in town for free camps
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.
(Presser audio for this transcript courtesy of The Michigan Daily. Thanks Tim.)
This file photo seems sad given the current context.
Opening remarks: “Well that’s why you play 60 minutes of football. I didn’t think we as a team played as well as we could and should throughout the game, but especially the first half. We have to do a better job of coaching, preparation, all those things. I’m proud of the kids, though. They kept swinging away. Kept coming and fighting. We had some opportunities to get the ball back a couple other times where we didn’t get it done defensively. Obviously when you get into the redzone you have to score touchdowns.”
Your last possession in the first half really seemed to swing things a little bit. “Well, we [were] trying to make a play and put the ball on the ground. That led to a field goal. And the interception down there going in. Ya know. That does swing. When you don’t have the ball and you don’t score.”
Did you get an explanation on the flag (pass interference) that got picked up? “One guy said it was, one guy said it wasn’t.”
When Denard forced the throw that led to an interception … “I don’t know if it was forced, to be honest with you. You’re talking about the one at the end of the first half?” Yeah. “He had a receiver.”
Was this was a game of missed opportunities for you beyond the two turnovers? “At times we rose up and played pretty good third- and fourth-down defense. Third-down stop there late was huge. We need to do a better job on that. I think they were 4 of 12 on third down conversions, which defensively is okay, but there’s always six to eight plays in a game that really are going to define when you’re playing a good football team and a team on the road, and you think back and there are six to eight plays that determines who executed and who didn’t.”
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
How do you think you did against Coker as a whole? “He’s a good back, and I thought we put bodies on him. I think our guys did a pretty good job. I felt Mike Martin a ton, so until I look at it -- I’ll know a lot better.”
The missed extra point, when Dileo bobbled the snap … “He’s caught probably a thousand of them. It’s like anything else. It’s probability. It’s going to happen.”
Whose decision was it to keep Denard on the sideline? “Well it was really his hand's decision.”
What do you think of his play? “I think he played well. I think he keeps growing as a quarterback.”
Toussaint? “He got bruised up a bit, but that’s the kind of game it is.”
On that last drive, Denard was throwing a lot of jump balls. “What jump balls?” The longer routes. Seemed like he was throwing deep a lot. “Well on one we tried to run a rebel, and the rebel wasn’t open. The one-on-one coverage on the outside was.”
What did you think of your linebackers? “I could feel them. I felt them more the second half than the first. I think Kenny made some plays in there. I think Brennen Beyer played a lot of football. This is a good environment for a freshman to play.”
How did Brennen Beyer respond? “Good, I think. Again, until you look at tape, I’m not real sharp, so it’s hard for me to see it all.”
Did it looked to you like Hemingway caught the ball? “I didn’t have a great seat, but I know one guy in the back thought he did and the other guy thought he didn’t.”
Hemingway dropped a couple passes at the beginning but bounced back to make some good catches. “Yeah, Junior’s a prideful kid. I mean, these are all prideful kids. He didn’t try to drop any balls, I can tell you that. It’s good to see a guy who’s played a lot of football come back from adversity.”
What did you think of Jordan Kovacs today? “I like him. I mean, I like him. I think he did okay.”
You’re all about November. What do you tell your team after this loss? “It’s still November. We have a lot of games left. There’s a lot of football to be played, there’s a lot of things at stake, and number one, we have 24 seniors who are going to play their last three guaranteed football games at Michigan. We’re always going to coach for them, and we’re always going to play for them.”
That may have been Iowa’s best defensive performance in a while. Can you explain why they played better? “I can’t. I think everybody plays well when they play Michigan.”
Your offensive line took a step forward last week. How would you assess their play today? “Again, until I see the tape -- but I thought they did okay. I think Fitz had close to 70 [yards]. We’d like to have 170, but that didn’t happen. I think they did some good things, and I’m sure as we look at it, there’ll be some things they did real well and there’ll be some things we have to go back and fix.”
Do you think they played with more urgency in the fourth quarter or was it just better execution? “We went into 'NASCAR' -- we call it 'NASCAR.' I think that was pretty good for us. And we practice it a lot.”
Was it essentially just hurry-up? “Yeah, it’s different in two-minute, though. There’s a different dynamic to it.”
Are you surprised there was no pass interference call on the last play? “Were you?” Yes. “…”
Turnovers. Considering how much you emphasized it, how much does that hurt? “Well it always hurts. Turnovers always hurt. And that’s one thing that we’ve done a good job -- taking care of it and ball security. The thing we missed today though was we didn’t get any back. That’s where we have to revisit why and those kinds of things.”
What were some of the flaws in not being able to stop Coker or Vandenberg? “Flaws? We missed some tackles especially in that first drive. They hit the under route and the corner should have tackled him and it’s maybe a 20-yard gain. Instead it goes down the sideline and then we miss a tackle in the hole on a touchdown. I think the timing in their passing game, they did a nice job with the first-down throws and the max protection kind of things.”
Do you attribute any of this to being on the road? “No. I thought our guys loved it. I really do.”
Hemingway’s catch? “Yeah he caught it, but the referee said he wasn’t in.”
