spoiler alert: i linked this
How was your off-season? I could say mine was good, but that's just a qualitative assessment. Here in boxscore land, we rely on numbers to tell a story. Every summer, my company gives out pedometers and encourages its employees to track their steps. At the end of the step-tracking, the health assessments begin. The insurance companies use the health assessments to set the coverage rates they charge my company. I'm sure those two items aren't related at all. I cranked out over 850K steps during the 8 week step-tracking period. I felt so good about that, I kept the pedometer on for another two weeks and went over 1 million steps in 10 weeks. What does all that mean? I don't know, but they are nice round numbers.
Besides the step tracking, my new year's resolution was to do 10,000 push-ups this year. I'm on pace, having done ~7,000 so far. With all that walking (hey, when you get older, any sort of movement is good,) and the push-ups, I was hoping my health assessment would be improved over last year. I went to get my numbers Friday morning and found out that my blood pressure is still a little high. The numbers are in the "pre-hypertension" range. My glucose reading was still just a little above normal, so I fall in the "pre-diabetic" range. Finally, my BMI is no better than last year, so I'm still pre-obese.
Like me, the University of Michigan football team has spent the past 8 months trying to improve. They brought in a new coach with a track record of success. They trained like never before, eschewing film study to spend all 4 daily allotted hours on the practice field. They entered a submarine (metaphorical, I suppose, but with Harbaugh who can say for sure) and focused exclusively on football during fall practice. So have they improved? I submit that the numbers will show that the quarterbacking is pre-efficient, the running game is pre-effective, and the defense is pre-dominating.
The Two Jakes
* Jake Rudock was everything I was hoping he would be, except for the three interceptions. He threw X+1 yard passes on third and X. He completed 27 of 43 passes for a 62.8 completion percentage. I'm thrilled to see a number there north of 60%. He passed for 279 yards, good for 6.5 yards per attempt.
* I would define an efficient quarterback as one who completes 60+% of his passes for 7+ YPA, with 0-1 INTs/game. Jake was close to meeting those numbers, except fo the three interception. After one game against a pretty good defense, it says here that he is a pre-efficient passer. All he needs to do is get more comfortable throwing to Grant Perry and hit on a couple long balls at normal elevation under reasonable conditions. I think the ball sailed on him on the long throws due to the elevation, much like baseballs at Coors Field.
* Jake Butt in 2015 >>> Jake Butt in 2014. He appeared fully healthy and a near lock for the Mackey Award. Butt tallied 93 yards on 8 catches, including a ridiculous catch for a TD with 2 Ute defenders draped all over him.
Amazing Amara Darbaugh
* As good as Butt was, Darboh led the receiving corps with 8 catches for 101 yards and a TD. He's realizing how nice it is to have another receiver actually block for you on a bubble screen.
* Nine receivers caught passes from Rudock. He did have his two favorites in Darboh and Butt, but he also distributed 11 completions among 7 other receivers. That will make it hard for opposing defenses to prepare for Michigan. There'll be no more just shutting down Gallon or Funchess. Several guys can hurt you on this offense. I expect to see more contributions from the new guys, Perry, Bunting, and Isaac, as they get more familiar with the offense. I expect to see fewer contributions from A.J. Williams. He just showed no ability to separate from defenders.
* Since Brian inexplicably didn't use "Jackhammer" for his best performer award, I'm going to use it for the running backs. I think jackhammer is a fitting description for these guys because in practice, a jackhammer doesn't really go anywhere. It bangs and bangs and bangs at the concrete until the concrete finally breaks. I expect what you'll see this year is Harbaugh giving Smith, Isaac (and the occasional carry to Kerridge) carry after carry where they bang out 3 yards per, until the fourth quarter when the defense breaks and the Michigan running game starts cranking out 7 yards per carry. The net effect will be around 4.5 ypc, but we'll be able to win games in the fourth quarter by controlling the clock and limiting the opposition's chances. Older fans like myself will smile knowingly as the Harbaughfense cranks out 7 minute drives in the late stages of close games, hopefully finishing with 7 points while salting away another victory.
