"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."
- Raymon Taylor should be good to go Saturday against Nebraska.
- Hoke is being super coy about putting Denard on the kickoff return team.
- Spread punts! I asked. Hoke answered. And ... he's just more comfortable with the traditional punt, it seems.
“You know, we had a good practice last night. Good energy. We have an opponent that’s an awfully good football team when you look at they’ve won 18 of 20 at home. They’re 4-0 this year. I think Taylor Martinez is playing his best football. You look defensively or offensively, they’re leading the league in scoring. Very good football team. They’re physical up front. Defensively you look at tackles for a loss and you look at negative plays that they create. They’re leading in sacks, I think they’re leading in TFLs. Very physical group. Playing in Lincoln a neat place to play because of their tradition and their passion that they have as a fan base about Nebraska football. It’s really a neat place to play. It’ll be loud. We’ll have to play our best football that we’ve played this year.”
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to One Frame At A Time, our new weekly gifs post that will go up each Monday morning after football weekends (and probably continuing into basketball season, too, and whenever else it strikes my fancy).
From here on out, words will be sparse; if one picture is worth a thousand, I won't bother to calculate how many are accounted for by a moving image—bajillions, probably. In that sense, apologies for my wordiness, but the Michigan State game was a treasure trove for gifs. Par exemple:
[Due to the large file sizes, the rest of this week's gifs are after THE JUMP. Remember that you can always hit 'escape' (except in Chrome) to stop the animation.]
Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs
What was so formidable about your opponent today?
Denard: “They’re a great team. They’re a great defensive team, too. And so they played great. Toward the end that’s when we started picking it up. We talked about all week finishing, so that’s what we did. We finished out the end of the game, and we kept fighting the whole game. We never let up.”
What does this moment feel like for you guys?
Kovacs: “It’s pretty good. It feels pretty good. And like Denard said, you have to tip your hat to those guys. Obviously they were struggling a little bit coming in, but we knew it was going to be a dogfight. That’s what the Michigan-Michigan State game is year in and year out. They have a tough defense. They pound the ball on offense. You have to tip your hat to them, but Michigan won today.”
Is this defense good enough to win the Big Ten?
Kovacs: “We believe it, but at the same time, I think if we play like this every week we’re going to be in trouble. We have to keep getting better. That’s one of the things coach Hoke and coach Mattison emphasize: never become complacent. Get better every week. That’s what we plan on doing, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The last defensive stand was sort of reminiscent of the last drive against Notre Dame. Did it feel like redemption or something similar to be able to get the stop this time?
Kovacs: “You know, that’s what I was thinking as we took the field. It’s our opportunity to redeem ourselves and give the offense the ball back. Same situation as Notre Dame, and today we executed. We stopped them when we needed to and made some big plays and got the offense the ball back and let Denard take over.”
I don't always golf. But when I do, I think of brunette girls.
What’s your overall reaction to your team’s reaction to winning No. 900 against Michigan State?
“Well to be honest with you I don’t know if they realized the 900th win. Maybe the two seniors had an idea -- the two captains -- where we’re at, because that wasn’t the point of focus for the week. It was playing a great rivalry game, a game in our division, that’s important to win. Playing hard and playing to represent the 133 years of Michigan football.”
Reaction to Drew Dileo’s game?
“He’s not the biggest guy. He’s not the fastest guy. But the one thing Drew is, he’s a football player. What he does for our football team in a lot of different areas from an off returner in kickoffs to holding on PATs and field goals, I think you all would agree that there were two field goals that were pretty important today. The one at the end, that’s a skill set. He’s just a tough, undersized, not fast enough, but he’s a football player. That’s what he is.”
Where do you think your defense is at right now compared with where you want it to be?
“We really had a bad series in there defensively. You give your opponent credit, but we didn’t do some things well at the start of the second half. They went down and scored the touchdown. You know, I think we’ll look at the film. I think we’ll look at some things we did well, and I hope we repeat those, but we’re not near the defense we need to be to win a championship in this conference.”
Denard was bottled up for most of the game but was able to make some big plays when it counted. What does it say about his leadership ability?
“I think he’s been an outstanding leader. The confidence that he has and his teammates have is part of it. I don’t know if anyone on our sideline thought the game was over. The defense was playing well at that point. Get the ball back and see what happens.”
Can you talk about the fake punt but then holding MSU to a field goal afterwards?
