in town for free camps
11/3/2012 – Michigan 35, Minnesota 13 – 6-3, 4-1 Big Ten
The only press box I've ever been in is Eastern Michigan's, and I was there to watch Devin Gardner play. He was at Inkster; Inkster was in the Big Day Prep Showdown. We even live-blogged it. The cadre of grizzled preps guys sat a few seats down. Their silverback called Gardner "high school superman" and Paul taped him from the sideline.
In an eerie prefiguring of Denard Robinson's career, Gardner had a ridiculously high percentage of Inkster's yards and made everyone feel ill when he got knocked out of the game. Inkster was on a grinding fourth quarter drive with Inkster down two. They had no kicker, so on fourth and seven from the eight they went for it. Gardner did a Vince Young impression down to the one and did not get up.
The backup came in to guide Inkster to minus three yards on the next three plays. Gardner was reinserted for fourth and the game. He rolled out into heavy resistance, drew coverage to him, and threw a weird mechanics-free jump pass that scored the go-ahead touchdown. His teammates celebrated; he laid under a defender. Defender removed, Gardner got up like a glacier tired of gouging lakes out of mountains. Weary. A thousand years weary.
In the press box, the preps silverback spake thusly: "and on fourth down, he rose again."
[UPDATE: Damn my memory. This was actually a Tim tweet. Sorry I didn't remember it right and work you in all fancy-like, Tim.]
With Gardner on the sideline, Pioneer went 68 yards in 49 seconds to win. At halftime, the Free Press had launched their Rodriguez jihad, sucking any attention his Lazarus comeback may have generated out the airlock.
That's just how being Devin Gardner has gone. He arrived with an armload of hype and fell prey to an avalanche of it wearing dreads. He didn't even get to preserve his redshirt year thanks to Tate Forcier's inability to keep on the sunny side of life and Denard going out in about 2/3rds of Michigan's games. He moved to receiver, but called himself a quarterback. He saw the Nebrasaka game up close and personal. What was he thinking then about where he had ended up?
Things happen and you feel certain ways about them and you can only figure out why you felt the things you felt in the moment later, after. From distance I think my extremely complicated yesssnononononoyessss response to Gardner's rolling out stopping neh neh neh no lets turn around and run the other way touchdown heave was comprised of these three things:
Seeing that Dileo had broken open by twenty yards.
Remembering Devin's high school superman act.
Remembering what happened when he tried to matriculate that upwards. Yeah, it's the MSU yakety sax clip. I didn't need to tell you this.
It was third and seventeen and Michigan hadn't been able to move the ball a lick against Minnesota, so that colored my expectations as well.
Mostly I expected that something hilariously bad would occur and I would tweet out gallows humor while scouting out Goldy for some Ohio Bobcat action. This expectation got much better when Gardner cleared the containment and broke to the backside of the play. It got worse again when Devin chucked it without setting his feet, and then it was a touchdown and I'm just like…
…oh. That was madcap. That's not happening again but at least we're seven points closer to not losing this game. I wonder how we will get any more? I think we should try the triple reverse throwback bomb to Lewan. Works every time when the universe has turned into a cartoon.
Michigan went with "fade route to 5'8" receiver in jet boots." Close enough. No one adjusts to the laws of physics going all looney tunes like the Michigan Wolverines.
Yeah, Minnesota is just a high school team with a nice stadium that disguised their pass defense in the wreckage of 2012 Big Ten quarterbacking. Yeah, everyone is getting way ahead of themselves praising Gardner when his performance seemed split about 50/50 between yakety sax (but good!) and receivers bailing Gardner out on balls they have no business catching. Yeah, Gardner's mechanics still look bizarre. The main takeaway from that game was uh-oh, Ohio State. Sure.
I don't think Devin Gardner cares after years of being a two-snap sideshow. That ridiculous heave was the first hint that he might be able to hack it next year, and that's a huge relief for everyone. It took three years and third and seventeen, but Devin Gardner got up and recaptured some of that old magic.
John T. Greilick/Detnews
Obligatory jug shots from same:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week.
A close race this week. I did tweet "JMFR" after that and meant it. Nine tackles, five solo, three TFLs, various other things that don't show up on the scoreboard but let other people make plays. However, Jake Ryan got edged again and I'm pretty sure he was the guy who let Minnesota's tight end get so wide open on their touchdown.
So… Wide Receivers As A Unit, come on down! Drew Dileo: I'm not even laughing at the inevitable Wes Welker comparisons. Jeremy Gallon: separate like a boss, leap like a man with rocket boots. Roy Roundtree: Devin Gardner TARP. If those three guys don't collectively play out of their minds the narrative about Gardner is quite a bit different today.
Honorable Mention. Devin Gardner, about whom more in a bit, Jake Ryan(beastmode on several plays), Jordan Kovacs (damn you fluck), Desmond Morgan (when he hits you on third and short stops happen).
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska).
0.3: Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota)
Brady Hoke epic double troll of the week. This is just magnificent:
Coach Brady Hoke said after the game Gardner now is entrenched as Michigan's backup quarterback while Bellomy deals with an undisclosed injury, although he was guarded about what exactly is ailing the redshirt freshman.
"Russell's situation is a little different," Hoke said. "Not one I want to discuss."
Asked to clarify whether the issue is injury related, Hoke said "Most likely. Yes. A boo boo."
There's an art installation about the nature of truth and reality in Hoke press conferences. UMAA, get on that.
The Michigan Athletic Department delivered the sobering news minutes before kickoff: senior quarterback Denard Robinson would not start against Minnesota due to an “undisclosed injury.”
Hoke is "very optimistic" he'll be back next week. Amazing thing: that was the first game Denard has ever missed with injury.
