“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
the 2009 Penn State Behrend Sports Camps flyer.
The elephant in the room. Everyone else feels compelled to write something on the events unfolding at Penn State, and I do too. I don't have much to add to the universal revulsion and calls for firing:
In response, Penn State did not call the police. They did other things, but they did not call the police. Joe Paterno did not call the police, and Tim Curley did not call the police, and Gary Schultz did not call the police. The graduate assistant who witness the act did not call the police. Penn State President Graham Spanier did not call the police. A reported child molester and rapist was living and working in their midst, and working in a program that brought him into contact with boys, and not one person called the police.
Co-sign. Penn State fans are right there, too, FWIW. There's a small band of holdouts but it is a distinct minority.
The reason I'm writing this bit is not the actions in question but the reaction of the major players once they became public. While the actions themselves are terrible the ass-covering reaction of the school's president and Paterno are at least 341st on the list of terrible things that have transpired. This is part of Paterno's statement:
If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can’t help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred. …
As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.
No. When you heard the sad thing about your former DC, knew goddamn well this was a second offense after a 1998 incident that is likely the reason for his sudden retirement, and decided it wasn't worth talking to the police because your mind rearranged it into something "inappropriate" instead of evil, you gambled. When a kid was raped after you gambled, you're done. You did not "do what you were supposed to." You were supposed to call the police.
As for Spanier, Black Shoe Diaries already lost its mind for me:
"Unconditional support"? "Complete confidence"? "Highest levels of honesty, integrity, and compassion?"
Seriously? It was appropriate that these things were investigate thoroughly a decade ago. Regardless, this is a completely abominable response to any crisis, most especially this one.
These are obviously vetted and carefully chosen words, which have the added effect of making Graham Spanier look like an idiot -- and that is casting Spanier in the most favorable light. I don't think he's an idiot, for the record, but the remaining alternatives are much more sinister.
Even after it is crystal clear huge chunks of PSU's athletic department were complicit in Sandusky's activities they still go this route:
Who do you think you're kidding? At least own up to your massive, incomprehensive failure. Or cancel your press conference an hour before it is supposed to happen. Is there an athletic department in the country that can say "we were wrong"?
Paterno's apparently gone, as was inevitable the moment the grand jury report was released. His name should be off the Big Ten championship trophy. Either that or I want one of the post game interviews to go like this:
Q: You've won the Big Ten championship! What are you going to do now?
A: Spend a decade enabling a child rapist!
If they could stop running that Big Ten ad where Paterno says "we believe in people" (except when they are reporting serious crimes) that would be cool, too. His legacy is now Pedobear wearing JoePa's glasses.
Is this fair? Should we forget all the good Paterno has done in our "rush to judgment"? Yes, and yes. This is a failure so massive it wipes out every positive thing about JoePa, of which there were many.
Forget with consumption. Now that we've talked about horrible crimes you're probably in the mood to buy a shirt. I know I am. You are in luck, as three fabulous options have been added to the MGoStore:
I find it odd that people want to commemorate a concept that means Michigan's quarterback is throwing the ball five feet over his receivers' heads, but commemorate away. Also I'm going to pitch Underground that all MGoShirts should feature someone pointing at something.
Good news for people who love bad Seinfeld references. I just wanted to type that header. Now I've done it so I guess I have to say something about the unexpected commitment of Pioneer RB/WR Drake Johnson. That thing is: reminds me of James Rogers. Instate sleeper with excellent straight line speed but reputed to be more of a track star than a football player, recruited as a RB, may actually end up at WR (or, you know, in the secondary after a five year sojourn across every position on the depth chart).
Weird commit to take before figuring out where Bri'onte Dunn is going to end up, but my moles tell me Fred Jackson says he can transform into a helicopter. That will be helpful on short yardage. But seriously folks, it'll be interesting to see how Johnson and Thomas Rawls work out as the first of the Hoke tailbacks. Both are major sleepers, but running back is a spot where sleepers seem to do better than they should at a position that prizes athleticism—Hart, Le'Veon Bell, Wisconsin person du jour.
All 22… [Homer noise]. Dedicated NFL followers are peeved at the league's implausible reasons for not releasing the endzone camera angles that show every player on the field ("fans would jump to conclusions after watching one or two games"). Smart Football:
The proffered reason — that it would result in too much criticism — is so silly that it can’t possibly be true. But if it’s not true, then what is the real reason? … two possibilities: first, either we really would fail to comprehend the complex array of movement on the field by twenty-two supremely athletic but human men, and thus we need the gentle paternalism of the cameraman and producer to show us, in a kind of cinematic baby talk, “See, with this close-up the quarterback throws a pretty spiral to the receiver”; or, second, football isn’t even a game so much as it is a product to be branded in a particular way, and by restricting the All-22 the NFL can by Orwellian imagery of extreme close-ups and slow-motion shots emotionally convey to us the narratives solely how they want to in the way they want to. In either case, there it’s control of the message; the only question is why, and all the answers are depressing.
