Right: on WTKA from 4-6. Which is now. TUNE IN RIGHT NOW FOR LINDA FROM GRAND BLANC YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.
- There were no new injuries coming out of the Michigan State game that will keep guys out of practice this week. In existing injuries, David Molk is out of his walking boot, and started lifting light weights again yesterday. Mike Williams wasn't 100% going into the game, but taking him out for Kovacs was a substitution issue, not an injury issue.
- Donovan Warren is a very intelligent player. Rodriguez said, "Some of our guys need to follow his lead as far as how he prepares for games." A bit of a calling-out, it seems. At the other corner position, JT Floyd and Boubacar Cissoko are still competing.
- The offense struggled in part because they didn't have the ball a whole lot in the first half. 1 mistake here and there was enough to destroy a drive. Missing Molk drops the intensity of the line a little bit. The team wasn't sharp, and they needed to be in order to win. The receivers usually don't drop that many passes, and they need to improve their concentration. The Stonum touchdown helped them get some momentum going for the offense, which sparked the comeback.
- Tate's leadership is improving from week to week. That's the sort of thing that comes in games, and can't be earned as much in practice. He was a little nicked up in the game, but he warmed up as the game went along. When asked if he's more poised than most freshmen, Rodriguez answered "No question." He'll be a little limited in practice today, but should be full-go for the rest of the week.
- The defense has tackled well most of the year, but there have been times that they haven't been able to make the tackles. Rodriguez isn't sure if that's a matter of their conditioning wearing down, or breakdowns in technique. The defensive line is the most consistent unit on the defense from game-to-game. As far as linebackers, Rodriguez said every position is up for grabs, but praised the play of Mouton, Ezeh, and especially Brown. "We can all play better," he said, meaning that it wasn't just the linebackers that are the problem.
- They've been doing the rugby punt for a number of years. Zoltan had the option to run or kick on that play, and for the first time, he made the wrong choice. "We need to make sure our guys understand the parameters."
- Iowa has one of the best front sevens on defense - particularly the front four - that Michigan will see this year. It should be a big challenge for the offensive line. They have to step up their intensity in Molk's absence.
- In the team's workouts this morning, everybody came in motivated. They know they must have great practices this week and keep on improving. The team was hoping for a great season, and the loss hurt because of all the work they put in.
- Mike is friends with David Molk, and he can tell that it's killing Molk to not be able to play. He was finally able to lift today, and was happy.
- It helps Martin to play next to Brandon Graham. He's a great athlete with good experience. He motivates the defense on the field, and keeps them pumped up between plays. He never said anything about it, but he was clearly upset to not have a sack on the year until finally getting one against the Spartans.
- Going against Iowa is tough because the Hawkeyes have a great defense. Since the Michigan offense might struggle, the defense will have to step up. Martin likes night games, because he's not much of a morning person.
- The long touchdown was a big play for the team, and for Stonum personally: "It was a big play for me. I let the team down with two fumbles earlier, so I needed to step up and make a big play for us."
- There hasn't been an adjustment to the way Tate throws the ball this year compared to the guys that they had last year. The only difference is that he keeps his eyes focused downfield to make a play, even when he's scrambling. The receivers have a lot more confidence this year, which has led to big games for JR Hemingway (Western Michigan), Greg Mathews (Notre Dame), and now Stonum.
- Stonum loves night games. That's all you play in Texas high school football.
- The offense can only ask the defense to do so much, because the offense has to capitalize when they have the opportunities. The defense has put them in position to win three times now, and they jut couldn't pull it off against Michigan State for the third win. Offensive rhythm is important for the team, and the run game drives that. Though he watched the film three times yesterday, Mark couldn't tell where the issues came from. State was just firing off the ball better.
- The difference between last year's losses and this year's is confidence. This year's team has it, though it was a little shaken by the first loss of the year.
- Molk is a leader on the line, so losing him is drastic. There are still plenty of capable guys, so losing one player is no excuse for a performance like Saturday's.
- Ortmann has never played at Iowa, nor even been in their stadium. They are a good defense, and it should be a tough challenge. Regardless of how long the trip is, each game should be treated like a business trip by the players. Ortmann doesn't like night games, because it allows tension to build all day, especially from the younger players.
- He's kicked well this year. The weather on Saturday made it tougher, but he was still able to kick pretty well. Too bad he didn't get a chance at a game-winner at the end.
