that's unfortunate, but at least the interest is there on both sides
10/12/2013 – Michigan 40, Penn State 43 (4OT) – 5-1, 1-1 Big Ten
Mace triptych, by Eric Upchurch
Devin Gardner dropped back to pass. He had two guys in the route, both of them headed to the endzone from the 40 yard line. Two seconds later he ate a blindside sack, because Taylor Lewan was pretending he was a tight end and AJ Williams was pretending he was a left tackle.
Last year in Notre Dame Stadium, Denard Robinson faked a handoff and turned around to find Stephon Tuitt in his face. He reacted badly, because he always reacted badly in that situation.
This fall, Michigan told the offensive line they should do that stretch blocking thing the coaches had run maybe six times the previous two years.
Drew Dileo watched most of these things from the bench and Dennis Norfleet all of them because Michigan would rather play underclass tight ends who couldn't shove a toddler into a ball pit in three tries.
Any individual play can be blamed on a player. Any structural issue in the first couple years can be attached to the previous coach. But there's a breaking point at which it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with the guys in charge, and this Penn State game was the offensive equivalent of watching Matt McGloin shred a clueless JT Floyd and company in 2010.
I went back into Michigan's statistics archive, which goes back to 1949, and pulled out the top 200 running back games in that database in terms of carries (the max allowed). The sample ranges from 51 to 23, and here's the bottom of it in YPC:
|Don Moorhead||25||57||2.3||0||1969||Michigan State|
|Anthony Thomas||29||60||2.1||0||8||2000||Ohio State|
|Fitzgerald Toussaint||27||27||1||0||12||2013||Penn State|
We're talking about the worst game from a tailback in the history of the program here, and nothing about it was actually Toussaint's fault. This is Greg Robinson level output. The only faith you can have in the offensive coaching is that two to four times a year they will come out with a gameplan so clueless that you spend four quarters telling yourself that you won't send that BORGERG tweet out. It's time to break the seal.
There are ways to work around the personnel limitations Michigan has, but they are not the ones Michigan wants to run. They want to be a rough and tumble Stanford offense; they spend large chunks of games with one wide receiver and three guys vaguely inclined towards blocking, and they've spent almost a month of precious practice time installing an unbalanced formation that resulted in the above table as soon as an opponent saw it on tape. This has been a miscalculation as bad as believing Russell Bellomy was ready to back up the oft-injured Denard Robinson, with results exactly like the second half of last year's Nebraska game.
This is nothing like what Rodriguez did on offense because there was no offense in which Stephen Threet, Nick Sheridan, seven scholarship OL, and a parade of freshmen at wide receiver would be effective. It is instead exactly like what he did on defense: faithlessly pretend to fit personnel to scheme early, ditch that at the first sign of trouble, shoehorn players into roles they are not fit for, make alarmingly large mid-season changes, and get the minimum possible out of available talent. Michigan is 117th in tackles for loss allowed, giving up eight per game.
No offensive line is bad enough to pave the way for 27 yards on 27 carries, because teams running for one god damn yard an attempt stop doing it.
There are problems up and down the team that I can list if you like. Devin Gardner has Miley Cyrus-level ball security. Taylor Lewan went out. Rich Rodriguez didn't recruit any offensive linemen. Brendan Gibbons should be able to make a 33-yard field goal in the dead center of the field. Yes, all of these things. Granted. At some point, though, you zoom out from the micro issues that can be explained away and you get this:
Michigan 14, MSU 28: 250 yards of offense
Michigan 16, Iowa 24: 323 yards of offense, 166 50 minutes into the game when M went into hurry-up shotgun throwing
Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT): 184 yards of offense
Michigan 6, ND 13: 299 yards of offense and 5 INTs
Michigan 9, Nebraska 23: 188 yards of offense and 3 INTs
Michigan 21, Ohio State 26: 279 yards of offense and 4 TOs
Michigan 28, UConn 24: 284 yards of offense and 3 TOs
Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4OT): 389 yards of offense in 19 opportunities, zero OT TDs, 3 TO, worst rushing performance ever by a Michigan tailback
If you are so inclined you can add games against Alabama and MSU last year plus the 2011 Notre Dame game to the pile; I certainly don't think anything about UTL was to Borges's credit.
There have been some brilliant games over the last three years, but we're one upcoming debacle away from having a third straight year in which a quarter of Michigan's games feature offensive performances that are (almost) impossible to win with. Some of those could be explained away by injury or bad luck or a flood of turnovers from the quarterback, except that the offensive coordinator is also the quarterbacks coach.
After his year three at Michigan found high expectations dashed, John Beilein overhauled his program. Now he's coming off a national title game appearance, on the verge of making Michigan into a top-ten program. Unless there's a major turnaround, Brady Hoke's going to have some hard decisions this offseason.
