Due to time constraints the past couple of weeks, I caught only parts of the Purdue and Illinois games. Luckily, what I saw made a post like this unnecessary, unless you think “Best: Everything”, “Best: I’m Kirk Herbstreit and I like to jinx Purdue” and “Worst: Moar Fitz rushing” embodies deeply thoughtful analysis.
Plus, I was kind of saving up for this MSU game. The first two weeks of the B1G season looked like tuneups to start the season, with MSU being the unofficial beginning of “Run for the Roses” in Pasadena, and nothing transpired during those first couple of games to change that opinion, at least in UM’s eyes. MSU, though, stumbled to start the season, and were definitely looking to dig themselves out of a Sparty-inflicted hole that included tough loses to OSU and Iowa. And so a rivalry game + MSU reeling + “William Gholston isn’t a jerk, he’s just misunderstood” = a fertile ground for highlighting the waxing and waning of UM’s first victory in the history of this series.*
* This series having started in 2008, one year after Microsoft Encarta and the Mayan calendar apparently arrived in East Lansing.
UM was only 1-4 against Dantonio heading into this game, and for all of the negative press the guy gets here and across the greater UM blogosphere, he’s turned a mediocre State program into a consistent winner, something it hasn’t been since, I don’t know, the 1950’s. Seriously, check out these season records from 1950 to 2011. People around here complain about UM not making a bowl game for 2 years; MSU had won 10 games only twice in the past 60+ years before Dantonio glared his way onto campus.
And it wasn’t just the losing to MSU that drove people crazy, it was how. Sometimes they won in dramatic fashion in OT after UM made a miraculous comeback; other times it was a dominating performance on the ground. Almost always, though, MSU had the better team AND found a way to confound not only the Michigan players, especially Denard Robinson, but also the coaching staffs. There’s a reason that the game previews for 2010, 2011, and 2012 kept pointing out that MSU was successfully jumping the snap on virtually every play, yet it kept happening. Or how MSU found a way to consistently gash the UM defense for yards on the edges despite everyone knowing that MSU’s gameplan was taken from the 1959 game program.
So beating MSU needed to happen to not only restore order back to the world, but also to validate the notion that the program was back on its way to the relative dominance most people remember from the 90s/00s. The OSU win last year was a nice step in that direction, as was the bowl game, but beating OSU is rarely presumed when the season begins; beating MSU is far more the norm. And while I’m sure many fans are loathe to admit it, this iteration of UM football needed to beat them to dispel the notion that Dantonio was plated in some impenetrable Wolverine armor (a similar feeling seemed to have set in on Notre Dame until this year). He’s been cut by Hoke and Co., and once that happened that tightening you have in your chest when MSU takes the lead late will hopefully disappear.
* I know this is a super-tired reference. The “good job, good effort” kid was the next in line.
I’m sure this is a bit of coach-speak, but it is also something that needed to be said. Since, oh, the Eastern Michigan game, I don’t think most people saw MSU as a legitimate Big 10 championship team. The offense was too crippled by a porous line, poor WRs, and a somewhat-shaky QB to keep pace with teams like Wisconsin, UM, OSU, and Nebraska. The Iowa game cemented their ceiling for the year at 7-8 wins, even with an elite defense.
Outside of the Alabama game, though, UM’s ceiling was never defined. Notre Dame was a tough loss but one that felt more self-inflicted than the team meeting a superior opponent. Purdue and Illinois proved only that UM was probably as good as Louisiana Tech and and Marshall. MSU, frankly, was not going to validate UM’s season, but only give them another breakpoint from which to calibrate their potential.
And that’s what Hoke encapsulates in this statement. He recognizes that MSU is a rival and the game mattered, but this wasn’t the season. Nebraska and OSU will be tougher opponents, and the near-certain B1G title game and (hopefully) the Rose Bowl bid will be far more emblematic of Michigan’s 2012 season. Last year expectations were such than an MSU win would have been one to hang the team’s hat on; this year, they’re another 4-4 team that gave UM their best shot and came up a little short.
Worst: “Rivalry” game?