* De'Veon Smith got the majority of the carries and yards (17 for 47, 2.8 ypc.)
* Derrick Green only gained 1 yard on 2 carries. I was waiting for him to enter the game as a change of pace back. The pace changed alright, it just got slower.
Tacos and Peppers
* Bolden and Morgan led the way with 13 and 10 tackles, respectively.
* Ojemudia and Taco each had a sack that cost Utah 3 yards, a mini-sack if you will.
* Wormley led the way with 3 TFLs. Michigan had 9 TFLs total for 21 yards. By comparison, Sack Lake City Utah had no sacks and only 3 TFLs for 3 yards. We've come a long way on the O-Line.
ST3's STSTs (these are my Special Teams Specific Thoughts)
* Many have complained about our less than special teams the past few seasons. During these discussions, you'll often see someone say, special teams are 1/3 of the game. I did a quick check of the last few games last season and found out that ~1/6 of the plays run during a game are special teams plays. In this game, Michigan ran 72 plays and Utah had 70 total offensive plays. There were 26 assorted punts, kickoffs, PATs, and field goal tries. 26/168=0.155. Once again, roughly 1/6 of the total plays were special teams plays.
* Of course, at altitude, it can be argued that the kickoffs were merely ceremonial as only 1 of the 9 kickoffs total was returned.
* Brian's game recap stated, "You have read this column before." Well, I have seen this boxscore before as well. In an otherwise evenly matched game, turnovers swung the game to our opponents.
* First downs were even at 20-20, but Michigan only gained 3 first downs by rushing. I hope that's the low point for the season. It better be.
* Total offense yards was slightly in Michigan's favor, 355-337, with Michigan cranking out 4.9 yards per play to Utah's 4.8.
* Although it didn't seem like it, Michigan was actually better on 3rd down, converting 6 of 16 to Utah's 3 of 13.
* Neither team had a QBH. Try telling that to Jake Rudock.
* All Hail the Return of Hexadecimal Numbers. With the loss of Legends Jerseys and the re-retiring of retired numbers, we've got a numbers crunch. James Ross III is listed as #1F and Mason Cole is 5C.
* With all the talk of white pants, one thing was overlooked. The first initials of the Glasgows and the Coles were removed. I don't expect Mason to be confused with Brian, and the Glasgows play on opposite sides of the line so that should be OK.
There's a Cat on the Field
* Lineswoman Catherine Conti, to be precise. This was the first time a woman reffed a Pac-12 game. I don't recall if a Michigan game has had a female ref before. Maybe WD can help me out.
* Refs weren't noticed often, which is a good thing.
No real closing thoughts today, except to say that as far as beginnings go, this was a fine one but for the final score.
Backfield and TE's
I thought the pick six was egregious, he should have never even looked at that side of the field to begin with. The right side of the field had Chesson running wide open on an out route and the LB covering Isaac had 10+ yards of cushion on a 3rd & 3. The other two INT's were probably on Perry. He didn't get sacked, but he did get hit about 7 times on dropbacks (5 were in the 2nd half) plus the personal foul on the sidelines. He targeted AJ Williams on two key 3rd downs... needs to stop doing that. He should have checked the 4th down run Smith got stuffed on to the weak side. I don't know if Harbaugh allows this but we would have converted a weak side run if Kalis, Mags and Williams handle thier blocks. We were outnumbered to the strong side. Also I think he should scramble to pass not to run, as he is the opposite of fast. He played a lot better than I thought live, he was accurate on every ball but the long ones. He went 27/43 and the 16 incompletions break down as:
- 3 INT (one his fault)
- 3 deep throws
- 4 drops (Smith, Perry, Darboh)
- 2 Williams targets
- 1 throw high and behind Butt on which he got hit because Isaac didn't block a blitzer
- 1 failed throwback screen
- 1 PBU intended for Butt
- 1 throw away.
