"...don't believe something because an "expert" is saying it. Believe it because of the evidence."
I was looking at the stats for the game, and one stood out to me: 3rd down conversions.
We were 14-17, and 1-1 on 4th, while we held NW to 4-11, and 0-2 on 4th (with another big time stop on a 4th and short run). This has been happening enough to constitute a trend, and I just wanted to say that the coachs' emphasis on short yardage situations seems to be paying off.
We are currently 3rd nationally on 3rd down on offense, and 17th in the red zone. On defense, we are in the 40s on 3rd down, #4 on 4th down, and #2 in the red zone. Just thought I would share.
The conventional wisdom, since the days of Ur and Sumer, has been that teams should try to dominate time of possession, to wear down the opposing defense and keep one's own defense off the field. Carr, Tressel, and virtually all the other Big 10 coaches on payroll at the moment see it this way.
Revisionists, particularly those impressed by or advocating for the various spread offenses that have emerged in the past decade or so, have pooh-poohed this assumption as an unecessary and often counter-productive sacred cow. The thinking goes, if your offense can score a lot, why slow them down? Why not score quickly and often to confuse and demoralize your opponent? RR, Chip Kelly, Pat Fitzgerald and other spread coaches see it this way.
The thing about both of these positions, is that they view possession--the decision whether to proceed slowly or fast--as a strategy, something you do generally. I'd like to suggest a different way of thinking about time of possession--as a tactic--and argue that this is how Borges and Hoke see it. I'd also like to argue that this is a very, very good thing.
Let me explain: for one thing, I don't like ideological approaches to football. I've never understood the logic of replacing one sacred cow with another, and don't see why a coach should box himself in to doing things one way, regardless of the situation. I like flexibility and I like adjustments.
More importantly, I like tailoring the road to victory to what you have and wht you face. In the first half of yesterday's game, we looked too much like our 2010 iteration: prolific in picking up yards, unable to capitalize on this in terms of points, and on the other side of the ball, unable to stop the opposing offense. That opposing offense was coming at us fast and furious, using a series of simple perimeter passing and running to move up and down the field at will. We tried going uptempo as well, and did move the ball, but our execution wasn't as good as theirs, and so found ourselves down 10 at the half.
At halftime, the coaches took stock and made a decision: we're going to keep them off the field, and change our defensive tactics to counter their perimeter game. Part of this entailed our offense moving slowly and methodically. It worked, to the tune of 28-0 in the second half. The situation suggested this tactic might be useful, and it was. To put it another way: I can't imagine an alternate strategy working any better than it did.
Earlier in the season, against Notre Dame, we did the opposite: we sped things up. That also worked in that situation, resulting in a thrilling, epic victory over one of our biggest rivals.
Personally, I love the fact that our coaches don't seem to care about having a concrete position on time of possession, and instead set the tempo according to what they think the situation requires. This, in many ways, encapsulates why I'm so impressed by our new coaching staff. Yes it's early and only 6 games, but so far they look like they combine Carr's ability to build balanced, competitive teams with the tactical sophoistication that RR brought to the table...but on both sides of the ball. Again, it's too early to know, but the signs are very, very good.
Hey everyone, I was thinking about this last night, and I haven't seen that it has been addressed directly.
Having Gorgeous Al in the press box clearly has some advantages as far as letting him see the field better and figuring out which plays will work and which won't. However, I wonder how much of a difference it would make for Denard to have Borges on the field with him during the game rather then just speaking with him over the phone.
We have seen on several occasions where Denard struggled in the first half and then went into halftime and had some face time with Al. This seems to calm him down and get his head straight. He then comes out dominant in the second half. I even heard Coach Hoke address this with the B1G Network guys after the game in his ingterview. He mentioned something to the fact that Al spoke with Denard and calmed him down and asked what he was "seeing" out there.
Just wanted to get everyones opinion. I am sure there are advantages to both. As long as Denard keeps tearing it up in the second half, I guess there is no real reason to fix what isnt broken.
Michigan #10 in the latest coaches poll. First time in the top 10 since the horror.
Also: Wisconsin jumps stanford to #4, Nebraska stays at #14, Illini #15, Sparty # 19, and Penn state breaks in at #25
I wasn't in Chicago yesterday, so I wasn't able to attend the presser. Since mgoblue.com didn't stream the post-game press conference, I don't have much worth transcribing. Fortunately, they have most of the noteworthy material in bits and pieces and some transcripts of their own.
I'll be in East Lansing next week, so there will be coverage and photos.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
6-0 starts for Michigan are rare.
