this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
News bullets and other items:
Hoke wouldn’t take any questions about Dave Brandon; he said he’d address that on Monday
Hoke seemed pleased with the defense with the exception of two drives. He said the defense lost their intensity on Indiana’s last drive.
Hoke attributed Drake Johnson’s success in part to getting increased reps with the second unit after Derrick Green’s injury
Jake Butt will rejoin the team for the Northwestern game
Devin Gardner is slowly recovering from his ankle injury, though Hoke said it limits the designed runs they can use
Hoke chose to kill the clock at the end of the first half because they had just thrown an interception and didn’t want to put the defense in a bad position, and they were getting the ball to start the second half
“It was good to see the kids, as hard as they’ve worked – I see that weekly. Some of you believe that, some of you don't but what I can tell you it they work their tails off every time we go to practice. They work their tails off as a group. They really are accountable to each other and that's important and that's the way they came out and played. Obviously we got some good performances from some guys that haven't played as much but part of that is due because, talking about Drake [Johnson] probably as much as anybody, he's got a lot of second reps now since Derrick [Green] went out. So I think when you look at it from that side of that we've always thought he was talented but he took advantage of an opportunity and did a heckuva job.”
I was going to talk about Johnson and Darboh. They had 122 and 170 yards, respectively. Can you talk about Darboh and his receiving today?
“Yeah, you know, Amara played a little bit as it as a freshman, a true freshman, and then sat out all last year but I think the confidence, and again, for both of them being in a system for the first time and then learning a little bit of a different system– they both are very talented, we believe. They both work extremely hard and it's nice to see those kind of kids when they get rewarded because of the hard work and what they do and Amara, you know we have Devin [Funchess] on one side and Amara on the other, it maybe opens up some things a little better.”
[After THE JUMP: evaluating the defense, what’s left to play for, and a couple of comments from players]
The pride of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
It's a new day. Sort of.
There was plenty to celebrate in the first Michigan game of the post-Brandon era. The Wolverines thoroughly dominated Indiana, more than doubling their total yardage and earning the team's first double-digit win since the Miami game.
Devin Gardner set a season high in passing yardage. Amara Darboh posted the best day of his career. So did Ann Arbor native Drake Johnson, who rushed for 122 yards and two scores in his first extended action at running back. The defense shut down the nation's leading rusher, IU's Tevin Coleman, and even forced a pair of turnovers.
There was plenty of bad that was familiar, too. Gardner tossed an ugly interception and narrowly avoided a pick-six when the game was still competitive. Brady Hoke bungled basic clock management at the end of the first half, robbing Michigan of a chance to score before the break. The Wolverines punted from the Indiana 43 on a fourth-and-short. And, of course, the entire game came with the caveat of facing an IU squad with a miserable defense and a depleted depth chart at quarterback.
Oh, and the announced attendance of 103,111 was met with a mixture of laughter and boos; perhaps the program sold that many tickets, but on a chilly afternoon in Ann Arbor, there certainly weren't that many seats filled.
On this day, though, the good should be the focus. With Jake Butt suspended for the game for a violation of team rules, reserve tight end Keith Heitzman was able to record his first career touchdown on an improvised shovel pass from Gardner (pictured above).
Injury also created opportunity in the backfield. With Derrick Green out for the season and De'Veon Smith in and out of the game with a dinged up ankle, Johnson got 16 carries—14 of them in the second half—and he salted away the game, playing kitty-corner from where he starred in high school at both football and track. Johnson, who'd seen mostly special teams duty in his time at Michigan, showed off that track-star speed by breaking multiple runs into the Indiana secondary.
Darboh broke the century mark on nine receptions, scoring from 12 yards on a hard-thrown post from Gardner to give Michgian a 17-0 lead that would stand as the halftime score. He and Devin Funchess combined to reel in 16 of Gardner's 22 completions; no other Wolverine had more than one.
The defense dominated an Indiana offense sorely missing injured quarterback Nate Sudfeld. They got some help from IU coach Kevin Wilson, as well. Wilson benched Tevin Coleman after he put the ball on the turf twice, losing the second on a recovery by freshman Bryan Mone. Indiana couldn't generate any offense without Coleman, who'd finish with a season-low 108 yards—must be nice—on 27 carries; his mark of four yards per carry was well below his season average of 8.8.
