a terrible blight on our fine country
Hello. Things that transpired in my absence:
Basketball got splattered by Purdue. Hello, reality. You suck. Michigan hadn't played terribly in a game anyone could see yet this year, but they did so yesterday, and those NCAA bubble dreams should be shelved. From the first Jajuan Johnson undefendable hook shot it was clear Purdue was on another level from Michigan's previous victims, especially on defense. Michigan had far too many possessions where the ball barely approached the three-point line until there were ten seconds on the shot clock. The resulting chuck-fest was reminiscent of Amaker's teams.
Michigan's comeback at the end of the first half was nice to see—Stu Douglass was so on fire he drove to the basket for an easy layup that wasn't blocked into the third row—but even as it was happening I was thinking "this can't last." Lo, it did not.
A side note: Purdue employed a strategy I've long thought is a low-cost way to lower your opponent's efficiency: a token press. Don't trap, don't get yourself out of position for easy buckets, just defend all 90 feet. Michigan crossed the half-court line four or five seconds later than they would have normally and often struggled to initiate the offense when the ballhandler picked up his dribble just past the line. On a half-dozen possessions Michigan had no semblance of an offense until half the shot clock was gone.
A kicker committed. I've searched for this a million times already so I know it's not out there but this, truly, is news that should be met with that bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail wherein the animated peasants give a desultory "hurrah." The tubes don't have this because if you type "holy grail peasants" you get this a billion times:
Which is fine and all but doesn't have much relevance to Michigan's kicker situation. He's Matt Goudis, Tim all typed him up and stuff, and he should be a massive upgrade for Michigan's national-worst field goal kicking.
I'm most encouraged by the bit of the ESPN profile that says he's a "refined ball striker"—yes, yes, that's what she said—with a "motion that's very repeatable"—ditto—since Michigan went with a guy who didn't have great technique but made a lot of high school field goals in Brendan Gibbons and that didn't so much work out. I don't really care if kickers can hit 50-yarders since in most situations you're better off going for it in that portion of the field; give me a Garrett Rivas any day of the week.
Anthony Zettel committed… to Penn State. Guh. If Zettel was going to wait until the 28th of December, what's one more week to see if Rodriguez is retained or booted and if the latter who his replacement would be? That's a major loss for the class and a guy who will rankle every time he does something for Penn State, and one that would have been averted with one more win somewhere along the way this year.
Tate Forcier said a bunch of stuff. Angelique Chengelis scored an excellent interview with Tate Forcier at some of the Gator Bowl festivities. The bit most directly relevant to the "will he or won't he" stuff:
But not long after the UConn game, a posting on Twitter [ed: by that swimsuit model] said Forcier would transfer.
"That was like the fourth time I'd heard that," Forcier said. "I would have left if I was leaving. You just never know what can happen. It's God's plan. You don't know who's watching, and it's really what you make of it. So I stuck it out. It was actually after the UConn game that I just decided I'm going to stick here at least for this year.
"I think it took time for me. If I were to leave, I didn't realize what I would be leaving. One of the things I noticed, everyone who left would have had a shot to play if they would have stayed."
Forcier also says Michigan's system is "tailor-made" for Denard, that he "knows he can run" the offense but that "Denard is better in it, honestly." All of this sounds like a guy resigned to the idea he's a backup at Michigan if he stays, which is a mature way to approach things… and almost certainly provides strong motivation to depart after the year. He's certainly going to think about it:
"Anytime somebody says something to me about leaving, I say, 'I'm still here, aren't I?" Forcier said, pulling his jacket hard to make sure the Michigan logo is properly displayed. "You still see me with all this Michigan stuff on me. This is me. I'm already acclimated to everything here. The education is something you can't pass up.
"You never know what could happen. I just think it's really about what you make of it. When I get in (games), I try to do what I can do and make the most of it. I'm pretty much going to ride my own road. It's up to me."
I do have a credible-seeming email in the inbox about Montana getting a big time I-A QB transfer from a "west coast kid not on the west coast," FWIW, but even if that points to Forcier no names are in it. Since Forcier has a redshirt available it would seem to make more sense for him to transfer to another D-I school, anyway.
I hope he stays but you can't blame him for leaving. We'll always have triple overtime against Illinois.
Old man yelled at cloud. A guy in the News who literally writes Gil Thorpe wrote some thing about how Rich Rodriguez is a slippery money-grubbing so-and-so with a distinctly Hun disposition that's about what you'd expect from Gil Thorpe:
wsg Ming The Merciless
I'm not going to rehash the usual defense of Rich Rodriguez's contractual whatnot—in brief it's "John Beilein, saint"—but here's an oh snap from MVictors in response to the assertion that "Fielding Yost didn’t sign contract extensions and then flirt with other schools to extort raises":
“No matter how long Yost’s contract was (one-year, two-year, five-year) in his first decade, it was always a source of relief in Ann Arbor every late-Nov/early-Dec when he announced he was for sure coming back. Occasionally, there were reports he was considering an offer from, say, Wisconsin — or from the East. One year he even boldly and publicly disputed the wording of his contract as to whether he’d be allowed to coach elsewhere if he opted out of coaching Michigan. Another year he threatened to retire, he was so discouraged. Yost worked it masterfully to his own advantage."
If you think the response to this column has been harsh check out the comments on any Gil Thorpe online, wherein a bunch of snarky hipsters snark at each other about how terrible Gil Thorpe is.
Jim Harbaugh was like "oh no he di'in't." The report about Harbaugh signing an extension and staying at Stanford from the Stanford AD—always questionable—was obliterated by one Jim Harbaugh:
Harbaugh has yet to sign with Stanford, and when asked about his supposedly pending contract extension he stated:
"I haven't even discussed it."
Perhaps more interesting, when asked to respond to remarks from the Stanford AD implying that Harbaugh will sign the contract, "Maybe he misspoke."
Denard said he was "100 percent." Eeeee:
“He’s not banged up anymore,” receiver Roy Roundtree said. “He’s ready to go and he’s just getting the offense ready.”
Robinson didn’t divulge how much of an impact the injuries had on his performance, but he said while speaking at the team’s hotel that he was now “100 percent.”
Martavious Odoms became available for the Gator Bowl. Michigan's wide receiver depth gets a boost:
"Rodriguez says Odoms has been able to do everything in practice and should be good to go in the bowl game."
7-5 Iowa, fresh off a loss to Minnesota, beat Missouri. Good start for the Big Ten and a reason for the conference to be thankful the bowl matchups shook out the way they did—would Michigan have any chance to stay within two touchdowns of Blaine Gabbert and company with their secondary? Probably not.
The big story as far as 2011 goes was Marcus Coker bulldozing the Missouri defense for 200 yards and establishing himself the next obvious target for the wrath of Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God. If he's not struck down by providence, it looks like Iowa's got themselves a version of Beanie Wells the next few years.
Billy Sauer fought Bobby Goepfert. Seriously:
Billy's in the ECHL now. This kind of stuff happens.
Etc.: Ryan Mallett is an "overrated prospect who definitely should return" to Arkansas because he's got a bad case of the Stanzis (Stanzi as a junior, anyway). A few players had trouble getting to Jacksonville because of weather. There was also an "impromptu dance-off." Smart Football emerged from hibernation. Michigan will not have Jon Merrill and Chris Brown for the GLI (which starting tonight with a game against Michigan Tech) as both made the World Junior team. Craig Roh is a nice dude.
