to play football, not to play trumpet
Late, but I did get this in before deployment. Quickly:
Top eight. Are solid at this point. I'm going to have to start thinking about when to slide OU/UO above Boise, except I won't because those teams will either beat their undefeated conference rivals and obviously slide above or… like… not do so.
Will be interesting to watch the rest of Georgia's season play out. They've picked themselves off the turf after their 0-2 start and now control their own destiny to the conference title game. Win out against Auburn, GT, and UK and all Georgia will have to do to send up a Boise MNC hue and cry is keep it close into the fourth. That would be better than they could manage against Boise in the opener.
Next up. The nine through eleven spots are the land of one-loss teams I have zero faith in. I don't know, man. Penn State keeps winning. Their loss is pretty explicable. Their wins are not. VT and Arkansas are similarly myserious, though Arkansas is
After that. USC leaps up almost by default. They leap MSU, who struggled against Minnesota and saw its Michigan win take a hit, and benefit from an admittedly irrational hatred of this South Carolina team plus a totally rational hatred of Michigan's offense. Oh, and Nebraska found out what it's like to be a Big Ten team located in the midst of a bunch of corn playing Northwestern: not fun.
Michigan. Still with only the two losses and the Notre Dame win, but they're just hanging on at this point.
News bullets and other important items:
- Jake Ryan was MIA for most of first half due to a neck/shoulder injury of some sort. A "burner." He came back though and was fine.
- Hoke has not yet gotten a full explanation for Hemingway call.
- Denard left the game because he hit his elbow on a helmet, which caused his hand to go numb.
- Toussaint had a minor injury but could have re-entered the game. They used Vincent Smith due to the NASCAR passing situations.
- The timeout before Iowa's punt was because Hoke thought there were 12 guys on the field. There weren't.
- Hoke would have liked to have given Thomas Gordon some playing time but didn't get around to it.
Is there any second-guessing of your clock management in the fourth quarter? “No. We talked about that yesterday, and going into the two minutes at the end, knowing where we were timeout wise, I thought Al really managed it well, to be honest with you. We had four shots at the endzone. Two of them we had in our hands. I thought it was okay.”
What went into the decision to take the ball on opening kickoff? Also, are you disappointed you didn’t score on the opening drive? “Well, yeah, you’re always disappointed when you don’t score. It’s funner for you, it’s funner for me and our kids. We made a decision -- because 99.9% of the time we’re going to defer when we win the toss, but we had made a decision on Thursday, when there was going to be a significant wind, and wanting to have the wind in the fourth quarter was something that we really wanted to do. We just got lucky we won the toss, so we wanted to take the ball instead of [deferring], thinking they’re going to want the ball in the second half, then we can dictate us having the wind in the fourth quarter if we needed a field goal. So we thought that thing out pretty hard.”
Why did you use your timeout before the Iowa punt? “I called timeout because I thought we had 12 guys on the field.” Did you? “No, we didn’t. I didn’t count very well. As soon as I called it and counted I said, you know what, I hope we don’t need that one late. I talked about the kids’ effort. I had a pretty good effort, but I didn’t execute on that one very good for them.”
(more after the jump)
As you can see, "Creeper Van Originals" is now "Future Blue Originals," because it turns out high school administrators sometimes read this stuff and may miss the tongue-in-cheek humor of the former title. As I would like to get continued access to high school games, CVO is now FBO. Also, there is no video this week, as the MHSAA won't credential MGoBlog for filming the playoffs because, in their words, we are a "fan site" and therefore are not granted press access. Trust me, this was fantastic news to hear on a Friday—aka the day I planned to film at Pioneer—after attempting to get in contact with them all week. Bitter? Oh, not at all.
ANYWAYS, I was able to make it to two games this weekend, the first to see running back Drake Johnson and my old high school, Ann Arbor Pioneer, take on Temperance Bedford, the second to watch commits Mario Ojemudia and Devin Funchess as well as recruits Jon Reschke and
Drake Johnson Lorenzo Collins as Farmington Hills Harrison took on Brother Rice in a much-hyped district final.