The Hoosiers also insisted on running much of their offense from the Wildcat, which Michigan had dead to rights for most of the game. Jake Ryan recorded 2.5 TFLs among his team-high 11 tackles; fellow linebacker Joe Bolden had two TFLs of his own as M repeatedly shot gaps into the IU backfield. Any hopes Indiana had of getting back into the game were dashed when Ryan Glasgow sacked IU QB Zander Diamont, stripped the ball, and came up with the recovery in the third quarter; Johnson got the corner for his first touchdown on the ensuing drive.
The final yardage read Michigan 404, Indiana 191.
Hoke refused to address questions about Dave Brandon's resignation in the aftermath of the game, and that felt right. Today was about the team on the field, and while the opponent wasn't a strong one, they were able to ignore this week's distractions and take care of business. That alone was an impressive feat.
10/25/2014 – Michigan 11, Michigan State 35 – 3-5, 1-3 Big Ten
Mark Dantonio is a crazy mofo. This is his great power: he can be offended at anything, forever. Mark Dantonio free-solos Mount Outrage every year. Michigan tried their damndest to not give him anything he could latch onto this time around, repeating the same praise over and over again until even the perpetually bored media noticed that this week's pablum was even more insipid than the usual business.
Then they put a thing in a field.
Fueling Dantonio's never-ending rage at the concept of Michigan is unwise but probably irrelevant. If hate moved spaceships Dantonio would be scowling at little green men circling Alpha Centauri instead of East Lansing. Dantonio is still pissed off at something Mike Hart said seven years ago; a dumb stunt with a railroad spike is a power mushroom when you're already big and skrong.
On the other hand, apologizing after is a pretty good summation of where both programs are. Michigan got the pounding everyone expected and then said "sorry for spoiling for field sir" as they slinked back home. Scott Farkus threw a snowball in our face and we apologized to him for being in the way.
Putting a thing in a field and then woofing about it isn't poor sportsmanship. We should know what poor sportsmanship is: punchin' people. Trying to hurt people. This series has seen plenty of that of late, on both sides. No one apologized after.
Apparently the standard for self-abasement has plummeted, though. So we get another statement. The latest in a never-ending series of PR gaffes. The chance anyone brings the spike thing up after the first round of LOL Michigan articles is zero, unless Michigan brings it up again. They of course do because Michigan refuses to learn Don Canham's first maxim—don't make a one-day story into a two-day story.
Thus more public emasculation for Brady Hoke. Dave Brandon seems to be deliberately trying to make his football coach look like the nation's most clueless goober. By the Maryland game he'll be wearing a beanie and a KICK ME sign. The crowning glory will be an Ohio Stadium weeping piteously at his imminent departure; Hoke will be dressed in nothing but a barrel and suspenders. The press conference afterwards will take place over a dunk tank.
I dunno man, I know this is some feelingsball right here but I can't help but think this is a big part of the problem. Hoke's response to the bullies asking him why he keeps hitting himself is "it's all in the statement." The team responds like their head coach. The man refuses to defend himself, either from his incompetent athletic director or his rivals laughing at him. The team gets plowed by the hint of adversity. Fight is almost totally absent.
When someone gets mad at your spike stunt, the correct answer is F--- YO COUCH. That is Dantonio's answer to everything. Would you like some baklava, Mark? F--- YO COUCH.
Michigan likes to talk about being a Big Boy. Before last year's Ohio State game Brandon said Michigan is "going back to hard-nosed, big-boy football." Whenever a journalist asks Hoke about the internet hordes clamoring for his head he says "it's a big-boy business."
You know who doesn't talk about being a big boy? Big boys*. People who talk about being a Big Boy wear short pants and ask their moms for a quarter so they can buy candy. Big boys don't look at yet another plate of crap and eat it with a sigh of disgust. At some point, big boys stand up for their dignity.
I don't see anything like that. I see the same mealy-mouthed coachspeak week after week, the same covering for his inept boss. Of course Dave Brandon's watching film with him.
Maybe that makes him a "great guy," as per the last possible defense of Hoke. I don't see it. He may be a nice guy; "great" at least requires you to have as much backbone as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
*[Except Big Boi, who is contractually obligated to say his name several times per minute as per the Rappist Identification Act Of 1985.]
[After THE JUMP: not much, honestly.]
How did I miss this? Maize and Blue Nation has a shot of team goals taken from within the locker room onto which he's photoshopped success or failure thus far. As you might imagine, there's a lot of failure. I'm more put off by one of the criteria:
Time of possession? In 2014? Ugh. Slowness as a virtue.
