"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."
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We've all got our own gameday rituals and superstitions. And we all question them when the game doesn't turn out right. Why do we, the mere fans, look for strange ways to share some of the blame? Is it our own weird way of feeling like we're a part of the team?
What are your gameday superstitions? And did you forget to do any of them on Saturday?
OnThursday the Blockhams look to the bye week.
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So rather than start another thread questioning the offense, I decided to take a look around our lovely conference:
1: Northwestern/Minnesota - They haven't gone up against great competition, but remain the only two (postseason eligible) teams that are undefeated. Back in August if I told you the October 13th game between the two could feature a 6-0 Northwestern and 5-0 Minnesota, I bet people would slap me silly.
2: Purdue - Again, not so great competition, but since they host Wisconsin at home they should be the favorites for the Leaders division. Let that sink in....Purdue isn't a darkhorse, they're not a longshot, they're the favorites for the Division. Sure it's because the rest of their division imploded, but hey, baby steps.
And that's all the positives for the conference
1: Wisconsin - At worst, they should be 1-3, but in reality they should at least be 2-2. No matter how you slice it, Wisconsin is the leagues Number 1 disappointment. The defending conference champion almost losing to FCS teams, dropping a game against a what will probably be a middle of the pack PAC-12 team, and essentially losing to a WAC team is not how you want to start off your title defense. Couple that with having Montee Ball yet only having the 88th best rushing attack in the country and they're a clear number 1
2: Iowa - Coming in at a close second is the 2-2 Hawkeyes, fresh off a stinging home loss to Central. Going into this year people knew was going to be difficult for the Hawkeyes. They're replacing both coordinators, and were extremely thin at receiver and RB, but they had hopes that with an average defense and a veteran QB, they could make a fight in the division. Plenty of dropped passes later, a few special teams meltdowns, and you've got people questioning whether Iowa will make a bowl or not
3: Illinois/PSU - I don't really know what to say here, at this point we're not talking about teams that are clear disappointments so much as they are performing somewhat below expectations. Illinois has blowout losses to Arizona State and Louisiana Tech (!!!), with a win over WMU and a seal clubbing over Charleston Southern, which is apparently a real school; while Penn State dropped their first two games to Ohio and Virginia, while managing to salvage games over Navy and Temple
4: Nebraska/Michigan - Here we've got teams that could be 4-0 and 3-1 respectively. Both teams could win the conference, but could jsut as easily go 8-4. For Nebraska, the defense should stiffen up if they want some Roses, and for Michigan, well there's about 40 other threads discussing us, go there and talk about it (turnovers)
5: MSU/OSU - They're just below Neb/Mich. Here neither team has lost a game they should have won, but they haven't looked impressive winnning those games. MSU had to give Le'veon Bell 5 million touches in their opener to beat a rebuilding Boise team, and had to do the same gameplan to beat Eastern (!!!!!!!!!). The defense has looked good, but they have also gone up against some pretty bad offenses, Boise got shut out against BYU, and Eastern is Eastern. Notre Dame put up 300 yards on them, but had one big break for a TD, and a bunch of FG's. Right now their best win is over a CMU team. And when you look at OSU, struggles against Central Florida, UAB, and Cal don't bode well for their season. Braxton Miller has been doing it all for the Buckeyes, but as any Michigan fan can tell you, that's not a viable plan for continued success. The passing offense leaves much to be desired and various injuries have knocked their starting RB's out of commision at one point or another. Their defense hasn't been embarrassed, but they can't claim greatness either.
The Meh: Indiana. IU sucks, and a loss to Ball State isn't really surprising, nor are their wins over UMass and Indiana State. Conference play will knock them back down to nothing
There is a myth that lives on this board that Denard was a better passer in 2010. This post is not meant to excuse Al Borges' playcalling, or bash Rich Rod, or elevate Lloyd Carr's run-run-run-punt strategy. It's just a look at the falsity that Denard was a better passer in 2010.
