I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
I would like to focus on the future of Michigan's defense without blaming anyone (i.e. Carr, RichRod, Shafer, GERG, Bill Martin, etc.) for why it's so bad this year. I would simply like to look forward and ask:
Is Rich Rodriguez (with or without Greg Robinson) capable of fielding a competent defense next year? By competent, I mean lower than 60th in the nation in total defense).
I've been a big supporter of RR and have spent countless hours defending him to relatives and friends that don't want to hear any of it. I keep telling them to wait and be patient. Today, one of these friends asked if I thought the defense would be even decent next year. I didn't have an answer.
Any thoughts? Will Woolfolk make enough of a difference? Is there an underclassman likely to make a big improvement next year? To fill in for Mouton? Are there any OMG shirtless defensive recruits seriously considering UM? I'd like to offer comforting news to the doubters, but it's hard to do when it seems like the D could actually be worse next year.
Ok, so consider yourself warned, this is going to be a big one.
There are a number of reasons we lost to state. I'm going to list them here. Before you get pissed off by reading the bold bullet points as you relive this painful day, consider this the stuff that lets you remain classy in defeat and know inside that they will rue this day and remember the cost for the decision to go for it on 4th down with 1 minute remaining in a 3-score game in the future.
So, in order of importance, lets get started.
1. Michigan State played solid football and executed fairly well for 4 full quarters.
I hate to say this, but Sparty came out and played themselves a good game. Much better than their showing last week against Wisconsin. As much as I hate MSU with a firey passion, they earned this win from their side. On offense, they fought to establish the run, converted on some big passing plays enough to get them close enough to score, and were doing well running varous counter plays all day. Their backs didn't put the ball on the ground, and Kirk Cousins didn't cough the ball up either. In general, not many bad decisions across the board.
On Defense, they began to win upfront, especially against the run, and did a pretty good job of keeping 3 yard gains from turning into 6 yard gains or more. Not shutdown by any means, but they were good enough such that we needed to execute very well to get offensive progress. Which brings us to point two:
2. We turned the ball over three times.
We need to expect opposing teams to execute. Thus, if we fuck up and turn the ball over 3 times, twice in the red zone, we shouldn't expect to win. Had we not turned the ball over, and those drives go for scores, we win the game even if we assume they score anyways when they get the ball back.
This is a 21 point differential. That means that we'd be having to play good enough to blow them out by 21 points to overcome those kinds of mistakes. I'm sure the UFR may shed some light as to exactly what went on, but ultimately responsibility for this comes down on our dear Shoelace, who had probably the worst game of his career. I think these turnovers though are really though indicative of something else:
3. We didn't execute well passing the ball at all today.
No, seriously, recievers, STOP DROPPING THE DAMN BALL. *rage* etc. The drops killed our passing game and cost us at least a couple scores and key first downs. Every dropped pass is an important missed oppertunity and is the sort of stuff that changes games. We are talking probably over 100 yards of offense lost to dropped balls, not including what we've have had for continuing drives and likely contributed to point 4:
4. We never established the run
They had 6-7 guys in the box against 4wr shotgun sets, and most of the time, 5-6 against empty backfield sets. They caught onto the Zone Read after the first quarter or so and began shutting down a lot of the inside runs. Because we couldn't do much of anything to force their LBs to back off the line of scrimmage (and their deep safety for that matter - he was taking 4-5 steps towards the LOS on most plays even late in the game), they crushed us on the run.
I can't even say our run offense execution was particularly bad, they just played run-first defense and it's not particularly easy to get the run game going when that is their defense's first read. Your run game and pass game need to help each other out, and in this game, the execution through the air really killed our ability to execute on the ground. One thing that helped kill our execution through the air was the fact that:
5. The officiating was abysmal.
Tackling recievers before the catch aparrently isn't pass interference if the reciever wears maize and blue.
More irritating than that was the fact that their LT held blatantly on every fucking passing down, we had people practically sit on our pass rushers and not get flagged. MSU was also blocking our defenders in the back all day as well. Furthermore, it took an injury along our D-Line for them to call the same chop block Sparty was doing all game.
