"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."
I have been a member of the community since January 4, 2009. I did, however, read off and on beginning when I was in Afghanistan in 2007. ( Found the site by searching about who the next coach would be). Needless to say, over time, I have read some great stories, epic meltdowns and comments that did make me legitimately laugh out loud.
The reason why I decided to post this is to shed light on the postives that can come, individually, from other readers to another. I saw an add just a moment ago on here about curing Cystic Fibrosis. That took me back to March 26, 2010.... or you can just read here. http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/ot-reason-4-billion-hate-ohiovery-personal
The helpful attitude and well wishes that were given that day gave me and my G/F(who ended up being my wife) the motivation to not take no for an answer. As several readers noted in the content, we were able to get our feet in the door at the lovely university of Michigan health system. While going through all the workup for the transplant we were engaged and eventually married on the day of the Big Chill or 12-11-10.
Sadly, while trying to get her health better my wife went into the hospital to gain weight on May 24, 2011 and suddenly became even more unhealthy until her eventual passing on July 3, 2011. The moral of all of this is that this blog is more to me than just sports and although I know some readers and contributors may not like the way the blog has turned lately I can still look back on its immense positive contribution to my life.
There was another specific night that that MGoBlog made better. The wife was very hungry(CF patients are tiny, but not for lack of appetite), so we were going to go out to eat. However, we had to wait for oxygen supplies to be delivered to our place before leaving. Long story short, they missed the drop off time by multiple hours. The only saving grace that night was MGoBlog, and more to the point, CRex's stories about the Korean in laws. Those great stories put a smile on her face and were a memory she'd reference from time to time until her passing.
Just remember, that although for the most part you may think you're unheard/seen your positive and educated responses can change someone's day and potentially life for the better. Even though she wasn't able to get the transplant, it was because of this blog that we were given idea, and in turn given a chance.
Thank you MGoCommunity
MODS- As always, if you feel this doesn't need to be on here feel free to delete.
Her and I about 3 months before she passed.
[edited to fix Big Ten # and chart]
Another crazy weekend that really impacted the bowl games, and in particular, Georgia Tech.
Your recap of bowl affiliations by conference:
Big Ten – 8 affiliations
Rose, Heart of Dallas, Outback, Gator, Capital One, Buffalo Wild Wings, Meineke Car Care and Little Ceasars
ACC – 8 affiliations
Orange, Sun, Music City, Chick Fil A, Russell Athletic, Independence, Military and Belk
B12 – 7 affiliations
Fiesta, Cotton, Pinstripe, Buffalo Wild Wings, Alamo, Meineke Car Care and Holiday
Big East – 6 affiliations
BBVA Compass, Liberty*, Pin Stripe, Russell Athletic, Belk and Beef O’Brady’s
Conference USA – 6 affiliations
Heart of Dallas, Liberty*, Armed Forces, Hawaii, New Orleans and Beef O’Brady’s
MAC – 3 affiliations
Go Daddy, Little Caesars and Famous Idaho Potato
Mountain West – 5 affiliations
Armed Forces, Hawaii*, Las Vegas, Poinsettia and New Mexico
PAC 12 – 7 affiliations
Rose, Sun, Kraft Fight Hunger, Alamo, Holiday, Las Vegas and New Mexico
SEC – 10 affiliations
Sugar, BBVA Compass, Cotton, Outback, Gator, Capital One, Music City, Liberty*, Chik Fil A and Independence
Sun Belt – 2 affiliations
Go Daddy and New Orleans
WAC – 2 affiliations
Hawaii* and Famous Idaho Potato
At Large Bids – 5
BCS Championship, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange
Other Bids (Independent) – 3
Poinsettia (takes BYU eligible), Kraft Fight Hunger (takes Navy if eligible) and Military (takes Army if eligible)
* Liberty takes either CUSA or SEC team and Hawaii takes Mountain West or WAC team
In total, 35 bowl games meaning 70 slots that have to be filled by eligible teams. Let us see how each conference fairs in terms of eligible teams. This is likely the last entry for this season since I expect that after next weekend we will know all of the eligible teams AND where they will be going. However, one new addition.