Obligatory Gardnertake. Obviously he'll be the backup QB the remainder of the year what with Denard being even more fragile than normal and Russell Bellomy being both injured and the primary author of the second half of the Nebraska game. And he's finally done something other than worry everyone about his future not living up to what people were hoping it would be. This is major progress.
I still find myself way on the conservative end of reaction to Gardner's performance. Some other blog takes to set the table:
"After a frightening start, Gardner was amazing. I’m amazed that he can spend basically one week preparing for this game and do that. Yes, I realize it was The Gophers and like everyone else I’m prone to oversteer after a win, but that was remarkable. So that is the 5 star guy that everyone was salivating over out of high school."
Also at MVictors, Steve Sapardanis:
WOW!!! His performance evoked three words from me: Poise, Confidence and WOW!!
Robinson didn't play at all, and converted receiver Devin Gardner made him look utterly expendable. Lining up at quarterback for the first time this season, Gardner was 12-of-18 for 245 yards – he had three completions covering at least 45 – and two touchdowns, good for a sky-high pass efficiency rating of 206.6.
Meinke's headline-writin' guy:
Devin Gardner's stellar performance leads Michigan to rout
This may be an effect from sitting in the stadium instead of catching it on TV: Gardner had plenty of wide open dudes, and his throws were erratic. On the one hand, there was the picture-perfect bomb to Gallon; on the other, Dileo and Roundtree bailed Gardner out hardcore on the touchdown drive that put the game out of reach. The Dileo catch was a circus catch all the way, one that could have been made much easier.
Roundtree == Gardner TARP. MVictors
Meanwhile Roundtree broke open by yards and would have had an easy touchdown if Gardner had gotten the ball to the endzone on the opposite hash. As it was he had to circus Michigan out of an interception. I'm torn on pressured completions to Jerald Robinson and Roundtree that were wobblers but did pick up big chunks.
Gardner does have a much better sense of when to run around like a lunatic than Denard. His High School Superman mode picked up the Dileo touchdown and a critical third down conversion on Michigan's second touchdown drive. He's still having trouble adjusting to what he can get away with in college, as his second attempt to reprise his MSU 2012 Yakety Sax (except good(!)) ended in a crazy whip-around throwaway that is easy to see resulting in something worse than a harmless ball out of bounds.
Compounding everything is the complication that Minnesota is Minnesota, and Minnesota, despite being Minnesota, was the top pass efficiency defense in the league entering the game. I tend to give more credence to the Minnesota bit of that given Ace's FFFF of Jared Abbrederis hand-wavingly wide open and seeing plenty of that in person Saturday. Gardner had doorwalls, not windows.
Okay, yeah. Michigan called maybe one or two runs for Gardner, which was frustrating but…
The passing game wasn’t difficult to acclimate to, Gardner said, but recognizing new protections and familiarizing himself with the ground game took some time. He called offensive coordinator Al Borges’ gameplan a “safe” one, due to the extreme lack of depth at quarterback.
“They couldn’t run the quarterback,” Gardner said. “I’m comfortable with doing that, but there was no way we could have done that, it just wouldn’t have been smart.”
…okay yeah I'm with you.
Running game, turrible. Michigan got a short-yardage romp from Fitzgerald Toussaint in garbage time to make the final numbers look okay. Extracting the final two drives (four Thomas Rawls runs for 6 yards and four Toussaint runs for 50), suck out sacks (three for 23), and Michigan's run game did this:
- 30 carries for 122 yards.
That is a hair over four yards a carry, and suuuuuucks. Even if you add in the garbage time they only get up to 4.7 YPC, which is almost two yards worse than Minnesota's best performance to date in the Big Ten.
Kids, it's sackcloth and ashes time. I had a little fit in the stands when Michigan ran an iso on one of their first couple drives and it went for three yards because it was Rawls running into an unblocked linebacker instead of Toussaint running into an unblocked linebacker and getting two yards. Things got marginally better from there, but only marginally. Michigan's long run other than the Toussaint TD was a Gardner scramble. Their next two were 1) a Gallon end-around that didn't require much blocking, and 2) the Rawls counter pitch that required none. I'm guessing that when I do the UFR the offensive line won't come out much better than they did against Nebraska.
That's mystifying after they did pretty well against a rampant ND defense and throttled a couple bad Big Ten teams. Minnesota and Nebraska aren't much better than Purdue and Illinois on defense. Michigan crushed the latter two, and essentially got crushed by the former two. Denard's absence has a lot to do with that; it's still depressing to think of Michigan's rushing offense as the worst in the Big Ten minus #16.
Hagerup dup. Will Hagerup, please report to the garage for a tuneup: three punts for an average of 29 yards each. Yorp.
Minnesota trip report section. The Gophers' new stadium is nice, as you would expect. Unlike Northwestern—the Big Ten stadium of comparable size I've been to—even the far reaches in the corner are pretty good seats, and the video board is far superior to Michigan's. I looked it up on the wikipedia: their main board is 5184 square feet to M's 3,991 and has a higher resolution. Michigan's down to 14th on their list of biggest screen things; kind of feels like the boards installed just a couple years ago are already dated.
I was on the aisle. I spent most of the game looking around people going up or down, because 1) they serve beer and 2) Minnesota fans in our section made Michigan students look like ruthless drill instructors with their punctuality. I guess it was an 11 AM local start. Even so my strategy as a Minnesota fan would be to show up for the part of the game where you're competitive and exit early if and when that ceases to be true. At least they were nice. I didn't see a single negative interaction between Michigan and Minnesota fans.
The chintz factor was pretty high, largely because the announcer would prompt everyone with "THAT'S ANOTHER GOLDEN GOPHER…" and then a variable number of fans would say "FIRST DOWN." The PA guy's mood shifted wildly with the fortunes of the game, too. By the end of it he was almost surly. The Minnesota marching band is 350 strong and the only thing I remember them playing was the Mortal Kombat theme sometime in the third.
