Mike Lantry, 1972
Last Friday the Creeper Van made its way east of Cleveland to Mentor, home of defensive end Tom Strobel and the Cardinals, to watch them take on the Medina Bees. I was greeted in Mentor by a pre-game downpour, which had me worried about being able to shoot film, but then the skies cleared to reveal this, which subsided my concerns entirely:
What does this mean? Oh, time for some football.
Anyways, I'm guessing you care far less about double rainbows than Tom Strobel, so here's the part where I tell you Mentor won 45-7 while Strobel recorded ten tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and two QB hurries in a little over three quarters of action. Highlights are short—Medina did their best to run to the weak side (Strobel always flipped to the strong side) and roll their pocket away from him—but relatively spectacular:
[EDIT: Original video didn't play due to copyright issues with the song I used, but this one should work fine.]
Considering Strobel's opponent did everything within their power to stay away from him—both running and passing—and he still managed to finish with double-digit tackles and multiple stops behind the line, I thought he had a pretty outstanding game. I have now seen each of the three players recruited for strongside defensive end in this class—Strobel, Matt Godin, and Chris Wormley—and Strobel impressed me the most, just edging out Godin.
At this level of competition, Strobel utilized his superior strength by essentially doing the same thing on every play: bull-rushing the offensive tackle, pushing him 3-5 yards into the backfield, then either heading for the quarterback or peeling back towards the line of scrimmage to make a play on the running back. While this strategy is entirely unsound against college competition—any good offensive coach would've realized that Strobel repeatedly opened up a big crease off-tackle and run right at him—it worked quite well since his side was avoided entirely, to the point that I think he was being coached to play this way. It certainly worked.
While Strobel isn't the quickest player, he did a good job of getting off the snap and shooting right into his blocker, getting his hands into an offensive lineman's chest before his counterpart could get a hand on him. This allowed him to get great leverage, both in terms of pushing his man off the line and in helping him disengage from his block. Strobel recognized plays quickly and there wasn't a play when he couldn't shed his block and get two hands on the ballcarrier if one was within reach. When Strobel got his hands on someone, that was it for the play—his upper-body strength is impressive.
One area where I had a mild concern was with Strobel's will to play to the whistle. He had a great motor off the snap, always pushing his blocker back and trying to disrupt the play early, but there were a couple long-developing plays in which he was loafing a bit instead of tearing towards the opposite sideline. This only occurred on plays that were across the field later in the game, so perhaps fatigue (doubtful, considering his initial burst) or simply the fact this game was a blowout (far more likely, IMO) played a factor, but it would be nice to see him finishing every play around the ball like I saw with Matt Godin.
The other point of concern for me was with Strobel's lack of variety in his off-the-snap moves—he bullrushed, again and again, without showing much else except a quick shove to the inside that wasn't quite a full swim move. Again, there are some obvious explanations for this: the bullrush kept working, so there wasn't much of a reason to switch things up, and Medina almost never attempted a pass without rolling the pocket away from Strobel and throwing quickly. There just wasn't enough of a reason—or many opportunities—for Strobel to switch things up.
At 6'6", 265 pounds, Strobel certainly has the size to come in and be an immediate contributor, and I think he has the best chance of doing so out of the three recruits coming in at the five-tech. He needs to add a couple pass-rush moves to his arsenal (or at least utilize a couple more), but he showed a lot of ability against both the run and the pass and the motor to be in and have an impact on a lot of snaps.
Mentor had a pretty cool pre-game video tribute to the seniors, if you're wondering what the second picture of the scoreboard is all about. Strobel is #36, and also the guy who's bigger than everyone else:
I'm deciding between heading to the Prep Bowl, which features Matt Godin, Wyatt Shallman, and Detroit Catholic Central facing off against James Ross and Orchard Lake St. Mary's for the Catholic League title, and going back to Ohio to catch Kyle Kalis's St. Edward squad take on Cincinnati Moeller. I've seen OLSM twice this season and DCC once, plus the game being at Ford Field means it may be more difficult to get good film, so right now I'm leaning towards seeing Kalis play for the first time. Your suggestions are encouraged in the comments.
10/15/2011 – Michigan 14, Michigan State 28 – 10/15/2011, 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten
right via Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THROWING 30 YARDS DOWNFIELD IN A CYCLONE
YOU'RE ASKING DENARD ROBINSON TO BE JOE MONTANA IN A TRASH TORNADO
YOU'RE COMING OUT FIVE WIDE
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Brian Cook's brain channeling Mike Valenti, 3:07 PM 10/15/2011
The now rapidly developing lizard brain theory of college football coaching states that there is a certain level of pressure above which rationality goes out the window and coaches revert to who they really are. It came to me in a horrible epiphany when Lloyd Carr punted in the 2005 Ohio State game less than a quarter after going for it on his side of the field. Coaches panic, go to their binkies, and then try to convince you otherwise in the post-game.
Different coaches have different levels. Ron Zook reverts to the lizard brain on the opening kickoff of every game. Kirk Ferentz makes it about five minutes in. We don't know about Tressel because he constructed his team such that the lizard brain was right. Les Miles exists on an entirely different axis with taffy on one end and victory on the other. He is the only one who escapes. The lizard brain is unavoidable.
Al Borges's lizard brain kicked in after Vincent Smith ran for two yards on Michigan's first offensive play of the second half. First and ten after that:
Robinson sacked for –9 yards
Smith rush for two yards
Gardner rush for four yards
Robinson rush for –1 yard
Robinson slant complete for 34 yard touchdown
Robinson rush for –1 yard
While this doesn't paint a pretty picture for the run game, either, after halftime Michigan passed on 60% of its first downs, got one completion on a short route that turned into a big gain when Roundtree broke a tackle, and did nothing else.
