"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
9/20/2014 – Michigan 10, Utah 26 – 2-2
[GIF via Ace]
We have a grainy screenshot that symbolizes the demise of the Carr era. It's a zone stretch against Ohio State on which every Buckeye has slashed through the Michigan line.
Michigan would trundle to fewer than 100 yards of total offense. Chad Henne's shoulder was separated and he was still the best available option because the only other was a freshman version of Ryan Mallett who fumbled 20% of the under-center snaps he took and got in screaming matches on the sideline. That's because the quarterbacks recruited after Chad Henne were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
By the time that Ohio State game rolled around Michigan had desperately talked Alex Mitchell out of retirement so they could start him. In that context that shot is barely surprising. And then Carr went out and beat Tim Tebow, because nobody got off the mat like Lloyd Carr.
We have just received the grainy screenshot that will symbolize the demise of the Hoke era.
As you've no doubt screamed into a pillow about already, there are ten men on the field as Utah returns a punt for a touchdown. I'm not sure that even matters since two of them are within 30 yards of the guy when he catches the ball.
This site has been complaining about the punting since Hoke's hire, and it has cost Michigan dearly in two losses—Ace Sanders also returned a punt for a touchdown in South Carolina's last-gasp Outback win—and seen Michigan dawdle at the bottom of punt return yards ceded the last two years.
Worse than the yards given up has been Brady Hoke's approach when challenged about it. Never has he given a justification that's even remotely plausible. Once he said he wasn't comfortable with it. At the time I said this was a crappy answer, and it remains a crappy answer:
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
When pressed a couple weeks ago he said "I don't want to talk about it."
As we get more data about Brady Hoke's tenure that seems less like an isolated crappy answer than the whole damn thing. Anybody with a spreadsheet and an ability to tell up from down could have put compelling evidence of the spread punt's efficacy in front of Hoke's face. Maybe they did.
It wouldn't have mattered. Brady Hoke isn't defending it, so you can't argue back. "We don't do it because we don't do it" is an unassailable position. It is not a rationale.
So it goes. Michigan has settled into a pattern of doing nonsense things, from everything on offense last year to the punting to their continuing, shocking inability to go faster than a waddle. That stat from last week about how Michigan was faster than only Army amongst D-I teams is astounding. Michigan had spent an entire half down three scores, and their tempo was still nationally worst. These things all come from the head coach.
When Michigan goes down by ten, it's over. Lloyd Carr isn't walking through that door. You want to talk leadership and toughness? Leadership turns a mob into an army. And Michigan is no army.
The worst thing is I don't really feel that bad. My main problem at the moment is the fact that I have to write this column, and then somehow eight more, and analyze a team that is unlikely to go anywhere and talk about a coach who is 95% dead man walking. I bet you can't wait for "Yup, Almost Certainly Still Fired: Episode VI". Here is the otter.
HENRI THE OTTER OF ENNUI: this does not break the record for earliest appearance
I fired off some hot takes in the stands, as did large numbers of the people around me, but once I was out of the stadium it was like "okay, now I can go do something else."
I even watched football after! A Michigan loss is supposed to be a weekend-ruining event that makes the idea of watching more football an impossibility. Now it's not a big deal, possibly because I don't recognize whatever Michigan is doing as football. I cannot be reminded of Michigan when turning on Clemson-FSU because Clemson and FSU aren't playing sludgefart.
I know this isn't an aging and maturing thing because 1) obviously and 2) I almost died just a few months ago when Kentucky hit that three-pointer. There's just nothing there to care about. So you show up, and you shrug, and you get annoyed, and then you go home. Sometimes you get wet. Meh.
It was appropriate that Hoke's downfall came amidst a biblical deluge. The Hoke era started with one against Western Michigan. The game was over when the lightning came, but I stayed. A bunch of students did, too, roaring and chanting. When the game was over the stadium was still half-full.
There was no thought of that Saturday. Everyone except the players' parents, Utah fans, and the clinically insane cleared out as soon as the stoppage was announced. Maybe half of them had already exited before the lightning hit.
When Michigan returned to play in front of the obligated and deranged, it looked like the future had finally been created.
Take the cosmic hint.
When Can We Fire This Guy Section
There is still a small (very small) chance that Michigan pulls its collective head from its collective rear and gets to 9-3, at which point a transition is probably not happening. Anything short of that and it's goodbye. Hoke is at the point where you extend or fire him and you can't extend a guy who went 8-4 in the worst Big Ten ever, presumably went 0-3 against major rivals, had at least two humiliating blowouts starring coaching incompetence.
