"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."
Noel, what's it been like trying to track down all these tremendous former Michigan athletes?
What inspired you to start this scholarship?
Why is it important to carry on the legacy of Pat Maloy?
Tell me about the items...
Purely a spec piece, be warned.
Caveats, biases and influences:
A. Brian and (until July) Tom Beaver were my sole sources of anything close to "inside" information from Schembechler hall. I don't know anybody in the program, or anything about Michigan football other than what I've seen on the field, gotten here or used to get at GBW.
B. I believe Bill Martin is a ridiculously successful businessman who has built a fortune and a fabulous resume by being a shrewd, winning decision maker.
C. I believe Lloyd Carr, after his announcement to retire, had three pieces of advice for Martin:
- Talk to Ron English and Mike DeBord.
- Don't hire Les Miles because X, Y and Z (these being criteria we'll never know, other than maybe X=I, Y=loath, Z=him).
- Talk to Kirk Ferentz
So, what if somebody other than Rich Rodriguez had been hired in January, 2008. (Doesn't seem that long ago, does it?) But, first, I have to set the field:
To the Carr postulate #1 above, Martin says, "thanks, Lloyd, I'll think about it."
To #2 and #3, he says, "I'll take your word for it, but I'll talk to both of them, thanks again."
So, he basically blows off English and DeBord because he knows that, no disrespect to Lloyd, this program needs to go in a decisively new direction.
He talks (or meets, we don't know) with Miles and finds him unattractive, confirming one, two or all of Lloyd's X, Y or Z, and dismisses Miles' candidacy outright. (The really loud story comes when somebody in the Michigan Man Grand Conspiracy Wing leaks misinformation to Desmond Howard and ESPN goes with "Les has been offered the job", when it's just not so. Bill is sailing because he couldn't give a fuck what's going on at ESPN WRT Les Miles and Michigan, and Miles has to look like a fool in honestly denying a story that's false; he's never been offered the job.)
Having crossed Miles off the list, Martin goes to Ferentz, with the influential assistance of Mary Sue Coleman. Ferentz says thanks but no thanks. Then he shops Schiano; same result. At this point we're all panicked because, uh, English or DeBord? There are a few more names thrown around, and then, Pat White's thumb hurts.
So, here are the viable 2008 candidates -- offered or about to be offered -- at the point Rodriguez came into play:
Unknown, and worse than any of the above
How would they have done/will they do? (Purely speculative numbers of wins; 2008/2009YTD/2009 remainder vs. RR = 3/3/*)
English (5/1/4=10). Defense would have been better both years if, for no other reason, continuity. Offense would have retained Debord/Mallett/Boren ("DeMoron" for short) and won a few more in 08 than RR. Bare cupboard and ponderously slow recruits would put the future in peril.
DeBord. (4/1/4=9). English would have left him. He'd be lost, as Martin knew; Mallett would break up DeMoron by transferring during or after the miserable 2008 season. Death and doom.
Ferentz. (6/2/4=12). A good coach who would have taken the bare cupboard and made the best. But, c'mon, it's a coach with no compelling reason for recruits to want to think about Michigan and the cupboard would still be bare.
Schiano. (I don't know; better than 12, less than 14.) I'll admit to running out of critical ammo here as I don't know anything about the guy other than he came up with ways to beat Rich occasionally. I think he would have been a good hire and I believe he was Martin's first choice.
But, I'm pretty sure Rich was the best choice, by happenstance or not. there's a huge difference between the man and his system. Barwis. Spread. Appalachian Stubbornness, total insensitivity to bad PR. Bo would have loved him and I, FWIW, do too.
And, the whole reason I was compelled to write this was... what if Pat White hadn't hurt his thumb?
* I say we win 6 more games this year for a regular season record of 9-3.
Things We Know This is obvious territory: the Spread's "Score whenever possible" mentality renders T.O.P. moot as a way to tell which team was playing better at the end of the game. Thing is, T.O.P. was never meant to be an in-game metric, or shouldn't have been. It's an IN-GAME metric. The idea isn't to show who's dominating the game, but what shape the defense is in. Its continued popularity on networks is likely due to the ease with which it's calculated. I think we can come up with a much better metric for that, and retire T.O.P. Good guesses:
- Offenses tire less quickly than defenses. Giving blocks is better than receiving them. Reacting to a play that you didn't call puts you at a disadvantage. Pushing past a lineman to the one place he doesn't want you to is more tiresome than shoving one (a lineman) back from the one direction you know he wants to go to. There's a lot of chasing involved.