Logistically, the stadium is in a good spot. We tailgated at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul, which was a ten minute bus ride from the stadium on a private university road. That last bit is key: no traffic. After the game I went to a sportsbar to watch an epic Sparty No moment with various folk; another set of companions went right back to the car. The bus line: about ten minutes and then you're out of all traffic.
Oh so Sparty. Oh, Sparty. You sonsabitches. First you have to run out to a two-score lead and then salt the game away before getting their world-class Sparty No(!) moment in on a personal foul on a pick six—one of like six you sonsabitches took after being on your best fairy godmother behavior against Michigan because really you're just misunderstood—and then getting outright screwed in a fashion that I couldn't even enjoy because you needed to win that game.
And then. And then after the game you took a shot at Denard for no damn reason:
"He's faster than Denard, even though he thinks he's faster than (Usain) Bolt," Narduzzi said. "He's flat-out fast. He's a good football player."
And then players hopped on Twitter to claim they had not lost but one game this year:
The post-MSU-win column truly could not have been anything but what it was. So Sparty.
It took exactly two weeks to go from "where's the threat" to Same Old Spartans. Well, okay. I actually hope you sonsabitches make a bowl game because thanks to the ineligible teams you'll get sucked into a NYD thing against an SEC team and lose by 600.
BONUS BONUS BONUS
Kid's got a future with Vince McMahon if the football thing doesn't work out.
All that said. I'm with MGoGadfly KJ on the validity of that penalty.
The player is trailing the play, looking at what's going on. He's Kenny Bell—he's fast. There is a possibility the play cuts back to where he's relevant, and Adams doesn't hit him in the head, he just shoulders him to the ground. It's not dirty or excessively violent. It's the equivalent of the PF Michigan got last week for hitting Martinez late—overprotective busybody stuff done in the name of PR. Unlike last week, it swung the game.
AND I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO LIKE IT ARRRGH
Fake field goal thing. Minnesota folk were livid at it but after seeing it on replay I think Kill almost got us.
Kill had something up his sleeve and used it, getting his quarterback wide open on the sideline with no one covering him. If he'd run downfield and the guy had thrown downfield, touchdown. Bizarrely, despite setting this up and getting a quick snap in the throw was on the LOS and Michigan could recover because they were not rushing seriously. It didn't seem like it was a screwup by the guy throwing the ball, either: Nelson just sat on the LOS instead of running downfield.
I don't get that bit, but the idea worked. The execution/play design was busted.
Side note: if you're wondering how that happened after the rules were changed such that anyone checking into the game has to do so between the numbers: Nelson was already on the field and just stayed on as the rest of the offense jogged off. I'm not sure why you'd put Nelson out there instead of a receiver in that case, another strange thing about that play.
So… yeah, everything that happened after the snap was weird and bad. The gamble itself I can get behind when your kicker is .500 on the season.
A plea for pass interference sanity. I'll probably expand this into a larger post after the season but Saturday really crystallized how much I hate the pass interference rule as currently implemented. I actually thought this when Michigan got the benefit of it on the long incompletion to Roundtree on which the DB had excellent position and Roundtree kind of flung himself all over the dude's back.
IMO, if the DB is over the top of the WR, he's earned the right to slow down and prevent the guy from getting to the ball. If he's behind him and the ball is crappy and underthrown that is the offense not executing. You should only be able to commit pass interference with your arms or by actually hitting a guy. You have a right to your momentum, and to exist. Grabbing, holding, blowing a guy up before the ball gets there—all of these are legitimate calls. Running over a guy because he suddenly stops because the QB left the ball 10 yards short is not. I'm really tired of plays on which the offense is bailed out when a terribly-thrown ball turns into 15 yards.
Defensive backs are corporeal beings! Let's treat them like that! I'm founding the We're Made Of Matter Too League.
LOLWUT. I'm with Heiko:
Michigan by 13.5 over Northwestern? That's higher than the opening line for Michigan vs. Minnesota.
Home/away yeah but Northwestern is competitive against teams not named Purdue. This does make me feel so much better about that game. PREVIEW PREVIEW: Not picking the spread this time, probably.
Oh, right, defense. The defense held Minnesota to 13 points and under 300 yards—though if pass interference penalties were credited as offensive yards they would have gone over—and other than some Jake Ryan chatter above this 4000-ish word post has nothing to say about it, because that's just what happens. Being seventh in yardage defense just happens. Hail Mattison.
It's Michigan versus Minnesota week, at Minnesota, which means one thing. A University of Michigan quarterback is going to have a career day. In 2008, Nick Sheridan was 18 of 30 for 203 yards and a 127.8 QB rating. In 2006, Chad Henne was 17 of 24 for 284 yards, 3 TDs, and a QB rating of 211.5. That may not have been his best performance, but I don't ever remember seeing a QB rating greater than 200. In 2003, John Navarre was 33 for 47 for 353 yards and 2 TDs. During my college years, we put up these scoring numbers at Minnesota: 49, 52, 58, and 44 ('89, '91, '93, '96.)
I guess what I'm saying is, we shouldn't have been surprised by what transpired yesterday, but after that first quarter, I'm betting that I'm not the only one that was shocked by the next three quarters. After 9 consecutive TD-less quarters, we scored 5 in the next 3.
Blog folk. MVictors also made the trip, where he took in the game from the resplendent comfort of the press box. He was also not impressed by Gopher timeliness, and reminded me that I was also astounded by how into the Kiss Cam everyone was.