I count only half of those 16 being his fault not including the throw away. He was dead accurate on damn near every single pass he threw. There are only 5 passes I would deem inaccurate or uncatchable out of the 43 he attempted. That is outstanding. Even with the pick six, if Grant Perry runs his route correctly I think that we win this game. To me at least, that bodes very well for the future. On the other hand he did have a paltry 6.5 YPA which is in the CJ Brown/Joel Stave territory. That number has to go up and if he can start hitting the long balls it will. This was a off day for Rudock that looked worse than it actually was so hold off on the "PUT IN SHANE!" chants for now.
Still slow. He missed some cutbacks lanes but also found some cutback lanes. The line didn't get much movement so everything was congested and he had a tough go of it. He should probably follow Kerridge, Poggi and Kalis a bit more on lead blocks. Also had a bad drop. With Drake Johnson still out he and Isaac are the best backs on the roster and as long as he keeps churning out YAC and doesn't fumble he should continue to start unless Isaac breaks out.
I thought he should have got more touches. He looked pretty decent on the touches he did get. He missed a linebacker blitz even though he was staring right at him and got Rudock blown up. This might be why he was stuck ont the sidelines. I think Rudock should throw to him more often if he is split out.
Typical great game from him. He hit people and they went backwards.
They rarely ran his way so all he had were kick out blocks which he still missed about 30% of the time. He did have a nice catch that was behind him and away from his body. Maybe he can get move involved in the passing game but I doubt it. We don't really have another inline TE to play over him so he will probably continue to get snaps.
He didn't make a lot of obvious mistakes. He pretty muched looked like Kerridge Lite out there. He did whiff on a block mid 2nd Q.
This might be the 2012 line right now as far as overall performance. Pretty good in pass protection and not so much in the run game. After the past 2 years that's definitely progress. There were substanstially fewer missed assignments but we were unable to move Utah's DL off the ball. We couldn't consistently get to the second level and we had trouble sustaining blocks on the 1st level. On the bright side though, there were only TWO enforced penalties the whole night. I didn't even see any obvious holding calls the refs may have missed. Overall we got called for a false start (M. Cole) and a snap infraction (Glasgow). The OL got better as the night went on, I'mm very interested to see where we are at by midseason.
He had a lousy start to the game, could not make a block in space to save his life. He got a lot better as the game went on. He got beat a couple times in pass protection but mostly held up. He caused the 1 throw away Rudock had. In the run game he was inconsistent. He is good at sealing and in the 2nd half he got pretty good at blocking guys in open space but when it comes to moving people he still has a ways to go.
He was wildly inconsistent. He stilll doesn't bend very well and still leans on guys making him susceptible to swim moves and getting his blocks shed. He also plays high which allows the DT to get under him and push him backward. He got blown up on several run plays. A few times that meant making Kalis go around him and delaying the pull which allowed LB's to stop runs closer to the LOS. On the QB sneak where Rudock slipped, ith was because Braden had a DT in his chest pushing him 3 yards back, which caused Braden's right foot to take out Rudock's left, thus ending the play. His pass pro was spotty at best, he needs to anchor down and move laterally to keep guys in front of him or at least fire out at them a bit. He can't just take a lazy pass set, give a guy a punch and expect that to do the job. He can pull though which is comforting. He was called for a illegal lineman downfield penalty but it was declined.
He was our best looking OL as per usual. I saw him pull a few times from the center spot and he looked good doing so. He actually got some movement on their DT's which was impressive given the rest of the OL.
Like Cole he started out with his head in his rear end but picked it up as the game went along. He needs to get more consistent on identifying who he should block when he pulls on power, ideally it should be the MIKE LB and usually it is but he should hit the first guy to cross his face. Too often he lets a guy run right past him and blow up the play and proceed to block no one. He got overpowered a few times but also got a few pancakes.
He was second only to Glasgow in production. I don't think I saw him miss one block and his pass protection was superb. Like the rest of the OL, he didn't get much movement but his guy wasn't making the tackle either.
