11/2/2013 – Michigan 6, Michigan State 29 – 6-2, 2-2 Big Ten
You put a brave face on, but some point your jersey is so dirty and your ribs so inflamed that you have to take a moment as you exit the field to breathe. You suck in, and it fucking hurts. You breathe out, and it fucking hurts. Everything fucking hurts.
You've looked like a coal miner after an explosion for the better part of four quarters and everything you do reminds your over-exerted nerves that in fact they have a job to do even if they really wanted to stop doing it two hours ago, and they raise their hand and say OH BY THE WAY THIS FEELS LIKE DEATH, and at some point you have to obey them. Space is infinite and cold and bereft of hope, and Devin Gardner is in it, waiting to die.
I didn't need a half-dozen people to tell me that they'd talked to people or had met the guy. I knew it. They all said Devin Gardner was a cocky son-of-a-gun and they all had different opinions about whether this boded well or terribly; none of them needed to tell me. All you need to know is Gardner's sense of humor, how he bobs his head during his starting-lineup intro at Michigan Stadium when he says "I'm a Michigan grad."
I know that bob. I was 19, in Canada, ordering "whiskey on the rocks" with that head-bob. I'd never had anything to drink, ever, and the table exploded with laughter. The waitress checked our IDs, saw that we were all 19 year old Americans, and got me some whiskey on the rocks. I am a cocky son-of-a-gun. I know that head bob.
I do not know what it's like to have dozens of 250-to-300-pound people deposit their helmeted heads into my ribs over the course of a few hours. I played Quiz Bowl in high school. It was slightly less demanding, physically. I have a comeback victory story in the Michigan tournament that I could tell you if you wanted to hear about nerd triumph. But that's not important.
What is: Gardner has had that cockiness literally beaten out of him by this football season. It started with the insane interception against Notre Dame and steadily built through interception after interception; Michigan resorted to running him a lot to actually move the offense forward, and he started having moments where you wondered if he'd get up. He laid on the turf after he took one particular shot to the chest against Minnesota, and it was a surprise when he got up and continued playing football. By Penn State his coaches were so afraid of him that they curled up into a ball in overtime.
In this game Pat Narduzzi paid his five dollars to the carnie and whipped linebackers at him until he cracked. Pat Narduzzi is now the proud owner of a St. Bernard-sized Marvin the Martian. Devin Gardner is no longer bobbing his head, because doing so sends shooting pain down his right side. And his left side. And other sides that don't actually exist but still manage to send shooting pain signals to his brain. Cockiness has left the building.
Michigan fans have endured a similar trial, albeit without the helmets impacting us like bullets on kevlar and with the aid of sweet, sweet beer. Over the course of two months Michigan has gone from a program on a rapid upward sweep towards another Ten Year War, Jabrill Peppers in hand, to a shambles much worse than its 6-2 record and seemingly adrift. There's been no whisper of a program that seems as good as Michigan State is right now for seven years, and counting.
The nadir of nadirs was Taylor Lewan turning into Will Gholston, down to the helmet twist on a prone player. That's where this program is right now: talking tough, failing utterly, and taking out their anger on whoever happens to be around.
Anyone still deploying the "little brother" rhetoric should be hit on the head with an oversized mallet and mailed to Waziristan. That was definitive. We're going to need a bigger countdown clock.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Dennis Norfleet was pretty good on punt coverage. But no points are awarded.
Honorable mention: LOL.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (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. The clock expires to end the game.
Honorable mention: Raymon Taylor's interception gives Michigan a sliver of hope; Michigan completes some passes early, moving the ball-type object some distance-type measures.
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?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
[After THE JUMP: brimstone.]
"You should have used a different game plan."
Your rushing offense –
“A lot of negative yardage plays. I thought there were some pretty good runs once in a while in there, but you snap the ball for a 20 yard loss, you get sacked I don’t know how many times, so your yardage part of it isn’t very good. You put yourself behind the 8-ball a little bit not executing, and then you’re forced into doing some things you don’t want to do the whole time.”