Did someone say cha...
It was requested that I add a chart to make it easier to see the eligible teams by conference. Hopefully the following chart will do the job:
Your conference-by-conference breakdown:
Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin
As a conference, the Big Ten really wanted both Purdue and Michigan State to win for greater visibility during the bowl season. And they did just that each becoming bowl eligible with identical 6-6 records. With OSU and Penn State out of the bowl picture, it will mean tougher opponents for the remaining teams with the conference only fielding 7 of the 8 teams it needed to fill its obligations.
Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State and Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech reach a bowl game for the 20thstraight season with its victory of Virginia. Wake Forest, on the other hand, could not beat Vanderbilt and will remain home. Georgia Tech, by virtue of their lose to Georgia, now needs to win the ACC Championship game to guarantee themselves a bowl game. Otherwise, their 6-7 record will leave them hoping there will be an insufficient number of eligible teams requiring the NCAA to use its eligibility rules for such circumstances. The ACC currently has 6 teams eligible out of a required 8, but Georgia Tech’s status is up in the air.
Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia
It is still hard to believe we are this late into the season and still talking about West Virginia’s eligibility given how they started the year. Yet, at long last, the Mountaineers will be in a bowl game after defeating Iowa State. High scoring Baylor outlasted Texas Tech to also reach bowl eligibility. The Big 12 will finish with 9 eligible teams while only requiring 7 to fill its obligations.
Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse
On the Cusp:
Pittsburgh (South Florida)
It is remarkable that, even though they are 7-5, Syracuse is actually in the BCS bowl conversation. Though they will not be selected, as the rule is based on where they wind up in the BCS rankings with Rutgers and Louisville, it still demonstrates the turnaround for their season. Pittsburgh defeated Rutgers given them a much easier road to bowl eligibility this week against South Florida. Assuming they win, the Big East will have 5 teams out of a required 6 obligations.
UCF, East Carolina, Rice, SMU and Tulsa
Marshall lost in double overtime to East Carolina to fall out of bowl contention. SMU and Rice, on the other hand, both won their final games and are now eligible for a bowl. Conference USA finishes with 5 eligible teams while requiring 6 for their affiliations.
BYU, Notre Dame and Navy
Notre Dame will be going to the BCS Championship. No other changes for the Independents. They finish with 3 bowl teams while having 3 affiliations.
Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State, Ohio, Northern Illinois and Toledo.
As expected, Central Michigan defeated UMass and is now bowl eligible. The MAC finishes with 7 eligible teams while only having 3 bowl affiliations.
Air Force, Fresno State, San Diego State, Boise State, Nevada
The MWC was already complete with 5 eligible teams to fill its 5 affiliations.
Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington
The PAC-12 has eight eligible teams for seven affiliations.
Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt
Missouri lost to Texas A&M meaning they will be staying home this bowl season while Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State to reach bowl eligibility. The SEC will have 9 eligible teams coming one short of its 10 obligations.
Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State and
Troy lost their last game meaning the Sun Belt is done with 5 eligible teams. They are affiliated with only 2 bowl games.
Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State
When it comes to bowl eligibility, the WAC is already set with 3 teams. They are affiliated with 2 bowl games.
Of the 70 slots available, 71 teams have already qualified, which includes Pittsburgh who should become eligible this week. The impact of Pittsburgh winning will likely affect one of the WAC or Sun Belt bowl eligible teams.
With these numbers including Georgia Tech, it does appear that they will have to win their game against Florida State in the ACC Championship to maintain their eligibility. Ah the craziness of the ACC!
Last week, I predicted that the following schools would become bowl eligible after the past weekend:
Perfect score, though several other teams also became eligible (SMU, West Virginia, Mississippi). It means that there will be enough school eligible to fill all the bowl games, which organizers of some low-rated games are thankful for.
Yes, that sucked. Guess what?