The WR as a whole played a hell of a lot better than I thought they would. Utah is replacing some pretty good corners from last year but they have put more than a few in the league since Wittingham got the job so its not like he just got lucky with the crop he had last year. Hopefully Utah has a good pass defense and this can be signs of what is to come this season. Obiviously I can't full evaluate the WR because 70% of the time they are off camera but from what I could tell they were more than adequate.
He played better than I expected. He ran some good routes and played pretty physical. He had a couple catches where he bodied out the DB for the ball. He did have two drops but he is without question our best wide out.
I thought he should have been targeted more as he was open frequently from what I could tell from the camera angle. He got open deep twice on an out and up and a seam route, if we can start hitting those it will take this offense to the HNL (Hole Nubba Lebel) and help open up holes in the run game.
He cut his out route short causing an INT and I believe he ran a corner route too shallow which also cause an INT. They were both freshman mistakes that unfortunately resulted in turnovers. He did have two huge blocks to spring Darboh on quick screens. Also was instrumental on the last drive. If he can finish his routes we have a pretty good slot reciever. Did have one drop though.
Not targeted. Too skinny. Needs 15-20 lbs ASAP. In desperate need of spinach.
He caught one screen pass and subsequently got blown up. Thus ended Cole's role in the offense.
If They Could Say It is my attempt to give the real answers people would give if it wouldn't cause a media sh;tstorm. Typically, I'll have the Head Coach and Coordinators answer questions, and may also include other coaches, players, or personnel.
How did you feel about the team's performance tonight?
I hate losing. We should have won this game. We're far from perfect, but we had our opportunities, and we blew it.
What opportunities did you miss?
Did you watch? It's real obvious. We missed wide open TD passes. We can't do that. We dropped a couple easy catches. We threw a pick-6 in a key moment. We missed a couple of holes in the running game. We didn't even keep our onside kick in play.
Talk about the interception for a TD.
Just a bad, bad read. The play is a fade-out combo where the outside receivers run fades and the slots run quick outs. Butt runs a hitch. Grant Perry was the least open of the five options. Now, the thing that will take some time, is that we should have recognized pre-snap that Ty Isaac had a 15-yard cushion and just thrown a screen to him. But that takes time and practice...we're not there yet.
What were the good things?
There were actually a lot of good things. In the second half, even with some obvious short yardage runs that we blew, we improved our yard per carry by 1.5. The receivers were getting some separation and we were hitting some passes. Jake Butt was always open and had an amazing game. Peppers annihilated a few plays. And, while his screw-ups probably cost us the game, Rudock made several plays that also kept us in it.
How did you feel about the run-blocking?
How do you feel when some one punches you in the groin? It sucked. The first half was terrible. We played soft and tentative. Came out in the second half and played better, but we have a long way to go.
What about the fourth-and-short play?
Lots of people are piling on Kalis for missing a block on his pull, but Braden's execution was just as bad or worse. He allowed himself to give up almost two yards and gave an easy angle for the pursuit. Actually, he was our worst lineman today, and probably our worst offensive player.
Are there any plays you'd call differently?
First, Jim calls the plays. Here's the thing: we had more than our fair share of chances to make big plays, and we blew it. Two wide open TDs, a few running lanes that could have been huge gains, and a few dropped passes that could have changed things. We could easily have had over 400 yards and 30 points in this game. Have to make those plays to be a great team.
What were the positives you saw?
Jake Butt is probably the best TE in the nation. That TD catch is one of the best plays I've ever seen. I mean, the defender has his had on the ball, Jake is at the peak of his jump, and he still manages to pull it in, no question. That's even a catch by the weird NFL standards. And the pass pro. If we can protect that well all season, we'll be in good shape and we'll hit some of those bombs.
What does the OL have to do to improve?
Simple: not play softer than a pair of Twin City socks. We had the right mentality in the second half. We'll get better, or you'll see new guys on the field.
What happened on the Utah TD drives?
