"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
[Update: I didn't realize commenting was off. Sorry for those who wanted to reply. You can now.]
Every man has his breaking point, when desperation overrides rationality and he's ready to start flinging excrement at the wall in the hope that it magically becomes a castle.
Mine came at 10:23 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010.
Michigan at this point is down 31-17, Penn State is driving, and Renaldo Sagesse just picked up a ludicrous (re-watched it 5 times on slow-mo) defensive holding for being double-teamed on the backside of a running play that went to the opposite sideline. Nothing Sagesse did helps the result of the play, which sees Black slant into the backfield and get pushed passed the running back, Kovacs, the deep (!) safety because true freshman Kovacsgrit clone Ray Vinopal didn't stick to the wall, getting blasted by a lineman twice his size, and a bevy of other would-be tacklers overrunning the play or sealed.
Rich Rodriguez at this point is on a sideline in Beaver Stadium, nestled between State College, Pa., and University Park, Pa. in a middle-of-nowhere geographical formation named, presumably without foreknowledge of its tremendous future irony, "Happy" Valley. He is dressed like a Michigan football coach, with parka, M hat, and headset, and is screaming at whichever referee could let such a travesty stand. Starting defensive tackles Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen are standing beside him, the former trying to bounce up and down because he has two ankles that can't take lateral movement, the latter just sucking air from being the fulcrum point of PSU's slow onslaught for three periods.
I'm standing on a couch at a mostly evacuated Halloween party in Commerce, Mich., dressed in a t-shirt with a nametag that says "PETER" in large letters, and orange makeup and silly string bits smeared around my mouth, coller, and chest. Unlike my school's head coach, I still have two entire lung-fulls of air, but that air is building, compressing, to the point that its release could have dire repurcussions.
Misopogal, dressed as a pumpkin, has stayed by my side, and is watching me warily, at once ready to disapprove of whatever comes out on all of that air, and privately scared to death of it. I look at her, and the release comes:
I'm ready to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks, and apparently Rodriguez is right there with me. On the ensuing play, Michigan lines up with true freshman Cullen Christian (!) at deep safety, true freshman Terrence Talbott as the wide corner, and redshirt freshman and erstwhile receiver Cam Gordon as Bandit/nickelback. Fuck it. PSU's mite receiver immediately gets three steps on Gordon, and the mite's walk-on quarterback lays a nice one on the numbers during the enternity it takes for Christian to arrive. Fuck it. Penn State first down at the 10. Fuck it Fuck it Fuck it.
Tim grabbed the following nugget from RR's press conference after the game:
Terrence Talbott got some play at corner because the coaches were trying to see if they could find something to work.
It took three years, but we are there.
Where's the 'Paint'?
You were so loved, Don Schembechler. Why were you so loved, and I so feared?
At the beginning of this season I revisited the Decimated Defense thing again in hopes of finding hope. At the time I found small hope for the future, but not at all for this year. It included some breakdowns of our roster by position, recruiting profile, and time in the system, like so:
I was thinking about these charts last night when J.T. Floyd was on the ground, and I caught myself trying to explain to Misopogal that (after a night so terrible even she noticed) losing him would mean a huge dropoff to the next guy. The series discussed the attrition from transfers and graduation, but not injuries and busts, i.e. guys who just don't have what it takes to play Big Ten football. So I reworked them a bit, including positional transfers from Watson and Rogers, but then taking out the guys who either left the program, got injured, or were revealed to be upperclassmen for whom playing time would be a major liability.
Things that matter:
- Guys counted in charts above (c. 5/10/2010) no longer on roster: Justin Turner, Anthony LaLota, Vladimir Emilien, Demar Dorsey, Davion Rogers, Antonio Kinard
- Injuries: Mike Martin, Troy Woolfolk, Brandon Herron, Mike Williams (would probably have been a liability though)
- Upperclassman Liabilities: James Rogers, Adam Patterson, Renaldo Sagesse, Greg Banks, Steve Watson, Obi Ezeh, J.B. Fitzgerald?
Things that don't matter so much:
- Moved to Offense: William Campbell, Teric Jones
- Moved in from Offense: Quinton Washington (except remember this was like three days ago)
- Other moves since May: Carvin Johnson and Thomas Gordon to LB (Spur). Craig Roh to LB (SAM). Jake Ryan to DL (DE).
Click to enlarge.
As you can see, the troupe available for Penn State was ridiculously young.
This is a bit unfair to the senior D-Linemen, who on a better team probably wouldn't look as bad (I'm not at all sold on Greg Banks = Rondell Biggs). Rich Rod did what he could to limit the time of the senior defensive linemen, giving Black a lot of snaps at DE in place of Banks and platooning Patterson and Sagesse. But I saw these guys getting run over enough to start wondering if burning a redshirt for Talbott or Ash is a good idea; considering they're both project recruits, it's probably not.
Defensive back Sagesse/Banks/Patterson is James Rogers and...uh...yeah. Playing Cullen Christian at deep safety on a critical 1st and 10 is throwing crap against the wall, but look at the barrel: it's not like there's a lot else to throw out there:
When a true freshman whiffed on a PBU/possible pick-six on 3rd and 14, and the drive continued another 10 plays so that half the starters must rotate out, well, we're dipping into a lot of blue.
This is a really really bad defense that relies on a lot of 3-star freshmen and probably some guys who should have been 2-stars. UMass could tear us apart; why not Penn State with a walk-on quarterback?
The point is this: we already thought the defense would be bad in May. Since then, almost half of the possible defensive contributors either transferred, got injured, or proved themselves mostly useless. We aren't just the bottom of the Big Ten; without Martin, we're probably in the middle of the MAC.