- Players recover from being tired in real time (not Game Time)
- Fatigue is generated during plays, not between them
- Greater fatigue reduces the effectiveness of a defense because a) tired players can't react as well, and b) substitutions are inherently a reduction of the talent put on the field.
- While fatigue can be recovered from during the game, the more that is drained, the lower the maximum recoverable energy.
Things We'd Like to Know I want a metric that:
- Gives an approximate likelihood of the offense scoring based on defensive fatigue.
- Since the above would be very difficult, the metric should at least standardize defensive fatigue, to be used as a reference point
- Is fairly easy to calculate with widely available stats
Pure guesses (opportunities for me to look stupid):
- Energy is recovered at an exponential (logistic? Math majors help! -- i mean a curve that slows as it goes, or y=x^[fraction]) rate.
- More plays depletes a defense's performance
- More plays in progression depletes a defense's performance faster
- Available statistics allow us to create a metric for a defense's performance based off of these fatigue factors
Let's Talk Variables It's hard to count actual time during plays, at least for us laymen. However, number of plays per drive is easy to calculate. I would like to count plays that are replayed due to penalties unless it is blown dead. I'd like to count overall time elapsed since the last defensive play.
However, actual time is hard to come by. We have the time the game took to play. We have the in-game time. But short of having a DVR with a timer, I haven't been able to find any real time metric. If someone can find me a place where that is kept and freely accessible, I will use it. Otherwise, we're going to have to ignore regeneration based on real time.
The atom for all of this is going to be plays run from scrimmage.
Defensive plays from scrimmage increase defensive fatigue. Offensive plays from scrimmage decreases defensive fatigue. Since they use so many backups, special teams plays do not count.
The test for it will be yards given up, since scoring equates too much with field position. Why yards? Because we know that yards gained and winning are correlated. A defense that gives up more yards is more likely to be scored on.
Needs a name. For now: SCHWING.
Defensive SCHWING: How it Works What we will create is a basically running play counter:
- Higher number indicates higher level of defensive fatigue
- Defensive plays count for +3 for the defensive team
- Offensive plays count for -8% for the team on offense
- No team can go into negative.
- Commercial Breaks, Time Outs and Reviews count for -15% for both teams
- Half Time reduces all fatigue by 80 percent (rounded to nearest integer)
The Spreadsheet is here. Click on each image for full size
Michigan vs. Western Michigan:
Averages: Michigan 21, Notre Dame 17
Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan:
Averages: Michigan 21, EMU 14
Remember, higher is bad. It means that Eastern Michigan, over the course of the game, faced a Michigan defense operating, maybe at like 79 percent of its capacity, because of fatigue, while Michigan faced EMU's at, say, 86 percent capacity.
Keep in mind, it's impossible to be 100 percent the whole time. But notice how much better Michigan's defense was against Western, who's not much more talented than Eastern Michigan. There's a big difference in how well the Wolverines let the defense rest in Game 1, whereas they were considerably harder on the D in Games 2 and 3, whether by turnovers or quick scores.
So....Correlation?If Michigan's defense gives up more yards when its SCHWING level is high, that would indicate the metric works, right?
Notre Dame de South Bend:
The yellow lines are offensive plays. The ones sticking out below were negatives (or holding penalties).
Michigan gave up 236 yards (5.02 yards per play) to Eastern when our SCHWING level was 20 or higher. We gave up 61 yards (2.26 yards per play) when it was 19 or lower.
It was actually more drastic than that. A lot of short yardage was given up in the 2nd half against the backups in soft, clock-killing defense. The big plays in the first half were all during high-SCHWING periods. The 3-and-outs were during low ones.
Against Notre Dame, Michigan gave up 188 yards (6 yards per play) 2 with a SCHWING under 20. Not good. We gave up 294 yards (6.125 yards per play) when SCWING was over 20. Also not good. There wasn't as much SCHWING variance, however, against Notre Dame as there was against EMU. The Wolverine defense played much more of that game tired. If you take out the 27 yards on the last play, our SCHWING under 20 YPP goes down to 5.37 (161 yards). I think that just says ND's offense was pretty good (or held like bitches).
