to play football, not to play trumpet
At the beginning of the game, the announcers informed us that Nebraska had the worst defense in the FBS at allowing 1st down conversions. Their opponents get a first down on first down 30% of the time. So I decided to go through the play-by-play to see how we did on first down. We weren't as awful as I would have thought, going 5 for 26 on first down conversions. That comes to 19%. Considering Nebraska hasn't really played anybody besides UCLA though, that's terrible. Had we been average, we would have had 8 first down conversions.
I also broke down our first down plays into four groups: negative yardage, zero yards, 1-9 yards, and 10 or more yards. We did have 6 negative plays on first down. There were two sacks and the poor snap in addition to 3 negative rushing plays. There were 3 plays of zero yards, but only one of those was an incomplete pass. 12 times we gained positive yards, but not enough to get a first down. As I was going through the plays, something stuck out to me. Devin Gardner was pretty good on first down. Yes, he was sacked twice (7.7% of plays), but he was sacked 5 more times on other downs (13.5%.) He was 7 for 8 (87.5%) for 62 yards and a TD on first down. He slipped to 11 for 19 (58%) for 134 yards on other downs.
Why does any of this matter? A) we should have done better on first down if we had just been an average offense that Nebraska has faced. B) Understanding why we were not gets to the root of the problem with this offense. The new meme is that Borges is an awful playcaller that is setting us up in 2nd and long far too often. On ~1/3 of our first down possessions, we either lost yardarge or gained nothing, leaving us with 2nd and 10 or worse. You might think that 2nd and 10s come from incomplete passes, so we would be better off running on first down to gain something. However, in our case, we had 3 bad passing plays on 1st down and 6 bad rushing plays. It would seem that we should be doing more passing on 1st down, when the defense is playing a little more honestly and not selling out with blitzes. Gardner has more time to find the open receiver and get positive yardage. But according to Borges, game planning is easy and we all have to hope like heck that the players execute. Right, Al.
Burst of Impetus
* Either of the two turnovers Nebraska committed could have swung the impetus our way. Here are our next six plays after the Nebraska TOs:
- Incomplete pass (went deep, I'm OK with this, but I think DG had a back wide open short. A game manager would take the free yards.)
- Gardner loss of 2 yards rushing
- Incomplete pass, leading to missed 52 yard FG attempt
- Green rush for 1 yard
- Green rush for -2 yards
- Gardner rush for 4 yards, leading to a 40 yard FG.
So it appears the Lizard Brain "play for a FG" returned after that first deep ball fell incomplete. The offensive ineptitude we displayed after Nebraska's two TOs actually gave the impetus back to Nebraska as their defense "rallied" to stop us. Although it may be more accurate to say that our offense stopped ourselves.
I'd love to give the Burst of Impetus to Matt Wile's 69 yard punt into/with the wind that was downed at the Nebraska 3 yard line. The defense made a stand and forced a punt from Nebraska's 3. Impetus to M? Sadly, no, as our next four plays went pass for 7, run for -1, incomplete pass, sack, Nebraska ball.
Bending and Breaking
* This is probably too tough on the defense, but when they had to make a stop at the end of the game, they let Nebraska go on a 14 play, 75 yard drive for the go-ahead TD.
* Nebraska ran 66 plays and took 27:16 off the clock. Of their 13 drives, only one lasted more than 9 plays, and only 3 lasted more than seven plays. So why can't our best 11 guys line up and play defense for a few minutes at a time? I understand substituting based on down and distance, but I saw JR3 make two nice plays on the same drive to force a three and out, and on the next drive he was on the sidelines. That makes no sense.
* The five leading tacklers were all linebackers. Cam Gordon stepped up and played like a captain, with 8 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
* All three of Jibreel Black's tackles were TFLs. Michigan tallied 7 TFLs total.
* Gardner went 18 for 27 for 196 yards and had no turnovers. He threw one TD pass to Funchess.
* Once again, he was sacked 7 times, leading to an ugly rushing line: 16 carries, -32 yards. Even subtracting the sacks, he only gained 17 yards on 9 carries. He's not running like he did earlier in the year. Is that because of injuries, or a focus on not turning the ball over, or both?
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* Green was actually our leading rusher with 11 yards on 8 carries. I thought he looked a little better than Fitz, gaining a yard or two after the initial contact, whereas Fitz just goes down on contact.
* For the record, we had zero rushing first downs. Michigan. Zero rushing first downs. Nebraska had 15 TFLs. That's more than MSU got if I recall correctly. We made Nebraska's defense look like State's by not adjusting our game plan at all. State gave Nebraska the blueprint to beat us, and they obliged.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* A week after only 4 receivers caught passes, Gardner spread the ball out a little more this week. Funchess led the team with 6 catches for 66 yards and a TD.