Did you think he was in? “Of course I thought my teammate was in.”
What’s your takeaway from this game? “Oh man. What we did good was we kept fighting. No matter what, we just kept fighting, and that’s the biggest thing we’re going to take from this game, and learn from my mistakes.”
Did they do anything defensively to surprise you? “Oh no. We just started slow.”
Are you surprised there was no pass interference on the last play? “We can’t let the game [depend on] the officials. We have to do it ourselves.”
What happened when you left the game for injury? “I just got hit a hit to the elbow. That’s all.”
Do you feel like you missed a lot of opportunities today? “Yeah that’s the biggest thing. Turnovers was the biggest thing. Coach Hoke always tells us we have to keep the ball. Keep the ball. No turnovers.”
How much confidence does the defense give you, knowing that they can make a stop this year? “Oh yeah. The whole time the defense kept telling me they would make a stop and give us the opportunity to score, so that’s what happened.”
Was the plan on the last drive to take so many shots downfield or was it just what you were seeing? “It was just what I was seeing.”
Offensive line? “They played great. Hats off to them, and I love them.”
On that last drive -- you’ve been in that situation before. What was going through your head? Were you calm? “Oh yeah. Everybody was calm. We just knew we had to try and make some plays.”
On second to last play, did you think about running at all? “I thought Vince came open a little bit so I just gave him a chance to catch the ball.” Did you think you had a running lane? “I don’t know. I was just looking downfield.”
Just the good times.
Can you talk about the resolve you showed on that last drive? “Yeah. That’s expected. We play Michigan [football]. We’re supposed to fight back. That was a physical football team, so getting down … [it] would be tough to come back on them. But I mean it’s expected for us to fight back to the last second.”
Why were you struggling to move the ball for the first three quarters? “It’s just a testament to what Iowa was doing defensively. They don’t do a whole lot on defense, but what they do do, they do it well. They’re very gap sound, and I think we struggled with that a little bit.”
How costly were turnovers today? “Definitely. Definitely the fumble before halftime, they went down and got a field goal. That was a big turnover, but the defense did a great job of only holding them to a field goal, because they could have gone in and scored.”
Why did you leave the game? “Just banged up. I’m all right. I’m good. I’m still living.”
Where do you think this leaves you going forward in terms of the division and conferece? “We really can’t worry about that. You can’t tell the future. You never know what’s going to happen in the few weeks. All we can do is learn from this tape and get better every week. Whatever happens, happens.”
What was disappointing about this game? “Just the overall performance. I felt like we were ready this week, just like every other week. We came out, and we didn’t play how we could have or how we should have. It was just disappointing really the poor play we had.”
Can you point to anything specific? “Probably just taking care of the football. It’s hard -- I haven’t watched the film yet, so I’ll have a better idea of it on Monday -- but just taking of the football right now. But the defense played great, I thought.”
What did you think of the final drive? “We practice it all the time at practice, so it’s nothing new to us. So we were in our element.”
Did you think back to the 2009 game at all? “Before the game, but during the game you’re so caught up in your assignment and what the defense is doing that you don’t even have time to think about what happened two years ago.”
Did it feel like that in the final drive? “I mean, actually I wasn’t in two years ago, but it may have had a little bit of the same feel. A little bit.”
Were you watching the replays on the board? “I actually didn’t even see it. I mean, we thought he scored a touchdown, so we were getting ready for our two-point play. So it was kind of disappointing that they did call it out.”
What was Junior Hemingway say about it? “I didn’t hear him. I just read body language, and he was confident that he was in, but the refs made the right call.”
From file, on right.
You played a lot better in the second half. Was there an adjustment made? “No, not really. We knew this was going to be a physical game and it was going to be punch for punch on both sides of the ball. We had to make plays right back, so we just didn’t play as well as we needed to today.”
Why do you think you struggled in the first three quarters? “I don’t know. We just have to, on our side of the ball, execute better. I just comes down to the little things. Guys missing tackles that they were supposed to make. Not executing and being in certain gaps. That’s something that we’ll have to break down on film.”
What’s your impression of Coker? “He’s a tough runner. We were putting bodies on him and getting to the ball, and he made plays.”
You’ve seen your offense score on last-minute drives before. Was there any doubt that they wouldn’t make it in with four shots down at the goal line? “No. We didn’t have any doubt. I was standing next to Van Bergen, and he’s like, ‘Man, I believe in these guys,’ and I’m agreeing right with them. It’s in their hands at that point, and we have their backs, and what happened happened.”
You guys seemed to be pretty excited when you saw Hemingway’s catch on replay. Why do you think it ended up not being a touchdown? “That’s not for me to tell. The referee made the call he made, and we can’t control that.”
Did he look like he was in? “Yeah. Junior, he does a good job with making plays on the ball. He’s a good player and he always plays hard.”
Hoke talked about missed tackles and missed assignments. Was it disappointing since you thought you had fixed those problems? “You know, you have to give it to Iowa. They played hard today, and Coker ran hard today like he does. We just have to get better on our side of it. It’s about us tightening down on how we play and getting better.”