This is the same attitude that leads to the Paterno reaction (not the action, the PR): belief that enough people will be snowed that you don't have to care about the ones who aren't. It works enough to be the default strategy even when no one in the world is going to believe you, like in the recent OSU and PSU cases*. That's the only play in the playbook.
On the other hand, it's not like anyone's offering views of the whole field to me. I asked the SID about it a few years ago and got a polite, expected rejection. I think the thing the NFL fears is fans making criticisms that aren't ignorant.
*[Because I don't want to find @ramzyn leaping out of my mailbox with a machete tomorrow, let me clarify that I'm not comparing the two actions that led to the PR blunders, just the PR blunders themselves. The reaction to both the Gee/Smith circus and the Spanier stuff was "who do they think they're kidding?" The PSU stuff has an order of magnitude of extra rage on top of it, obviously.]
What is a catch anymore? Additional Hoke comment on the Hemingway 49% touchdown:
"I thought Junior made a catch," Hoke said Monday during his weekly news conference.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I thought he caught the ball (and finished the play)."
Hoke downplayed the significance of it after making that statement, FWIW, and that's about what I want from the coach: an honest opinion delivered calmly.
Anyway, this section is not about that. It's about what constitutes a catch these days. It used to be, sonny, that if the ball hit the ground it was not a catch. Nowadays there's the whole control-to-the-ground, ball-not-moving, is-it-or-isn't-it-thing. And I don't like it. Back in my day, these things were clear. Now anything close gets sent up and then sent back inconclusive.
I'd prefer it if a ball that hits the ground before the receiver has the opportunity to make a football move with it was just incomplete. That's clear. If that was the rule we wouldn't be talking about the Hemingway non-catch because it would have been obvious.
Iowa skill position coveting update. Patrick Vint of BHGP relates that McNutt was an athletic quarterback until year two at Iowa, when it was discovered his hands are covered in a mild adhesive and he is pimp. Also he explains the Coker recruitment:
…he committed to Iowa between his junior and senior seasons at Dematha. You were right on the offers, but only Minnesota and Iowa were recruiting him as a full-time halfback; everyone else saw him as a fullback/h-back. Obviously, we know how that works out. But the other thing is that he wasn't necessarily "missed" as much as completely under the radar. He was injury-prone as a sophomore and junior, and his numbers weren't that impressive. Both Rivals and Scout had him as a low-3*. His senior year was monster, though, getting him the fourth star and some late attention from VT/Miami/Auburn (IIRC on war eagle), but Iowa had an ace in the hole: Dude's an astrophysics major, and Iowa's been all over that s--- since Van Allen in the 50's.
Yes, our beast of a starting halfback is an astrophysics major.
Must be nice to watch your meh tailback recruit hulk up during his senior season.
Remember, remember the 5th of November, the Manball treason and plot.
There's plenty good reason the Manball treason should ever be forgot.
After Notre Dame I picked out Michigan's success running the ball under center versus from a shotgun and found this:
That was two games into the Hoke and Borges era, in the first test against a real defense. A bit of clunky install was expected, if not such a big disparity. Also expected was that Borges would at that point still be running a lot of Power before inevitably realizing the personnel is simply way better at spreading and shredding. Runs from under center that weren't in goal line or 3rd/4th down situations were throwaway downs to set up passes. Runs from the shotgun were mostly 1st down plays that went for good yardage. Once Michigan got down early it was sit back and turn on the guns.
Here's Michigan's ninth game of the season:
… and this is why a small subclass of zealots are already plotting to blow up Parliament.
The ace (not THAT Ace) stuff was 1/3 Denard Jet, which Iowa was prepared for. I tried breaking this up further into inside and outside runs but the sample sizes got too small to be of any use. However I did find that the seven inside runs from the I-form got about 3.57 YPA. It was around 5 until Iowa started sending the linebackers right into it, which counts as making them cheat and opening up some of those passes . So let's not pretend Borges doesn't have an offense when he ISOs with Hopkins followed by Toussaint; it's just nowhere near as good as putting Denard in the gun.
A Desperate Disease Requires a Dangerous Remedy
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
I believe King Hoke and Lord Borgesham are aware of this, which is why the 4th quarter comeback was 27 plays of straight shotgun.* Why they are doing it is the real question. If they're really Manball zealots like Hoke's been telling us they are since he got here, this year doesn't end well.
Perhaps each week the offense game plan is preparing the defense?
If there has been any rhyme or reason to the Borges grab bag (except the Denard Jet package which has five complimentary plays) it's that Michigan's offense tends to come out running its version of what the opponent does a lot of.
