to play football, not to play trumpet
100% worst thing ever
I thought I got it, but I didn’t really understand until Saturday. I grew up in a house with a dad who referred to football as the sport “where those muscle-bound gland cases run into each other” and a mom who went to Michigan State and spent every Saturday watching her beloved Spartans Sparty No! themselves into oblivion. Being an impressionable little dude I naturally followed along- at least, I did for the first 17 years of my life.
Mom spent a copious amount of time molding my fandom, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that when I told her I was going to Michigan she felt a lot like NFL reporters last December; of course there was a chance, but come on. I think she still spends time replaying the course of events and wondering how things turned so quickly; factor in that Michigan seeped so deeply into my soul that my profession is now entwined with the University and you can see why she feels like she had things so perfectly set up only for them to implode in the most spectacular and unlikely fashion imaginable. I get it now, mom. I saw what happened last Saturday and it was more than just watching something fall apart, it was feeling something fall apart and fall apart in mere seconds.
The funny thing about it is that it was right in front of us the whole time. The numbers, those cut-and-dry harbingers of doom, were gnawing at the back of our minds, telling us that it was a fool’s errand to hope we could run out the clock against fate. That why it stings in such a strange way. Like my mom, Michigan fans got blindsided even after turning our heads and watching it come straight for us. At some point you realize what you’re doing is the equivalent of holding together a heavy box with scotch tape and inevitably everything just spills out, and in a particularly painful but possibly (personally) karmically justified way I have some common ground with my mom once again. We both put our faith in something other than the numbers and got burned; now I know why I like stats so much.
[After THE JUMP: It went better than you thought. It also went worse than you thought.]
What, are you worried Spartans are gonna be all "Typical Wolverines, whining about the refs."?
[Interference on Desmond.gif] [Spartan Bob stops the clock.gif] [etc.] Things that happen happened. Plus can you name a Spartan anyone actually takes seriously?
Granted. But is this hypothetical Spartan in your life Vannini, or this Youtube commenter?
Wow. That's— uh, that is…
…a person whose opinion does not matter.
I was going to say my brother-in-law. But they outgained us!
Special teams matter.
Still can't we be above blaming the refs? Steel in the spine and all that. It won't change the outcome of the game. At most we'll get an apology from the Big Ten that's worth exactly as much as Rutgers in a post-cable bundling media landscape.
Nice one. I'm not making a "Michigan should have won…" argument, because every play matters. The last play had a huge effect on the outcome. Connor Cook throwing perfect back shoulder passes and Aaron Burbridge being an NFL-caliber receiver was very relevant. Jake Rudock being bad at deep balls was relevant. If they'd won, Michigan's stops on 4th downs were relevant. All of it is relevant, and the game, as they say, is over.
So then what's the point?
The point is to assess how good this Michigan team is at football. IE were they significantly better than a Michigan State team that nearly lost to Purdue and Rutgers, and was absent its Rimington-quality center plus half the legs of its bookends, and is fielding a pretty awful secondary. But I'm also doing this for some more personal reasons:
- For myself, and for posterity, I want a thorough canvassing of the things I saw and thought I saw.
- I want to point out where the refs are getting a bad rap. Not everything we thought we saw was a legit gripe, and some of the legit gripes may have been hard for human refs to see in real time. Since complaining is inevitable, let's get it right.
- Right now I feel like a truck ran over my dog and then half of the people in my life came over to gloat as if they were driving this truck. This is part of my healing process.
And you're going to show we got hosed?
Can't promise it. That was my certainly biased hypothesis in the stadium, but I'm not going to be able to find every incremental hold and would-be pass interference. I want to tackle the things people were talking about.
Clip the plays people bitched about, watch the hell out of them, gauge the relative expectations we should have for the officials on those plays, and use the Markov Drive Analysis tool to calculate a rough expected points swing.
This tool is based on NFL drives but it serves for what we're doing here. It gives you a basic expected points for every down, distance, and field position. For example if you have 1st and goal on your opponent's one yard line, the expected points is 6.32. A 4th and 10 on your 40 is about zero.
If I've left out any plays (including and especially those where something went Michigan's way) let me know and if I deem it worthy I'll add it to the post.
I'd rather not be part of this.
Then don't hit...
You know what's coming. Hit the jump.
10/17/2015 – Michigan 23, Michigan State 27 – 5-2, 2-1 Big Ten
So I was trying to come up with a clever thing for this post and started Googling "Act of God." Folks in contracts who are beset by improbable occurrences regularly petition the courts for forgiveness since, you know, things. And stuff. I mean, seriously. That thing, that was a pretty unlikely thing. Cumong man.
The courts have generally gone along with this. If you are beset by a plague of locusts and boils and rivers of blood and the like, the courts are generally like "God's bad, yo" and then they let you go.