What’s the biggest thing you need to shore up? “I think we just need to work on getting more bodies to the ball and swarming around. That’s something that I don’t think we did as well today. We just have to get better.”
There were a lot of freshmen in there, especially early in the game. Did you need to calm them down a bit? “I don’t know if they were too amped up. They know we have confidence in them and we just don’t want them to have any doubt in their mind, and I don’t think they do. Those guys, they’re very talented, and whoever’s in there, there’s the expectation for the position. Whoever you are, a freshman, senior, or in between. Whoever’s out there has to play and make plays.”
Where does this leave you guys going forward? “We have three more games and that’s all we can worry about. There’s a lot more football to be played in this league, and we can’t tell the future, so we just know that we have the next game, Illinois, and that’s all we can think about.”
What will be the seniors’ message to the rest of the team after this game? “I’m going to say, ‘Pick your heads up, we have to bounce back, and there’s nothing to hang your head on. I know it hurts. It’s gonna hurt. It should hurt. But that’s in the past now, and tomorrow’s going to come and it’s not going to be Saturday anymore. The game’s over. We just have to worry about Illinois, and that’s the next opportunity that we have.’ ”
This defense is becoming known for producing turnovers. Why do you think you didn’t get any today? Do you think it might be because you didn’t get enough people to the ball? “That’s probably one of the reasons. I don’t really know. Like I said, you have to give it to Iowa. They played hard today. They played well, and they had good ball control. But yeah, we just have to get better on our side of it.”
Third-and-one stops? “We’re always trying to get the ball back to our offense. Whatever we can do on defense to get the ball back in their hands, get it back to Denard and those guys or whoever’s in there is our priority. Whatever we have to do to do that. … We stepped up. We knew what to do. We had to make a play. Period. We did a good job of doing that.”
Was there an emphasis on putting pressure on Vandenberg? It seemed like he had a lot of time to throw on first down. “Yeah. They were doing some things with their play-action stuff, and they were doing a good job with that, so we just needed to adjust a few things, and I think we did a better job with that the second half.”
From file, on left.
Were you limited in what you could do today due to your knee injury? “No.”
When did you find out you could actually play? “They were working me into the lineup all week. I could tell that they wanted me to play, and I felt like I could play.”
Did this feel like a typical physical Iowa offense? “Oh yeah. We knew what we were going to get. We knew it was going to be a smashmouth football game and it was going to be a dogfight, and that’s what we got.”
Did your knee feel okay? “It felt great.”
Do you think the secondary played well today? “Not well enough to win.”
What could have you done better? “I think we could have done a better job of containing the football and cupping the football and not giving up big plays. That’s something that we’re certainly going to work on. I think we can improve on third downs. That’s a time when we have to get ourselves off the field, and I don’t think we did a good enough job of getting ourselves off the field today.”
Something about opportunities. (Sorry, couldn’t hear the question.) “We didn’t cause any turnovers, I don’t think. They won the turnover battle, and that was the difference in the game.”
Was it a lack of energy or lack of execution? “Probably a little bit of both. I think it’s something that’s happened to us quite a few times this year, and it’s something that we certainly have got to improve on. That’s one thing that we’re going to take from this game.”
Why do you think the defense has been starting so slowly? “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I don’t know if it’s because we get wide-eyed when we get out there, but it’s definitely a concern of ours and something we have to improve on.”
I know you say “the expectation is for the position,” but does it matter at all that you have so many young players? “No. I think that, like you said, Coach Hoke always says there’s expectations for the position, and I think those young guys have done a great job of coming in and stepping up, but at the same time they’re going to continue to improve every game, and that’s what they’re doing.”
Why do you think the turnovers never came today for the defense? “I think they did a good job of keeping themselves out of third and long. I don’t know that they ever really had it. There were a couple third and longs, but not as many as we’d like. We didn’t put ourselves in good position to make those plays. They did a good job of running the football and holding onto it.”
Did you have any doubt that you were going to head into overtime? “I was ready. I think the whole defense was ready. I thought for sure we were going to overtime, but it didn’t work out like that.”
Was the loss due to the fact that you were playing on the road and you maybe don’t play as well on the road? “I mean, certainly it’s a tough environment to play it. Those fans are crazy, but that’s something that we have to be able to overcome.”
Does this game remind you of the 2009 game? “I mean, it was similar, but we were a completely different team.”
Where does this leave you guys going forward? “We’re only focused on what we can control, and that’s these next three games starting with Illinois. It’s going to be the biggest game of the season so far. We’re looking forward to the game. We still have to watch film tomorrow, get in and improve. We’ll turn the page on the next three.”
Is it different next to Troy Woolfolk vs. Thomas Gordon? “I think Troy did a great job out there, and we did a good job of communicating. Obviously it’s different because it’s been a couple years since he’s been back there, but I think he did a great job today and we did a great job of communicating.”
The Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post will guide you through the harrowing experience of typing something into a box on the internet and not having it show up instantly.
Black Heart Gold Pod. I guest on the BHGP podcast this week. About a half hour, and if you haven't listened to a BHGP podcast yet you have to listen to the theme music at the very least.
