Peppers at 10, which seems low.
There is a myth that lives on this board that Denard was a better passer in 2010. This post is not meant to excuse Al Borges' playcalling, or bash Rich Rod, or elevate Lloyd Carr's run-run-run-punt strategy. It's just a look at the falsity that Denard was a better passer in 2010.
The unfortunate, painful truth that this diary reveals is that our passing offense is not much better than it was in 2010, when it wasn't very good at all (when it mattered).
Let's throw out the garbage games and focus on Michigan's games against opponents that had respectable defenses in 2010:
- Ohio (3rd in total yds)
- Iowa (16th in total yds)
- Wisconsin (23rd in total yds)
- Michigan State (32nd in total yds)
You might be wondering, "Where is Notre Dame and Penn State on that list?" Well, I'm glad you asked. They were 46th and 48th...behind powerhouses like San Diego State, Hawaii, and ILLINOIS!!! (the team we scored 67 points against). So they sucked. But we still lost to Penn State. Even though they sucked. Because our defense was, well, worser.
I don't need to lay out the stats from the ohio game. They trounced us, and Denard got pulled in favor of Forcier at the end of the game. We couldn't move the ball at all, and scored only 7 points.
Let's move on to Iowa...
Their defense was ranked 16th in 2010, and yet we were able to score 28 points. This is actually the best comparable for this weekend's Notre Dame game, since ND is ranked 17th in total defense right now. Yes, we lost the game by a score of 28-38, and those four TDs sure do look good...but only because you either don't remember what happened or judge a book (or score) by it's cover (or...score). Here are some relevant stats:
- Denard 13/18, 98 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Forcier 17/26, 239, 1 TD, 2 INT
But here's the most important stat: We only scored 7 points when Denard was on the field. Denard get could get yards (108 on 18 carries) but not points. Iowa was stacking the box, and all the offense could muster was a TD on a drive when Denard threw three passes: one was incomplete, one was for a 6 yd. loss, and the last was a screen to Smith for an 8 yd. TD. Denard got hurt in the 3rd quarter and in came Forcier.
It was Forcier that brought the team back in that game, and Forcier that sealed our fate with his INTs. It's worth noting that completing passes underneath when you're behind by 21 points is MUCH easier. In fact, that leads to lots of confusion about the effectiveness of Denard's passing and the 2010 offense in general: we got loads of "soft" yards because we were hopelessly behind and our opponents played softer coverages and lighter fronts.
Wisconsin has a similar storyline, except that Denard played much more that game. We scored exactly ZERO points in the first half (although we did miss a 30 yd. field goal). With a 24 point lead, Wisconsin converted to prevent defense, and allowed us back in the game. Denard stayed in this time, and racked up a nice, meaningless statline: 16/25 for 239 yds, 2 TDs, and, of course, 1 INT. The important part: Denard was 4/9 for 22 yds passing in the first half. When Wisconsin was playing their base defense, Denard couldn't pass. Only the gooey butter cake version of Wiscy's D allowed DR some meaningless passing yardage. Further proof of this came in the fourth quarter, when we had come back to make it a 21-31 game. Denard couldn't move the ball anymore.
The final example is, perhaps, the most damning. Michigan State had a good-but-not-great defense in 2010. Their success was largely a result of their schedule and some good defensive coaching. They lost badly to Iowa (and 'Bama), snuck by a pretty lousy ND team in overtime, and narrowly edged out a VERY average Penn State team. Their only quality win was against Wisconsin, and that game was played in East Lansing. Despite their easy schedule, the Spartan defense was still only ranked 32nd in total yds. Michigan actually had the lead twice in this game, up 3-0 in the first quarter and 10-7 in the second. Denard was 6/8 for 51 yds in the first quarter, but threw an INT in the endzone. In the second quarter, Denard shined again. He was 4/6 for 81 yds and a TD. At the half, Michigan was down 10-17.
The second half was a very, very different story. Denard was 7/15 for 82yds and 2 INTs. The same guy we saw against ND. Only against a defense that wasn't nearly as good. And we were at home. The 4th quarter TD was only scored after MSU had rung-up a 21 point lead.
So here's the bottom line: Denard has never been a good passer, or even an average passer. And against good defenses, we won't win until he's able to throw the ball somewhat effectively. Maybe that's why Borges keeps making him throw, especially before the B1G season starts.
So what's the difference between now and 2010? The defense. Because our Greg defense is not our GERG defense, we are in every game, and teams don't stop stacking the box against Denard. They don't stop blitzing. They don't play soft coverage. So Denard never gets to ring-up his stats, and looks even worse.
I certainly won't excuse Borges' playcalling on Saturday--it needed to be better. But the fact is that our only quality wins have come when Denard has been able to make plays in the passing game (or Hemingway was able to bail out Denard) and I expect it stay that way. If Denard can't pass, we're screwed, and 4 or 5 losses is our best case scenario.
Should coach Hoke start wearing the head sets when Michigan is in the red zone? Al Borges has made some questionable calls in the red zone especially on 1st and goal. I know that Vincent Smith made a bad throw, but why even take that risk when it's first down? On another 1st and goal he had Denard pass and he was sacked. I'm just wondering if coach Hoke would have over ruled some of these calls if he knew before hand. The 4th and inches call against MSU in the red zone last season was a gamble that he lost as well. It just seems to me that Borges takes to many risks when he doesn't need to. The defense was playing great and Michigan didn't need a ton of points to win this game. What do you guys think?
