i would find this more credible if it was about Tom Crean
File photo courtesy of the Michigan Daily
A couple notes from Michigan's Sports Information Department: Redshirt freshman defensive end Anthony LaLota has asked for, and received a transfer release. Michigan's game against Bowling Green in a couple weeks will be a noon contest on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Notre Dame and UMass
Injuries: Mike Jones suffered broken leg, and is doubtful for the remainder of the season. Brandon Herron sprained his ankle, and is day-to-day. JB Fitzgerald, Mark Moundros, Kenny Demens, and Kevin Leach will step up a bit.
"Anybody that says they don't want to be liked is probably lying to you. Everybody wants to be liked" the only thing that matters is how you react to it. Positive press "It's like poison - just don't swallow it." On bandwagoners: "What I'm worried about is things I can control. Am I a different guy now than I was two weeks ago?" People's perception is whateva for him. "There's probably some people who will still be unhappy. No matter what we do. And they'll be unhappy for the rest of their lives."
The team played well enough to win Saturday, it's not a case of being good enough to win despite playing poorly. Would like to have some plays back, "we're still not good enough to play poorly and win... I still would not like to test that out." There were enough good things to say that the team didn't play poorly.
On penalties - "some of them I still question. Nonetheless, we had them." Late hit on Cullen Christian: "I couldn't tell initially." Coaches film revealed it was a close call, but an unnecessary thing for Christian to do.
Nobody really realized that TJ Jones dropped the ball before scoring the TD. Wouldn't have known anyway, with no video boards in ND Stadium. "It's certainly a teaching moment to tell our guys to run down and jump on the ball." Michigan shouldn't have an issue with dropping the ball before the endzone: "We hand the ball to the official. That would never happen to a Michigan guy."
Poise down the stretch on the road - "You learn a lot on the road... When it's a hostile environment and the crowd goes crazy every time they make a play." There were never any Michigan guys who seemed to be afraid when ND made plays. "Hey, let's go out there and play football" was their attitude.
"I didn't see any panic whatsoever on anybody on the sidelines" after ND took the late lead. Face adversity in every game, they'll learn how to deal with it with experience.
No turnovers - "Denard put it on the ground one time" he was holding it loose, and Vincent Smith's hustle bailed him out.
"Two weeks ago, I'm not sure we'd have been favored" against UMass. Rankings didn't matter then, and don't matter now. Shouldn't bother with polls until October.
RR will bring up Virginia Tech losing to James Madison to remind the guys not to overlook anyone. "Thee's already been what 5? 5 or 6 this year?" FCS beating FBS. In FCS level, the good teams are really really good. If you play an average or below average FCS team, the D-1 teams aren't going to have a problem. "We're playing a good one. UMass is one of the good teams in 1-AA."
"You don't have to be listed as a recruiting service 5-star recruit to be a very good college player or even an NFL guy." Parity b/w 1-A and 1-AA - there are more kids that are getting known now. "All the upgraded facilities." Everyone has somthing to sell to recruits, and kids want to go somewhere they'll play. "We sell the biggest stage and greatest education."
"We'll do whatever we've gotta do to win the game." In the UMass game, they'll do what it takes to get the W, even if it means lots of Denard.
"I'm biased. I think we've got a bunch of good guys." Guys who succeed academically, athletically, and people who are just good guys. Some guys might be misunderstood (I assume he's talking about the Chris Henry, Pacman Jones, Demar Dorsey types), but some guys you know as soon as they're on campus, "this is a great guy." Denard was raised right, and has great family support. Loves football, loves playing at Michigan with his teammates.
Denard is continuing to grow and mature in the offense. Playing on the road was an experience that will help for the future. QBs haven't been hit in practice since camp started. They're not going to beat Denard up in practice. More worried about QBs throwing too much in practice.
Should they shield Denard from the attention? They've already talked about that. Everybody wants to talk to him. Good thing for him, family, and program. He's still got a full class load, practice, etc. "We're really gonna limit him. That's probably not going to make a lot of people happy." He's not seeking attention, though everyone likes being talked about in a positive way.