Listen to the rest of it to hear me lose my mind when Patrick suggests we should be grateful we missed out on Ferentz three years ago, plus me talking Jacobi down from his 45-14 Michigan prediction. These are some depressed gentlemen.
Die Wayne State. Basketball tips off tonight with their first of two exhibitions. If you're not local you can check out the stream for free with the code BTDN3FR33. (Anyone know if I can get a replay of the game online? I'm headed to hockey.)
Surprisingly, Horford is slated to start over Morgan. Read into that what you will; I think there's something in there. Possibly "if we play both of them neither will foul out in ten minutes." I'm not reading much into Douglass over Burke until the team goes to Maui.
Meanwhile, the McGary afterglow continues at UMHoops with a look at Michigan's top recruits of the last 20 years. Man, are there some conflicted feelings on that list. I didn't remember Horton being that touted. AnnArbor.com surveys big time recruits as freshmen to see what they managed.
SIDE NOTE: People are talking about maybe getting two years out of McGary if he doesn't blow up upon entry. I've seen some hopes that the NBA mandates a second year in college, as has been rumored, but that would actually hurt Michigan's chances of keeping him around. As a kid who prepped he would probably be eligible anyway, and with a huge swath of talent suddenly off limits he'd be a major attraction in a weak draft. In the long term Michigan should hope for a setup closer to baseball's, where a big chunk of Calipari's recruits don't even get their cup of coffee in the NCAA before heading to the league.
The pump up. Jeff Goodman has moved to CBS and uses his new gray platform to pump up one John Beilein:
McGary is heading to a Michigan program that is dangerous this season -- and could be downright scary in the next couple of years with the addition of a monster in the middle.
Even without Morris, Michigan should still be a factor in the Big Ten race this season.
There's Novak -- one of those guys who every coach regrets passing over when he came out of high school -- and fellow senior Stu Douglass.
Much is expected of Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of the former NBA guard with the same name who is coming off a strong freshman season. The same can be said of skilled forward Evan Smotrycz, who has a year under his belt.
Freshman Trey Burke, who was a teammate of Ohio State star Jared Sullinger in high school, will likely share the point guard duties with Douglass.
And while he isn't overly intimidating from a physical standpoint, Burke is a guy who makes quality decisions -- and can really shoot the ball (something Morris was unable to do).
"He can do it all," Sullinger said of Burke. "He's fast and knows how to get his teammates the ball. There's a lot of pressure having to fill the role of Darius Morris, but he'll be able to do it."
What are we thinking here? Six seed? I think maybe a six seed.
Oversigning Bowl gets some attention. Cribbing from Eleven Warrior's previous post, the WSJ points out this weekend's 1-vs-2 matchup is pretty close to a 1-vs-2 matchup in a more dubious department:
Alabama has signed 137 players over the past five years, for an average of 27.4 per year. It signed 32 in 2008—a class that included nine starters on this year's team, plus Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. This total places Alabama among the top five nationally in oversigning.
LSU has signed 126 players over the same period, which works out to 25.2 per year. That number is considerably lower than Alabama's but higher than many other top teams.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, whose football team has signed just 112 players over five years (25 fewer than Alabama) said oversigning is "certainly an advantage."
LSU says that the Tigers have signed "at the NCAA limit of permitteed enrollees or one or two above," which is reassuring since 25 times 4 is probably less than 85. LSU doesn't know. They're not in the business of knowing.
Molk in the NFL. NFP's Wes Bunting on one of Michigan's NFL candidates this year:
A shorter, compact lineman who looks nearly maxed out physically, despite weighing 288-pounds. Looks a little tight hipped trying to sit into his stance, but has a quick first step, and snaps and steps very quickly. Creates leverage for himself consistently, extends his arms and can easily reach and seal on plays off his frame. Displays a compact, sturdy punch and can stun defenders at the point. Looks really natural when asked to quickly reach block on runs to the perimeter, as he's coordinated getting his feet around and can seal the edge routinely. Displays natural range/balance getting into blocks at the second level as well. Breakdowns well showcasing the ability to routinely seal on contact.
The rest of it is about how he lacks the power to win in-line or create push, with some dings on his pass protection. Generally positive about his ability to be an NFL player in a zone (cough cough) system.
The Merrill situation. Mike Spath has an update on what's going on with Jon Merrill:
"The initial suspension was in concrete - it was a dedicated suspension to so many games and so much time - and in further discussions, we changed that to an indefinite suspension, which means it's going to be longer," head coach Red Berenson said.
"There is no game we can point at and say he'll be back. But what we have done is we've put him back on the ice and he's practicing with the team."
It sounds like he's passed his OHL flirtation and will stick at Michigan unless something untoward happens in the near future. Spath also floats the potential return of Merrill for his junior year—if he's only playing half of this year the usually-patient Devils probably won't be pressing him to sign.
Meanwhile, it seems like Phil Di Giuseppe's recent trade to Windsor isn't something to worry about. Windsor just blew up their team by shipping out Jack Campbell and one of their top scorers for a bucket of picks and speculative assets like the rights to PDG; if Di Giuseppe wanted to bolt he'd be walking into a crappy team after he'd already reached a college campus. When defections like that happen they're usually players struggling with the level of play (Jason Bailey: 0-0-0, –11; Robbie Czarnik: 3-3-6) who want to take it down a notch or people who just hate their coach (Duncan Keith). PDG is obviously not in the first boat and it would be a surprise if he was in the second.