QUINTON WASHINGTON – To me it seemed like every time a Golden Gopher ball carrier got up from a run up the middle, Big Q was at the bottom of the pile. There may have been some questions about the strength of UM D-Line, but Washington is starting to clog up the middle, making it tough sledding for opponents to run on Michigan this year.
I think one of the hardest things college football fans have to reconcile is the ephemeral nature of players. When you consider depth charts, redshirting, and the like, we may get about three years with them at most, four if we're really lucky. We get to know them, we come to appreciate them for what they can do, and then, like that, as quickly as they came, they are gone, leaving only memories, and occasionally questions of what might have been.
Gardner looked like a Jim Tressel-led Terrelle Pryor: an athletic, tall quarterback being forced to play under center and make plays only when he's asked to while allowing the defense to carry the load. In this game, Gardner was able to do so, but this was against a Minnesota team that allowed 44 points to New Hampshire and 28 to Western Michigan and Purdue. Does Gardner's obvious improvement actually resemble a sustainable winning offense? That's debatable.
Tremendous bullets. Ditto TTB bullets. Maize and Blue Nation bullets. Maize and Go Blue recap. They're SEOing Drew Dileo's name into post URLs at SBN! (Don't bother with the "RESURGENT POWER RUNNING GAME?!?!?" comment if you hit up that article, as they have been taken care of.) Gopher takes from Fringe Bowl Team and Daily Gopher. I agree with TDG on Phillip Nelson—guy was extremely impressive. Holding the Rope column.
Repeat After Me: There is NO QB CONTROVERSY
After Devin Gardner's amazing game (minus the 1st quarter), I joked on Twitter that the easiest way to identify a so-called "Walmart Wolverine" on sports talk radio this week will be the guy calling in asking if there's a QB controversy now in A2.
There is not.
Devin was outstanding (minus the 1st quarter). He was outstanding by any measure, but more so since he hadn't gotten any meaningful game reps at quarter back since... Illinois 2011? But as soon as he's 100% again, Denard is Michigan's QB this season. Period.
Also yes so hard
Paid folk (and the Daily). Come on Baumgardner diviiiiiide and take into account connnnntext before you praise RB production. Numbers from same. Michigan had its first consecutive 90-yard TD drives ever, which… like… wow.
When Michigan has needed to scramble this year, it has turned to Gardner.
Gardner was never really given a fair shake. He came in as a five-star recruit marooned behind a once-in-a-generation talent. Next year, he’ll have to compete with another hyped recruit, Shane Morris, who better fits Michigan’s pro-style system.
This year, he was asked to move to receiver, though it’s unclear whether he had a choice. The extent of his protest was to say he still considers himself a quarterback.
On Saturday, Michigan thrust him into uncharted territory: a wide receiver given one week to prepare for quarterback. There was little run game to bail him out, and even with Robinson, Michigan hadn’t scored a touchdown in two games. Gardner had taken reps at quarterback in his first two years, but he had to learn new protections and run packages in days.
“I was pretty nervous coming in to know how I would handle that,” Gardner said. “But I feel like I handled it pretty well.”
It looked as though Gardner, a junior who moved to receiver following two seasons as Robinson's backup, was back at home -- and he said that's exactly how he felt.
"I play quarterback," he said, "so I feel good."
Is it possible Gardner is a better quarterback, now that he doesn't play quarterback?
This is the kind of post Diarist of the Week was invented for: Ladies and gentlerines, I give you MSU's latest Narduzzi defense, as broken down by colin. If you missed it on the front page yesterday and when Ace linked to it, now is your chance.
The defense he describes is a version of the thing we faced from Ohio State and Virginia Tech last year, a run-sound Cover-4 scheme that is built to beat north-south spread offenses and 4 verts, and weakest against great edge rushers and outside receivers who will always win a 1-on-1 matchup. Short version: Michigan can move the ball by running over an overhyped Gholston, optioning off Marcus Rush, getting a hat on the playside linebacker, and Denard getting by Isaiah Lewis. It's a good defense.
It's also a good institution of higher learning, with a fantastic teaching school, one of the nation's best ag schools, and a packaging program that is not the joke you think that is. In this vein of non-sarcastic appreciation for our worthy in-state rival, turd ferguson offers this panegyric to their football program's unparalleled off-the-field accomplishments since Dantonio arrived:
Spartans are known to generously extend a hand to those in need. They’ve developed a prison-to-work program seen by many as a model for how to reduce to an absolute minimum the time between prison and work. Their athletic director moonlights as a volunteer career counselor and their football coach as a public speaking coach, offering their time even to supposed athletic rivals. When one of their neighbors could use help just stretching his neck, scratching his eye, massaging his arm, or bludgeoning his face, a Spartan is always there to assist.
Defensive Analysis. If you read just one comprehensive, detailed analysis of Michigan State's defense this week, read colin's. If you read two comprehensive, detailed analyses of Michigan State's defense this week, tune into the more personnel-oriented one by death by trident. Things you may have missed: Darqueze Dennard doesn't show on the stats but is the field and probably the better corner than Adams, and the man Ace called the "best linebacker in the conference" hasn't registered a sack, though he's done everything else. Weird he said that because Ace has Mauti and both Wisconsin guys.
Tea Leaves. Eye of the Tiger checks back in at the midline to see which Star Wars episode this season is turning out to be. So far Michigan has fought its most pivotal battle using Ewoks and a game in South Bend featuring plenty of LANDO! so we're definitely not in Eps IV or V. I submit we use the special editions to specify which games are lost:
- Empire Strikes Back, Special Edition: 12-2, win Rose Bowl. Do you remember the part at the beginning when the Wampa ice creature that haunted your childhood nightmares turned out to be a guy in a white bear suit? No you don't. Because Han is frozen in carbonite and could be anywhere in the galaxy and Luke has begun to consider the dark side, and Threepio hasn't said more than "Help, I think I'm melting" in 15 minutes.
