...talks about how UConn hasn't been in contact and how they're out. (HT: UMHoops)
11/10/2012 – Michigan 38, Northwestern 31 (OT) – 7-3, 5-1 Big Ten
College sports are a rich-get-richer kind of operation. American pro sports reward their best teams with crappy draft picks and salary caps that make it hard to keep successful operations together. Yes, successful operations can keep their heads above water for periods, and the Lions can be awful for 50 years. A relentless gravity still pulls everyone towards .500.
In college, success adds to success. You can tell recruits they'll go to the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl instead of, like, Nashville or wherever. Your pile of money is larger than someone else's pile of money and you can put up buildings where every brick is an XBox. You can point to some guy making millions in the NFL and promise recruit X will as well. You can tell recruits that you're not going to be fired and replaced by some guy from the Sun Belt, unlike every other school recruiting Derrick Green. The more you win, the higher your draft picks are.
Gravity has no place in college sports, just entropy. Entropy: the tendency of things to move from ordered states to disordered ones. Entropy: the gradual decline and fall of the Carr era. Entropy: Greg Robinson. Entropy: Northwestern football. With 18 seconds left there's a fifty-yard pass on the way, and things are about to get disordered.
I mean, what can you say when your glorious victory is so clearly a gift from the cosmic random number generator? I have seen many things in my time as a sports fan. None of them have been an opposing safety taking a pass that is about to sail into the turf 10, 20 yards further downfield and flailing at it in such a way as to send it into the arms of the Michigan receiver he'd battered to the ground, gently. Feather-like. After all of that… easy.
Meanwhile, that event had been immediately preceded by a Northwestern fourth-and-one conversion on which the ref had to make sure every chain was ramrod straight and get his nose down to the field level before awarding the Wildcats a first down they probably didn't get but could not be overturned from above. Fitzgerald Toussaint's only decent run of the day ended with a bizarre pop-up fumble. Trevor Siemian came in and tore Michigan's secondary to shreds.
I like it better when the randomness is under a nice ol' narrative. When it's in your face so spectacularly, it's like the gods of math are taunting you for daring to care about anything they have their fickle fingers in. Go home, get a pen, and root for Fibonacci psuedo-randomness, they are saying. What you are doing is the equivalent of rooting for 3, they say. The number. The literal number. Woo 3. Go 3. You are so much more prime than 4. That's so 3! Oh god those people who like 4 are just animals. They poop in coolers, you know, and drive trucks. They're so… divisible.
Stripped of the narrative bit the mind goes back to a game of partial information, high stress, and plain evidence that worshipping the gods of math gets you nowhere. Big stacks matter in tournament poker, too. With many chips you can lean on people, play with the numbers on your side, and force people to decisions for all their chips. You get to be the gorilla. You get the good recruits.
Back in the day when laws were unclear and jerks hadn't yet banned online poker by attaching a rider to a bill about port security, I played a lot. I was pretty good. I played online satellites until I'd gotten a buy-in to the World Series of Poker, and went. I made the second day in rough shape, and started repairing my busted stack by chopping off preflop raisers. While I'd risk more, I'd be in fewer hands, give off a tight image and get 5-6 blinds instead of 1.5. I would have no illusions about whether I should GTFO if someone played back at me. It was working, and I caught a couple hands. I was on my way to day three.
I'd done this to the guy to my right two or three times already, and his frustration was evident the last go-round. He raised preflop again, and I looked at kings. Long story short, we ended up all-in, he turned over aces instead of anything else, and I did not suck out. Short-stacked after, it was a matter of time.
Brady Hoke hasn't had kings, but he has sucked out, and sucked out, and sucked out.
With 11-2 and a BCS win in the rear view, Michigan picked up the kind of momentum that saw them lock down a top-five class by March. Getting there took a series of desperate heaves to Junior Hemingway. This year the heaves have been a little less desperate but twice Michigan has had 18 seconds and needed big chunks of yards to set up do-or-die field goals and got them. They're not getting every break—see refs in all Nebraska games—but with a combination of skill and fortune Hoke is building quite a stack for himself.