WMU was the opposite. With SCHWING under 20, the Broncos put up 81 yards (2.79 YPP). When SCHWING went over 20, they put up 222 yards (6.17 YPP). If I excise the 73-yard TD, it's still 4.26 YPP. But it shouldn't be excised -- that happened near the peak of Michigan's defensive fatigue during the game.
Here's what yardage against us looked like against WMU as SCHWING went up:
As the season progresses, I'll do more plotting to see if this sticks, but so far this seems a little bit correlative. If I had to guess, I'd say ND and their max-protect-bomb strategy caused the difference.
All told, when Michigan's SCHWING was under 20 this year, our defense gave up 330 yards (3.79 YPP). When it was over 20, we gave up 752 yards (5.74 YPP).
I'm sure we could play around with the factors, but as a very basic statistic, it seems to be fairly predictive. When the defensive fatigue rating for a given team is high, they are likely to give up more yards, in our extremely small sample of course. Feel free to plug in other games from years past.
Obviously, scores come after drives.
The thing to look at isn't the end of drives, but the start of them: what shape is the defense in as Team X gets the ball. For example, when Michigan put up three quick scores on Western, they got the ball each time with WMU's defensive deficiency rating already well over 20.
Similarly, EMU got the ball down 38-17 and had a magnificent drive (which should have been a TD), but every drive before that in the 2nd half, Michigan's D started under 10. The real backbreaker for them was when the QB buckled and fumbled -- that gave Michigan the ball back with EMU's defensive SCHWING over 20.
Couple things jumped out, though. The quick scores (Brown's long TD run, the kick return for TD against Notre Dame, Denard's existence) were answered with scores against Michigan, or long periods of scoring drought. Interceptions, too, created a fast turnaround. Look at Stonum's return: not only did it put Michigan back on the field after a tough stop (helped by Cheeseburger Charlie's inability to get a few plays called in*), but even more it helped the Domers' defense rest away the effect of that good early drive by Michigan.
Note how different this is from Time of Possession. By basically counting plays back and forth, we can see when one team or another is particularly likely to get scored on.
I think I'm gonna keep using this as the season progresses. It's pretty easy to calculate, especially if you have the spreadsheet handy. If it holds up as a decent indicator of expected defensive performance, maybe an addition to the UFR charting?
UPDATE 9/23:Bad news. I ran all of the plays from all three games (by ND, EMU, WMU and MICH) and there's such a small correlation it's almost not worth it:
Of course, it's not conclusive. Wait until we have at least 1,000 plays from scrimmage to analyze (we're at about 450 right now).
When SCHWING was 20 or over, offenses gained 1363 yards on 251 plays, and had 23 "big" plays (15 yards or more). That's 5.45 YPP, and 9.16% chance of a big play.
When SCHWING was under 20, offenses gained 984 yards on 175 plays, with 15 big plays. That's 5.67 YPP, and 8.57% chance of a big play.
Not exactly correlating.
One thing of note: Carlos Brown's 90-yard scamper came at a SCHWING level of 17. In fact, a lot of big plays took place around a SCHWING level of 17 to 25. I don't know that that means exactly, except perhaps that's early in drives but seldom right at the start of them. Or that 17 to 25 is the bell curve. This could simply be because early in drives there's more field to go, thus more space for big yardage.
Situationally, there was a small difference. With SCWHING under 20, 26.55% of plays from scrimmage resulted in a 1st down or touchdown. When SCHWING was over 20, that number rose to a 31.62% conversion rate. The touchdown ratio went way up: 7.11% over 20, and 1.69% under 20. But I can't tell you how much of that is field position -- the likelihood of scoring goes up when you get closer to the end zone, and SCHWING goes up the longer a drive lasts, meaning high SCHWING generally takes place deep in an opponent's zone. So the TD ratio means pretty much nil. Anyway, the average SCHWING level before plays that resulted in 1st downs and touchdowns was about 24; the level before plays that didn't convert was 22. Small difference.