For the game Michigan tried to pass at least 41 times*, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt and giving up a defensive touchdown.
TWO POINT EIGHT YARDS
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!
Michigan tried to run the ball 26 times and averaged… oh, Jesus… 5.2 yards per carry. Fitzgerald Toussaint got two carries, Denard twelve.
I just realized this is what it's like to be Walter Sobchak.
MARK IT 2.8.
(This is not a threat against anyone's person. Do I look like Will Gholston?)
So, yeah. There is no way to put this without getting an email from some guy concerned about his eleven year old without resorting to Bloom County methods. That was the dumbest goddamned $%&*^-*$#*ing #&!$brained dip*&%$ mother*(%$ing horse_+$# goat-&^%t &%$*y-infested $%^&stick playcalling I have ever &*$ing seen in my life. I see you, Valenti. I get it now. I get it.
ON FOURTH AND ONE AL BORGES HAD THE QUARTERBACK, WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS RUNNING QUARTERBACK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, TURN HIS BACK TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE AS IF EVERY DEFENSE EVER CONCEIVED AGAINST THE GUY DOESN'T HAVE EDGE CONTAIN OF HIM AS THEIR FIRST THREE PRIORITIES
ON FOURTH AND ONE AL BORGES HAD THE QUARTERBACK, WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS RUNNING QUARTERBACK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, TURN HIS BACK TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE AS IF EVERY DEFENSE EVER CONCEIVED AGAINST THE GUY DOESN'T HAVE EDGE CONTAIN OF HIM AS THEIR FIRST THREE PRIORITIES
Okay, okay… sorry. Sorry. I'm vented.
What we have to deal with now is the cold certainty that the honeymoon is over and our football coaches are football coaches, like they always are, and we cannot assume that everything will be honeydew and game theory from now on. Hoke punted on fourth and short-ish from inside the opponent 40. Borges did that above.
That's okay, really. Given the crapfest we endured on offense I almost can't blame Hoke for the punts. And in many other situations I prefer an offensive coordinator who wants to throw when he's in trouble to one who wants to go into a shell. The Morris/upperclass Gardner offense won't put the Ferrari in neutral until the second half. Recruit like they're recruiting and coach like it seems they can and eventually we'll get to a nice place to be.
In the near term, though, those happy thoughts over the first few weeks about Borges adjusting to Denard evaporated in a flurry of sacks after which you look at the receivers and there are three guys thirty yards downfield with no one between them and the carnage. You can fake it against defenses that can't play, but when it comes down to it the combination of Borges and Denard makes everyone wonder that bad old question about whether he should really play QB. IE: the worst-case scenario from the offseason.
A certain genre of Michigan fan will say this was always who Denard was, but last year he completed 58% of his passes for 9.3 YPA and a 12-9 TD:INT ratio in the Big Ten. Whatever his limitations were they seemed a lot less limiting last year, when Michigan stressed the defense to the edges and exploited the ruthless equation of the spread: a running quarterback means someone's open if you can just find him.
I don't blame Borges for that. You can't up and be someone else at the drop of a hat. If we are again pointing the finger of blame it's aiming at Rich Rodriguez for not deserving a fourth year. I do blame Borges for throwing almost two-thirds of the time when that should be inverted. The incoherent grab-bagginess of the offense is a natural effect of hiring a pro-style guy with a spread offense. Running Denard twelve times in a trash tornado is not.
So here we are, with football coaches instead of magical fairies who can do anything. That sucks. The honeymoon over, life re-asserts itself.
*[I'm not sure how many QB carries were scrambles. I counted the 8-yard Gallon scramble as a pass.]
Non-Bullets of I Wish They Were Real Bullets
Hurray clowniformz! So much for a one-time thing. It's as if they knew they would need to both play and look like Yakety Sax:
That's the third time this year we've had a uniform stunt, this one the ugliest and stupidest of them all*. It's like Dave Brandon took in the majesty that is the Spartan Stadium game experience and said "someday this will be mine." Chengelis's headline on the subject…
Spartans, Wolverines compete with fashion statements, too
…is even more evidence that Dave Brandon Gets It less than anyone has ever not Gotten It before.
I had a wow experience. Did you? Everyone looking forward to the analwowing in Dallas next year when we take our freshman defensive tackles and paper-thin offensive line into a game we are absolutely not prepared for? CEOs are psychopaths.
[Bonus: last time we did this was 1976, the very heart of the era when people lost their minds about fashion. We lost then, too.]
*[No, that guy on every message board who could spin Denard Robinson's arm being torn off by William Gholston as a positive for the program, they did not look good. A sane political system would prevent you from voting. You suck. I'm sure you've got a comment all lined up to complain about the complaining. Bring it, I've got an itchy trigger finger today.]
Obligatory personal foul section. Yeah, it was ugly. The truly sad thing was that band of morons getting away with 120 yards in penalties without losing. If we had a sane offensive plan and/or a plan to deal with snap jumping those personal fouls are only 10% enraging—the intent to injure bits—and 90% hilarious Sparty being Sparty. That's where we are as a program right now: we can play the stupidest 85 people ever assembled on one football team and still lose by two touchdowns.
Gholston should obviously be suspended at least two games for the helmet rip—as bad an intent-to-injure play as the Reynolds-Sorgi incident—and the punch, which has been established by the great Jonas Mouton Suspension Fiasco as a one-gamer. There was also a less obvious judo chop that forced Lewan out of the game for a few plays. I bet nothing happens, because that's the way life goes.
This is the second consecutive year a player has been knocked out late after the game is decided by a dirty hit. Look at Dantonio's jaw… you are feeling very sleepy… you cannot put together incidents to see a pattern forming… so much… fake… bible… Spock.
I guess targeting other football players is progress relative to beating up mechanical engineers en masse.
