so much for that
9 Years….Let that sink in, 9 years it has been since Michigan lost to the Big Eleven’s Blue Headed Step-Child Penn State. It ends this week. This is the Saturday that the Big Eleven’s resident octatarian steps up and puts the bitter memories of the last 9 years behind Penn State.
¨ The phantom 2 seconds on the clock in 2005…
¨ The phantom foot in bounds by Steve Breston in 2005…
¨ Refs calling Tony Johnson OB in Ot in 2002...
¨ Anthony Morelli era
¨ Crush the hearts of psu fans everywhere
You can make fun of Jay Paterno all you want, god knows I have, however between he and Galen Hall the PSU offense is running on all cylinders. Someone somewhere in the booth is calling some great plays and they have more talent on the field this year than Michigan. So as I said before, Joe is going to let everyone off the leash this weekend and the starters are not going to sit in the 4th quarter. Joe will run it up and the final score will be in the area of 63-14 the same way we trounced OSU in ’94. Have fun on the road trip Michigan fans, you might have more fun at a Detroit Lions game.
I believe this game will be closer than the Illinois game. I give us a 25% chance to win, a 50% chance to prove me right, and a 25% chance it turns out that I've unknowingly been smoking one of Mario's old blunts.
We have owned PSU. I've had a decade of sheer enjoyment watching the hopes of a PSU family member rekindle each year, only to be extinguished by consistently superior Michigan teams. What started out as "Wait till next year, we're going to be better and beat you", soon turned to "Look, just don't give me a bunch of crap about it, you're probably going to beat us again b/c we're not very good this year." It has been wonderful. Granted, this is probably the year that the dominance ends; but those thoughts, entrenched by the depths of time, will be in the backs of both UM's and PSU's minds. If it's close for a while, deja vu will play a role.
Also, despite the opportunity to exact revenge for years worth of beat-downs, I think they'll be looking past us. They have NC hopes that go through tOSU next week. We, needless to say, just want to beat whoever's in front of us.
I believe (seem to be fewer of those daily) that our team will improve as this season goes on. It continues to amaze me that there are so many calls for change already. It's as though we're wondering why an 80 year old guy who had double knee replacements 3 days ago isn't ready for the Boston Marathon yet. We ARE NOT EXECUTING the basics with regularity yet offensively. Personally, I think we have gotten a little better each week, despite continually having multiple O-line adjustments, different WR/slot groups due to injury/suspension/illness, different attempts at finding a "change of pace" back who won't fumble, switching QBs etc. I completely discount the Toledo game - my diary - my perogative - due to a "perfect storm" of the above reasons (as well as key D personnel being out too).
Defensively, Illinois lit us up by executing the spread as well as anyone could the week they played us. I challenge PSU to even match it. Obviously we need to give up fewer big plays, and play better assignment football. I think we will see that our coaches CAN actually make adjustments, and that the D (hopefully healthy too) will look much better on this "re-do" against PSU's spread.
It's crazy to think that new coaches, with new players, new systems and "inadequate" (for said systems) personnel can completely adjust over the coarse of a timeout, halftime talk, even one week-long practice. That's why they call it "rebuilding", not "pre-fabbed homing". Give it time; and here, in the beginning, while it's roughest, set yourself some resonable expectations.
I still say we have a shot. I guess you can call me a fan. Guilty.
On the blue/maize Prozac: UM wins 27-24;
Marios's blunt: UM loses 38-24.
At some point on a sun drenched fall day at the Big House, reality finally set in. I don’t know exactly when it cemented itself in my conscious. My guess is somewhere between wondering aloud our defense failed to make any effective adjustment to counter an unknown wide receiver hauling in 20 balls or gouging my eyes out as another offensive series withered under failed execution of the playbook's base plays over and over again. Whenever it happened is not that relevant. The cold hard reality is the final tally on the scoreboard for the foreseeable future just does not matter. Even if it reads Toledo 13, Michigan 10, the news on the scoreboard is not the outcome that carries the day. It just does not matter. The reason why finally took hold of me fully Saturday afternoon. Why does it not matter?