It's time to get over it and move on. Our 8-4 football team lost to teams with a combined 45-3 record. All of our losses were away from home. We are/were a good, not great, football team, just like most of us thought coming into the year. We still get to watch this team play on New Years Day (Ohio State already made bowl shirts for their game: http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/shane-morris-puts-game-perspective). There's a good chance that we'll play in the Capital One Bowl, which brings up some great memories:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSTp0frDDWo&playnext=1&list=PLD038920368D35B6D&feature=results_video (no embed available, it's Jamar Adams vs. TebowTime)
What's all this layin' around shit!?!?
All is not lost. We've got a top 3 Basketball team to cheer for at Crisler (http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/m-basketball-3-usa-today). We've got a very talented hockey team that hopefully figures itself out soon. In football, we've got an extremely talented recruiting class coming in, playmakers all over, a few all B1G players, and we'll see some Michigan players drafted in the NFL.
Yes, losing to those dirty cheaters from Columbus hurts, and it should. Next year we've got them in our house and let's right the ship. We'll return a bunch of starters, plug in talented youngsters all over, and play again. Remember, Hoke still hasn't lost in the Big House. He's got a chance to have 20 wins in his first 2 years as coach. That's not too shabby. We're recruiting like gangbusters and set up to be a national contender for years to come. Until then, enjoy this team. Enjoy the Bowl. Enjoy hockey at Yost. And get ready to have a top Basketball team. As a 25 year old, I'm not really sure how to handle Michigan being good at basketball. I'm looking forward to it though.
A discussion in another diary started to get me thinking about the differential in total yardage in wins versus losses this season, so I thought I might share some of this data, which I hope would be of interest to this community.
Now that all of the yardage data for the regular season is official, of course, a fair analysis is possible. In summary, on average, we did outgain teams by an average of 70.8 yards per game. What is more interesting, at least in my mind, is the swing between the wins and the losses. In the chart below, you will see that there about a 250 yard swing between wins and losses when it comes to yards gained.
Granted, twelve games is not a huge sample, but I believe it does provide a little insight into how we performed throughout the season. In three of the four losses, we were outgained (the exception being ND). In all but one win, we outgained our opponent (the exception here is Northwestern).
One positive to be garnered from this is the relatively small difference in our defensive performance in wins and losses. It is around fifty yards, as a matter of fact, and provides evidence of something that most people here already knew – the defense was definitely keeping us in games.
The performance on offense is more intriguing, with a swing of nearly 200 yards between wins and losses. Again, this would lend some credence to things that have already been said on the board about the offense and consistency, but the intent here is to merely report the findings for the edification of MGoBlog.
|GAME||TOTAL OFFENSE||TOTAL DEFENSE||DIFFERENCE|
|AVG. IN WINS||448.4||293.1||155.3|
|AVG. IN LOSSES||253.8||351.8||-98.0|
|STD. DEV. (W)||85.2||99.1||152.0|
|STD. DEV. (L)||44.1||89.8||95.3|
In the Tuesday Presser, which seems like ages ago already, Al Borges said, "My creative juices are flowing all the time. Depending on the game, I’m considered creative or idiotic, but they’re always flowing. That’s what kind of makes this game fun for coordinators." I'd say about 99.9% of the MGoBoard is going with idiotic. I won't defend Borges here. When Rodriguez was fired, Brandon said that they were going to pay the going rate for top notch coordinators. Mattison has earned his salary, and then some. The same cannot be said for Borges, not yet. Part of getting paid an astronomical amount for being an assistant coach is dealing with the inevitable criticism that comes when the team falls short.
At that same press conference, Borges said, "...the key is to keep the chains moving so you can call more plays." Borges called 47 plays on Saturday.
More Borges: "When people are complaining about, ‘Well, how come this guy’s not touching the ball more? How come this guy’s not touching the ball?’ Well generally it’s because you’re not getting first downs." Michigan had only 13 first downs on Saturday, three were a result of Buckeye penalties.