- On game-ending drives, it helps to focus on how many times he's been successful. It's easy to say that you just need to concentrate, but to do it is tougher. The guys on the team really help him deal with that. A lot of guys tapped him on the helmet going into OT, knowing that everyone else is confident in you helps.
Old Mailbag Updates
On old spellin' guy:
Regarding the emailer who asked about Old Michigan Spelling Guy last week, I can confirm that both OMSG and Superfan were in attendance for Homecoming against Indiana. OMSG did the cheers, and Superfan just wielded his cowbell (feel like I should say "of Truth" or something after that).
I didn't know about either of these guys 'til this year; I've normally sat in the southeast corner prior to this year. But I saw Superfan doing these cheers against Western and knew what the emailer was talking about. Where OMSG has been for the other games is beyond me. But since they sat next to each other, Superfan would probably know if asked.
So… he's fine, workin' his magic. On the thing that isn't people shaking keys:
Brian,As a sort of answer to the question about the 3rd down student cheer.I had student tickets from 04-08 and I was at the WMU game also in the student section. I don't really know what to call the cheer, it really just started last year. The band broke out some new (at least I don't remember hearing it before last year) song they play on 3rd downs. As they play it the band director and some of the band sticks their hands out and shakes their hands and fingers, which is why some of the students have picked it up and started doing it along with them. I've noticed that some of the students still pull out the keys and some do the little hand wiggle thing, it's kinda split. I'm not sure what the motivation was for the new song and hand thing, it surprised me a little last year when I saw it the first time. If there was some sort of message to the students last year about doing the new cheer I missed it somehow. As far as I know, the students that started doing it just picked it up from seeing the band do it.Jesse
As I’m assuming you’ve heard by now, that cheer has been used by the Marching Band for decades. I was in the MMB starting in 1993 and we used it back then. And we use it as part of our cadence to and from the stadium. Now, you may be correct about when it was picked up by the football team and then the fans. I remember some of the football players picking up on it late in my tenure (93-97) when we’d do a practice performance for them in the fall. Whether it was specifically 1997 or not I don’t know.
Anyway, thought I’d pass that along. The band usually does the “Great to be….” And “Go Michigan, Beat the XXXX” cheer as part of every game’s cadence.
Adam R. Cole
New Items, But Slightly Old
Brian – I'm sure you are no stranger to this complaint - is it just me, or does Pam Ward's announcing just crawl under your skin and annoy the **** out of you? Her ad hoc commentary is so pointless, is, at best, pawned from the media guide, and sounds no different than what you would imagine to hear if you ever decided to watch a college volleyball game or gymnastics tournament. She can't offer any meaningful insight on football strategy. Her announcing actually made me madder and more hostile while watching the "survivorfest" vs. IU last weekend. She does not belong in a football booth. Is there any way we can get ESPN to permanently put her on Northwestern duty (except, of course when we play them)?
I'm with you. It's not that Pam Ward is a woman, it's that she's terrible. The difference between Ward and McDonough, who was terrific in a game just as crazy, was striking. McDonough injected the game with more drama; his "DROPPED!" on Savoy's drop was outstanding, as was the rest of his call. Ward has this crazy ability to suck energy out of a play. On Indiana's 85-yarder, well…
She doesn't start talking about the play until Willis is ten yards downfield, and when she does it's "Wow, big run out for Darius Willis. Willis down the left sideline. Nobody's going to catch him." She can't sound excited. That's why she's on nooners on ESPN2, I guess. It's Michigan's job to make this irrelevant by getting good enough to get out of that timeslot or hammer their opponents to the point where Ward's lack of excitement mirrors the game.
While I've seen most of the team improve compared to last season, I'm mystified by the punt return. I've got know-it-alls around my section yelling for Mathews head after all his fair catching, but could it be this new fangled punt formation that is affecting the statistics? I know Michigan is using the same type of coverage and while I still think Space Emperor is the reason why our punt coverage is good, could it also be the formation?
I don't care much about Mathews calling a lot of fair catches since he's had little opportunity to actually make any returns. The problem has come when Mathews doesn't field punts. He gave up about 50 yards of field position against Eastern Michigan and failed to field one punt against Indiana that should have been easily acquirable.