Sounds familiar. We're going to have to be really nice to Orson for his fundraiser this year because the man followed up Michigan-Penn State by actually attending the Mizzou-Florida game. In person and everything. In the flesh. To watch his team lose 42-13 to a team that gained fewer than 120 yards of offense. The resulting hot take:
4. This was expected, and almost comforting. It's a custom, slow-drip/ slow-pour kind of disaster. At one point in every fan's life there is a team coached by a person who trademarks a specific variation of loss, and then serves it until the Health Department closes it forever for numerous violations of common standards. For Florida, Will Muschamp is the hardworking barista at the local coffee shop who takes your order, brews your coffee without putting the water through any caffeine of any sort, and then pours it into your cup insisting its coffee. When you point it out, he shakes his head, grimaces, and mutters: "We'll get that sorted out. We're trying, and we'll get that fixed." Then he brews and pours another cup of hot water for you wonder why you keep coming to this stupid fucking coffee shop every time.
Brady Hoke sends you none pizza left beef no matter what you order, and when you call to complain he says it's really all about the kids who are making 8.15, no thanks to you.
Fantastic. Devin Gardner's profiled by Angelique Chengelis and what could make everything worse than it already is?
"I've been called the N-word so many times this year," Gardner said. "One guy told me I was the N-word, and said I know N-words can't play quarterback. And I was like, are we not past this? Say what you want about my skill, but come on."
I'm not surprised, but I'm still surprised. If Dave Brandon wants to fire off "find another team" emails to these gentlemen we are all behind that. I can only hope this is the usual 14-year-old-on-mom's-computer thing and not, like, actual adults, but I am almost certain I heard Dennis Norfleet described thusly by the Cumong Man guys at the 2012 Northwestern game so they're out there, being repulsive.
When Gardner's graduated (again) I hope we all buy him sandwiches and apologize on everyone else's behalf. I want Gardner to have to start his own charity to distribute the sandwiches he cannot eat, and then become such a sandwich expert he gets an honorary PhD in Meat Betwixt Bread. It's the least we can do.
Also in that article. I mean, even beyond the people who get shot into the sun it hasn't been a nice ride:
"It's hard to play effectively when you're continuously getting hit," Gardner said. "But that's the situation we're in. And my guys are trying as hard as they can, so I can't ask for anything else. I've just got to find a way, which I'm trying to do each week, so the stats aren't going to be there sometimes. It's just finding ways to win, that's it."
That's life at the moment, though pass protection has actually been pretty good the last few weeks. Maybe they can protect long enough to get some guys open downfield? Or covered downfield? I'm just asking for some downfield.
Case in point. Big plays: we do not have them.
The standout individual effort by Funchess gave the Wolverines their longest completion of the year and the longest play of any kind since a season-opening drubbing of Appalachian State
We seem to have swung too far the other way from Borges here.
And the guy we're not really trying to throw bombs to is… moving up on the SI draft board to 13th. Very frustrating.
THANK YOU BIG DADDY MAY I HAVE ANOTHER.
The block ‘M’ on Michigan’s campus has been painted green. pic.twitter.com/lGFvnXeVbv
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) October 22, 2014
The race to be SI's most embarrassing employee narrows. The results have come back in the Oklahoma State investigation spurred by the eighty-part investigative piece by Thayer Evans and they are…
The NCAA and Oklahoma State announced Tuesday that allegations of widespread misconduct in the football program outlined in a Sports Illustrated expose last year were "fundamentally unfounded.''
…as per usual when a university maniacally checks for ticks, Oklahoma State turned up a few Level II violations. (The NCAA revamped its punishment structure into a four-tier thing a couple years back; levels I and II would have been the "major" violation level, although as Michigan learned your major violations can be not particularly major.) The projected punishment for Thayer's lurid descriptions of cash, grade-fixing and ladyfun distributed willy-nilly: a couple scholarships over a couple years.
The three violations named in the notice of allegations include a failure to follow institutional policy concerning player punishments for positive drug tests; the organization of the "Orange Pride" support program through the football program rather than the university, meaning all campus hosting duties performed for prospective football recruits ran "contrary to NCAA legislation"; and a failure to monitor charge related to the first two violations.
Details on the drug policy:
Finding: On four occasions, the applicable penalty for failed drug tests was not applied, but TCG concluded athletic ability was not the reason.
The NCAA's notice of allegations says the school failed to follow policies regarding athlete drug use. It said five athletes from January 2008 and October 2012 tested positive for banned substances and were allowed to play without the required corrective or disciplinary action. In one case, the notice says an athlete was not dismissed after a fourth failed test and allowed the athlete to compete during the first half of the season. This would be an infraction.
