Everyone has their own special moments. You know, the moment the light bulb goes on and you say to yourself: "Self, the Board is absolutely unreadable now."
My special moment occurred yesterday morning when I just couldn't stop myself from checking the Board (dumb, I know). My instant reaction?
YEEEEEHAW! Doom, death, despair, Ignorance, insults, opinions galore!
(I know, I know. Cool story bro. But I'm getting there.)
Tell me, MGoPeoples, when was your "Jump the Shark" moment? Did it happen back during the post-Carr coaching search days? The Fire Rodriguez days? The Fire Borges days? After Akron? After UConn? After Penn State? This weekend?
Disclaimer: This is not to say that we will never visit the board. Its simply an open discussion so people can see why some regulars stop visiting the Board and adjust accordingly. And for those of you that say "Good, stop reading. You're a douche bag anyway," I say "Fine, I will!"
This will be the 34th "Inside the Boxscore" Diary I've written. It's easily the one I've least looked forward to writing. I grew up in East Lansing, but always rooted for Michigan due to Dad's influence. It would have been hard to root for State growing up when Dad wouldn't let me own any green clothing. I think Mom bought me a pair of green toughskins from Sears when I was six, but once I wore those out, I became an anti-MSU version of Brady Hoke. He doesn't wear red, I didn't wear green. The pastor at the church and school I went to used to be the chaplain for the MSU football team. Our school colors were green and white, and our nickname was the Tartans, an obvious reference to the Spartans. It was and is truly an awful nickname. Our mascot was a bagpipe, or a Scottish kilt. I can't remember exactly. Whatever it was, it did not inspire anybody. Whenever the big game rolled around (growing up in East Lansing, M-MSU rivaled M-OSU for significance) I had to deal with Sparties sparting. Fortunately, all this occurred during the Schembechler era, and I only had to listen to Sparties before the big game. They were usually quiet afterwards. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for today's Michigan fan living in East Lansing. That "little sister" chant is enough to make my blood boil.
Burst of Impetus
* For Michigan, there was one glimmer of hope. With Michigan trailing by 10 late in the 3rd quarter, Raymon Taylor intercepted a pass and returned it 17 yards to State's 41. The boxscore lists this as the "H41." This could refer to the "Home" team, but I'm going to call it the "hated one's" 41. This was our best starting field position by 24 yards. It's hard to score against the nation's top ranked defense or thereabouts, when you are always facing a long field. Five of our 13 positions started inside our 20, and all but one started from no better than our 35. Why is this important? Well, if you throw a 58 yard bomb to Chesson, you'd like to think that a TD might result, but not if you're starting well inside your own half of the field. After Taylor's INT, the next three plays went for -5, -9, and -7 yards. Impetus bursted.
It's a Punt
* I usually start the stats review with the unit that played the best. Sorry to say, but this week that honor goes to the special teams.
* Michigan's average net yards per punt was 38.2 yards. State's was 39.8. That's basically a punt (pun intended.)
* The average net yards per kickoff was 39.1 for State and 36.3 for Michigan. We gave away 3 yards per exchange of kickoffs, but compared to the rest of the game, that's a good outcome.
* I'm somewhat torn on the kick returns, because with State's defense, I felt we needed a ST TD and Norfleet hints at the ability to break one. However, what we didn't need was him returning kicks to the 17 yard line, further restricting Borges playbook. I'd rather start at the 25 every time, so all you need is a first down to flip the field with a decent punt. In what should have been a field position game, I'd take that. However, our defense was unable to get off the field time and again. I'll cover that later.
* Wile made a long FG and Gibbons made a short one. We got through a game without a FG block. That's progress, I guess.
* Devin was 14 for 27 for 210 yards, but that's where the good news ends. He took 7 sacks and finished the day with -46 yards rushing on 18 attempts. Obviously, the 7 sacks weren't called runs. Of the remaining 11, I suspect most were scrambles. I remember a couple read options where Gardner kept and seemingly froze and was swallowed up by spartan defenders. The shotgun running game that was effective versus PSU and Indiana did not work against State's aggressive, attacking scheme. Perhaps Borges should have seen that on film study of State's defense.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* Fitz ran eight times for 20 yards. Borges apparently thought it was a better idea to have him pick up blitzers than flare out as a pressure relief valve, or keep State honest with some draw plays.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Gallon caught five passes for 67 yards. Three of those came in our first 5 plays. He had 2 catches in the next 54 plays. RPS is an MGoBlog thing. It's part of our lexicon. So let me try to describe what I think happened in RPS terms. On the first drive, Borges was dialing up some good plays, PA passes on 1st down, that caught State off guard. Let's call those paper. Paper was beating Narduzzi's rock. So Narduzzi decided he wasn't going to use rock anymore. Borges then had to figure out how to get Gallon the ball, meanwhile Narduzzi was sending the house, giving Gardner zero time for Gallon to get open. Many sacks resulted. Borges went to scissors at the start of the second half. These were the quick hitters to Funchess. Funchess ended up with 6 catches for 65 yards. Narduzzi adjusted again. But at this point, Borges was out of options. He's got a line that can't run block, no functional tight ends to speak of (I like Jake Butt, but he had zero receptions and I don't recall him figuring in any plays,) a RB that can't pass block, and he was down to 2 WRs with Dileo's injury. What exactly was he supposed to do, when he's playing RPS with Narduzzi, only Borges can only play paper or swiss cheese, while Narduzzi can play scissors, butcher's knife, chainsaw, or flame thrower? Just to beat this analogy to death, against Indiana, the three possible outcomes for Borges paper were 70 yard pass, 25 yard pass, and 10 yard pass. Against State, the three outcomes were incomplete pass, sack, or scramble for 1 yard. For those who thinks this makes me a Borges apologist, let me just say that I'm trying to call it as I see it based on ~35 years of watching Michigan football. The Penn State game was on Borges. This MSU debacle was a talent issue.