Fielding the punt seems about all you can do these days. As you noted, the spread punt formation now sends six players downfield immediately, severely reducing the ability of opponents to get good returns. A brief trip to the spreadsheet to compare 2000's stats with 2008's indicates there's some meat to this theory: In 2000, 46% of punts were returned with team averaging 10.1 yards each. By last year, the spread of the spread punt formation had seen punt return percentage drop to 39% and return average drop a full yard to 9.1. Since there are still a bunch of teams running old-school formations, those numbers underestimate the increased efficiency of the spread punt formation at least somewhat. Anecdotally, I think the difference is considerable.
As returns drop, "catch the damn ball" becomes an increasingly important part of being a good punt returner. Mathews has done that, except when he hasn't, and I'm fine with him back there.
Side note: I'm sick of fair catches. I'd like to see the NCAA institute the NFL rule; in the NFL you can have an illegal man downfield on a punt. I assume that rule is the only thing preventing the widespread adoption of the spread punt in the NFL; the numbers prove its efficacy.
|Last week's ballot|
|1||Alabama||34-24 VT||35-7 Arkansas||38-20 Kentucky||40-14 Florida Int||53-7 N Texas|
|2||Texas||34-24 Texas Tech||59-20 Monroe||41-10 Wyoming||64-7 UTEP|
|3||Florida||23-13 Tennessee||41-7 Kentucky||56-6 Troy||62-3 Charleston|
|4||Virginia Tech||31-7 Miami||16-15 Nebraska||34-26 Duke||52-10 Marshall||24-34 Alabama|
|5||Cincinnati||47-15 Rutgers||28-18 Oregon State||28-20 Fresno State||37-13 Miami OH||70-3 SEMO|
|6||Boise State||19-8 Oregon||51-34 Fresno||49-14 BGSU||48-0 Miami OH||34-16 UC Davis|
|7||LSU||20-13 Georgia||31-23 Washington||30-26 Miss State||23-9 Vandy||31-3 UL Lafayette|
|8||Iowa||21-10 PSU||27-17 Arizona||35-3 Iowa State||24-21 Arkansas St||17-16 N Iowa|
|12||TCU||14-10 Clemson||30-14 UVA||39-14 SMU||56-21 Texas State|
|9||USC||30-3 California||18-15 Ohio State||56-3 SJSU||27-6 Wazzou||13-16 Washington|
|10||Miami (FL)||21-20 Oklahoma||34-17 Ga Tech||38-34 Florida State||7-31 Virginia Tech|
|11||Ohio State||30-0 Illinois||33-14 Indiana||38-0 Toledo||31-27 Navy||15-18 USC|
|13||Penn State||35-17 Illinois||28-7 Syracuse||31-6 Temple||31-7 Akron||10-21 Iowa|
|15||Houston||45-35 Oklahoma St||29-28 Texas Tech||55-7 NW St||41-58 UTEP|
|14||Auburn||41-30 West Virginia||26-22 Tennessee||49-24 Miss State||37-13 La Tech||54-30 Ball State|
|16||Oregon||42-3 Cal||31-24 Utah||52-6 Wash St||38-36 Purdue||8-19 Boise|
|17||Oklahoma State||24-10 Georgia||41-24 Rice||56-6 Grambling||35-45 Houston|
|18||BYU||14-13 Oklahoma||42-23 Colorado St||35-17 Utah State||54-3 Tulane||28-54 Florida St|
|19||Georgia Tech||24-7 No Carolina||42-31 Miss St||30-27 Clemson||37-17 Jax State||17-33 Miami FL|
|20||Missouri||37-9 Illinois||31-21 Nevada||27-20 BGSU||52-12 Furman|
|21||Georgia||41-37 So Carolina||20-17 Ariz State||52-41 Arkansas||10-24 Oklahoma St||13-20 LSU|
|22||Notre Dame||35-0 Nevada||37-30 Washington||33-30 Michigan St||24-21 Purdue||34-38 Michigan|
|23||South Carolina||16-10 Mississippi||7-3 NC State||38-16 FAU||SC State||37-41 Georgia|
|24||Kansas||35-28 So Miss||44-16 Duke||34-7 UTEP||49-3 Northern Co|
|25||Wisconsin||38-30 Mich State||31-28 Minnesota||34-31 OT Fresno||28-20 NIU||44-14 Wofford|
|Oklahoma||45-0 Tulsa||64-0 Idaho State||13-14 BYU||20-21 Miami (FL)|
|Cal||35-21 Minnesota||52-13 Maryland||59-7 E Washington||3-42 Oregon||3-30 USC|
|Michigan||38-34 Notre Dame||31-7 W Michigan||36-33 Indiana||45-17 E Michigan||20-26 Michigan St|
|UCLA||19-15 Tennessee||23-9 Kansas State||33-14 San Diego St||16-24 Stanford|
|Ole Miss||23-7 Vanderbilt||45-14 Memphis||52-6 SE Louisiana||10-16 So Carolina|
|Nebraska||55-0 UL Lafayette||49-3 Florida Atl||38-9 Ark St||15-16 VT|