The latest chip is a 2013 starting quarterback out of nowhere, a guy who had looked basically awful in any extended playing time before Denard's elbow injury forced Devin Gardner into the Minnesota game. And even if Saturday was too transparently chaotic to go down as an all-timer, it's another step through this rough patch as Michigan waits for the large, mean cavalry to arrive.
In the meantime let's all just stay here on the floor breathing heavily and slathering narrative over the terrifying randomness of the universe.
Football looks hurty sometimes, and by sometimes I mean all the time.
Also, here's Gardner chucking that TD to Funchess:
Brad at Maize and Blue Nation had a day with his shots. He's the guy who grabbed the shots that lead the post and then this is pretty great too:
Also, nightmare fuel!
Full gallery here.
The News got a great shot of Gardner:
That's Bryant in the extremely large track jacket BTW.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Roy Roundtree, come on down. Not only did you spawn a strange and likely short-lived meme when the Larrys, about whom more later, made a bizarre joke about how he would be better at catching the ball if his name was "Squaretree"—because square things are good at catching I guess—but you also put up 139 yards receiving, including the game-saving deep miracle. Also on 'Tree's docket: a beautiful corner route catch, getting run over on third and seventeen, and a critical hitch-and-run in OT.
Honorable Mention. Devin Gardner (at this rate will be Vince Young by next year, too bad about plateaus and such), Jeremy Gallon (hitch/bomb/punt return/let's ignore those other punt return opportunities), Kenny Demens (a close, close #2 with back to back OT TFLs).
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois) deytikerjerbs
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota), Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota, Northwestern)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska).
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW
This must be awarded to the play that spawned it, which is Demens decleating Northwestern to end the game. In the future awarded to the BOOM YES play of the week.
Honorable mention: Kenny Demens stones Northwestern on third and one too, Treezy to the rescue, Devin Gardner kind of balletically flings a ball way high except it's to Devin Funchess so it's on the money, Jibreel Black forces a Colter fumble, Jordan Kovacs implodes Colter's back.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over.
Our hipster quarterback. WHICH ONE OF THESE DUDES IS DEVIN GARDNER
you've probably never heard of me
Probably the one on the left. PROBABLY
Open contempt. Northwestern fans were pretty hype on Nick Van Hoose as the cornerback who might rescue their secondary from its overwhelming Northwesternness; Van Hoose did not play. The Northwestern secondary was overwhelming in its Northwesternness.
This manifested on second down after second down when Michigan generally followed up a one yard run by going with a 2TE I-Form set and throwing a hitch in front of a helpless cornerback, or a corner at a helpless cornerback, or a hitch and go well past a helpless cornerback. I get pretty irritated when Michigan, which cannot run from under center even a tiny little bit, goes OOPS POW SURPRISE PLAY ACTION on obvious passing downs, but in this game it worked because every hitch route came with either a first down or some YAC baked in.
I have no idea why Northwestern didn't just bracket Michigan's single WR hard and dare Michigan to make them pay by getting to the second level—something it seemed they were four or five blocks from on every play. But they didn't. So, yeah.
RUUUUUUUUUUUU—oh you are nevermind. IIRC, Michigan did not have any called runs for Gardner except the goal line rollout (and that did have a pass option). He got sacked once. That means his seven other rushing attempts were all scrambles. That's more than Denard has acquired in eight games. They were also effective—an average pickup of almost seven yards without any of those coming on fruitless third and longs.
Yeah, that is Vince Young-like. The combination of effective deep balls and a willingness to take off is potentially deadly. Covering four verts and containing Gardner seems hard, and add in dumpoffs to space players like Norfleet and Hayes, and that's a nice recipe. Hopefully Michigan explores that once they don't have to minimize QB impact at all costs.
[UPDATE: After checking out the Gardner errysnap video, Michigan did have another called QB run in a goal-to-go situation that went for five or six yards, so six scrambles.]
not always pretty, but so far so good / Upchurch
Air check. We should erase the desperation bomb to Roundtree, which was a throw Gardner had to attempt, missed, and got a miracle deflection to complete it. That excised, Gardner was 15 of 28 for 8.3 YPA, two touchdowns, and a turrible interception. Add in the scrambles and that's good in a vacuum. Your context: Gardner was playing a poor defense minus its best cornerback and on an offense that can't run the ball even a little.