The unfortunate, painful truth that this diary reveals is that our passing offense is not much better than it was in 2010, when it wasn't very good at all (when it mattered).
Let's throw out the garbage games and focus on Michigan's games against opponents that had respectable defenses in 2010:
- Ohio (3rd in total yds)
- Iowa (16th in total yds)
- Wisconsin (23rd in total yds)
- Michigan State (32nd in total yds)
You might be wondering, "Where is Notre Dame and Penn State on that list?" Well, I'm glad you asked. They were 46th and 48th...behind powerhouses like San Diego State, Hawaii, and ILLINOIS!!! (the team we scored 67 points against). So they sucked. But we still lost to Penn State. Even though they sucked. Because our defense was, well, worser.
I don't need to lay out the stats from the ohio game. They trounced us, and Denard got pulled in favor of Forcier at the end of the game. We couldn't move the ball at all, and scored only 7 points.
Let's move on to Iowa...
Their defense was ranked 16th in 2010, and yet we were able to score 28 points. This is actually the best comparable for this weekend's Notre Dame game, since ND is ranked 17th in total defense right now. Yes, we lost the game by a score of 28-38, and those four TDs sure do look good...but only because you either don't remember what happened or judge a book (or score) by it's cover (or...score). Here are some relevant stats:
- Denard 13/18, 98 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Forcier 17/26, 239, 1 TD, 2 INT
But here's the most important stat: We only scored 7 points when Denard was on the field. Denard get could get yards (108 on 18 carries) but not points. Iowa was stacking the box, and all the offense could muster was a TD on a drive when Denard threw three passes: one was incomplete, one was for a 6 yd. loss, and the last was a screen to Smith for an 8 yd. TD. Denard got hurt in the 3rd quarter and in came Forcier.
It was Forcier that brought the team back in that game, and Forcier that sealed our fate with his INTs. It's worth noting that completing passes underneath when you're behind by 21 points is MUCH easier. In fact, that leads to lots of confusion about the effectiveness of Denard's passing and the 2010 offense in general: we got loads of "soft" yards because we were hopelessly behind and our opponents played softer coverages and lighter fronts.
Wisconsin has a similar storyline, except that Denard played much more that game. We scored exactly ZERO points in the first half (although we did miss a 30 yd. field goal). With a 24 point lead, Wisconsin converted to prevent defense, and allowed us back in the game. Denard stayed in this time, and racked up a nice, meaningless statline: 16/25 for 239 yds, 2 TDs, and, of course, 1 INT. The important part: Denard was 4/9 for 22 yds passing in the first half. When Wisconsin was playing their base defense, Denard couldn't pass. Only the gooey butter cake version of Wiscy's D allowed DR some meaningless passing yardage. Further proof of this came in the fourth quarter, when we had come back to make it a 21-31 game. Denard couldn't move the ball anymore.
The final example is, perhaps, the most damning. Michigan State had a good-but-not-great defense in 2010. Their success was largely a result of their schedule and some good defensive coaching. They lost badly to Iowa (and 'Bama), snuck by a pretty lousy ND team in overtime, and narrowly edged out a VERY average Penn State team. Their only quality win was against Wisconsin, and that game was played in East Lansing. Despite their easy schedule, the Spartan defense was still only ranked 32nd in total yds. Michigan actually had the lead twice in this game, up 3-0 in the first quarter and 10-7 in the second. Denard was 6/8 for 51 yds in the first quarter, but threw an INT in the endzone. In the second quarter, Denard shined again. He was 4/6 for 81 yds and a TD. At the half, Michigan was down 10-17.
The second half was a very, very different story. Denard was 7/15 for 82yds and 2 INTs. The same guy we saw against ND. Only against a defense that wasn't nearly as good. And we were at home. The 4th quarter TD was only scored after MSU had rung-up a 21 point lead.