Even the scenario in which Di Giuseppe is drafted by the college-phobic Kings and signs doesn't get him to the OHL—he is AHL eligible already because pro teams don't prohibit college kids from playing in the A before 20. (Why don't they, by the way? Shouldn't College Hockey Inc be all over the NHL about this double standard? Sure could have used Max Pacioretty a second year, no?)
Etc.: The Willis Ward documentary is live and in the wild. Jacob Trouba in a skirt. Meet all the people who won't be filling wherever the Hurricanes are playing in 30 years. Hockey preview from MLive. We are less of a fraud than PSU. A Nebraska zone read wrinkle that gets the QB outside. Would love to see this—have been wanting this for three years, actually.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Iowa|
|WHERE||Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 5th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan -4|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
|WEATHER||mid-40s at kickoff rising to almost 60; sunny, windy|
Run Offense vs. Iowa
this team averaged 4.8 YPC.
Now that this site has a post dedicated to opponent scouting that I don't write it's always interesting to see whether my impressions from the opponent's game are the same as Ace's. This week they were in one critical respect: wow, Iowa has problems at DT.
Minnesota's late surge was a bunch of downhill runs from the pistol aimed at one Steve Bigach, who is a walk-on, national merit scholar, and Academic All Big Ten. He played like it. He's actually the second-string walk-on; Thomas "Not That Nard Dog" Nardo is the preferred starter but he was out with injury. He's touch and go this week in the same way Kovacs is. This is the difference between Michigan starting Heininger (not ideal but you can get away with it) and Brink (time to be nervous).
The rest of the Iowa front seven has not been great. Iowa is languishing at 69th in rush defense. Results against teams other than Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe:
That's remarkably consistent. Any opponent other than Iowa State averages just under five yards a carry despite not being that good at running the ball. The last couple weeks mobile quarterbacks Tre Roberson and MarQueis Gray have combined for 156 yards at 5.9 a pop. Mac Morehouse just describe the Hawkeyes as "awful" against mobile QBs.
no reason. via Midnight Maize
Michigan is good at running the ball when they bother to do it. After Finding Themselves against Purdue Michigan moved from a horrible 12th to a fantastic 8th nationally. They're actually beating last year's 5.5 YPC at about 5.8, albeit with most of the toughest defenses on the schedule yet to come.
Last week it was finally the Fitzgerald Toussaint show. Toussaint was the first Michigan tailback to get 20 carries in a game since Eastern Michigan in 2009; he turned those into 170 yards and won the starting job in the process. Denard Robinson enjoyed a relatively light workload thanks to that, and everyone hopes that will continue.
As to what Michigan does… at this point your guess is as good as Norm Parker's. Michigan bludgeoned the outside of the Purdue defense, brought out a power-based variant of the inverted veer (or "dash"), and is liable to do something completely different next week. Hell, if Iowa's interior line is as iffy as it looks they could line up in the I and run power. They might even succeed at it.
The only sure thing is that Michigan will do a bunch of different stuff and it will average around 5 yards a carry, if not more.
Key Matchup: Iowa LBs versus Toussaint/Robinson. The Iowa guys don't find the ball that well and could be optioned off to spectacular effect—or just run by. A big play or two could be in the offing.
Pass Offense vs. Iowa
If the run defense is a problem this is a… very large problem. That's the ticket. You have seen the Steele Jantz comparison from Fire Jerry Kill, but here is the Steele Jantz comparison:
The issues in Iowa's pass defense are not limited to funny but trigger-happy Gopher fans, either. Local beatwriter Mark Morehouse picked up on the same post I did before last week's Hawkeye Armageddon event:
FireJerry, who put some work into the post, computed that Iowa’s opposing FBS quarterbacks have pass-efficiency ratings that are 27 points higher against the Hawkeyes than against the rest of their competition.
But the site draws the same conclusion you (at least you should) and I do about the Gophers’ chances of springing an upset at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday:
If only Iowa’s offense was as bad as their defense then we might be on to something.
It’s still the Minnesota defense that allows 308.7 rushing yards per game in Big Ten play.
Herf nerf hurf hurf.
So. The Iowa secondary is atrocious, 91st(!) in pass efficiency defense despite having maybe one decent QB on the schedule I mean, seriously people:
- Steele Jantz
- Tino Sunseri
- Matt McGloin (wsg Rob Bolden)
- Dan Persa
- Tre Roberson
- MarQuies Gray
I've spent the year fretting about the level of competition facing Michigan's defense; Iowa has faced worse (No ND, no MSU even in a trash tornado) and is in the same ballpark as the GERGfence's pass efficiency D.
This is inexplicable.If you were asking people to name the best starting cornerback combo in the Big Ten before the season started, I'm guessing most people would have gone right to Iowa's Prater/Hyde combo. I would have, certainly. Even if Prater has been a disappointment that's probably not it.