The UFR can confirm this as well, but I'm pretty sure 3 of their linemen were past the line of scrimmage on the trick play, but I was in the student section and couldn't tell for sure.
Not really blaming the loss on this, but it sure didn't help us out. Especially when it comes to the fact that:
6. Our defense sucks.
By all counts, for this years defense, we got a lot more stops and good plays from them than we are used to. They honestly got us enough stops that if our offense didn't keep turning the ball over, we'd have been able to win, and probably quite handily.
But holy shit, where are our standards? This is Michigan! Giving up 500 yards to fucking sparty? Are you nuts? Giving up two huge runs and ugly big pass plays on a reliable basis? Lamarr Woodley must be crying when he watched that defense play wearing the same jerseys he and the other World Destroyers of '06 wore. This defense will continue to do enough to win us games, but come on, at Michigan, we have to do better than this.
They have to bail out the offense every once in a while, since one half the team shouldn't have to make all the plays in a season.
Sparty executed on offense at least in part because we weren't enough of a challenge to make them force plays. Michigan won't win reliably until we can make other offenses feel uncomfortable doing their favorite things. Cases in point: they began to shut down the Zone Read runs while they were very rarely stopped in power runs (especially counters) all game.
Wow, that's really ugly, does this mean we fire Rich Rodriguez?
Cautiously, not yet. His starting QB had the worst game of his career. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, MSU could walk away with part of a Big Ten title. Hell, if Ohio State drops one (they do look a bit vulnerable), MSU may even play for a national title (especially if South Carolina and/or Oregon drop one too). This loss probably puts him on a very toasty seat, but its nothing a big win next week (or a 9-3 overall finish with a bowl win for #10) can't cure.
What about teh GERG? I hate seeing sparty run like champs.
So do I. Results for the rest of the season will determine this, but I tend to be a bit flexible due to the injuries across the board. I think our Defense would be legitimately scary with Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk playing, so I hesitate to call for the axe to drop on his head. His seat should be toastier than richrod's though.
***OUR KICKERS ARE FIRED THOUGH, GIVE ME A SCHOLARSHIP TO GET FIELD GOALS BLOCKED KTHX***
So, on to the future:
MSU is little more than a collection of classless, inbred sofa-pyromaniacs.
I totally agree. There are some exceptions, of course, but I nearly lost it when they ran on 4th down at the end of the game while up 3 scores. I will never in my life accept pulling starters against them the next time we blow them out. In fact, not just because of our shitty kicking, I honestly feel like we should go for 2 from now on against them. They may have earned the win today by executing well on the field, but they've also earned a lot of hell to pay. Their fans are worse than fucking chicago fans, and are a disgrace to our state. The ones nearest me cheered our injuries and lacked even a shred of dignity or class.
I pray for the day righteous wrath comes down on those inbred cocksuckers and they remember their place in the order of life, but that will wait at least another year.
Thanks, captain obvious. What about the rest of the season?
It's all going to depend on ball security. Fortunately, Penn St. looked terrible and Illinois still looks beatable. Purdue is also still a joke.
Here's the breakdown, if we get win x, it will come against teams as follows (in order of difficulty):
Win 6: Purdue
Indiana is precisely 98954554366756 times better than purdue. If we lose this game, RR doesn't deserve a job at Michigan
Win 7: Penn St
Penn St is bad this year. They forgot offense was important and their defense isn't exactly something to write home about either. They aren't doing well at anything. Dangerous if we are on a 2-game losing streak if we lose to Iowa perhaps, but we still have no business losing this game.
Win 8: Illinois
The key to this game is not self-imploding. Illinois can do ok when they are free to execute at will, but they should be very beatable, especially since we have them at home. The big house was really frigging loud before we started turning the ball over, so I think we definately have credible home-field advantage. If we beat Penn St and can run on them, we'll run on Illinois too.
Win 9: Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a hard game, no matter how you look at it. However, if we can beat Michigan State if we don't turn the ball over, then I expect a performance with no turnovers against a lower quality Wisconsin team will be enough for us to win.
