As I settled in to my Sunday morning routine of smoking a Cuban Cohiba Behike and drinking a coffee liberally flavored with Remy Martin’s Louis VIII’s Black Pearl, I had time to reflect on recent events. My mood is anxious and irritable as I write. Perhaps this is because the platinum bidet in the master suite is on the fritz and I had to use a barely serviceable gold plated bidet in one of my many guest rooms. More likely it is the state of the University of Michigan’s football team and their coaching staff.
Last week, from my swank and remote location and thanks to the interwebs, I was able to review the writing of my home area sports writers. These giants of sports writing, (Carty, Sharp, and others) provided insight into many problems at UoM. After reading these articles, several things were immediately apparent. The first being that the college football season had begun and Michigan had not won all of its games. The second was that Michigan had a new head football coach (why the national news media did not pick up this story is beyond me). The third thing that became clear was that the new coaching staff is not very good.
I have three areas of concern with the new coaching staff. First is the fanaticism of the strength and conditioning staff. They seem even to be regulating what the athletes consume. What gall to deny an offensive lineman a bedtime pizza or two. Have our seventh amendment rights gone by the wayside?!?!
My second concern is the poor recruiting. Michigan used to pwn Little Brother in this area. According to Detroit media, it seems Mark Dantonio has turned the tables on Michigan. In fact, UoM is nowhere to be found in the list of top five football classes for 2009. That will make two years in a row; something Lloyd Carr would never have tolerated.
My final concern came after viewing the Wisconsin game. I have heard reports that “family values” have declined at UoM. This was not evident when viewing the defense. When the offense took the field, it became apparent that these reports are true. The offensive players who were in the past emotionally close enough to hold hands, now position themselves at a greater distance from one another. They even seemed eager, in the first half, to give Wisconsin possession of the football so they could leave the field and get away from one another. The breakdown of “family values” was especially evident in the selfish play of the quarterback. Despite the fact that five good players are competing for playing time at tailback, Mr. Threet selfishly kept the ball for the longest run of the game. If he would have had the decency to hand the ball off, the play would have gone for a touchdown.
Add to these concerns the new coach’s comfort with breaking with tradition and the circumstances surrounding his departure from his previous job and I think it is obvious Michigan football is headed in the wrong direction. I say it is time to fire Mr. Rodriguez and hire a more stable and tradition oriented head coach. Perhaps we could lure Kirk Ferentz away from Iowa as they are having another poor season. Who’s with me?
I wear a 7.5 if we're talking baseball caps, I'm not sure what I
wear in ass-hat, maybe somewhere between J. Lo and Niecy Nash. I
will hold myself out there for the slings and arrows of my fellow
Michigan fans, yes I booed.
I'd flown in from New
Orleans to go to the game with my Dad, I'd had a particularly stressful
week at work and my threshold for atrocity was low. I kept
telling mysef they're just college kids, they're trying hard, they
aren't doing this purposefully to torture you, be nice, don't
boo, don't boo, don't boo. I held it together for awhile.
Greg Matthews fumble, "damn, that sucks".
Morgan Trent fumble, "that is ridiculous, how does this keep happening?"
Steven Threet interception #1, "ouch,"
by this time my resolution not to boo was disappearing into a rage far
from maize, then Steven Threet threw what looked to be a dead cat into
the air with seconds remaining in the first half, picked off, then it
happened "GET OFF THE FIELD YOU SUCK! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" And like
that I was on my feet ranting and raving hurling expletives (that the
nine year old next to me will probably repeat gleefully
ad-nauesum all week) insulting a 19 year old who undoubtedly felt
much worse about his on-field performance than I did (and probably
handed his dissapointment much better).
In case anyone
beleives in Karma, here is some validation . . . My Dad (an older
gentleman) had not been feeling well all day and at halftime asked if
we could leave, since I drove him to the game, I had no choice and
walked out with my head-held low; yes, I left at half-time and missed
Michigan's greatest home comeback.
I was wrong, please take me back dear Wolverines, oh and to the 9 year-olds parents, I apologize.
This is my first diary post, so be gentle. Sorry its so long.
I have been responding with predictions for this year a little bit in some other posts. I thought I was pretty smart when I predicted a 1-3 start. I felt we would improve and end the year 6-6 but barely miss a bowl. Now, everything has changed. I don't know if I have ever been happier about being wrong in my life. I just wanted to tell my saturday story.