Denard's performance "continuation of the first game." He executed pretty well. He was hyped up to run at start of game, and would have taken a couple decisions back. Having such a young guy tear up opponents is a surprise. QB-centered offense though. "Denard's been taking a lot of threes" like a point guard who can make you pay for sagging off him.
On Denard's 57 carries - "You coach your team, I'll coach mine." [Ed: sounds like a snap back at Brian Kelly. Doesn't seem like there's much love lost there.] Lots of carries, but they do what it takes to win. Have two good backups. Denard getting better on run game reads and keeping his eyes in the right spot. He has great vision to read blocks - something they've been hamering him on since training camp.
"Some running backs, the more carries they get the better they go. Our running backs are fresh (laughs)."
RBs - They ran hard. There weren't missed reads, their lack of success was just due to the way ND was playing them. Opens up more things for the QB. Denard made a couple bad reads in the run game, but for the most part was sharp. "I think our biggest improvement in the runningback is to be involved not in the running, but the other aspects of it." They blocked well, and ran good routes. They can still block better.
Shaw and Smith "They're playing hard, not breaking a lot of big runs year but I like their effort." They understand the offense, are doing the little stuff, helping Denard with communication. "I'd like to get some of those other backs into the flow." Mike Cox, Stephen Hopkins, and Teric Jones might get into the flow. Fitzgerald Toussaint may be healthy enough to go this week.
Stephen Hopkins: "Yeah, every time he carries, he scores." He's a bigger back, but has a lot of 1-back skills. Getting closer to doing a lot of that stuff.
Roundtree's toughness: "He practiced all week." By Thursday he was doing everything, and there were no issues with the doctors. He made some nice plays. Receivers did a good job blocking downfield, but can still improve.
Outside WRs - "[Denard]'s got a lot of confidence with Roy, Martavious, Darryl Stonum." Hoping Hemingway will come back soon. Not a lot of depth out there. Tay and Stonum taking 80-some snaps - too many.
Downfield was blocking better than game one, but still can improve (from wideouts).
RR doesn't care who gets the yard if the team gets 500 rushing. "Would you like to have more balance? Yeah, if they give you that." "Denard wouldn't have whatever he's got rushing if he didn't have some dudes blocking for him up front."
Will Campbell and Quinton Washington couldn't wait for the game to start, and were hoping for a short-yardage situation. They have a few other packages that they're involved in.
Molk - "He and Steve Schilling are the two emotional leaders up front." Patrick Omameh - "He played better. And he'd be the first one to tell you the first game wasn't his best performance." He still has room to improve. The OL as a whole graded out "OK, it wasn't great. I thought Notre Dame's line got after us pretty good."
Defense good minus big plays - "you have to count the big plays in there." The D still held Notre Dame to six three-and-outs. There were lots of possessions though. They can play better, and missed more tackles than the first week (ND's players and technique issues in tackling were responsible for that). The three interceptions were huge.
Cam Gordon just made two bad plays. Just a technique thing where he misjudged the angles. "He'll be fine."
James Rogers - Really consistent. "He's seen the field, I've been really pleased with his play so far."
Kicking battle still open. Broekhuizen kicked the last extra point. Doesn't know today who will start on Sturday.
Hagerup will punt a lot better than he did on Saturday - just not on his game. "I didn't ask him" if it was technique or nerves "I just said 'can you kick a little better?'" Meram - hasn't been over as much with his soccer responsibilities.
Expecting 30-some guys to show up for walkon tryouts "I think there's gonna be a lot of kickers." "Maybe there's another Kovacs in there. Gosh, would that be great?"
UM Transplant Center - "I know what they do and the lives that they save." Had a staffer at WVU need a transplant to save his life. "I'm an organ donor. It's easy to do on your driver's license." Wolverine-Buckeye challenge to sign up people for organ donor registry. 108k people waiting for a transplant "The entire Big House."
9/11/2010 – Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 – 2-0
The Daily's Sam Wolson.