Those probably balance out, leaving Michigan with a good performance from a guy who'd been playing WR two weeks ago and has eligibility next year. That is huge.
Unlike last week, I can't remember anything particularly outlandish that happened to alter Gardner's stats since we've already set aside the desperation heave at the end of the game. Gardner actually lost a long completion to Jerald Robinson, and there was nothing on the order of Roundtree, Dileo, and Gallon going all circus for their QB in the Minnesota game. When Gardner missed, it wasn't by much. Minnesota was some good throws interspersed with a lot of shaky ones on which the receivers were great; Northwestern required a lot less heroism from the WRs.
You'd expect rapid improvement from a guy getting almost his first extended playing time and transitioning back to reps at QB from reps at WR; Gardner leapt even that high bar.
Y'all be jumpin'. Michigan has now pulled opponents offsides five times in two weeks with Gardner under center, with Northwestern threatening to go three or four more times.
That's a credit to Gardner's hard count and evidence of how much more comfortable Borges is with an offense that operates from under center. To run those freeze plays you have to be under center quickly enough to try it and then try something else if it doesn't work, something that has not often been the case for most of the year when Michigan was struggling just to get plays in. Against Northwestern, how often did you think "GET OUT OF THE HUDDLE" to yourself? For me, it was zero times. That's down a half-dozen from most games this year.
SIDE NOTE: I've seen a lot of credit going to Gardner for having the awareness to fling those fades when guys go offsides. That's a misunderstanding of what's going on. The way it works is this:
- Gardner huts his hut real hard, and then waits.
- Guy jumps or does not jump.
- If guy jumps, Mealer snaps it, free play.
- If guy does not jump, Michigan checks into something else.
So if Gardner gets the ball he knows someone is offsides and he has a free play and just throws the fade. He only gets the ball if he has a free play. The credit should go to Borges and Mealer.
SIDE SIDE NOTE: Yeah, Michigan did try to do similar things under RR from the gun. Bizarrely, what seemed to happen is that Michigan would get a guy to jump but he would get back before Michigan could snap the ball, leaving Michigan to burn a down on a low-percentage play.
Hello, Fitz. Not that Fitz. Hey, three broken tackles en route to a touchdown on a nothing dumpoff: that is a play. I enjoy Fitzgerald Toussaint making plays. he also picked up a bunch of bonus yards on his 50-yard inverted veer give, and then fumbled. That's his first fumble, right? I guess he gets a pass for it. Even Mike Hart finally broke.
A tip, I say, a palpable tip. Did anyone else notice Michigan removing AJ Williams for Devin Funchess on the third and goal in OT, and think to themselves "rollout to Funchess's side"? Lo, it transpired, and Northwestern covered Funchess but had no one else on the edge once a playside LB tried to shoot inside Omameh and got walled off.
I require more Dileo. Michigan finally had enough of seeing punts hit the ground and put Dennis Norfleet back there in place of Gallon; Norfleet let the next punt hit the ground. Dileo fair-caught the next one. Meanwhile, balls are being tossed at the thus-far ineffective Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson as Dileo watches from the sideline. I humbly request more targets for Dileo, who gets separation and catches passes, instead of larger receivers who do neither of these things
Maize and Blue Nation
Kenny Damn Demens. Remember when he was getting lined up two inches behind a nose tackle on a three man line and obliterated by guards releasing clean? Yeah. Demens isn't going to be a guy who makes every #25 in the future wear his name on the chest, but any time he walks into a bar for the rest of his life sporting that mustache of his someone is going to be like "CONSECUTIVE TFLS TO WIN 2012 NORTHWESTERN" and buy him a beer, and I love it when that happens. See also: Jerome Jackson, 2005 Iowa.
Demens did get beat by Northwestern's #1 WR on their last touchdown, but that's an RPS thing and a function of Michigan's LB slide plus Northwestern consistently gashing Michigan on the corners. Projected % of Michigan fans instantly reminded of Chris Graham against Anthony Gonzalez: 37%.