What happened? We had a couple bad series. Missed some reads, played out of our gaps, and let their QB walk into the endzone. But you know what? College kids are often going to have a couple bad series in a game. We'll get better. This was our first action with live bullets in our defense.
Who looked good?
The DL was pretty strong. There was no space for one of the best RBs in the country to run between the tackles. Wormley and Henry really did their jobs.
Who didn't look as good?
Brian obviously jinxed the LBs. Morgan didn't have his best day, and Bolden couldn't make tackles even though he was in the right spots. Ross might see more PT, especially against spread teams. Stribling was meh. Peppers woke up in the second half.
Welcome back!! Let's Go Blue!!! A trough (think of it as a stretched out area of low pressure) over the Pacific Northwest has Utah receiving quite the southerly wind flow! Breezy SW winds had Salt Lake City starting today in the 70s, and highs this afternoon are around 90. The wind, and warmth, will stay with us through the game. A cold front arrives later Saturday, which will drop the temps, but may also cause strong storms - something to keep an eye on if you traveled.
If you're in Salt Lake City...
It's been a hot one out there today! Temps hit the mid 80s by lunch, and have been up near 90 ever since. Winds are up there at 15-25mph, gusting in the mid 30s, so hopefully you tied down that tent! Winds that speed make it hard to use an umbrella, cause white horses on the water, trees sway, and you can hear it whistling. Everyone loves those frosty brews, but try and get a water or two before heading in there so you're not struggling in the heat!
Feelin hot, hot, hot!! Plenty of sun for the start of the game - there will be a few clouds, so enjoy the shade breaks! There is the slight chance for rain - yesterday one or two storms managed to cross Wasatch Front - so it's a very isolated chance but it's there into the evening. 86 degrees for the kickoff, and winds will remain up there. Looking at them out of the SW around 20-25mph.
It's not going to cool down a whole lot this evening - only down to 83 degrees for the halftime show. Winds will remain up in the low 20s out of the SSW with partly cloudy skies. It may be a great time for a cold drink!
Ice cream to celebrate the win anyone? 79 degrees leaving the game, and don't expect them to go down much further from there if you're planning to be out late! SSW winds will stay up around 20mph, so at least there will be a breeze - a warm breeze is better than nothing right? :D If you're staying out into the late night, temps will only drop to the low 70s. Friday will be very windy, with southerly winds at 20-30mph, gusting to the mid 40s (your car can veer on the road), but filled with sunshine and highs in the upper 80s. Saturday winds will be just as high, but temps top out in the low 80s. Again, if you traveled, there's the possibility of strong storms Saturday.
If you're in Ann Arbor...
We've had some good storms this afternoon and evening, and we'll have some more pass through into the later evening hours. Rain chances will stick with us until the end of the game, so if you're headed out to watch it, keep the umbrella with you. 70 degrees if you're headed out for the start, and dropping just a couple degrees if you're staying to see the end. We're looking at some patchy fog tonight, and with all the rain we've seen there may be ponding on the roads - so take it easy out there. If you're traveling home tomorrow, Friday will have a little sun, scattered showers and storms, light winds, and highs in the low 80s.
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for ABC in Flint, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
On this momentous day, it just feels right. Everything. Anything. I'm sitting here eating crackers and cheese, and it feels right. It's no different than the usual lunch I eat at work, except today the cheese is creamier. The crackers are crisp and delicious. If I had milk, I'd drink it, and it too would be delicious.
This graphic probably wasn't needed, and serves no real purpose. We all know its game day. We've all known this day was coming for a long time, but it feels different. Almost surreal. For whatever reason, it feels right.
For the last few years, I've felt distanced from Michigan Football. Not for lack of trying, but probably for my own health. After a while, it just wasn't fun anymore. There was too much pain, frustration, and disappointment. I honestly haven't felt this excited for a season kickoff in almost 10 years. It feels right. We're back. We may not win tonight, and we may not be ready to compete at the highest level yet - but we're back. And it just feels right.