Because the whole season is nothing more than one big practice.
Oh, sure the results go in the record books. For years on end, haters will mock the program for the 2008 results. During the back half of the season, expect future opponents and the media to kick the program while it’s down. It might look ugly. It might feel like constant stomach punches. But, it does not matter. The games on this year's schedule are nothing more than glorified scrimmages. This is not to say winning and losing is not important and that the program isn’t trying to win. However, isn’t truly the main goal for this season to determine which 18- and 19-year-olds will form the core of the team for the next two to three years?
The whole season is one big practice.
The cupboard is hardly bare. There's plenty of talent on hand. It’s raw talent, however, that's never been asked to be prime time performers, even in a limited role, at this level before. The coaching staff might have a handle on who might play well during the week, but these Saturday scrimmages are the true laboratory for Rodriguez to experiment in hopes of determining who can handle their roles and who will form the playing core in ensuing seasons. So, Michigan is not emerging ahead on the scoreboard, but these scrimmages are revealing a core of playmakers that will be fixtures. The problem is its most everyone's first rodeo out there and opponents at this level are just too good to overcome the inevitable mistakes that a lineup with so many freshmen and first time contributors produce. Try to revel in the emergence of new playmakers, like Sam, Odoms, Matthews, Moundros (yeah, that’s what I said), Ezeh, Mouton, Cissoko (and, make no mistake one or two more will emerge) and not live or die right now with the scoreboard.
The whole season is one big practice.
Sometimes you're just in a losing situation. No amount of raw talent can overcome that. It’s frustrating to watch especially when you're able to discern the successes and failures of the team and wonder why one isn't being game planned more to while the other isn't being schematically downgraded. It’s revealing when you watch a review of the game. You see some subtle shifts of play calling and the staff is indeed doing what it appears on the surface they aren't doing. Yet, it’s not occurring enough. But, here's the rub. Rodriguez and company can’t take those game plans to a new level because it seems like they have to rely on a new set of players each week. Instead of developing on field strategies with targets that Threet has found a stride with already against live competition, the staff cant because Stonum and Butler run afoul with team rules and were benched, Hemingway gets sick and Odoms dings his shoulder. As such any game planning for a specific foe gets harpooned by having to re-establish fundamentals with players who weren't good enough to make your initial cut for playing time. Maybe you look the other way on the discipline issues and let those guys play. Maybe you push the envelope with the Odoms injury, not to mention the Warren and Graham injuries on D, and put them in the mix because you need his plays. Those would be poor decisions. Clearly the call here is to sacrifice the short term for the long term. The scoreboard does not matter.
The whole season is one big practice.
I'm sure the coaching staff is chomping at the bit to find a way to get a playmaker like McGuffie into the passing game down the field. But, until they can unearth another tailback they're comfortable with who won’t fumble, miss assignments or get dinged up, why risk Sam over the middle at this point? They're constantly shuffling the offensive line sure that eventually the right combo will click. However, every time they've had a eureka moment, they're forced back to the deck because of an injury. After an effective first half moving the football against Toledo, any halftime adjustments to build off of that took a step back when Threet came up lame. Instead, in goes a walk on QB and the goal becomes hiding the weaknesses a move like that reveals rather than putting the petal to the metal with your strengths. If back in August you had been told Michigan's two minute drill would consist of the vaunted Sheridan to Clemons, Babb or Koger connections, what exactly would you have done? Book a trip abroad during the season? Make sure to pack more liquor with the tailgate? You most certainly would have downgraded mentally whatever winning expectations you may have had.
The whole season is one big practice.