Growing up, I was not a Michigan fan. I lived in the Chicago suburbs, and I had two favorite college teams: The University of Colorado for football and The University of North Carolina for basketball. I rooted for Colorado because they were my mom's alma mater, while I rooted for UNC because that was where Michael Jordan went, and when you're a kid from Chicago, that's the only reason you need.
The first time I ever watched a Michigan game that I remember was the 1993 basketball championship game, because Michigan was playing UNC. At the time, I was obviously pleased with the outcome of that game.
My life changed dramatically the weekend of September 24th, 1994, when I was 12 years old. The 25th was the day that my dad remarried. Since my stepmom and her family was from Michigan, we all gathered around the television to watch Michigan play Colorado on the 24th. The room's members consisted entirely of Michigan alums and/or season ticketholders with the exception of myself and my dad - my stepmom to be, my stepsister to be, my stepsister's then boyfriend now husband, my stepmom's best friend & husband, and other various relatives and friends from Michigan.
Me being the obnoxious 12 year old that I was, I was rooting on Colorado partly out of loyalty to my mom's alma mater and partly out of wanting to be the contrarian in the room. So when Kordell Stewart heaved a prayer at the buzzer, I went bananas when it connected and proceeded to rub it in everyone's faces the entire rest of the evening.
My new stepfamily realized they didn't want to have someone taunting them every time Michigan suffered a loss in the future, so they promptly began my indoctrination into all things Michigan the following season. I was brought to Ann Arbor for the first of many games before I got to college. It was the 1995 game vs Minnesota where UM won by 35 points. I got to experience tailgating on the Golf Course before and after the game, as well as dinner at Good Time Charley's, on top of my first time inside the Big House. Going to a game annually in Ann Arbor became a tradition, as did going to the games in Chicago every time UM came to play Northwestern.
Once I was in high school and had to start applying to colleges, Michigan was at the top of my list of preferred destinations. I got in to Michigan as well as my safety school of Illinois and Michigan was my clear favorite between the two. My dad, knowing the massive out of state tuition bill that would be coming compared to IL (at the time almost a 90k difference for 4 years), tried to bribe me into going to U of I instead by offering me a new car.
My dad only offered me a new Saturn. As I already was driving a gently used Camry, I turned him down unless he was willing to escalate his offer to a BMW 3 series or a Honda S2000. He declined that, so I was Ann Arbor bound in the fall of 2000.
I've been bleeding Maize & Blue for 17 years now, and I now look forward to indoctrinating my children in all things U of M. The nice thing is I'll be able to get my kids pro-Michigan from birth, as opposed to their teenage years, so they won't have any years missing from their lives as Michigan fans.
Thanks for reading, I just wanted to share as today is the anniversary of a lifechanging day for me.
If you look at basic stats, and compare Denard in 2010 to last year and this one, you can't escape the fact that statistically (perhaps not technically) he was a better passer then than he is right now, or last year:
2010: 63% completions, 2600 yards, 11 interceptions, 150 QB rating. (numbers rounded)
2011: 55% completions, 2200 yards, 18 interceptions, 140 QB rating.
2012: 55% completions, 800 yards, 8 interceptions, 130 QB rating.
So as a very raw first year starting QB, after arriving at M without a lot of great HS coaching on QB technique, and with none of the benefits of the subsequent intensive 2 years of QB instruction he has received since Hoke and Borges' arrival, his stats in most areas were better in 2010 than last year or this one. He has worked diligently for two years to correct the flaws in his technique, and looking at film, you see that in most ways his footwork and throwing motion are far improved (his decision making has not improved, or at least not measurably, as we saw Saturday--but it also isn't worse). But his stats, or the outcomes, have not. Why is this?
I'm not claiming to know the answer. Some possible explanations: defenses in 2010 did not yet have "The Denard Rules" down--build a fence around him, force him to beat you from the pocket, etc. The fear of his running then forced them to crowd the line, leaving receivers more open than they are now. Was this actually true? Did they play is differently then? Not sure.
Were our receivers better then? Odoms and Hemingway, are not here, but Roundtree and Gallon still are. Perhaps we can argue that this year the group is not as good, but you can't argue that for last year, when Denard's stats regressed. The O-line? Probably better in 2011 than 2010. Probably marginally worse this year, but again this doesn't seem to explain it. Our defense (a poor defense can negatively impact a team's offense, forcing it to play from behind and get away from the game plan)? Nope, we are better last year and this one. The running game from the RB position? Nope, better now than then. Coaching? I think we can safely say that by reputation, resume, and by observation, Al Borges knows how to coach Quarterbacks. Denard has improved his technique as stated earlier, and by all accounts is also a better leader and QB off the field than he was in 2010. Head coaching? We can all agree we are happy with that, and the results validate that.
That leaves (for me anyway) the question of offensive passing design and strategy. Are the routes and the design of the passing game different now than they were in 2010? The play calls themselves are certainly. Is it true, as some allege, that by design, the route combinations, routes themselves, keys, 1st reads, and the passing game design itself are not optimized to play to Denard's strengths as a passer?
Because it doesn't make sense to me that a senior QB with in his third year has worse results than as a first year sophomore, I have to vote yes on that, with the caveat that I'm not as expert at analyzing those things as some on the board. Or is there an explanation that I'm missing?
First, the game yesterday. Then the Lions' miscommunication costs them a potentially season-changing, yet undeserved victory. Finally, after melting down in the afternoon game, the Tigers ride their washed-up reliever to a loss, blowing another chance to tie the White Sox. At least Western won ...