Sometimes even the corner of the endzone is a perfect vantage point to see something, and we were right on line to see Dayne Crist heave up what looked like a punt in the general direction of a covered Kyle Rudolph. We saw Cam Gordon take the wrong angle, backtrack desperately to take a futile swat at the ball, and twist his body around as quickly as possible to chase Rudolph. From there it's a dull haze as Notre Dame stadium erupted. The public address announcer, normally as staid and even-handed as Carl Grapentine, finished relating the details by exclaiming something about the rainbow Providence had directed to appear above the stadium at that exact moment.
Michigan fans are no strangers to this sort of thing. Ask anyone who's been around the block a couple times about Notre Dame Stadium and you'll get a recounting of injustices cosmic and otherwise perpetrated on not only Michigan but the idea of free will. Find them in a quiet moment in the dead of winter and get a couple drinks in them and you might hear a rigidly controlled statement about how the things that happen to Michigan's football team in South Bend make the speaker just… I don't know… unsure about certain things. Doesn't matter if they're religious or not. If they are, it's the existence of a just and loving God. If they aren't, it's the absence of a wrathful one. Either way the intensity with which your conversation partner is focusing on the rim of his glass will be unsettling.
The last time I went was 2002. Michigan fumbled four times, committed ten penalties, missed a 32-yard field goal, gave up a safety on a Courtney Morgan holding call, saw a Carlyle Holiday fumble at the two ruled a touchdown, and lost when Navarre's first pass on Michigan's last-ditch drive was batted directly to a Notre Dame defender. Michigan lost 25-23; in their previous two outings Notre Dame hadn't scored an offensive touchdown. I wrote two things about it in the aftermath:
- An Every Three Weekly article titled "John Navarre Blamed For Offense, Defense, Kicking Game, Iraq, 9/11, Everything Else."
- The other half of the infamous article exchange with Blue Gray Sky, in which a small child utterly defeats me by saying "good game, mister" as I attempt to trudge my way home.
The thesis statement of the latter:
To a Michigan fan, every Irish loss over the past ten years has been due to an unfortunate confluence of unlikely events: fumbles, ridiculous refereeing, blocked punts, hilarious deflected passes, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not (though it is): that’s what it feels like. It feels like Michigan has nothing to gain and everything to lose, and everything gets lost on a biannual basis.
When Kyle Rudolph crossed the goal line the thing I thought was not an unprintable string of expletives. It was "of course."
Before the season a reporter from the Hartford Courant called me up for a story he was doing on the UConn game, probably because he saw me as a way to tap into the zeitgeist of the Michigan fan. As these things usually go, he only used one sentence from a fifteen minute conversation. This left out what seemed to me like the most interesting bit of the conversation, where he asked what I thought Michigan football stood for, what made it special and unique.
I had no answer to this. I said "that sounds like a question a Notre Dame fan would love to answer"—which caused the reporter to laugh a little more heartily than objectivity would approve of—and then launched into a narrative that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been around here a while. The post titles say it all, really: "Empire of the Fallen." "You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad."
I told the guy that my inability to answer that question any more was kind of the point. The thing that was is dead, having expired from natural causes after a long illness. The thing that replaced it wasn't really anything except incompetent.
Basic understanding of the Michigan zeitgeist is understanding that now there is no answer to the question. Advanced understanding adds that until the Horror there was no program in the country with a more confident answer to it, and puts the two together to find a large number of sad pandas.
And then with 40 seconds left Denard Robinson stared down a blitzing, unblocked Manti Te'o and fired a dart to Roy Roundtree for fifteen yards on third and anything but a field goal attempt. Michigan had done its best to gaffe its way out of it like this uniquely frustrating rivalry demands, but after that it was academic. You try to stop Denard Robinson from going two yards, or seventy-two, or eighty-seven.
The rainbow was not Providence, except insofar as Denard Robinson might be it. It was the Shoelace bat signal, or rather one of many Shoelace bat signals: Flagpoles. Trees. Corned beef sandwiches. Damn near anything. Once summoned not even the vast historical juju of Notre Dame Stadium can do anything about him.