Bust happening one. There was one piece of a news-type thing that transpired at last night's football bust. It was Dave Brandon saying this:
LIVONIA - When emcee Frank Beckmann made an off-hand quip about the Michigan football team headed west for its upcoming bowl game, athletic director Dave Brandon corrected him.
“I think we’re going in a different direction,” Brandon said Thursday at the podium during the team's annual football banquet at the Laurel Manor.
That direction would be south to Florida, whereupon Michigan would play an SEC team of some variety. An eagle-eyed reader with a strange method of surfing Michigan's ticket website stumbled across two "hidden" items and sent them along. They are tickets for the Insight and Gator bowls. If Michigan isn't going west and isn't preparing to sell Outback tickets, this means Michigan would play Florida in the Gator. The Gator Bowl has just publicly declared it doesn't give two dangs about anything but "heads in beds, fannies in seats and big TV ratings," so that sounds like they're going for Dread Ferrari sex appeal over the Americanzi*.
This avoids the ten-win-opponent gauntlet on either side and sets up a fascinating matchup between Florida's offense and Michigan's defense, except it probably won't be that fascinating because as soon as they step on the field against Michigan, Florida will look like MC 900 Foot Tebow is at the helm again. If form holds they'll still lose because Michigan puts up 40.
*(Note to self: try very hard not to misspell this by transposing the final A and N.)
Bust happening two. The other thing the newspapers are reporting today is an "emotional" or "emotional" Rich Rodriguez making a case for his job, which probably shouldn't affect anyone's decision but will make everyone feel worse if the plug gets pulled:
“My name is Rich Rodriguez,” he said. “I’m honored to be the football coach at Michigan. I hope you realize I want to be a Michigan man.”
Guh. That Michigan's head coach would have to say something like that in year three is a depressing summary of the state of things.
Apparently something by someone named Josh Groban was referenced, horrifying the Michigan twittersphere and thrilling those of rivals. I don't know who that is, and where I'd normally set about fixing my old-manness in this department it sounds like ignorance is bliss here. I will take the opportunity to remind you that Special K is the center of all evil in this universe and his power is only growing. INCREDIBLY DORKY AND OVERWROUGHT ANALOGY HO: Michigan Stadium feels like one of the Elven havens after the destruction of the one ring, its ancient power slowly leaching from it, permitting intruders like men and Saliva to breach its hallowed ground.
In other verklemptness. Denard accepting his MVP:
Lon Hordowel/Ann Arbor.com
Bust bit of information that is not really a happening but is interesting. Michigan's share of the pie for their game in Jerryworld is a whopping 4.7 million dollars. The News says this is "roughly" what Michigan gets for a home game, so Michigan gets to play a real opponent in one-off without sacrificing any dollars. Insert usual complaint about how the Big Ten's excessive revenue sharing encourages big games played thousands of miles from campus over home-and-home series that are more convenient and authentic than preseason bowl games in generic corporate stadia. I would much rather go to a game in Tuscaloosa than Dallas.
Football of the other variety. This weekend Michigan will attempt to do one better than its best-ever finish in soccer by beating #2 seed Maryland and advancing to the College Cup in Santa Barbara, whereupon their games will actually be on television. Getting past the Terps will be a tall order. They're 19-2-1, have won 15 straight, and are seeded higher than the Akron team that crushed Michigan 7-1 a month and a half ago.
There's no TV but I am pretty sure this will be a web stream of the game, which is Sunday at 1.
As a side note, I think it would help soccer's attendance considerably if they started having more consistent scheduling. Football's something you should probably avoid, but why not play on Sunday at a consistent time as often as possible? Michigan's home games were on Saturday(3), Wednesday(6), and Friday(2), with just one on Sunday. I get that you're going to have a lot of Wednesday night games because of scheduling issues but it seems like they should make an effort to get a consistent date and time going for weekend games.
It's all about the pants. ESPN Rise has a slightly hyperbolic profile of Carlton Brundidge, who "combines drive of a beast, dad's instilled military discipline." Biographical tidbit: Brundige's older sister was a Michigan swimmer named Clinique, which is a brand name for makeup and reminds me of Idiocracy.
But the real reason I'm bringing this to your attention is awesome pants:
We need warmups like that so hard.
Etc.: The Big Chill rink is extant and "perfect" according to Berenson. AA.com has a video interview. Tom Brady in ugg boots. Justice Hayes is staying local even if Rodriguez leaves because Fred Jackson is a permanent fixture. Mets Maize on Rodriguez the person.
Elsewhere in the thoughts of people who are Dave Brandon. Brandon speaking on the football team's season:
"The team has the opportunity to practice 15 days and prepare for a bowl game, which they've earned the right to," Brandon said. "I have so consistently stated what my process is, how I do this, and what is in the best interest of the program. That's what I do, and that's what I'm going to do. All of this desire for information sooner, all this speculation is fueling curiosity — it doesn't change how I'm doing my job.
"Back when we were 5-0, I said (this would be the evaluation process), along the way, I've said it, after exciting wins I've said it. This is how I'm going to do my job. I have not equivocated on that at all. Just because people out there are stirring the pot, that's not going to deter what I'm going to do."
Since every scenario out there has Michigan in a bowl on New Year's Day or a few days after Christmas (the Insight is the 28th), the final word will have to wait a full month. Stanford is likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl on January first, so a hypothetical transition could take place immediately without putting Harbaugh in the same bind Miles or Kelly was. There's a theory floating out there that letting Rodriguez coach the bowl is tantamount to keeping him for 2011, but given the Harbaugh situation I don't think that's true. It's not an indication either way.
Denard Robinson: awesome. Not a quarterback. So Denard Robinson is the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, which is nice and obvious. He's also not even on the coaches' All Big Ten list, which lolwut? I get Scott Tolzien—he may not have to throw much but when he does it's in the chest of his receiver every time—but Dan Persa? He's got the numbers, I guess, but being at the helm of an offense that's actually good at scoring and stuff is kind of important for a QB and the Wildcats are just 51s in total offense, 74th in scoring, and 21st in passer efficiency. That last number sounds good but is only 5th in a QB-heavy Big Ten. Kirk Cousins, Tolzien, Stanzi, and Pryor are all ahead of him with Denard not far behind and with a vast advantage on the ground.
In other All Big Ten QB news, Terrelle Pryor is still as likeable as Stalin.
Steadily more and more likeable. Meanwhile, Tate Forcier explained to his local paper his thought process about staying with the program after the infamous "I'm out" moment that sent Tom scrambling to Papa Forcier to put out the fire. Via MGoShoe:
“It’s hard to go from starting to backing up. A lot of people told me to leave. I wanted to leave. But it was just too hard. I didn’t want to leave the (coaching) staff or these players. I felt I was going to be a part of something great.”
“Two quarterbacks have to play in this offense. It might not happen every game, but you’re going to get your chance. I’m not banking on Denard getting injured. Nothing like that. But in this offense, you never know what can happen.”
“A lot of people would think me and Denard would have something against each other because he starts, but Denard is a good guy. We hang out. And he works hard. What’s hard for me is he’s having so much success and there’s nothing you can do about it except stay ready.”