Borges: "You don’t get the turns. You don’t get the calls out. What Devin’s done a good job of is, when it isn’t there, creating something to get us more calls." Michigan was 4 of 10 on third down. Not great, but not terrible either. There were just so few chances.
Borges: "Get the receivers touching the ball more. Get the tailback touching the ball more." Devin Funchess had zero catches. Drew Dileo had one. Thomas Rawls had 5 carries, Devin Gardner had 7, four of which were sacks. After getting 6 carries for 117 yards in the first half, Denard had 4 carries for 5 yards in the second. Those carries were for 6 yards (over left guard,) -2 yards (over left guard,) a no gain fumble (up the middle,) and a 1 yard gain for his only carry in the fourth quarter (this time, over right guard.) Nothing went outside. They never went back to the play that resulted in a 67 yard TD run.
Borges: "There’s just no way you can call everything perfect. Can’t do it. So what’s going to happen when you don’t?" The MGoBoard is going to eat you alive.
On the 60 Minutes broadcast that featured Michigan Football last Sunday, there was a fascinating story about babies. They put two bowls of cereal in front of a baby and a couple puppets. The baby preferred the puppet that liked the same cereal as the baby. The lesson was that we are hard-wired to like those that are similar to us. I would guess that the majority of the MGoBoard is closer in age to Denard, Devin, Jake Ryan, and Jordan Kovacs. It is easier for us to walk in their shoes, than the old guy sitting in the pressbox. And so, Al Borges becomes the villain. I'm not sure that's fair, but he's the one getting paid.
Burst of Impetus
* In the first half, Ohio scored. Michigan answered. Then, Ohio scored again. Michigan answered. Ohio scored, Michigan answered, Ohio scored. Halftime. Ohio scored, and scored again. Wait, WUT? Yeah, I know, the pattern was broken. Michigan went for it on fourth and three from our own 48 yard line. Had we made it there, perhaps we're talking about an amazing victory over the hated ones. We have generally supported Brady Hoke for going for it on fourth down, so we shouldn't be critical just because we were stopped this time. The play call, though, we can criticize.
* The leading tackler was WLB Desmond Morgan with 11. Last week's leading tackler was also the WLB, James Ross III. I guess they are not kidding when they say there is an expectation for the position.
* Will Campbell had one of the craziest defensive stat lines I've ever seen: 0 solo tackles and 10 assisted tackles.
* Jake Ryan was back making plays all over the field, 9 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. On Thomas Gordon's sack, Ryan jumped on Gordon's back and tried to sack Gordon and the QB. It's been said of others, but I don't think it applies to anyone better than Jake Ryan, he plays like his hair's on fire.
* We had 7 TFLs for 51 yards, including 4 sacks for 39 yards. The sack yardage masked what was our biggest liability on defense, an inability to stop their run. Hyde ran for 146 yards and Miller was good for 108 on his positive running plays.
* We actually faired better on third down than ohio did, as we held them to 4 of 13. No one is calling for their OC's job, though, because they won the game.
Ermahgerd, Erts (almost) Ervehr
* Denard's day was a microcosm of his career at Michigan. We all remember the 5-0 starts, those runs where he lost a shoe, and the Heisman talk of his Sophomore year. We also remember how that first season stalled. He had an electric run in the first half that gave us a temporary lead, but wasn't able (or allowed?) to finish what he started.
* I think it became clear that Denard wasn't able to throw, which allowed Ohio to bring their DBs up close to the LOS, sealing off the outside. The counter to the outside runs is either throwing - which wasn't an option - or running inside. We found out what happened when we tried to counter with inside runs.
* Devin was 11 of 20 for 171 yards. That was almost good enough to win. However, the two fumbles, four sacks, and one INT made sure that didn't happen. Let's not forget his only other road start was at Minnesota, where Michigan QBs turn into hall-of-famers. All-in-all, it's about what we should have expected from him in his first true road test.
Bunches of Funchess
* It's clear that Devin and Gallon have developed a comfort level. Gallon caught six passes for 67 yards.