So sexy. Michigan came out with a a weird three man line featuring Jibreel Black as the NT that all but begged Northwestern to run up the middle on their fourth down, with the results noted above: Ryan gets cut off by the backside G, Black shoots playside of the tackle and forces a cutback on the handoff NW was baited into, BOOM.
That was exactly the plan:
“The last tackle there — number one, I like the call that (defensive coordinator Greg Mattison) made because it was one where it may have talked (Northwestern) into running the football because of some of the space inside,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “And then Kenny just did a nice job of just working inside out to the ball, where maybe a little bit earlier he was maybe getting too far ahead of it.”
Michigan's defense finally got gashed, but man did they dial it up at the end.
Will it happen again? Ohio State is going to be checking out the Northwestern film quite a lot, but I'm not sure they have a Mark-like back to hit that edge. They've got a couple thumpers who will challenge tackling skills more than speed.
Linebacker switching. I didn't notice this live but a lot of people have said Desmond Morgan had a rough game, which seems logical since after a couple weeks of limited linebacker swapping we saw a lot of James Ross, including on the final two Northwestern drives. Ross was the guy who came an inch away from stuffing the Northwestern fourth and one. I'll get to the bottom of what went down in the UFR.
Pipkins comes on. Also receiving a lot more PT: Ondre Pipkins, who had a rough few plays against Minnesota before getting the hook. Again not sure why but probably based on Northwestern being one of those hurry-up outfits that puts a heavy demand on opposing defense's depth. Insert usual desire to be a team that puts that kind of pressure on the opponent.
Getting edged. Michigan's really got to do something about their option scheme, probably. I'll have to check it out to see if it was much different than what happened against Air Force.
Oblig. Kovacs number switch bitching.
Me = Dude (obvs)
Car = Kovacs
Flame = #11
Nihilists = Brandon (obvs)
He's still JKovacs32 on twitter, at least.
“I’ve worn No. 32 for quite some time, I think I’ll always be No. 32,” Kovacs said
Yes. Dammit that needs to be the walk-on-who-plays number. Does no one understand how to make things? /wireseason2
Oblig. game theory bit. Big points to Pat Fitzgerald for going for it on fourth and short with around three minutes left. That is a spot in which it's easy to go NFL and derp your way to shrugging postgame coverage, but the obvious play is going. One yard and you've got the other team trying to complete a 50-yard miracle to tie. Punt and even Michigan's languorous two-minute drill still has time to ease down the field.
Northwestern got it by a few molecules thanks to what seemed like a favorable spot, albeit not one that is ever going to get overturned by the Big Ten's milquetoasty replay officials. (After the Penn State TD debacle they are now the Rod Gilmore Memorial Big Ten Replay Officials.)
Fitzgerald gives back about half of those points on the punt. You hate variance if you are Northwestern punting the ball back with 25 seconds left. NW…
- took a delay of game penalty instead of using a timeout
- ran out their rugby guy to bash a line drive into Gallon's chest
- got a net of 11 yards as a result
Rugby punts are generally effective but tend to be more unpredictable than regular stuff: shanks are easier, and if the returners are positioned correctly they get an opportunity like Gallon got. The play there was to take a timeout and hang one in the air to force a fair catch. The upside of that is about equal to the rugby punt and the downside is nil.
Michigan didn't really face any major decisions. They could have taken a shot at the endzone after the Roundtree completion but chose to kick. The difference between that decision and the end of last year's ND game was one second on the clock and a timeout, which they had against ND but not here. The Roundtree completion took six seconds, and it's easy to see that last one slip off the clock for any number of reasons.
FWIW, Michigan played their TOs right by taking all of them immediately once they were facing do-or-die time on defense.
Git R Done, for values of R that equal racism. If you don't follow me on twitter you missed the saga of the Larry The Cable Guy clan in my immediate vicinity, a group of redneck yahoos that said a lot of things like "LEZ GO CUMONG" and "GIT EM CUMONG," which was annoying when they did that really loudly after a four yard run—now my hopes are all up and it's second and six—but mostly harmless.