“I’ve learned to be way more humble. I look back at freshman year, and I was a little cocky. I was getting too caught up in seeing myself on TV every week. I think that would happen to anybody who would go from being a regular kid in high school to a national stage like that. It was crazy.”
I said something early in the year about how Michigan would need Forcier down the stretch, and they did. He finished off the Illinois win and was a third and ten stop away from driving for the tie against Iowa; if he'd actually been "out" Michigan would not have been able to redshirt Gardner and we probably wouldn't be talking about retaining Rodriguez at all.
I also said I'd be meh about Rodriguez leaving, and while that's largely true I think my overwhelming feeling would be sadness that guys like Denard and Forcier and everyone else who signed up for the RR era would not get to finish their careers on the terms they started them.
These uniforms designed for personal fouls. Another reason it's good to get away from Nike:
"The gloves had a black ‘Block O' on the inside when you put your hands together and so that's what (Posey) was trying to do," receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said.
But he didn't celebrate his redemption for long. The referee gave Posey a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration.
Gesturing to the crowd, even if it's your crowd, gets you a flag. Unless it's this…
…or dozens of other motions like shushing the crowd that go unpunished every week. File under the massive pile of data that suggests the NCAA should just drop excessive celebration penalties for anything short of taunting.
Opinions I Officially Do Not Care About but you might. Opinions on the Rodriguez job thing—you know, that—from Mets Maize:
Having said that, I do support Rich Rodriguez returning for 2011 IF changes are made on the defensive staff. My reasons are pretty consistent listed above, but the one that stands out the most is the offense. It simply makes no sense to fire the only man who can take this offense to the next level next year. People often talk about how "young" our defense is, which sort of implies we have a relatively older offense. If by "older" we mean not true-freshman, then yes, we have a veteran offense. But the fact is we're prime for not only 2011 but also 2012--Denard's senior year. So that leaves the defense to which I ask...
What added benefit does a change in HEAD COACH give to the DEFENSE that a change in DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR wouldn't bring?
Beaford at Maize n Brew:
Rodriguez should get broomed and Harbaugh should be installed here, but if that doesn't happen my reaction will largely be "meh." In the three years that he has been the head coach, the offense have demonstrably improved, just as we thought it would. The problem is that the defense has actually regressed each year. Even before the Woolfolk injury, this defense was set up to be likely the worst in program history.
And Markus at MNB drops references to David Foster Wallace on Federer and Brian Phillips on Pele, which means it gets autolinked. It's long and not really blockquote-friendly but recommended. My mom, by the way, believes Rodriguez is "not a Michigan Man" and would like to see him gone. Road Games also drops Richard Buckner.
Let's say it again, then.
Etc.: Anne Hathaway proposes "Anne Does Ann Arbor." As someone who has viewed the Get Smart remake I heartily endorse this idea. This Week In Schadenfreude is epic this week. Apparently I missed the date on the "Everyone in Iowa Drinks Four Loko" fanpost at Black Heart Gold Pants, but seriously I'm guessing that happened again after they lost to Minnesota. Brabbs surveys the Michigan-vs-cancer matchups going on. AnnArbor.com's take on the Denard Robinson story.
Formation notes: Nothing fancy from Michigan. Wisconsin mostly went with the linebacker-over-slot stuff ND and others have run all year. Most of the game they paired this with safeties 6-8 yards off the LOS like so:
Occasionally they would shift into a cover-zero 4-4 look but mostly it was this. On Michigan's final charted drive they went with the slot LB look with their safeties at real safety depth, whereupon Michigan passed all over them.
Substitution notes: Lewan missed the game so Michigan went back to its earlier configuration with Huyge at LT. The rest of it was as per usual, except Shaw missed the game with a concussion and Smith got the vast bulk of the time as the number one back.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M1||1||10||I-form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Smith||2|
|Wisconsin LBs aligned to the backside of the play, allowing the backside DE to slant under the block of McColgan. Smith does well just to get a couple yards by picking his way through trash. RPS -1, though perhaps harsh since it's first and ten from the one.|
|M3||2||8||I-form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Roundtree||14|
|…but they could have done this so the RPS stands. Michigan rolls the pocket as the two RBs run at the LOS like they're running another iso, sucking linebackers up. Slot safety heads out on the Hemingway hitch outside, leaving Roundtree wide open for the first down. McColgan(-1) got chucked by a DE and Robinson gets some pressure so he has to throw this awkwardly; the resulting pass is on target but inside and takes Roundtree off his feet. Borderline MA/CA, but with the pressure I think it's the latter. (CA, 2, protection 1/2, McColgan -1, RPS +1)|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Smith||7|
|Eerily similar to the MSU game, where Michigan kept running it right down the throat of an opponent determined to let the backside DE contain on the read. Here he's even standing up with a big blinking sign that says "no scrape here, thanks." Dorrestein(+1) and Omameh(+1) destroy the backside DT, shoving him five yards downfield. This cuts off any LB angles and allows Smith a cutback lane behind the contain DE that he takes for a good chunk. (ZR +1)|
|M24||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Smith||4|
|Same thing, same result, backside DE crashes faster and tackles better. Dorrestein gets a ding for not getting push sufficient to get out of the way of Smith as he tries to run past the DE. (ZR+1)|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||Inc|
|Batted into the air as M slides their protection and leaves Smith one on one with a DE. DE forms up, perceiving this is a quick pass, and leaps to bat it. Smith needs to go at this guy's knees so this doesn't happen. (BA, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -2)|
|We miss this play. Hate you director.|
|M29||3||9||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||6|
|Protection is fine; Robinson can't find anyone open and ends up running for a gain well short of the first down. Reminder: these get put in TA if they are a clear second option instead of an obvious way to pick up the first. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Stonum||Inc|
|So like Purdue, Wisconsin's 4-3 alignment has featured safeties 7-8 yards off the LOS with a bias towards charging forward. Michigan goes after it this time around with a play action inverted veer look. Safety 1 sucks up and is dead, safety 2 sucks up and is dead, Stonum gets inside the cornerback and gets yards of separation on a 15-yard post that's either a diving ankle tackle for 20 yards or a touchdown like the Indiana post... Denard overthrows Stonum by five yards. Sad face. (INX, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +3)|
|M28||2||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||4|
|Aiiigh. Michigan goes with the Cam Newton, and I think Perry Dorrestein(-1) does not get his assignment right. He's blocking down on the playside DT, which is also what Omameh is doing. This allows the MLB to scrape unmolested. The playside DE is headed upfield to contain the handoff so Robinson pulls (ZR+1). Schilling's pulled around and kicks out the OLB, leaving Robinson one on one with that unblocked MLB in a ton of space. With one safety screaming playside to contain Smith and the other headed around the outside Denard is gone--gone--if he gets through the first level. A diving arm tackle succeeds in getting Denard down. Sadface.|
|M32||3||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||29|
|Safety in the box here for a seven-man front. Daring them to throw, except when M runs the QB draw it rips off a big chunk. Go figure. Schilling(+1) gets the key block at the line that gets a DT upfield and opens it up for Robinson. Omameh(+1) set his guy up well, allowing Smith(+1) to take a run at a linebacker not sure which side of the NT the play will go. Molk(+1) gets a block in space against the last linebacker and Robinson doesn't even have to cut until a safety attacks. He dodges the S(+2) and picks up another 15 before someone can run him down from behind when he cuts past the corner.|
|RUN+:Schilling, Omameh, Smith, Molk, Robinson(2)||RUN-:|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||3|
|Linebackers in the box and soft man on the edges for the first time. Michigan attacks it with the bubble. Robinson's throw is behind Roundtree, forcing him to spin around and robbing him of an opportunity to attack the charging safety. (MA, 3, screen)|
|O36||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Smith||6|
|Same thing, other side of the line, with Huyge(+1) and Schilling(+1) doing the honors by blowing the backside DT yards off the LOS and giving Smith an easy six yards. Schilling peeled off the block to kick a charging MLB impressively, otherwise I'd think about knocking these down to halves. Backside DE again crashes to tackle.|
|O30||3||1||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||1|