So this thing you dared not hope for starts to coalesce just from the things that happen on the field, and then yesterday morning I was struck by a sense of profound gratefulness when I watched the MGoBlue video of Denard's postgame presser:
I love how he smiles all the time and wears his heart on his sleeve and goes "AHHHH" when someone mentions Roundtree blocking for him and seems about as amazed as everyone else as what he's doing. I love how he drops to one knee after he scores in a way that seems genuine in a way I couldn't comprehend until I saw it. I love that if you ask him he'll sign your forehead. I was going to let my skepticism overwhelm, to wait until it was obvious that 2010 was not going to be 2009, but I lasted two games. I'm in the tank again.
That feeling Johnny identified in 2008 when it became clear that neither we nor Michigan had any idea what it was any more is obliterated. I've got an answer for the Courant now: Michigan is receivers blocking like tiny mountain goats 40 yards downfield because it matters, because if you set Denard free he'll go "AHHHH" at you afterwards. He'll smile and it will seem like the sun is poking through dark clouds, scattering colors in a circle all around you.
BULLETS ARE NO LONGER BULLETS
They're annoying. Now bold section titles. More room. Easier blockquoting. Win.
The unsung hero: Shavodrick Beaver, the backup at Tulsa. Does anyone else remember the sick feeling in your stomach when you found out that Michigan had lost a desperately-needed QB recruit to Tulsa? Funny old world, isn't it?
Denard is like a video game, but to Google it's NBA Jam:
HT to reader Apoorva Bansal.
Crist return. We were only getting the usual scattered texts that actually got through but by halftime it was clear that Crist had some sort of head injury that prevented him from seeing out of one eye. I laughed at my friend's concern that Crist might come back in the second half, reasoning that a head injury severe enough to keep someone out of a half of football is severe enough to keep someone out of a game of football. But lo, Crist rose after this:
Q. What play was it that you got dinged up on and what happened?
DAYNE CRIST: Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus. …
Q. Was it your vision?
DAYNE CRIST: Just kind of dazed a little bit and couldn't really see out of my right eye. But that was really it.
How would you feel if Michigan's coach had done that after everything we've heard about concussions the past couple years? Apparently they "did the tests" on the sideline and determined he didn't have one, but it's hard to be comfortable with that decision when it's a debate about in what particular way Crist's brain was messed up.
Ref argh. There have been a lot of complaints about Michigan's many penalties and the lack of ND holding calls—especially after Mike Martin described Chris Stewart getting a "warning"—that I can't comment on yet since I haven't seen the tape, but we saw this live since our endzone was the one it happened in:
What is it with Notre Dame getting free touchdowns on a balls they fumble at the one? No one from Michigan jumped on it, unfortunately, or a review would have been uncomfortable for the home crowd. What happens if a player fumbles into the endzone and it just sits there forever? Does anyone know what the result would have been? You can't claim an inadvertent whistle ended the play until after the ball is out. Commenters seem to think it would have been ND's ball at the one.
Tailback argh. Thirty yards rushing is not so good for all your tailbacks, though as we'll see below Fred Jackson thinks Notre Dame made a bizarre decision to put it all on Denard's shoulders. I'll reserve judgment until I see the tape since the corner of the endzone isn't a great vantage point to draw conclusions, but with a couple of less challenging games coming up it seems like its time to pull the other three kids out of mothballs and see what they can do. Tousssaint's Mike Hart and Chris Perry except fast, after all. That sounds okay.
Flagpole argh. One thing that did not factor into my decision as to which tickets I'd use and which I'd give to my friends: whether or not the flag would be 1) in my LOS and 2) at half-mast. It was kind of hard to see stuff inside the 20 on the far side of the field; people twenty rows higher were probably steamed about Al Qaeda in a way they'd never thought possible.