That ceased on a Norfleet kickoff return on which one of them screamed "run like you stole it" and I was processing the I am somewhat uncomfortable with the racial overtones that statement displays thing when one of them almost certainly dropped the n-word. I looked at the MGoWife, and she looked at me to confirm, and then I just really hoped that it wouldn't come up again because if that happens a second time, well… words will be exchanged and I'm trying to panic myself to death at a football game thanks, please let's not get in a screaming match.
It did not come up again. Hurrah. There's no real lesson here except it's not very fun to be surrounded by Larry the Cable Guy.
BONUS BONUS BONUS: a Larry next to me left after the Gardner INT, which lol. I moved over because there was a tall guy in front of me… directly into the path of a woman with four pom-poms whose thought process in relation to those was:
I bet if I shake these really hard they're invisible.
If only, lady. If only.
* NW ended up with 431 total offense yards. That's the same amount that Alabama,
the greatest team ever assembled, a pretty good offense, had against us. I never would have guessed that Alabama and NW would be equivalent at anything. After the Alabama game, I wrote, "If we can hold everyone else under 431, I’ll be happy." NW didn't get more than 431, so I'm not unhappy, I'm just confused.
* Thomas Gordon led us in tackles with 11, not a good sign. Demens and Morgan were next with 9 apiece. Considering Mattison substituted freely with the LBs, that's a lot of tackles.
I bumped Best And Worst but in case you didn't click through:
…this week’s game definitely felt like the first one to showcase Al Borges’s “preferred offense.” It was a number of shorter passes, a dedication to running the ball with the RB, and play-calling that couldn’t fall back on a Dilithium-fueled QB if the first and second reads were not open. Minnesota showed this a bit in the first quarter, but that game felt over at halftime and so I’m not sure what you could glean from it except that the offensive line still couldn’t get a push inside.
Does it need to be said much more than that? Inches decide ball games, particularly close ball games. Against Nebraska inches separated Northwestern from a clinching interception and a devastating blown lead and loss. Against Michigan, those inches mattered even more.
You can slake your schadenfreude needs if you're weird and hold some sort of grudge against Northwestern at the SoP postgame thread.
Blog stuff. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has a photoessay documenting everyone recording the football game. Meta.
not actually photos of the Roundtree catch
KENNY DEMENS – He didn’t play a perfect game but he did make the tackle of his life – TWICE! It’s a play and situation you dream of as a kid growing up playing Pop Warner Football. Demens not only made the big stop to win the game on 4th Down, but he also made the stop the play before on 3rd Down! OUTSTANDING!
Michigan struggled on defense in this game for a number of different reasons. Jake Ryan and Frank Clark both lost contain frequently which gave Northwestern big gains on the ground. In addition, and I think Mattison figured this out before the fourth quarter, but Michigan was defending the speed option in an unsound manner. The playside linebacker was always playing the quarterback, forcing a pitch to the running back who had nothing but blockers in front of him. I think Mattison assumed his corners and safeties could get off of their blocks on the outside the help contain the rushing attack, but Michigan's corners aren't very good at doing this. By the fourth quarter, Michigan started forcing the runs back inside.
I cannot agree with Maize and Blue Nation about this:
The running game. It showed signs of life this week. I think the more pro-style offense that Gardner runs suits Michigan better on offense. We're still trained to run the spread-option, but I don't think it's working for Fitz. He's a downhill runner. I really like that Rawls can come in and compliment Fitz...although, it might be the other way around, actually. I thought the line blocked better this week. Hoke stayed with the same lineup he's had all year across the line, so it was encouraging to see the interior especially, play better.
Michigan got a 50-yard gain on an inverted veer give—blocking not relevant unless you're a WR—and 41 yards on six Gardner scrambles. They also lost six yards on a Hayes jet sweep that's now scouted by opponents. Their other 23 carries went for 49 yards. Death. If Michigan finds itself trailing against OSU there's going to be a point at which it'll be time to run the quarterback from the shotgun even if it's Gardner and the backup option is Jack Kennedy. Michigan just can't move the ball on the ground without the numerical advantage provided by using the QB.
U-M Student Section Sucks
And I thought the key play nonsense was bad.
The empty seats are past the point of ridiculous now. Michigan has been reduced to having its football players make videos begging fans (read: students) to show up on time for the games. WTF?! This isn't Ball State. Bo's probably rolling over in his grave.