|Omameh(-1) gets slanted under by the backside DE, making this a difficult, hairy conversion that Robinson barely makes. Honestly it looks like the spot was a half-yard generous. (RPS -1) Huyge also slanted under so no cutback lane.|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||7|
|Backside DE contain; handoff (ZR+1). Wisconsin's playside DT too quick to get sealed and an attempted scoop on the playside DE gets run through. It's cutback time. Molk's block on the DT has driven him off the LOS. Huyge ran at the backside DT and kind of fell down in his general direction, which does not look like an effective block in any way but does force the guy about four yards downfield and opens the lane up further. Smith reads it, hits it, makes contact with the backside DT five yards downfield and gets tackled for six. Wow. So... um. Half points for Smith, Molk, and Huyge? Sure!|
|RUN+:Smith(0.5), Molk(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O22||2||3||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||5|
|Double by Molk(+0.5) and Omameh(+0.5) drives the playside DT back; he attempts to swim through and Omameh kicks him out of the play. Molk's release is awkward since he's coming from inside the LB, but he pushes the guy past the play and gives Robinson a cutback lane. It's a cutback lane directly into a linebacker but it's good for the first. If M hadn't released oddly because of the swim this could have opened up for more, thus the halves. Smith(+1) got a good pounding block on another LB.|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||Inc|
|In front of Roundtree by a yard; it glances off his fingertips. (IN, 0, screen)|
|O17||2||10||Shotgun empty TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||4|
|Offensive line has enough blockers to get Robinson one on one with a safety but it looks like Schilling(-1) loses his guy to the wrong side and forces a cutback; Omameh(+1) got a one on one block with the backside DT that got him on his butt four yards downfield and Robinson runs off that for a decent gain.|
|O13||3||6||Shotgun empty TE||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout out||Smith||Inc|
|Wisconsin goes with an aggressive look and sends six with man behind it. Smith runs an out past the sticks and is open for the first; Robinson sees it and throws it. This would hit any average-sized WR in the facemask but Smith is 5'6 and it glances off his hands. This is like throwing strikes to Eddie Gaedel. I can't give him an IN here, I don't think. (MA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(30), 14 min 2nd Q. So… Robinson threw four passes on this drive, and all of them were IN or MA.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inverted veer handoff||Smith||2|
|So the problem with this play is that Schilling ends up blocking no one on his pull. M leaves the playside DE unblocked, as you do on the veer, and pulls Schilling to the frontside as everyone else blocks down. Dorrestein releases into the MLB. Koger heads outside for the playside safety. This leaves the SLB. Schilling's pull actually has to go around the playside DE--he goes upfield of him, and as a result ends up chasing no one in space as the SLB runs out on Smith. Smith cuts it up, where the DE tackles. It was a correct handoff (ZR+1) with the DE biting inside but the inability of Schilling(-1) to block either guy kills the play. RPS -1.|
|M38||2||8||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||0|
|Opens up but for Omameh(-2) getting smoked by a DT, which closes off the intended hole and forces Robinson to bounce it outside where Valai has ample time to fill for no gain.|
|M38||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Flare screen||Smith||2|
|Smith runs out before the snap; Robinson pumps the throw, oddly. He still gets it out and accurate; Smith heads upfield. Roundtree's lost the guy inside but man there's a reason you don't go inside on this one; if Smith(-2) cuts it out he's got acres of space and the first down. He doesn't and Roundtree's guy collapses on him to tackle short of the sticks. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-10, 6 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|We come to this play with the ball already in the air. Hemingway can't escape from the tackler this time and goes nowhere. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M40||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Slant||Stonum||Inc|
|Open for the first down, zinged in accurately and on time. Stonum drops the ball. Corner came up to hit him but the ball was already coming out when he arrived. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M40||3||7||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Slant||Hemingway||Inc|
|Another well timed throw, though this one is a bit low. Hemingway does bring it in briefly, but the Wisconsin DB is right with him and rakes it out as they go to the ground. Nice play. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-17, 3 min 2nd Q. Wisconsin scores, Gallon fumbles the kickoff, and M gets the ball back with 30 seconds left, running two QB draws and not trying to score. Not charted.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Hemingway||Inc|
|A play action fake with just one receiver in the route; the same play Michigan tried and missed on with Stonum in the first half. This time the Wisconsin safety doesn't bite entirely--just mostly--and sits down in front of the route. Robinson overthrows Hemingway, which is better than throwing it to the safety. However, Robinson had time to let the play develop with good blocking and if he waits another second or two Hemingway clears the safety and he's got a 15 yard throw that's another hopeful ankle tackle or touchdown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|M29||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Stonum||9|
|Simple hitch against a backed-off corner good for five and then Stonum tacks on a few after the catch by running through the corner's tackle. Refs blow it dead just as Huyge comes up to bang him across the first down line. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M38||3||1||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Smith||3|
|Wisconsin runs a scrape exchange, sending the backside end in and running LBs over the top. Handoff made (ZR+1); Omameh(+1) and Dorrestein(+1) crush the playside DT off the ball and Webb(+1) cuts off the DE, giving Smith a window. He could cut for a big gain but trips coming through the hole.|
|RUN+:Dorrestein, Webb, Omameh||RUN-: Smith|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||12|
|This seems like an instant response to the scrape Michigan saw on the last play. They come out in trips with a TE to the other side, which drags LBs to the strong side and the slot LB way outside the hashes. Linebackers suck in on the inside zone fake and the DE crashes so Robinson pulls(ZR+1), finding himself in a ton of space. Rolled up safety is supposed to contain but good luck with that, dude. Robinson falls as he cuts past the guy and that's all that keeps this at 12 yards. RPS+1.|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||4|
|Wisconsin DL sliding down the line well and keeping the holes to a minimum. Molk(+1) does eventually get his helmet across, though and Omameh(+1) drives his man back as Michigan stretches the line; Robinson has a seam. Seam is filled by the safety, who beat Roundtree(-1) and can fill as Robinson threatens the second level.|
|RUN+:Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Roundtree|
|O43||2||6||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Hopkins||4|
|Backside DT finally stands up to the double decently, though he gets pushed back. Schilling comes off on the linebacker coming up the middle and Hopkins cuts behind Huyge into the other MLB, who is unblocked. He falls forward for a few.|
|O40||3||2||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Smith||0|
|We get to the play late so I'm not sure why but the playside DE is left unblocked as Dorrestein moves out on someone or another, which lets that guy tackle two yards in the backfield. Certainly looks like a bust on Dorrestein's(-2) part, especially because this is the exact same play they just ran.|
|O40||4||2||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||PA rollout cross||Grady||13|
|This is the same route pattern from Odoms Way Down In The Hole. Playside slot runs an out, playside WR runs a deep hitch behind it, backside slot comes on a crossing route for a third option. Here the CB goes with the hitch and the playside safety jumps the out, opening Grady up on the cross. Robinson reads it and zings it into the open Grady a second before the safety can get there. Pass was a little behind Grady and the catch was tough-ish with the safety coming. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||3|
|Michigan checks, flipping the RB, and Wisconsin checks from a soft-ish base 4-3 to the quasi eight man front they've been running all day. Watt drives through Dorrestein(-1) and forces Robinson to cut behind him, away from the driving double on the playside DT. This robs Omameh of an angle to get a second level block and Robinson runs into a linebacker after a few yards.|
|O24||2||7||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Stop and go||Stonum||24|
|Corner bites on the hitch fake but blocks Stonum's path as he attempts to release and gets himself in with a chance. Handfighting down the sidelines gets Stonum open by exactly one step; Robinson sits and fires a gorgeous looping ball over the corner's head and directly into Stonum's hands. Could not be better thrown. (DO+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-24, 11 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Stonum||34|