Most of my life (33 years) has been spent rooting for a Michigan team that would win most Saturdays, live in the national rankings, and stub their toe early in the season. 4-0 or better starts have only occurred 11 times in those 33 seasons:
4-0: '78 '96 '09
5-0: '85 '95 '99 '10
6-0: '86 '97 '06 '11
The starts to the last three seasons have been a stretch that Michigan fans have not witnessed since the dawn of the Carr era. That exciting time back in the mid-90s culminated in a National Championship with the two seasons before ending in disappointment. We have had the disappointment x 1,000,000 these past two seasons (but thanks for the excitement RR); perhaps we are on the brink of something special again.
Looking back reveals that the last 4 teams* to start the season undefeated through six games have gone on to have very memorable seasons:
'86 - Jimmy Harbaugh guarantees victory over Ohio and delivers as Michigan goes 11-2 losing the Rose Bowl to a tainted ASU team.
'92 - Gary Moeller with a senior Elvis Grbac goes undefeated, winning the Rose Bowl over Washington and finishing 9-0-3 in the days before overtime.
'97 - Michigan goes undefeated at 12-0 and clinches a NC, winning the Rose Bowl over Washington St and a Heisman for one Charles Woodson.
'06 - Michigan starts out 11-0 leading up to the Game of the Century against #1 Ohio; Bo dies and Michigan ends up 11-2 after a loss to USC in the Rose Bowl.
That would be 1 National Championship, 3 B10 Championships, 3 11+ win seasons, and 2 wins in 4 Rose Bowl appearances. These are good tidings indeed.
*1992 not included in the 4-0 or better teams because of a tie against ND in the season opener.
Live for Today…
Halfway through the season, several Michigan players and coaches** should take pride in accomplishments thus far:
1. Brady Hoke – My pride in my team and the way it is coached couldn't be higher right now. Brady Hoke should be the clear front-runner for coach of the year at this point. He is the glue.
2. Greg Mattison – The defense continues to improve and despite looking overmatched at times they never quit. The half time adjustments against JNW were remarkable, forcing 2 turnovers and shutting the Wildcats out for the second half. If not this season, coming seasons will feature a top-10 ranked defense and a return of Michigan dominance. Mattison = Gary Moeller++.
3. Al Borges – Naysayers can go sit in the corner because Mr. Borges is having none of it. Al Borges is having the time of his life, making use of the treasure trove of speed and talent left to him by Rich Rodriguez. His understanding of the talent he has, and how to most effectively make use of it, grows with each passing week. He has this team rolling, and even a 3-turnover 1st half can't derail their confidence. I can't wait to see what he has in store for little brother. Al Borges is a Mad Magician.
4. Junior Hemingway – Senior Junior is what bails out the shortcomings of a Denard-led offense. His ability to go up and get jump-balls stretched the JNW defense and forced them to give up more space for Denard's feet to do what they do. We are lucky he stuck around, because without him this team is probably 4-2.
5. Denard Robinson – Junior Denard overcomes his mistakes. Credit has to be given for how he shook off that dreadful first half to win the game for Michigan in the second half. There has never been a player like shoelace, and there will never be one like him again I bet. His humble attitude, always positive, always smiling... it allows for turnarounds like we saw yesterday. You just can't keep him down. He obviously took the coaching-up at half time and came out a different player. I told my wife before Devin Gardner's TD that Denard was not really injured bad, he just wanted Gardner to get his shot. Just remarkable.
Also of note: Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree (nice to see some production), RVB, Kevin Koger, Jordan Kovacs (Probably the only player that could rip off the QB's helmet without drawing a flag), Devin Gardner (clutch TD run), every position coach and basically everyone on the team. Great job guys.
*Adding coaches in here this week because this team is truly a reflection of their hard work and dedication.
Hope for Tomorrow
Of those 4 seasons, the current one reminds me most of 1997 so far. Much like in 1997, Michigan is coming off of consecutive seasons that started hot only to end in disappointment. In '97 Michigan started the season ranked fairly low by the standards of the time, and had to win over hearts and minds with each passing week. There was a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire win over Notre Dame after trailing at half time. There was a gritty, come from behind win over a B10 opponent (Iowa) for the 6th win that overcame a two-score half time deficit. That '97 team got better with each week and won through a very tough November schedule that included Top-5 ranked Penn St and Ohio teams.
I remember that '97 Iowa game well. That was the game that showed the difference of that team, of that season. Instead of folding yesterday, Michigan again showed that fight and persevered to stay undefeated. This team is starting to believe in itself and I am feeling big wins in their future.
I realize that this team is not on the level of the '97 team, but if you squint you can see some similarity. The '97 team had a dominant defense centered around a Heisman candidate that supported an offense with several nice pieces to it. This 2011 squad may have the opposite in a sense, though it is far too early to predict this team's ceiling. The upcoming opponents are perhaps less intimidating than those the '97 team faced down the stretch, so there is reason to hope. Championships are a distinct possibility; which ones remain to be seen.
Go Blue and stay safe.