Win 10: Iowa
This might be a better team than the buckeyes, but we have them at home, and Stanzi can choke away tough road games. Rebounding from MSU will be tough, but if we learn from mistakes this game and don't turn the ball over, we can win. Our offense is good enough that if we don't drop balls, we can put their LBs and safeties on a back-step and open up more on the ground than what we had against MSU. A lot needs to be corrected but this one is still in our grasp. Especially if we get 4 quarters of the kind of noise that was made in the big house that we had in the first quarter.
Win 11: Ohio State
OSU D? Scary. OSU Offense? Not that scary. Abilty for us to play 4 quarters without doing a lot of coughing the ball up in one of the hardest places to play in College Football? That's more than a bit of a challenge. It's a bit hard to predict this far ahead with so much more football to be played, but this is looking like a bit more of a longshot. We can still win this game, but we'll need to improve a lot before getting to them if we want to have a chance to be competitive.
Shoelace for heisman?
Only if you can stomach rooting for sparty down the stretch. Shoelace had a very bad day. Its recoverable, but he needs to get back to game 1-5 form and limit mistakes again for his heisman campaign to look credible. Michigan State doing well down the stretch will make heisman voters forgive this performance if he does well through the rest of the season. For his part, there were a lot of teachable moments today - in the long run, I see him coming out better for the hard lessons that came today.
Can you predict something so I can call you a dumbass later?
Absolutely. I'm going to call us cautiously at 10-2. Shoelace does very well when he's being doubted, so I'm hoping for a big rebound against Iowa. Iowa is very scary, especially up front on defense, but a good day passing will keep us driving and give us the win after a couple stanziballs give us a big leg up. Wisconsin will be a broken team with at least one other loss to Ohio State and maybe another along the line before they arrive in ann arbor. They tend to choke promising seasons away, and while they plastered minnesota, I'm still not a believer. PSU, Illinois, and Purdue end all predictably.
So, there you have it. laissez les bon temps roulez. Losing to sparty hurts but we still have a fairly promising looking season ahead of us.
I posted this a couple of days ago as a comment in a thread, but it got buried pretty quickly, so now that I can post diaries I thought I'd post it again.
I wanted to look at the breakdown of Rich Rodriguez's previous offenses, and in particular the main QB's run-pass balance and the fraction of runs by the QB. I'm only looking at RR in Div 1A (so Tulane OC, Clemson OC, WVU and Michigan), and I'm skipping the mess that was the 2008 offense. Data comes from the year-end statbooks for each team.
Here is the overall production chart. QB is the main QB (from what I could tell) - in 1999 Brandon Streeter got a lot of playing time (mostly passing), and in 2001 Rasheed Marshall got a decent amout of playing time.
|Year||Team||QB||Pass Plays||Pass Yards||Rush Plays||Rush Yards||Total Plays||Total Offense|
|2001||West Virginia||Brad Lewis||357||1811||475||1992||832||3803|
|2002||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||279||1753||714||3687||993||5440|
|2003||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||252||2034||600||2762||852||4796|
|2004||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||259||1993||590||3034||849||5027|
|2005||West Virginia||Pat White||193||1398||625||3269||818||4667|
|2006||West Virginia||Pat White||233||2059||590||3939||823||5998|
|2007||West Virginia||Pat White||265||2067||628||3864||893||5931|
|2010 Proj||Michigan||Denard Robinson||285.6||2887.2||547.2||3892.8||832.8||6780|
|Year||Team||QB||QB Pass||QB Pass Yards||QB Rushes||QB Rush Yards||QB Total Offense|
|2001||West Virginia||Brad Lewis||237||1339||54||41||1380|
|2002||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||259||1616||173||666||2282|
|2003||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||215||1729||101||303||2032|
|2004||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||171||1426||130||684||2110|
|2005||West Virginia||Pat White||114||828||131||952||1780|
|2006||West Virginia||Pat White||179||1655||165||1219||2874|
|2007||West Virginia||Pat White||216||1724||197||1335||3059|
|2010 Proj||Michigan||Denard Robinson||230.4||2419.2||235.2||2172||4591.2|
Denard has already had more passing yards and almost as many rushing yards as 2005-era Pat White. If he averages just over 100 yards passing per game for the rest of the season he'll have more passing yards than any of RR's QBs other than Shaun King. If he kept on his current pace (unlikely), he'd end up with almost as many yards as 1997-era Shaun King. If he averages just over 60 yards rushing per game for the rest of the season he'll have more rushing yards than 2007 era Pat White. For total offense he would need to average just over 160 yards per game to best Pat White's best season, and just over 315 to match Shaun King. At this point it looks like Denard is the best all-around QB Rodriguez has had to date: almost as good a passer as King and as good/better a runner as Pat White.