- Return of the Jedi: Beat MSU and OSU, blow up Death Star, celebrate with teddy bears, then lose to Admiral Chip Kelly in a licensed fan fiction called Star Wars: The Pasadena Affair.
- Return of the Jedi, Special Edition: Lose Big Ten Championship to Wisconsin. Would be like defeating the Empire, and then having the ghost of Hayden Christianson show up claiming to be your dad.
- A New Hope, Special Edition: Still the epic you remember, but the beginning is now a disaster ruined by Stormtroopers riding dewbacks and a Jawa falling off a Paraceratherium, and ILM family members wandering around in Halloween costumes. Then there's Han shooting first. Along the way there's a point where Borges decides to use the "Han steps on Jabba" scene, and the result is depressingly worse than it should have been.
Advancystats: FEI says 45 points on Illinois just isn't trying hard enough. The defense had a moderate climb but Michigan dropped badly in offense and overall because those stats are now opponent-adjusted. Enjoy Life has some words for the numbers:
That said, WTF!!!
After a 45-0 drubbing of an admittedly weak Illinois team, FEI blasted the overall rating to #47 (from #24 last week) and pummeled the offense efficiency to #63 (from #40 last week). Defense efficiency improved to #27 (from #33 last week).
A Box Score's Gooey Insides: The carnage isn't as gruesome when reduced to statistics, but I still wouldn't recommend letting children under the age of 11 see the Illini's final passing totals.
Etc. Chris of Unborked Logic has brought back Moving Picture Pages. Whoever the mystery person is who gave their idea for this week's Blockhams should have had the socks turn out to be kind of sticky, and then show Denard losing his shoes right and left on TV.
[After LE JUMP, MGoHalloween costumes, free indoor club seats to two lucky readers, and tinfoil Sparty hats are for realz!]
Past Jake Ryan, hopefully not future MSU
Snap jumping. Not again?
Please address Sparty jumping the snap. What can be done to prevent it or even use it to the Wolverines' advantage?
Please, please, please use all your influence to prevent Sparty snap jumping from successfully occurring this Saturday. This is an important key to Michigan's offensive success.
I AM USING ALL MY INFLUENCE MAN YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unfortunately, that influence consists of squinting really hard and making "wahwahwahwah" noises to project psychic sound waves about me. I have no influence.
I do think that we will see that snap jumping significantly reduced in frequency, possibly almost eliminated. One of the hidden transition costs last year was a coaching staff that had not endured Jerel Worthy's sometimes-offside-but-usually-just-eating-your-heart dance party and did not spend big chunks off the offseason fuming about it and scheming themselves a plan to defeat it. This year everyone is well aware that snap timing blew up the Michigan offense in all different ways and that changes must be made. We have seen Michigan vary their snap counts—they did it last week—and with a home game Michigan should be able to use audible signals if they want. Meanwhile, Worthy is gone and I haven't seen the Spartan replacements be able to replicate that maddening skill of his.
Unfortunately, this prediction about the snap jumping has reached the status of turnovers under Rich Rodriguez: logic says it can't happen again, and then it happens again. At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are before I believe it.
If not this year, though, when? Michigan State's coming off three straight nail-biters that required them to dump everything they had on the field in an effort to win the game. Michigan's coming off a bye and two laughers. MSU is shuffling guys on their OL, has benched a senior captain LB, and is trying to find two tight ends to rub together.
They don't have the depth to do much other than what they've done already. They don't have a changeup like Baker they can go to; they don't have the tight end depth that threw Michigan off; they are trying to find anyone who can catch a ball. Please, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, yea the most powerful of all fictional supernatural football deities, hear our plea.
Bellomy on the goal line.
I am a little confused by the play calling after Denard went out with his "boo-boo".
1) Why is Toussaint in the "jumbo" (unsure if package name is correct)? Rawls just seems to have the short yardage figured out a little bit better i.e. size and running style: see 6:35 Q2. (I know my example comes after and did not have 6/7 on the line and all 11 within 5 of the LOS and inside the tackles but still). Was Rawls insertion later a sign that he may now have the short yardage job?
You've got me on this one. I have two theories, neither of which seems that convincing.
Theory one: Fitz is in a funk and rusty and getting flack from people and some cheap touchdowns will help his morale, maybe get him driving harder at the goal line.
Theory two: Rawls is fumbling a lot in practice or going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.
Pick one or make one up yourself; I think either explanation is going to quickly fall by the wayside as Rawls becomes a preferred option inside the five. He probably would have scored on one of the two attempts. I do think the BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE theory has some credibility behind it since I just watched Rawls look at this…
…and decide to bounce that outside the TE instead of slam it up at the gaping cutback lane like he was born to do. Amazingly, the guy seems to have some Michael Shaw to him. Go north-south, young moose.
2) Why the vanilla play calls? It was clear later that they trust Bellomy with some measure of the offense that is clearly larger than watching the RB run into some ineffective down-blocks. With the alignment of weak-side DE, LB, and FS, why not run a PA boot with the TE rubbing off and going all Funchey in the back of the end zone? Is this just a manball fundamental that we must live with this year while the donkey punchers are being groomed?
There's a big difference between trusting Bellomy to run around and fling stuff once you're up a billion points and having him take his first meaningful snaps in a rainstorm in a game that could still go either way.
Personally, I wanted him to hand off come hell or high water—when you're the silverback you want to lower variance, and having Bellomy think about all the stuff he's going to do after the snap could lead to bad news. Bellomy fumbled a snap later, after all, and Michigan doesn't want to open the door for anything cheap for the Illini because that's the only way they lose.