So here's the bottom line: Denard has never been a good passer, or even an average passer. And against good defenses, we won't win until he's able to throw the ball somewhat effectively. Maybe that's why Borges keeps making him throw, especially before the B1G season starts.
So what's the difference between now and 2010? The defense. Because our Greg defense is not our GERG defense, we are in every game, and teams don't stop stacking the box against Denard. They don't stop blitzing. They don't play soft coverage. So Denard never gets to ring-up his stats, and looks even worse.
I certainly won't excuse Borges' playcalling on Saturday--it needed to be better. But the fact is that our only quality wins have come when Denard has been able to make plays in the passing game (or Hemingway was able to bail out Denard) and I expect it stay that way. If Denard can't pass, we're screwed, and 4 or 5 losses is our best case scenario.
Growing up, I was not a Michigan fan. I lived in the Chicago suburbs, and I had two favorite college teams: The University of Colorado for football and The University of North Carolina for basketball. I rooted for Colorado because they were my mom's alma mater, while I rooted for UNC because that was where Michael Jordan went, and when you're a kid from Chicago, that's the only reason you need.
The first time I ever watched a Michigan game that I remember was the 1993 basketball championship game, because Michigan was playing UNC. At the time, I was obviously pleased with the outcome of that game.
My life changed dramatically the weekend of September 24th, 1994, when I was 12 years old. The 25th was the day that my dad remarried. Since my stepmom and her family was from Michigan, we all gathered around the television to watch Michigan play Colorado on the 24th. The room's members consisted entirely of Michigan alums and/or season ticketholders with the exception of myself and my dad - my stepmom to be, my stepsister to be, my stepsister's then boyfriend now husband, my stepmom's best friend & husband, and other various relatives and friends from Michigan.
Me being the obnoxious 12 year old that I was, I was rooting on Colorado partly out of loyalty to my mom's alma mater and partly out of wanting to be the contrarian in the room. So when Kordell Stewart heaved a prayer at the buzzer, I went bananas when it connected and proceeded to rub it in everyone's faces the entire rest of the evening.
My new stepfamily realized they didn't want to have someone taunting them every time Michigan suffered a loss in the future, so they promptly began my indoctrination into all things Michigan the following season. I was brought to Ann Arbor for the first of many games before I got to college. It was the 1995 game vs Minnesota where UM won by 35 points. I got to experience tailgating on the Golf Course before and after the game, as well as dinner at Good Time Charley's, on top of my first time inside the Big House. Going to a game annually in Ann Arbor became a tradition, as did going to the games in Chicago every time UM came to play Northwestern.
Once I was in high school and had to start applying to colleges, Michigan was at the top of my list of preferred destinations. I got in to Michigan as well as my safety school of Illinois and Michigan was my clear favorite between the two. My dad, knowing the massive out of state tuition bill that would be coming compared to IL (at the time almost a 90k difference for 4 years), tried to bribe me into going to U of I instead by offering me a new car.
My dad only offered me a new Saturn. As I already was driving a gently used Camry, I turned him down unless he was willing to escalate his offer to a BMW 3 series or a Honda S2000. He declined that, so I was Ann Arbor bound in the fall of 2000.
I've been bleeding Maize & Blue for 17 years now, and I now look forward to indoctrinating my children in all things U of M. The nice thing is I'll be able to get my kids pro-Michigan from birth, as opposed to their teenage years, so they won't have any years missing from their lives as Michigan fans.
Thanks for reading, I just wanted to share as today is the anniversary of a lifechanging day for me.
In the week preceding this game, some random internet poster guy asked what was the worst performance you’ve seen by a QB. I ran screaming from that post, but couldn’t escape the images of Demetrious Brown throwing seven interceptions – SEVEN INTERCEPTIONS!!! - in a game against MSU many years ago. In another post, we learned that Brady Hoke forgot about ND’s first night game in 1982 against UofM. I didn’t forget because I was there and have the emotional scars to prove it. I’ve seen too many weird things happen in M/ND games, like winds coming up out of nowhere to push 51 yard field goal attempts from 5’3” guys with the leg strength of my mom over the cross bar. Or kicking off to a guy named Rocket AFTER he’s already burned you for a kick return TD.