I'm not giving up just yet, though. I'm gonna track a few more games, because I think I'm getting thrown off by big plays late in the WMU and EMU games, when backups and whatnot were in (high SCHWING is supposed to necessitate more backups, so if the backups go in when SCHWING is low, that changes things).
Here's the big plays with Low SCHWING this year:
|40||WMU||17||WMU||43||TD||(1st and 15) Robinson, D. rush for 43 yards to the WMU0, 1ST DOWN MICH, TOUCHDOWN, clock 03:57.|
|3||ND||6||MICH||24||1ST||(2nd and 9) ALLEN rush for 24 yards to the ND45, 1ST DOWN ND (Williams, Mike).|
|6||ND||15||MICH||24||1ST||(3rd and 4) CLAUSEN pass complete to RUDOLPH for 24 yards to the MICH25, 1ST DOWN ND (Williams, Mike).|
|24||ND||19||ND||40||1ST||(3rd and 12) Forcier, Tate pass complete to Mathews, Greg for 40 yards to the ND41, 1ST DOWN MICH (WALLS).|
|37||ND||19||MICH||19||1ST||(2nd and 6) CLAUSEN pass complete to ALLEN for 19 yards to the MICH22, 1ST DOWN ND.|
|86||ND||14||ND||24||1ST||(2nd and 14) Forcier, Tate pass complete to Stonum, Darryl for 24 yards to the 50 yardline, 1ST DOWN MICH (McCARTHY, K.).|
|100||ND||17||ND||16||1ST||(1st and 10) Minor, Brandon rush for 16 yards to the ND33, 1ST DOWN MICH (McCARTHY, K.).|
|129||ND||10||MICH||15||1ST||(1st and 10) PENALTY MICH pass interference (Cissoko, B.) 15 yards to the ND19, 1ST DOWN ND.|
|205||ND||11||MICH||27||1ST||(1st and 10) CLAUSEN pass complete to TATE for 27 yards to the ND47, 1ST DOWN ND (Floyd, J.T.).|
|9||EMU||3||EMU||30||1ST||(1st and 10) Brown, Carlos rush for 30 yards to the EMU21, 1ST DOWN MICH (CARDWELL, Marty).|
|51||EMU||10||EMU||26||1ST||(1st and 10) Forcier, Tate pass complete to Odoms, M. for 26 yards to the EMU43, 1ST DOWN MICH (MAY, Chris).|
|54||EMU||19||EMU||22||1ST||(3rd and 1) Shaw, Michael rush for 22 yards to the EMU12, 1ST DOWN MICH (SEARS, Johnny).|
|63||EMU||17||EMU||90||TD||(1st and 10) Brown, Carlos rush for 90 yards to the EMU0, 1ST DOWN MICH, TOUCHDOWN, clock 07:15.|
|156||EMU||18||EMU||36||TD||(1st and 10) Robinson, D. rush for 36 yards to the EMU0, 1ST DOWN MICH, TOUCHDOWN, clock 07:14.|
|175||EMU||11||EMU||24||1ST||(1st and 10) Cox, Michael rush for 24 yards to the EMU41, 1ST DOWN MICH (PALSROK, Tyler).|
Three of those plays are garbage time (205 ND, 156 and 175 EMU). One is Shoelace's incredible Yakety Sax Moon Run. Another is Carlos Brown's 90-yard run. Three more are big plays against EMU's defense. The rest are plays from the Notre Dame game, which, like, they have a great offense.
This isn't nearly enough to put SCHWING back on the map. But they're certainly opportunities for SCHWING to look stupid.
* Weis: "It's MMFFPHHHI-RIMMMFGHT MMMPHTWINS!"
Jimmah: "What coach?!?"
Weis: "I MMMFFFPHH SAID RUNMMMMPHHH ISO MMPPPHHH RIHMMMMPPHH"
Jimmah: "Coach, I can't hear you! Take the ham sandwich out!"
Weis: "I MMMPPHHFFF RIMMMPPHHHHHHFFF SPLMMMMPHHFFF DAMMIT!"
Jimmah: "Dammit, coach? What? What? Dammit -- TIME OUT"
Note: This may be a bit short to start. I've got an chat with BigTenNetwork President Mark Silverman in a little over an hour and I'm trying to get prepared for that. Also, if you haven't given a listen to the podcast with Coach Rosen, do it.