How did this defense get so bad? Brian took a look at the upperclassmen this week, noting blame based off of who recruited whom. Next week, I'll try to do something similar, but more like a shoulda-woulda-coulda depth chart that puts a bit more on RR for some of the fellas who left and didn't pan out. At the moment, I'm inclined to say he shoulders a lot of the blame, but not all.
Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork
What's wrong, guy?
This morning I woke up to a bevy of new diaries, most of which were basically two paragraphs of telling everyone how done the diarists were with our current coaching staff. One guy wrote "Fire Richard Rodriguez" and then seemingly slammed his head against his keyboard for several minutes. This, I guess, could be construed as high art. If so, it's now high art on the board, along with some other emo pieces that didn't really say much more than "Hi, I'm a Michigan fan, last night sucked, when can we fire this guy?"
Unfortunately, nobody thought to write an actually useful case for firing our head coach. However, if you're way off the bandwagon, either recently or from long before, you can take solace from a number of Rich Rod supporters who now admit they (we) got little argument left. For example, in his diary I've got nothing left," fredsaysbtdabks admits that he's got nothing left to say to irksome bandwagonners; he's just hoping we see a postseason. Meanwhile, in his diary Searching for something to hold onto, Drakeep is searching for something to hold onto:
I've always been in the "youthy defense" and not the "coaches blow" camp. But after last night I finally had a few moments where I just went, "well maybe coaching..."
A Plea for Patience from cbuswolverine compares the experience of starting secondaries among the best and worst defenses and -- surprise! -- finds that having mostly freshmen is not a good thing. We also got some Rational Venting from jsquigg, who awoke the spirit of the Great Otter of Soul-Crushing Ennui:
As the game ended against Penn State and I drov e home from BW3 where I was watching the game, I felt surprisingly unemotional. Usually I feel strongly one way or the other, but tonight it was like I knew what was going to happen even though it seems like Michigan should have an advantage on the field given the circumstances going into the game (Penn State injuries, walk on QB, etc.). I feel like I've seen this movie played out for the last 2.5 years.
If you're waiting for the standard Henri pic, dollars to donuts he'll be there for you tomorrow. As for an official MGoTake on Michigan's coaching staff, you'll have to wait for Brian; my advice is to think long and hard about what would make us the best possible team in 2012-2022. Nobody's getting fired this week.
Can We Talk About Something Else?
Okay. Here's a quandary. Say you are tasked with shipping a football to the opposite endzone across 100 yards of dangerous late-'90s Big Ten defense. You have a bunch of big uglies up front who can get your vehicle to the 2nd level, but from there, your choice of transportation is going to have to do the rest of the carrying on his own. Do you want:
a.) a Train, or b.) a Truck?
That's the question posed by Maceo24 in his epic Who Ya Got? diary. I went with A-Train, since for three of my university year falls he was my favorite player. I don't remember Ron Dayne being all that great, but I guess that's cause I only saw him play against Michigan in 1998:
Michigan had two tailbacks, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Thomas, each rush for more than 100 yards against the nation's top-ranked rushing defense. Playing its first game against a ranked opponent, UW couldn't clinch a Rose Bowl trip as its offense featured season lows in points, first downs, rushing yards, third-down conversions and time of possession. Dayne went the wrong way on three audible calls, saying he was bothered by an ear infection and crowd noise, and was held to a season-low average of 3.3 yards a carry.
After scoring on a 34-yard touchdown run, Dayne finished the first half with 88 yards on 14 carries. But eight more carries in the second half produced no net yards as Michigan's defense swarmed against the run and quarterback Scott Kavanagh was unable to make enough plays in the passing game.
The '99 recap also mentions Brooks Bollinger. Seriously, that guy was already around back then. Also: it's funny because Ron Dayne never beat Michigan.
This week witnessed the birth of a new MGoFeature, a video-ized version of Brian's picture pages, and the best thing in moving pictures since they told the drunk with the piano to take it to the parlor. Chris of Danger simply put the moment-by-moment analysis of these two plays right into the video. So far he's done Losing Contain, Again Again (above) and (More) Freshman DB Doom.
For facing down the horrors of videography and Youtube, and because we should all encourage him to keep it up, Chris (of Danger) is your Diarist of the Week.
We also had a great diary from Enjoy Life which took another look at The Mathlete's Master's Thesis on going for it on 4th down, but tried to apply a more practical cut-off for when to go:
This is probably better taken as "a conservative coach who doesn't want to lose his job should be calling it like this." I took his data, punched in some of my own numbers, and came up with a more specific chart, using Michigan's offensive and defensive statistics from Penn State, that we should use for the rest of the 2010 season:
Grid of Expectation
We had the usual bout of prognosticators again this week, although I fear this is the last we will see this season of one of them:
|Our Defense, Their Offense - Judgment Call||mistersuits||Normalized PPG and YPG||M, 28-24|
|Penn St Preview||The Mathlete||PAN||M, 35-24|
|A Halloween Statistical Look at Saturday's Game||Mr. McBlue and RR Too||RR's history on Halloween||M, 31-26|
|Post Week 8: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor||tpilews||Yardage-Score||M, 35-24|
|Things to think about this week+small PSU preview||tasnyder01||Bored||PSU < 350yds|
|Gray's Sports Almanac Volume II (2001-2050)||Metro Publishing||Dust-repellant paper||Cubs win 2015 World Series|
|Farewell to the season||THE_KNOWLEDGE||Is from Future||Went Back to the Future|
* Would the plural of "JoePa" be "JoePae" under the original Latin declension?
Fantasy football fan myrtlebeachmaizenblue put together an All-Michigan fantasy football team, and a bunch of responders came back with fantasy teams from other schools. The NFL Wolverines have a vicious passing offense behind Tom Brady behind Jake Long, David Baas, and the 2000 boys, and passing to Navarre's receiver trio (plus Super Mario). We have like no safeties unless you want to count Marlin (but you knew that). RB is Hart.