First, I'll cover the big upset—Brother Rice took down defending Division 2 state champ Harrison, 30-7, to hand the top-ranked Hawks their first loss of the season and eliminate them from the playoffs. This was a surprise, as Harrison has been nationally ranked for much of the year while Brother Rice had four losses, but the Hawks were without quarterback/safety Jake Vento due to injury and Ojemudia missed the first-half thanks to a dubiously-timed suspension for wearing pads at a summer camp, a violation of MHSAA rules. Highlights normally go here, but instead here's a photo of Brother Rice junior linebacker Jon Reschke, who had a phenomenal game:
Devin Funchess (Harrison TE #5, 2012 commit): Funchess came out strong early, recording his lone reception in the first half on a 21-yard catch-and-run that showed off his soft hands, good speed for his size, and ability to pick up yards after the catch. He nearly had the most impressive play of the night, skying to high-point a lob at midfield, but he came down hard and had the ball raked out by a BR defender. To add injury to insult, Funchess came up limping after the play, and while he gamely continued to play on both sides of the ball (he had three tackles and a TFL playing LB/DE, by my count)—the injury clearly affected his mobility, though he showed a lot of toughness by playing all-out in a losing effort despite limping off the field in obvious pain after several drives.
Mario Ojemudia (Harrison DE #53, 2012 commit): As stated earlier, Ojemudia had to sit out the first half because of his suspension, and by the time he saw his first snap Harrison was already down 10-0 and had just allowed a 70-yard kickoff return deep into Hawk territory to open the second half. You could tell Ojemudia was trying to shake off the rust after sitting for so long, and while he was able to get some penetration into the Brother Rice backfield, the Warriors spent most of the second half running clock—staying away from Ojemudia in the process. This was not a good game to evaluate Ojemudia for reasons largely outside his control, but his dominance this season speaks for itself.
Lorenzo Collins (Harrison RB #20, 2014 recruit): Collins has been a sophomore sensation for the Hawks, but he was largely held in check this game thanks to a very strong Brother Rice defense and the fact that Harrison had to play catch-up for essentially the whole game. 247Sports lists Collins, who finished with 40 yards on 12 carries, at 6'0", 200 pounds, though he looked a little smaller to me, though keep in mind he's just a sophomore. While he was largely limited, Collins did display the speed and agility that make him a player to watch in the future, including juking Reschke in the hole on one first-half carry and forcing a complete whiff, the only time I saw a Harrison player get past the Warrior linebacker. If Collins adds a little bulk and improves his ball security—Reschke forced him to fumble later in the half, though Harrison recovered—he should be a prospect who gets serious consideration for a four-star rating. He does have a bit of the Michael Shaw bouncebouncebouncebounce tendency, and doesn't display much power just yet (though he usually finds a way to fall forward), but again, we're talking about a high school sophomore.
Jon Reschke (Brother Rice LB #48, 2013 recruit): Reschke was the most impressive player on the field on Saturday, recording what must have been double-digit tackles (I lost count while trying to take some photos) and at least one tackle for loss to go along with the forced fumble. Reschke was always around the ball and had a displayed great instincts in finding the fastest path to the ballcarrier, and when he hit, you could hear it—Brady Hoke would likely be able to distinguish a Reschke tackle from those of his teammates without opening his eyes. Playing outside linebacker and a little bit of defensive end, Reschke chased down plays from sideline to sideline and never appeared out of position. He did get juked the one time by Collins, but otherwise kept plays in front of him, and looked like he's earned every bit of the early hype coming his way.
Apologies for the lack of action shots, but I accidentally had the camera on the wrong setting for much of the second half—when I meandered down to the sideline from the bleachers—and came out with a bunch of blurry photos.
After the jump, get my impressions on Drake Johnson after his statistically-ridiculous effort against Bedford.
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.”
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