Edge destruction. Early candidates for big negative days in the defense UFR: Roh and Ryan, who were targeted by the MSU offensive coaching staff to good effect. MSU's first TD drive was a series of easy outside runs as those two got destroyed. They improved a bit as the day went on but were clearly a weak spot targeted effectively.
Woolfolk also got pulled after a series or two; he's obviously hurt. Avery was the nickel corner since MSU doesn't spread to run much.
Man, Baker. It kills me whenever I see a really good running back go against Michigan because the mind immediately plugs that guy into rotation at the RB spot post-Minor and groans. Baker is one of those guys, a leg-churning tackle-breaker who would turn a lot of Michigan's two yard runs into five or six or more.
Penetration. They had it. Michigan didn't. Why not?
One part: It's clear all these late-developing passing routes are exposing the Mark Huyge we saw trying and failing to block for Tate Forcier as a sophomore. After a year of being covered up by the spread 'n' shred he's back to allowing sacks on a three man rush.
But the interior line? I saw Molk ole guys. Molk! How is this year four of MSU using a simple parlor trick of slanting under at the snap without two different coaching staffs being able to do anything about it?
Old school punting. Positive of a sort: When asked to coffin-corner punts Will Hagerup does a pretty good job. Haven't seen that in 15 years—you know it's old school when Sap is referencing Harry Kipke when handing out helmet stickers.
Why "of a sort": if you can coffin-corner a punt you probably shouldn't be punting.
The Minnesota plays. Doesn't seem too smart to have run a zillion new things against Minnesota now, does it? Michigan brought out the sprint counter once and it got stuffed—would MSU have been prepared for it if they hadn't seen it against Minnesota? Since Michigan isn't running the QB stretch that motion was a tipoff the counter was coming and an expected counter is a dead counter.
Inside the Box Score points out a huge swing play:
The refs did miss one backwards pass from Cousins, who clearly let go of the ball on state’s 37 and hit his receiver’s hands on the 36. The explanation was really lame, something along the lines of Michigan didn’t recover the football right away. The way I saw it, the ball hit the ground and the Michigan defender bent down and picked it up. What am I missing?
With no one around the ball except Wolverines if that's correctly called that is a potentially game-changing defensive score. This isn't a bad offsides penalty or uncalled false start, it's a touchdown being wiped off the board because the refs blew it dead too early. Very frustrating. I thought they were supposed to let it go if it was too close to be sure about now.
Also there is this:
Our leading tacklers were Gordon, Kovacs, Roh, and Countess, with 8, 6, 6, and 6, respectively. Do you notice what’s missing? Linebackers. Demens was the leading tackler among the linebackers with 5. I noticed this week that Touch the Banner was high on Demens for last week’s performance against NU, but Brian was critical of him in the UFRs. I think this game was the tie-breaker. I don’t think our LBs were productive enough. Baker gashed us all day long. His longest run was only 25 yards, yet he gained 167 yards on 26 carries. State was consistently able to pound the football against us.
How many times did MSU linebackers shoot out to the sideline on plays that looked like they were going to work and hold them down to a few yards, and how many times did Michigan linebackers do that? That's not always on the linebackers—could be on the M OL not getting out or DL not taking on doubles effectively—but given what we saw against Northwestern I'm betting some of the big chunk plays from Baker see linebacker minuses aplenty.
Hoke for Tomorrow is briefer. I would like to interject about this amongst the things learned:
That strong winds + Kirk Cousins > strong winds + Denard Robinson.
Cousins averaged 5 YPA and threw a backwards pass that should have been a disaster. Drops had a lot to do with it but it's possible the wind messed with both WR and QB, which is even more reason that throwing 41 times in the trash tornado was inexplicably dumb.
Media, as in stuff. The official site valiantly found highlight-type-substances in the wreckage:
Blogs. Come on, Braves and Birds picture comparison. Come on. The Hoover Street Rag does something long and complicated that I don't understand. Parody of a bad NBC hour-long drama? Mathlete says Michigan underperformed expectations by 28 points, his worst number of the season for all of I-A. Various bullets from MVictors. Touch the Banner also has them.
National variety from Doctor Saturday:
On seven trips into MSU territory after the opening possession, Michigan punted on five and turned it over on downs on a sixth.
Series by series, punt by punt, the sense of progress over the first half of the season dissolved into a disheveled mess. The running game stalled. The two-quarterback shuffle failed to gin up any semblance of a steady passing game, or a big play with Robinson lined up as a wide receiver. The pass protection broke down. In almost every aspect, it was Michigan's worst nightmare: At the exact point on the calendar that optimistic starts began to give way to collapse each of the last two years, the Wolverines looked like a team on the verge of collapse.
Newspapers. Michigan fell to 17th/18th in the polls. I did not find anything else of a newspapery variety that is open in my tabs.
Opening remarks: “First I have to give Mark and his staff credit -- and their team. They outcoached us and outplayed us. We have to do a much better job with coaching this football team in a lot of ways. Our kids, I think they fought when they were down. I thought they responded well. To be honest, I don’t think they ever thought they were going to lose the game until the game was over.”
Was Denard taken out because he was hurt or was it for another reason? “He got beat up a little bit, yeah.”
What happened on that fourth-and-one call? “We’ve gotten many first downs with that play. Same play. The guy jumps, we send the one guy in motion. We’ve gotten touchdowns, too. This was just an extension of that play.”
Looked like you were trying to call timeout. Did you see something you didn’t like? “Yeah, I saw the 25-second clock rolling to zero. I think we got away with one, to be honest with you.”
What do you think about how Denard played? “He made some things happen. And there were a couple times -- he always plays excited with a lot of energy. On the interception, I don’t know what he saw. I think he held it in there.”
On the play Denard got injured, was that a cheap shot? “Oh I have no clue. I didn’t see it, to be honest with you. My eyes were down the field.”