Listen, I can totally get behind belittling MSU’s fans. I was at school there for 3 years, and I witnessed two riots, one “celebration” of a hockey championship during a season in which tickets to games were very available, and thousands of instances of drunken 40-year-olds hitting on college girls outside of dorms as the men’s belies jiggled under super-tight “Go Green! Go White!” shirts they picked up from the local Quality Dairy. It is a school that prides itself on making boxes*, having “awesome parties with hot chicks!”, and being able to count, and while the people there are not as bad as you think, comparisons between the two schools tend toward the Blue Team.
That said, the oft-repeated refrain from UM faithful that MSU isn’t a “rival” is just silly. Sure, OSU remains UM’s most consistently-excellent foe, and 30 years ago the Notre Dame and Michigan clashes typically featured top-10 programs shooting for a national title. But MSU is the other major program in the state, and really the only one in the footprint that features two public schools that (at least ostensibly) draw from the same high schools and communities (Purdue and Notre Dame and Illinois and Northwestern feature the whole private/public differences and the related non-geographically draws). In my high school class of around 160 kids, we had 3 who went to UM and about 40 who went to MSU. At other schools, the numbers were a bit closer, but the fact remains that if you go to either university, you are more than likely to have spent years of your life cohabitating with peers on the other side.
For Michigan fans, beating MSU feels like it should; despite EVERY MSU student claiming he/she was accepted but declined/never wanted to apply/”totally loved MSU the minute they walked on campus and never thought Ann Arbor was anything special”, you secretly felt most of them wanted to go to UM but couldn’t. It also poked a weird hole in the meta-argument that the “jocks” went to MSU and the “nerds” went to UM (which never made sense since it’s not like either team is comprised of the general student body). For MSU, beating UM was a clear rebuttal to all the crap I spewed above; a tangible instance of MSU beating UM in something that both schools’ fanbases cared about. This wasn’t a “our Particle Physics major is better” or “our mascot is cooler according to Playboy.com”, but a win for MSU and a loss for UM.
The point is that it matters to both sides, and anyone mouthing off about how beating MSU didn’t matter, that they are not UM’s rival, is just displaying his/her naivety and/or unfounded arrogance. And while I definitely see this year being the end of MSU’s “dominant run” in the Big 10, they will remain a key opponent for championship game and bowl bids under Dantonio. MSU ain’t going anywhere, and trying to ignore them or minimize their threat doesn’t impress anyone.
* I know that packaging engineering is more than making boxes, but that ESPN special a couple of games ago didn’t help to dispel that idea.
Worst: Still with the unimaginative offensive schemes?
Al Borges seems like a nice guy, and I definitely see how the offensive skill players he inherited don’t mesh with the play-calling he prefers to call. Denard is great for the offense that RR runs, where his feet lead the way and defenses worry about gap control and QB Oh Noes! for 4 quarters. Under Borges, he’s an oval-ish peg trying to fit into a parallelogram-ish hole. He’s not super-accurate, the WRs he throws to are either too small, too slow, or too inexperienced for complete optimization, and the dominant tailback and massive linemen are either in red shirts or still playing HS. It’s like owning a 3DO in 1994 – it looks really cool on paper, but the controls don’t work the way they should and the pictures on the game boxes always look cooler than the games themselves.
That said, this offensive ineptitude against anyone with a top 50-ish defense needs to end. 2011 Notre Dame and Nebraska are the only decent defenses that Michigan really scored on, and even with those two performances there were a myriad of factors beyond “offensive efficiency” that led to those outbursts. It’s gotten to the point that I’d rather the team spot opponents 10-15 points just to get Borges out his routine and let up on the reins a bit.