The Ugly Game of the Week by stubob went with mascots this time. Lesson: don't be a rebel.
On MSU, I figured I'd put this here, though it aint a diary: if you're wondering why Rucker's suspension is not like other 2nd time offenders' DUIs, here's a nifty chart of recent DUIs and the punishments faced. Findings: don't drink and drive, but if you're going to, it's best you have a scholarship to Ohio State.
Yooper tracked Big Ten blogs, a chance for MGoBlog, captain of M-Lore, to show its quality (the very highest). The Quantcast stats are a bit wacky, else RCMB would beat us, but they're not really a blog, so I'm cueing the Yay! girl and calling it a night.
In an effort to keep the moderators from pulling their hair out we've gone back to semi-lockdown, where you need 500 points to start a thread and 100 points to leave a comment. Things will return to normal Monday whenever I remember to change the settings back.
Yes, this is the same thing that happened after last year's incredibly depressing loss to a weak opponent on Halloween weekend. Here is a kitten:
[Ed-M: Big kudos to Tim, who got this up at 5 in the morning. Note: images are not from last night. Also note: the last interview was mine].
On that thing that was on the field when the offense or special teams wasn't:
Can't say too much about what the breakdowns were until after seeing the film. It didn't seem like the team did a good job getting off blocks and making tackles. Some cutback lanes were open for Penn State. "I'll have to check our backside pursuit."
"We didn't execute well offensively either, in the first half. I thought there were enough plays out there offensively, if we could have got a few stops here and there, got a little momentum, that's what you've gotta do when you play in this kind of environment."
Rodriguez was disappointed with the team's trouble executing the no-huddle. "Our guys know that, and they'll try to be a fix for this week."
"The frustrating part is it's not just one person, it's usually a different thing. The inconsistency I think is a little bit frustrating for everybody, including our guys on defense." The guys didn't quit in the second half, but you have to make the plays when they're available.
"We've gotta put them in a position to make the plays. Gosh it seems like forever since we've gotten a turnover." The defense or special teams just needs one or two of those to spark them.
It's most frustrating to get the opponent in 3rd-and-long, and then still allow the conversion. "We've gotta play better, certainly. I didn't think we were real good on third down on offense today either."
On Mike Martin: "It was a different ankle. That's a blow, because there's no question that Mike makes a difference when he's in there."
Perry Dorrestein didn't play because of a knee sprain. "Denard got banged up but he felt good after." Jibreel Black and JT Floyd both went back into the game after minor injuries, and should be fine.
Denard had an OK game, but he'd definitely like to have a few of his throws back. His shoulder isn't quite 100%. "He's a great competitor, and I thought he competed all the way to the last snap." He landed on his hip funny when he briefly had to come out of the game.
Hagerup practiced kickoffs this week, because Seth had been struggling with them. He did a pretty good job.
Should he have used the onside kick earlier? "No, because there's plenty of time, we had a couple timeouts left. Again, you let them start about midfield..."
"Gallon did a good job returning kickoffs, except the one mistake when he was losing his balance. The blocking wasn't great.
It's Not an Excuse, but, uh, Freshmen:
"We've got a few upperclassmen that are really trying as hard as they can defensively. Sometimes our youth gets picked on somewhat." They're trying to help the young guys grow up, but there's only so much they can do.
Rodriguez doesn't want it to sound like an excuse when he refers to the youth on defense, but the facts are what they are. "You look out there and there's a true freshman, and another true freshman, and a redshirt freshman... Ray Vinopal got his first start as a true freshman, I thought he did OK, but there's probably some mistakes made too."
"We know where we're at right now, and we've gotta do what we can defensively so we can play at a higher level."
Terrence Talbott got some play at corner because the coaches were trying to see if they could find something to work.
"All throughout the game I think Denard played well."
The defense was blitzing a lot to force Michigan's offense into doing some things they didn't want to.
"We've got a couple of big-time losses and sometimes people start to think it looks kinda glum, kinda gloomy. We've just gotta persevere through it, win some football games, get bowl-eligible."
"We had some good protections. There's just a couple instances where a guy let in some penetration. It was really loud out there, so some of the snap miscues, but I think all-in-all we had a pretty solid day."
Injury? "Just a little swollen, couldn't play to 100%." Will you be back next week? Yes, yes."
The offense had a couple good plays, but they just stalled in execution a few times.
"We'll just get back to Ann Arbor, watch the film, correct our mistakes, and go from there."
Ed-M: Bumped due to info/graphic awesome.
Diarist Note: The Pick-4 contest is up and running at the JCB. We have an assortment of good football and soccer coverage over there to set you up for the weekend. I’ll have weekend picks up later, so you’ll know exactly which teams to fade while I try to gamble my way out last week’s slump.
In a season of transition for both programs, Penn State and Michigan meet in Happy Valley tomorrow night in what could prove to be a signature game for the winner. Neither club has any Big 10 Title aspirations, but critical bowl positioning and perhaps even the inside track to the Gator Bowl, will be on the line when the ball finally kicks off in anger in primetime.
This week’s Big 10 slate is highlighted by the showdown in Iowa City between the Hawkeyes and Spartans, but this contest has implications that loom as large, just in a different venue. What happens to the loser of this game? For Penn State, it means they probably will do no better than a 6-6 record. Or worse. Will the cries for Joe Pa’s head reach the levels of 2003 and 2004 if the Nits revert to their losing ways from the early portion of that decade?
And speaking of cries for heads, how about Rich Rodriguez. There isn't a coach in the country taking more heat for a 5-2 record than Rodriguez, the remaining residue from his 8-16 mark during his first two seasons. A third loss in a row and November might end up being more kind to turkeys than the Wolverines current head coach.
5-2 by year three is just unacceptable, dear.