In my attempt to harken back to the days where I was genuinely over-the-moon excited about football season, and to capture the surreal feeling I have – and probably will continue to have until 8:30pm tonight - this graphic happened. The sun is out, and it’s shining a weird tint of Maize on us. We have our guy. He's old school and new school all at the same time, and I love it. He’s a little weird, and I love it. Maybe this graphic doesn't say that to you, but it's my way of saying it for you.
On this momentous day, I just felt like I had to contribute something of my own to this community I love so much. Thank you all so much for everything. We're back. Go Blue!
Original Photo Credit: Bryan Fuller
[Taken from part one of "Bob Ufer: A Life In a Season". A true testament to how important college football is to all of us, and why it will continue to be so in the future.]
“It’s only September, but as we look down and daydream a bit, we can’t help but notice that the field is a green, tinged with brown, and a white chalked line laces it together. The athletes have been moving gingerly, packed firmly in dashing uniforms, where padding and muscle meet.
“The stand offers a stage for fashion here in [Ann Arbor]; men in shirt sleeves and colorful sport jackets, ladies all lovely, a combination of soft curves and bright hats. There are the program hawkers, the deep-voiced peddler with his hot dogs, the soft drink boy making change, and the smiling cheerleaders. There are uniformed men in striped shirts, and of course a dog.
“What is it? It’s football!
“Yessir, there are five seasons across this country every year: winter, spring, summer, fall, and football. Football season makes the barber cut hair just a little bit better, and it makes the butcher slice the steak a trifle thicker. The shoeshine boy pops his rag with more gusto; the landlord doesn’t mention the overdue rent.
“The pilgrimage is on: old cars, new cars, and motorbikes are jammed with riders, wheeling for the stadium, from north, east, south, and west, and the backroads are jam-filled. The gentleman steers with one arm, explaining a forward pass with the other. Ladies think about their figures and men compromise that it’ll only be one weekend. So stop the car, get some hot dogs and drinks from the roadside stand.
“On grassy lots and asphalt sidings, high school lawns and golf greens, the cars line up with the hood ornaments pointing toward the main gates. Trunk compartments fly up to supply sandwiches, sliced cake and pickles, and a few pints after touchdown, even though the game hasn’t begun yet.
“The insurance man waves and doesn’t mention his newest policy; rather wants to know who’s favored. Old friends are greeted, and new friends are introduced between bites. The old grad may look older, but he’s beginning to feel younger than his freshman year.
“There’s the band with the drum major, and maybe they’ve got seventy-six trombones, and maybe they haven’t; but the music sounds good, and if you’re walking the steps come quicker. The ex-halfback tells himself he can pull a helmet over that bald spot and look as good as any of the college boys. The bad knee feels like new.
“There are folks seated on the 50-yard line, and they have that little edge in prestige because there aren’t many such seats available. They really can’t see the game any better: it’s the symbol of success, and football games are social games as well.
“They’re the loyal and disloyal, and the fella who really doesn’t care who wins, but wants to see some action. There’s something in football for everyone. Some can cheer the players, some can second-guess the coach, some can listen to transistor radios and see how wrong we radio announcers can be, while some just enjoy the ballet of young bulls in battle.
“There’s a beauty of sound in a punt, and a spine-chill from the thud of a fullback being hit head-on by a red-dogging linebacker. There’s magic on the campus sprawling beyond the boundaries of the stadium. There’s a pleasant emotional letdown after a game is over: a tired but happy feeling for the winner, a tired but resolute challenge to avenge by the losers. The stands empty, and the fog of battle lifts, and there’s a stillness and a grandeur, and a look to the future.
“No sir, there’s nothing like collegiate football, and it happens all over the country. It’s happening here at [Ann Arbor] this afternoon…as once again small college towns across the nation become part of the big collegiate football scene.”
Enjoy today as the start of another glorious Michigan football season. We've only had 135 of them so far - here's to another 135 glorious years, starting with Team 136 as they take on the Utah Utes. Go Blue!