|South Florida||17-7 Florida State||34-20 Syracuse||35-13 WKU||40-7 Wofford||59-0 Charleston S|
10/3/2009 – Michigan 20, Michigan State 26 (OT) - 4-1, 1-1 Big Ten
Tate Forcier had gotten away with three or four balls just like the one he chucked in the direction of a very, very covered Martavious Odoms on Michigan's final offensive play. In the first half, Koger bailed him out on a prayer of a deep ball that became Michigan's initial first down and led to a field goal. And Forcier had caused heart attacks twice on Michigan final drive. On the first play he "found" Hemingway conveniently located a foot behind a Spartan safety for a nine yard gain. On the play before the epic coverage bust that got Roy Roundtree open for the tying touchdown, he tossed a flapping duck into a cast of thousands. In retrospect—but only in retrospect—it was obvious that Michigan would die by the sword that brung them.
A third consecutive Forcier miracle would have been too much too compute. And this one would have offended the football gods for more reasons than "third consecutive game-ending drive to win or tie by freshman quarterback." In Michigan's comebacks against Notre Dame and Indiana you could point to factors hidden from the generic yardage statistics most people use to measure a team's worth: special teams and red-zone defense converted Michigan's yardage deficits into wins. This was not so much the case on Saturday.
Looking at the box score reveals an afternoon of vast offensive ineptitude. The only reason Michigan fans faced the prospect of a ninety-one-yard march in a driving rainstorm with three minutes and no timeouts with anything other that resignation is a testament to how quickly Forcier has grabbed hold of hearts and minds in Ann Arbor. I mean, look at this thing (Michigan is the first, ugly column):
TOTAL NET YARDS 251 417 Total Plays 60 78 Average Gain Per Play 4.2 5.3 NET YARDS RUSHING 28 197 Rushes 28 49 Average Per Rush 1.0 4.0 NET YARDS PASSING 223 220 Completions-Attempts 17-32 20-29 Yards Per Pass Play 7.0 7.6 Times Sacked 3 2 Yards Lost to Sacks 33 12 Had Intercepted 1 2
Before Forcier's last-drive wizardry, Michigan had one excellent catch and run from Stonum, the aforementioned prayer to Koger, and 47 other yards total. (Michigan picked up 12 in overtime.) There was no indication anywhere that Michigan should be in the game, and they wouldn't have been but for the brilliant swashbuckling we've come to expect in five short games with Tate Forcier. Michigan's sword is a scimitar held between the teeth as it swings on an unexplained rope into a ballroom. Sometimes they biff the landing and end up with a faceful of scimitar and cheeks in need of serious stitches.
This is the kind of thing that sees the inbox fill up with questions about whether Michigan should have gone for two. More on that later (quick answer: yes but not when you think). The important bit for this section is: that's Boise State thinking, and this was a game in which it was appropriate. Michigan richly deserved a loss to the point where fans were proposing taking a less than 50-50 shot at winning there and then, hoping to get one play right to steal a win and get out of town.
Michigan got outplayed. They showed how far they've got to go before they are back to being block-M Michigan, and yes it sucks that it happened at all and a bit worse that it happened against the yappiest team in No Accomplishments Land. It was going to happen at some point, and will probably happen again. The yardage margins are compelling at this point: Michigan's gotten by on smoke and swashbuckling so far, a team born to play a recurring role in Life on the Margins as long as they continue digging out from the talent and preparation crater that led to 3-9 and have a guy at quarterback that refuses to go down easy.