Everyone here knows all those storylines, so I wont bloviate on and on there. Tomorrow night’s game should be a blast and it will help define what sort of final month either club will have. Here are some of the keys to the game, as I see it through the MGo Over/Under Board. Place your bets accordingly.
First, however, it should be noted that with the conference breaking into two divisions and Michigan and Penn State being seated on different sides, this will be the last PSU/UM in at least a couple of years. Who knows when the Maize and Blue will be back in Happy Valley, so to honor the moment let’s go back in the Way Back Machine, courtesy of Wolverine Historian, and remember the Wolverines' first-ever visit to Beaver Stadium:
Ah, memories. You shall be missed, oh second-largest.
(The picks, after the jump.)
Macho man. Invaluable video guy Boyz in the Pahokee noticed something that's gone unremarked upon for five years. Note the score, time, and bicep kiss:
WHERE'S YOUR BICEP NOW? And how did the director of the game not cut back to Bicep Guy after Manningham went New Math on people?
via the Shredder
Not sure if serious. So the news that a loose cannon walk-on is going to start tomorrow should be fairly crushing news to Penn State fans, but if I could be excited about Michigan's 2007 recruiting class they can be excited about Matt McGloin:
This might just be the kick in the pants to spark this offense. We will see. Good luck to the young man.
This kid has gigantic balls!
I’m so glad we have a pure passer starting in this game, I think it gives us the best chance to win. Knewsome can’t pass and Bolden would never WIN us this game. Now, granted McFarve might lose the game, but there is a chance he could WIN us the game.
I already used the image macro once today so I'll forgo it, but… seriously?
A later BSD posts breaks down his performance and even includes video. It could be chopped better—I'm spoiled by BitP's Every Snap videos—but the overall effect is to turn not sure if serious into definitely not serious in the comments, and should be reassuring to anyone fretting. Here's a UFR chart for McGloin:
I seem to be missing one of his throws but that won't change the overall picture much. The BSD predictionfest goes 4-2 to Michigan, FWIW.
If you change your colors to orange you can get them on the field faster. I suppose I have to say something about Chris L. Rucker's reinstatement. Anyone who didn't see this coming a mile away hasn't been paying attention. People haven't, though, because Dantonio says things like "I don't believe in superstition, I believe in God" and has a square jaw. But all it took was…
- Dantonio baldly lying about Roderick Jenrette's "family issues" that were in fact robberies,
- 20% of the team descending on a party to ignite a melee,
- Glenn Winston injuring a hockey player in that melee so badly he missed an entire season,
- Winston going to jail for five months,
- Dantonio reinstating him literally as soon as he got out of prison,
- 20% of the team, most prominently Jenrette and Winston, descending on a dorm room to ignite a melee,
- Dantonio reinstating most of the players who attended and promising zero tolerance, and
- Rucker being reinstated two seconds after he got out of jail…
…for the media to notice. But notice they have, with Rittenberg, Wojo, and even Mitch Albom(!) saying "hey, wait a minute." So, fine. As long as the correct win-at-all costs guy is being identified, fine. My whole thing here has not necessarily been to hammer Michigan State but to point out how little sense the media storyline about Rodriguez being some sort of renegade has made given the epic crime spree MSU has been on.
So now we know: Dantonio is just another boys-will-be-boys football coach, albeit one who wears his faith as a shield in a crassly cynical way. We can stop vilifying Rich Rodriguez for taking another job now, right?
Hockey weekend. The athletic department managed to schedule the home half of the Ferris State home and home at the exact same time Michigan plays Penn State, and then didn't move the game to Sunday, so 14 people will enjoy a matchup against the Bulldogs tomorrow. The away half is tonight; Yost Built has ten things about Ferris for you. The Bulldogs are 4-2 so far with a sweep of St. Lawrence, a split against Ohio State, and a split against Alabama-Huntsville. It doesn't seem like this is one of the occasional FSU teams that's a contender for a tourney bid.
More Ufer. Nice hair, everyone!
Also Frank Beckmann fluff.
Etc.: I can see why PSU folk think David Jones is their Drew Sharp. Soony Saad scores from distance… like own-half distance. Kenpom says he has "a special place in [his] heart" for MGoBlog because of its David Berri screed. Swoon! Michigan's apple tradition. A look at the future (and distant future) of the weakside linebacker position.
On Will Campbell and Quinton Washington:
"We made a couple moves with some big guys, some backup linemen. Quinton Washington was a backup lineman; we moved him to nose guard. We kinda traded Will Campbell over to offense, where I think he's going to be a natural offensive guard. After a week and a half I think both of those moves will probably stick for now. I think Will's got a future at guard, I think Quinton Washington's got a future on the D-line."
On the secondary:
"We moved around Cam Gordon. We wanted him to learn—well, he played the deep safety, we wanted him to play the safety up tight. That was a process; he was able to do that. We got Ray Vinopal and Carvin Johnson some more work at the deep safety position to get some flexibility. We have Marvin Robinson, who's been a safety, playing a little bit of linebacker for us. He can help us in nickel packages."
On the D-line:
"We moved the D-line around a little bit as well."
Brandstatter asked "are these kids going to play?" and Rodriguez sayeth:
"Oh, yeah. You'll see Carvin Johnson and Vinopal playing. Ray is at the same position anyway, but it's a new position for Carvin. You'll see Cam Gordon playing more at both safety positions where as before he was just playing one. I don't know if Will is ready yet at offensive line or Quinton at defensive line but we tried to get them as prepared as we could for this ball game. We'll see what happens."
Obviously they saw the issues with Gordon had persisted too long and are trying to get some better play out of the FS position right now. Also, Cam's going to threaten Kovacs's job—could be a run/pass split there—and Robinson will probably displace Demens in nickel and dime packages.
Campbell's not going to play unless a bunch of people go down on the interior line, but Washington might. This would be alarming. It might not be much more alarming than seeing anyone other than Martin at NT.