Denard implosion argh. In the aftermath of another OMG Robinson day the questions about his durability continue. I think they're slightly overblown since Robinson takes way fewer hits from the pocket than most quarterbacks, and hits in the pocket to a stationary target are always the most dangerous. Even so they're not entirely so, which means Robinson should see a reduced workload over at least the next two weeks and hopefully three as Michigan tries to find some confidence in the backup quarterbacks and find a tailback. If it comes down to it, though, you have to put the ball in his hands when it's do or die.
The truly terrifying thing about Denard Robinson is how often he was one downfield block from being gone like he was on the 87-yarder. These blocks got missed way too often, but I guess it's a lot harder to make them when you don't have any idea where the runner is going to be.
Game theory stuff. I agree vigorously with this message board thread about how the Rudolph touchdown was a blessing in disguise since any Notre Dame touchdown drive of actual length would have pulled so much time off the clock its hard to see Robinson leading a drive to win. He can execute a three-minute drill now (obviously), but with one and a half minutes I keep going back to those seams to Roundtree in the third quarter. The first was thrown directly at a linebacker when lofting it was a touchdown; the second was lofted and would have been a touchdown except it was considerably overthrown.
Giving up a 95-yard touchdown is obviously bad, but I think the play once Rudolph is behind the secondary and around the 35 is to let him score. Michigan didn't do this intentionally, but they did prevent the same sort of agonizing touchdown drive they gave up against Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2005, where they soft-shell their way down the field and allow the opponent the opportunity to score for the win with vanishingly little time left.
While we're on the topic, Kelly's decision to go for it from the three at the end of the first half has come in for rampant bashing by Notre Dame fans because it didn't work out but to me it seems like one of those decisions that's so close there's no right or wrong answer. We happen to have a huge database of one-shot plays from the three because that's where two-point conversions are attempted from. The expected value of a field goal from there is basically 3 points. The expected value of going for it is 45% of 7, or 3.15 points… if you assume an average defense and offense. Michigan does not have an average defense but Notre Dame's offense while directed by a third-string walk-on is probably even further below average, so in terms of pure points expected I'm betting Kelly gave up a little when he went for it. On the other hand, when you're down 14 points and you might not get many opportunities to score because you're down to the third-string walk-on you take variance where you can; you should be willing to give up some expectation for it. My gut feeling was that I was unhappy with the decision to go, which means it's probably the right call.
Yardage bit. This has been noted elsewhere, but what a bizarre game. Over 1000 yards of total offense but a winning score of just 28 and 18 punts. In a game where yardage was dead even Michigan was +3 in turnover margin and barely won. This happened because they lost about 40 yards of field position on punt exchanges, missed two field goals, got away with giving up the bomb at the end of the first half, shot themselves not in the foot but the head with penalties, and intentionally gave away 50 yards on Notre Dame's final drive.
So… yeah, Michigan functionally outgained ND by 50 since they weren't trying to stop those first two passes to Floyd, which makes the second week they did that against a BCS opponent. That didn't happen until the Purdue game last year.
Defense? Caveats about the backups in the first half apply but the defense managed to hang in there. Cam Gordon is going to come in for some huge minuses in UFR, but the rest of the defense can't be blamed for 200, maybe 250 (Jones phantom TD, Rudolph TD, long pass @ end of first half, final drive) of ND's 500 yards. Given the number of drives in this game holding ND to 24 points is an accomplishment. After Crist came out of the locker room and led ND right down the field twice I thought we were doomed, but the D got a stop after first and goal and then got five straight stops after. Say what you want about rushing three but I'm pretty sure all three picks were thrown into a three-man rush when the QB could not find anyone open. I'll be adding a "players rushed" tracker to UFR to see if the thing everyone hates actually hurt M.
Field goal argh silver lining. Rodriguez may be forced to do mathematically correct things on fourth and three from the 25.
AnnArbor.com slideshow. Genuinely Sarcastic column makes a good point about Cam Gordon and a box safety spot: ideally that's where he'd be. Doctor Saturday says "at some point you begin to run out of perspective, and adjectives." HSR took video of postgame celebrations. Wolverine Historian has a three-part set of highlights up. USA-Algeria-style bar explosion video from NYC's Professor Thom's. MVictors bullets. The Daily ranks the greatest individual performances in Michigan history, slotting Denard #4 behind three guys who killed Ohio State singlehandedly.