In general I don't think there's much to criticize either way about goal line playcalling. The defense is selling out one way, you pick one or the other and succeed or don't.
[After THE JUMP: clock management, Afghanistan face-off, Legends logistics, Jake Ryan of the past.]
- Trouba is the truth. Three assists, one leveling open-ice hit, and defensive responsibility until everyone got sloppy up a ton in the third. A tape to tape breakout pass machine. Money money money.
- Andrew Copp is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. Not a big recruit by any stretch of the imagination but Copp stood out as a big dude with some jump; he split time between football and hockey in high school and may develop into something a bit better than Danny Fardig 2.0.
- Moffatt-Treais-PDG looks to be your top line, at least for now, with the wingers on that line seeming to have good chemistry. Looking for a bustout year from PDG, who was young enough to get drafted after his freshman year and should improve greatly.
- Brennan Serville is another guy I'll be watching early for signs of improvement, especially with Merrill out six weeks and Serville skating every night as a result. Initial impression was not much different than last year's struggles, unfortunately, but confirmation bias and all that.
- I miss Hunwick. Rutledge gave up a soft goal in his period and looked like he had holes all over. This may be paranoia.
The mid-tier guys (Moffie, Bennett, Guptill, Old Lynch, Hyman) were scratched, FWIW. Hyman's another guy I'm hoping will start producing more after his freshman hype fizzled.
Jake Ryan, basically. Roh on Ryan:
“He’s like a Tootsie Pop,” Roh said. “No matter how many times you talk to him, you really never know what you’re going to get until you get to the chocolatey center.”
Zach Helfland asks the obvious question:
Meaning what exactly?
“I don’t know,” Roh said. “You can’t describe him, really. He’s like, I don’t know, he’s like smart but dumb at the same time, but he’s also just random, just like, ‘Yo,’ randomly.”
YO. Elsewhere in that article, Ryan is an alien. Read it.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO JT FLOYD WHYYYY
"I told him right before I cut them, 'Man, 'Lace, I'm going to cut 'em,'" Floyd said. "He's like, 'No you're not, no you're not.'
"He was the first guy I saw. He just looked at me and smiled, 'Man, I can't believe you did it.' We had a little dreadlock bond, I guess. Now I'm trying to persuade him to cut 'em"
but it's not going to happen. Not going to happen."
Ticket pricing update. To be fair The M Zone needs to continue their scalping project into next year to see what it's like trying to grab OSU tickets online, but so far so good for the idea we're closing in on the max amount people will pay to go to Michigan games:
Endzone Seats on StubHub:
UMass - Saved $64.72
Illinois - Saved $31.72
Total Endzone StubHub Savings So Far - $96.44
Maize Seats on StubHub:
UMass - Saved $87.38
Illinois - Saved $43.38
Total Maize Section Savings So Far - $130.76
Victors Seats on StubHub:
UMass - Saved $165.24
Illinois - Saved $98.12
Total Victors Section Savings So Far - $263.36
MSU is looking like a win for season ticket holders but that's the only one, and that's with Stubhub's massive cut (15% from the seller plus 20 bucks in "convenience fees" from the buyer) taken into account.
Willis Ward to be honored. Michigan's going to do it, and it's all thanks to an eight year old girl:
"A lot of people like to listen to little kids, and you should speak up and make a difference," said Genna, a Brighton third-grader.
She addressed the university's board of regents in March and lobbied state legislators in June to name a special day after star U-M football player Willis Ward, who was benched for a game against Georgia Tech in 1934 because he was black.
Genna succeeded, and Willis — a friend and teammate of future President Gerald Ford — will be honored by the state and school next week.
Like flies. Blocking-type Michigan State people continue to get injured at an alarming rate. TE Dion Sims may or may not play against Michigan; if he doesn't they probably won't be throwing his backup many passes:
Andrew Gleichert, a walk-on who was awarded a scholarship before the opener against Boise State, has a broken wrist and will have to play with a cast the rest of the season.
"We got concerned with him being a point-of-attack blocker," Roushar said. "We feel like he's got to do a better job. He's working on it. With the loss of Dion, you're looking for something stronger at the point of attack."
Meanwhile, former megarecruit Lawrence Thomas went from linebacker to 295-pound fullback and can't move down to tight end this week because he picked up a concussion against Indiana—his second since August. He's expected to play against Iowa because obviously.
[AFTER AN UNUSUAL UV JUMP: THINGS PEOPLE DID TO THE DANNY HOPEDOKEN GIF]
Hail Mattison. Tube sock brigade == ND's line in the eyes of a guy who might know, Purdue OC Gary Nord:
Gold and Black: Are you having trouble with your offensive front, and is that affecting your run game?
Nord: "No, I think the offensive line played the best game they've played this year, I really do. They probably protected better than they've ever protected. I think Michigan's defensive line was probably as good as any that we've played. They were very good. They held Notre Dame to about the same number of yards we had and they had five turnovers on them. They played two of the better teams in the country in Alabama and Notre Dame, those two, so their stats were screwed up a little bit going in, but watching them man-for-man and for the four-down guys and two linebackers, they're as good as there is in the country."
Coachspeak? Never. Gary Nord speaks the gospel truth at all times thanks to an ancient curse passed down from Nord father to Nord son that turns them into a walrus if they ever say anything other than the unvarnished facts of a matter.
Danny Hope has it too, and fell from the straight and narrow.
That's so Weis. I mean, seriously.
The US government needs to disguise Weis as an Iranian ayatollah and send him into deep cover. Within weeks the country will collapse in the world's most disorganized civil war.
Yeah, I know about Somalia. I stand by what I said.