Grant Wiley, Dee McCann, Quincy Wilson
So MGoUser fab5 found a West Virginia blog called Couch Fire Sports that had an interview with former WVU linebacker Grant Wiley—a totally unvarnished interview. The blog's managed to land almost a dozen of these interviews with former athletes and they're… blunt. A section of cornerback Dee McCann's interview:
CFS: Was WVU your first experiance with mass amounts of “white girls”?
DM: Yes it was, and I had fun.
CFS: Is it true you knocked out a younger star recruit at Hardees and sent him straight to Divison 2 ball over a very cute female athlete?
DM: NO COMMENT, Hahahaha. NO COMMENT !!!
These things have a zero BS rating, and a lot of them talk about Rich Rodriguez. The results follow.
Dee McCann [CB, JUCO, 2004-2005]:
CFS: How were the practices in the NFL compared to thoughs of Rich Fraud? Did he have you practice to many hours also?
DM: The practice hours were about the same but Coach Rods practice was more high tempo but he prepare me for the next level. …
CFS: If you could tell Rich Fraud one thing it would be … Hey Coach …
DM: THANKS FOR EVERYTHING.
Anthony Mims [CB, 2000-2005]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light being shed on WVU by Ex Coach Rich Rodriguez?
AM: I think it’s some BS, but not mainly on Rods part, but the NCAA. Those “violations” can be seen at any other school in the country.
CFS: If you talked to Coach Rod on the phone, you would say … Hey Coach ….
AM: I’d wish him luck on the upcoming season and thank him for everything he’s done for me.
Quincy Wilson [RB, 1999-2004]:
CFS: So is Rich Rod a dick? What are your thoughts?
QW: The whole Coach Rod thing was handled wrong on both ends. I never had a problem with Coach Rod. I think if you want to leave then fine will find a coach that bleeds blue and gold like Coach Stew.
CFS: What are your thoughts on the Super Bowl Shuffle?
QW: one of the classiest songs ever.
Vaughn Rivers [CB, 2003-2007]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light that is shed upon WVU with all the Rich Rodriguez drama?
VR: Alot of propaganda you know alot of behind the scenes issues the public really never knew about. Some things that never get brought to light but the loyalty of the West Virginia faithful is incomparable and I can also understand their feelings of betrayal.
CFS: If you talked to Coach Rod on the phone, what would you have to say to him? Hey Coach …
VR: I would tell him as I always have and always do, thank you for the opportunity you gave me and the work ethic you installed in us.
John Pennington [walk-on WR, 2000-2003]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light Rich Rodriguez has brought upon WVU with the investigations?
JP: I know Bill Stewart will do a great job handling the situation and I hope we can turn it into a positive.
Finally, Grant Wiley [LB, 2000-2003] wrote paragraphs and paragraphs, too many to replicate here. Here's a chunk:
Couch Fire Sports: First impressions of Rich Rod?
Grant Wiley: … Michigan players, fans, and alumni need to stop crying like a bunch of babies and turn on the 2007 Mountaineers so they can see their future.
I remember coming back to school after the Music City Bowl, on crutches, for our first meeting with Rich. I didn’t research him or read any of the papers so I really had no idea what to expect. I wouldn’t have known that I was Big East Rookie of the Year hadn’t it been for the trophy I was presented with. So Rich introduced the staff and very adamantly told us we were going to play like our hair was on fire or not play at all. From the start he was re-instilling the discipline I feel we needed at the time. The meeting ended and typically people were overreacting, trying to find their exit strategy, and a lot of guys were just ready to take that next step to win, coming off of destroying another SEC team.
Rich pulls me into his office and breaks me down like this. “Grant, you had a good year, and I think you are a good player. You didn’t really have to work for your position, it was kind of handed to you.” At the time I wanted to tell him to go fuck himself, but I knew what I went through to start as a freshman and the work I put in to be the best linebacker in the country. So I didn’t over react, I just took it as more motivation to prove this guy I was the best. Maybe that is what his objective was to begin with.
Wiley's "one knock" on RR was his lack of "truly genuine relationships" with the players he didn't recruit. Wiley says he's sure that's changed, but the transition at Michigan suggests it hasn't.
A second question about whether he'd rather play for RR or Bill Stewart has this section:
I loved the fact that Coach Rod’s in your face attitude was being embodied by guys I played with that naturally didn’t have that attitude, so in the end they were better players because of it. I mean the proof is in the pudding. Coach Rod wins games. No matter where he goes, he is going to win games. Coach Stew has been winning games as well. But, I don’t see the same attitude out on the field, offensively, as when Rich was in charge. You can teach technique until your blue in the face but if you don’t have that killer inside come out when you play, you won’t stand a chance.
You should probably read the whole thing; it's more insight into Rich Rodriguez's philosophy and program in a few paragraphs than we've gotten since his hire.
BONUS UNEXPECTED BEILEIN HATE. One basketball player who experienced the John Beilein era was interviewed, Drew Schiflino:
CFS – If you and Coach Beilein had a phone conversation how would it go, Hey Coach ….
DS – Hey coach you’re so fake and the biggest asshole ever, karmas a bitch … CLICK.
That's like… hanging up the phone, right? Not pulling a trigger?
UPDATE: should note that Schiflino was kicked off the team before his senior year. You could probably find some WVU football guys who did not complete their careers with unkind words for RR, too.
|WHAT||Michigan at Penn State|
|WHERE||Beaver Stadium, Happy Valley, PA|
|WHEN||8:00 Eastern, October 30th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan -3|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
Run Offense vs Penn State
This is hard to get a read on due to key injuries on both sides. Michigan expects that David Molk, Denard Robinson, and Michael Shaw will be ready to go after the bye week. Any could still be nursing injuries that make them less effective. Penn State's situation is considerably murkier. We know FS Nick Sukay and DE Eric Latimore are out. The following players are all somewhere between questionable and probable:
- LBs Khairi Fortt (stinger, DNP Minnesota), Gerald Hodges (broken leg; played against Minnesota and got two tackles), Bani Gbadyu (played vs Minnesota), LB Michael Mauti (played vs Minnesota)
- DEs Jack Crawford (DNP Minnesota) and Sean Stanley (situational pass rush, not actually injured but in the JoePa doghouse).