I woke up and watched gameday. We were of course picked to lose. I was being optomistic though and thought if it was close I would be happy. My wife and our two kids had moved to Ann Arbor in April for just this sort of weekend. We graduated in 1997 (missing the NC by a year, although I went to the 98 Rose Bowl, story for another time) and have always loved UM. I had a friend in town and was taking my daughter to tailgate with him. Right before the game, my wife was going to pick her up and I was going to the game, my first this year.
At about 12 I get a call from an optometrist I work with in Toledo. I have never gotten called in for an emergency since I joined this practice, but wouldn't it happen today. I was pissed off. A person got hit in the eye with a softball and had blood in his eye. The optom. couldn't get a good view of his retina and needed me to come look. On top of that, the guy went back to the hospital for a CT and I had to wait for it before I could see the guy. I calculated my likely wait, drive time, exam time and realized that my day was shot. Best case, I would miss part of the game and I didn't even have my ticket in hand yet.
As I was driving to Toledo I listened to big ten football on XM and cursed silently to myself. When the patient sees me, he notices I'm in shorts and a michigan shirt and he says "are you going to the game?" "I was," I say. The patient was fine and I got back on the road as soon as I finished checking his eye. I am a superstitious believer in my behavior effecting the outcome of the game so I thought, this has to be good karma and now we are going to win.
I was DVRing the game and I got back halfway through the first quarter (DVR is one of the greatest inventions of all time and essential for anyone with kids) Watched the craptastic display and felt crappy. At least I wasn't watching this in person, I thought. I am not down on our team. I think RR is brilliant and I know we will be awesome soon. I still couldn't believe the turnovers from veterans though.
My buddy, the one who I was tailgating with calls me and says he left the game and meet him at Good Time Charley's. I start to get ready but a funny thing happens. We start moving the ball. I text him and tell him I will be there in a little while, but I wait and see us score at touchdown. We're only down 12 and Wisconsin can't do anything on offense. I quickly drive over to GTC's and find my friend ON THE PATIO! I thought he would be watching still at least. Through the glass I see Minor break a long one for a TD. "We have to go inside and watch this!"
At this point, like 12 cute girls dressed in Wisconsin gear with little wisconsin Ws on their cheeks come in and sit right next to us. They are shocked. What happened? they say. Then, bam! John Thompson time. I am freaking out! Greatest feeling ever and why we care about sports. These moments are forever.
Then Threet goes all Vince Young on Wisconsin and the whole place is freaking out. McGuffie TD. Lots of time left. We get ball back and should ice it, but shit! Great punt. Stop them please. Shit! Double Shit!!!! PENALTY! We WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everyone kept commenting on how tired Wisconsin looked. Immediately this is in my top 10 games I have watched. Others, in no particular order
1. Rose Bowl 98
2. Biakabatuka running all over an undefeated OSU team.
3. Driesback Virginia comeback.
4. Beating ND that same year and marching down South U afterward.
5. Minnesota comeback from Navarre
6. 2004 MSU comeback watching on a beach in Belieze during my honeymoon.
7. 2007 MSU comeback
8. 1997 Woodson beats OSU almost single handedly
9. Desmond doing the heisman pose in the endzone against OSU in my first game in the big house
Note – The first half nearly broke me. I was in the fetal position for most of it, with visions of 3-9 haunting my every thought. Needless to say, Cat32 disapproved of everything that happened in a massive, epic way. But the second half was so redeeming, and they showed so much heart and resilience that I just can’t bring myself to adequately describe the suckitude of the first half in my own words. It would just be something pathetic, like “well that sucked.”
Therefore reader, you get two diaries… Since the first half was basically a Shakespearian tragedy, this first half diary is done with occasionally edited Shakespeare quotes. You’re a smart audience and can handle it, I think. The second, wonderful, glorious half will be done later in the week in the normal style.
· 3:30 – Game is about to start. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Each have their entrances and exits, and each in his time plays many parts.”
· 3:35 – Kickoff. “Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war.”
· 3:36 – The dogs of war allow a 55 yard kickoff return by Wisky. “Oh, that way madness lies. Let me shun that.”
· 3:41 – Wisky misses a FG. “Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind, when you push Welch’s 34 yard attempt wide left.”
· 3:45 – Threet fumbles. Wisky ball. “O, woe is me, to have seen what I have seen, see what I see.”
· 3:53 – Wisky kicks a field goal. Good job to hold ‘em D. Some advice Badgerfan: “Glory is like a circle in the water, which never ceaseth to enlarge itself, till by broad spreading it disperses to naught.”
· 4:02 – On a five play Michigan drive, three plays lose yards and one is an incomplete pass. “Something is rotten in the state of Michigan.”