Next I want to look at the breakdown of plays and yards between run and pass, and in particular the QB's share of production.
|Year||Team||QB||% Rush Plays||% Rush Yards||% of Runs by QB||% of Rush Yards by QB||% of Total Plays by QB||% of Total Offense by QB||QB % Rush Plays||QB % Rush Yards|
|2001||West Virginia||Brad Lewis||57%||52%||11%||2%||35%||36%||19%||3%|
|2002||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||72%||68%||24%||18%||44%||42%||40%||29%|
|2003||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||70%||58%||17%||11%||37%||42%||32%||15%|
|2004||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||69%||60%||22%||23%||35%||42%||43%||32%|
|2005||West Virginia||Pat White||76%||70%||21%||29%||30%||38%||53%||53%|
|2006||West Virginia||Pat White||72%||66%||28%||31%||42%||48%||48%||42%|
|2007||West Virginia||Pat White||70%||65%||31%||35%||46%||52%||48%||44%|
|2010 Proj||Michigan||Denard Robinson||66%||57%||43%||56%||56%||68%||51%||47%|
The first two data columns are the percent of all plays and all yards that come from all runs. The third and fourth are the percent of all runs and rush yards that come from the QB. The fifth and sixth are the percent of all plays and all yards that come from the QB. The seventh and eight are the percent of the QB's total plays and yards that come from his runs.
RR has historically varied a fair amount in how much of his offense comes from running the ball - this year we're about average for what he's done in the past, and less run-oriented than for example 2005 West Virginia. However, our rush offense is by far the most QB-based of any previous offense, far outstripping the one-man show of 2000 Woody Dantzler, and 2007 Pat White. If we look at total offense, this year's team is more QB-focused than any of the Clemson or WVU teams, but actually on par with the Tulane teams. Looking at Denard's run-pass balance he's actually right around Pat White's typical split, though he is certainly more run-focused in his production than any of RR's other quarterbacks.
This is just a high-level overview. I can't break down the kinds of running or passing plays RR is using from this data. The offense certainly feels very different than the Pat White-era WVU teams in formation and play style, and the YouTube highlights of Woody Dantzler I've seen have the QB iso type feel that we're seeing a lot from this year's team. I think the main message is that even within his system RR will adapt his style, both at a high level and at the formation/play level, to match his talent - which is what he should do.
Alright, so I knew I loved the Rodriguez hire when it was made, and I've been a supporter all along, and now that support is bearing fruit. I mean, really, it's been 5 weeks since we heard anything about a hot seat, and for good measure. I think we'll beat state, but even playing them respectably close should be enough to keep things quiet for now, since it seems like state is pretty good this year.
But I was just reading an article by Andy Staples (as linked in mgo.lico.us), and there were some figures I guess I hadn't realized.
The first time a QB passed for 2000 and rushed for 1000 yards in a season? Rodriguez. Pass for 300 and rush for 100 in a game? Rodriguez? And a million other stats that Pat White and now Denard have set since? All Rodriguez.
I don't know, I guess I knew most of this, but seeing all the stats in one spot, I was suddenly just struck by the idea that we hired a freaking evil genius to run our football team. You have no chance, Mr. Bond. Our schemes and techniques are far too advanced. MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Really, lets just hear it for our evil mastermind. I can see him sitting in a pseudo-futuristic alcove now, gently stroking a Persian cat, watching video of some as yet undiscovered HS Sophomore QB, performing cold, concise mental calculations about how he can turn that kid into the first 4000 - 3000 performer.