Was Denard playing too excited a problem? “I don’t think so. I thought our kids prepared well all week. I think we had the two penalties in the first half for the delays. Those are some communication things that we have to do a better job with.”
How much more are you going to have to get out of your running back group? “Well, to get it out of our running back group, we have to get it out of our front first. I think there’s some opportunities we missed a little bit, but at the same time I don’t know how much movement we got consistently at the line of scrimmage.”
Was the number of personal foul penalties they committed over the line for you? “I don’t know. Shoot, I’m worried about Michigan.”
Jordan said he thought MSU was more physical and beat your team up. “I don’t know if we got beat up. I think they were physical, and I think this game always is physical.”
Denard’s injury -- is it serious? “I don’t know what it is yet.”
Can you talk about philosophy of alternating Devin and Denard? “Yeah, we thought we may do some of that, and part of what pushed it over a little more was that it was a windy day, and I think Devin at times can throw the ball a little more accurately.”
How do you expect your players to react to this? “I expect them to act like a Michigan football team, and that means they’re going to come to work.”
What happened on the first series of the second half on the kickoff and their first possession? “I don’t think we tackled well at all … We didn’t tackle very well, they executed the drive. I think two third down conversions in there, maybe three, that you’ve got to be in the position to stop it. And then the play at the end, when they scored, I don’t know if you could be in a better defensive call.”
Do you think your offense was a little too creative at points? “No. I don’t know about that. I think there’s some elements in there -- when Denard carries the jet sweep around there, he’s pretty dangerous. He’s about two steps from breaking both of them for home runs. I don’t think so.”
They brought a lot of pressure. What were they doing that was so successful? “Well they were overloading you a little bit. Mark [Dantonio] did a good job. Mark is a good defensive coach. Believe me, his fingerprints are all over that defense. They overloaded us a little bit. They hit their timing. They did a nice job of jumping snap counts. I think they did things the way you’re supposed to.”
Is Taylor Lewan healthy? “There’s not a healthy guy in our whole locker room. Everybody’s beat up. That’s just part of football. I think this bye week, it’s probably at a good time.”
Were they beat up because of today? “They’ve been beat up all -- it’s just part of football.”
In hindsight, would you have called the fourth-and-one play differently? “You sneak it, you run the power play -- multiple things that you could have done. We’ve been very successful in the last two years with that same play.”
Was that your call or Al’s call? “Al makes the call. I’m the one that said, ‘Go for it.’ ”
Any trend to the incompletions? “I think there’s more competition probably at the line of scrimmage, when you look at receivers getting off and running routes. I don’t think we ran bad routes. I won’t know that until I watch tape.”
Did you prepare your players for the dirty play? “No. I don’t know how they played dirty. They had some personal fouls and late hits on the quarterback. You can get those all the time.”
William Gholston threw a punch at Lewan. “I didn’t see it.”
What was with the kickoff to start the second half? Were you thinking about an onside kick? “No. We were trying to squib it because we didn’t think we would get it exactly where we wanted it depth wise, and he probably hit it not as well as he probably would have liked to hit it.”
Whose decision was it to break out the jerseys? “Well it was neat. It was ‘74, ‘75? We were white on white. There’s a lot of decision-makers.”
You said you thought this team was overrated. What came out from this game to give you proof of that? “Well, besides losing? I think they were close to 200 yards rushing the football. We had 82. That’s pretty much it.”
Is this bye week a good thing for your team? “Yeah from a health standpoint, it is.”
How resilient is this team? Were heads hanging in the locker room? “They need to feel this one. We all need to feel this one for a while. But we’ll turn the page.”
What was the reaction to losing to MSU for the fourth year in a row? “Not good.”
What happened out there? “They did what we thought they were going to do. They came out and pounded us with the football. They were the better team. You have to give them some credit … So we’re going to take this and regroup from there.”
After a loss like this, are you glad you have two weeks off or do you want to play again right away? “Um, physically, it’s probably a good thing, but mentally we’re ready to move on to the next one and looking forward to the next game. So it’s probably a good thing that we have a bye week and we can physically get healthy, but at the same time. I’m hungry for the next one.”
Was there any adjustment they made at halftime on offense? “No, I think they stuck to their game plan. They just ran the football.”
After you recovered the fumble, did you think the comeback was on? “Yeah, the whole game we thought we were going to win until the two zeros were on the clock. The whole time we thought we were going to win the game.”
Do you think they were tougher? “I think they were definitely more physical. They pounded us. They beat us up. But we’re going to take it and we’re going to improve from here. But like I said, you have to give them a lot of credit.”
Is this team different from the past few years? Are you better prepared to deal with this loss without sliding downhill? “No doubt. I think it’s easy to say, it’s the same Michigan team the last two years, but I have no doubt in my mind that we’re not. We’re going to improve, we’re going to learn from this game, and we’re going to win.”
How difficult is it for you say that they were more physical and they beat you up? “It’s tough. They just ran the ball downhill. It’s nothing that we weren’t expecting, and we didn’t do a good enough job today.”
Were they chippier than you thought they might be? “No. I’ve played in this game before, so I know how the game goes.”
Was their success running the ball more because of their line or because of their running backs? “It was collectively as a defense -- we didn’t execute. I have to watch the film, but I can put money on that guys weren’t where they were supposed to be, and guys simply weren’t executing what we need to do and weren’t playing Michigan defense.”
How tough is it to swallow this loss? “It’s tough. We don’t want that to happen. With any team, especially with this team. But you have to give them credit. They played well today, and they’re a good football team. So plain and simple, today just didn’t go our way.”
Can you take anything good from today? “Not right now, no. But when we look at the film -- today is going to be tough, but we’ll stop and bounce back. The thing about this team I know for a fact is that this team is going to bounce back. Guys are hungry for the next game. That’s the biggest difference in this team amongst other things. This team’s hungry and ready to go.”
