At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Shaun Crawford, Mini-Jabrill
A much-anticipated matchup between Cleveland.com's top-ranked Cleveland St. Edward squad and #9 Cincinnati Elder didn't live up to the hype, as St. Eds ran away with a 48-7 victory. Much of the credit for the blowout goes to 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, whose stat line looks like one posted by a certain other defensive back headed for Ann Arbor:
@TomVH Shaun Crawford: 9 carries, 124 yds, 2 TDs 3 receptions, 28 yds, 1 punt return 63 yds, TD, 1 kick return 25 yds. 240 all-purpose yds
— Brad Bournival (@bbournival) September 22, 2013
Yes, it appears Michigan may have the best player on the best team in Ohio, and he's only a junior. This is nice.
Jabrill Peppers, Still Jabrill
2014 commit Jabrill Peppers, meanwhile, did a little bit of everything to lead Paramus Catholic to a 35-21 victory over DePaul. Peppers rushed seven times for 41 yards, caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD, returned a kickoff for 47 yards, tallied four solo tackles, recorded three pass defenses, and returned an interception 32 yards for another TD.
[Hit THE JUMP for more outstanding performances by Michigan commits, plus an interesting development in JuJu Smith's recruitment.]
9/22/2013 – Michigan 24, UConn 21 – 4-0
I watched the UConn game with two diehards who happen to be in town from out of state. I'd spent large chunks of the past decade trying to get one of these guys to come over to watch Michigan games for the same reason he refused to do so: he experienced games on television as an emotional trial to be bested. I'm the same way, but talk only goes so far.
So there's four of us in the room when Devin Gardner takes off up the middle for a sixteen-yard touchdown on third and eleven. Michigan's up seven midway through the first quarter. No one does anything. There's no whooping or even a slight fist pump or a clap. We just stare at the television, internally relieved but marshaling our strength for the road ahead like international meth kingpins on the lamb.
It takes a special kind of paranoia to be petrified about a game like that against a team like that, but it was redeemed in full. The recent history of Michigan football* lends itself towards nuanced discussion of this particular vintage of terror, and this one was spicy and piquant with notes of Denard Robinson's role in 2009 Iowa and 2002 Utah, which ended 10-7 despite the Utah offense scraping together only 200 yards of total offense. The nose was full-bodied, redolent of 2010 Iowa, and 2010 Michigan State, and the first three quarters of 2011 Notre Dame.
The aftertaste was like filling your mouth with iron shavings and walking into a strong magnetic field.
One of the worst things from the worst things column last week was the familiarity of all this: struggles against mediocre competition that throw a wet blanket on your season after Michigan beats Notre Dame and gets all hyped up about it. To that you can add an even darker familiarity now, one that you may have been reminded of when ABC flipped to the end of the Texas-Kansas State game just in time to see Greg Robinson do a little dance of joy.
What is Michigan doing on offense? I don't know. They come in saying they're going to manball it up; they are largely prevented from doing so by Denard Robinson. They do dump the stretch play that had been Michigan's primary way of gaining yards on the ground for five years, when they have David Molk and Patrick Omameh and Michael Schofield on the interior of the line.
Denard's gone, as are Molk and Omameh; Schofield's at right tackle, a spot that's generally less important than those guard spots on stretch plays. So of course now is the moment when Michigan turns to the stretch as their base. They suck at that, unsurprisingly. They haven't run more than five stretch plays per year since Rodriguez left.
You could see the confusion last week, when guys were leaving first level defenders with easy paths to the backfield. Those plays against Akron were shockingly bad. You have a guy between yourself and the center, you deal with him before moving to the second level. Otherwise you die. Whether the issue there was the call or the execution, the underlying symptom is the same one that plagued Michigan's defense during the Rodriguez era: never settling on who you are and being terrible at everything as a natural consequence.
I mean, how insane is it that after two years with an offensive line entirely recruited to run the stretch they install it once Kyle Kalis is the right guard?