Everyone knows about the much-bemoaned I- and screaming “multiple TEs in on the line so we are clearly running”-formations, but it’s also the option runs that are almost never options and a vertical passing game that can charitably be described as “adventurous” at times. It’s a mindset that calls for plays that he knows his team just cannot execute the way he wants, and while I get the argument that he needs to run what he knows, it is infuriating to see this team get stymied in the red zone or go three-and-out repeatedly with offensive play calling that only calls on Denard to run 6 times in the second half before the final drive. The Denard Borges Fusion Cuisine is like a restaurant in an airport – it looks good because you are starving and have a 2-hour layover with the only other options being a Sbarro’s and one of those airport bars where businessmen from Des Moines hit on the “mature” female bartender who also doubles as the short-order cook. Chop the menu in half, sprinkle in a bunch of designed runs and screens to keep Spartan Pride from killing him on gap blitzes, and wait until Shane Morris is a Sophomore.
Best: This is how we do it!
On the other end of the coordinator spectrum stands Greg Mattison, whose work restoring the validity of “Greg” after Mr. Robinson, Mr. Williams (I’m ignoring the superfluous G), Mr. Davis, and Mr. Brady tried their best to ruin it deserves serious nomination come the off-season. In 2010 Michigan was ranked 110th in total defense, above a bunch of directional schools and below such juggernauts as Rice, Duke, and Baylor. Today? They’re 10th. That’s not just impressive, that’s damn near a miracle. Every time a see Jake Ryan burst through the line to snag a QB in the backfield or J.T. Floyd break up another pass attempt, I involuntary pull one of these:
Yes, this is the same video. No, I won’t apologize for my love of mid-90’s R&B. You’re just lucky I couldn’t think of anything catchy/appropriate for Next.
Say what you will about MSU’s offense this year, they still had one of the better RBs in the country in Bell, a competent QB, and the laser-focus to circle the Michigan game on the calendar and pull every goofy play they can out for it. Yet, outside of two drives that netted MSU 170 yards (helped in part by a fake punt that accounted for almost 30 yards), they record 134 yards over 9 more drives and barely broke 300 yards for the game. Bell, who was used as the human battering ram that in years past gashed the Wolverines, had a quiet 68 yards and nothing longer than 8 yards. Maxwell threw a pick and a TD and never looked super-comfortable out there, and his repeated failed attempts to pick on Floyd at the end of the first half should shock anyone who remembers watching this only a couple of years ago.
Michigan won yesterday because the defense is a legitimate threat, and that transformation is due in large part to Greg Robinson (and Brady Hoke) making it so.
(Of course, this raises the questions surrounding why big-time coordinators were apparently “out of budget” under Carr and RR, but that’s for another day. Minnesota, let’s say.)
Best: Poor Sinead O’Connor
Everyone likes to say that Brenda Gibbons’ fondness for brunettes powers his cold-as-ice heart as he kicks yet another game winner. Personally, I think he derives his power from hair follicles in general, their faint aroma wafting by his nostrils as he lines up a half-dozen yards behind the ball. 2 years ago he was 1 for 5 in FGA, with a long of 24. In other words, a shade over an extra point. Two years later, he’s 10 of 12 with a long of 42 and a couple of game winners to boot. Someone needs to be in Columbus at the end of the season with whatever machine they use to fumigate Abercrombie & Fitch with their “cologne” and make sure whatever subconscious memories that are triggered in Gibbons are ready to go.
Worst: Recidivism on the rise in East Lansing
Usually the MSU-UM game coincides with the yearly East Lansing work-release program. I leave it to the reader to
bunch of convicts
to see what I am referring to.
Best: Liveblog Moderators are people too.
A redundant but totally necessary thank you should go out to the posters who moderate these liveblogs. I’ve yet to moderate one, as my proclivity to immediately approve anyone who references TMNT or “No Fear” t-shirt slogans would bog down the proceedings immensely, but watching the feed yesterday made me happy that no matter how many whiny posts go through, there must have been literally millions that didn’t. To imagine the horrors these men and women must endure every Saturday and yet function for the rest of the week is truly shocking, and they have my gratitude. Of course, that and $2.99 would get you a commemorative “I Was There” pin from the 2011 B1G championship game, but at least it’s something.
I apologize for the delay in posting- I thought I had posted this yesterday morning but apparently technology isn't on my side for this big game, and I have just become aware it was not available! Forgive me; I will check in the future, and hopefully it still comes in handy for you.