Do you feel like they beat you up? “I feel good. I’m not beat up. I don’t think they beat us up. When I think of beat up, I think bullied. We just didn’t execute. We just didn’t play Michigan defense. We didn’t play the way we needed to play from start to finish. Just going to have to watch the film and see what happens.”
Do you think they played dirty today? “I mean, we knew what type of game this was going to be. It was going to be a tough, physical game, and coach talked about keeping our poise and composure as a football team. So I think we did a good job on that side of it, and we just have to do a better job with taking coaching and executing what the coaches tell us to do.”
Were you expecting it to be like this? “I mean, who doesn’t know what this type of game is. It’s a tough, physical game, period. It’s an in-state rival, and it’s big for both teams. That’s what it’s all about.”
You think they won with class? “I don’t worry about that. They have a right to celebrate. They won. They’re excited. I tip my hat to them.”
What makes you so certain you will bounce back unlike previous years? “Just everything. I think that’s something where you have to be in the locker room and know that. It’s something I can’t really explain, but I know that we have great leadership on this team. We have a bye week coming up, and I know guys are going to be hungry. Tomorrow we’re going to be in there watching film, looking to see what we can do to get better. The seniors and these leaders are going to get this team ready.”
Anything they did offensively surprise you? “No. They executed their game plan and pretty much that’s what we practiced. I just don’t think that on our side of it, we did what we needed to do.”
Do you feel like your offense put you guys in a hole? “I mean, yeah, you never know how a game’s going to go. We’re playing for those guys they’re playing for us. We have each other’s backs. Whatever happens in a game happens. We talked about it on the sidelines -- we just have to control what we can control. We just have to do a better job of complementing each other offensively and defensively.”
When did you find out about the jerseys? “It was a surprise to us. When we came back from warmups they were in our lockers.”
What happened on the play where you were injured? “I got a little dinged up.”
Was it your decision or the coaches’ decision not to let you back in the game? “I mean, it’s always up to the trainers.”
Is it concussion-related? “No, I don’t think so.”
Was it a cheap shot? “I don’t know.”
Did you feel like they were playing dirty? “No. We were playing football. It’s a dirty game.”
Is this a game where you’re going to look back on and wonder “what if”? “Oh no. We have to move forward and we have to learn from this game. That’s the biggest thing, learn from this game and play Michigan football. The Big Ten championship’s still out there.”
On the fourth-and-one call, what were you seeing before the snap? “We had what we wanted, and we called it at the time, and we just have to execute.”
What were you supposed to look for? “I mean, if you watch the game you’ll see what I was looking for. I can’t explain it.”
Didn’t look like you had time to look for it, though. “Yeah, that was the biggest thing. We just didn’t play football.”
Did you see the corner coming? “I saw him at the last second.”
Why were you struggling throwing the football today? “No reason. Just have to make throws.”
What did you see on the pick six? “Me and Vince weren’t on the same page. It wasn’t anything we didn’t see. Just wasn’t on the same page.”
Are you worried about being able to play in two weeks due to your injury? “Oh no, we have two weeks, and our training staff is one of the best in the country, and I know they’re going to get me back.”
How difficult was it to pass with the windy conditions today? “It wasn’t that difficult. Both of us played in the same weather and the same stadium.”
Are there any plays you wish you had back? “Oh yeah. Of course through the game you’re going to have that, but you have to continue playing. Keep playing, that’s all.”
Why do you think this year’s team is different? “I mean, come on. We’re just going to be ready to fight, and we’re never going to quit. We’re never quitting. Just hold each other accountable and just go out there and play Michigan football. Just keep going.”
Did you think this fourth quarter was going to be like the fourth quarter against Notre Dame? “We had a lot of opportunities to come back in the game and keep the game in reach, and we just didn’t execute.”
I am headed for East Lansing very early in the morning so I should put this up now so that it actually gets done. Here it is. Please see the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post for information on how to be an excellent liveblog participant.
Go Blue. If I don't post by Monday, avenge my death.
Oddly not a problem. Thanks to a couple of diarists and the Wall Street Journal, we can answer the question posed in this AnnArbor.com headline:
Is Michigan at a disadvantage because of MSU's off week?
Bye weeks seem to hurt more than they help. Since 2002 (to 2010*), teams of the six BCS conferences have an overall win pct of 0.480 when coming off of a bye week. The Big Ten teams in particular struggle when coming off of a bye. From 2002-2010* Big Ten teams are a combined 17-32 when coming off of a bye. This is good for a 0.35 win pct.
…no. This also applies to the small sample sizes posted by Mark Dantonio coming off a bye and Brady Hoke facing someone off a bye. This is an odd finding, but there it is.
Bacon book excerpt. Has hit the WSJ:
Denard Robinson's day started at 6:30 a.m., when his alarm clock went off in his off-campus condo bedroom.
He hit the snooze once, then twice, before getting out of bed to put on jeans, a red polo shirt, black Adidas training shoes and his varsity jacket. Then he hopped into his roommate Devin Gardner's family pickup truck, a beat-up 2002 Dakota.
It continues following Denard from there. Autograph seekers, man. We will be running another installment of the Q&A Monday or Tuesday, depending on how jam-packed Monday is. Three and Out is out October 25th.
[*cough* if you are planning on buying the thing you can support the site by purchasing Three and Out through MGoBlog affiliate linkage *cough*]
Pizza: we want it. There was a "We want pizza" chant as Michigan's goal count exploded against St. Lawrence, and this is why:
Also in 1997, there was free pizza. Back in the day, Cottage Inn sponsored a 10-goal promotion, where every member in attendance received a free slice of pie if the team reached 10 goals. Sounds awesome, right?
