep zone, it's just an invitation to Please Exploit Your Hot Route. Michigan seems convinced that with a narrow lead that asking the opponent to do a long series of relatively easy things is better than forcing them to do a shorter series of harder things. This, as you've heard before, is dumb.
Why does Michigan treat man coverage like it's the plague?
I don't know. Are there other teams that play like this, running zone on what must be about 90% of defensive snaps? Why would you do this? It seems completely insane to give up on half of the coverages in football, especially when you have defensive backs who can run. Having the quarterback misread your defense is a sure way to turnovers, incompletions, and punts, but how many times did you see Troy Smith throw into coverage? How many times did you see Drew Tate throw into coverage? If the men who are not rushing the passer do not cover anyone, can they even be said to be "coverage"?
Look, I am not a football expert, but dammit I've played all sorts of games my entire life, and revealing your intentions to your opponents is always the worst thing you can do. Sun-Tzu:
"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near."
To say that this train of thought does not seem to be foremost in Lloyd Carr's mind is to be charitable.
Okay, you'd like to rochambeau the coaches. What about the players?
|Woodley||4||-||4||Mostly quiet; often replaced by Woods because of the arm. Still had that critical strip.|
|Woods||1||-||1||Taken out of play, mostly.|
|Van Alstyne||-||2||-2||Either injured or a bust.|
|Watson||6||1||5||Never got the credit he deserves, benching earlier this year is questionable at best.|
|Jamison||-||-||-||Scattered snaps; didn't do anything with them.|
|Branch||7||1||6||Great game, but no pass rush.|
|Burgess||3||4||-1||Okay, I guesss.|
|Thompson||-||-||-||Did not appear to play much.|
|Crable||4||-||4||Effective rushing the passer.|
|Trent||2||-||2||Should be very good as a starter.|
That seems too kind to the defensive line since they didn't sack Smith more than once and didn't get much pressure, but recall that +7 of that comes from the two turnovers that kept Michigan in the game. The linebackers (aside from Crable, who is less a linebacker and more a randomly-placed pass rusher) did little; there were no plays made in coverage by anyone aside from Mason, who forced one incompletion by jumping a route. All in all, most players were put in a position to watch Ohio State do something and then minimize it; this they did.
Say something nice about the coaches.
Crable's deployment is an example of outside-the-box thinking that got a strange player on the field and playing effectively. Early in the season he was looking like a total bust; now he has a role on the defense and a future to be at least somewhat excited about. Ron English's work in the secondary was exemplary this year and Steve Stripling maximized the output of Alan Branch; he was prepared to play both DT and DE.
What does it mean for next year?
I don't know. Watson is the only player who we'll miss, but if Michigan doesn't take advantage of an experienced secondary with two fast corners by playing a more aggressive brand of defense it won't matter. Other than the outside linebackers, everyone on the team executed what they were supposed to do.
The caveat: their tasks were designed to minimize their shortcomings instead of take advantage of their talents. It's obvious that the Michigan coaches did not trust their team to play both aggressively and responsibly, so they went with the responsible, cut off the big plays, and superficially improved the defense by slowing the game down. The truth is somewhat murkier (and something I hope to explore in the offseason).
The good news is that Michigan does seem to swing towards more aggressive play when they have veterans at their disposal, something which will be true of both the offense and defense next year.