MGoReader scores tickets at face when ND opens up wheelchair seating to the public, sits next to Brock Mealer, and gets told this story:
He told me and a couple of nearby patrons a story about Denard: last week, before the game, he asked our QB if he ever thought about cutting off his dreads in case someone tried to pull him down (a la Polamu). Denard's response?
"If they ever catch me, they can have 'em."
Amongst the great many articles using the above picture and declaring Robinson to be hotter than the surface of Mercury but deploying the same stats and quotes as all the others is Mike Rothstein's from AnnArbor.com, which quotes to Fred Jackson about all those carries:
Notre Dame (1-1) offered no choice. With the defensive fronts the Irish presented, it was Robinson’s ball to carry over and over again….
“A lot of times, his reads tell him to give the ball to the running backs,” Jackson said. “But this game, they were forcing him to run it. They were probably trying to beat him up. But he’s too quick to beat up.”
That's an… interesting decision on the part of the Notre Dame coaches there.
I missed a few of Ryan Terpstra's postgame videos. Here's Jordan Kovacs:
The biiiig torrent is up, a 19-gig uncompressed capture. The more manageable one's ETA is 3PM.
Goot bye 87 yards zing:
Fuller highlights from MGoBlue:
WMAX radio guy Ryan Terpstra's field-level video of Michigan's last drive, the final play of the game, and the aftermath includes some priceless shots of the ND student section right after they got Denarded:
Rodriguez and Denard postgame:
If you could bottle Denard Robinson's smile it would light up the universe.
Other bits after the jump.
I am so tired. I went, and panicked, and then did that some more, and then did that some more, and then did that some more, and then Denard, and then Denard, and then Denard. Here are your muppets, which are very late but better late than never against Notre Dame, as Michigan quarterbacks can tell you the last couple years.
NOW THE MUPPETS:
And you can't have one without the other…
Also, how about JT Floyd and James Rogers? Mike Floyd did not kill Michigan. Other people did, but not Mike Floyd. Sleep now.
In retrospect, obvious. Shredder's latest and something I'm kicking myself for not putting in the preview:
Too bad it's a 100% guaranteed cease-and-desist magnet, or that would be a killer t-shirt.
Nacho dip. Obama's hard edge. Random seven minute video featuring Rodriguez and impressions of Rodriguez from his players:
This is never good. Remember Brent Petway's rap? Yeah… now there's a Michigan State version:
So they've caught up to us in that department. Let's not return the favor with team-wide brawls. Also, athletes: stop rapping. That is all.
Not that this is a surprise, but… John Pollack continues saying "it's just a flesh wound" in AnnArbor.com, further revealing reasons no one should talk to him ever again:
“What happened was that Michigan Stadium was a unique stadium,” he said. “With the renovation, it looks pretty much like every stadium in the country.” … “If you take out seat-license fees, the whole financial model collapses,” he said. “And what did the average fan get in return? A quarter-inch. It’s not even worth repainting the numbers.”
1. The bowl has not seen the seats expand to their final size, since that process will take the next three years.
2. The noise in the bowl has gone up 30-40%.
3. Handicap seating is considerably more extensive.
4. Seat license fees were instituted a decade ago.
4. He continues insisting that now Michigan Stadium looks like "every other stadium in the country," which good lord:
He also keeps saying that the "mystery and surprise" that Michigan Stadium was just a HOLE IN THE GROUND was an asset since surely no one knew it was called "the Big House" when it was a HOLE IN THE GROUND.
False. If I had a picture of this man I would lolcat it like that. just "FALSE."