If you've already been out this morning, you've felt the damp, cool air-and it's sticking around for the day. Low pressure just east of Lake Huron will continue to move eastward throughout the day, and take the chance of rain with it as we head into the late evening and overnight. Expect cloud cover to decrease throughout the afternoon and overnight also. Breezy west winds today add a bit more of a fall chill to the air, and although we'll be in the mid 50s by gametime grab long-sleeves if you plan on staying out late to celebrate the return of OUR trophy!
Many of you have likely already started early this morning! Cloudy skies, but although we picked up about a tenth of an inch of rain overnight we've spent the morning without rainfall. Winds shifted around 9am from the southwest to come out of the west-and that's how they'll remain today. About 10mph now (gentle breeze, leaves blow about), but as we head into the afternoon hours winds will rise into the mid-teens (small branches move) with gusts in the low 20s (small trees sway, some spray might come up if you were near water). Temps go up with the wind, and we'll hit the low 50s going into the afternoon.
Hitting the high for the day at kickoff of 55 degrees! Still pretty cloudy, and there is a slight chance of a pop-up shower. We've got a good, fresh breeze blowing for the start! Winds are out of the west at 15mph with gusts possible up to 20mph.
Still some cloud cover, but we're continuing to see it break up more and more. We do keep a small chance of light rain, and the wind as well. Still out of the west at 14mph with possible gusts up to 20mph. Started the cool down too- 52 by the half.
We lose the wind gusts for the end of the game and lingering at 50 degrees as you head out of the stadium. Wind remains westerly at 10-12mph until our early morning hours when it lowers further. Speaking of lows - we'll drop into the 40s quickly as you eat dinner. 45 degrees by 10pm and down to 40 for closing time (wind chill in the mid 30s!) We'll continue to see some cloud cover and chance of rain in the early night hours, then decrease to partly cloudy and if you're out late, you'll see a good amount of stars between a few clouds for closing time. Enjoy the game and GO BLUE!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI, and temporarily for NBC25 in Flint/Saginaw, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
[ed: bump so hard Jake Ryan wanna fine me]
[ed-S: I had to completely repost due to some bad html that was making it unreadable, so all the old comments are gone. Apologies to those of you who commented earlier--if you didn't, all you missed is Blue Seoul doesn't live in Seoul anymore]
Working Too Hard
So this is what it's like having a real job. I have enough time to watch the games, but not enough to obsessively analyze them. But there's been a lingering question about Fitz's lack of productivity compared to last season that I wanted to take a stab at answering. So even though it's a couple weeks late, here's my analysis of what's been going wrong for Fitz.
I see three main differences that are causing the lack of production:
- Fitz is being overworked
- The blocking is not as good
- Fitz is lacking some burst
There are some other problems in the defensive schemes and matchups, the playcalling, and our lack of run audibles, but these are minor issues and don't really explain everything.
For Fitz' sake!
This play didn't count, but it's indicative of the kind of problems the O-line was having in short yardage. Notice how all the defenders are keeping their blockers at arms length, they've got their heads up to watch the ball, and their lateral movement is keeping them on the l.o.s. instead of getting pushed back into the endzone. After watching a year of Greg Mattison, this is some pretty good fundamentals from the Boiler DL. Fitz takes the ball a little wider than he should have, but part of that is the fullback, #36 just got destroyed. He's too small, and his pad level is too high. It would have been a tough cut, but there was a little bit of space behind Schofield. That's the kind of cut Fitz was making at the end of last year. But he either didn't see it, or was too tired on this play.
I've noted it before, but here's another example of why we don't run more veer and speed option. Denard just doesn't have much experience or feel for the pitch. On this play we had a nice wall and he should have stuck his nose in there for the first down. I don't particularly like that, because I don't want him to take unnecessary hits. But he pitches this ball way too early.
Jake MotherF****** Ryan! The long lost brother of Jack MotherF******** Johnson. I like how having an expletive as your middle name has become a term of endearment.
Look at how far away he is from this play. But his instant recognition and his quick first step™ allow him make the play.
He completely takes the running back by surprise with his Superman impression.