“Yeah that was a very good play for Michigan State. That was a smart play. They saw that we weren’t leveraging the outside, and that’s something that I need to do a better job with as part of the punt return team coaching staff. Because that got them some hope, got them in the game, but the one thing we told the defense: ‘Keep them to a field goal. If we keep them to a field goal here, then good things can happen for us.’ Obviously that’s what happened.”
Did you feel like you did a better job of matching their physicality this year?
“I think so. Yeah. I thought our kids, you know, we wanted to play, finish everything we were doing. Blocks, plays, catches, runs, whatever your job is to do, we wanted to finish. I thought we practiced that way. I thought we did that.”
You’ve talked to us before about Matt Wile having a big leg. What went into the decision to put him out there for the long field goal?
“You answered it. Bigger leg. Stronger leg. That’s one reason why Matt kicks off for us. We had some wind with us. That wind kind of changed really right before the start of the game, so we felt that he would have the leg to do it. He did by kind of a lot.”
What does Michigan State do defensively that’s so effective in terms of bottling up Denard?
“I think they’ve done that to a lot of players, quarterbacks. I don’t know a final statistic, but they have good players. They play extremely aggressive. The things that they like to do, sometimes can be higher risk and higher reward. It’s a belief system they have. They tackle well. They do the things that you need to do in order to play good defense.”
What do you feel like you need to do in order to become a Big Ten championship-level defense? Also, what is Raymon Taylor’s status?
“Raymon got a little boo boo. He’ll be probably okay, most likely. Turnovers. We need to do a better job of creating. We need to do a better job [putting] pressure on the quarterback with four guys. I don’t think that’s a strong suit of ours. That can help our secondary out. I think at times we’re playing too far off the guys in coverage. So that’s a start.”
Gibbons seems a bit of a free spirit.
“What do you mean by that?”
Well, you know, last year at the Sugar Bowl about the brunettes and stuff, not that I don’t agree with him, but …
How do you approach kickers? Do you stay away from them? Do you say something before a big kick? Are you superstitious? Where’s your mind at? Do you go up to him and say, “Hey, we got this one?” Do you --
“I’m with those guys a little bit during practice. I’m not a kicking coach, but it’s kind of like golf, which I’m probably a pretty good golfer ... if I would do it. Those guys, they know what they need to do and how they need to do it. I think them going up to the stadium during the week is helpful because the wind in there’s a little different, especially with the new stuff up there. I think it’s a little different. You know, both those kids, we have a lot of confidence in. And anything else, when you show confidence, kids are going to respond. Not that you don’t rip them once in a while, but I decided when they called the time out, I was just going to watch Gibby do his thing. I don’t know. There’s no magic to it.”
As well as Michigan State’s defense played, you maybe missed a couple opportunities for big plays (dropped pass, missed a block, etc.). Were you disappointed by the execution?
“Oh. I think you could go through every game and there’s going to be execution. We didn’t block down once on a run play that may have been pretty open. We don’t block down. Why? I don’t know. 113,999 or whatever it was? A good defense that you're playing against. You want to see them all execute, but no one has ever played a perfect game. No one will ever play a perfect game. They’re 18-22, 23 years old. We’re going to try and prepare them and remind them and do all those things and grow them right, and then … go play hard.”
Dileo said on the radio that he thought the kick was going wide right. What was your view?
“I watch the people sitting behind the goal post. Because they’ll tell you. I’ll be honest with you. You can’t see it from [the sideline].”
Kovacs said this was the monkey off the back for you guys. Does it feel like that’s what this was for the program, preventing them from beating you five years in a row?
It’s not more meaningful than a “Yeah”?
“It’s an in-state rival. But we have bigger expectations.”
Did you feel like the icing-the-kicker timeout helped you or hurt you?
“I think we were well prepared. Denard did a tremendous job spiking the ball. The field goal team was there. Dan Ferrigno was there, our special teams coach, had all those guys right there ready to go. I think it’s a strategy that can work. Can’t work. You know? Flip a coin.”
What made you go back to Gibbons rather than Wile?
“Because it was his range. We had talked about distance, and it was his range, and he’s more consistent than Matt has been in practice at that range.”
[player transcripts will be up later today]
"We're laying in the weeds. We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?" — Mark Dantonio
BRENDAN GIBBONS IS THE MOTHERFUCKING THREAT.
Celebrate. Pants optional. Brunettes mandatory.