I'm not sure what more can be done since the athletic department already instituted the points system. But seeing all those empty seats up there after the game starts is a slap in the face to Hoke and the Michigan players.
That should be "30% of the student section sucks." 70% of them are there. The solution is to give out t-shirts.
FWIW, the key play thing has not been done in probably ten years.
It wasn't a perfect day. The Toussaint fumble was maddening, but a great play by the Wildcat defense. Special K remembered where "In The Big House" was on his hard drive. There weren't enough holes in the offensive line to run through, things of this ilk.
But it was sunny, warmish for a November day. Al Wistert got a tremendous ovation from the Michigan Stadium crowd, the MMB put on a funny show, Devin Gardner continued to look good, Roy Roundtree remembered that he's a heck of a receiver, Gibbons is still money, and in the end, Michigan was victorious, Really, that's more than we should be able to ask for from the football gods. After all, you need to stay humble.
Warmish? High standards over at the Hoover Street Rag.
For Michigan, it's never over until the last pass is thrown, and tipped, and cradled, and caught. For Devin Gardner, same thing — it's not over even when others think it is.
Nothing is over for the Wolverines, and it's just getting started for Gardner. How many times can a game, or a season, or a young career twist? Gardner was a receiver a couple of weeks ago, hoping to be a quarterback again. Now he's directing a team contending for the Big Ten title.
The Daily on Brady Hoke's magic:
The last time Brady Hoke and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald were at Michigan Stadium together was Oct. 7, 1995.
Hoke was a first-year defensive line coach on the home sideline. Fitzgerald was Northwestern’s burly junior middle linebacker, wearing a white No. 51 jersey and terrorizing Michigan quarterback Brian Griese.
With the Wildcats leading 19-13 and just 1:40 remaining on the clock, Griese and the Michigan offense were 41 yards from the end zone facing a third-and-15. Fitzgerald had ended the previous drive by tipping a pass out of harm’s way.
Nesbitt FTW; great great angle there. Hadn't even thought about it. Also Estes on not saying sorry.
Gardner saying the right things:
Gardner on Denard Robinson : "This is Denard's team, and this is always going to be Denard's team. He's done way too much for two games to change that."
Note: Trying a new style with these gifs posts—aside from the first image, you will need to click on the stills to open the animated gifs in a "lightbox" (like the videos in UFRs). This should alleviate most of the bandwith issues.
Within mere seconds of Pat Fitzgerald's reaction to getting the fourth-quarter late hit call on Trevor Siemian, my Twitter timeline flooded with requests for a gif. I was still working, however, and in the meantime the indispensable Tim Burke (@bubbaprog) captured the moment. If you're looking for the straightforward gif, click there. If you'd like to know the real reason why Fitzgerald was so damn excited, look no further:
[COME ON DOWN below THE JUMP for the rest of this week's gifs.]
Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens
Kovacs: “Coach Hoke let me know early in the week that I’d be wearing No. 11. He asked me how I felt about it, and of course I felt it was a huge honor. I’ve worn 32 for quite some time. I think I’ll always be 32, but I think it’s a great opportunity to recognize our legends. That’s the approach I have. I did a little research on the Wisterts and I actually had the opportunity to meet Albert yesterday, and he said that when he was first given 11, he was just so humbled and so excited, and it was a huge honor for him. He said he prayed before every game that he put it on that he’d be worthy enough to wear it, so that’s kind of my approach. It’s a huge honor and I just hope I’m worthy enough to wear it.”
Kenny, were you 100% assigned to Colter on those last few plays, and what was it like to be able to make that play at the end?
Demens: “Well I just have my reads. The coaches, they give us bullets to come out with and to make that play, I just felt so proud of myself, but not for me, but for my teammates. The defense, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to, and just to come up and make a play and to finish strong how we did, it means a lot.”
“All right, let me ask [you] a question. Who started writing the article before the game was over?”
[Multiple hands are raised.]