Candidate reasons include a complete lack of corner depth (MGoFootball's interview with Planned Sick Days hopefully mentions the return of a nickel corner that might foretell a nickel package), a complete lack of pass rush (83rd wsg 99th in TFL implying a further lack of penetration), and walk-on safeties of the not-Sash variety (
For Iowa's defense to be so bad against such a motely collection of opponents the answer has to be "all of the above." Nothing is working.
The good news for Iowa is that Michigan's performance here has an opponent-invariant quality. You might shoot a guy wide open but if he's not the one farthest downfield you just might get away with it, because both of Michigan's quarterbacks have Rex Grossman disease*. Robinson has been incredibly frustrating this year and Gardner's best pass was a beautiful touchdown that was just a bit over the line.
That fretted about, against defenses of Iowa's caliber Denard has been acceptable. He was 9 of 14 against Purdue with a YPA well over 12 (26th in pass efficiency D), put up 337 yard on Northwestern, and bombed Minnesota as everyone except Iowa does. Struggles against iffy teams stopped when the nonconference schedule did.
Terrible interceptions did not. You might as well rack one or two up right now. This will slow Michigan's offense down; it doesn't seem like Iowa is going to.
*[The secret weapon in Michigan's turnover margin is that half of Michigan's function as punts.]
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.
This section is unchanged from the last two weeks. Until this part.
Run Defense vs. Iowa
"I call them Lithuania and Estonia. Latvia? That's for a special someone."
After weeks and weeks wherein opponents went after Michigan's flimsy edges, this will be a stiff test for the interior of the defense. Marcus Coker is a tank with legs, if you can call the meaty appendages below his torso "legs" instead of "Baltic states." Think Beanie Wells with less breakaway speed and even more cinderblock to his fists. I be like dang about one of his long runs against Minnesota:
There is a 75% chance Hoke kidnaps him after the game and puts him out in Cavanaugh's number at the Tuesday practice availability. I fully support this course of action.
Iowa does the fullbacks and TE and MANBALL thing except their main play is zone—they haven't pulled linemen much since Ferentz arrived and they're not going to start now. The Iowa line is veteran and quality; there's some dodginess in the pass protection but that's another section.
So what's the deal with the rankings? Iowa is square in the middle in rushing yardage, 60th at just under 160 a game. That's after running through the tissue-soft Northwestern-Indiana-Minnesota anti-gauntlet. The numbers:
I'm not sure what to make of that Penn State number since it includes 49 yards from Vandenberg—surely scrambles—and hacks out 39 sack yards. Coker managed 74 yards on 18 carries, 4.1 per. Make of that what you will.
I make this of it: punt. I don't think you can tell much from the last three games. The Penn State number looks a little daunting, Pitt not so much. It's clear from the numbers that the issue with the Iowa run game is not quality so much as quantity. As BHGP put it earlier in the week, Coker's backup has been Marcus Coker. In games that are serious they can't put it all on the run game because the run game will break and then they'll be screwed.
Michigan's run defense is also sort of an enigma. They're obviously a lot better than last year. They also got gashed for big yards by the two teams with serious rushing attacks they played (Notre Dame and MSU), and neither of those teams actually has a serious rushing attack. They just have quality backs. If that's the secret to beating the Michigan defense—outrun and out-thump Michigan's young, iffy linebackers—er… the above run is not so much with the confidence building.
Is Mike Martin the guy who almost singlehandedly crushed the Purdue ground game or the one who got blown out of the middle by MSU's rickety offensive line? Well, it's kind of both:
"Purdue decided to block him one-on-one and zone me? Good luck to the guard that’s gotta block him," Van Bergen said this week. "I’m confident there’s not one guy in the Big Ten who can block Mike Martin one-on-one, run-blocking or pass-blocking. He’s too strong, too quick, got too many tools."
That was odd. If Iowa does the same thing they will be dumb, so they probably won't.
Meanwhile, will Jordan Kovacs be around to provide the security blanket that made Michigan one of the last teams in the country to give up a play longer than 40 yards? Let's find out.
Key Matchup: Heininger and Martin—mostly Martin—against the interior Iowa OL. The best way to stop Coker is to slow him in the backfield and tackle him before he can get up a head of steam. Martin's variable performance and the lingering possibility that Heininger just gets blown up are this matchup's largest X-factors.
Pass Defense vs. Iowa
Problems also loom here. Michigan's list of quarterbacks conquered isn't much more imposing than Iowa's. Purdue and Minnesota are bad (and Gray didn't even play); Cousins is iffy and was playing in the trash tornado; Ryan Lindley is currently 75th in passer efficiency. Tommy Rees went for 315 yards, Dan Persa 331. Michigan's main asset has been that lack of big plays conceded: Rees needed 39 attempts for his yards, Persa 44. That keeps Michigan's YPA in a reasonable range. It does make you wonder what happens if someone like Tommy Rees minus the three mindblowing turnovers comes along.
|13||Jarrett Lee, LSU||63.2||1250||8.1||13||1||157.4|
|14||E.J. Manuel, Florida St.||66.0||1776||9.0||13||8||155.4|
|15||James Vandenberg, Iowa||62.2||1918||8.5||17||4||155.2|
|16||Tajh Boyd, Clemson||61.3||2674||8.4||25||5||154.8|
|17||Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St.||71.3||2710||7.9||22||7||154.3|
|18||Matt Barkley, Southern California||67.3||2290||7.6||22||5||151.5|
[Ed: thanks for nothing, official NCAA stats site and your decision to freak me out by spelling it "Vanderberg."]