Next up: the University of Phoenix Phoenixes. TOC does a thing where they deploy Bradley-Terry ratings for college football* in the service of predicting things. They've got a margin-aware version, too. The West is a sack of cats with Michigan a tiny favorite thanks to not having a conference loss yet; the by-far top two teams in the East are the ineligible ones. BIG TENNNNNN.
Michigan's opponent this weekend… eh… not so good.
Blowout of the Week (Illinois Division): Illinois @ Michigan
Not only has Illinois only won one game against 1-A competition (Western Michigan), last week's 17-point loss to Wisconsin was their closest loss. This will not end well. Michigan is an 80% favorite according to the basic method, 93% (17 points) according to margin-aware.
The Illini have a one in 70,100 chance of winning out, though.
Over at A Lion Eye they're trying to figure out how on earth you fire Ron Zook and get a lot worse:
Our last four losses by 17 or more under Zook:
11/26/11: Minnesota 27, Illinois 7
11/12/11: Michigan 31, Illinois 14
10/16/10: Michigan State 26, Illinois 6
10/03/09: Penn State 35, Illinois 17
So if you’re scoring at home, that’s four 17+ point losses in the last five weeks for Illinois. And before this season, four 17+ point losses in the last 35 games. You know what, let’s make this one hurt a little more. 2006 through 2011. Six seasons, eight losses by 17 points or more. This season, four of our six games were losses by 17 points or more.
Illinois's run game has fallen off a cliff you already thought it had fallen off, dropping from 11th in 2010 to 41st in 2011 to 94th(!) this year, 94th when three of their opponents have been WMU, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Tech. Every La Tech opponent has rushed for more yards against the Bulldogs than Illinois.
BONUS: after collecting 41 sacks a year ago, Illinois has nine in six games this time out. They returned everyone but Mercilus. They're 109th at sacks allowed. Illinois: not good.
*[college hockey fans may know this as KRACH]
Another tough injury for State. Dion Sims missed most of the Indiana game with an ankle injury. He's day-to-day-ish:
"I don't know that he'll make it this week," Dantonio said of Sims, "but he may make it next week. We'll have to see how he responds in the next couple days, really."
This week is Iowa, next week Michigan. Sims is MSU's leading receiver with 313 yards, though if you give Aaron Burbridge a minute he'll eclipse that.
Sims's backup is a redshirt freshman, FWIW. If Sims misses the Michigan game the main benefit seems to be a lack of the multi-TE sets State used to spring Ed Baker to a big day last year.
Also in injuryland, OSU MLB Etienne Sabino is out four weeks with a bone fracture in his leg. That prognosis should have him back on the field for Michigan, but seriously you can come back from this sort of thing in four weeks?
Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino has a broken right fibula and will miss at least three weeks, possibly more, for the Ohio State football team.
Sabino was injured in the first half of Saturday’s 63-38 win over Nebraska. He had surgery on Sunday to implant a steel plate into his leg.
“He talked to the team afterwards, and it was an emotional moment,” Meyer said. “The best case is three weeks. The worst case is longer. We hope to get him back.”
I am terrified of football players. Sabino's replacement is true freshman Joshua Perry, but OSU spends a lot of time in a nickel package that he won't feature in.
Willis Ward to be honored. All it took was action from the state legislature:
Oct. 20 (UM vs. MSU) is Willis Ward Day in Michigan. Athletic Department spokesperson said Michigan plans to recognize Willis on that day.
I've always loved "recognize" as a thing that is done by official-type people. "Oh, hey… you're Willis Ward, aren't you? Rad. I suppose this IS a plaque with you on it!"
Yost to host. Hockey drops the puck tonight in an exhibition against Windsor; Yost Built previews the D and goalies. I agree with him that splitting Moffie and Bennett across two pairings makes sense. Something like…
…gives you offensive firepower at all times and a defensive guy who will cover up for the offensive guy when he lets his freak flag fly. I'll also be watching to see what kind of progress Brennan Serville can make. He was pretty bad last year but also very young; he could make a big step forward.
Red says Rutledge, Racine, and Janecyk will all play a period so hopefully that means Rutledge's eye thing is healed is ready to go for the real season opener on… Thursday? Guh.
Someone's got to do something about hockey scheduling. There's a game at Yost on February first this year. You know when the next one is? March. I assume this is just the CCHA screwing with Michigan because it can; hopefully next year they'll be able to move more home games into the back half of the schedule.
BONUS SCHEDULING TIP: The Big Ten should seek out opportunities to have rival weekends where, say, Minnesota football and hockey come to town at the same time. The travel equation changes dramatically when you get a hockey series on top of your football game.
Compher so pretty. JT Compher had another career lined up if hockey didn't work out:
"When I was younger I did toddler modeling and I was on the front of a catalog," Compher told NHL.com. "I got to keep the red scooter that I was modeling. That was pretty cool."
Compher said he can't remember what company the catalog was from, only that he was 3 or 4 years old at the time and got a pretty cool new toy out of the deal.
Okay, okay, this happened. Stop emailing me about it plz:
As I said on the twitter, my favorite part is that he appears to have misspelled his own damn name in his twitter handle.
Etc.: Ramroth Finnegan! I bet he ends up at Cincinnati. Illinois CB Terry Hawthorne was taken off in an ambulance last week but may return Saturday. Weinreb on Penn State remembering this football thing. Tim Hardaway expectation tracker. More numbers displaying that Illinois is bad yo. Denard throws are key.
It's a bye week, so let's take a look at a game that may tell us something about the two most important games on the schedule. This is a little like evaluating a spring game—is OSU's defensive line rampant or is MSU's offensive line mewling?—but there are Things that can be Learned.
To the knowledgemobile!