There was no greater example of Brady Hoke's ability to manufacture something out of nothing using only smirks, confidence, and home remedies from back at Yellowstone than the one-year transformation wrought in kicker Brendan Gibbons. When last we saw Gibbons, he was doing this and I was captioning like this:
WHAT THE BALLS WHY IS THIS MAN'S PICTURE HERE
Hoke put CONFIDENCE in his BRAIN in a VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER, and brunette girls did the rest.
A year after going one of five and doinking an extra point, Gibbons hit 13 of 17 field goals and won the Sugar Bowl. His leg wasn't severely tested and it seemed like Michigan was going out of its way to avoid long field goals, but long field goals are for saps anyway.
In 2012 Gibbons should produce the same steady Garrett-Rivas-like production, pounding him a bunch of field goals under 40 yards and not taking many longer ones.
Rating: unfathomable, or bad and then 3
After being suspended for five of his last six games, Will Hagerup returned against Minnesota and proceeded to thunder two punts off his leg for 75 yards each. Wait. That's not an average. 37.5 yards each. Against MSU two weeks later he pounded seven punts for… 31.8 yards each. In the Ohio State game he immortalized himself with a now very funny but still-not-too-good-for-his-job-prospects GIF:
After Hagerup shanked two Sugar Bowl punts for an average of 25 yards, Michigan finally had enough, inserting freshman Matt Wile for the remainder of the game. Season total: 29 punts for 36 yards each and one muff-induced torrent of profanity from section 44, row 16. Brendan Gibbons 2010 == Will Hagerup 2011.
Despite all that, Hoke announced he'd won the starting job a few days ago. Hopefully Hoke has executed the same sort of mind-meld with Hagerup that he did with Gibbons last year. Early signs to keep an eye out for:
- expressing preference for redheads
- or starting to look like Spuds McKenzie
- or starting to look like Lynyrd Skynrd
- or kicking the everloving hamburglar out of the ball
A return to Hagerup's freshman year performance—second only to Zoltan The Inconceivable for best all-time at M—would be worth almost eight yards a kick, and Hagerup has upside even beyond that, as a 72-yard bomb against Purdue would attest if New York copyright nazis acknowledged fair use.
Reaching that is a matter of recovering his freshman chi. That's unpredictable. Think of the Gibbons.
If Hagerup doesn't Michigan will be okay. Sophomore Matt Wile's 17 punts a year ago averaged 42 yards each. He's got a big leg—he also handled kickoffs—and was an Army AA kicker and all that. The bottom here is average.
Kickoffs and Return Units
We'll start with the kickoffs since it's uncertain how much they'll matter. The Mathlete predicts that half of all kickoffs will now be touchbacks, and I think it may be even higher as coaches decide on the safe start at the 25 over a small shot at something better.
This may be good for Michigan in the short term. They were terrible at kick returns last year, averaging just 18.4 yards an attempt. That was good for 117th. That's not a huge surprise when your top two returners were Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith, who no one will confuse with top-end athletes. Odoms is gone now and Smith seems to have lost the job to Dennis Norfleet, who is Smith except quicker than neutrinos, and Josh Furman, who is probably the fastest guy on the team not named Denard. Furman might not have much wiggle but he can fly. Michigan should improve here, for as much as it matters.
When kicking off Michigan was average a year ago and figures to be again.
Hoke also worked his juju with Jeremy Gallon, who went from this…
Jeremy Gallon special teams error limit: determined. It is ten billion. I'm obviously on the tolerant side of the scale when it comes to coaching errors (outside of obvious game theory errors, about which I have an Al Qaeda level of zealotry) but JESUS GOD RICH RODRIGUEZ WHY DID YOU LET JEREMY GALLON RETURN KICKS AND PUNTS FOR TEN GAMES.
…to a solid, error-free returner. Michigan got punt returns up to 53rd nationally (9 yards each) and last season is notably free of ALL CAPS moaning about fumbles and punts left unfielded. I'm vaguely hoping we see a second guy back there, probably Dileo, against teams that go to the rugby style spread punt, but am not banking on it. This, too, should be a blank.
There is some possibility that having a dedicated special teams coach will let Michigan block some stuff or get creative on a return or finally go to the max gunner style most teams are running these days, and not HOLDING ON TO THE DAMN BALL is a constant threat. The likeliest outcome is meh all around, which fine.