All but Crawford (who is very doubtful) are likely to play. At what level is unknown.
The DE issues have been so severe that 310 pound freshman DT Jordan Hill started outside against Minnesota and played most of the game. He was not good, providing zero pass rush and looking like a train trying to double back when the Gophers ran misdirection against him. If he plays much against Michigan he'll be crazy vulnerable on the read option. Penn State is experimenting with freshman Fortt as a standup DE, but he's 230 pounds and should be crazy vulnerable to getting donkeyed by Lewan or Dorrestein. Absent Crawford, Penn State is picking its poison.
The other DE is usually Pete Massaro, a redshirt sophomore who missed last year with an ACL tear. He's a thousand times better than anyone else PSU played against Minnesota, but he's just a guy at the moment.
The interior line is still very good. Ollie Ogbu, who you may remember stuffing DeBord stretches in the 2007 Penn State game, is now a Brooks Bollinger Memorial Eighth Year Senior; Devon Still was a touted recruit and is now entering his upperclass years. They have consistently penetrated opposing offensive lines and are usually the guys responsible for PSU shutting down a run play—Ogbu has 29 tackles and 5.5 TFLs already; Still has 5.5 TFL, three of those sacks. They're thin past the starters, however. Backup DTs have one solo tackle between them.
The linebackers have not lived up to expectations. Don't take my word for it:
Penn State has decided to rent out the "Linebacker U" moniker this season to just about any other team not named Penn State. The group of linebackers are not playing the way we have come to expect our linebackers to play. I'm not sure if it is just this group of guys, or if we were spoiled by having such amazing linebackers (Dan Connor, Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny) with great instincts that we just have come to expect all of our LBs to read and react to plays as quick as that trio did. …We need this group to play better if there is any chance we are going to upset Michigan.
In the Penn State games I've watched Colasanti and Mauti have eaten a lot of blocks. PSU fans like Mauti better than their other guys, so I may just have caught him on an off day or coming off an injury. Colasanti is slow of foot and if a blocker gets out to him he's done. PSU is rotating heavily so Hodges, Gbadyu (right), Nate Stupar, and possibly Fortt are likely to see snaps. Fortt and Hodges are athletic but mistake-prone; Gbadyu and Stupar are veterans no one thinks much of—Gbadyu seems like an Ezeh-level whipping boy for PSU fans.
From this come the numbers:
That's three bad performances and a decent one against Iowa. Minnesota is not good at football. Against beleaguered Purdue the week before they managed 4.3 a carry. It is not good when your run defense is marginally ahead of this year's Boilers.
After a bye week Michigan is seventh nationally in rushing offense, averaging 6.5 YPC. Iowa and Michigan State slowed the Denard Robinson train down, and "slowed" may not be the right word. Robinson still averaged 5.8 YPC against Iowa and the team as a whole put out 196 yards on 41 carries against what was the #2 rushing defense in the country and is currently #8. If Michigan hadn't ended up in a big hole thanks to turnovers and its defense they could have put up truly epic numbers given the competition. At this point questions are dispersed: this is a for real rushing attack with a for real offensive line and the explosive Robinson.
Michigan's wild card here is Michael Shaw. He was splitting carries with Vincent Smith approximately down the middle before an injury sidelined him for Indiana and limited him to just seven carries against Michigan State and Iowa; he's got the breakaway speed Smith lacks and if healthy could provide a secondary run threat with the potential to test Penn State's battered safety corps.
Key Matchup: Denard Robinson against DE Not Named Massaro. With Crawford out and the delicious possibility of lumbering freshman DT in space, Michigan should be able to put its most explosive player in advantageous positions with the zone read. If it's Fortt, Robinson should be running off tackle at him frequently. Either way that's the place to attack.
Pass Offense vs Penn State
nickelback was a receiver last year
Penn State's results to date:
Not so good. You've got the two game manager types that saw their teams run out to insurmountable leads of two touchdowns in the first half and put the passing in the garage, Nathan Scheelhaase, and Adam Weber, and three of the four put up impressive passer efficiency ratings. The Mathlete has them 37th but a lot of that was built in games against Kent State and Temple; Iowa and Alabama offset with Illinois being hugely negative and Minnesota positive but not enough to offset the Illinois game.
Penn State's pass rush is weak. They're 97th in sacks; as discussed in the previous section they are getting very little from the injury-wracked DEs. Whenever Hill or Latham is out there Michigan is going to be able to single block without trouble; Penn State's best bet may be to throw that guy against Lewan in the hopes that Massaro or Stanley can generate something against Dorrestein. In passing situations Stanley or Fortt should come in to replace the guy who's essentially a DT, which will provide more of a challenge.
The PSU secondary is also thin and young after Sukay's injury. They've moved Drew Astorino to the free safety position and he sounds like a faster combination of Kovacs and Cam Gordon—small, iffy tackler, questionable angles. The differences are in speed and experience. He's returning starter who was honorable mention ABT last year and has returned some punts. The second guy may be freshman Malcolm Willis, who was forced into the lineup after third safety Andrew Dailey had some minor injury problems of his own. Willis tackled well and had more of an impact on the game than either of the starters.
The corners aren't much deeper. D'Anton Lynn is a league-average corner who Penn State fans are very much in favor of for the same reason Troy Woolfolk's injury caused the rending of garments in Ann Arbor. The other guy, Stephen Morris, came in for a beating after the Minnesota game for sloppy coverage and horrible tackling. There are rumors that Chaz Powell might leap into the starting lineup or at least see significant time. This would be risky, since Powell has taken the same "you're a corner, I mean WR, I mean corner, I mean WR, I mean corner" career path that James Rogers has.