|Play action sucks the safety, who's already seven yards from the LOS, up a step and Stonum's gone. He's got a step or two on the DB; Robinson sees it and sets up to throw. He's getting pressure at his feet because Hopkins(-1) blew his chip on Watt. All he did was knock Huyge upfield and let Watt in. Robinson's throw is a little short, which is fine considering. Stonum then makes the best adjustment of his career by deploying a Manningham-quality move. He slows up, gets his body into the defender, and then releases at the last moment to haul in the over-the shoulder catch just over the outstretched arm of a cornerback he personally prevented from getting the half-yard he needed to break the pass up. Excellent. (CA, 1, protection 1/2, Hopkins -1)|
|O4||1||G||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||4-3 split||Run||Veer keeper||Robinson||4|
|Robinson keeps(ZR+1) as he sees the playside DE crash on Smith. M doubled the playside DE, allowing the S to scrape over the top, though, since this is four yards from the endzone. Robinson jukes him, then shoots inside of the befuddled, spinning DE, breaking his tackle and lunging into the endzone, where Dorrestein, Omameh, and the playside DT await.|
|RUN+:Robinson(2), Omameh, Dorrestein||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-24, 9 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||4|
|There's a linebacker right over the second slot WR who blows him up, forces the play inside, and tackles. Not sure why they're throwing this given UW's alignment. (CA, 3, screen) I guess I can't RPS-1 a four yard gain that Wisconsin had defended perfectly.|
|M47||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||3|
|Michigan again can't seal the playside DT but does get the advantage on him as they run down the line. Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) have two guys moving laterally three yards downfield as Robinson tries to find a hole; Dorrestein(-1) loses his DE to the inside and he tackles from behind. Cost Michigan 2-3 yards there.|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||3|
|Linebackers slid heavily to the side of the line with the H-back and Smith, probably in anticipation of a Robinson run. Schilling(+1) delays the backside DT, allowing Huyge to attempt a cut; it's stepped over but does open a cutback. Molk(-1) loses the playside DT and he can tackle from the side as Smith cuts it up. Smith takes a shot from another linebacker and manages to spin for the first down despite having a DT on his back.|
|RUN+:Smith, Schilling||RUN-: Molk|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Stonum||32|
|UW corner is lined up with inside position on Stonum but he still gets to the inside. With one safety at LB depth and the other dropping to the other side of the field Stonum's position allows Robinson to toss a ball up about three yards inside the pair; Stonum again keeps the DB on his back and makes a good catch for big yards. (CA, 2, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|O15||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||4|
|A similar story to previous stretches: Wisconsin DTs don't get sealed but in doing so give up a lot of ground and Smith runs to the sideline, gaining a chunk of yards but nothing explosive with the playside DT coming through Omameh about four yards downfield.|
|O11||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Robinson||11|
|Michigan blocks down and pulls for the first time. Koger(+1) seals Watt. He gets chucked eventually but it's too late. Molk(+2) obliterates the MLB with a devastating cut. Playside LB and S have to contain, with Schilling(+1) kicking out the playside LB, and Robinson can cruise into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-31, 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Roundtree||16|
|This is now a staple of the offense: Denard rolls, Roundtree is singled up against a safety ten yards off the LOS, and he runs a ten-yard hitch the opponent can't cover without risking a big play as the linebackers are all in run mode. Easy first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS+1)|
|M44||1||10||Shotgun H-back?||1||1||3||?||Run||Inside zone?||Smith||6|
|We're looking at John Clay instead of the play. This may have been a veer, actually.|
|50||2||4||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||5|
|Safeties are now at regular safety depth FWIW. Wisconsin slants hard playside with the backside DT giving ground without engaging, as the Badgers have done most of the game on stretch plays. With the backside DE containing (ZR+1) the hard slant allows Smith a cutback lane. Huyge(+1) engages the DT as he cuts it up.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||PA TE Flat||Webb||9|
|Corner blitz to the playside is awkward, forcing Denard to pump and loft a touch pass over the guy that Webb leaps for and turns up for a good gain as he beats the UW LB to the sideline. Robinson had just this option and getting this pass with enough loft and getting it in a place where Webb isn't immediately tackled for two yards is impressive. (DO, 2, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|O36||2||1||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Grady||0|
|Pass is too far in front of Grady and he ends up lunging forward to catch it, falling for no gain. (IN, 2, screen)|
|O36||3||1||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||4|
|With a twist: the running back is Webb. I wonder what's coming? Oh. Watt beats Dorrestein(-1) inside. This happens sometimes but here Dorrestein is driven back, which means Webb can't cut outside and change the angle of his block. He bumps into the pair, sending Watt sprawling. He then bounces off that and does get a block(+1) on the playside LB, which allows Robinson to squeeze out the first.|
|RUN+:Webb, Robinson||RUN-: Dorrestein|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Wisconsin sends six and doesn't get there, giving Robinson his choice of open targets. Roundtree's open on that same hitch again; Webb has no one within ten yards of him on a flat route. Robinson picks Roundtree, puts it right in his chest, and sees 'Tree drop it. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|O32||2||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||?||?||Int|
|Robinson drops to pass and throws; Watt bats it and picks it off. (BA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-38, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Rollout scramble||Robinson||2|
|Wisconsin covers both receivers and while Robinson has an opportunity to hit Koger by the time he does he's already decided to run up the sideline. (TA, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|M19||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB down G||Robinson||2|
|Watt destroys Koger(-2), running through his down block and losing him so quickly that Smith can't adjust; Robinson had a lane inside for decent yardage thanks to some cutbacks on the backside.|
|M21||3||6||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Roundtree||28|
|This is a four verticals concept, I think, but run from trips that means Roundtree has to run a post to get to the seam on the far side of the field. UW has just one deep safety and the linebackers get lost, failing to drop back. They've been coached to defend four verts but probably didn't recognize it out of this formation. Roundtree breaks wide open; Robinson hits him with a touch pass that hits him in stride; safety does manage to cut Roundtree's legs out and prevent a TD. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|M49||1||10||Shotugn trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Rollout sack||?||-4|
|Spielman is spending the entirety of this drive bitching about the defense. Michigan rolls the pocket, with Dorrestein(-1) allowing the playside DT to run upfield outside of him without bothering to deal with it. Michigan's routes are all covered on the roll side except maybe Hemingway at the LOS, but that's going to get like three yards. DT comes in on Robinson as he sets to throw; he pulls it down and dodges the guy but takes a hit and falls as he does so. (TA, N/A, protection 0/2, Dorrestein -2)|
|M45||2||14||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||14|
|Molk is going to double one DT and shove him to Schilling; as he does this the DT moves upfield himself in an attempt to get pass rush. This gets Robinson through the line. Downfield, Koger, Grady, and Molk(+1s all) get great downfield blocks. Robinson runs straight upfield to draw the safety and LB on Grady in, then tries to cut outside past them; safety manages to tackle before he can break it outside and threaten TD.|
|RUN+:Molk, Grady, Koger, Omameh||RUN-:|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||21|
|All day as the line gets Robinson a fantastic pocket. Wisconsin goes with zone, and unintentionally high-lows the MLB. The line opened up a big running lane for Robinson so the LB is naturally wary of dropping too deep and allowing him to jet, which means he's six yards off the LOS as Roundtree is running a hitch behind him at 15. Robinson sees the opening and hits it; throw is a bit high but not too bad. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Yakety sax||?||-8|
|Michigan going for a bubble when Smith runs by Robinson and knocks the ball out of his hands.|
|O28||2||18||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Seam||Roundtree||28|
|PA fake eliminates LBs in the middle of the field, leaving Roundtree against what must be zone from the slot LB and a safety. Slot LB chucks but leaves a window; Robinson zings it in as Roundtree gets between levels. That's a first down; Roundtree turns it into six by juking the safety and darting upfield before people can tackle him from behind. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-41, 6 min 4th Q. Forcier enters with Michigan down 20 on the next drive. EOG.|
DID YOU KNOW I AM A RAVING LUNATIC?