“Yeah. Exactly ... I should have picked you out.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot that we didn’t do well, but we did do well when you win the football game. I thought it was two teams that played hard. I have so much respect for Pat and how he runs his program and how his guys come to work every day and how they come to play. We knew it would be a dog fight. We missed way too many tackles. You’ve got to give Kain Colter some of that respect, because he made us miss him. We have to do a better job there. I think offensively, moving the ball pretty consistently. Still need to rush for more yards from the backfield, which means we still have to continue to improve up front. How we’re blocking the line of scrimmage. We missed a couple cuts, but Devin did a tremendous job really managing everything, staying into the game, extending some things, and then his athleticism obviously helped in some of the first downs -- we were seven of 10. That’s all I have to say.”
Is that the kind of game where you just say you find a way to win and build off that?
“Well, yeah. There was a lot to build from and a lot to learn from. Our seniors play their last game at Michigan Stadium next week. That’s significant and if we want to send them out the right way, we have to play better. That always starts with the coaching side of it. That has to be paramount for us.”
Can you talk about the concentration on Roundtree’s catch and then Demens’s tackles to win the game in overtime?
“Yeah, and Roy really I think on a couple balls had really great focus and great intensity in what he was doing. The last tackle there, I think number one I like the call that Greg made because it was one where we may have talked them into running the football because of some of the space inside. And then Kenny just did a nice job of really working inside out to the ball, where maybe a little earlier we were maybe getting too far ahead of it.”
How much do you believe that your team’s experience in tight games in the past helped today?
“Yeah … I think that’s a great question. I think when you look at them on the sideline and you communicate with them and talk to them, never a doubt that they weren’t going to win the football game in my opinion. I think all that helps. I think experiencing anything in life helps you get through it the next time. I think the same thing [applies] in the game of football.”
What did Devin improve between game 1 and game 2?
“I don’t know if I could do that right now. I think he managed the game well. I thought he had two throws that probably weren’t the best throws. Did a nice job getting rid of the ball in the end zone. He made some good decisions.”
How differently do you run your offense with Devin in there? What strengths do you try to use?
“I think the biggest thing is there’s a little more two-back. There’s a little more vertical run, there’s a little more power play to some degree, lead play, iso … From that standpoint, there’s still the zone read and all those things from the gun, too.”
What were they doing on third down to have so much success, and how did you come up with stops late in the game?
“Yeah. What were they doing? I think they converted and they were a little more accurate in some of their throws on their seven routes -- smash routes. We needed to do a little better job in the seam part of our defense when they were throwing it. And I think he scrambled at times, and either we missed a tackle, which we did a couple times on a scramble, or we didn’t force the ball enough as far as when you talk about your lanes and compressing the pocket from the outside to the inside.”
Resolve of your team?
“These kids have been great. It didn’t surprise me. It really didn’t surprise me that -- there were 18 seconds left when they punted the ball or something like that. Dan Ferrigno did a nice job all week because they would rugby punt if you want to call it that -- it wasn’t a full on rugby -- but lining up Gallon where he lined him up, because that’s where, if you charted a year of punts, that’s where they were going if they rugby punted, and it was perfect. It got us great field position and got us the throw.”
Take us through Devin’s pass to Roundtree. Was that his first read? Second read? What was he looking at?
“Well I really can’t describe it at all for you, but we knew we had to get to a certain point on the field. We knew from the 35, 38 in is where we wanted to kick the field goal, tie it up. And it just so happened that the post part of the route, the combination was where we needed to hit it, and Devin threw it well, and Roy made a football play.”
If Devin somehow could not have continued in the game, would Denard have played?
“Maybe. He was dressed, right?”
What has Roy done to step up?
“I think Roy’s been like that. Roy’s always been focused. Prepares well and gets himself ready for a game.”
Have you seen a change in him the past two weeks?
“No, not really.”
You said you missed a lot of tackles, but from a schematic standpoint, how were you trying to stop Northwestern?
“Well scheme-wise was really good. I thought Greg and the defensive staff -- you’ll go back and look and [say], ‘Maybe I should have run this more,’ or whatever it might be, but I thought scheme-wise, especially some of the things we were doing -- I’m not going to explain them, obviously -- it was very effective. It kind of got them into one formation. When you can get someone into one formation or two formations, then you don’t have all the other problems.”