This is the second straight year Michigan has one of the worst running games in the country papered over by the fact that its quarterback can scoot for 40 yards without breaking a sweat. Toussaint can't see what's in front of his face sometimes. Neither can the line. While Toussaint showed his ability in open space on his touchdown, Michigan found itself behind the chains far too often against a defense that had just been ripped apart by Maryland. Michigan is looking up at North Texas, Tulane, and Florida Atlantic in TFLs allowed after four games. Michigan is 118th(!!!) of 123 qualifying teams in tackles for loss allowed.
Michigan lacks an identity, and once in a while they come out doing something completely different and disastrous (3-3-5 against Purdue; under center against Iowa). In this one, Gardner's inability to throw straight makes it impossible to judge the playcalling, but more ominous than the already-plenty-ominous dropoff of Michigan's quarterback is the persistent clown show on the offensive line. Any idea that the problems may have been fluky is now gone. This is Michigan, still: looking at the quarterback as the cause of and solution to all problems.
*[For a handy one-sentence review, let's go to the Hoover Street Rag:
Michigan is ALWAYS going to get an opponent's best shot, because if you beat Michigan, your name gets etched in history, next to the Appalachian States, next to the Toledos.
I am not sure if that is meant with ironic lilt or not. This is Michigan, fergodsakes?]
Also here is the bizarre Eminem-flavored opener.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. The only truly good things that happened in this game happened on defense and there was one incredibly critical play that turned the game around. You know what it is already; you know it's about to be featured in the double fist pump, you know that Desmond Morgan is the man who made the play.
Honorable mention: Frank Clark, for sacking people frequently. Blake Countess, for seeming to be good at coverage. Fitzgerald Toussaint, for busting a much needed 35-yard touchdown en route to a 100 yard game that means I no longer have to predict 100 yard games for Fitzgerald Toussaint every week in the game preview.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Michigan had just failed to convert a fourth and two, looked virtually incapable of driving the field against UConn, and trailed by seven points in the fourth quarter. UConn dropped to pass; Desmond Morgan dropped into a seam route, leap, speared the ball, and returned it to the UConn eleven yard line. One play later it was tied. Huzzah, Desmond Morgan.
Honorable mention: Frank Clark crushes UConn's inept right tackle for a critical sack on UConn's final drive. Gardner actually pitches on a speed option this 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.
[After the JUMP: PANIC and RUN AROUND SCREAMING.]
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Heiko Yang
Prior to the season, I predicted that Michigan would beat UConn 14-6. This drew a lot of ire from readers, so I backed off because sometimes it’s not worth arguing with anonymous masses. Devin Gardner is great! UConn blows! Fine. Here’s a box of pom poms.
But the stars have aligned in a such a way that I have no choice but to stand by my original prediction.
Michigan is going on the road for the first time all season, and it just finished putting on a dazzling display of turnovers to the smallest crowd in Big House history or something like that. If I know Brady Hoke and Al Borges, that can mean only one thing on offense: run the ball from under center until Jack Miller gets a rash. There will be a lot of iso’s. There will be a lot of power runs. There will occasionally be plays where Dennis Norfleet does something really cool but gets tripped up at the line of scrimmage and falls forward for a one-yard gain because that’s about how tall he is.
The understated beauty of this kind of offensive game plan is the cruel efficiency with which it kills game clock. If Fitz Toussaint can keep up his three yards per carry and get tackled in bounds, going 75 yards would burn through an entire quarter. In manball terms, that would be perfection.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan’s default strategy is to slowly back down the field -- just toying with the opponent, obviously -- until it can use the boundaries of the end zone as an extra defender. Cover zero, all-out blitz? That's what you think, but there’s definitely a safety in there, and his name is Goal Post. He strongly suggests you kick a field goal.
If executed effectively, the result of Michigan’s game plan is clear: a four-possession game in which Michigan scores two touchdowns and UConn kicks two field goals.
I’m sure you can do the rest of the math yourself.