* Roy Roundtree caught three for 92 yards, one of which went for 75 yards thanks to a great downfield blocking effort by Dileo.
And Justice for Rawls
* Would Toussaint have made a difference? I don't know, but ohio was playing without John Simon. His backups fared better than ours. We still have depth issues due to the transitions and the Free Press hit job.
Norf and Souf
* Net kickoff and punt return yardage was basically even. Ohio was obviously kicking away from Norfleet, who had one return late for 27 yards.
* At halftime, Urban said, "If that's a late hit, what game are we playing?" Showing that he comes from the same branch of the coaching tree as Narduzzi and Hayes. Mike Jones later demonstrated to Urban what a late hit is.
* Ohio was hit with 9 penalties for 74 yards. I kept waiting for a holding penalty on the guy blocking Roh. It never came. On our last drive, Schofield was hit with a holding penalty that wiped out a 9 yard gain. I don't recall seeing a replay. That put us in an obvious passing situation. Gardner threw incomplete, and then an interception. Ballgame.
* First downs: M 13, O 22
* Net rush yards: M 108, O 207
* Turnovers: M 4, O 2
* Red zone chances: M 1, O 5
* Braxton Miller: 14 of 18 passing
So as much as we'd like to be able to point the finger and blame someone, I think we were fortunate to keep it as close as we did. In the end, it still comes down to "The Team, The Team, The Team," and our team did not execute as well as that other team. I've seen a lot of comments asking why we used all of our good plays against Iowa. Well, buckeyes and hawkeyes have the 'eyes in common, but that's about all they have in common.
Outside the Boxscore
The one thing that bothers me most about this Blog are the posters who claim that there is some sort of moral equivalence, or that we're no better than them. We are better. We do things the right way, and when we falter, we punish those responsible. We do not bring them back and celebrate their lying, cheating ways. We do not hoist them on our shoulders and parade them around for all to see. That display with Tressel and the 2002 team sickened me. Ohio's athletic director should be fired by their worthless excuse for a president for allowing that to happen. Additional scholarships should be taken away, and the post-season ban should be extended, because it's quite clear, those assholes still don't get it. Sour grapes? Maybe, but I'm still PROUD TO BE, A MICHIGAN WOLVERINE!
Note: I usually try to incorporate the other Diaries in this post, but I’m kind of on a tight time crunch and just want to get this out. As always, please read the rest of the Diaries for thoughtful analysis, unique viewpoints, and photoshopped goodness. Me thinks there might be some good stuff after this game.
So, yeah. This is going to be shorter than past editions because, whatever man…
Best: “The Ohio State fans are a special people. Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye”
That quote, uttered by noted Ohio State booster…er objective ESPN color commentator Chris Spielman, perfectly encapsulates how surreal today was for a non-Buckeye. During today’s game, Jim Tressel, noted disciplinarian and legal scholar, was honored along with the rest of his 2002 National Championship team. This, of course, was the team that featured a mercurial but talented freshman RB Maurice Clarett, who led the Buckeyes in rushing that season and also scored the title-winning TD in overtime against Miami. The whole gang was back, to give the OSU faithful one more opportunity to cheer on a myth, a delusion about its history that seems painfully obvious to everyone not wearing crimson and grey.
So between the first and second quarters of the final game the 2012 Buckeyes will play, a premature finale caused by Mr. Tressel’s behavior during his years in Columbus, the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation, one of the biggest cheers of the day. All the while, the athletics department and the greater school, with nary a hint of irony, trumpeted his return as a conquering hero of sorts. The narrative went, at least in some circles, that most schools would have done the same, that fans love to cheer on winners and that most of those players were completely above board and played fairly, won every game that season, and, let’s be honest, Miami was no saint either. The thinking went that this was a team that the school should be proud of, or at least should be able to recognize publicly.