Obvious angst, hand wringing and bandwagon bailing have ensued in the wake of losing a winnable game to a local patsy. The sad part of the outcome on the scoreboard was it significantly obscures the improvement the offense is making. The last 10 quarters of football was a major step forward from the first 14 quarters. The team drove the field for seven TDs in those quarters as opposed to 5--most of which were helped by shorter fields after the D swiped the ball--in the first time frame. Turnovers were reduced from 15 to 5. Threet has shown deft pocket awareness, regularly turning a sack into a positive yard scramble and had a 4 to 1 TD to INT ratio. Unfortunately, that interception happened yesterday and the -3 TO margin against the Wolverines was the difference between the actual losing outcome and a 20-3 slow cooked win with all the accomplishment of the 1987's team 26-9 yawner over a 2-win Northwestern team. That win didn't make the 1987 team legendary, nor did the win really have any impact on the program winning the Rose Bowl the following season. This loss should not doom these kids to three years of embarrassment on the college fields. So what if Appy State now has a little company in the program's history.
The whole season is one big practice.
I still feel this team will win games this year. If they improve over the next 10 quarters another step or two from the strides made the last 2 1/2 games, it would not surprise me to see them cobble enough wins to play for bowl eligibility in the finale. There's enough talent on this roster to compete for these games. Can the team get a consistent lineup going? Can the coaching staff keep the team upbeat and confident in the wake of all the negativity? And, most importantly, can they stop turning the ball over? Michigan is -12 in turnover margin. There are reams of empirical evidence out there that showing that over 70 percent of teams that have a double digit, negative TO ratio bounce back and improve their record the next year. Of course, maybe Michigan improves this year and ends up below -10. If they do that, I predict they will manage to at least break even over their final six games. Turnovers, however, are this team's identity right now and its easier to just expect them, steel your fandom heart on what will occur because of it and be pleasantly surprised if they giveaways don’t happen.
The whole season is one big practice.
So what if Kevin Grady struggled in his role on the field Saturday, keep playing him because he has talent. It’s only a practice. So what if playing Cissoko makes the team even younger on the field, it looks like he can hold his own out there in the secondary, so keep playing him. It’s only a practice. So what if Minor irks the fan base because he fumbles, keep playing him because he has flashed as much big play potential as anyone else. It’s only a practice. So what if Moundros does not scare anyone with his skills, keep playing him because he's one of the more physical guys on the team and is lighting folks up. It’s only a practice. Keep searching for answers on the line because while reinforcements up front are on the way, the current group can only get better with more reps. It’s only practice. So what if ditching half your playbook in favor of something that's not you might net an extra win or two, keep running your base stuff because each time is another rep against a quality foe. And, like hitting the gym, each rep helps turn fat into muscle. It’s only a practice.
And, the best part of practice is you can still tailgate beforehand. I expect to see you all on October 25.
I am getting tired of fans/reporters/so-called experts saying that RR should revert back to a pro-style offense or lessen the amount of spread offense they run because the players they have are more familiar with that type of offense. How in the hell do you expect him and McGee to teach an offense they know nothing about. RR has run this offense for years and has had success with it. You can't just make up a pro-style offense when you have never ran one before. Not to mention the players have been running a spread since last spring and would take a huge step back if presented witha pro-style gameplan.
Play calling is not the problem. They are getting guys open, examples = koger seam route in the 1Q / Moundros PA Wheel route, both routes were set up perfectly with previous plays but both passes were overthrown. It is all about exectution and players performing.
Coaches are required to put their players in postions to suceed but it's the players responsibilty to perform. That has been the major issue this year. Making plays when the team needs them. The Team made plays in the Wisconsin game when given the chance and they won.
I know it is not a big revelation but it just comes down to players playing better.