Looks like it's time to find out. Vandenberg's performance does come with some schedule strength caveats similar to those you can apply to Coker. The secondaries of Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota are liable to make even Ohio State's quarterback situation look good. Vandenberg struggled against Penn State (50% completions, YPA under 5, two INT) and hasn't really played anyone else with a good pass D. Iowa St and Pitt are decent, I guess. The three already-mentioned dwarves are tire fires. Saturday's game looks like a proving ground for both units.
Iowa has a couple weapons before a steep dropoff. Marvin McNutt is a notch below Michael Floyd but only a notch; Keenan Davis is a quality second banana. Things do get a little thin after the top two: freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley* is the third most prominent target. While he's looking like a keeper he remains a dread freshman. Coker gets his share of dumpoffs and then it's bupkis. They'll hit some tight ends for short gains from time to time, but there's no Clark/Moeaki this year.
The offensive line could be an issue. Watching first-round-hype-recipient Reilly Reiff get blasted back into Vandenberg so badly that a Minnesota DE sacked him with his but is an eye-opening experience. Iowa's below average in sacks allowed (73rd) and the Iowa internets believe Vandenberg freaks out at blitzes. This could be a game in which the Mattison blitz packages play a major factor.
Michigan's pass defense is the most wonderfully mediocre thing that's ever existed. Never in the realm of simulated conflict have so many been so happy for something so middling. Michigan's 41st in pass efficiency D. This statement has sent a half-dozen readers into rapturous seizures. Their man strength is not being completely awful. They get behind opponents but rake the ball out. They usually tackle on the catch. Every once in a while a ball will get batted to them. The safeties haven't let anything behind them all year. This is a tiny unicorn being shepherded into adulthood by an entire community.
The main issue will be the health of Jordan Kovacs. Kovacs missed last week's game against Purdue with some sort of knee injury; he has reportedly been practicing and Brady Hoke says he will go. These things will be believed when seen.
Extra bonus weird factor: there's going to be some wind. Not MSU-level wind, but potentially meaningful.
Key Matchup: Floyd and Countess vs their counterparts. I'm expecting the first deep balls since MSU (sort of), these run by quality receivers in an environment more conducive to completions. Each ball that Vandenberg hangs up there will be a huge swing opportunity for Iowa. May the corners get in chests all game long.
*[Iowa has replaced their Inexplicably Great White Wide Receiver with the Elaborately Named Great Wide Receiver of late. Call it a push.]
Iowa's kicker was amongst the most reliable in the league before he missed a chip-shot and a 30-some yarder in the Minnesota loss. He's still 12 of 16 on the year and was 14 of 17 last year. The misses against Minnesota are a fluke.
Brendan Gibbons added 22 and 37 yard field goals to his collection of uninspiring makes that we'll take all day after last year. He's now 6 of 8 on the year. None of those are from outside 40 and two are glorified extra points. This is still massive improvement.
Iowa has a huge advantage in punting (Michigan is 111th, Iowa 12th net) but Michigan's is based on an extremely small sample size dominated by pooch punts from Michigan State's half of the field. Nobody's returning anything much, though Iowa has a slight advantage on kickoffs.
Key Matchup: Gibbons you put it through the uprights?
- Martin is getting blown up like he was at MSU.
- Denard and Devin do not make the Iowa secondary pay for its inexplicable badness.
- Michigan's road issues rear their heads again with more snap count goofs.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Iowa fans' predictions that mobile quarterbacks will tear them to ribbons bears out.
- Bigach is playing and Michigan can manball him and the rest of that DL.
- Mattison blitz packages send Vandenberg into UPDATE: the fetal position.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 (Baseline 5; +1 for Road Disaster Reprise?, +1 for Coker Plus Freshman Linebackers Equals Like Dang, +1 for Where Is The Kovacs Binky?, –1 for GERG-Level Pass D Against Basically A Season-Long McGloin, –1 for Minnesota Comparative Scores For Real, +1 for Vandenberg Is Not TerBush, –1 for Roberson/Gray == Luck Plus Legs, –1 for They Would Take Heininger In A Hot Second.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is Not The Last Two Years, Please, Part II, +1 for Division Goals: We Has Them, +1 for I Like NINE WINS, –1 for It's Not Like This Would Be Totally Incomprehensible, +1 for Hell Yes It Would After The Minnesota Game.)
Loss will cause me to... collapse to my knees, rend my garments, and prepare for the literally Red Sea that is the rest of the schedule to cave in. Okay, so some of it is orange. But orange is almost red.