Now, I’m trying my best to stay off the soapbox, so I’ll keep this brief. Not all schools would be so quick to celebrate past athletic accomplishments tainted by violations. The next Steve Fisher Appreciation Night at Crisler will be the first, and Brian has been very clear about his feelings toward Louis “seriously, he can die in a fire for all I care” Bullock and the rest of that brood.
But more than some relativistic moral high ground that some UM fans want to take with OSU, the fact remains that the Buckeye fanbase IS special. It drove one of its more prominent alums out of the state, put a bounty out on high school kid who dared to change his commitment, and it has trouble with its emotions. It is a fan base seemingly always on the wrong side of razor’s edge that is fandom, crystallized in a ceremony memorializing the man who gave them one tainted undefeated season while sullying the next one as well. O-H-I-O, indeed.
Best: MGoMeltdowns are awesome
So as is the custom around these parts, the traffic to the site after a loss follows the same trajectory as general internet traffic does whenever illicit pictures of some starlet are “leaked” to the the web totally-unexpectedly-but-right-before-my-new-movie-Crushed Blue Velvet Girlfriend 2-is-released. For a graphical representation, here is a screenshot of the site about 4 minutes after the game ended
Click for full size
It will never approach RCMB or anything in the SEC not related to Vandy, but TWO redundant posts sarcastically “thanking” the coaches for losing the game, one out-and-out “Fire Borges” thread and one claiming he merely “sucked”, one thread already set for deletion, and about 1,100 posts in a game thread, 50% of them berating Al Borges and the team for a poor second half, is nothing to sneeze at. Subsequent posts included petitions to fire Al Borges, a couple crying out for sanity, and one inferring a discussion about iCarly and Larry Hagman that felt appropriate for an 8th-grader’s “MySpace” profile. Then Ace showed up with his usual quality summary and solid reasoning, which is like, Booo this man!
So why is this a “Best”? Because this outpouring feels organic and based on real concerns. During the RR era, people used to freak out after wins OR losses, calling for guys’ heads and questioning everyone’s credentials from the water boy on up. It was an anger born from desperation and confusion, watching a once-proud program flail about on the field for 3 hours every Saturday. But with this team, the complaints are natural, as people know what Michigan is and what they aren’t, and the reasons behind those limitations are real. It’s sobering to see the cracks in this team both today and going forward, but at least they aren’t obfuscated by a general malaise.
Worst: The Blame Game
Since time immemorial fans have complained about offensive coordinators at UM; in my lifetime, I don’t remember a single OC who left the program without being singed pretty badly on the way out. DC’s tend to get off cleaner, at least in part because defensive playcalling feels “harder” to dissect than offensive sets. It probably is a combination of the reactive nature of defense versus the active nature of offense, fans being trained to focus more on the ball than anything else on the field, and the reality that, with few exceptions, offensive players are more prominent, their successes and failures more memorable than their defensive counterparts. And as the puppet master, the general leading that side onto the field, the offensive coordinator naturally takes on a prominent, public-facing role that invites criticism.
Al Borges called a good first half of football against OSU and between a predictable (best case) and atrocious (worst case) second half. Of course, he probably doesn’t deserve as much credit as he’ll get for the first half nor as much blame for the cratering in the second half. Denard’s end-of-quarter 67-yard TD run was all about a playmaker taking advantage of poor tackling technique by OSU and making a play with the ball. In the second half, he wasn’t the reason Devin fumbled the ball deep in UM’s territory, nor the line’s continued inability to get any type of push up the middle.
So yes, the offense failed to do much in the second half against an aggressive but beatable defense. And while it did reasonably well in terms of points in the first half, two of those TDs were on plays that benefitted as much from OSU mistakes as UM’s offensive playcalling. I already discussed Denard’s run benefitting from the GERG-approved “bump the runner, but hard” tackling technique. The muffed punt by Brown gave UM great field positioning, and they cashed in after OSU again bailed them out with a roughing the passer penalty on 3rd down. The pass to Roundtree was a decent playcall but morphed from first-down yardage to TD because of a stiff-arm and some blown coverage. At no point today did the offense feel particularly well-tuned, and toward the end the playcalling devolved to a single index card with “throw the ball” scribbled on it with blue crayon.