What does the offensive line need to do to protect Devin better and avoid sacks?
“It’s not just the line. There’s backs involved, there’s routes involved, there’s timing, all those issues are part of it. We have to get better.”
Did all the shuffling on the offensive line have something to do with it?
What’s Devin’s status? He sat out the last series.
“Yeah, he got pounded a little bit. He was a warrior out there that last drive before the interception at the end. He did a nice job getting us down the field, had taken a lot of shots early in the game. He just was a little bit worn out.”
Does he have an injury?
“No. I wouldn’t say he has an injury. I would say beat up. If that’s an injury, then that’s an injury.”
In the history of this game, the team that rushes for more yards wins. How critical was the rushing game today?
“Well it’s always critical.”
Why do you think there were so many negative yardage plays?
“We didn’t execute as well as they did.”
Taylor Lewan’s personal foul?
“I didn’t see that. I think that’s his frustration more than anything.”
You had a couple trips to the red zone in the first half. Did you think about taking a shot in the end zone at all?
“I think if we wanted to take a shot, we would have.”
There’s a lot of talk before the game about the toughness gap between the two teams.
“By … you guys?”
“From two years ago.”
Right. Did it disappoint you that the gap seems to have widened?
“I don’t think so. I think our kids played hard. I don’t think we executed very well. There’s eight to six plays in a game like this that make a difference. And if you go back and watch it again, you’ll see there’s eight to six plays that made a difference in the game from a standpoint of momentum, standpoint of confidence, and what you want to do. That’s part of it.”
How big was it to give up that touchdown before the half?
“That was a disappointing drive there at the end of the half. It drives you crazy. You give up points right at the end of the half, and it’s disappointing.”
How do you not allow a game like this to beat you next week?
“Well hopefully you do a great job as a group of leaders. Talk about coaches, senior captains, all those guys. Understanding where we are and what we need to do. I know they signed up for a guaranteed 12 games.”
With so much emphasis on a Big Ten title, what does this team have to play for?
“Still. It’s not in our hands. But you never know unless you’re forecasting for us now. Who knows?”
Does it surprise you that there was a lack of execution with the two weeks off?
“No. I think there’s more made out of that than anything else. Does it surprise me? Yeah. It surprises me. It has nothing to do with two weeks.”
Did you think you’d be further along?
“Well I was hoping.”
Is it coaching that you have to go back and look at?
“You always do.”
MGoQuestion: Going along with that, were you satisfied with the preparation and game plan?
“Yes. We wouldn’t have run the plays we ran unless we were satisfied.”
MGoFollowup: But considering the result …
“Hindsight’s always 20/20, right?”
What did you make of Michigan State’s defensive line and Shillique Calhoun?
“I think he’s a good football player. We’ve had a lot of respect for their defense all week going into this game, and I grabbed Max Bullough afterwards because he’s one of the guys I like watching play football. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Do you think the identity of this team is that it needs to get better in the trenches?
“That’s part of it. We haven’t played the way we like to every game.”
When Devin did have time, how did you think he played?
“I don’t know. Pretty good. But it would be nice to give him more time.”
What do you tell your fan base and alumni about dropping five of the last six games to Michigan State?
“Well, they’ve won five of the last six. Something like that. Well, we gotta keep working.”
Five of six is pretty significant. Do you think there’s that big of a gap?
“I don’t think there is a gap. I think they played awfully well, executed awfully well. I don’t think we did.”
Michigan had two weeks to prepare for Michigan State. This resulted in a record-setting day.
Michigan's -48 yards rushing is school's all-time low in a game (surpassing -46 vs Minnesota in 1962). #MSU
— Chris Mackinder (@Chris_Mackinder) November 2, 2013
Sorry, that should've said that the first half yardage is an FBS worst since Notre Dame rushed -45 yards in a first half in 2007.
— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) November 2, 2013
It takes a special kind of failure to achieve such lows: complete, utter failure from top to bottom. The gameplan from Al Borges lacked coherence, an issue that's plagued him during his entire tenure at Michigan. The play-action from under center isn't fooling anyone and still gets brought out several times a game, yet the shotgun runs somehow lack any sort of constraint or misdirection. A piecemeal offense isn't going to beat MSU's defense.
The offensive line couldn't open up holes for the running game, nor could they keep Devin Gardner upright. MSU registered nine sacks, and even with that yardage removed along with kneeldowns and a negative-20-yard bad snap, the Wolverines mustered 1.3 yards per carry.
Gardner often held the ball too long, for his part, and missed some open receivers, then capped the performance with an ugly interception when he hucked a designed back-shoulder fade three yards in front of Jeremy Gallon. By that point, however, he'd earned considerable respect simply for standing up and facing the inevitable beating.
Michigan mustered 168 yards on a meager 2.8 yards per play despite Gardner averaging nearly eight yards per pass when he could actually get one off. The defense fought valiantly, holding the Spartans to just 237 yards and 16 points through three quarters and setting up the offense with a chance to make it a game when Raymon Taylor picked off Connor Cook and returned it to the MSU 41. The Wolverines subsequently took a five-yard loss on an blown-up option followed by consecutive sacks—burning a timeout before the second one—to lose 21 yards in three plays; a Matt Wile punt, his eighth of the afternoon, opened the fourth quarter.
By the time Jeremy Langford capped the scoring with a 40-yard touchdown run, Devin Gardner's day was done—it would've been unconscionable to put him out there for another possession—and fans from both sides steadily streamed out of Spartan Stadium.
On Michigan's final offensive play of the game, Shane Morris tried to scramble on fourth-and-four, only to faceplant at the line of scrimmage. It was a fitting coda to a miserable day.
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 Nick RoUMel
By now we know that Michigan is like that beautiful, smart, accomplished girlfriend who’s also unpredictable. One minute she can be flashing you a wicked smile, while discussing quantum physics with your friends. The next, she might throw up drunkenly at your parents’ house. Or simulate fellatio with your roommate.
What is Michigan State? They were pegged by Mikey Hart a few years back and there is no better description. They are the quintessential little brother with the chip on his shoulder. You want to shoot a few hoops; he goes after you one-on-one, with the same dirty viciousness the NFL hallucinates Ndamukong Suh to possess. Little brother burns with those noogies past. The undy-grundy you gave him in front of his friends. The time you blamed the broken window on him. If you bump him unintentionally, he tries to screw off your head like a bottlecap.
The perfect coach for this team Mark Dantonio. Yes, I made plenty of fun of Nick Satan, but ultimately he was not the right fit. Dantonio, on the other hand, is the Spartans’ soulmate. He coaches with righteous fury far disproportionate to the imagined offense. He’s the kind of guy, if your dog wandered into his yard, would chain him in your basement for three days and starve him before releasing him into the woods. No wait; that was last year. Now he would behead your dog, place the head in your child’s bed, and post a video of himself tossing your dog’s body on a bonfire - with his face blurred out like an amateur porn clip. Then he’d blame it all on your child for not controlling the dog.
In contrast, Brady Hoke usually does not betray much more than a look of mild concern, as if someone at the cookout took the last cheeseburger he secretly coveted. Whereas Dantonio will fire up his team with tales of exaggerated slights and disrespects, Hoke & crew will approach this game with business-like dispatch.
The question for Michigan is not which “girlfriend” shows up against the Spartans; we already know they both will. The question is whether she can tame herself just enough to come home victorious. Sure, we know she’ll fluff Sparty a couple of times just to keep him aroused; but at the end of the game, I predict she’ll be true. And as a happy bonus, she’ll bring along Sparty’s girlfriend to join in on the fun.