That lack of depth means it's going to be another boring week on the UFR D formation chart. Expect nothing but 4-3 unless Michigan gets in third and a billion.
This should be a much easier matchup for Michigan than Iowa and (sigh) Michigan State were. PSU is scrambling to get any sort of pass rush and their linebackers drag out of position a ton in zone; all the rotation makes it likely that no one player will have the consistency in drops either the Iowa or MSU linebackers (who never come off the field) did.
Key Matchup: Roundtree and Gallon vs Lynn and Morris (Powell?) on the bubble. Michigan's most effective passing attacks come from threatening the bubble against teams that can't handle it, then exploiting their over-reaction to it after it works the first few times. With dodgy tackling cornerbacks and injury issues at safety, Michigan should be able to give Denard some easy throws and go from there.
Run Defense vs Penn State
This is going to be slightly hard to believe but this should be… advantage… Michigan?
If Mike Martin is 100%, yes, serious. Penn State against BCS opponents and Minnesota:
Okay, so no one's going to mistake Michigan's D with Alabama, Iowa, or (sigh) Illinois any time soon but the throbbing danger sign for the Penn State rushing game isn't so much the YPC numbers but the distribution. On the road against Alabama in Robert Bolden's second start the run/pass breakdown was 50-50. Against Iowa, Penn State called 43 passes and 21 runs. With a freshman quarterback! In Iowa City! Minnesota even did a somewhat respectable job one week after giving up 126 yards on 12 carries to Dan Dierking. Northern Illinois put up 297 rushing yards on them. Penn State couldn't do much of anything before inserting Silas Redd late.
What's wrong with the Penn State rush offense? Pick a problem. The top two tight ends are out for the year, leaving Penn State with a true freshman or WR Brett Brackett—they literally cannot field a reasonable "big" package. Their fullback is a converted linebacker who can lay the wood but is really erratic. And the offensive line is a shambles. They've got one guy—guard Stefen Wisnewski—who's okay to good and four guys who are turrible. The tackles are 6'3" and 6'4" and can't move. When Penn State tries stretch plays they get slanted past like they're not there. The interior line cannot get a push on anyone. Royster apparently showed up to camp overweight and lacks the je ne sais quoi that will see him break PSU's all time rushing record sometime Saturday.
The many limitations of the blockers have seen Penn State totally shelve the stretch, which has been the play most deadly against Michigan's combination of mediocre/freshman defensive ends and overrun-happy linebackers. They're also limited in their ability to pull linemen—about all they can do with consistent(-ish) success is do inside zone stuff and drive block.
The lone bright spot has been freshman Redd, a darting runner with outstanding balance and the quickness to turn a broken play into something positive. Though he occasionally does that freshman thing where you try to bounce everything outside because you think it's still high school, he's PSU's version of Hopkins—fans are clamoring for more of him. Stepfon Green, who you may remember from such plays as "Gratuitous 80 Yard Screen Touchdown," is still around; he's a north-south runner with excellent top end speed but not a lot of wiggle—i.e. just the kind of guy Michigan desperately needs but Penn State can't use much because a busted block is a two yard gain with him.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan may have found a middle linebacker in Kenny Demens. If they have found such a thing and he's actually the guy he seemed like against Iowa, Michigan's run defense could (should?) improve from meh to somewhat respectable. We'll probably see some holes in his game against a team that's had an opportunity to scout him, but those will probably show up in the passing game. Penn State is not at the point where they can do much other than the basics.
Mike Martin has been proclaimed 100% after the bye week; if that's accurate Penn State isn't going to get much in the A gaps this week and will have to head further outside, where Roh can be contained and Banks/Black beat up. The DEs versus the tackles will be a matchup of twin weaknesses and could provide Penn State what running game they're going to have.
A bold prediction: Michigan holds PSU under 4.0 YPC.
Key matchup: Banks/Kovacs/Mouton keeping contain on runs that threaten to go outside the tackle. PSU isn't going to get much up the middle if Martin is healthy and Demens for real, but Iowa made a lot of hay on the outside.
Pass Defense vs Penn State
There are three entirely different balls of wax here depending on who actually plays for Penn State. Kevin Newsome is the easy one. He'll run a wildcat offense that will throw only when absolutely necessary and will be super bad at it. It doesn't sound like Robert Bolden is going to play but if he does he will be able to cut apart Michigan's secondary if given time.
gunslinger w/ gunslinger beard
The most likely opponent tomorrow, though, is walk-on Matt McGloin. McGloin came on in relief of Bolden and went 6 of 13 for 76 yards, two beautiful touchdowns, and one awful interception. Apparently he fancies himself a Favre-ian gunslinger; he reminded me of a walk-on version of Forcier. He's capable of almost anything down to down. The two touchdowns to Derek Moye could not have been better throws, especially the second—a picture-perfect fade against great coverage. His interception was a Sheridan special, a vastly underthrown ball chucked into double coverage. Several other incompletions were no-hopers to Tacopants. And that's all we know. Those thirteen passes are McGloin's career to date.
Penn State's receivers are huge or tiny with little in between. The two outside guys are 6'5" Derek Moye and 6'3" Justin Brown, with 6'5" quasi-TE Brett Bracket playing a lot in the slot and sometimes moving down to be a highly ineffective inline blocker. 5'7" Devon Smith is the slot waterbug du jour; Graham Zug also gets time but has been a drop machine this fall and finds himself marginalized. No one in this unit, even the tiny guy, is likely to shake many tackles. They are not YAC guys.