Michigan State Offense vs Ohio State Defense
Andrew Maxwell is a lot better than his stats give him credit for. In this one he had 269 yards and a touchdown on 42 attempts, which is a mediocre-to-poor 6.4 YPA. But it's not his fault. Every negative thing you've heard about the MSU wide receiver corps is true, and then some. They drop balls. They can't get separation. They drop some more balls. They're not particularly big targets. Etc.
Maxwell himself is a dart-thrower who handles pressure well. He laid in three twenty-yard corner routes perfectly, and what did he get from them?
Bupkis. At no point did anyone have an inch of separation.That happened twice in the first half and when Maxwell managed to thread the tiniest of needles in the second half, Fowler was separated from the ball. Fowler has now been displaced by Aaron Burbridge because obviously.
Burbridge must be running routes so wrong they're backwards in practice. DeAnthony Arnett, too.
Anyway, Maxwell had time and was deadly accurate in this game. Good play from the OSU secondary and awful awful awful WR play held his numbers down, as they have every game this year. With a few more games under his belt, Maxwell will not be a huge step down from Kirk Cousins when the time comes.
Is Jonathan Hankins immense or is MSU's offensive line a shambles? Both, probably. Here's Hankins destroying the surest thing on the Michigan State line, senior multi-year starter Chris MacDonald:
Hankins destroying the right tackle:
OSU flips Hankins between three DL spots (everything but WDE); in this game they played him exclusively at three-tech, where he owned. A very large part of MSU's anemic rushing output (LeVeon Bell had 45 yards on 17 carries) was Hankins demanding doubles all day, or blowing up plays when he was not doubled.
/shakes fist at Rich Rodriguez and Archie Collins
As for the MSU OL, it's getting kind of shambling. Maxwell had time to throw in the second half when MSU abandoned the ground game and turned into Oklahoma State lite, but OSU's edge rush guys aren't great. WDE Nathan Williams is Frank Clark but more responsible, and it's basically down to Garrett Goebel and John Simon to get to the QB since it's not in Hankins' job description to do so. In this game Simon was quiet.
Point shambles. With nine minutes left in the game, MSU faced a fourth and one. They've got Le'Veon Bell. They passed. I thought this was defensible.
Le'Veon Bell is still terrifying. OSU bottled him up by forcing him to do things in the backfield, which robs him of his momentum and takes away the YAC that turns three yard runs into five. MSU does lack an alternative this year. Nick Hill is just a guy, and Larry Caper has been almost totally marginalized. Without Baker the Spartans don't have the option of attacking the edges as much as they did last year—welcome news for Michigan.
Ohio State's secondary is athletic and dumb. Keith Mumphery rumblestumbled for a 29 yard touchdown when…
- Orhian Johnson dragged way out of position on a run fake to the opposite side of the field he couldn't do anything about anyway.
- Orhian Johnson missed a tackle.
- Christian Bryant tried the old Cato June shoulder-block, which Mumphery bounced off of.
- Travis Howard tried to strip the ball instead of tackling.
- Etienne Sabino tried to strip the ball instead of tackling.
- ALL OF THE STRIPPING
- NONE OF THE TACKLING
It's something to behold:
Try to imagine Kovacs doing what Christian Bryant does here if you want your head to explode due to logic error.
On the other hand, MSU corner routes were obliterated by Johnson getting over and the corner being underneath, as mentioned above under the Maxwell bit.
OSU's corners got flagged a lot in this game. They're aggressive and will gamble on the flag instead of playing passively and hoping things go right for them. If refereeing is home-field biased this is not so good for M.
Here's what happens when pattern matching goes awry. Pattern matching is nouveau zone coverage in which the guy you're in man-to-man on is determined after the snap. It's what Alabama uses, what a lot of the NFL uses… it's the in thing. Now offensive coordinators are trying to beat it, and here's the first instance I've seen* of a route clearly predicated on the idea the opponent is pattern matching.
MSU WR Bennie Fowler will run an out and up, which happens all the time on the outside. It's not something that common in the slot, at least in my experience. Johnson is checking him because if the #2 WR goes vertical, that's his guy. Once he breaks to the out he thinks "not my problem" and starts looking for a post or crossing route from the other side of the field. As soon as Johnson looks away, the WR does go vertical (this is clear only on the replay):
Big third down conversion because MSU messed with Johnson's key. RPS +2.
*[I'm sure this has been going on for a few years now; this is just the first one that was like "ohhhhh I get it."]
MSU has a screen I remember and hate. They're running it a little differently, but if you remember Michigan's matchups with Wisconsin about a decade ago you probably remember their middle TE screen that invariably picked up 15 yards. MSU is running a variation of that with Bell where instead of looping the ball over someone the QB just zips it to the RB quickly before the DE can collapse back inside. I want to call it a "zip screen" or something because the main advantage it has is being super quick relative to other screens. Por ejemplo:
That's the screen that you thought "ohhhh lucky" on in the Boise game when a DE almost intercepted it, BTW.
OSU will leave big holes in their zone occasionally. MSU's sporadic success in their passing game came largely when big gaping holes sprung in OSU's zone coverage, like here:
Also, Dion Sims is a horse of a tight end. That's a full ten yards after contact.
Here a simple snag package gets Mumphery open for a big gain:
That's a very large hole off a corner blitz; wonder if someone (Shazier most likely) busted there.
Where is the pressure? Despite MSU abandoning the run almost entirely in the second half, OSU was unable to generate much pressure.Williams will run at you fast if you don't get a block on him but he's not an elite pass rusher by any stretch of the imagination. He's just a guy.
More worrying for Ohio State (and Michigan) was Simon's almost total lack of impact. I've seen him beast up in a couple games this year, but not against MSU. I swear, if MSU can cobble together an OL that can fend off Michigan again this year I'm going to have a fit. Another fit. Fitty fit fit.