And trips him up for a nice TFL. That's called 'selling out' on a play. (Giving it your all)
The most nonchalant hook n' ladder pitch of all time.
"I ain't got the ball."
Devin Gardner's Development
I believe that's what the kids are calling, "Highpointing the ball".
How does scoring a touchdown make DG feel?
Pretty damn good.
How do two TD's make Fitz feel?
Well, alllllrighty then...I'm not real good at reading expressions, but I'm pretty sure that one is saying "Hey twitter, STFU."
Hate Week: Never Forget.
a few small changes for redshirt language are fixed. any other things, let me know.
As mentioned by THE KNOWLEDGE last week on these very pages, this is a virtual bye week for the Michigan football team inasmuch as msu offers only a token challenge. next week will be a lot more interesting
so let us go THE CHALLENGE 2012.5 right away
pointers to the game:
- Michigan will win
- msu will lose and will play dirty as usual
- msu will be unable to move the ball consistently on offense
- Michigan will not have that problem
on to more pressing matters
POTW awards and TWoS ridicule
the moment every one on this blog has been eagerly awaiting is here: the awarding of the POTW from weeks past. in this post, THE KNOWLEDGE shall congratulate the winners from the B1G games (2012.3 and 2012.4). during another virutal bye week, THE KNOWLEDGE shall congratulate the OOC game winners (2012.1 and 2012.2)
in addition, THE KNOWLEDGE will also shame certain idiots that try to act smart by putting them on The Wall of Shame (TWoS)
2012.3 winner is UMgradMSUdad who predicted 41-13 Vs Purdue (3 points off)
2012.4 winner is Productive Sweatpants who predicted 45-3 Vs Illinois (also 3 points off)
congratulations to these two Proteges! you can Bask in Glory along with THE KNOWLEDGE
the TWoS shamees are Coach Schiano and Gonzo di Dottore, who "predicted" 45-0 score against Illinois after the game
[EDIT - PGB]
after THE KNOWLEDGE revealed last week that Michigan shall finish the season 12-2 (after the occurrence of the followup Irregularity), many people chose to follow THE KNOWLEDGE and become worry-free for the rest of the season
there were also a few fools that emailed THE KNOWLEDGE to say that THE KNOWLEDGE was wrong.
as usual, these people shall be left in a trail of dust as THE KNOWLEDGE soars when these results come true
WTFL;DR: Narduzzi coaches an aggressive take on the now en vogue Quarters defense that's still formidable even if State isn't quite what it was last year.
We got to the point where, this is the reason that we do this, when everybody started going spread we couldn’t play 3 deep zone. This started with the Cleveland Browns, I was the defensive coordinator in the early 90s and Pittsburgh would run 'Seattle' on us , four streaks. Then they would run two streaks and two out routes, what I call ‘pole’ route from 2x2. So we got to where could NOT play 3-deep zone because we rerouted the seams and played zone, and what I call “Country Cover 3” [drop to your spot reroute the seams, break on the ball]. Well , when Marino is throwing it, that old break on the ball shit don’t work.So because we could not defend this, we could not play 3 deep, so when you can’t play zone, what do you do next? You play Man [cover 1], but if their mens are better than your mens, you can’t play cover 1 .We got to where we couldn’t run cover 1 - So now we can’t play an 8 man front. The 1994 Browns went 13-5 , we lost to Steelers 3 times, lost 5 games total [twice in the regular season, once in the playoffs]. We gave up the 5th fewest points in the history of the NFL, and lost to Steelers because we could not play 8-man fronts to stop the run because they would wear us out throwing it
For example, if the offense splits out two wide receivers to the same side of the field, and both run straight up the field on deep routes, the safety plays man on the inside guy and the cornerback plays man on the outside guy. If, however, the inside receiver were to run immediately to the flat -- say, on a bubble screen -- while the outside receiver ran upfield, the corner and the safety would actually double team the deep man, defending him from both the inside and the outside. This type of read-and-react is great against the spread's multiplicity, as it can allow some very short completions but lead to lots of interceptions and few downfield passing windows.