* Michigan's best drive of the game, and only TD drive in the past two weeks, was at the start of the 3rd quarter. Toussaint had two catches, Butt had two catches, Chesson caught one, and Funchess caught the TD. Did Borges go back to that strategy later in the game? No, no he didn't.
* It's fitting that Fitz' only two catches in the past two weeks came on the only TD drive. He is getting absolutely destroyed trying to block blitzing linebackers and defensive ends. So instead of putting him in a position to succeed - flaring out of the backfield as a pressure relief option - Borges has him in a position to fail. Is it stubbornness on Borges part? I don't know. Pass receiving RBs have always been a part of the West Coast offense, but Borges is not including the RBs in the passing game, even when it is shown to work.
* Taylor Lewan played a few snaps at TE. Since he is an ineligible receiver, he didn't catch any passes. And his presence at TE is a signal to Nebraska's safeties and linebackers that it's fine to attack downhill since he's not a threat in the passing game. I think we also ran a play with an ineligible slot receiver. It's idiotic.
* On our last 4th and 5 when we needed a completion to keep the game alive, Borges dialed up a play to get the ball to Dileo. He's sure-handed and a big favorite of MGoBlog, but he also hasn't caught a pass in a game since four weeks ago at Penn State. Include him in the offense earlier in the game if you are going to use him like that, otherwise, it's just unfair to the kid.
Random Number Generator
* At some point during the game, I thought that a random number generator could do a better job calling plays than Borges. He is so predictable. However, after the game we read that Nebraska's defenders knew what the plays were going to be based on formation. I think even an RNG would fail calling these particular plays because there is no variation, no counters, and nothing new. This morning, I read about Baylor's #1 offense in Sports Illustrated. They split their wide receivers way outside to open up the middle of the field for the running game. We, on the other hand, bring our WRs in near the line, so that the defense can put almost 11 players in the box, allowing blitzes to come from anywhere. And this is how Borges is helping his inexperienced line. It's pathetic.
Like me, you were probably weaned on the odd and mildly creepy similarities between the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. To wit: Lincoln’s assassin did the deed in a theater and hid in a warehouse; Kennedy’s killer shot from a warehouse and hid in a theater. Lincoln had an aide named Kennedy; Kennedy had an aide named Lincoln. JFK was shtupping Marilyn Monroe; Marilyn Manson once had carnal knowledge of a woman named Lincoln (or something like that).
Other Mansons are equally stunned
The 50th anniversary of JFK’s death got me thinking about other parallels in history, and in particular, those related to Michigan Football (though it might have had more to do with the empty bottle of Bullitt 95 Rye in my trash can than anything on the History Channel last night). Last week, Civil War generals were on my mind. This week, it’s the Soviets and their bolloxed up Race to the Moon….
Spooky, isn’t it?
#3 Sergey “Bo” Korolyov’s Dodgy Heart
In 1965, no one was more important to the Soviet space program than Sergey Korolyov. Although his title was merely “Chief Designer” to hide his real importance and role (out of fear that the U.S. would target him for espionage, defection or assassination) he was, in fact, the visionary powering the early successes against NASA. He was the principle force behind the USSR’s ICBM, Sputnik, Vostok, Voshkod and Soyuz designs, and had a major role in the planning and execution of the first manned mission into space and the first spacewalk.
Unfortunately, his ticker’s sell-by date was January 1966. Korolyov’s first heart attack, in 1960, led to additional cardiovascular, intestinal and endocrinal problems over the years and a warning from his doctors that he needed to “slow down”. In a response that would have made many a Michigan Football coach proud, he simply responded, “To hell with Necro Dread.”
Unfortunately for the Soviets, their succession planning was about as successful as Fitz-up-the-middle when Korolyov’s bravado wrote one too many checks that his body couldn’t cash. For, waiting in the wings, was….
#2 Vasily “I’ll-Make-You-Forget-Whatshisname” Mishin
Upon Sergey Korolyov’s death, Vasily Mishin – by all accounts, a competent engineer – succeeded to the title of “Chief Designer.” But much like Lloyd’s final few and Rich Rodriguez’s three years, or even Brady’s tenure so far, it turned out that Mishin was no Korolyov. He lacked Korolyov’s political authority and found himself mired in competition from others within the Soviet program. Meanwhile,
OSU MSU the Americans were quickly recovering from the disaster of John Cooper John L Smith the Apollo 1 fire and setting their sights on the B1G Championship Moon.
The final setback came during The Horror: four consecutive N-1 rocket launches ended in disaster, permanently ending the Soviets’ hope for a moon landing. In 1974, Mishin was finally relieved of his duties as Chief Designer by no other than
Dave Brandon Leonid Brezhnev when it became clear that new program leadership was needed. By then, the U.S. had successfully landed and returned six manned missions to the Moon and three more entered and returned from lunar orbit (Apollo 8, 10 and 13). While the Soviets would later launch Low Earth Orbit programs including two space stations (Salyut and Mir) the lustre was gone.