It was awesome all right — for everyone but Cottage Inn. Even though 1997 was the last straw, the restaurant still had issues with the promotion in previous years. The blame game can start with a man they called ‘Doughboy.’
In the early 1990s, when the Wolverines would put up seven or eight goals, the crowd would start to chant, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” It seemed that Michigan had a player who liked pizza as much as the fans did, as he would seemingly pick up his play whenever the total got close to 10. Hence, Cam Stewart became ‘Doughboy.’
Michigan's fallen off from their glory days and Cottage Inn could fire up the pizza promotion without too much damage—this was the first time it had happened since 2008.
I'm out of toner, too. I don't want to wade into a discussion about the content of this Dennis Dodd piece on why Rodriguez should get some credit. (Surprise: Dodd and Rodriguez share an employer.) I do want to linger on this image:
Rich Rodriguez still runs into his players during shopping trips in Ann Arbor.
"Office Depot or something," said Michigan's former coach. "You can figure, you've got mixed emotions. You're frustrated because it's your guys and you want to coach them."
That's the problem with the system: too much money going to students. The Big Ten and SEC made a case for "full cost of attendance" scholarships as caring more about student welfare than a level playing field, and they carry a lot of water in this town so I assume this will be killed and never brought up again:
Following a six-hour meeting in late September, the Resource Allocation Working Group, chaired by Georgia President Michael Adams, agreed to consider a reduction in FBS football scholarships from the current number of 85 to 80 and a reduction in the number of FCS football scholarships from 63 to 60. The reductions would likely follow a move toward a full cost-of-attendance scholarship that is expected to be passed in early 2012. In addition to football, the group agreed to consider a reduction in the number of men's basketball scholarships from 13 to 12 and in women's basketball from 15 to 13.
If it's not it's time to burn the NCAA to the ground. If you don't want to offer a full complement of scholarships, don't. Atlantic Hockey offers 13, not 18. Fine. Don't force teams awash in money to not offer scholarships because you cry poverty. The NCAA should be exploring relaxing or changing caps in money sports*, not increasing them.
*[The best anti-oversigning proposal I've heard is removing the overall cap entirely and just having a yearly one. Totally removes the motivation to kick a kid off the team unless he's Stephen Garcia.]
Etc.: Just Cover's SteveY dubs MSU's QB 'Kork Coupons,' which I find delightful. It is entirely plausible Lou Holtz has called him this at some point. Tom Ziller blows up David Stern. Grant Wahl makes the case for promotion and relegation in American sports. Yost renovation to take out 400 seats, add more "premium" seating so people can pay even more money to not show up at hockey games.
Previously here: ACE FFFF!
|WHAT||Michigan vs State|
|WHERE||Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, October 15th 2011|
|THE LINE||State –2.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
|WEATHER||mid-50s, partly cloudy, 10% chance of rain, windy|
Run Offense vs. Michigan State
Jerel Worthy: self-trolled
This is an irresistible force versus immovable object matchup that pairs the nation's #7 rushing offense against its #1 rushing defense. Massive schedule strength caveats apply to both numbers.
Michigan State has played a I-AA team and I-A's #111, #94, #48, and #31 rushing offenses. The two good opponents were Ohio State, against whom MSU got a healthy dose of Bauserbombs and nine sacks, and Notre Dame, whose primary tailbacks combined for 126 yards on 26 carries—4.8 a pop. MSU did shut down an Ohio State rushing offense that did well against Nebraska, Colorado, and Miami (That Miami). There is plenty of there there.
A large part of the there is in the person and Missouri-themed tattoo of NT Jerel Worthy. Worthy is being talked about as a potential first round draft pick and has tormented Michigan the last two years by jumping snap counts and generally being impossible to to run against. Michigan will have to block him, and get his snap-timing ways off guard. If you let him jump a snap your play is done. Trap him, counter him, do various things to him that exploit his aggression.
The rest of the line is inexperienced. With Tyler Hoover out for the year the ends are one-time Michigan prospect Marcus Rush, a redshirt freshman, and hyped true sophomore William Gholston. Gholston got a lot of hype during the Ohio State game but that turned out to be mostly for running down the backside of the play and tackling for loss when State's massive blitzing forced tailbacks to cut back. When Ohio State blocked him he stayed blocked; his pass rush moves are rudimentary. He remains a physical marvel. Rush is a smaller DE in the mold of a Roh who's quick around the edge and has some issues holding up.
Chris Norman, Max Bullough, and Denicos Allen are the linebackers. Allen you may remember executing the flying squirrel sack on Bauserman late in the OSU game. Norman and Bullough are four-star types with a modicum of experience. They aren't Greg Jones, but they're obviously not a huge downgrade.
As for Michigan, their merry train of destruction was slowed considerably by Northwestern. Denard managed his hundred or so yards but the tailbacks had grim days. This was due in part to Northwestern stacking the line to the point where they gave up 13 YPA. Michigan State is like Iowa in that they are loathe to do that, preferring a standard 4-3 cover two against all offenses from maximum spread 'n' shred to maximum MANBALL. They blitz from time to time but rarely.
Michigan has had issues running power, first from under center (now abandoned) and increasingly from the shotgun. They've started running a lot of two-back, one-TE sets from the shotgun, de-spreading the spread and packing the box, and they've been running away from Taylor Lewan, their best drive-blocking OL, because they evidently don't trust RG Patrick Omameh to pull. Finding a way to make Michigan State defend both sides of the line and giving them things other than plain old power will be important—MSU sees that stuff every day all day in practice and Michigan's line is not built to move guys off the ball.
Key Matchup: Borges vs finding ways to get the edge. Michigan State's linebackers are young and the defensive ends younger. Worthy is large and the interior OL is not prepped to drive-block him. Speed options, veers, pitches, rollouts, zone read variations, stretch blocking—Michigan has to get outside the tackles effectively.