That doesn't move my "you can't hire THAT guy" needle since I've heard tell of schools closer to home doing similar things, and nothing else in the lurid story Evans published was substantiated. Evans went full Rosenberg here.
If you're wondering about Mike Gundy's viability: if he's leavin' he's viable.
So with that in mind. Evans combines with similarly dubious Pete Thamel—he of the dead Manti Te'o girlfriend story—to project what might happen at Michigan and Florida. While they get off a depressingly accurate zinger by describing the handling of the Shane Morris concussion as "straight out of the Julie Hermann p.r. playbook" they burn everything to the ground by swinging wildly at coaching candidates like
GREG SCHIANO, who is hated by the entire NFL and couldn't get a job last year; in his two years in Tampa he managed to make Tom Coughlin a hero for chewing him out after he instructed his players to go after the opposition QB as he kneeled to see the game out.
JERRY KILL, who would be coming off one good(?) season in the watered-down Big Ten in which he lost 30-7 to TCU and beat Purdue by a point. Plus the whole seizure thing makes him a risk.
BRET BIELEMA… which… no. Jeff Long has reportedly done a fantastic job of reining in Bielema's fratty tendencies, but this one fails on legit cultural grounds.
They also say Mississippi State has nicer facilities than Michigan, to which I say YES, they may be more stable and YES their athletic department is not run like a crappy Domino's franchise but dammit we have shiny buildings that will go toe to toe with anyone's.
It's coming down for the CHL, too. Actual law talkin' guy Chris Heisenberg writes on the recently-filed lawsuit against the CHL that seeks minimum wage for players. They currently receive 50 dollars a week plus the vague promise of a scholarship down the road that evaporates if you play pro hockey for any appreciable length of time (including the AHL and below); makes you wonder why anyone would pick the CHL over the NCAA… oh right large under the table payments to top players.
Heisenberg forsees the CHL losing this battle as they are no longer even vaguely credible as non-profit-ish enterprises. CHL franchises are now worth millions. If that in fact happens the trickle-down effects are going to be considerable, and hard to project. Some of them:
- There won't be any more crocodile tears from the CHL about how the big bad NCAA makes their players ineligible despite being amateurs.
- Mid-tier players with options in both leagues might be more inclined to go junior. Hard to see this being a large effect since a lot of these guys are overagers in the NCAA and that group doesn't have a lot of overlap with 16-year old CHL draftees.
- Top players might be more inclined to go NCAA. The Big Ten has implemented a bunch of scholarship improvements and if the CHL has to play everyone down to the fourth line that would drain resources currently used to woo big stars.
- US CHL teams might be under threat. Nobody cares about the Plymouth Whalers and they are probably relocating to Canada; increased expenses for dubiously profitable enterprises may force the CHL's US outposts relocate to various Canadian suburbs.
SALT. Any present cracks against Michigan State are inappropriate, so let's take the long view from a salty Henry Phillip Tappan:
“It is better to have one great institution than half a dozen abortions,” proclaimed U-M’s first president. “One institution must be located somewhere because we cannot locate everywhere; let us not split it into little pieces which shall have no strength and value anywhere.”
I think I saw that guy yelling that Christian Hackenberg was a bum a couple weeks ago.
Jake Ryan, Jack Miller, Devin Gardner
Devin, as an in-state guy and your last shot at these guys, how much does this one mean to you?
DG: “It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to me every year so I’m just excited to get to the game.”
For Devin again, last year it was safe to say you got beat up pretty badly in the MSU game. Is there a mental hurdle that you have to clear yourself to get yourself prepared for this one?
For Jake: they have a pretty decent running game right now. Good wide receivers. How much have you and the defense talked about limiting the big plays [and] not allowing Langford to do what he does?
JR: “Yeah, that’s what our defense needs to do. Stopping the run’s been huge for us this year and we’ve got to keep on doing it. Lippett’s been a good receiver and we’ve got to shut him down.”
Devin, we were talking to coach Nussmeier and he said that he felt you made the biggest strides in understanding defenses this year. Talk about how that’s come about and the benefit of that for you.
DG: “I think it’s been really big for me, just being able to see what I need to see out there and it helps when you know where you want to go with the ball. You have to have an idea where you want to go with the ball, and he brought a lot of different coverages that we didn’t really know about and we didn’t really understand how they were played but we feel like we’re doing a good job of understanding now.”
Has that helped you a lot with pre-snap reads?
DG: “Yeah, definitely.”
[More after THE JUMP]
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]