Michigan 14, UConn 6
By Nick RoUMel
Last week’s scare notwithstanding, there is little to excite the imagination about today’s tilt with the Huskies. Heiko essentially mailed in an extended math problem, and my contribution will be even less relevant. I’m not even going to write about football. Instead, I am going to cash in my 20-year punch-card, and exercise my prerogative to write about baseball.
And here are a few reasons why I don’t burn for the grand old game as I did as a youngster:
Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. Jackson has the third highest career batting average in baseball history at .356; Rose is the all-time hit leader with 4,256. Both were banned from baseball and are not in the Hall of Fame. Evidence that Jackson conspired to throw the 1919 World Series with 7 teammates is scant and disputed. He batted .375, hit the series’ only home run, committed no errors, and threw out a runner at the plate. Rose, who sprinted to first base on every walk, bet on his own team and pissed off the Commissioner. If you visit the Hall of Fame, you’ll see Rabbit Maranville - but not these two guys.
Bob Prince and Ernie Harwell. Prince was to my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates as Harwell was to the Tigers. Each suffered a stunning firing - Prince after 28 years in 1975 due to “personality conflicts;” Harwell after 30 in 1990 for a “new direction.” I gave up on the Pirates when Prince was fired - one reason I don’t get too excited over their renaissance this year.
The Braves and Indians. At least the Atlanta Braves finally got rid of “Chief Knock-A-Homa,” the guy in left field with the feathers, war paint and teepee; but they still have the name and the “tomahawk chop.” The Indian’s grinning Chief Wahoo logo? There is no defense. Even Business Insider calls it “uncomfortably racist.”
Sabermetrics. I was a statistics nut as a kid, but I draw the line at things measuring things you can see: hits, homers, and basic division that gives us the batting and earned run averages. But pencil-necked computer geeks have decided to tell us what really matters. For pitchers it’s the “quality start.” That’s at least six innings and giving up no more than three runs; which means if you go nine, give up four runs, walk nobody, fan 13, and win, that’s not quality. But what really gets my blood boiling is “WAR.” They’ve tinkered with this formula at least three times and I defy even a hard core fan to tell me what it is, other than how many games a pencil-necked geek thinks a player is worth above his theoretical replacement. For example, looking at the Tigers’ 2013 WAR, Max Scherzer is deemed more valuable than Don Kelly …. at the plate.
Sportswriters. This sanctimonious bunch (MGoBlog excepted) are essentially burning witches on the PED issue. One refreshing exception, Peter Pascarelli of ESPN, says “This holier-than-thou attitude from some writers who think they're keepers of the game is getting old; we'll never know for sure who took what and when or how much it helped or hurt.” These writers’ heroes are from the 60’s and 70’s, but they have forgotten that Jim Bouton wrote in “Ball Four” that half of his fellow major leaguers at that time were taking every drug they could to dull pain or improve performance.
Nor do these writers have the guts to go after the greedy owners, who bail on fans use public funds to finance their businesses. This is because they might lose their precious press passes.
Like Counterpunt, the Wolverines are hopping mad. The poor Huskies don’t stand a chance:
Michigan 41, Connecticut 14
If the GIFs are slowing down your browser, hit 'escape' on any browser except Chrome to stop animation. If you are using Chrome, I highly recommend adding the extension "GIF Scrubber" to have video-like control over each GIF.
Denard Robinson's introduction as something more than a lightning-fast curiosity came in Michigan's 2010 opener against UConn. Fittingly, the game marked the unveiling of the Michigan Stadium luxury boxes, a new attendance record, and the completion of Brock Mealer's journey from paralysis to walking out and touching the banner. It's an easy argument to make that this game represented the high water mark of the Rich Rodriguez era, a moment when anything and everything seemed within the realm of possibility.
The Big House was gaudier, a man had gone from never walking again to walking again, the much-maligned defense shut down the Huskies, and Denard ... well, a Michigan quarterback record of 197 rushing yards is what we remember most, and he also completed 19/22 passes for 186 yards and a score. Rodriguez introduced the first iteration of the Worst Waldo play...