· 4:11 – The defense does a great job stuffing Wisky on 3rd and 1. Then Thompson gifts them a 1st down by jumping egregiously offsides on the punt fake. “Off with his head!” (Cat32 picked that one out.) “Every man has his fault, and punctuality is his.” (Mine.)
· 4:18 – The defense recovers nicely, and forces a Wisky field goal. 6-0 WI. “Now is the winter of our discontent.”
· 4:23 – Michigan does a fairly ugly 3 & out. “Be great in act, as you have been in thought.” End of quarter. How does Threet look to this point? “I am not bound to please thee with my answers.” OK, but how would Sheridan have looked? “I dote on his very absence.”
· 4:28 – We punt, then Evridge’s first pass is intercepted by Charles Stewart! Hey Evridge: “Tremble thou wretch! Thou hast within thee undivulged crimes, unwhipp’d of justice!”
· 4:34 – And we take good field position for the first time all game and promptly go 3 & out. “We do not keep the outward form of order, where there is deep disorder in the mind.”
· 4:35 – “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Nothing football here, just good advice.
· 4:39 – Wisky does some good things, has a nice big pass play, but then Evridge takes far too long to throw on 3rd and 5. “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” Mouton causes a fumble, recovered by Michigan. The Michigan defense did come to play today. “Thou art all the comfort the Gods will diet me with.”
· 4:40 – 4:45 – Threet fumbles on first down, Michigan recovers. “Assume a virtue if you have it not.” McGuffie has his perhaps only productive play of the first half, not that the offensive line was helping him. “Be not afraid of greatness. Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some men have greatness thrust upon them.” A punt from Zoltan.
· 4:49 – The defense rises up yet again, and forces a Wisky punt deep in their own end of the field. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” Then Greg Matthews fumbles the punt. “O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; it hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t, another fumble.”
· 4:50 – A brief, non-Shakespearian message from Cat32: HOLD ON TO THE #$@%!! BALL ALREADY.
· 5:04 – (I paused the game here for a few minutes to collect myself.) Wisky has a long run down to the Michigan 5 yard line. “True is it that we have seen better days.”
· 5:05 – Wisky punches it in for a touchdown. “How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.” 13-0 Wisconsin. Bonus coverage: “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
· 5:08 – Mike Hart is interviewed by the sideline reporter. The ABC cameraman does a good job correctly framing his halo. He says, and I quote, “This Michigan never did, nor never shall, lie at the proud foot of a conqueror.”
· 5:09 – We fumble the kickoff. I’m not even making this up. 2 quotes, mine first then Cat32’s: “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” Cat32’s: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
· 5:13 – Wisky kicks a field goal. 16-0 WI. They show Rodriguez scowling. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
· 5:16 – ABC points out that 45% of Michigan’s offensive plays this season have gone for zero or negative yardage. “I pray thee cease thy council, which falls into mine ears as profitless as water in a sieve.”
· 5:18 – The defense forces another 3& out. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, and close the wall up with our Wolverine defense.”
· 5:22 – Threet throws an interception. “When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” The crowd is booing fairly loudly. To the crowd I say, “A wretched soul, bruised with adversity, we bid be quiet when we hear it cry.”
· 5:27 – Wisky kicks yet another field goal. 19-0 Wisky. They show Rodriguez again. Two quotes are appropriate: “A first down! A first down! My kingdom for a first down!” and “Come not within the measure of my wrath.”
· 5:32 – Threet caps the half off with another interception, thrown with 10 seconds on the clock. “The attempt, and not the deed, confounds us.”
· 5:33 – Wisconsin quote: “They have been at a great feast of turnovers, and stolen the scraps.”
· 5:33 – Halftime. What to say about that? “This half’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his half-hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
lifted from my website at gsimmons85.blogspot.com you can check it out to see where im going with this...
about 6 years ago, I was coaching basketball, and with another coach we decided we need to find a defense to help us compete with athletes that were bigger faster, and stronger than we were. Well we decided to start running a type of 1-3-1 that we had heard a guy talking about froma Highschool coach in Wisconsin. So we go ahead and start ordering a couple of tapes from him, and really liked the defense. After we got really into it, we decided to give the guy a call, and we ended up having some great conversations with him. The following is a story from one of those converstions that i think will give you a little insight into the role of schemes.
Im talking to Wisconsin coach about matchup problems etc. these are his words to me...