So what happened Saturday night? Denard Robinson arguably had his worst game as a UofM QB, contributing to five of UofM’s six turnovers on the night. Earlier in the week, Peyton Manning, who some call the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, threw three interceptions in the first quarter. So far all of the folks out there saying senior quarterbacks should play better, all I can say is stuff happens, even to NFL legends and future hall of famers.
However, there is a silver lining. What I remember most about the 7 interception game, was the inability of UofM to change plan, to try something, anything different. Against ND, all five of the INTs occurred in the first half. Adjustments were made. Things started clicking; however, the revised plan took too much time, and the defense was not able to get off the field thanks to a misplaced sheleighleigh (sp?) that tripped up J.T. Floyd on a critical third down play. And by the way, thanks a lot, random internet poster guy. Next time, wait until after the ND game to tempt the fates*.
* As a coping mechanism, I either have to blame you or accept that Denard is human, and I’m not ready to do that yet.
Burst of Impetus
- In the interest of saving time, I put this code together:
For i = 1 to 6
- Michigan started grinding out some first downs.
- It looked like if Michigan could just get some points on the board, we’d take control of the game.
- Michigan turned the ball over.
- I absorbed a virtual punch to the gut while that internet meme girl screamed, “Why, why, why?” inside my head.
- Believe it or not, I think the tone for the game was set by that first turnover ND made, and our inability to turn that into points. I think Borges and Denard started pressing too much after that. The sad thing is we could have won a ball-control, grind-it-out, low-scoring, slugfest-type game, but Borges gameplanned for needing to get in the 30’s. The ND/Staee game should have taught us that ND is not winning with offense this year.
- ND was held to 94 yards rushing for on 31 attempts for a 3.0 average.
- Only 14 players show up in the defensive stats. ND only ran 50 plays. Apparently, they didn’t want the ball either.
- Kovacs and Morgan were the leading tacklers with 7 apiece.
- Q. Washington played well and got half a tackle for loss for zero yards. If you wonder how that’s possible, join the club. He did get into the backfield a few times, but didn’t wrap up when he did.
- Taylor had an awesome INT that made me flashback to one of those games we won 38-0. Alas, we couldn’t capitalize on it.
- I have to admit ND’s defense is good. They had 5 TFLs and 4 QHs to our 2 and 1.
Ermahgerd, Desmond "Shoestring" Robinson?
- Last week, I wrote, “Denard had one poor pass/decision, throwing a pick-six, but better he do that against UMass than ND, ‘cause he rarely does that kind of thing, right?” Well, at least we avoided the pick-six. I’ll be expecting a first class ticket to Bolivian in the mail.
- According to Tom Hammond and Mike Mayock (more later) our fourth string QB, Desmond “Shoestring” Robinson, got the start. I kept waiting for the “Denard who owns ND” to show up, but we ran out of time in the 2ndhalf.
- On the 24 yard pass play ND had down to our six, their right tackle started early. Had that been called, it potentially wipes out an ND TD.
- I think the refs missed another holding penalty early in the game where an ND lineman tried to remove Roh’s shoulder pads.
- Penalties were even at 5 apiece. I guess that’s the best you can expect when you are playing on the road against G_d.
Bunches of Funchess
- When I was 16 and learning how to drive, my Dad, trying his best to impart some constructive criticism without being overly harsh, said, “ST3, your driving lacks a certain smoothness.” I think it’s wonderful how Devin Gardner has moved over to WR to help the team, but at this point in his career, I think his route running lacks a certain smoothness.