Legends Division Championship Caliber Defense
* That would refer to State's defense. Defense wins championships. State's defense is going to win them the Legends Division.
* I understand why Mattison is getting a pass and the focus is squarely on Borges and the offensive side of the ball. But this was a game where the defense needed to step up and win the game for Michigan. Some are saying that State wore down our defense because our offense couldn't keep state's offense off the field. I disagree. State was 0 for 3 on third down conversions in the 1st quarter, but was 4 for 6 in the second quarter. If we're worn down by the second quarter, we're in trouble. Overall, State was 9 for 18 on third down conversions. This coming from an offense that has been mocked, derided, and sits in the negative half of the Fremeau Efficiency chart.
* Michigan State was held to 16 yards rushing on 14 carries in the first half. Meanwhile, we had -20. I was hoping that the team with the most absolute value rushing yards was going to win the game. That is what was necessary to keep us in the game. In the third quarter, State ran 9 times for 28 yards. I don't know if that's due to halftime adjustments or our guys getting tired, but State stuck with the run game and it started to pay off. Then the dam broke in the 4th quarter. RichRod's team gave up on him in the second half of the Gator Bowl. I hope our guys didn't give up on Hoke in the fourth quarter. They have 5 games left to show that fourth quarter was an aberration.
* We had 21 guys show up in the defensive stats. Yes, that includes some ST players, but it's clear that we did much more substituting than State. Why did our guys get tired in the fourth quarter but theirs didn't? Meanwhile, State only had 17 guys show up, and only 15 of those made tackles.
* We had 5 TFLs, 3 passes broken up, 1 sack, and 3 QHs. State's defense, against a supposedly better offense (Fremeau agrees with me FWIW,) tallied 11 TFLs, 3 passes broken up, 7 sacks, and 7 QHs.
This is all leading me up to something that I find rather distasteful. When Dave Brandon fired Rich Rodriguez, he was asked if he would hire a defensive minded coach.“There’s a thought of getting a defensive-minded everything,” he said. “I want the ball boys to be defensive minded.” 44 years ago, Michigan hired a football coach who had apprenticed under our most hated rival. He was a defensive minded coach. Forty-four years later, down the street at another one of our hated rivals, a defensive minded coach may be looking to move up to a head coaching position. We all want to see him leave MSU. What if Dave Brandon were to approach Narduzzi and offer him the job? Pardon me while I go wash my mouth out with soap.
In case anyone cares, Nick Saban is about to be interviewed on 60 Minutes soon.
Hoops season starts soon and we're all very excited about that. John Beilein is a genius! We're ranked #7! We're coming off a Final Four! OMG Shirtless Sophomores! We have good reason to be upset about yesterday, and the overall play of our 6-2 team but I personally believe in the big picture. "Fire Hoke" and drawing negative conclusions about his regime's trajectory is unwise at this juncture. Allow me to describe -- using parallels to our current hoops coach who is figuratively walking on water in AA these days.
Beilein was hired in 2007 to replace a "sexy" name who didn't get the job done. Nobody was really excited about the hire because we struck out on Pitino [EDIT: Pitino was 2001. In any case, Beilein wasn't a super exciting hire with his "White Guy" reputation and preverbial "ceiling"]. Hoke, 2011, and Harbaugh and it's the same. Beilein had to re-recruit Harris and Sims and we struggled to a 10-22 record. His second year was charmed and we overacheived to an NCAA Tournament win. Hoke had to re-recruit Denard and others and we overachieved to a Sugar Bowl win. At this juncture, Hoke is ahead of schedule. Both coaches/teams fell back down to earth in the following season and fans are rightfully disappointed.
In Beilein's following season (2010-11), we started 1-6 in Big Ten play before the light went on and we upset MSU in East Lansing. It's been a consistent increase in production ever since. This isn't Hollywood so the parallels aren't perfect (we got smoked yesterday and Lewan didn't have an anueysm of leadership), but we're 6-2 and have some opportunities to wake up. In any case, we're still a year ahead of schedule according to the "Blueprint to BUILDING a Program" by John Beilein.
Now, Beilein made some coaching changes (Hello: Jordan, Meyer, and Alexander) that helped him out. I'm not saying Hoke does or doesn't need to make a few changes, but we're still figuratively playing with a couple Novak's and Douglass' at some skill positions, but while others (like the guards) have Darius Morris talent before the transformation.
The worst thing Hoke could have done was apparently expidite expectations with the Sugar Bowl. Have some perspective; remember Beilein's long road. We're recruiting better than ever. He's united the alumni and we love how he does things the "Michigan way". We've enjoyed some success on the field and I promise we'll get to play MSU (1-2 isn't ideal, but better than 0-3), OSU (1-1), and ND (2-1) again.
My opinion is that we should continue to support Michigan. We're obviously not where we want to be, but these things take some time. Tough to coach ourselves to a win when the interior O-Line literally gets crushed within 1 second on every play.
Should this be a diary? Is this too long? Are my paragraphs not up to the "MGoBlog Pulitzer standard?" Who cares. Step away from the cliff, anxious Michigan fans. The last time we gathered our pitchforks coaches negative recruited the hell out of our coaching stability and we got a Josh Groban appearance we'd all like to forget.