- Friday 1pm vs. Marquette
- Friday 7:30pm vs. Dayton
- Saturday 3:30pm vs Oregon State (@ Crisler)
As previously stated, this is a big weekend for #6 Michigan. Michigan is hosting the Michigan/Adidas Invitational featuring games against undefeated Dayton, 9-2 Marquette, and Oregon State (at Crisler Arena). This will be the last big gut check before we head into BigTen play. All three of these games will be tough.
- Friday 1pm Women's Spartan Invitational @ MSU
The women will be sending 11 to Michigan State's Forest Akers East Golf Course in East Lansing for a 6 km race. Jenny Morgan and Danielle Tauro are your projected Michigan leaders. From Coach McGuire:
This race is kind of a building block. Michigan State is in the same boat as us -- they're young, but they have a good quality of depth. So, it will be a good benchmark for where we stand against them and likewise where they are compared to us.
With all of the stuff that's been happening, I sadly couldn't keep up with individual team previews. The men's tennis team is in Napa Valley, St. Helena, CA to be more specific, this weekend. They will be competing in a non-scoring match against Cal-Berkeley, Harvard, and Ole Miss. One of these schools is not like the others.
If you're that interested, the tournament is available at http://www.radiotennis.com/.
The rowing team kicks off their season tomorrow against Michigan State in Belleville, MI. I know nothing more than this.
- Saturday 2pm vs #7 Syracuse @ Louisville, KY
- Sunday 1pm @ #16 Louisville
Michigan is 2-4 this season, but their strength of schedule has to be in the top 3 in the nation. Michigan has played a #1, #2, #4, and #5, accounting for all 4 losses on the season. Michigan will look to gain it's first win over a ranked opponent in Louisville this weekend.
Syracuse will be tough. The Orange has already defeated two top 10 opponents, Old Dominion and Michigan State. They are 5-1 and have a wide array of potential goal scorers.
Louisville is definitely a better chance for the W as Louisville hasn't been tested this season. While they are ranked in the top 20, they are only 9 positions ahead of Michigan. I think this game could be very winnable for Michigan. I'm looking to see Bryn Bain continue her 4 game goal streak with a big outburst here.
- Saturday 2pm @Western Michigan
The men have one game this weekend against the Broncos. Western is winless on the season, so Michigan should be able to handle them easily.
- Sunday 2pm vs Miami (FL)
The women have their last tune up before the BigTen conference slate starts against that Miami. The Hurricanes do have a win over a ranked opponent in then #22 Washington, but that hasn't gotten Miami on the rankings others receiving votes. A couple of really bad losses have kept them out of contention. This should be a really good game between a pair of evenly matched teams.
I'll be updating things throughout the weekend, so check back occasionally.
Update I (Friday 9:30pm):
At the women's cross country meet, Michigan's Danielle Tauro placed second with a time of 21 minutes 19 seconds. Kaitlyn Peale (21:47) and Kaitlyn Patterson (21:56) also finished in the top 10 at 7th and 9th respectively. This was a non-scoring match, so there were no team scores.
On the volleyball court, Michigan won a pair of matches, one on cruise control and one in the most exciting 3 set match ever. In the early game, Michigan faced Marquette and just rolled past the Tigers by scores 25-16, 25-19, and 25-. The team was lead by Alex Hunt's record breaking 9(!) service aces on the match. The 9 broke the previous record set in 2004 by Katie Bruzdzindski and matched by Juliana Paz 6 days ago. (Hunt pictured to right by Mogblue.com)
Also notable in this match was Veronica Rood with a team leading 9 kills. Coach Rosen appears to be making the point to get Vern more looks this weekend. Halfway through the 2nd set, Rosen called a time out to reinforce the Rood option with setter Lexi Zimmerman. Rood went on to score 2 of the next three points easily.
Also notable was the defense. Marquette hit only .027. That's bad. The Tigers had only 21 kills on 73 attempts (only 19 errors). Bower and Hunt had a great set of games with 8 digs a piece. Both also had a solo block, Bower adding three block assists.