Just to follow up on Denard --
“Day to day.”
He didn’t do much in warmups.
“Day to day.”
If you were in our shoes, wouldn’t you have started writing the story before the game ended?
“No. Because of those kids. No way. My wife just asked me that on the way in. ‘Did you know you were going to win?’ I said 'yes.'”
They had a lot of success running outside --
“Perimeter of the defense. Need to play better on the perimeter of the defense. Need to get off blocks better.”
Were you surprised they went away from that late?
“No, because I think he got beat up a little bit there for a minute. Siemian’s a very good quarterback, but he’s not the same quarterback. Then when he came back, they went to their bread and butter on the fourth down play. Tried to go option again.”
Talk about how hard Fitz ran and what the offensive line needs to do to help him?
“We have to finish on blocks better combination-wise, to answer the second part first because that one I can remember. I really thought they were getting some movement. Probably not as much as we would like, because it never is, and I did think he ran extremely hard. You could hear football on the field.”
Would you say this win keeps your Big Ten title hopes alive?
“Well. We can’t worry about what other people do. We have to worry about what we do. We got Iowa.”
When Denard is healthy enough to come back, what do you do with the quarterback situation?
“I think that’s something we’ll figure out.”
Faith in Brendan Gibbons to make that kick and the job Drew Dileo did to pick that ball off the ground?
“Well, that combination’s a pretty good combination. You know, they work so much together because we kick every day, but they’re two -- and don’t tell Gibbons I ever said this -- two football players.”
Devin was in a lot of pressure situations. What did you see out of him in terms of commanding the huddle?
“Well he’s realy done a nice job and always has. I thought the way he’s gone about his business, the maturity and the growth has been, I guess, expected.”
A referee makes an arbitrary approximation of the spot of the football as Kain Colter is brought to the turf. A couple of guys dressed like crossing guards then take out an extremely precise ten-yard chain. The referee, staring at the football like it's the bottom line of an eye chart, determines that the play has resulted in a first down by the smallest of possible margins. For all intents and purposes, the game is over, decided by an educated guess made at breakneck speed.
Football is the worst.
The contest continues, however, and Michigan sells out against the run for a stop. For a moment, it looks like Jeremy Gallon could provide a miracle as he briefly breaks free after fielding a line-drive punt, but he's tackled at the 38.
18 seconds remain. No timeouts remain. Little hope remains.
But then the backup quarterback hucks the football to the impossibly-skinny senior receiver, improbably left in single coverage, and this wisp of a man somehow bats the oblong projectile out of the air and controls the ricochet, an absurd feat of concentration and athleticism that brings 110,000 despondent humans screaming to their feet in elation.
Football is the best.
From that point, victory feels strangely academic given the prior proceedings. Brendan Gibbons, Keith Stone cool, splits the uprights from 26 yards out for the tying field goal. Three plays after Devin Gardner finds Roundtree again to give Michigan first-and-goal on the opening overtime possession, he fakes a give to Fitz Toussaint, breaks contain, and lopes into the end zone unimpeded. Northwestern can only get within two yards of that blasted first-down marker on their subsequent series before Kenny Demens stonewalls Tyris Jones in the hole on fourth down.
The stadium erupts, again hopelessly in love with the greatest game known to man. Michigan 38, Northwestern 31, football forever.
Formation notes: much, much more under-center in this game. FWIW, Minnesota had some packages where they'd put a linebacker in between two DL, as below:
Last year people told me this was a bear front, so that's what I called it. On short yardage Minnesota would do this to both sides of the line, so that's double bear. As always, lingo may not be compatible with your local football lingo-knowing guy and only exists to provide extended conversations with Seth about what the hell I meant when I classified X as Y.
Also here's this guy again:
Substitution notes: Gardner the whole way at QB, Rawls got some playing time, Smith was back, and the line was exactly how it always is. Burzynski got a few goal line plays on that package where they line up Lewan and Schofield next to each other.
The WR rotation was about what you'd expect as well, except there was a lot more Jerald Robinson. He has apparently inherited most of Devin's snaps.
[AFTER THE JUMP: so how was Devin really, and ARGH runs ARGH]