Pass Offense vs. Michigan State
Tacopants via Spawn of MZone; MSU's Johnny Adams
Denard Robinson's interception rate has shot up this year to a staggering 8.6%. He thrown 9 picks in 104 attempts after throwing 11 in 291 last year. That is a hell of a step backwards. If Denard's INT rate remains at that level Saturday, Michigan loses.
Denard INTs have come in two flavors this year: extremely bad decisions to throw deep into coverage (all three against ND) and massive overthrows (all three against NW), with some combining both aspects into one debilitating cocktail of depression. Over the past two weeks Denard has shown considerable progression in his accuracy (65% against NW, much better than that against Minnesota) at the same time he's made a ton of horrible overthrows. He seemed to fix his issues in the second half against Northwestern—maintaining that through the Michigan State game, especially in the face of pressure, will make Michigan's path to victory much clearer.
Michigan's receivers are the opposite of MSU's: a deep bunch without a true star. Junior Hemingway and his ability to high-point underthrown deep balls are the closest thing.
State's secondary is pretty good. Their safeties make mistakes from time to time but not too many; the cornerbacks are tough guys who make you earn your completions short and long. That's the impression from the Notre Dame game, anyway. There is no other data worth looking at.
Their line is 21st in sacks thanks to the nine against Ohio State; they have five in their other four games, one against Notre Dame on a stunt that was not picked up. Michigan is first nationally, allowing two in five official games. Part of that is Michigan not passing much—they're just over 20 attempts per game—and part of that is defenses sitting back lest they get too aggressive and spring Robinson into the secondary. Unfortunately for Michigan, even token pressure has caused Robinson to fling inadvisable or inaccurate balls—they don't need to swarm him to be productive.
State will sit back in a cover two and play a ton of zone, forcing Denard to be patient for holes to open up and hit spots in the zone with good timing. He's done it before… he's also imploded spectacularly.
Key Matchup: Denard vs Accuracy. Forever and ever this key matchup until Denard's missing at a rate that forces defenses to fear him in the air. Is this possible? Absolutely—a lot of spread QBs have light-on moments. Until it happens it hasn't happened.
Run Defense vs. Michigan State
Edwin Baker; Dan France having a sad last year, wearing a DL number
A year after... actually, nevermind. I was going to contrast this year's MSU run offense with last year's but it turns out Michigan State was mediocre in 2010, finishing 64th in yardage and 49th in YPC. Their 249 yards against Michigan said more about Michigan than State, but you knew that already.
That was with the assistance of an offensive line. This year they don't have one of those. Both guards return and are okay, though Joel Foreman was the guy getting schooled by Aaron Lynch late in the Notre Dame game. It's the other three spots that are a concern. At right tackle, redshirt freshman starter Skyler Burkland broke a bone in his ankle and is out for the year, leaving fresh-off-the-JUCO Fou Fonoti the starter. At left tackle, converted DT Dan France has emerged as the starter after Jared McGaha proved to be not very good at football. Redshirt freshman Travis Jackson returns from injury to replace injured converted DT Blake Treadwell—he was supposed to be the starter at the start of the season.
As a result, the same tailbacks who were okay last year can't run this year. Like, at all. In their two games against BCS competition, Michigan State has rushed for 2.2 YPC against Notre Dame and 3.3 YPC against Ohio State, sacks removed.* They managed 4.2 against Florida Atlantic, an 0-5 Sun Belt team, and 4.6 against Central Michigan, which lost to Western Michigan by about the same score they did against State. That is their rushing year against I-A competition. Opponent with pulse == shut down. Without pulse == mediocre production.
So, does Michigan's rushing defense have a pulse? Unfortunately we can still do no better than "maybe" at this point in the season. Plausible opponents to date:
Non-plausible opponent Eastern Michigan also managed 4.5 YPC. Those numbers aren't any more encouraging than State's.
The UFRs have detailed one of the major causes of the big numbers put up by opponents: weakness on the edge. Freshman SLB Jake Ryan has been a major source of these issues but indecisiveness from the other linebackers has also "helped." Last week Northwestern exposed yet more edge weakness on a series of option plays. State will try to exploit that, but Kirk Cousins isn't running the triple option and while their tailbacks have some quickness, Bell and Baker are more north-south guys whose effectiveness wanes when their shoulders are square to the LOS. Expect Martin jet sweeps, possibly out of a wildcat look.
On the interior, Michigan isn't great. Neither is State—their OL cannot get to the second level. A couple of screwups by Michigan linebackers will grant State a few chunk runs and the steady power diet will chew up 2-4 yards at a time; Michigan will still put up its best YPC effort of the year against the Spartans.
Key Matchup: Will Heininger and Will Campbell against the MSU interior line. Michigan's three-tech has been a sore spot against the pro-style formations MSU figures to spend much of its day in. If the three tech can hold up, Michigan State isn't going to move anyone else on the line and those erratic yards on the edge will be easy enough to weather.
*[I also removed a -12 yard carry from Cousins against OSU and two "team" carries for -9 yards. IIRC the Cousins thing was a fumbled shotgun snap he fell on.]
Pass Defense vs. Michigan State
oh good, an enormous NFL wide receiver wearing #3 again
Kirk Cousins is Kirk Cousins: pretty good, not great, somewhat prone to the yips when pressured. He was 20 of 32 against OSU for 7.8 YPA; he also threw a touchdown and two interceptions. Against ND they had to rely on his arm almost exclusively and he put went 34 of 53 for 6.2 YPA, a touchdown, and an interception.
In both games a large bulk of his production came through BJ Cunningham, the hulking senior who is the Big Ten's best Michael Floyd impersonator. Cunningham has 38 catches for nearly 600 yards already. He's a lock to be all Big Ten and Michigan's going to give up ten catches for 150 yards. Brace yourself.