Unless they're easy ones.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Frank Clark was in the right place at the right time to scoop a ball off the turf and score when Michigan opened the second half down eleven and added two sacks besides as part of the best damn 43-point performance college football's ever seen, so let's give it to him.
Honorable mention: Raymon Taylor had a pick and was generally avoided otherwise; Devin Funchess had another 100 yard game as a "tight end"; Jeremy Gallon remains an excellent safety blanket and all-around player.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Should I even do this after that? I probably shouldn't. I will anyway: Funchess's second touchdown displayed his incredible potential, as he shot through the center of the defense to get over the top. This one wins because Penn State was actually trying to cover him this time.
Honorable mention: Gallon's shake gets him wide open for a touchdown; Chris Wormley rips through to sack Hack, as does Jibreel Black, as does Frank Clark a couple times; Fitzgerald Toussaint gets past the line of scrimmage that one time.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
[After the JUMP: decisions, and the rest of things.]
Miami (NTM), UMass, FIU, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, Wake Forest, Oregon State…
What do these teams have in common?
These are the 8 teams that have averaged less than 2 yards per carry from their running backs on first down at least 2 different times this season. This is not a good list to be on. Miami (OH) has done it three times and has fired their coach. You know what is different between the fired Don Treadwell and the Michigan offense. When it wasn’t working they stopped doing it. Against Marshall, Central Michigan and Kentucky they averaged between 1 and 1.7 YPC from their running backs on first down. They gave them the ball 14 times total in those three games.
Against Michigan’s two best opponents, Notre Dame and Penn State, Michigan has averaged 1.7 yards per carry from it’s running backs on first down. Michigan has run the ball 35 times on first down. No other team has called more than 26 running back carries in games with under 2 YPA.
What is Michigan getting for their sacrifice?
Michigan is ranked 41st in bonus yards, my measure of big plays. It’s not a bad number but it doesn't indicate a massive advantage. Michigan’s average third down is 7.6 yards. They haven’t had a single game better than 7 yards to go on average for third down. 95 teams average less than 7 yards to go on third down for the season. 95 teams average third down is better than Michigan’s best game average. Michigan hasn’t even been that great at converting third downs once you account for their horrendous third down to go distance (-3%, 108th out 125). Michigan is getting no discernable advantage from the first down runs.
This has to stop. It’s at the point of absurd. The funny thing is when I initially pulled the numbers, this was Michigan’s second best 1st down day on the ground (a measly 4 and change per attempt) on the season but that was all driven by Devin Gardner. Obviously he can’t take every carry but the playcalling has to dramatically change. Michigan is among some of the worst overall teams in the country when their running backs run the ball on first down, they are the only teams that keeps doing it.
End of Game Punt Call
No issue whatsoever with the decision to punt the ball. Should they have let themselves lose the 5 yards on the delay of game, absolutely not. That was the error. Field goals from the 35 in the fourth quarter or OT are good 40% of the time, but there is a lot of self selection in the group. Only 36 field goals have been made of that distance or longer in the fourth quarter or overtime in the last 10+ seasons. Making a kick of that distance late in the game happens a couple times a year in all of college football.
By kicking it, Michigan forced Penn State to go at least 80 yards with less than minute to go and no time outs. Since 2003, only 6 teams have scored a TD under these circumstances, one of which was Michigan in UTL1. Yes a field goal would have won it but that is a low likelihood possibility. I have no issues at all with the decision to punt.
Since 2007, teams getting to go second on offense in overtime have won 55% of the time. In 287 overtime periods the team going first has gone scoreless 79 times. 13 of those times the second team went scoreless, as well. This hadn’t happened twice in a game until this season, but now it’s happened three times this season. Michigan is the only team since 2007 to blow two freebies in one game.
Missing Three Game Winners
Brendan Gibbons missed three field goals that would have been walk-offs. Twitter user @jquesnelle asked if that had ever been done before? Since 2003 I found five games where a team missed three kicks in fourth quarter or overtime and lost, some of them are brutal, but nobody had three walk off attempts missed/blocked.
Here’s the five to share in the pain.