On the crushening of Denard. A small amount of chatter in the aftermath of the UConn game has been about how the Big Ten rabble rabble defense rabble linebacker rabble Robinson's spleen rabble rabble rabble. Jon Chait points out a reason the 29 carry(!) outing is not likely to be repeated:
The seminal thing about Connecticut's defensive game plan is that it did not work. At all. Michigan had one punt and zero turnovers. Ask yourself this. If you were designing a game plan against Michigan, would your goal be to make Robinson carry the ball as often as possible? Or would you try to force less dangerous players to get the ball? I predict most defenses who have seen what Robinson can do pick door number two, and his rushing attempts per game drop.
Also as Robinson's passing gains the trust of the coaches, Michigan's run/pass breakdown will retreat from 75% run to 70%, maybe 65%. And probably 50% of his carries will be touchdowns anyway.
On secondary aigh. Notre Dame's got some of its own. Starting safety Jamoris Slaughter will not play this weekend, leaving this in the ND backfield:
Slaughter's injury and freshman Derek Roback's transfer to Ohio University earlier this week leave the Irish with only three fully healthy scholarship safeties for the Michigan game - [sophomore Zeke] Motta, junior Dan McCarthy and senior Harrison Smith.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: Kelly says he's not moving anyone to the position because there's a 5'10" walk-on who they're "not afraid to put in the game."
Motta will start his first game tomorrow. He was a pretty big recruit, albeit one the sites all ranked as a linebacker. May his judgment of angles be correct for humans, incorrect for Denard.
Etc.: Good news for people in Denmark: NBC will stream the M-ND game live. This message will be repeated in the liveblog post. Another Michigan blog: Dreaded Judgment. Rodriguez says he "hopes" Forcier stays and competes. Big Ten Network ad revenue increases 22%. And, finally:
I tried this last year but then dropped off, but I'll try it again: when you write 15k words about a football game people who know more than you are going to point out errors. This will be a collection of items people send me about stuff they think I got wrong; if I'm sticking to my guns I'll mention why, but this is all very complicated so reasonable people will disagree at times.
Chris Brown of Smart Football added some stuff that's not actually a disagreement but it would be a shame for it to molder in the inbox:
1. Michigan ran this play a few times with good success:
It was probably the best "dropback" pass I saw Denard run. I saw him throw both to the outside receiver and to the RB. In your description you called it a "slant" and the RB's route as a "screen," but the concept is called the "snag" concept (or triangle). I'd say it's currently the most popular route combination in the Big 10, as Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State and now Michigan all feature it as a staple play. I discussed it on Smart Football.
On the backside Michigan has some kind of fade/out combo but we'll see if he gives the QB freedom to go that way. It's a good play for Denard (and Terrelle Pryor, for that matter) because it's easily completed.
[Ed: this was the first instance of this route combo in the game; as the game progressed I got a handle on the combo and how frequently it's used. Good to know it's widespread and effective. Robinson completed each instance of the snag for good yardage except once when he threw the flare route when the LB was charging it down, opening up the slant bit.]
2. Denard's worst pass of the game was the bootleg where Roy Roundtree gets lit up. I think you were right that it should have been thrown to the outside receiver in the hole before the safety could get over.
3. The really encouraging thing though is that he followed it up with his best pass of the night [to Grady on third and eleven]. The long fake bubble pass was fun, but this was a college throw. The best part? The play was four verticals (I think you said it was a deep hitch). This wasn't exactly a "read" route but clearly the receiver had freedom to bend it and find the hole, and Denard threw it in the open window -- this wasn't where he was told to throw it, he reacted to the coverage. Great throw.
[Ed: Part of the disconnect here is I usually put down the route instead of the concept; that's something to work on.]
Genuinely Sarcastic's run chart is up and it's mostly in line with mine, though it appears toBrian is less inclined to give out pluses and minuses. He's higher on Molk than Schilling but still high on both, thought Koger was way better than Webb, and gave Omameh a solidly negative –6. Also Denard picks up a –2 but toBrian admits "this is where the metric is flawed." FWIW, I'm handing out pluses when the tailback does something that gains yards past what the blocking sets up.
Some complaints in the comments that I've been too harsh on Ezeh, and a response from Burgeoning Wolverine Star about the play specifically highlighted:
He picture-pages the play, highlighting Kovacs dropping into the deep middle and thus taking himself out of position to fill the hole on the interior.