Of course, that didn’t mean the Soviets weren’t above “borrowing” a few ideas from the U.S….
#1 The Buran “Any-Similarities-Are-Purely-Coincidental” Shuttle
The Soviet-U.S. shuttle doppelganger
By the 1980s, the U.S. Space Shuttle program was the shiny new toy among the world’s rocket scientists. Much like Michigan’s dabbling in dual-threat quarterbacks, the read-option, inverted veers and slot ninjas, the Soviets deigned to have their own. After a decade’s worth of development (advanced in no small measure by a little espionage) the USSR had its Buran shuttle. Like the U.S. orbiter, it rode into space on the back of a really big booster, landed like a glider, and was carried on the back of a massive jumbo jet between pit stops on Planet Earth.
One, unmanned mission into space was all it got. By the time it flew, the nature of the military and civilian missions it was designed to support had changed so that it no longer served a viable purpose, the USSR was preparing for its date with the ash heap of history, and the Buran was carted off to a museum. Meanwhile, U.S. was taking a fresh look at
manball less complex vehicles that were more reliable.
Fortunately, Russia had a ready-made supply of 1960s-vintage Soyuz capsules with which it was ready to compete on the world stage. No word yet on how it fares against eight- or nine-in-the-box defenses.
A low pressure system is crossing through Wisconsin and Lake Superior, bringing along a warm front we'll experience today, and a cold front following we'll get later tonight and Sunday. We'll see some sunshine and some clouds, but be dry. And temperatures will rise throughout the day, but it'll be a windy one! Hold on to your hats, grab the sweatshirt, and get ready to beat Big Red!
The main rain event looks to stay to the north and we remain dry - seeing some virga likely (rain that evaporates before reaching the ground) and just a few clouds. We're starting off the day chilly - remaining in the upper 30s for sunrise, but with SW winds at 10-15mph, gusts near 20mph (small branches move, loose papers blow about) you can factor in a wind chill in the upper 20s! Tie down those tents! Temperatures will continue to go up, reaching 50 degrees around lunch, and we'll continue to have some clouds and sun. Winds remain out of the SW in the low 20s, with gusts around 30mph (you can hear the wind whistling, lighter garbage cans tip over) as we head into the afternoon.
55 degrees for 3:30! Some clouds will hang out for the start of the game, but we'll still have some sun too. Keeping a SW wind at about 20mph, and gusts are still possible up around 25mph (still a good breeze, and this is when it's hard to use an umbrella, small trees sway).
Keeping partly sunny skies for the middle of the game, and the wind! Temperature will hardly drop yet, maybe a degree or two. Winds remain out of the SW at 20mph, with gusts near 25mph. The good news is, the gusts are starting to fall a little bit heading further towards the end of the game.
Walking out of the Big House -with a win!- hanging on to 50 degrees and partly cloudy skies. Winds have gone down a little, but they're definitely not gone! Staying out of the SW at about 18mph with gusts in the low 20s (moderate waves could be seen on the water). As colder air filters in behind the cold front, expect temps to fall and the winds to shift - but remain pretty breezy. Late night brings Ann Arbor westerly winds 15-20mph, and so although it will be about 45 degrees, it'll feel like 35 instead. Staying out til close? 40 degrees with a wind chill of 30, and winds are now more of a WNW at 15-20mph. Cloud cover has gone down more, and we'll be seeing mostly stars with just a few clouds. Definitely not a night to lose the sweatshirt! Go Blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
As of 6:30pm, I have the results of the survey.
*Caveat: Last nighta t about 7:30 I fixed a typo, and it wiped out about the first 100 entries. Sorry!
Question 1: Please rate your opinion regarding Brady Hoke
Question 2: Please rate your opinion regarding Al Borges
Questions 3-9: How much of a negative influence have the following things had on this season?
Question 10: What should happen at the end of the season?
last nebraska miniprogram until 2018 at least, which is too bad. i have enjoyed them being on the schedule and their fans are very hospitable.
At several times this season things have gotten pretty heated, and it seemed to reach a peak after the MSU game. Personally, I am of the opinion that Hoke is an excellent coach, and that Borges is an above average OC. Regarding the blocking, I know we are very inexperienced in the middle, but I'm not enough of a coach to know what is really ailing our line. Here is where I turn to you. Lately I have noticed some people who are completely outraged about the staff, but I have a feeling that such people comprise a vocal minority. I put together a Google Form to determine how the majority of MgoBlog readers actually feel about the season and the coaching staff. Please take the time to complete this, and I'll report back with the results.
Edit: No embed.