I suspected, surely.
I THINK THE MICHIGAN OFFENSE IS SECRETLY NOT GOOD BECAUSE THE TEAM HAS FALLEN BEHIND IN GAMES AND COULD NOT CATCH UP IN THE SECOND HALF.
Second half and first half points count the same and while I could see some sort of argument that Wisconsin had lightened up on the pressure because they were ahead by so much, they didn't do that. They remained very aggresive until the last drive I charted above, whereupon they backed the safeties off to safety depth… and Roundtree immediately caught three balls for 28, 21, and 28 yards. There's one play in the whole game you can chalk up to Wisconsin having a big lead: a QB draw that worked on Michigan's final TD drive.
BUT THEY DID NOT SCORE ONE MILLION POINTS.
This is true. There are a couple obvious reasons for this. One: Wisconsin grind time and the Gallon fumble limited Michigan to nine drives above. Remember being super excited about everything after the UConn game? That was a 30-point performance on eight real drives with a missed extra point. This was a 28-point performance on nine real drives with a missed 30 yard field goal. The other is in the--
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||-||44%|
Well, maybe not obvious from this chart. But it's in there. Robinson had a bounce back day, completing 64% and averaging almost 10 YPA, but in the first half he racked up almost all of the MA and INs you see above, three of them on screens that may have been open but never had the opportunity to develop. Early his inability to hit Stonum deep allowed Wisconsin to continue pressuring the run game. In the second half he turned those inaccurate passes into complete bombs to Stonum and touchdowns resulted.
The other bit is hidden in this chart with the receivers:
A couple of key drops added to the passing game issues in the first half. Consecutive accurate slants hit the ground on one of Michigan's three and outs, one a pure drop by Stonum, the other raked out by the guy on covering Hemingway.
On the other hand, this was probably the best game of Stonum's career. This is some Manningham-level stuff right here:
That ball is short and Stonum knows it so he slows up, uses his body to shield the defender so he can't break it up, then extends to make a great over the shoulder catch. He also did this:
He's got too long of a track record to dismiss his previous struggles, but hey, I'll take it.
PROTECTION METRIC: 31/37, Dorrestein –2, Smith –2, Hopkins –1, McColgan –1.
RPS: 10-4 = +6.
A sparse run chart, as Michigan only had about 28 charted:
|Huyge||2.5||0||2.5||Run game seemed to tilt the other way.|
|Molk||7||1||6||No reaches but some good blocks otherwise.|
|Omameh||10.5||3||7.5||Surprisingly the focus of the run game. Executed a lot of grinding double teams.|
|Koger||2||2||0||Also the usual.|
|TOTAL||33.5||23||20.5||Solid blocking day.|
|Robinson||6||-||6||Perfect ZR day, even got a keeper.|
|Smith||3||3.5||-0.5||Missed a cut on a third down conversion, just ok otherwise.|
|Toussaint||-||-||-||Like three snaps.|
|Hopkins||-||-||-||Did not score.|
|TOTAL||9||3.5||5.5||Not getting much more than the blockers give them.|
Michigan averaged 5.2 YPC minus sacks, which is on par with the best performances on the ground against Wisconsin this year but does add in the two first half scrambles that were not charted. Without those that gets knocked down to okay, not great. The tradeoff for the Badgers was giving up 10 YPA in the air.
Stonum, second half Denard.
First half Denard.
What does it mean for Ohio State?
Michigan should be able to move the ball but we've seen enough breakdowns over the course of the season to know this offense is not quite at the point where they can expect to run up and down the field against a very good defense. Drops, penalties, inaccurate throws, etc, all conspire to end drives. OSU's had some injury issues, especially at safety, and I'm expecting they'll put up points. Not enough to keep up, obviously.
This game means a lot to the seniors, but also the last couple classes that never got the chance to beat OSU. "If we could put a stop to that streak too, maybe start our own streak of beating them" would be a big deal to the team. "It's not really a rivalry when one team wins every year. We've gotta get back in the win column."
"These last few years have been a little different Michigan, I guess, than the previous years." This win would be huge. "In a way, it could help rectify the four losses we've had. Obviously, it doesn't make up for them."
Never played in Columbus - he was injured 2 years ago. "It seems like a fun place to play." Jealous he didn't play last time.
Shown progression last three years, doesn't think about playing for Coach Rod's job this season.
The team has been trying to play catch-up in all four losses. Want to try for an early lead, maybe run some clock "especially in Columbus."
"We definitely think we have the ability to play with anybody when we're playing at our best."
Different intensity in Schembechler this week. "Put some band-aids on your wounds and get after it. Leave it all out there this Saturday."
The many good DL they've faced lately bring different skills to the table. "Arguably the top 4 defensive ends in the country play in our league." Heyward's great, played since he was a freshman. He has the whole package, and will be a big-time NFL prospect.
Don't want to see turnovers, protection from the OL has to help avoid it.
Denard has played well, set some records, but the team has struggled at times. Schilling doesn't worry about whether Denard is B10 player of the year. Denard's always got a positive attitude, no matter what's going on in the game. He loves playing football, always smiling. "You can tell he loves to play the game, and it's exciting to be able to block for a guy like that."