Here, you can see that Kovacs is still backpedaling, now 4 yards deeper than he was pre-snap. Mouton is being hit by the playside slot receiver. UConn's left guard has now pulled across the formation and is in perfect position to block Ezeh. Ezeh's job here is to plug the hole that Todman is supposed to run through. He does this by hitting that pulling guard. It's then Kovacs' job to come into the play and make the tackle. Unfortunately, Kovacs isn't done backpedaling yet.
I don't know about this one. I pulled the play to highlight a trend I saw all day—Ezeh getting put on his butt—and wasn't really focused on the action of the deep safety. I think BWS is right that I should have minused Kovacs for a late read, which turned this from four or five yards into nine, but a linebacker in that situation needs to keep his feet and look to come off his blocker and tackle, which is something Ezeh managed on UConn's last meaningful(-ish) snap but didn't do the rest of the day. Whatever the responsibilities of the MLB in the 3-3-5, they include staying on your feet.
MGoUser AAL sent in some clarifications as well:
- On a 15-yard dumpoff to the FB (UConn drive 2, play 4), which I said "looked like a busted coverage" but could not tell who it was on: A misalignment and a bust. Michigan is playing Cover 3 behind a weakside zone blitz. First, Kovacs has the boundary third and is absolutely toasted if this ball gets thrown his way. (You can see he was busy trying to get untoasted, too, when Gordon arrives in the frame toward the end before he does.) The de facto OLBs should have curl-to-flat responsibilities and they both take initial curl drops. The curl zone is a greater threat because a pass to the flat takes longer to arrive and the defense can use the sideline to help. For some reason Ezeh is lined up over the center, then aborts his drop at the curl. Roh would be the hook-to-hole guy and takes a really poor drop which is probably due to lack of experience in pass coverage. The #1 receiver to strength runs a hitch, but given how long that ball would take to arrive there is enough time for the CB to recover and for the OLB to rally to the ball.
- On the next play, a 20 yard power run: I’d give Floyd more credit. If he allows himself to be reached, there’s one OL left to block Kovacs and the RB is going to the endzone. On the other hand Ezeh does everything wrong. One of the first things you learn as a LB is not to go underneath blocks. If you do, you have zero chance of making the play. There is a point where Ezeh sees the WR(!) coming to block him and makes that decision anyway. It cannot be more easily demonstrated than the WR doing nothing, but inviting him to go underneath and barely even touching him as he flails to the ground. By doing this, his chance of making the play went from 30% to near 0. [Ed: I did not minus Ezeh at all on this play.]
- On the next play, which was the post thrown to the goal line but low and not dug out: Gordon was very disciplined here. He has the deep middle third and has two verts coming up the hashes. He’s dead center and favoring either is certain death. For some reason Floyd had plenty of depth and doesn’t close down on the WR with the ball in the air. Could be mental/freshman/other mistake. Impossible to say. [Ed: I didn't neg the coverage or Floyd here; I did think Gordon was in position for a potential killshot if the ball was better thrown.
- First play of drive three, the first ball over Carvin Johnson's head, the dropped one: Another manipulation of Cover 3. UConn was using a levels concept into the sideline (deep/intermediate/shallow) to put the deep third and flat defender in a bind. Lots of time to come open when rushing 3. No idea what Gordon is doing. Also, more importantly this: when M was in Cover 3 vs. no width (TE only), Kovacs was playing up on the line and responsible only for running w/ the TE. He is absolutely toasted. [Ed: I gave a –2 to Johnson there; I've heard from other people that even if there's going to be a window there in cover 3, it shouldn't be as large.]
The overall impression is one of deep fear about Kovacs against Notre Dame, especially in his effort of cover Rudolph, though elsewhere AAL says he's not that impressed with ND's TE… when it comes to the NFL. Okay. Relevancy against Kovacs? Eh… not so much.
Elsewhere, the UConn blog takes a look at their first offensive snap, which didn't go well thanks to Cam Gordon.