Win will cause me to... tattoo B-R-A-D-Y G-E-T-S-IT across my knuckles.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Man, this creeps me out. In the aftermath of the Minnesota game Michigan is a solid road favorite that the public is piling in on and Vegas is like "fine by us." Heebie jeebies right there.
Still, they did lose to Minnesota and when Graham Watson made the Hawkeyes her upset special on Doctor Saturday one of her arguments was "Iowa outgained Minnesota by 75 yards." That is the worst argument in the history of arguments. Total yardage in Minnesota-Michigan: 580-177. I know football is weird but it ain't that weird. It's hard to comprehend but it does look like this Iowa team is the kind of team that can lose to Minnesota if they get a few bad breaks, which basically makes them Purdue.
But it is on the road and Michigan is capable of throwing six interceptions at any moment against any opponent and confidence is not roaringly high over here. Still… man. Losing to ISU, scraping by Pitt, hardly threatening to score against PSU, losing to Minnesota… these are not events that make me think this is a team that should beat Michigan.
Meanwhile, what happens if Iowa gets a fourth and two at the Michigan 38? Do they send Marcus Coker at Will Heininger? No, they punt. What happens if the inverse happens? Adamantium claws burst from Hoke's forehead and he says "go for it." Given the defenses in this matchup, advantage M.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard has a Heisman-ish day, cracking 100 yards on the ground and completing 65% of his passes. Yes, terrible INT.
- Coker grinds out 120 yards at around 4 per, and this seems acceptable.
- Power works in this game. For real.
- Michigan, 33-28
What's that? | A starting tailback? | For me? | You guys!
Hey coach, they say it's your birthday. Brady Hoke yesterday turned a chipper 53. Born in 1958 in Dayton, Ohio, to a father who played along side Bo, from an early age Brady reportedly called for his bottle by raising a fist from his crib and crying "hail!" Other than that one running back he's always wanted, Brady gets the undying love and devotion of the Michigan fanbase, until such time as he loses to Ohio State, which cannot happen because Ohio State no longer exists. We'll come back to the board but first, diaries:
The Mathlete's Mid-Week Metrics are all official now but this greatest diarist of all time can still put up a Diary of the Week on the side to weight the chances of various Big Ten Championship hopefuls. Michigan's less than a 10 to 1; we're rooting for MSU to lose out while the Spartans want Michigan to win out. Yeah, that's about as screwed up as dreaming about going to Indianapolis. Remember when you could beat Ohio State, stick a rose in your teeth, and book a flight to Pasadena? That will never happen again. Because Ohio State doesn't exist anymore.
BlueSeoul had another great Game Wrap, though I could have done without the characterization of Hoke and co. as a return to Lloydball:
And then I realized, it's not about da shoes. The thing that changed was me. I'm ready to go back to 9-3 season's again. I'm willing to tolerate 8-4 years if they're balanced with 10-2. I might even be able to stomach the very infrequent 7-5 year if it's offset with a couple 11-1's and 12-0's. And I don't need last second comeback drives against Indiana to be entertained. Saturday's stomping of Purdue was boring, and entertaining, and filled with more satisfaction than I've felt in years.
Let's not confuse late Carr and RR-era Grouchy Carr with three decades of Carr the D.C. and Carr the H.C. who put many roses in many Michigan mouths. He didn't break chairs and splatter goats in visitor's locker rooms after losses but this idea that Carr was not intense and hell-bent on winning championships needs to die. Also needs to die: Interceptions:
That's from turnover analysis by Enjoy Life. Michigan has thrown 12 INTs and picked off six. Fortunately the arm punts don't hurt so much EJ explains. When ST3 went inside the box score, he pointed at Avery's pick as the play of the game.
Maize_in_spartyland handed out 3rd quarter grades across the Big Ten. They're starting to sound like Michigan 2009-ish:
Iowa needs one more win to be bowl eligible, and they missed the potential to do that last weekend, with a loss to lowly Minnesota. Iowa finishes up with Michigan and Michigan State visiting Iowa City and visits to Purdue and Nebraska.
Iowa's still technically in the hunt for the Bo Division title, but they're also one bad trip to West Lafayette and three losses to Top 15 opponents away from their season ending in November. The pic above is Blue Indy's 'Marvel'ous wallpaper.
Recruiting is a thing again. Ace provides the weekly class rankings that haven't changed but for two JUCOs to Minnesota and Purdue. A scouting report on 2013 OLB prospect E.J. Levenberry was posted by austinte and bumped. The Virginia linebacker has a 5-star's offer sheet and is probably a WLB to Michigan. There's plenty of room available for this year's guys, finds airvipermb.
Google has to be wondering what's up with stubob and the weekly pony image searches for Ugly Game of the Week. The guy probably can't type 'p' into his search box without "pretty prancing ponies" filling in. MiS's Upset Watch shows Michigan 7-1 against the spread this year but Iowa is 5-0 at home ATS this year and Ferentz is usually a good home dog, dammit. Yesman2221 previews WMU in hockey. Chris of Etc. moved the picture pages. Get your program.
Coming up, you were not imagining the imaginary Woodsons; they are everywhere. Also: Craig Roh dressed as a shepherd and Mike Martin's Smashing Pumpkins.