"Obviously my blood always ran Blue. My dad walked on here." Exciting rivalry, surreal to be a part of it. He was at the game the last time Michigan beat OSU. Sitting in section 27 with his parents and brother. Been to several games in Columbus, 2002 Game. Several M-OSU games. Didn't go to 2006, but that was the first one he missed.
Converted a couple buddies to M fans, some of them are still diehard Buckeye fans. "I do have some friends who go to Ohio State, and we're excited to go down there." Expects to hear from his buddies, win or lose. "Hopefully I can shut them up for a year, but we'll see."
Thrown in the mix early last year, gradually has become more comfortable with the defense. One of the more veteran guys on the defense already. Excited about the development of the young guys.
Pryor - "He's very versatile. He's a big guy... he can run and throw." The offense has a lot of different packages. They should be a great challenge.
"Anytime that you can make an offense one-dimensional, you've got a good chance of playing some good defense. If we can stop them on first and second down and put them in third-and-long, obviously we can create turnovers that way. But that's much easier said than done, and we've struggled with that so far."
Lost to Dane Sanzenbacher both times they played in HS. "I'm still looking for my first victory against him." He's not a big-name guy, but makes huge plays for the Buckeyes. "I wouldn't say that he does anything great, but he does a lot of things very well."
"We know we're going to have to play a flawless game." Guys are looking forward to getting into the film room. "We're confident. We're excited about this challenge."
"I'm playing this week, no matter what." Had "a little head trauma," wasn't cleared to play in the second half. "It doesn't matter for this week, because I'm going to be playing."
Defensive players draw confidence from each other, looking at each other's work ethic, etc. Defensive struggles are a mixture of several factors, but everyone on D is working as hard as they can to fix what they can contorl.
"Our defensive goals each week are six 3-and-outs, three turnovers." If they can pull that off, the team will have a pretty good chance of winning.
Didn't know too much about Michigan or Ohio State in 2003. "I was just in Arizona, you know, chillin'." Can't take M-OSU rivalry away from college football. Glad they'll still play when the B10 goes to divisions.
The mentality of each guy on the team shows how important the OSU week is. Everything encompassed into one is what makes this game so important.
Has only heard about going into Columbus from a fan's perspective "I'm expecting the worst, and it's going to be exciting."
On the stuffed whatever: "Are you saying there's an animal on the sidelines? Next question."
Playing for RR's job? "No. We're playing for each other... It would be a great win for Rich Rod, for the team in general."
"I love Rich Rod as a coach. He's just a tough working guy." Has a positive attitude, despite what he's been through. That positivity wears off on guys.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I don't remember that one. I would have been 14." Probably just playing BBall and chasing girls in 8th grade. Charles Woodson with the Rose in his mouth is one of his first Michigan memories.
From the West side of the state, his mom is always heckled by MSU fans. This week, people are coming in to offer her encouragement. She's now realizing their ulterior motives, as Michigan can help send State to the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of the guys in my class, it's their last year. One of the big things for seniors is you never want to leave this program without beating Ohio State." Guys who have left say there's a feeling of emptiness. When you come to Michigan, you know your performances against Ohio State will make your reputation. "If you come out against Ohio State and have your best game, a lot can be forgiven."
Some criticism of the team is unjustified: they've been able to play with some of the top teams in the league. "For some reason, we haven't gotten that attitude to come out on the first play." Need to be able to come together and do that throughout the full game. Older guys, RVB included, need to help motivate everyone.
The defense's performance against Wisconsin - "Most of it was schematic. I mean, They schemed us really well. They had a play where they pull the tackle and a guard and the tight end blocks down. They scored 2 or 3 touchdowns on that one play. All of those were explosive plays." It's not a good thing, but there were positives to take from it, some guys played with a physical edge. "We can adjust our scheme and be ready for Ohio State X-and-O-wise. I think we can definitely play with them."
Terrelle Pryor, canon for an arm, fast, big, has a bunch of talented, fundamental WRs, good running backs. "They're a very dangerous and explosive offense, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Team and program are making some big strides. "I think that next year, the guys we return, there's definitely going to be a chance that we're gonna be big-time contenders."
Mike Martin - Aggressive, relentless. Off the field, he's... "cuddly."
"Lot of time in the training room and rehab. I've been struggling a lot with my ankles this season, which is a pain." Trying to play through it, doing as much as he can. Tough to push off with his ankles. Big mental thing, trying to play through it. "Hopefully that adrenaline kicks in, you know?" Only one of them is a problem at this point. Trying to be a leader when he's been unable to make an impact on the field. Adam Patterson has stepped up well in Mike's absence.
"It's tough, obviously, being on the team and being a fan. Any fan doesn't like that." Doing whatever they can to reverse OSU's dominance. No matter what each team's season is like, they'll both fight hard.
Has talked to guys who played in the 50s and 60s about the game. "We're just gonna play as hard as we can and make those guys proud."
Would feel really good to stop he streak. Overcome a lot this season, trying to improve each week. Anything is possible. "It's not about Ohio State, it's about us and what we do." Not looking to be spoilers, looking to win for themselves. "We're gonna control what we can control."
"It's gonna start with us down in the trenches." Need to force Pryor to move his feet, get him off-rhythm. Need to get pressure, wreak some havoc.
"I think they hate us, we hate them. That's just how it is, that's what it is." That leads to getting each team's best shot, no matter what. Different sense of intensity in the air this week. "You don't really need a motivational speech to get excited for it."
"We're not gonna get ran off the field. That's not gonna happen." They'll play hard to the final whistle. "That's not us, that's not our team, and we won't allow that to happen at all."
OSU might have a couple tricks up their sleeve, but this game is more about going straight at each other.
Not worried about what their impact is on MSU, just want to win for themselves.
Stuffed animal - "That's the defense's thing. We're not gonna talk about that."
"I don't really remember the game" last time M beat Ohio State.
Gave OSU a serious look in high school, but felt right in Ann Arbor. Talks to Roundtree about it. OSU wanted him on either side of the ball. His dad was a Michigan fan, that played a role in his decision.
Split in Toledo between OSU and M fans among his friends. Hears "I'm an Ohio State fan but I'm also a Kevin Koger fan" from most people he knows.
Have to take care of the ball to have a chance to win. Can't turn it over 5 times against OSU and still win. Need to pay attention to details. "It's not anything the coaches can do. It's definitely on us."
"It'd definitely mean a lot to us. Every game means a lot but this one means a little more."
Rivalry hasn't lost its luster even though OSU has won a lot. Streak is a bit embarrassing "It's on us to stop it."
"Hate? That's such a strong word." Respects, but does not like them.
"I guess I have to agree with Koger. Got respect for them, but don't like them." Wasn't aware of the rivalry that much in HS. Looked at the FSU-Miami rivalry, and heard that M-OSU was a bigger deal. "You expect a physical team, a great coached team, and a great team." against OSU. You have to be even more prepared than past games.
Knew last year's game would be intense when he saw Shaw's altercation with an OSU player going into the tunnel. He's also seen video of the famous Woodson/Boston battle. "It's a big game. It's still a football game. Still a game."
1500 rush yards: "That's a great accomplishment, but I don't know what to say about it."
It would be a big deal to get invited to NY for the Heisman ceemony, but can't worry about it while there are still games to play.