2003, Cincinnati beats Temple 30-24 in 3OT
- Cincinnati misses 33 yard FG tied with 4:45 left in a tie game
- Temple misses from 37 in the first OT period, Cincinnati blocked from 38
- Cincinnati misses from 41 to start second OT, Temple misses from 51 to follow
- Temple misses from 24 yards in the third OT before Cincinnati scores a TD on the second play to seal the game
2005, LSU beats Auburn 20-17 in OT
- LSU misses a 28 yard FG to open the 4th quarter, leading 14-10
- Auburn comes back and misses a 37 yard FG on the next drive
- Auburn misses a 49 yard FG with 1 second left, game goes into OT tied at 17
- Auburn misses from 40 yards that would have sent it to 2OT
2008 Apple Cup, Washington State beats winless Washington 16-13 in OT
- Washington misses from 40 yards leading by 3
- Washington misses from 28 yards leading by 3 with under 4 remaining
- Leading by 3, Washington punts on 4th and 3 at the WSU 36 and less than a minute on the clock
- After hitting from 22 to start OT, Washington comes back and misses from 37 to open the door for WSU
2010 Liberty Bowl, Arkansas beats East Carolina 20-17 in OT
- East Carolina misses from 42 with a minute remaining and tied
- Gets the ball back 19 seconds later after three Ryan Mallet incompletions and a punt
- Misses again from 39 as time expires
- Opens overtime with a 35 yard miss
2012 Temple 17 UConn 14 in OT
- UConn misses from 42 to start the 4th quarter, leading by 7
- UConn blocked from 45 with 3 minutes left, still leading by 7
- UConn misses from 28 to open overtime
“Well, obviously it was a hard fought game by both teams. I thought our guys came back in the second half, played better. We’ve got to execute at all positions better. It was hard fought by both teams. Kept sticking around, so it’s a tough one, every time you go onto overtime, but we have to move forward.”
“We had opportunities throughout the game. We had opportunities with missed tackles. We had opportunities to make a play on the ball. We had opportunities to hit a hole better. We had opportunities to finish blocks. There’s no doubt.”
The decision to punt with 45 seconds left in regulation. Did you consider kicking the field goal?
“Yeah, did, but if we could pooch it down there and them starting at the 20 instead of the 34 or 45 or something like that. I liked those odds better … Could we have executed the pooch better? Sure.”
Could you have kicked the field goal?
“Without the delay? Could have. I think Matt would have, probably, because it would have been a long one.”
Any concern with Brendan Gibbons’s consistency?
“Not really. He’s been great. That’s why we kicked it on the last [overtime].”
Taylor Lewan’s injury?
“Yeah, he should be all right.”
Was it a head thing?
“Not really sure.”
It looked like your guys were in position to make plays on that last drive.
“Yeah, well you have to make plays. You have to execute. Would we have liked to rush the passer better? Yes. But at times we did, at times we didn’t.”
Channing Stribling played a lot on the last drive. What was the reason there?
“Well we’d been playing some dime stuff, trying to put another DB on their tight end.”
Fitz had 27 carries for 27 yards. The offensive line shuffling didn’t seem good enough …
“It wasn’t good enough. There’s no question.”
Where do you go from here?
“Well, we’d better take a hard look at it.”
Chris Bryant got replaced late?
“Chris got banged up a little bit. I think Darrell [Funk] also wanted make a move.”
Some losses are harder to come back from than others. Do you have to work harder to keep everyone together?
“Well I think you always have to work hard. Anytime you lose in overtime, if you let it take a toll, it will.”
With the long field goal in overtime, did you consider Matt Wile at all?
“Thought about it, but Brendan, before the game, we talked. We talked to Matt before the game. Both felt good at certain distances, and that was the distance.”
You talked about the resiliency of this team coming out at the half. What do you take from this game?
“Well I think the biggest thing is we had all kinds of opportunities at every position. As coaches we had opportunities, and we all are in this together, and we all have to make sure we’re taking advantage and executing when those opportunities come.”
After Devin’s mistakes, did you change the game plan at all?
“You know what, we didn’t. Honestly. We started the second half with the same game plan that we used in the first half.”
Did you think there was more energy coming out in the second half?
“I thought we had good energy when we came out in the first half. I had no problem with how we prepared all week and everything we’ve done.”
Were the turnovers deflating a bit?
“Well they responded. Came back, responded. Defense got a couple. I think we complemented ourselves pretty good at times in there. Offense and defense and kicking game. There were some really good things. Especially the kickoff return part of it. When the opportunities are there, you have to take advantage of it.”
When did you decide Jake Ryan was going to play? And did you try to keep his plays limited?
“We tried to keep his play count down a little bit. I can’t tell you exactly how many he ended up having, but we really [made the decision] after Thursday’s practice and Friday. He felt good all week.”
The offensive line issues, is it a toughness thing? A confidence thing?
“We’re having a hard time sometimes targeting at times, combo-ing off the blocks. It’d be interesting to see. Magnuson came in from where I was watching in the game, he made a couple really good combination blocks. That was encouraging. But I’ll be honest with you, [you can’t tell] until you really get a good look at it all and you can analyze it.”
Quite understandably, the players were really down and only gave short, rehearsed answers. Their expressions say it all.
Jeremy Gallon drinks Gatorade by the quar- okay yeah now is not the time.
That was the stupidest f***ing football game I've seen in my life. The end.