But please don't bring up a midseason canning. Those are reserved for severe breakdowns of authority. Most importantly, firing Hoke now erases any chance there's a new athletic director by the time Michigan embarks on a coaching search.
John Beilein Being Good At Coaching Points Of The Week.
#1 Jourdan Lewis had an outstanding game, chasing things down that other people screwed up and hunting Utah wide receivers like they were weakened alpacas.
#2 Willie Henry scored Michigan's only touchdown and was part of a forceful Michigan defensive line.
#3 Devin Funchess powered through an obvious injury to bring in a number of spectacular catches and would have had an even more impactful game if Gardner was not having one of the worst games of his career.
Honorable mention: Ryan Glasgow, Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer.
Epic Double Point Standings.
7: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND, #3 UT)
5: Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA, #1 UT)
4: Willie Henry(#2 ND, #2 UT)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Trey Burke Against Kansas Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN
mr henry this is an internet meme it's not my fault please don't destroy me [Fuller]
For all the good it did. ESPN briefly gave Michigan 12 points they were so astounded, which should be the FAT GUY TD rule.
Honorable mention: Nope!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
Utah: Willie Henry FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Miami takes back a punt 66 yards after Michigan obliges with a line drive punt and two gunners. Oh, and they only put ten guys on the field.
Honorable mention: Interceptions. Fumbles. Hellacious rain. Everything.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
Utah: lol ask Brady about punt formations again
[After the JUMP: woo! naw just kiddin'.]
FORMATION NOTES: Hello tiny TEs. Michigan used a lot of formations where they would bring a wide receiver tight to the line to act as a blocker. Here's Chesson in what I called "pistol biggish," because it's only big-ish.
For its part, Miami ran an under front whenever presented with seven blockers for the opposition, and about 90% of the time brought a safety down late or just lined him up in the box.
This press look was not common.
Miami would roll that safety down before this snap, FWIW.
Michigan used a lot more under center stuff in this game. Under center stuff was approximately 55% of the offense after being maybe 20% against ND, and there were a lot of tight ends. Only about 40% of Michigan's snaps had 3 WRs, again way down from ND.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line static: Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden. I saw Kalis in for the last drive, and I thought I saw him earlier in the game live but either I missed it in the film review or my mind was playing tricks on me. 61/67 are not easy to distinguish. Burzynski got in at the tail end at left guard.
Gardner QB; RB mostly Green, with less Smith and Hayes relegated to third down duties and some late stuff. Johnson did not appear. Mo Hurst(!) got a goal line FB snap. Showy, but a dollar says Kerridge is more effective. At TE, Butt got a little bit more time but it was still mostly Williams and Hill, with Heitzman again appearing sporadically.
Without Funchess, Darboh and Chesson were the main guys at WR, with Norfleet marginalized with a ton of 2TE sets. Damario Jones got about as much playing time than Canteen, making the first catch of the game.
[After THE JUMP: yards, eventually, and yet more infinite RB discussion.]
FORMATION NOTES: We're a… shotgun spread offense with personnel exactly like Rich Rodriguez's preferred 1 RB, 1 blocky/catchy, 3 WR?
We were in this game. Take off… er… put everyone in identical uniforms and don't check to see which team has the 6'5" giant at WR and you would have no idea which team was which based on presnap alignments. Excluding short yardage and two snaps inside the Michigan 5, Michigan had 49 shotgun snaps, five from the pistol, 7 in ace and zero I-Form.
This wasn't quite as WR heavy as that would imply as you can see Kerridge split to flanker in the above shot, something that happened half a dozen times. But… yeah, it looked like a callback to 2010 minus non-scramble QB runs, of which there was one.
Michigan deployed Kerridge all over; here he's the H-back.
And they deployed a few instances of what I call "Pistol FB," which indicates there's a dude next to Gardner and a TE.
Michigan ran a version of this where the "FB" was Norfleet, once from the pistol and once from the gun. Norfleet also motioned to the backfield for a two-back look.
Now if the next time Michigan uses my preferred offensive style if they could just score some points that would be cool.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden the whole way. Gardner QB obviously; Green was the starting RB and vaguely the top guy, with Smith getting close to equal time and Hayes getting some third down snaps.
WR was a rotation between Funchess, Darboh, Chesson, and Norfleet with nobody else getting in IIRC. Hill and Williams saw almost all the TE snaps save a handful Butt got early; Kerridge also played H-back frequently.
[After THE JUMP: why don't you try running INTO the hole this time?]
News bullets and other items:
- Hoke will tell us if someone is out for the year. That’s about all you can expect as far as injury updates go.
- Graham Glasgow is taking snaps at center and right guard.
- Hoke thought the team prepared well last week.
- He emphasized red zone defense and finishing drives as the two areas that most need to improve.
- Matt Wile and Kenny Allen will compete for kicking duties.
“Thanks for coming. You know, as far as where we’re at as a team, we went back to work yesterday and the attitude and how our guys have stayed together, the leadership throughout the team has been awfully positive. I like the work ethic and I still like the work ethic from a physical and mental standpoint. You always evaluate where you're at and what you need to do and what could you have done differently and we've done that. We've talked about it from coaching staff-wise, from player-wise. Preparation was awesome throughout the week. It was as good as I've been around. Preparation in Michigan City at the hotel was awesome. Feel very good about our football team in a lot of ways. We've got to prepare. We got to execute a little better but as far as where this team's at I'm excited. We understand that our goals are still out there and now we've got to turn to Miami and be back at home with our students and the Michigan fans and go back to work."
How does the defensive approach have to change when you lose some key people like out of the secondary? I think you talked about when you can press man and when you had to back off of that.
“Well, I do think you've got to know your personnel. Number one, you want to make sure you put your personnel in positions so that they can be successful. In the second half we played more zone and from a defensive standpoint there were some things that we need to be tighter on. Some technique issues that we've got to clean up. Sometimes that happens when guys gets in certain environments where your fundamentals and techniques are everything. I thought we lost that and some of that is the environment that you're in. You either speed up – and I think we did that a little bit because of that or you just lose your fundamentals and techniques. So to answer your question yeah, you look at it and you change it a little bit."
Talk about having Jake Butt back and what his ceiling is. You look at his tools and where his ceiling is; where might he go?
"Well, you know, Jake was kind of a gametime decision in some ways and didn't play a lot of snaps but we'll see how he progresses. I think we’re going to be very cognizant of where he is from a physical standpoint and what's too much. We do the same thing in practice, what's too much and what's not. The technology today with some of the GPS things we’re into teaches a lot and you learn a lot. Health and wellness issues are part of that and talking about Jake is making sure we are doing the right things with him."
Talk about his…
"Well, we think he’s a very good football player. He ended up last year very well. I think he's learned a lot and he's one of those guys who is on the leadership council that isn't afraid to, even though he's a young guy, speak his mind and give his true reactions and feelings."
Talk about some of the positives and the improvement in the run defense.
"Well, the front seven I thought he did a pretty good job from that standpoint. Guys that we rotated throughout in the middle of the defense, I think they were aggressive. I thought they were gaps sound. I think Willie [Henry] may have had the most production of all of them but he and Ryan [Glasgow] as a group in there, I thought they did a nice job. That was a physical offensive line and so we got to take from what they did last week into this week and improve upon that."
Devin Funchess- we saw him leave the game and come back in. How’s he doing?
"He's fine. I'm not going to talk about any injuries but he's fine."
Did he workout and everything yesterday?
"He was in the building yesterday, yeah."
[After THE JUMP: pointed words about a lack of faith in the Big Ten, Hoke’s message for Michigan fans, and more player-specific non-injury-related questions]
Funchess, Gardner, Taylor
This one’s for Devin and Devin. That first half you came out and really made a statement. What was going through your mind? Especially, Devin, with that back of the endzone catch. What was one your minds in that first half?
Funchess: “The preparation and practice. We prepared from the later parts of camp and then the week before the game so it was just preparation and practice. We were just doing it just like we practiced. Pitch and catch, and that’s what you saw on Saturday.
Gardner: “We were just in really good sync and you could see the work we put in through the-
/Devin Funchess is told his mic isn’t on.
Funchess: “You mean I’ve got to repeat what I said? I told you it wasn’t on. I tried to check it.”
/laughter. The picture above is taken.
Gardner: “As I was saying, I feel like our preparation throughout camp, like you said. I feel like we were in really good sync and that’s pretty much it. Just focus on what we had to do one each play. Not look forward or look back.”
Raymon, Brady told us you played probably the best football game that you played. That’s pretty high praise because you know how coaches are, they don’t every want to come out and say that. Talk about your performance in that game and also look forward to Notre Dame and what your greatest concern is.
Taylor: “I’ve been working a lot on technique through fall camp. Just keep coming to work and keep working hard technique-wise. He said I did great technique[-wise]. They didn’t throw too much but my technique was great. For Notre Dame I just want to come out and compete and just keep working and just get the job done.
What about Everett Golson? What kind of problems does he create because he’s one of those quarterbacks like Devin who can beat you with the run?
RT: “He’s fast. He can get out of the pocket and sling the ball up. He can make plays and beat you deep if you get off your man so he’s an explosive player.”
After watching film, Ray, what was the best part of the defensive performance on Saturday?
RT: “The defensive backs pressing a lot. They said we were a defense that played off a lot so we came up to press. The technique was great on Saturday, but that was last week. We’re looking forward to Notre Dame week.”
This is for any of the players. When you look at the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry what stands out about it for you and what does the rivalry going on hiatus take away from college football, or does it take anything away from college football?
DG: “I feel like it’s a great rivalry. You don’t really have to talk abut what kind of rivalry it is, everybody knows. The type of impact it has on college football and they type of implications it has around the country in the past so, yeah, that’s pretty much it.”
[After THE JUMP: Devin Gardner says the thing you probably saw on Twitter but should still read in context]
file because I need to remember to shoot landscape
A number of players commented on the offensive side about how they enjoy having you on the sideline being able to communicate during the game. How did you think that went? Just talk in general about the pluses and minuses of being there.
“Well, you know, one of the biggest things when you’re down on the field you get a much better feel for the players, their state of mind. You can look them right in the eyes and get a feel for where you think you’re at from a mental standpoint and one of the things you do lose, you don’t get the visual effects you can see from upstairs. So, it is important and great communication from the guys in the box. Our staff did a great job, and that was something we talked about going in to the game and went back and talk about it yesterday. How we can do things better, what we did well just as far as a communication standpoint from the field to the box and vice versa.”
Against Appalachian State in the second quarter you’re already up by 35. Knowing that Notre Dame’s coming up do you kind of limit the playbook a little bit to save things for this week?
“As with any game we go in with a game plan and go in to execute the game plan as best we possibly can. Obviously we weren’t going to reinvent the wheel or do anything we hadn’t planned or talked about doing so we stuck with the game plan throughout.”
With coach VanGorder, you’ve gone against him before, you were at Alabama and he was at Auburn. Talk about that and obviously the personnel is different but how you might both be inside each other’s heads a little more than typical.
“Brian’s an outstanding coach. I have a great deal of respect for him. If you look at his track record and what he’s done throughout his career he’s an outstanding football coach sp obviously he presents a lot of challenges for you and that’s why we’ve been in the film room buried all day trying to find a nugget here or there to give us an advantage.”
What were your thoughts on the new look offensive line and especially Mason Cole and how he took his first college game in stride?
“I thought Mason did a nice job. Talked about it a little bit last week, nothing’s too big for him. He’s a young player and we knew that going into the game there were going to be some things that happened and obviously the one sack that occurred, but it’s not about the sack, it’s how you react to it. We talk to our guys a lot about ‘play the next play’ and it’s not about whether the play before was a great play or a bad play because it really doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant now. Thought he did an outstanding job, very focused, very level-headed. Played a good football game.”
Brady said he wanted a little more precision out of the offense going into the Notre Dame game. What does need to be fine tuned or improved going into this weekend?
“What doesn’t need to be improved, I guess, would be the question. We’ve got a long way to go. I hit on it a little bit last week. Consistency in performance. Our ability to perform at a high level each and every day. We’re not there yet. We play well in stretches and at times we don’ do things the way we need to do them so we’ll get back to the practice field tomorrow and it’s important that we have another great work of practice and get better each and every time we go out.”
There was some talk in the preseason about maybe the defense holding things up while the offense developed. You didn’t want to hear that. Did you use that for motivation, and was the first game important in terms of your guys proving a point about being able to move the football on the ground?
“Every game’s important. Every play’s important. It’s about our players and we talked about our youth. Every time we go out it’s important that we focus and get better. I said it last week, we’re doing things better and some days it doesn’t look like it and you say, ‘wow, that was a tough practice’ or ‘that wasn’t the way we wanted things to go’ and then you go in and evaluate and you say ‘we did get better in this area.’ I talked about it, it’s going to be about us continuing to grow and developing that consistency to do it well on a day-to-day basis.”
[After THE JUMP: Devin Funchess hyperbole or just Devin Funchess eeeeeeeeee?]