There's little past Cunningham. Slot guy Keshawn Martin figures to get involved on the edge as Michigan State tests out Michigan's evident weakness against bubble screens—Cunningham doubles as a tight-end-sized blocker out there—and former QB Keith Nichol has made catches here and there. WR depth remains a major issue. MSU runs out a bunch of tight ends, computer distribution expert Dion Sims most prominently, and throws screens and dumpoffs to the backs. Downfield threats begin and end with Cunningham. MSU does expect Bennie Fowler back. He had 14 catches last year as a freshman and may be a better non-Cunningham option than the guys on the field to date.
The line is also an issue here. Though Cousins was only sacked twice against ND and zero times against OSU, the line picked up a bunch of holding calls trying to keep their QB alive and it seems like Cousins's internal clock has accelerated to the point where he's not letting certain plays develop.
Though Michigan's remarkable streak of not being totally awful continued against Northwestern, the M secondary exposed some flaws against Dan Persa and company. Persa averaged 7.5 YPA and his interception was of the WR gift variety*. Freshman Blake Countess got beat on a 39-yard fade and Michigan gave up an average of 7.1 yards on nine bubble screens. JT Floyd has emerged into a reliable, average-ish Big Ten corner and Countess is promising, but Troy Woolfolk's perpetual injury issues have seen him rendered largely ineffective. He's been pulled for Countess before garbage time each of the last three weeks.
And Michigan's safeties are extant. Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon have not let a long run past them this year, nor have they blown a deep coverage. They are clueful. Things get a little dodgy when Gordon slides down to the nickel and Carvin Johnson comes in, but Michigan's days as Free Touchdown U have come to an end. Michigan showed a little nickel with Courtney Avery in and Gordon deep against NW, but pulled that once the bubbles rained down—on passing downs I bet Michigan goes with the three corners and keeps Johnson on the bench.
Michigan's pass rush has been okay. After a slow start they've picked it up; Dan Persa was sacked four times last week. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen are capable of getting pressure by themselves, but a lack of consistent production from the defensive ends has been a problem. Mattison compensates with frequent zone blitzes.
*[Northwestern also managed an incompletion charged to "Team." What?]
Key Matchup: Mattison zone blitzing versus Cousins's head. This should be the perfect situation for Mattison to loose his devious NFL blitz packages against a rag-tag bunch of crappy, confused offensive linemen. The catch is the veteran senior quarterback behind that OL. Cousins has proven ill-equipped to handle pressure in the past—how he deals with it Saturday is a major key.
State's punting looks atrocious thanks to a blocked or fumbled zero-yarder; when actually getting punts away Mike Sadler has been okay. He averages about 40 yards. Nick Hill has done well in limited opportunities as the kick returner, and Martin is a large threat to rip off a long punt return when Michigan's gunners don't get the job done. On the other hand, State has given up a kick return touchdown of its own this year. Kicker Dan Conroy is 6 of 9 on the year after going 14 of 15 last year.
Michigan can now kick field goals up to 38 yards, maybe, has terrible kickoffs—they were a bit better against NW but Wile put one out of bounds—can't return anything for any yards, and has a punter who should hypothetically be righteous but missed the first four games due to suspension and is averaging 38 yards on three kicks since that suspension expired. Advantage MSU.
Key Matchup: AAAAAH GIBBONS YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
- Michigan again lets State win the overpreparation-for-a-single-game battle.
- The State run defense shows up at maximum legitness.
- Denard isn't stepping into throws.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Jerel Worthy is picking up offsides calls early.
- Mattison blitz packages cause OL head explosion fiesta.
- Borges has a crazy package that is crazy effective.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Oh Good It's Michael Floyd Again, +1 for Actual Road Game Instead Of Neutral Site Chicago, +1 for Spartan Overpreparation Now Actually Working, –1 for Opponent Offensive Line Best Compared To Michigan 2008, –1 for Strong Possibility Terrible Interception Battle Is A Draw, +1 for Even A Fraudulent #1 Run Defense Is Probably Pretty Good.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Must End The Brahgasm, +1 for This Is Not 2009 Or 2010, +1 for Winner Is Strong Division Favorite, +1 for We Have A Countdown Clock For This Now, +1 for Juggalo Invasion Revenge Tour.)
Loss will cause me to... scream "I HAVE TWO COMPUTER ENGINEERING DEGREES" to thousands of people in green Affliction t-shirts.
Win will cause me to... unironically proclaim Brady Hoke gets it, chant "just like basketball," post Vincent Smith fingerguns.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Flip a coin.
I have no feel for how the game will go. I can see blowouts both ways. Michigan State: M OL cannot get push, coaches cannot invent ways to run, Denard throws three picks. Michigan: MSU OL combines with Martin and Mattison zone blitzes to leave the MSU offense a quivering hunk of goo and youth on the edge for Michigan State lets Denard rack up video game numbers.
None of that seems particularly likely. Neither do a lot of points, especially with wind potentially hampering deep balls on both sides. Offenses move in fits and starts with Borges getting some gashes and Michigan's addiction to power it can't run very well putting Denard behind the sticks; Michigan State can't run consistently either, and they can't protect Cousins well enough to convert third downs.
Special teams look like a tiebreaker to me, with State's field goal kicker an established one and their return units far more likely to rip off a long one, especially since Michigan can't get more than two guys within 20 yards of a punt returner on the catch.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Newly stride-y Denard looks more like he did in the second half against NW than the first half, cuts down on the terrihorrible overthrows, and puts up numbers that surprise many. Still throws mind-bending INT.
- Mattison blitzes Cousins into two turnovers.
- Something goes very wrong on special teams, likely a long return.
- Michigan State, 22-19