- On the INT thrown in front of Gardner, why is everyone assuming that was Denard’s fault? He is a senior QB and our all time yardage leader. Gardner is a converted QB playing WR in his 4thgame.
- Roundtree horribly mistimed his jump on the end-of-half hail Mary, probably costing us another turnover, but that play was meaningless. I do worry about what that suggests about Roundtree. He’s great on the quick hitters and underneath stuff, but I still don’t see him getting separation on the deep balls. He had 3 catches for 30 yards with a long of 11.
- You can’t stop the Funchess, you can only hope to contain him, and ND did to the tune of 2 catches for only 11 yards.
I Can Hate Donkeys Again?
- We saw glimpses of the 2011 end-of-season running game. We’ll need more of that going forward.
- Subtracting sack yardage, we did fairly well on the ground. Toussaint averaged 4.5 yards on 13 carries, helped by a 31 yard gain.
- We outrushed ND 161-94.
Special Teams Stuff
- Norfleet continues to get the ball and go Norf and Souf. I like how he gets it and goes.
- I think Brian wasted a bunch of electrons on his punting post this week, as neither team returned a punt.
- Gibbons made two and missed one from the hash. I hate kicks from the hash. If I was a coach, I’d never attempt a kick from the hashmark. The angle just screws everything up.
I’ll Take Bullets for a Thousand, Alex
- In the non-points related aspects of the game, we did fairly well, getting more first downs (19-14,) more total yards (299-239,) and doing better on third down (8 of 15 vs. 3 of 9.) Heck, we only punted once. (/ducks)
- Red zone efficiency or lack thereof was also a big factor. We went 2 of 5, they were 2 of 3.
- Time of possession was odd, we dominated the 1stand 3rdquarters with 11+ minutes each, and ND controlled the 2ndand 4thquarters with 9+ minutes.
- Check out the drive chart. We had 7 drives in the first half, but only three in the second.
Outside the Boxscore
- I updated my “most annoying color men” list and put Mike Mayock at the top of the list. Doesn’t he realize he’s covering a game for television, not radio? For 3 and a half hours he wouldn’t shut up. Take a breather, Mike, and let the game speak for itself every now and then. At the end of the half, he castigated Omameh for making a “dumb play” by hitting someone late. The only problem was, replay showed the ND player launching himself from behind Omameh and ND got the 15 yard penalty. Mike’s response, “My bad.” Yeah, you’re right Mike, you are bad. Fortunately, we only have to listen to him once every other year.
- NBC’s studio analyst for the game was Liam McHugh. Here’s how I think the interview went.
NBC Exec: What’s your name?
McHugh: Liam McHugh.
NBC Exec: You’re hired!
Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.
- Michigan was the better team yesterday and if you remove the ridiculous number of turnovers, they kill the Irish.
- The offensive line looked great all game, giving Denard tons of time and opening up running lanes. Michigan probably could have ridden the O-line to victory easily. They dominated the much-heralded ND front seven.
- Borges went gimmicky far too early, IMO. The Devin Gardner pass was a nice play, but also a harbinger of things to come. The Vincent Smith HB-pass was far too cute. Hopefully looking at the film from this game will lead to more confidence and more straight-forward game planning in BIG season.
- The defense is getting much better up front and controlled the game yesterday. Tackles were spread evenly throughout the team, with the LBs and DTs accounting for a good percentage. No sacks is disappointing though.
- Desmond Morgon and Kenny Demens - They were everywhere hauling down Irish backs. Nice to see the veterans (Kovacs too) leading the defense in tackles.
- Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon - Several key receptions on third down for these two.
- Elliot Mealer - Looked very good opening holes for the run game. Props to Schofield as well for superior protection on passing downs.
- Denard's Feet - Take out the 3 sacks and you get 23 carries for 111 yards, or nearly 5 yards per carry.
- Norfleet - Hard running on returns put Michigan in good field position. Still awaiting the inevitable.