Just don’t tell Dantonio where the party is. He’ll torch the place and then sue for mental cruelty.
MICHIGAN 27, MICHIGAN STATE 19
By Heiko Yang
Wow. You really thought that through, huh. Remind me never to piss you off or let you near my dog.
Okay I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I’m scared. No, not about Nick’s sociopathic tendencies. I’m scared about this game because, well, you know … Double A-gap, Trash Tornado, 60 minutes of injuring the quarterback, etc. etc. Whatever it was that happened in Spartan Stadium two years ago left a lot of scars, and I’ve spent most of the week bracing myself for horrible PTSD because unfortunately I’m heading back up to East Lansing today. For three and a half hours this afternoon, I’m going to hang out in a happy place inside my head while I watch Michigan play like crap and lose. It will be great fun.
I hate being such a downer. I’ve actually been pretty optimistic about every game throughout the first half of the season despite all the issues the Wolverines have had since they sold their soul to beat Notre Dame. Today I’m just having a hard time finding anything to be positive about. All I’ve got is a long list of things that are decidedly not in favor of Michigan’s chances for victory. Let’s consider a few of them:
Team who rushes for more yards wins in this game. I hate, hate, hate when this gets mentioned, but I think the p-value on this statistic is too low to dismiss. Putting actual logic aside, let’s entertain this for a moment: Michigan State will probably rush 40 times for a little less than 150 yards. In what scenario could Michigan outgain that number? There’s no way Fitz and Derrick Green are combining for more than 100 against the Spartans defense; 50-70 is much more realistic. At least half of the rushing production will probably have to come from Gardner. Blergh, right? Don’t get me wrong. I think Gardner is perfectly capable of doing that with the right game plan and play calling, but in what universe do you see Michigan’s coaching staff willing to run their dual-threat QB against an elite defense on the road (see 2012 Alabama)?
Rain makes corn, and corn makes whiskey. Rain also makes it really hard to catch the ball, which will make me want to drink whiskey.
Michigan can’t handle defenses that aggressively key on Michigan’s tendencies. The next time Michigan executes a proper constraint against an opponent that over-defends a base play will be the first time. That may be an exaggeration, but I don’t think I’m too far off. And no, I’m not bringing this up because I’m mad about bubble screens.
Looking at Michigan’s offense over the past couple of seasons, it’s pretty evident Michigan doesn’t do much to make defenses pay for cheating, at least not within the framework of a single game. If the opponent figures out how to overplay the inverted veer, for instance, Michigan doesn’t have an answer other than to check into a completely different play, to which there will be something else the opponent can key on – like audibling into the pistol formation, which is something only Indiana’s defense would fail to recognize as a laughably obvious speed option.
Michigan’s preferred strategy is to add wrinkles on a week to week basis, adding new plays that build on what they did the previous week and that are designed to take advantage of how they think new opponents will prepare for what’s on film. Like if Michigan faked the bubble last week, they might actually throw it this week in anticipation that the defense will ignore the slot receiver (fingers crossed (like so hard)). Michigan wants opponents to play “guess what we’ll do next,” but it doesn’t work so well when the opposing defensive coordinator is a good guesser or is at least capable of making the right adjustments early in a game. By all accounts, Pat Narduzzi seems pretty good at both.
Michigan does not win MGoCovered road games. In the Brady Hoke era, the MGoCrew has covered six road games: 2011 MSU, 2012 Alabama, 2012 Notre Dame, 2012 Nebraska, 2012 OSU, 2013 Penn State. None of us know what it’s like to leave an opponent’s press box feeling like anything other than total shit. The long trip back to Ann Arbor with some variation of “wtf” as the only topic of conversation has become a bona fide MGoTradition. The tradeoff, I suppose: Michigan is undefeated at home. Woooo. Everyone feels unshitty about this, yes?
See you all in Evanston in a couple weeks!
Michigan 17, Michigan State 24