In the night cap, Michigan faced their closest game since the AVCA challenge. The undefeated Dayton Flyers brought their A-game and kept the pressure on Michigan the entire match. The first set, Michigan jumped out to an 11-5 lead, only to see it evaporate into a 18-19 deficit. Down 22-24 and facing set point, Michigan rallied with a couple kills from Juliana Paz and an Alex Hunt service ace. Michigan would secure the 28-26 first set lead with a Paz ace.
In set two, Michigan would fall behind early. They were down as many as 5 at 5-10. But the team fought back, eventually tying the game at 19. They would have to rally again to tie the game at 23. The next point would be Michigan's first lead of the set. Michigan would capitalize on a Rood kill and a combined Rood/Zimmerman block to take set two 26-24.
The final set was just as intense. It featured 11 ties, 5 lead changes, and more extra points. In the closing points, Michigan held a 23-21 lead. Then things got fun. With Dayton attacking, a ball hit the top of the net and looked to be falling back for a Michigan point. All of a sudden, the net snaps and the ball falls to Michigan's side. Megan Bower made her case, earning a yellow card, that it was caused by a net violation by Dayton. Both coaches were getting on the refs, and both ended the game with yellow cards. Michigan would lose the lead, going down 24-23.
Down 25-26, Lexi (pictured right by MGoBlue.com) made an attack on two (instead of setting) to give Michigan a tie. Juliana Paz gave the Wolverines the go ahead kill, and Lexi Zimmerman made the attack on two again for the win.
Paz was your kill leader with 18 in the late game at a .448 hitting percentage, but Rood also hit .583. Michigan tied their season high with 9 blocks (the other came in a 4 set game). Most importantly, Michigan showed in this game that they have the mental toughness to stay in when down against a good team.
One of the biggest influences today was the Zone. The Zone got into both opponents' heads this game, as shown by the Marquette coach spiking a ball at them in frustration. That's big. Even if the marketing department and Blue Ice are helping out, it's you fans that show up that make a huge impact.
Make sure you make it to Crisler following the football game. Let's fill the place up. Beat the Beavers.
Updated II (Sunday 11am):
Women's rowing doesn't make that much sense to me. I haven't learned the lingo yet. So here's how it went by my understanding. Michigan scrimmaged Michigan State and Eastern Michigan. Michigan fielded two boats in the 8-woman competition and two boats in the 4-woman competition. Michigan State swept the 5 races in the 8's, while Michigan had teams place 2&4, 2&4, 2&4, 2&3, and 2&4 (those are places out of 6, UM had 2 boats per race).
Michigan fared better in the 4-woman teams, finishing 1&2, 1&2, 1&3, 1&3, and 1&3 (out of 3). If that made any sense to you, more power to you. Perhaps by the time their real season comes about, I'll be able to tell you more about it.
Men's soccer posted a 5-1 win over Western Michigan last night to 6-1-0 on the season. Michigan got a goal from Adam Keller, Cam Cameron, Alex Wood, Justin Meram, and Alex Klein. Meram, Wood, Cameron, Hamoody Saad (2), Chase Tennant, Jeff Quijano, and Daniel Gray all registered an assist.
Also worth noting, Michigan has outscored opponents 16-6 in the second half this season. This game saw Michigan outscore Western 3-1 in the second.
Coach Burns "Man of the Match" was Adam Keller. From MGoBlue.com:
Adam Keller played a really strong game. He started out a center back and kind of felt his way into the game where he could contribute offensively. Then we pushed him forward into a more defensive role. I thought he did a great job of winning balls and winning that part of the space and getting forward in the attack.
In field hockey, the field hockey team made a valiant effort against #7 Syracuse. Falling behind 1-0 at the 15 minute mark, Michigan put on the pressure in the offensive end and tied the score 10 minutes later on Vanessa Sekhon's first goal of the season. This 1-1 tie would last through regulation, until in the 84th minute, Syracuse netted the game-winner for their 5th overtime win of the year.
This game was an oddly quiet one for both Meredith Way and Bryn Bain. Way didn't even register a shot and Bain had only 2 shots, neither on goal. Alicia Mayer was the shot leader with 4, 3 on goal. Mayer also had the assist on Skehon's goal.