For better or for worse, this game was a microcosm of what Al Borges brings to UM. As I have said for months, echoing others both here and in the greater blogosphere, he is not the type of OC who is willing/capable of drastically altering his gameplan within a game, and only sparingly between games. It was clear after the first game of the year that he has an offense in mind with the players he has, and outside of massive injuries to key players that won’t change.
He’s Teddy KGB, and his tell was nakedly obvious to everyone who watched this game, and really, the past two seasons. He’ll win his fair share of hands because the cards dealt to him dictate so, but he’s had two seasons to show the UM faithful that he is better than statistics and flops and hasn’t come close to proving otherwise.
One of the chief complaints people had during the Rich Rodriguez era was the blind loyalty he showed to certain members of his staff, often at odds with their performance on the field. The name “Tony Gibson” remains a bad word on certain message boards, and at various times Bruce Tall and Jay Hopson came under fire for their ineffective coaching. Yet despite fielding horrific defenses and offensive units that were “unpredictable” at best for long stretches of his tenure, RR kept these coaches around because they had come up with him and thus deserved his loyalty, like a successful athlete who finances a cadre of family and friends because he had history with them. And that, as much as the recruiting misses, the weak performances in big games, the caustic media environment, and the losing, was the reason he failed at UM.
So when Brady Hoke arrived at UM, after all of the memorable quotes and wins, one message you kept hearing was his loyalty. He loved this program, he loved this school, and he respected the coaches that worked with him. The 11 wins masked some of the issues that became more prominent this year, previously hidden behind unsustainable fumble recovery rates and last-second heroics. The offense has struggled mightily all year, with the line unable to consistently open lanes for running backs, who then seem unable to produce any additional yards beyond those made available by play design and blocking. The passing game has proven more proficient as the season progressed, but that seems to have been due as much due to poor defenses as any growth brought on by better play-calling and maturation. Punt returns remain an issue for special teams, as does blocking on kick-offs, but that may be as easy as adopting a couple different formations and getting someone back there who won’t let the ball bounce 20 yards after it touches the ground.
The defense has been statistically spectacular and functionally solid. Mattison has been able to generate solid play at all three levels despite a dearth of experience and/or talent at those positions, but the secondary remains questionable outside of Kovacs and the line could not hold up as the game progressed, being gashed consistently by Hyde in the 4th quarter. But those feel like correctable issues with recruiting, and the advancements already made for a unit that 2 years ago was one of the worst in the nation provide hope.
I am not advocating wholesale changes of the staff, but it will be a test of Brady Hoke’s loyalty to see what happens after the bowl game. RR seemingly picked loyalty to his coaches over winning*, and it cost him. We’ll see if Hoke believes that these men can fix the problems before them and move on, or if his loyalty to UM leads him to shake up the staff.
*I know this is reductive to an extent, but I honestly believe changes to the staff could have saved him in his second and third years.
Worst: The Wall
This game was like the meanest 13-year-olds you’ll ever meet, because it rudely highlighted the season-long inability of this squad to run the ball with anyone not named Denard. Lewan struggled for swaths of the game, highlighted by Adolphus Washington strip-sacking Gardner on UM’s opening drive. Thomas Rawls had 3 yards on 5 carries, highlighted by 1 and 2-yard runs on first down. On twelve rushes in the second half, UM totaled 23 yards for 1.9 yds/c, and that includes a fumble and two instances where UM got 0 yards on short third- and fourth-down runs. Beyond this game, Fitz had rushing averages of 1.1 (Purdue), 3.4 (Illinois), and 0.9 (Air Force), and failed to break 100 yards all season before his injury, a year after recording 5. With Lewan likely leaving, talented but young recruits on the line probably not quite ready to start, and Denard and his 3 1,000 yard seasons graduating, it remains a mystery how this team will move the ball on the ground at all next year.