...and when it looked like UConn finally might be able to slow down Denard, he used their eagerness to finally lay a finger on the guy against them:
Michigan raced out to a 21-0 lead within the first 21 minutes of the opening kickoff, then cruised to a 30-10 victory. Denard became an overnight sensation. A fanbase beaten down by 3- and 5-win seasons the previous two years had reason to think that perhaps this could work out after all. Most of this optimism stemmed from Denard, of course, who helped matters by being one of the most eminently likable athletes to ever step on campus.
This summer, I went back through Denard's career and made a whole bunch of GIFs, with full intention of writing up an ode to the man who—often single-handedly—dragged the Wolverines from the depths of 3-8 and put them in a position to succeed in his three years as a starter and beyond. Like Brian with his HTTV article, I sat down and just couldn't go through with it.
I think I'm ready now. Hit the jump for a GIF retrospective on the career of one Denard Robinson.
|WHAT||Michigan vs UConn|
September 21st, 2013
|THE LINE||M -18|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, 0% chance of rain|
"paul pasqualoni young". Yup. That's real. If you don't believe me you're spending an awful lot of time disbelieving things it would be patently silly for anyone to make up.
Run Offense vs UConn
UConn. The very name sends trembles down your spine. After Randy Edsall ascended to Heaven on a pillar of righteousness, the Huskies hired legendary Michigan-killer Paul Pasqualoni, and since they have written their name in blood and glory across the night sky.
In their opening game the Towson Somethings struggled to acquired 201 yards on the ground on 50 carries, a 4.0 average. Starting tailback Terrance West ground out 156 yards on 36 carries as the Huskies bayed and called around him, mocking, ever mocking. The Conn Army's second game was ever more dominating: Maryland acquired a pathetic 231 yards on 40 carries; the Terrapins feared exposing just one tailback to the ruthless fangs and split their carries between CJ Brown (QB, 1991-2013, 16 carries for 122 yards) and Brandon Ross (RB, 1992-2013, 18 carries for 95 yards).
I have to break from the faux terror here because UConn's defense was in fact shockingly good a year ago. Do you remember that they held Teddy Bridgewater to 10 points in regulation and 20 overall in a triple-overtime win over Louisville last year? You probably do not, because who remembers things about random Big East games featuring 5-7 UConn? Bridgewater took 53 attempts to acquire 331 yards but threw two interceptions and got sacked five times. The Louisville ground game acquired 57 yards, quarterbacks excluded. For the year, UConn was seventh nationally in rush defense, second only to Alabama in yards per rush ceded.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, Trevardo Williams and Sio Moore* are off to the NFL, as are corners Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. All of those guys were off the board by the early fourth round. Losing four mid-round NFL draft picks in one go is a body blow for a team with UConn's talent level, and they're currently reeling. Maryland bombed them for 500 yards and FCS Towson almost cracked 400.
Without much penetration or experience on the outside save for Yawid Smallwood, the lone returner from last year's all-NFL linebacking corps (Smallwood is projected as a third round pick like his buddies), Michigan should have opportunities similar to the ones they did against Akron as soon as they figured out what the Zips were doing with their bear fronts. UConn will stem into some three-four looks, but Michigan's seen that already. This has to be a step forward for the line and Toussaint or it's time to stop pushing the panic button and resign ourselves to another zombie apocalypse of TFLs.
Ace thought the interior of the line was solid against the Terps, so this will provide a human-sized challenge for the offensive line after two weeks of baby seals and one featuring two top-end NFL prospects. Move some guys, get some holes, see Toussaint follow them, and spark an ember of hope.
*[Sio is a nickname for… wait for it… "Snorsio." Wow.]
Key Matchup: Fitzgerald Toussaint versus Poor Damn Toussaint Syndrome. Follow your fullback, man. What's the worst that could happen?
Other than that.
Please come out from under the table.
[Hit THE JUMP for lots of caps letters in the cheap thrills section.]