Also worth noting that Paige Pickett went the full game in the net, allowing just the two goals. That's a good showing for any net keeper. I think it's also a testament to the defense for allowing only 6 shots on goal. As a comparison, Michigan took 13 shots. Great play by the defense.
Volleyball…sigh. They'll get their own post in a few minutes. I'll update this with that link after I get it out. Mini-update: Volleyball Swept By Oregon State.
Update III (Sunday 5pm):
The women's soccer team posted a 1-0 shut out of Miami (FL) in a game that saw the Wolverines outshot by a margin of 21-6. Holly Hein put in the lone goal by heading in a Jackie Carron free kick in the 44th minute. The header kicked off the top cross bar of the net and into the goal. Haley Kopemeyer was in goal for the full 90 minutes, posting 6 saves. This is a solid win for Michigan heading into BigTen play.
Field hockey went to overtime again against Louisville in the second game of the weekend, and yet again, they came out on the losing side – 2-3 this time in 77 minutes. Michigan gave up a quick goal in the third minute, but netted goals by Alex Zeringue and Meredith Way to take a 2-1 lead. Both goals came off penalty corners, including Zeringue's which was a rebound from the initial shot.
In overtime, Louisville set up a pass from the center of the circle to their player posted right on the goalie. The Cardinals spun the ball around and flipped it into the net.
Despite losing both games this weekend, Michigan took a pair of ranked opponents to sudden death overtime. This is encouraging as the team appears to be playing better as they move along.
Men's tennis is still yet to report back from the final day of the Napa Valley invitational. Freshman Evan King was due to play in the championship of the singles tournament at 2:15pm ET today.
That's going to be blocked
The picture above (and all others in this post are by MGoBlue.com) has to summarize the match better than I can. Here we see Megan Bower going for a kill. On the other side of the net is Goliath, also known as a 6'5" Australian by the name of Rourke. This giant registered 25 kills and 5 service aces. To put that in perspective, her closest teammate had 7 kills.
Adding insult to injury, this picture is just one of 12 blocks by Oregon State. Oregon State's Ashley Eneliko had 6 block assists. Five different Beavers had a solo block. We just weren't on hitting the ball in this game.
Lexi is good but can do only so much on poor passes
Michigan ended up with three players in double digit kills on the game in Veronica Rood, Alex Hunt, and Juliana Paz, but it just wasn't enough. Hunt never seemed to get going in this match. Her hitting percentage was hovering around .065 until very late in the third set. That's not going to win games. She also had an off night at the service line. One game after setting the Michigan record for aces in a game, she came out and posted 0 aces and 3 service errors.
Paz even had a fairly off game. I don't know if it was the blocks, or if it was due to a calf injury (it was taped according to commenter Other Chris), but she just wasn't her normal dominating self. Very few times did she hit the ball with her usual authority. Suffice to say, when our top two hitters are off, Michigan is in for trouble.
One of the bright spots in this was the play of Veronica Rood. She placed 10 kills and offered a great change of pace when our outside hitters were struggling. It seemed like whenever Michigan came out of timeouts, Rood became the primary option, but then faded slowly out of the picture as Michigan tried to get their outside hitters in rhythm. As I said, that didn't really happen until the very end of the last set, far too late.
The most concerning thing going forward has little to do with attacking offense as it does communication on defense. Over the last two weeks, Michigan has become sloppy on defense, allowing at least 2-3 balls per game to just fall between three players, who sometimes are all running away from the ball.
I can't see these games, so I'm not entirely sure who to pin the blame on. Most of these seem to come off tipped blocks, which makes me suspect our back row play by our hitters is still really slow. As an example of this was when Alex Hunt was substituted for Michelle McMahon following one of these misplayed balls. Perhaps Hunt just hasn't become comfortable in the back row yet and is slow in reacting to tipped balls. See the picture above. That's a desperation dive, but most likely on a serve judging by the position of Sloane and Juliana.
Paz also had trouble in the back, but most of hers were on serves. Rourke's 5 aces came mainly at the expense of Juliana. Paz also was involved in some of the lost balls.