- Pregame predictions here mostly bore fruit: Michigan State had a surprisingly tough day on the ground and an obviously easy one in the air when Michigan wasn't getting lots amounts of pressure (all three MSU turnovers were a direct result of that). Michigan's passing game was also good when people weren't dropping balls. But there were two huge exceptions: I didn't mention "oh by the way Kirk Cousins will run for 10 YPC"—in fact, I dissed his ability to make thing happen when he moved out of the pocket—and I didn't see State crushing Michigan's ground game for the second straight year. The first one can be explained by flukes and poor linebackers… the second… uh? That's one of the things you just don't know about until you go over the tape in minute detail, but I don't get it.
- One possible explanation: Steve Sharik thinks Dantonio "gets the rivalry" to the point of manic obsession: "After watching MSU's D for their first 4 games and then today, it seems obvious that they spent almost all off-season and much of fall camp working on defending Michigan. I don't know how else to explain how a so-so run defense, horrendous secondary and meh pass rush turned into the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens that suddenly." Michigan might be wise to have a package of stuff designed to combat this in the future; it was equally obvious last year that disproportionate amounts of effort had gone into preparing for Michigan. Congratulations, Spartans: you're 2-3.
- It'll be interesting to see what happens against Iowa. Michigan gashes them, or even gets a decent day, and it's clear that State's mania is at another level and that Michigan's run game is okay for the rest of the year. Michigan gets shut down and it looks like Molk's injury is more devastating than anyone projected, the offensive line was getting by against teams short of talent, and things will rest more heavily on Forcier.
- Defense was very strange. Outside of what might be the longest drive in the history of both programs (in terms of total yardage covered) it held Michigan State to 10 points in regulation and something like 250 yards. But, right: ceded 130 yard touchdown drive on which they had a 2nd and 25 and other instances of huge long yardage situations. That touchdown drive also made for a crazy first half in which Michigan got three drives. Still, the defensive line crushed State's conventional running game. State running backs averaged well under three yards a carry. That seems like progress even against a run game as weak as State's.
- Not progress: linebackers. Jonas Mouton was almost wholly responsible for letting Kirk Cousins (who is KIRK COUSINS) outside of him for a 41(!) yard gain, and Ezeh and Mouton were the guys who let Cousins get from the eight to the one on third and goal, allowing State to punch it in on fourth down. We have to live with this all year.
- Rodriguez said he didn't call for a fake on the ill-fated fake, and I assumed at the time that Zoltan was given the rollout punt/go for it option he picked up a couple first downs with last year. It was really, really not there, though, and he should have immediately punted it.
- I hated the run-up to that. Would rather see Brandon Minor on some sort of power set than Forcier doing that off tackle thing, and it was fourth and an inch, and I would probably go for it there. QB sneak it, man.
- Robinson's madden inability to adjust to the bubble screens was, uh, maddening. I'm at a loss to see how Michigan can't even throw it anymore but Michigan State can just line up in a twins set and have it open time after time. What happened to the defense we saw against Minnesota last year when Morgan Trent actually arrived before the ball on one?
GOING FOR TWO
Special mini-mailbag on this piece of PhD level game theory coaching moves:
Hi Brian,Obviously we shouldn't have dropped back 12 yards to gain six inches or punted it away on successive 4ths and 1s, but the Romer go-for-it on fourth down angle has been pretty well covered. So my game theory comment is this: when you are down 14 and score a TD, you should go for two! 44% of 2pt conversions in last year's Big Ten were successful, so...Possible outcomes:44%: Make 2pt conv (44%), you win25%: Miss 2pt conv (56%), then make 2 pt conv (44%), overtime31%: Miss 2pt conv twice, you loseSo you can see you come out ahead, and you come out ahead with any conversion rate of at least 37%. (Not to mention the intangibles of tiring the defense for another snap or two, plus the fact that going for the throat would have to fire up the team.)Might have made the difference Saturday. Thoughts?Daniel Novinson
This didn't occur to me at the time, but: yes, Michigan should have gone for two after the Stonum touchdown. The scenario laid out above has occurred to a number other folk. They have proceeded to go into unnecessarily vast detail about it in various quasi-academic publications dedicated to the proposition that no decision in football should go unquestioned. Daniel above has it in its simplest form: when you're down two touchdowns late and you get one of them you should go for two and take a shot at winning in regulation early when you have another touchdown to make up for potential failures.
Should Michigan have gone for two on their final drive after having kicked on the Stonum TD? I don't think so. The rain was pounding at that point and Forcier was as gassed as I've ever seen a Michigan quarterback. The chances of success there are poorer than usual, I think. I mean, this happened two plays before: