to play football, not to play trumpet
Denard Robinson and David Molk
The color is weird on some of these because I forgot to change my camera settings until halfway through.
David, can you talk about the poise of your quarterback and the mindset in the huddle during the game?
Molk: “I mean, he did great. It’s apparent how he’s matured throughout the season, how he’s matured with me watching after him. He did great. As an offense, we did great. We drove down the field. We were always composed. We were always ready for another drive. There was absolutely nothing that was going to stop us today.”
For both of you, can you put in words what this win that was seven years in the making means to you?
Molk: “I mean, seven years really doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that we won today. That’s all that counts. This is a game that I played in. This is a game that we played in today --”
Denard: “Oh yeah.”
Molk: “And this means the world to us.”
Can you talk about the emotion of the last couple minutes when the touchdown got called back and then they had the ball?
Denard: “We just said we had to do it again. We have to try and score again. That’s it.
Molk: “Yeah, and just to relate to what he said. Obviously we’ve been through stuff like this [going] back to Notre Dame and games last year. This is something that we’re used to. We never give up. Doesn’t really matter what happens, we know how to fight through it.”
Denard, your center just said you weren’t going to be denied. It looked like you specifically on a lot of those runs weren’t going to be denied. Was that your mentality there?
Denard: “Yeah. I was out there playing for the seniors. I played my heart out, and the guys did too. That’s what happened.”
This was probably the most efficient performance of your career. What went into that?
Denard: “I was just doing what I had to do -- playing for the seniors and playing for Michigan.”
Molk: “He’s matured as a quarterback and matured as a player. That’s a natural progression when you get more games and more plays. He’s done great.”
Borges has talked about big plays being important to your offense. Can you comment on your ability to be a quick-strike offense?
Molk: “I mean, you always want to score as fast as possible. Depends on the situation, but I mean, hell, if you can get 60 yards or 20 yards whenever you want it -- I think that most of our plays can break like that. It just depends on how they’re blocked. If they’re blocked correctly, they can go.”
Can you talk about what Brady Hoke is trying to infuse in this team and program?
Molk: “He is us, we are him. I love him. I love how he coaches. I love his leadership ability and how he does it. I’d do anything for him.”
Ablauf: “Denard, do you want to answer that?”
Denard: “I guess he wants everybody to be accountable for everything we do. That’s what we do every time, all the time.”
Can you touch on why the running game was so effective today and throughout the season?
Denard: (points to Molk) “Big guys up front. They open holes, and me and Fitz run through the holes.”
Molk: “When you’ve got a guy that fast, he makes plays. Same with Fitz. Those two can hit a hole, and they know where to go, and they know how to read a defense throughout.”
Emotions of last couple minutes, same question as above.
Molk: “When the interception came, it was kind of a, ‘There it is.’ That’s what we needed to turn. That’s the momentum changer we needed to completely lock this game down. The defense stepped up. They did what they had to do when the time came. This was a team win. It wasn’t an offensive victory. This was a team victory against Ohio State.”
Can you touch on the fact that this is the first time in a long time that Michigan has had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season?
Molk: “I mean, it’s great. That’s a credit [to] our schemes as an offense. It’s a credit to Coach Borges. It’s a credit to Coach Hoke. It’s a credit to this guy.” (Puts arm around Denard) “It’s a credit to Fitz and the rest of our backs. It’s a credit to our receivers for blocking. It’s a credit to the offensive line for playing their heart out on every play.”
What does it mean to you as being one of the runners?
Denard: “I’m just glad to be in the offense. I’m glad to be playing with these guys. I want to be nowhere else but with these guys … I’m glad I stayed.”
For a senior class that’s gone through so much, how does it feel to finish the regular season like this?
Molk: “It couldn’t feel any better. Going through what we’ve gone through -- this is my third coach, third offensive coordinator, third O-line coach, third strength coach. It’s been a lot, and it’s been a rollercoaster that for some reason seemed like it would never get good. But you know what, we kept fighting. It’s just like the old saying goes, ‘Those who stay will be champions.’ We all stayed, we all stayed together, we all were one as a senior class, and we made sure our entire group -- our entire team -- stayed with us. That’s why we are where we are now. It feels great.”
Denard, this week you passed Tom Brady in career touchdown passes.
Denard: “I really don’t look at stats. I’m just glad to be a part of the team. Whatever happened that’s good for the team, that’s what I did.”
Where did that postgame celebration thingy come from?
Molk: “I mean, that’s something we’ve done every Friday. We have a little short practice, and at the end of the practice, we do our take-a-knee formation. Take a knee, we all get together, Denard throws the ball up to the ceiling, and once it hits, like a bomb explodes, we all fall.”
Your offensive coordinator took a lot of heat for the short-yardage call against Michigan State. Talk about his guts to come back to that play.
Molk: “I mean, he’s an offensive genius. I love how he calls plays. You could question some of them, but at the same time, they’re absolutely genius when they work. I love what he does.”
Ablauf: “You wanna say anything, Denard?”
Denard: “Same thing.”
Hoke made the senior day activities very personal. Was that somewhat of a surprise?
Molk: “I don’t know if it was necessarily a surprise. Then again, I haven’t seen the past senior day kind of things. That’s who Coach Hoke is. He’s a very personal coach. He’s almost a friend. If I ever came back 20 years from now, the first guy I’d find -- I’d call Coach Hoke. That’s who he is.”
Molk: “Kisses? I don’t let him kiss me.”
Hoke wasted no time building up this rivalry when he got here. Was there anything he said before, during, or after the game today that drove it home to you guys?
Molk: “I mean, I don’t think there wasn’t necessarily anything that he’s said other than preparation that he’s given us over the past 12 weeks for this entire season. It came down to what the seniors put out. I spoke to the team multiple times. Koger spoke to the team multiple times. We all put in our two cents and brought this team tightly together and focused on one goal: beating Ohio.”
How would you describe your feelings after playing your last game here?
Molk: “You know, like I just said with his question, it’s been a long time. We’ve been through a lot of stuff, but then again, in the end, you truly realize what this place means. The power that that block M has on your chest. I love Michigan. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t care what we had to go through. I love this school, I love this university, I love this team, I love my teammates, I love my coaches. This is great. This is what college football is. I’ll never forget it.”
If you reflect on the past year, how much more do you think you’ve thought about Ohio State than in previous years?
Molk: “Probably 1,000 times more. That was the foucs of everything. We said ‘Beat Ohio’ after every team meeting. We said ‘Beat Ohio’ after almost every team breakdown on the field. This is what we wanted, and we wanted to prove it and we did it.”
Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen
OSU had more success against you than you probably expected, but can you talk about the defense making that last play at the end and having the game rest on your shoulders?
Van Bergen: “We were kind of, I think, as a defense, embarrassed that we had given up that original touchdown. We mixed up two coverages -- the exact same coverage -- twice. We feel like we let our offense down. Our offense performed spectacularly today. There’s no other word to describe it. They were excellent. Defensively, we’ve been excellent all year. We really wanted to be able to let the offense hand the ball off to us, so to speak, and let us take this game in for them, and we let them down once. We said, as we came over to the bench, ‘It’s not happening again. No way.’ Coach let us dial up a couple different things, let us run a couple stunts inside that were successful, and we came up with a big play.”
Did they do anything to surprise you or were they just a lot better than you thought?
Martin: “They’re a good team. They did a good job executing on their side of it, and they were successful with a few things. Defensively, we wish we wouldn’t have given up some things, but like I said, we made a few adjustments in the fourth quarter, and up front, with our line, running a few stunts and they were successful. We knew it was going to come down, and for it to come down for us defensively was something that we were going to put on our back and make sure we came through for this team.”
You guys have been here for a long time and have been through a lot. What’s your emotion right now?
Martin: “You know, the mix of the excitement of winning, and also this is my last game with this guy, the seniors, and this time, and this stadium -- it’s bittersweet, I guess I could say, but it’s a special place to be.”
Van Bergen: “I’d like to add to that. An amazing amount of pride -- that was one of the best team games we’ve played regardless of the score, regardless of the stats. The offense performed. Underclassmen, seniors, defense performed when they were asked to step up. I think me and Mike as seniors and leaders of this team couldn’t be more proud of all the guys. Every single player.”
How do you feel about finally getting it done against Ohio State on your last shot at them?
Van Bergen: “I think me and Mike would probably agree that we’ve been hoping since we were kids that we would get the opportunity to win a Michigan-Ohio game and it be on our backs. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque situation as far as coach saying, ‘Ryan, Mike, Craig, and Jake, you guys do what you want up front. We’re going to play a coverage behind you, and hopefully you can get there with four men.’ Allowed us to that. Me and Mike had a pretty big play, I think on second down or something like that. It was amazing. It was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Can you talk about your legacy and what it means to you?
Martin: “You know, we’re just really caught up in this right now. That’s something we worked so hard to get to this point and make sure that we were successful and how much we’ve harped on this game. This was a big game for us and this program. For us to take this step as a team is huge and something we’re never going to forget. These fans and this fanbase will never forget, I think. Whatever happens, happens for the bowl game, and we’ll take that and look at that when the time comes.”
How big was the goal-line stop to force an OSU field goal?
Van Bergen: “I mean, it’s almost like it was a metaphor for our season. We’ll give up some plays, we’ll give up first downs, but you get us in a short yardage situation as a defense and make us feel like we’ve got our backs pinned up against it, we’re successful. We emphasize that. We practice it all the time. It’s been consistent, I think, throughout our season. Third and one, third and two, short yardage, you’re gonna try to run the ball on us? We’ve been good at it. And Jibreel Black -- give him credit, because he made a tremendous play on that boot. That’s probably one of the best plays I’ve ever seen him make. Being very disciplined against a really good athlete.”
Can you talk about your relationship with Coach Hoke as defensive linemen?
Martin: “I’ve grown so close to Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison as well. Coach Hoke, he coaches the nose guards a lot, so we sit in his office and we spend time with each other, watching film, whatever it might be. The guy really cares about this program and these guys, and he’s the most genuine coach that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with and be coached by. I know Ryan and the rest of the guys on the team will say the same thing. He’s a guy that truly bleeds maize and blue and really cares about these guys. To get [the win] for him and this program and my fellow seniors, that’s what it’s all about.”
What was it like watching two touchdowns get wiped off the board at the end?
Van Bergen: “I swear, we have the most touchdowns called back on review. I don’t even like review anymore. You know, actually looking back at it, yeah I mean, it was disheartening, but at the same time, our defense had already made up its minds that we want this game to come down to being on us. The fact that it added a little pressure to us probably made us excel in that situation a little more. We probably would have been a bit more passive had we scored that touchdown. I think the aggression and the way we went out and came after the quarterback and jumped routes and stuff, I think we did a tremendous job with that.”
What was the mood like around the team on Friday?
Martin: “The most intense focus that this team has had the entire season. We’ve done a great job of preparing through the week, and that’s something that Coach has talked about since day one. We’ve done a great job from Sunday and Monday and all the way up to the game, preparing and doing whatever we can to make sure we’re successful. The guys on this team knew, like Coach says, ‘Whatever your role is, do it with the most intensity and the hardest and the best that you can.’ Each and every guy did that, and that’s what it came down to.”
Van Bergen: “Like Mike said, everybody was extremely intense, extremely focused. I would say we were perfectly at the edge of confident and cocky, meaning we were still on the confident side and we were full of confidence, but no one had underestimated or overlooked Ohio as a team. They’re a tremendous team, their record doesn’t indicate how good of a team they are, and yeah there’s hatred between the rivalries, but you have to respect an opponent. We had a good amount of respect for them -- just enough -- and we balanced that with confidence. You could sense there was a really good vibe going around on the team.”
Can you talk about the coaches allowing you to call your own plays on the defensive line?
Martin: “You know, I really just think it comes down that Coach has a lot of faith in us up front. The senior leadership up front, and for us to be able to communicate and recognize things, it’s on our part of being smart players. Ryan does a great job of recognizing things and echoing it down the line. When we do it together, it’s just something where Coach can give us the green light when it comes to certain situations. He has the faith that we’ll get the job done.”
Van Bergen: “I think our film study’s unparalleled throughout college football. We watch so much film we’re prepared for the play before it happens. I think we all do a great job with that defensively all around.”
You have seen a lot of Denard’s great games. Do you think this is one of the best games if not THE best game he’s ever played at Michigan?
Van Bergen: “I don’t know if I’d say it’s his best game he's ever played at Michigan. He’s had like 500 yards of total offense before. I don’t know what he had today, but you could tell that this game mattered big time to Denard. The way he ran that ball, you have not seen him run that ball the way he did with the style that he did in a while, just because he was getting first downs, moving the sticks, dropping shoulders. I couldn’t be more proud of him and the rest of the underclassmen who, you could tell, were just fighting with every breath they had for the upperclassmen, the seniors.
Martin: “I saw on one play, Denard lowered his shoulder like Ryan said, and I’m looking at Ryan like, ‘Man, look at this guy.’ I’m expecting him to do it, but the intensity he did it with and he had no doubt in his mind he was going to get the hard yards and the first downs and the touchdowns. Ryan’s like, we want to win, the guy wants to win. It’s just that feeling where everyone was pulling their weight and doing what they could do to make sure Michigan won today.”
How badly did Michigan need this win?
Van Bergen: “I want to say that Michigan probably needed this win to solidy what we did this season as a program. I didn’t want to say it before the game because I didn’t want to put the pressure on my teammates and stuff like that, but I think it solidifies what we’ve done this year as a team. This game is more than a win in the column. It’s bigger than that. It encompasses way more and our team feels like we finished the season. I think our team, all our teammates emphasized that. We finished the season and we went out the way we wanted to go out. We went 8-0 at home for the first time, I think, ever. Just amazing. So proud of everyone on the team. The team effort was amazing.”
What’s the last snapshot you take from Michigan Stadium today?
Martin: “I told someone earlier that Ryan and I and Will Heininger went out to the field after, and we just kind of stood out there and soaked it in and look at what this team had done. It’s special and it’s something that we’ll never forget that we did together.”
Van Bergen: “I think my biggest memory ever is going to be talking to Mike postgame -- me and Mike had a conversation. I’m not going to go into it, but just knowing that we accomplished what we accomplished and achieving that goal was huge for a lot of us.”
Kevin Koger and Jordan Kovacs
Can you talk about your touchdown catch as maybe the culminating moment of your career?
Koger: “I’ve always said my dream has always been to catch a touchdown in the Ohio State-Michigan game. I finally did that, so that means a lot to me and my family. It was a great play call. I was fortunate enough to slip inside the end and run to the corner wide open. Denard found me wide open. He could have run it, but I was so wide open I guess he found me.”
Kevin, what were some of things you said to the team as an Ohio guy this week?
Koger: “I mean, it’s different than any game we’ve played all season. It was definitely the most physical game I played in personally -- I can’t speak for everybody else. It was definitely a lot more physical and the mistakes we had earlier in the year, that wasn’t going to cut it. That wouldn’t have won us the game.”
Kevin, what was going through your head after the game was over? Did you think about guys you played with who never beat Ohio State?
Koger: “First and foremost I wanted to just find a teammate to celebrate with, and I found a lot of those. Guys were running around there crazy like a chicken with its head cut off. But just like the Martell Webbs of the world and the Jon Ferraras of the world that didn’t get a chance to beat Ohio State, hopefully they can live through us because we definitely did it for them and the team.”
Jordan, what were you struggling with as a defense today?
Kovacs: “Well we knew that they were going to be a tough offense to stop. Braxton Miller’s a great quarterback. He made some big plays, he’s going to make some plays for them in the future. I think he got loose a couple times, made some big plays, and defensive backs, we probably didn’t do a good enough job of keeping the ball inside and in front. We gave up a couple big plays. We had guys like Kevin on offense to bail us out and make some big plays for us. We’re excited about the win and we’ll take it. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it’ll do.”
Have either of you heard Hoke say the words “Ohio State”?
Koger: “Nope. Nope.”
Kovacs: “Haven’t heard it.”
Did he ever explain why?
Koger: “No. Just an unexplained mystery, I guess.”
Jordan, considering how much the defense struggled in this game, how excited were you to have that final defensive stand at the end, and was it appropriate the final play was intercepted by a defensive back?
Kovacs: “Right. As a defensive player you wouldn’t want it any other way. To be playing Ohio in the Big House, the defense has to make a stop. We had an opportunity to redeem ourselves and Courtney came up with the big play. At that point, I was kind of looking for the flag. I figured there’s got to be one coming. I ran to Courtney and celebrated, and it was an exciting win. It wasn’t pretty, like I said, but we’ll take it.”
Does this game and this season mean Michigan is back?
Kovacs: “We hope so, you know. We are excited with the 10-win season and beating Ohio, but there’s still work left to do. We strive to win Big Ten championships. We didn’t get that done, but we’re going to enjoy this win and we’re going to enjoy the bowl game.”
Koger: “What he said.”
For a few weeks now people have been asserting that Denard Robinson has not been right. I wasn't sure what to make of those complaints since we didn't really get to see him in the open field much. After Nebraska, the answer appears to be "speed just fine, thanks" even if Lavonte David did hack him down on a couple of potential big gainers.
But, yeah, I do think something isn't right with Denard. That is not necessarily injury. Against Nebraska I've had more "argh" moments in re: Denard running than I've had in a long time. There was this:
That's a scramble on Michigan's botched end-of-half drive on which Denard, presented with a massive hole straight upfield, tries to bounce outside and gets tackled for a three yard gain—in bounds. Michigan ended up getting nothing here when making the really obvious cut (Denard knows the corner will be keeping leverage as his top priority) sees them set up with a first and ten near field goal range or better.
There was this on a play where Martavious Odoms came in motion to be a pitch man:
Denard handed off there when Nebraska had one guy containing two on the edge; Hopkins thumped straight ahead for three yards. Robinson keeps showing up in the run minus category because he's not pulling when the corner opens up like whoah.
Even when Denard did pull he made some inexplicable decisions. Here's one.
It's first and ten on the Michigan something or other and Michigan is in some variety of formation. So is Nebraska. I'm not entirely sure what they are because the director in this game comes from the Michigan Stadium Replay Guy school of framing where everything is a super tight closeup. I assume Michigan is in a standard three-wide set. You can see the slot to the bottom of the screen; M will have a WR on the line outside of him. The other guy could be in a trips formation below or to the top of the screen away outside.
Nebraska appears to be in a straight nickel with a safety as support.
Michigan runs a basic inside zone read, leaving the backside guy unblocked and flaring Koger out.
The above is the mesh point. Robinson is reading the end. The end is square but he is in shuffle mode.
What's shuffle mode?
Remember that period in 2009 when Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor would slam up the backside of the line and run untouched into the endzone? That was Michigan's response to various games defenses were playing with the backside end. The shuffle is the DL's response to that response. He is protecting the soft spot behind the backside tackle that the zone read often causes. He's not really containing the QB, though he's a lot more useful on a keeper than someone screaming down the line. He's more of an RB defender.
Michigan's started seeing this because they brought back the RR H-back inside zone where there is a guy cracking back on this DE.
On the next frame Robinson has just pulled it:
Denard Robinson is Denard Robinson. Koger has flared out to seal the playside linebacker. There is no slot to the top of the screen. Robinson is about to run to the corner for a billio—
I SAID, ROBINSON IS ABOUT TO RUN TO THE COR—
Robinson does run past Meredith and David but Huyge can't extend his block on that defensive end, and that defensive end…
…eats Denard after a two yard gain.
Items of interest
Yeah, this is kind of the same thing Scheelhaase did last week. You know, this:
The difference between the plays is that Scheelhaase screwed up his read and pulled when the defensive end was upfield in a QB contain mode. It was a plan B, one that worked. Here Michigan's plan A is "Denard in a race with a defensive end going the other way." That's a good plan. Let's try that.
It does almost work, but Huyge isn't great and he loses his guy. If Michigan sustains that block they get a decent gain.
Note the difference in the defensive ends. Clark is not shuffling down the line. He's a couple yards further outside and a yard in the backfield. Meredith is at the LOS and tucked in behind a Michigan OL. That should be enough to get Denard the corner but…
Denard seems hesitant. I don't know what the deal is. Unless there's something outside the frame that's relevant—not likely—it's really weird that Robinson wouldn't just run outside. Feel the panic in this linebacker:
That is a man going "oh shiiiiiiii" in slo-mo. He's done and Denard pops outside the DE and is dealing with that safety. Maybe he gets five yards. Maybe he gets ALL OF THE YARDS.
In recent weeks it seems like he's been less of a north-south guy. In this game he is way less of a read threat than he needs to be. In just the first half of last week's game you've got the above three plays, a speed option on which Denard cuts all the way to the backside of the line to little effect, and three or four seemingly obvious pull reads he's missed.
It is possible the reads aren't actually reads, but given what Borges has said it seems like they are. I'm not sure we've seen him pitch on the option yet, though. Is it really an option, or is it just a decoy?
The picture painted is of a guy who's thinking, not reacting.
Too much cram cram. This is a downside of not having a true base offense, I think. Lacking reps on all these things, Denard makes mistakes. If the speed option is just another way to run a QB stretch that's because they don't rep the option enough to be comfortable with the pitch. If they miss a bunch of keep reads it's because they're not repping it enough to make that clear to the quarterback.
Remember that last year Michigan largely dumped the read option in favor of just running Denard. This isn't a regression, it's Denard trying to do something he might not have been very good at last year. That plus an entirely new passing offense means there's a ton on his plate.
We've seen progress in the passing game. They may be emphasizing that since it turns out handing the ball to Toussaint isn't that bad of an idea even when it's a bad idea. Hopefully Michigan can get some of this corrected over the next week because Denard left a lot of yards on the field even when Lavonte David wasn't tackling him by his ankles.
EDIT: Moved Grady to this group
I've written plenty about the guys from the classes of '07 and '08 who didn't make it to this week. This one's for the guys who did.
Many had to overcome hideous, season-ending injuries to get here. They also stuck around through two paradigm-shifting coaching changes, or watched the guy and the system they committed to run out of town.What they signed up for was multiple Big Ten championships and Rose Bowls, but what they got was the most tumultuous years at Stadium and Main since Yost dug a hole in the ground.
What they leave is a program on the verge of a BCS bowl, on the verge of another reshaping, on the verge of one final chance to beat Ohio State. The leadership they provided helped Michigan avoid another painful transition, and set the tone for more success to come. There have been many great seniors to graduate from Michigan, but it is no derogation of them to say that this class is a bit special. Here are their stories (in reverse order of commitment):
EARLY RICH-RODIGAN JET-SMURFS:
Michael Shaw was the wizard hat to Trotwood teammate Roundtree's snake oil, a Penn State commit (Carr had wanted him as a CB) who switched to Michigan at the last minute. Unlike fellow '08 RB recruits he had neither captured the imagination of the Internet by hurdling fools, nor did he have a name that 13-year-olds use on prank calls. What Shaw had was speed, hands, and a cut-and-bounce move. People thought he might be a slot receiver. The era Shaw played in was replete with RBs of various skillsets, and proximity to Carlos Brown made for exaggerated comparisons. Various injuries made for sporadic appearances. He started the '09 Ohio State game and was nominally the starter at the beginning of this year. Everyone will have to pick their endearing memory of bouncy Shaw; mine will be the block on McNaul against NU (the purple one) and Batman.
"Normally they're keying in on me. I don't know why, but they're keying in on me, so that's where [Denard] gets his yards from … We had an idea they were going to try to contain Denard, but we also thought Notre Dame was going to try to contain him."
Martavious Odoms was billed as the perfect slot bug, the prototypical Rich Rodriguez Pahokee speedster with skillz who's completely overlooked because he's tiny. He was brought in to return kicks and punts, block like a mountain goat, and catch bubble screens. Whenever someone of the old guard complained about "little Florida guys" who "won't make it in the Big Ten," they were talking about Odoms.
Tay almost immediately grabbed that slot position and led the team in receptions as a somewhat fumbly true freshman. His sophomore season it was his mountain goat blocking and magnificent TD against Indiana that prevented a Hoosier loss from ever being added to the pile of Rodriguezian indignities. But he sprained a knee against Penn State and missed the rest of the season while redshirted classmate Roy Roundtree exploded. Odoms returned as the world's smallest outside WR in 2010 until a broken foot knocked him out for the second half of the year. This year several broken bits kept Odoms on the sideline as Gallon emerged, until Odoms reprised the Indy TD (@8:51) against Nebraska.
Denard, can you talk about what you saw on the Odoms TD?
Denard: “Me and Martavious had a race, what, two years ago? So I saw that he can run, and he went right past the defenders and I put it in the air.”
What happened in that race?
Odoms, to Denard: “… What happened?”
Denard: “You have to tell them. You have to tell them.”
Odoms: “No, you should tell them.”
Denard: “Ah … he beat me. He got a win there. He got a win.”
Kelvin Grady committed to Michigan before any of these guys, but for basketball. After his sophomore ('08-'09) season Grady left the backcourt to join his brother in Rich Rod's basketball on grass. Grady also left his sure scholarship, and had to compete with the rest of the walk-ons to earn a football one (he did). Grady19 immediately pushed for playing time in the now crowded slot rotation, showing great route running but not so great hands. Then last year the hands improved—as in he caught almost everything thrown his way—and also became the designated reverse guy.
This year he's rotated in every game, despite there being another guy who's "emerged" at his position every year he's been here (Odoms, Roundtree, Gallon). His eligibility will run out after this season, but Kelvin has already received his Bachelor's degree, and is a year into his Master's in Social Work.
"It crossed my mind that I wouldn't have anything," said Grady, who started 25 basketball games as a freshman before seeing his time reduced last year. "I'd be out. I'd be just like the rest of the guys back home who dropped out of college and didn't have anywhere else to go. But I'm too strong. I've got too much will. I've got a family that supports me. I've got a brother [Kevin, a senior running back for Michigan] that's working hard.
"I just want to say to you Florida boys it's not so bad in Michigan."
Terrence Robinson may not get a 5th year; the Texas 4-star was another slot bug who actually won the job in '08 before Odoms. He caused a Nebraska fumble on special teams this year—I don't know what his plans are if there's a scholarship available.
J.B. Fitzgerald got the Victor Hobson designation in the four-man YMRMFSPA haul of Foote-Hobson-Crable-C.Graham. This was thanks to um, large hands? Fitz also was considered quite raw, needing considerable coaching on his read and reaction skills. In this, it's hard to argue that Michigan didn't fail him, provided Jay Hopson then GERG as his position coaches. Fitzgerald was never a threat to displace Obi Ezeh or Jonas Mouton, except when the coaches got so fed up with those guys they put Fitz in (after they tried Kevin Leach). He did see some starting time at OLB late last year due to injuries, but has since been passed by the likes of Ryan and the freshmen. An academic All-American, Fitz will graduate with a degree in sport management.
"Physical's how we like it." (half of this guy's quotes can be taken out of context, the other half are about his family).
Until 2011, Kevin Koger (not Kroger) was the last head-to-head recruiting battle with [glances around, whispers] you know who in Ohio that Michigan actually won. Brian said he was Carson Butler minus the attitude and projected a future move to defensive end. Damn right about the attitude – Koger is a 2011 team captain and the Ryan Van Bergen of the offense.
Koger raised the hype meter a bit by scoring that TD versus Wisconsin in his first career catch, and then hauling in a one-handed flying stab in garbage time versus WMU in '09 that was more entertaining than Coner throwing D.O.'s to walk-on receivers with Mets' last names. This year he made another ridiculous catch over the middle versus Western. Koger's production on the field hasn't changed much from sharing time with Webb in 2010 (14 catches for 199 yards and 2 TDs) to being the guy in Borges's offense (17 catches for 195 yards and 3 TDs). Blocking Purdue's DEs (at top of screen, blocking 49) was a lot of fun.
In parts of the internet where trite metaphors are allowed, the phrase "Mike Martin is a beast!!!" is stated repeatedly, the number of exclamation marks varying from one to however many it takes to break a keyboard depending on how many yards backwards the poor sap charged with blocking him traveled before reestablishing radio contact. In less savage parts of the internet, people made things like this:
all the time. You can even put him in a micro fleece Balaclava and put Greg Robinson behind him (below) and he still looks like he's about to kill a quarterback any second. So of course Michigan put him in a micro fleece Balaclava and put Greg Robinson behind him. He was still the best player on the defense once Brandon Graham left; actually he beat out Graham for Michigan's '09 DL award.
A late-blooming prospect, Martin got his offer in June after Georgia DT Omar Hunter turned Michigan down. He committed immediately, and remained committed when a flood of others, including ND, came in after the coaching change. Martin arrived able to bench press like NFL first rounders, and ESPN said he looks like a crab.*
He immediately entered the DT rotation with Taylor and Johnson, and then spent the rest of his career here as a nose tackle because Michigan didn't have any other guys on the interior who could demand double teams. GERG's great idea to utilize Martin was to make him the centerpiece of 3-man rushes. After his junior year, Martin's personal accomplishments matched those of Alan Branch, with a far worse supporting cast.
*I think when people say "crab" what they mean is pad level. From now on when I hear "crab" I will declare that prospect someone Michigan must get. I want an entire DL that consists of nothing but crab people who squat 520 and chase QBs like they're Shawn Crable.
Despite having NFL prospects, despite a new coach and staff again again, he stayed. He said:
"‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”
Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together. …
“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”
Tomorrow: Those Who Stayed (the Class of '07):
This is a mild complaint on another "ten guys" play. Michigan got Iowa fairly well blocked thanks to their alignment, but one mistake far away from everything ends up submarining a winning playcall.
It's Michigan's second play of the game. Robinson has just slipped while cutting, turning a decent gain into a single yard. On second and nine Michigan comes out in a tight ace set with both TEs in a two-point stance. Nominally this is a passing formation what with the TEs all standing up, but formations like this often result in outside runs this year.
On the snap Roundtree, Koger, and Lewan block down, with Schofield and Molk pulling. Patrick Omameh is going to cut the backside tackle… or at least he's going to try. His failure to creates a CHAIN REACTION that DESTROYS THE REACTOR:
Hmm. This isn't good. The backside DT isn't delayed at all. A TFL is possible here. TFLs are not nice.
Meanwhile, there is good work being done on the playside. Koger and Lewan have gotten movement on their guys and Roundtree is cracking down on the playside LB with a great angle.
Molk perceives the threat and removes the threat of the DT with his back. That takes the TFL off the table. Unfortunately, Koger and Lewan have now lost their guys playside. Roundtree does get the linebacker:
At the moment of truth Toussaint does have a crease because Roundtree's block cuts off Koger's guy and Molk slowing has prevented that DT from making the play; Schofield has kicked out the corner.
Unfortunately, there is no lead block, and there is a safety. With the playside DT flowing down the line there's nowhere to go.
On third and five Robinson gets quick pressure and has no one open, so he chucks it well past everyone.
Items of Interest
Ten angry men. So… yeah. Borges basically got Iowa here. Look at the alignment of the linebackers:
They're shifted well to the wide side, assuming that the outside run will come behind Hemingway's block. That gives Michigan a numbers advantage to the playside and gives Roundtree a super easy block on the most dangerous linebacker.
That's enough to get Toussaint a crease on the sideline. If Molk is hanging out being all blocky chances are this sets Michigan up in a third and short. But because of whiff by Omameh so total it threatens to allow a guy on the backside of the play to tackle on a pitch sweep Molk has to bail and unblocked safety is unblocked.
Receivers tight to the line == outside run. Not all the time, of course, but frequently.
These defensive ends are not Purdue defensive ends. Remember Purdue, when a defensive end was a gnome on ice skates?
Good times. Michigan was not playing Purdue in this game. (This is why it was in Iowa.) Koger loses his guy to the outside, and as you can see in the left frame above #79 is threatening enough to remove any hope of a cutback behind Lewan. He's not making the play, but he's doing enough to let some other guys do it. This was a theme.
I don't think Michigan's going to have much better luck with the rest of the defenses on the schedule. Koger's monster day against Purdue looks like an outlier based on the opposition, not a sudden renaissance. NFL scouting of him is middling overall and negative on his blocking:
Isn’t a real balance blocker. Struggles to keep feet under him, lunges into contact and doesn’t create much power as an in-line guy. Possesses a naturally strong frame, but his inability to gain leverage and maintain balance kills him at the point. Possesses long arms and strong hands that allow him to stick initially when he gets his hands on you, but is still learning the nuances of being a consistent run blocker.
That was pre-season; NFP's Wes Bunting re-iterated that recently in a post I can't find.
This is going to be ugly next year when the only options are Brandon Moore, Ricardo Miller, and freshmen. People are talking up AJ Williams as a potential tackle but I think Michigan would love to keep him at tight end if this is at all possible. Having an edge blocker like Williams is a critical piece of a manball offense. Even if Williams is a tackle long term I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't redshirt and Borges uses him as an extra OL. Preseason he talked about wanting to install an extra tackle package but couldn't because he didn't actually have any extra tackles.
Molk == SMRT. The reason this is a modest gain instead of a TFL is Molk's awareness. He catches a glimpse of an Iowa player in his peripheral vision and immediately knows this is trouble. If he had continued on his pull no one would have blamed him—or at least no one would have blamed him much.
He's adapted fairly well to the new system. Not every center can pull effectively. He certainly can, and while he's not an in-line mauler he is generating push more consistently than either of the guards. I predict Michigan misses him badly next year.
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.
(Presser audio for this transcript courtesy of The Michigan Daily. Thanks Tim.)
This file photo seems sad given the current context.
Opening remarks: “Well that’s why you play 60 minutes of football. I didn’t think we as a team played as well as we could and should throughout the game, but especially the first half. We have to do a better job of coaching, preparation, all those things. I’m proud of the kids, though. They kept swinging away. Kept coming and fighting. We had some opportunities to get the ball back a couple other times where we didn’t get it done defensively. Obviously when you get into the redzone you have to score touchdowns.”
Your last possession in the first half really seemed to swing things a little bit. “Well, we [were] trying to make a play and put the ball on the ground. That led to a field goal. And the interception down there going in. Ya know. That does swing. When you don’t have the ball and you don’t score.”
Did you get an explanation on the flag (pass interference) that got picked up? “One guy said it was, one guy said it wasn’t.”
When Denard forced the throw that led to an interception … “I don’t know if it was forced, to be honest with you. You’re talking about the one at the end of the first half?” Yeah. “He had a receiver.”
Was this was a game of missed opportunities for you beyond the two turnovers? “At times we rose up and played pretty good third- and fourth-down defense. Third-down stop there late was huge. We need to do a better job on that. I think they were 4 of 12 on third down conversions, which defensively is okay, but there’s always six to eight plays in a game that really are going to define when you’re playing a good football team and a team on the road, and you think back and there are six to eight plays that determines who executed and who didn’t.”
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
How do you think you did against Coker as a whole? “He’s a good back, and I thought we put bodies on him. I think our guys did a pretty good job. I felt Mike Martin a ton, so until I look at it -- I’ll know a lot better.”
The missed extra point, when Dileo bobbled the snap … “He’s caught probably a thousand of them. It’s like anything else. It’s probability. It’s going to happen.”
Whose decision was it to keep Denard on the sideline? “Well it was really his hand's decision.”
What do you think of his play? “I think he played well. I think he keeps growing as a quarterback.”
Toussaint? “He got bruised up a bit, but that’s the kind of game it is.”
On that last drive, Denard was throwing a lot of jump balls. “What jump balls?” The longer routes. Seemed like he was throwing deep a lot. “Well on one we tried to run a rebel, and the rebel wasn’t open. The one-on-one coverage on the outside was.”
What did you think of your linebackers? “I could feel them. I felt them more the second half than the first. I think Kenny made some plays in there. I think Brennen Beyer played a lot of football. This is a good environment for a freshman to play.”
How did Brennen Beyer respond? “Good, I think. Again, until you look at tape, I’m not real sharp, so it’s hard for me to see it all.”
Did it looked to you like Hemingway caught the ball? “I didn’t have a great seat, but I know one guy in the back thought he did and the other guy thought he didn’t.”
Hemingway dropped a couple passes at the beginning but bounced back to make some good catches. “Yeah, Junior’s a prideful kid. I mean, these are all prideful kids. He didn’t try to drop any balls, I can tell you that. It’s good to see a guy who’s played a lot of football come back from adversity.”
What did you think of Jordan Kovacs today? “I like him. I mean, I like him. I think he did okay.”
You’re all about November. What do you tell your team after this loss? “It’s still November. We have a lot of games left. There’s a lot of football to be played, there’s a lot of things at stake, and number one, we have 24 seniors who are going to play their last three guaranteed football games at Michigan. We’re always going to coach for them, and we’re always going to play for them.”
That may have been Iowa’s best defensive performance in a while. Can you explain why they played better? “I can’t. I think everybody plays well when they play Michigan.”
Your offensive line took a step forward last week. How would you assess their play today? “Again, until I see the tape -- but I thought they did okay. I think Fitz had close to 70 [yards]. We’d like to have 170, but that didn’t happen. I think they did some good things, and I’m sure as we look at it, there’ll be some things they did real well and there’ll be some things we have to go back and fix.”
Do you think they played with more urgency in the fourth quarter or was it just better execution? “We went into 'NASCAR' -- we call it 'NASCAR.' I think that was pretty good for us. And we practice it a lot.”
Was it essentially just hurry-up? “Yeah, it’s different in two-minute, though. There’s a different dynamic to it.”
Are you surprised there was no pass interference call on the last play? “Were you?” Yes. “…”
Turnovers. Considering how much you emphasized it, how much does that hurt? “Well it always hurts. Turnovers always hurt. And that’s one thing that we’ve done a good job -- taking care of it and ball security. The thing we missed today though was we didn’t get any back. That’s where we have to revisit why and those kinds of things.”
What were some of the flaws in not being able to stop Coker or Vandenberg? “Flaws? We missed some tackles especially in that first drive. They hit the under route and the corner should have tackled him and it’s maybe a 20-yard gain. Instead it goes down the sideline and then we miss a tackle in the hole on a touchdown. I think the timing in their passing game, they did a nice job with the first-down throws and the max protection kind of things.”
Do you attribute any of this to being on the road? “No. I thought our guys loved it. I really do.”
Hemingway’s catch? “Yeah he caught it, but the referee said he wasn’t in.”
Did you think he was in? “Of course I thought my teammate was in.”
What’s your takeaway from this game? “Oh man. What we did good was we kept fighting. No matter what, we just kept fighting, and that’s the biggest thing we’re going to take from this game, and learn from my mistakes.”
Did they do anything defensively to surprise you? “Oh no. We just started slow.”
Are you surprised there was no pass interference on the last play? “We can’t let the game [depend on] the officials. We have to do it ourselves.”
What happened when you left the game for injury? “I just got hit a hit to the elbow. That’s all.”
Do you feel like you missed a lot of opportunities today? “Yeah that’s the biggest thing. Turnovers was the biggest thing. Coach Hoke always tells us we have to keep the ball. Keep the ball. No turnovers.”
How much confidence does the defense give you, knowing that they can make a stop this year? “Oh yeah. The whole time the defense kept telling me they would make a stop and give us the opportunity to score, so that’s what happened.”
Was the plan on the last drive to take so many shots downfield or was it just what you were seeing? “It was just what I was seeing.”
Offensive line? “They played great. Hats off to them, and I love them.”
On that last drive -- you’ve been in that situation before. What was going through your head? Were you calm? “Oh yeah. Everybody was calm. We just knew we had to try and make some plays.”
On second to last play, did you think about running at all? “I thought Vince came open a little bit so I just gave him a chance to catch the ball.” Did you think you had a running lane? “I don’t know. I was just looking downfield.”
Just the good times.
Can you talk about the resolve you showed on that last drive? “Yeah. That’s expected. We play Michigan [football]. We’re supposed to fight back. That was a physical football team, so getting down … [it] would be tough to come back on them. But I mean it’s expected for us to fight back to the last second.”
Why were you struggling to move the ball for the first three quarters? “It’s just a testament to what Iowa was doing defensively. They don’t do a whole lot on defense, but what they do do, they do it well. They’re very gap sound, and I think we struggled with that a little bit.”
How costly were turnovers today? “Definitely. Definitely the fumble before halftime, they went down and got a field goal. That was a big turnover, but the defense did a great job of only holding them to a field goal, because they could have gone in and scored.”
Why did you leave the game? “Just banged up. I’m all right. I’m good. I’m still living.”
Where do you think this leaves you going forward in terms of the division and conferece? “We really can’t worry about that. You can’t tell the future. You never know what’s going to happen in the few weeks. All we can do is learn from this tape and get better every week. Whatever happens, happens.”
What was disappointing about this game? “Just the overall performance. I felt like we were ready this week, just like every other week. We came out, and we didn’t play how we could have or how we should have. It was just disappointing really the poor play we had.”
Can you point to anything specific? “Probably just taking care of the football. It’s hard -- I haven’t watched the film yet, so I’ll have a better idea of it on Monday -- but just taking of the football right now. But the defense played great, I thought.”
What did you think of the final drive? “We practice it all the time at practice, so it’s nothing new to us. So we were in our element.”
Did you think back to the 2009 game at all? “Before the game, but during the game you’re so caught up in your assignment and what the defense is doing that you don’t even have time to think about what happened two years ago.”
Did it feel like that in the final drive? “I mean, actually I wasn’t in two years ago, but it may have had a little bit of the same feel. A little bit.”
Were you watching the replays on the board? “I actually didn’t even see it. I mean, we thought he scored a touchdown, so we were getting ready for our two-point play. So it was kind of disappointing that they did call it out.”
What was Junior Hemingway say about it? “I didn’t hear him. I just read body language, and he was confident that he was in, but the refs made the right call.”
From file, on right.
You played a lot better in the second half. Was there an adjustment made? “No, not really. We knew this was going to be a physical game and it was going to be punch for punch on both sides of the ball. We had to make plays right back, so we just didn’t play as well as we needed to today.”
Why do you think you struggled in the first three quarters? “I don’t know. We just have to, on our side of the ball, execute better. I just comes down to the little things. Guys missing tackles that they were supposed to make. Not executing and being in certain gaps. That’s something that we’ll have to break down on film.”
What’s your impression of Coker? “He’s a tough runner. We were putting bodies on him and getting to the ball, and he made plays.”
You’ve seen your offense score on last-minute drives before. Was there any doubt that they wouldn’t make it in with four shots down at the goal line? “No. We didn’t have any doubt. I was standing next to Van Bergen, and he’s like, ‘Man, I believe in these guys,’ and I’m agreeing right with them. It’s in their hands at that point, and we have their backs, and what happened happened.”
You guys seemed to be pretty excited when you saw Hemingway’s catch on replay. Why do you think it ended up not being a touchdown? “That’s not for me to tell. The referee made the call he made, and we can’t control that.”
Did he look like he was in? “Yeah. Junior, he does a good job with making plays on the ball. He’s a good player and he always plays hard.”
Hoke talked about missed tackles and missed assignments. Was it disappointing since you thought you had fixed those problems? “You know, you have to give it to Iowa. They played hard today, and Coker ran hard today like he does. We just have to get better on our side of it. It’s about us tightening down on how we play and getting better.”
What’s the biggest thing you need to shore up? “I think we just need to work on getting more bodies to the ball and swarming around. That’s something that I don’t think we did as well today. We just have to get better.”
There were a lot of freshmen in there, especially early in the game. Did you need to calm them down a bit? “I don’t know if they were too amped up. They know we have confidence in them and we just don’t want them to have any doubt in their mind, and I don’t think they do. Those guys, they’re very talented, and whoever’s in there, there’s the expectation for the position. Whoever you are, a freshman, senior, or in between. Whoever’s out there has to play and make plays.”
Where does this leave you guys going forward? “We have three more games and that’s all we can worry about. There’s a lot more football to be played in this league, and we can’t tell the future, so we just know that we have the next game, Illinois, and that’s all we can think about.”
What will be the seniors’ message to the rest of the team after this game? “I’m going to say, ‘Pick your heads up, we have to bounce back, and there’s nothing to hang your head on. I know it hurts. It’s gonna hurt. It should hurt. But that’s in the past now, and tomorrow’s going to come and it’s not going to be Saturday anymore. The game’s over. We just have to worry about Illinois, and that’s the next opportunity that we have.’ ”
This defense is becoming known for producing turnovers. Why do you think you didn’t get any today? Do you think it might be because you didn’t get enough people to the ball? “That’s probably one of the reasons. I don’t really know. Like I said, you have to give it to Iowa. They played hard today. They played well, and they had good ball control. But yeah, we just have to get better on our side of it.”
Third-and-one stops? “We’re always trying to get the ball back to our offense. Whatever we can do on defense to get the ball back in their hands, get it back to Denard and those guys or whoever’s in there is our priority. Whatever we have to do to do that. … We stepped up. We knew what to do. We had to make a play. Period. We did a good job of doing that.”
Was there an emphasis on putting pressure on Vandenberg? It seemed like he had a lot of time to throw on first down. “Yeah. They were doing some things with their play-action stuff, and they were doing a good job with that, so we just needed to adjust a few things, and I think we did a better job with that the second half.”
From file, on left.
Were you limited in what you could do today due to your knee injury? “No.”
When did you find out you could actually play? “They were working me into the lineup all week. I could tell that they wanted me to play, and I felt like I could play.”
Did this feel like a typical physical Iowa offense? “Oh yeah. We knew what we were going to get. We knew it was going to be a smashmouth football game and it was going to be a dogfight, and that’s what we got.”
Did your knee feel okay? “It felt great.”
Do you think the secondary played well today? “Not well enough to win.”
What could have you done better? “I think we could have done a better job of containing the football and cupping the football and not giving up big plays. That’s something that we’re certainly going to work on. I think we can improve on third downs. That’s a time when we have to get ourselves off the field, and I don’t think we did a good enough job of getting ourselves off the field today.”
Something about opportunities. (Sorry, couldn’t hear the question.) “We didn’t cause any turnovers, I don’t think. They won the turnover battle, and that was the difference in the game.”
Was it a lack of energy or lack of execution? “Probably a little bit of both. I think it’s something that’s happened to us quite a few times this year, and it’s something that we certainly have got to improve on. That’s one thing that we’re going to take from this game.”
Why do you think the defense has been starting so slowly? “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I don’t know if it’s because we get wide-eyed when we get out there, but it’s definitely a concern of ours and something we have to improve on.”
I know you say “the expectation is for the position,” but does it matter at all that you have so many young players? “No. I think that, like you said, Coach Hoke always says there’s expectations for the position, and I think those young guys have done a great job of coming in and stepping up, but at the same time they’re going to continue to improve every game, and that’s what they’re doing.”
Why do you think the turnovers never came today for the defense? “I think they did a good job of keeping themselves out of third and long. I don’t know that they ever really had it. There were a couple third and longs, but not as many as we’d like. We didn’t put ourselves in good position to make those plays. They did a good job of running the football and holding onto it.”
Did you have any doubt that you were going to head into overtime? “I was ready. I think the whole defense was ready. I thought for sure we were going to overtime, but it didn’t work out like that.”
Was the loss due to the fact that you were playing on the road and you maybe don’t play as well on the road? “I mean, certainly it’s a tough environment to play it. Those fans are crazy, but that’s something that we have to be able to overcome.”
Does this game remind you of the 2009 game? “I mean, it was similar, but we were a completely different team.”
Where does this leave you guys going forward? “We’re only focused on what we can control, and that’s these next three games starting with Illinois. It’s going to be the biggest game of the season so far. We’re looking forward to the game. We still have to watch film tomorrow, get in and improve. We’ll turn the page on the next three.”
Is it different next to Troy Woolfolk vs. Thomas Gordon? “I think Troy did a great job out there, and we did a good job of communicating. Obviously it’s different because it’s been a couple years since he’s been back there, but I think he did a great job today and we did a great job of communicating.”