Anyway. I'm scanning, scanning, trying to find something apropos, and then
I AM NOT ON THIS LIST
NOR ARE THE HUNDRED THOUSAND STRUCK DOWN JUST THIS SATURDAY
WHAT KIND OF RATIONAL WIKI DO YOU PURPORT TO BE
IF SERIOUSLY I MEAN I AM NOT ON THIS LIST, NOR IS MY UNCLE OR MY COUSINS OR VARIOUS STUDENTS AND ALSO JIM HACKETT AND JIM HARBAUGH AND PROBABLY LIKE 1500 OTHER JIMS IN THE STADIUM
OH I'M NOT RATIONAL, RATIONALWIKI?!?!? IIIIIIIII'M NOT RATIONAL?
Fine. Okay. Yeah. Okay. You're right. It's cool, RationalWiki. Keep on being mean to anti-vaxxers. It's cool. I am perfectly calm, RationalWiki. Calmer than you are.
This is the section inspired by the brain above. It's a pretty impressive brain, all up in some parentheses that probably mean something to people who took their discrete math class seriously instead of asking my friend to drop off my homework because 8:30 on North Campus just wasn't happening, man.
So. In about 10 months Jim Harbaugh erased the physical gap between Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan didn't run roughshod; both teams struggled to get yard one on the ground. Injury whinging is out of the question: both teams were down one starter on the line when MSU was on the field.
In the absence of a physical advantage either way, the game came down to the fact that Michigan State spawned a generational quarterback from a three-star recruit at the same time they had disastrous special teams. Michigan's special teams were amazing until they were… not amazing, and Brady Hoke hired an offensive coordinator whose 30-year career has seen one quarterback he recruited ever—everrrrrrr—start. (That guy was Indiana's QB as a sophomore; the next year he was a tight end.) Jake Rudock is a smart dude who I am grateful is at Michigan; he is not a guy who Harbaugh has chosen and developed.
When Cook had an opportunity to hit a receiver who'd gotten over the top of Jeremy Clark, he did so. He nestled the ball in there with the care and precision of a watchmaker. If there was a job where you had to throw babies at titanium bassinets inside a volcano, I would be comfortable giving Connor Cook that job. Rudock hit some intermediate passes but he did not take advantage of his opportunities to hit touchdowns.
Thus a game that was close enough for God to do some serious smitin'.
So, that sucks. It sucks that happened. It sucks that the kind of trash program that would run all the way across the field to taunt the Michigan student section after being handed a gift gets to feel like they earned something this morning. They're planning on nicknaming it, as if they earned something. That is why Michigan State will always be Michigan State. That is why "little brother" stuck: because it is the truest thing ever said about the attitude of that program.
But I've seen worse. I've felt worse. I have a big ol' callus. It's clear the direction this is going, and it's not a loss to Rutgers. The juggalos will get theirs as soon as Harbaugh flips the QB matchup. That's the undercurrent of their relief. They're already celebrating like underdogs who fluked it out.
See you next year.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had 6 PBUs, wasn't beaten clean without offensive pass interference, and shut down Burbridge enough that MSU was behind despite a monster game from their QB.
#2 Jabrill Peppers had three excellent returns, was important in limiting the MSU ground game, caused MSU to freak out and burn consecutive timeouts late in the first half, and set up a Michigan touchdown with an end-around.
#3 Willie Henry had two sacks and was in MSU's backfield for most of the fourth quarter.
Honorable mention: rest of the front seven, Kenny Allen.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU)
6: Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU).
1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Jake Rudock(#3 Northwestern)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Michigan's defense boots MSU off the field on fourth and nineteen to win the game, until they did not win.
Honorable mention: 80 yard punt. Peppers on the loose.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Honorable mention: N/A
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
[After THE JUMP: Jourdan Lewis targeted again. It goes okay to well.]
After a finish like that, what do you tell your guys in the locker room?
“They played their guts out. Played winning football. Overcame so much, and we messed up a play at the end. Have resolve, put steel in the spine, and we’ll move forward.”
Given the fact that your team played so well until the end, is this something that you can use as…I don’t want to say motivation, because that’s the wrong word, but something you can use as a good building point?
“Yeah. There’s so many- so much good, you know. Our guys played big in a big game…overcame so much- calls that were made, calls that weren’t made. Just kept fighting and overcame so much in the ball game and ultimately played winning football. What do you say about the last play? It was unfortunate. Didn’t get the result.”
Why was this the game for Jabrill to see the field offensively and how do you think he did in terms of impacting in all three facets today.
“He did good. He did great in all phases. Big time player, plays really big in the game as he does so often. He played great.”
As you said, you guys played winning football minus one last play that could have gone any way. You guys were in control most of the game- led or tied. How do you talk to your players about the fact that it’s a process, it’s more than one game, it’s even more than one season [as] it’s about building a program?
“Have resolve. Have steel in our spine. Gotta move forward.”
What happened on that last play?
“The snap was low, just below the knees. He didn’t field it cleanly, and looked like then he bobbled it again and kind of kicked it a little bit. Looked like he was trying to kick it while he was in traffic. I mean, you saw it. That about the way you saw it? Very unfortunate.”
[After THE JUMP: “We’re gonna put steel in our spine.”]
I've never seen anything like that in my life, and I hope I never see it again.