I am sick and tired of hearing about how Rich Rod has done us some great dis-service by installing the spread offense this year. Anyone in the media will simply say Michigan is bad this year "because of the system." This team was going to be terrible regardless of what offense we ran. Would running a pro-style I-Formation make the O-Line block any better? Its ridiculous to blame basic flaws in execution on an offensive system. People have also been complaining about how Rich Rod has been calling too many running plays and refuses to play to the our strengths. What QB have they been watching all year? How can you have Threet throw more when he can't even throw a simple screen. How does the offensive system matter when you a redshirt freshman QB who clearly needs to work on his mechanics. McGuffie and Odoms have shown they will be stables of this offense for years to come. We need Shaw and Stonum to see the field more so they can improve, and the O-line needs to establish some consistent play.
As for the defense I think Shafer is not playing to the strengths of the defense. Basically the only strong part of our defense is the D-line. Our LBs are all terrible at reacting to plays. They can be exploited in outsides runs and pass protection. These players need to be given one assignment when possible, and players should not be passing off coverage. Its become clear that reaction and communication on the field are simply not there. Morgan Trent has not shown the confidence I expected of a 5th-year senior, and is bad in run support. Warren has shown flashes, but is still a sophmore. Brown has been bad early, but he have Harrison have shown to be more competent. We really need out LBs to improve, because there is no depth there. Its unbelieveable that our best LB was a low 3-star running back recruit from a small catholic school with no other big time offers except michigan state. Whoever was in charge of recruiting LBs the past few years really dropped the ball.
Michigan's lineup has fluctuated throughout the year, and I expect that it will continue to change until Michigan plays with more consistency - which may not happen until 2009. Note: Only players who have a viable backup will be chosen to lose their jobs. For example, Threet likely will not be chosen because Sheridan has been a complete disaster.
OFFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Greg Mathews, WR. I choose Mathews because...well...he's not horrible, despite an unnecessary unnecessary roughness call in the second half of Saturday's game.
OFFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
Tie: Sam McGuffie, RB and Toney Clemons, WR. Before all the McGuffie lovers get their panties in a bunch, I think McGuffie should still be a starter - at slot receiver. With Martavious Odoms out with an injury and Terrence Robinson seemingly headed for a redshirt, a shakeup is necessary. Odoms has consistently been able to find soft spots in the defense from the slot position. McGuffie has similar size and moves and would benefit from being put out into open space. He has also shown good hands (zero drops this season) and the ability to make people miss. When Odoms returns from his shoulder injury (presumably next week), he could move into the starting Y receiver position, forming a trio of Mathews, Odoms, and McGuffie as wide receivers. Toney Clemons dropped two catchable balls on Saturday that led to two interceptions; on top of that, he doesn't have the speed or elusiveness to be effective in the slot. Moving McGuffie to the slot would allow Brandon Minor (who either scores a TD or fumbles on every touch), Carlos Brown (when he returns from injury), Michael Shaw, and Kevin Grady to get touches out of the backfield. McGuffie might be our best option at RB, but the backup RB's aren't nearly as bad as the backup slot receivers.
DEFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Brandon Harrison, SS. Harrison has been Michigan's most reliable defensive back in 2008. And while no one seemed to play particularly well against Toledo, Harrison was a solid tackler and didn't get beaten in the passing game. With the lack of push from the defensive line, the linebackers' inconsistency, and the cornerbacks' continued softness, there's not a lot to be excited about at this point. But when I see #27 flash into the picture, I always feel somewhat relieved that he's going to make a solid tackle or use his sprinter's speed to chase someone down.
DEFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
Morgan Trent, CB. I don't understand Morgan Trent's regression. He had a promising season a year ago. He supposedly put on a Barwis-fed 10 pounds and got faster. He hits people hard. But he continues to play really soft in coverage and he's been putting his shoulder into ballcarriers instead of wrapping them up and taking them to the ground. The soft coverage could very well be a scheme of Scott Shafer's or it could be because Trent doesn't trust his safety help. Either way, it's not working. Boubacar Cissoko needs to teach Trent how to play physically. Until Trent steps up his game, Cissoko and Donovan Warren (assuming he returns from injury next week) should be the starting corners. Maybe a one-game benching would catch Trent's attention.