"coach i was talking to this guy one time and he keeps telling me about the team that he is about to play. Well they got a great inside scorer, he said. Well ok then i would do this, and this and this. Then he says to me, well ok coach i could do that, but they also have a couple of guys that can really stroke it from the outside, so i repond with some other ideas, well ok then i would do this, and this, and this. He responds by saying, well coach the problem is they have a great penetrating guard as well so what do you think coach? I said well bud, I hate to say it but I think you are going to lose."
Matchups and and players, matchups and players...
One of my pet peeves when discussing college football is the conventional "wisdom" that there are supposedly set-in-stone rules about going for 2. Broadcasters constantly say that "coaches have a chart" that tells them when they should go for 2, based simply on the score.
I doubt this is the case, because I imagine coaches know that going for 2 is a decision that must be made based on the context of the situation. It's complicated and risky, and it's not always clear what the right thing to do is. No scoring chart will be able to take all the important factors into account.
What are those factors? Aside from the obvious factor of...
1. What's the score?
...there are, in my opinion, at least three other questions that must be asked, all with the assumption of a missed 2 point conversion:
2. How much time is left in the game?
3. Do I believe the opponent will score again?
4. Do I believe my team will score again after that?
My philosophy on 2 point conversions: assume you'll miss, and only go for 2 if it could make a difference in the score, there is little time left in the game, and/or there won't be any more scoring done by my team. In other words, I believe the 2 point conversion should be put off until the last score. That way, missing the 2 point conversion doesn't unnecessarily hurt your team's chances of victory.
Questions 2, 3, and 4 are related, of course- with little time left in a game, for example, there will most likely be little to no more scoring done by anyone. But again, the context matters- a lights out offense like Texas Tech might believe they'll do more scoring with only 3 minutes left in the game, whereas a slug offense like Virginia Tech might feel they are done scoring with 6 minutes left in the game.
With all this in mind, let's turn to this past weekend's game: should Michigan have gone for 2 after the Thompson interception?
Reading through the liveblog transcript, there seemed to be universal and instinctive agreement that yes, Michigan should go for 2. Everyone quickly came to that decision and expressed confusion about RichRod's decision to take a time out to think about it. Based on that, I assume everyone was looking at the scoreboard as the only factor in the decision. But let's look at the context:
1. The score was 20-19. A successful 2 point conversion prevents a subsequent Wisconsin field goal from winning the game. The score says "Go For It."
2. But there was over 10 minutes left in the game. Each team has at least 2 more possessions coming. Time left says "Go For It Later, Not Now."
3. The Wisky offense was not doing much, kicking FGs off of turnovers in the first half. One big run in the first half set up their lone touchdown. They had yet to score in the second half. Their quarterback was not showing himself to be anything special, having just thrown a Pick 6. Was Wisconsin done scoring for the day, even with more than 10 minutes left? It appeared so. A Wisky score appeared unlikely, but even on the off chance that they pull something together, that was offset by the off chance of a successful 2 point conversion by Michigan. Wisky offense says "Go For It and Ensure Overtime, Just In Case."
4. But the Michigan offense wasn't really a solid bet either way. The offense had been a little, uh, erratic. 21 total yards and multiple turnovers in the first half was just plain awful. A solid drive for a TD and a big TD run by Minor in the second half, however, had raised hopes. Was Michigan done scoring for the day, even with more than 10 minutes left? Maybe, maybe not.
That's why I believe RichRod took a timeout- it wasn't clear whether Michigan was done scoring or not, and he needed a moment to think about it.
It was a gamble, and as it turned out it hurt the team. If he ended up deciding to just take the PAT, then the ensuing touchdown would have put Michigan up by more than one score (28-19), and the game would have effectively been on ice. Michigan scoring again wasn't out of the realm of possibility- the Wisky defense had been on the field for a LOT of the second half, and they were starting to get pushed around. There was at least a hint of foresight that indicated another Michigan score.
Instead, RichRod gambled on the thought that they wouldn't get another chance to score, so he may as well get some while the getting's good. Michigan did score again, though, and the chance to ice game had already been lost in the previous 2 point conversion. Because of the failed 2 point conversion, Wisconsin was only down by one score and still had a chance to tie. As we all saw, everything worked out, but when Beckum caught the 2 point conversion pass (and before we saw the flags), for a moment Michigan's failed 2 point conversion loomed large.
Ultimately, I agreed with the call to go for 2- I was still unsure about Michigan's ability to score again, despite the gobs of time left on the clock and the tired Wisky defense. My point, however, is that this was NOT an easy call. This was NOT a "no-brainer." And in hindsight, it was the wrong call.
These decisions are NOT easy, and they depend on more nebulous things than just the score.