It’s been said already, but Denard once again left everyone breathless. People will probably remember the 67-yard TD run, but he also had an amazing 30-yard run on UM’s first drive, and finished with 122 yards on 10 carries. He definitely struggled in the second half with a fumble and less than 10 yards on 4 carries, and there were signs that he might have been injured after that early fumble. Regardless, he scored his 6th career TD against OSU, and showed continued leadership and support for this team in whatever capacity he was asked. And while it does appear that it may take a fresh set of eyes to use him to the best of his abilities, he leaves UM as an all-time great both on and off the field.
Worst: Fun with Flags
Per usual, the Big Ten referees were out in full force, throwing 14 flags for around 130 yards. The customary WTF Call of the Week Award(TM) goes to the atrocious offensive PI on Roy Roundtree that even stopped Chris Spielman, but this game also featured a couple of personal fouls and a couple of missed calls, including the Norfleet facemask penalty on an OSU punt return that even Dennis thought was going to be called given how frequently he kept looking at the ref as he ran off the field. It was a chippy game, but one due less to players making solid, hard-hitting plays as much as stupid block-in-the-back penalties and out-of-bound hits 2-3 yards into the sideline. It felt like a MSU-UM game, and both of these teams should be better than that.
Best: Devin, the Defense, and the Future
Despite his struggles holding onto the ball and that bad interception to effectively end the game, I thought Gardner played reasonably well. He was under near-constant pressure all game (4 sacks), and had no running game to support him in the second half. 11-20 with a TD and an INT are decent numbers in only your 4th game of the season at QB and the first “real” road game (Minny barely counts as a football team given how they ended the season). Roy Roundtree also had a nice finishing game against OSU, highlighted of course by that 75-yard TD, while Gallon continued his sneaky-good season with 67 more yards. Both of these guys came on strong to end the season, and I think Gallon will have a fine senior year.
Now, you’d think after giving up 20 points in the first half the defense would be in for a Worst, but they held tough in the second half despite being on the field seemingly the whole time, only giving up 6 points (3 after a turnover that gave OSU the ball on the UM 10 yard line) and forcing a fumble. The line largely held until the 4th quarter, when Hyde and co. started to gash them inside. Mattison devised a defense that limited Miller to one 42-yard scramble but also sacked him 4 times. Miller had a good day passing the ball, but he noticeably slowed down the second half and, frankly, he remains far less dangerous with his arm than with his legs. It wasn’t a dominant performance by any means, and the corners were still unable to stay with OSU’s receivers at times, but it played well enough to win.
Will Campbell finished with 10 tackles, and the LBs all played reasonably well. Frank Clark had a bone-shattering sack on Miller in the first half and recovered a fumble caused by JMFR in the 4th to give the team a chance. The future looks bright for this unit, and it will be interesting to see how they play at the bowl game after a month to prepare and next season firmly in view.
Best: In the Wild
So on Wednesday, I attended the UM-Pitt basketball game at MSG with BronxBlueWife (BBW, for short, though not really in any way), and obviously wanted to support the team and rock the Maize and Blue. But as someone who graduated college about a decade ago, those old Steve & Barry t-shirts are starting to fall apart, and I haven’t been back to replenish the stock recently. But then I remembered that I DID have a shirt with the appropriate color scheme, fit, and yes you know where this is going…
Yes, that’s BronxBlue rocking the smedium t-shirt (stupid dryer). And yes, I am married, gainfully employed, and the owner of an automobile and a 401k. Also, apparently, a 4.2-head and an 8-year-old haircut. But these shirts do exist in the wild and are worn non-ironically. And as you can see, seats were VERY available.
So maybe outside of the bowl game, this will be it for my weekly recaps of games. I’m not knowledgeable enough of a basketball fan to really dissect the game in a meaningful way, and there are so many games that even short recaps would take quite a bit of time. I might knock one out before the conference season starts if anything eventful plays out, and maybe after a marquee game or two. But thanks to everyone who read through my rants and leaving comments. Go Blue!