This will no doubt bring thunder down from the sky and see McGloin put up 500 yards, but the PSU receiving corps might actually be a good matchup for the Michigan secondary. James Rogers may not be able to change directions without going BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP but he is 6'1" with good leaping ability; JT Floyd isn't quite as big but he's a decent-sized corner too. Remember how Michigan neutralized Michael Floyd? Yeah, that could happen.
Michigan could also see a reprise of that weird 2008 game where Sheridan owned the Metrodome. McGloin may be a walk-on but so is the best player in Michigan's secondary. I have no doubt guys will be open and coverages busted as Penn State mounts some number of legitimate scoring drives between 2 and n.
On passing downs Michigan will probably drop eight, count on Martin, Roh, and Van Bergen to slice through PSU's all-guard offensive line, and wait for bad throws and decisions. There should be enough of those for Michigan fans to feel as good about their defense as they did after the first half of the Notre Dame game.
Key matchup: Demens, Mouton, Rotating Spur, and Kovacs against Brackett and Smith underneath. McGloin is going to be throwing a bunch of short routes and Michigan's going to have to cover them so McGloin can go out there and just have some fun in his Wrangler jeans by throwing several horrific interceptions.
Massive Penn State advantage because of one thing: the kicker. Colin Wagner is 14 of 17 on the year. Michigan's rotation is 2 of 8. The punt and punt return units are basically a wash, with Michigan looking a little less awesome in raw yardage but not enough that it seems like it will be a difference.
Kickoffs will be advantage Penn State, as M decommit Anthony Fera is getting them to the endzone and Michigan's kickers are getting them to the eight. Penn State has a big advantage in kick return yardage but since that's mostly from a touchdown against Youngstown State its relevance is questionable.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
- The Anointed Kenny Demens reverts to The Enigmatic.
- Denard's throwing is still goofy even after the bye week.
- Martin does not look 100%.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Penn State actually rolls with Freshman DT as a contain guy on the zone read.
- The Hopkins is unleashed.
- Penn State has to bring a safety into the box.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 4 (Baseline 5; +1 for Road Night Game In Happy Valley, –1 for Against A Walk-On With Inadvisable Beard, –1 for Behind An Offensive Line Equivalent To Michigan's 2008 Edition, –1 for Versus A Defensive Line Choosing Between A DT And A LB At The Contain Denard Position, +1 for General Overconfidence Check, +1 for We Make The Turnovers Real Good, –1 for But Seriously Kenny Demens.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Penn State Is Not Good, +1 for Bowl Eligibility, +1 for Margin Of Error Is Out The Window, +1 for If You Lose To This Shambles Of A Team And Their Walk-On Quarterback It's Curtains, +1 for And Who Wants To Draw The Curtain Over Denard?)
Loss will cause me to... spend the next four weeks talking about Harbaugh.
Win will cause me to... exhale.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
If Bolden does not play, Penn State will require several acts of God to win. Here is why in a statistic: Michigan's rushing defense is giving up 4.0 YPC. Penn State's rushing defense is giving up 4.0 YPC. They are equivalent. Michigan's rush offense is ripping foes for 6.5 YPC; Penn State is trundling along at… 4.0 YPC. This holds up even when you get all fancy. By the Mathlete's reckoning, the #2 Michigan rush offense is going up against the #53 Penn State rush defense. The inverse matchup is an evenly matched pillow fight that sees #93 take on #96. And most of this went down before Kenny Demens supplanted Ezeh and Penn State started scrambling for real at defensive end and safety.
If Penn State is going to win this game it's going to be by shredding a very shreddable Michigan secondary. If Bolden is slinging it around like he did against Minnesota, Penn State can keep within striking distance and all it will take is an all-too-predictable pile of Michigan mistakes to lose the game. If it's some combination of McGloin and Newsome the punts and picks will be too frequent for Penn State deal with, mistakes or no.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hopkins gets more carries than any other back.
- Robinson hits 150 yards rushing and 200 passing.
- Special teams costs Michigan something between 3 and 7 points.
- Michigan, 31-21.
Right: Marvin Robinson moves from safety to
No surprises, and no Denard:
University of Michigan Football Injury Report
Thursday, Oct. 28, vs. Penn State
OUT (0% PLAY)
Jones, Mike Leg
Odoms, Martavious Foot
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Williams, Mike Head
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
More interestingly, Rodriguez dropped some science about position switches on his coaches show that is either earth-shaking or wildly misinterpreted by the internet. These are the supposed moves via the somewhat confused twitter feed of Angelique Chengelis:
- Marvin Robinson to linebacker. I have a source who tipped me off about this a few days ago, so that's for real. Robinson's likely to compete at WLB for the job Mouton vacates after the year.
- Will Campbell(OG) and Quinton Washington(DT) are sticking at their new positions. Since these moves had already been confirmed, that's legit, too. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but there's some insider hype about Washington being a "beast" on Rivals. So we've got that going for us. Not likely to impact anything until next year unless Washington is a miraculously fast learner.
- Cam Gordon to "both safety spots" and Ray Vinopal to "deep safety". Since Vinopal is already a free safety this position switch is more a depth chart thing. There have been rumors floating around about Vinopal playing with the ones and either starting (fanciful) or getting real playing time (apparently likely) on Saturday. These are confirmed now; the source also dropped that Vinopal was getting a serious look at deep safety. The Cam Gordon bit there presages a move closer to the LOS, whether it's spur or bandit, eventually. (ATTENTION BYRON MOORE: duuuude. Seriously.)
- They "moved defensive linemen." Vague but the only thing that makes sense here is putting Sagesse back inside at NT and moving Patterson to a backup DE position.
Also, Rodriguez promised more carries for ham fiend Stephen Hopkins and said Teric Jones(!) would see the field. I looked for podcasts on WTKA's site but couldn't find them; maybe MVictors will be able to dig out exactly what was said so we can parse that into molecules. He's clutch like that.
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