In the long run, this game came down to Michigan beating itself up just as much as Rourke's excellent play did. After Michigan blew a 12-2 lead in the first set, momentum went completely to the Beavers and Michigan looked lost. Michigan was begging for the refs to bail them out by calling nonexistent tips and kept making mental mistakes. Oregon State just kept attacking, and they had just enough luck on the balls rolling over the net. It seemed to demoralize Michigan.
This game really reminded me of Michigan's play over the last few years. We are a good team that just couldn't put it all together in any set. We kept it close on raw talent alone. We lost it on our own mental toughness. This whole game was a disappointment, especially with the crowd that showed up, supposedly 2,673. Most of those left before the second set was finished.
Michigan finished 2nd in the tournament, and placed three players on the All-Tournament team in Zimmerman, Paz, and Rood. In a more dubious fashion, Michigan also cemented Tournament MVP for Rourke.
Michigan opens BigTen play at Indiana on Friday. MGoBlue will have live stats and a CiL. More on that in next week's Michigan sports weekend.
This obviously makes typing inconvenient, what with this splint on my finger and all. But the show must go on.
Michigan left me a little worried leaving at half time. It was a relief indeed to see the score for the good guys climb with each pass of the ESPN bottom line ticker while waiting at the ER.
- Michigan looked shaky, yes, but in the end put the wood to their over-matched opponent. We are going to win a lot of games by simply outscoring our opponents and I am cool with that. It seems we have the ability to score on any play, from anywhere on the field. I don't think we have ever had a more loaded stable of running backs, a nice thing to have with a set of freshman QBs.
- D-Rob has a lot of raw ability but I don't see him ever becoming a pass first QB after this performance. With no completed passes and two picks, it might be time for us to realize that the fortunes of this team rest solely on the shoulders of Mr. Forcier. If forced to insert D-Rob as the starter, this offense will quickly resort to a Pat White run/pass ratio. This isn't the end of the world, but won't win us as many games IME. Those running touchdowns won't come as easily against B10 defenses, or if the offense becomes one-dimensional.
- There appears to be a rather large drop-off at linebacker behind Mouton. From what I saw, and remember that I missed the entire second half, Eastern ran right at where Mouton would have been with a great deal of success. Who was that guy that replaced him? I can't say that I had ever heard of him. Red rover, red rover, let the highly touted linebacker recruits come over.
- English impressed me with his game-plan and by keeping the score close in the first half. He is going to get Eastern some respect in coming years I think. While time of possession is an overrated statistic, a 2:1 ratio is eye-opening. I wish him all the best.
- This coaching staff again made great half time adjustments, or at least it seems so. Missing the second half of this one sucks, as I don't have any real idea of what kept Eastern off the scoreboard. Maybe someone can enlighten me?
As I said above, this is a team that can outscore most of it's opponents left on the schedule. Assuming a steady, if slow progression by the O-line and the continued health of Mr. Forcier, we may well keep our PPG above 30. I think we all should take a moment to savor just how different this year feels compared to last. As we enter the B10 slate, already having as many wins as last season, we should thank our lucky stars that RR landed in our laps. We have seen just how bare the cupboard actually was when Carr retired and I don't think that there are many coaches out there that could have turned the ship around this quickly.
At this point I am seeing 8-4 or 9-3 and maybe the Outback Bowl. That sure sounds nice. I think that we will almost undoubtedly defeat Indiana, Purdue, and Del. State. I see us taking 2-3 of Illinois, Sparty, Wisky, and Iowa. Then we have both Penn St and O$U at home so maybe a 25% chance of taking one of those. If we can win one of those two I think we make the Citrus Bowl.
I hope that everyone was able to enjoy this game and that everyone made it home safe and sound. Have a great week.
Edit: It appears that everybody want to concentrate on my #2 observations and opinions. So let me clarify:
- There is nothing wrong with a run-first QB and yes Pat White won many games.
- D-Rob may or may not be as good a QB as White, I have made the comparison but that doesn't mean D-Rob=Pat White.
- I merely think that D-Rob would not lead us to as many wins as Tate as a starter this season.
- Yes, I don't see D-Rob as the Michigan QB of the future. I agree it is too soon to tell. I just don't see anything yet that would make me think he is better suited to QB than RB or Slot Receiver.
- Please realize that these are just opinions from one fan (by no means expert) and try not to get too offended when they differ from your opinions (expert or I suspect mostly not).