"We can't come out flat like we did against Wisconsin. We've gotta perform all four quarters." Need to protect "the program" the ball. They've been making a few more mistakes lately, and that can't continue.
"I think our defense is one of the best defenses in the nation. I don't care what nobody say. We face them every day, and they just help us get better."
Pryor reminds Denard of Devin Gardner. Big, and he can run and pass.
He's going to ask Falk about the 'Shoe once he gets the chance. Iowa and Penn State were also tough environments.
Felt fairly healthy the past month. "90%, pretty good." Doesn't know when he got dinged up, but he's healthy enough to be as fast now as he was in the first few games. "I thought I was gonna break a couple of them, and I just fell" against Wisconsin.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Injuries and Actual News
Multiple guys had headaches, their status is unknown until he talks to the doctors. Not sure about Stonum - he'll try to run around a bit the next couple days [but is in a boot].Gallon's shoulder will have to progress.
"Mike [Martin] should be OK. He'll be a little limited probably, he and Jonas [Mouton] both." Martin is the most dominant defensive player when he's healthy. "When we've got a healthy Mike Martin in there, it's different for us... He's one of those guys that can stand up to anybody." He gets treatment every morning, but he still won't be 100% this game - maybe by the bowl game.
Special teams have been pretty good outside of the inability to make a field goal. Drew Dileo and Fitz Toussaint will do more returning with the injuries to other guys. Fitz was on returns for the first time all year against Wisconsin because they were running out of capable bodies. "I think he's still getting back into the groove. There's so much time, it's like starting all over again. I think you'll more likely see him more often this weekend."
Kickers - "Seth had a great week of practice then he missed the one... Brendan kicked the extra points, but they were low, so we're lucky they weren't blocked." Nothing looks wrong with Seth's form, so it may be mental.
"Hopefully Vincent's OK." He's been the #1 RB, but Stephen Hopkins, Fitz Toussaint, and Mike Shaw should be good to practice all this week.
"It's looking that way" for a medical redshirt for Devin Gardner. Muscular issue in his lower back, probably won't require surgery.
Wisconsin accusations: "Playing dirty? That's funny." Must have been looking for something controversial.
Rodriguez has played during Thanksgiving week in the past. "The routine really pretty much stays the same." Most teams are still playing this week.
Personnel and Team
Denard - "For a first-year starter, he's had a pretty remarkable year." Hasn't looked as young as his age a lot of the time. Very committed to improving his game, understanding everything better. Not worried about postseason awards "I don't think we have to trumpet anything." On top of the numbers, Denard's taken a bigger leadership role, he loves his teammates. "He's got the type of personality that you wanna be around."
Scrutiny in the media might have changed with bowl eligibility, but the attitude inside the program is no different. "We've kinda had to take a tunnel-vision type of approach as a staff, and as a team, and as a program." The focus can't change because of outside perception. Sometimes stuff is falsely reported - and being a coach is like being a politician in that way.
"I didn't get this job at Michigan by getting a lottery ticket that said 'congratulations, you're the coach at Michigan.'" There's more to building a program than what's written in the media. Some circumstances may come up altering timeframe, for better or worse. "Close in some areas, but still a ways away in others." Rodriguez is still positive that they'll get to where they want to be - he sees the progress. "It's sooner rather than later, but it's not overnight."
The program has come a long way offensively since last these teams played, not as much progress on D. "A lot of the other thing that I've seen that's maybe not shown on the field as much, I think has come a long way."
The perception that teams with spread offenses have poor defenses is incorrect. Northwestern won a Big Ten title with the spread, Florida and Oklahoma won national titles running a spread. West Virginia had top-10 defenses when Rich was there. "It was probably doubts because people just wanna doubt. There's a faction of them that love being negative." Way too much is made about running schemes. The execution, players, etc. are more important.
Have to continue doing some things well, and improve the areas in which they haven't done well. "It's a game that's easy emotionally to get your guys focused for." Need to worry about execution. "Defensively, we've gotta make some stops, it's as simple as that." You can make some steps during the season, but the D won't improve exponentially in, say 4 weeks.
The defense isn't just one thing, there have been different issues each year. "There's no question that it needs to get fixed." Getting healthy, recruiting, development, putting them in position to succeed. "We've gotta look at everything, just like we would on offense." Team will naturally improve next year with experience, it's just a matter of maximizing that improvement.
"I've seen us play outstanding football in all three phases at times." Been more consistent on offense, and if the defense grows up and a few things bounce their way, it's a winnable game. Last year, they played well defensively but the offense turned it over too many times. "The situation was right us to maybe sneak one out there." but they missed opportunities to make plays.
Jordan Kovacs has been one of the D's most solid players. Kevin Koger has been splitting time with Webb at TE. Those two will be some of the team's greatest leaders next year.
The offense has stayed healthier, the defense has been ravaged by injuries. The freshmen who are playing would normally be redshirted.
"First off, it means a lot because it's Michigan-Ohio State." Means a lot to the seniors. "This would be something for them to remember quite fondly." Ohio State may have at stake from a conference championship standpoint, but the game is important on its own merits either way. "We do a few special things different for Ohio State week."
Great for fans, seniors, coaches, families. "I don't think about the end result right now, winning or losing. Right now, I want my players, and my coaches, and myself, we're thinking about the process." Want to focus on what they need to do to achieve the end result, not the result itself.
"I don't think about point spreads. When I came to Michigan I thought about winning championships."
Slow starts in past few games haven't been the same cause, sometimes a turnover, bogged down in the redzone, etc. "I'll study all of that after the season and see if there's something that will help our guys get out of the gate faster."
Pryor - improved understanding of the offense, runs when he has to. "He's a great athlete, I think there's no question he's the leader of that offensive unit, and he's made a lot of big plays for them."
The Ohio State OL is good, tailback position is talented, Dane Sanzenbacher is one of the best WRs in the country. Best corner pair in the league, LBs as good as anybody - and they gave Michigan lots of trouble last year, especially Brian Rolle.
OL - "We didn't play as well up front last week on the edges as we have been." JJ Watt's talent had something to do with the struggles, and the guys know they'll have another challenge this week with Cameron Heyward and John Simon.
Ohio Stadium is a challenge, but the quality of the team is daunting itself. "As far as intensity level and all that, it will be unparalleled." History, intensity, make this the greatest rivalry in sports. "It's hard to match the intensity of this one." Playing at OSU will be loud, as Penn State was. Communication issues come with offensive guys, so the youth on defense hopefully won't be too affected by the road atmosphere. Last time at OSU, saw some stuff, old ladies giving the bird, but that wasn't anything new. "Playing with Pitt, we saw whole families of them."
"We're not practicing and going down there with the intention of 'let's just show up and see what happens.' We're going down there to battle our tails off and try to get the win."
"We don't talk about the past and what's happened last year, 3 years ago, 5 years ago, but you want to be able to have it on your resume that you beat Ohio State if you played at Michigan." Greatest rivalry in college sports "for us, we've gotta perform better and get some wins to make us feel better, make our fans feel better."
Even if you fall behind, the team should have enough confidence that they can make a comeback. "It certainly will help the atmosphere so to speak if we can at least get off to a better start offensively."
Might the coaches take more chances on offense or special teams to cover for the weak defense? "If I did think that, would it make any sense to tell you? Probably not. We'll probably punt on third down."