* There's one play where they cut back too late from another game and missed the formation – it was a pass to Hemingway I think.
See: trend. Against interior zone loving Iowa, Michigan ran I-form ISOs almost like a base play. Against Purdue it was outside running (although the Wolverines could do whatever they wanted really). The offense versus MSU was slants and TE flares set against the occasional (QB) power off tackle, exactly what Dantonio does with Cousins and Baker. With Northwestern he lined up in all sorts of formations and ran zone to pass, calling everything but Kitchen Sink Z Right while Denard did his best impression of Dan Persa. SD State uses the tunnel screen and I-form and got this started…
JOIN THE TUNNEL SCREEN AND POWER FROM THE I-FORM LIBERATION SOCIETY
STILL WORKING ON THE COLOR SCHEME
NOW ALSO WORKING ON THE NAME
tTSAPFTILS DOES NOT ROLL OFF THE TONGUE
…in the UFR. Minnesota…I don't know, they don't have an offense so we made one up.
All of these plays are Michigan offense plays, for example they ran a lot of the power off-tackle using Denard against MSU. But they're also the closest plays to what the opponent is running.
I need way way way more data to make this more than a hypothesis. It's not a theory. But if we do have a mimic offense, it's not hard to find a reason: Defensive Improvement. Getting this defense from the bottom to gloriously better-than-mediocre has something to do with linebacker alignment and coachspeak words filled with hard consonants, but it also might have a little sacrifice coming with it in the form of offensive grab-bagginess. Perhaps the parts of the Michigan offense most like the opponent's are emphasized each week in order to maximize both units' preparation for that opponent?
That's the best reason I can think of for why, nine games in, Michigan is still going with offensive game-planning that doesn't maximize the talent available to them, until it's the 4th quarter and it's time to cut them loose. Hopefully they've also been using the time saved having the 1st team defense face the 1st Team Mimics to be preparing like hell for Ohio State. Maybe they're preserving Denard so that they can unleash the Denard and Toussaint interior running game from hell. If all this beats that backwards, filthy, imperialist scoundrel of a nation to the south, it'll be worth it to this subject at least.
Handle note: Everyone else uses their name these days, so Internet mask removed. I'm Seth. Misopogon=Seth. No, I never learned how to pronounce "Misopogon" – I think the first and last o's are short and middle one is long.
Do you see what I'm talking about? I am talking about a situation in which there is a "Denard Robinson = Juice Williams?" thread on the message board. Also there is a podcast. It's a hair over an hour.
COMPLAINTS. We have many about the offense.
MANY STATISTICS THAT WERE ALREADY IN THE GAME COLUMN. They were fresh wounds when we were looking at them on the podcast.
SPECIAL REF/GAME THEORY SECTION. Complaints about the pass interference are lodged. Going for two and the use of the final timeout are also discussed. (Something which has just occurred to me: Michigan would have had an extra timeout if they hadn't blown one on Iowa's final punt. Guh.)
WITHER THOMAS GORDON? That was odd.
THE BIG TEN: STILL NOT GOOD. Jamiemac of Just Cover comes on to talk about the league slate and help preview the Illinois game.
OBLIGATORY PATERNO OPINIONS. Are offered during this segment.
Musical interludes are "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" by the Unicorns, "Opposite Day" by Andrew Bird, and "Die, All Right(!)" by the Hives. Eventually I will run out of songs about death to play post-losses.
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS! I fixed the iTunes subscribe link for serious this time. Like, people have used it successfully.
The usual links:
- Helpful iTunes subscribe link
- General podcast feed link
- Direct download link
- What's with the theme music?
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.
The Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post will guide you through the harrowing experience of typing something into a box on the internet and not having it show up instantly.
Black Heart Gold Pod. I guest on the BHGP podcast this week. About a half hour, and if you haven't listened to a BHGP podcast yet you have to listen to the theme music at the very least.
Listen to the rest of it to hear me lose my mind when Patrick suggests we should be grateful we missed out on Ferentz three years ago, plus me talking Jacobi down from his 45-14 Michigan prediction. These are some depressed gentlemen.
Die Wayne State. Basketball tips off tonight with their first of two exhibitions. If you're not local you can check out the stream for free with the code BTDN3FR33. (Anyone know if I can get a replay of the game online? I'm headed to hockey.)
Surprisingly, Horford is slated to start over Morgan. Read into that what you will; I think there's something in there. Possibly "if we play both of them neither will foul out in ten minutes." I'm not reading much into Douglass over Burke until the team goes to Maui.
Meanwhile, the McGary afterglow continues at UMHoops with a look at Michigan's top recruits of the last 20 years. Man, are there some conflicted feelings on that list. I didn't remember Horton being that touted. AnnArbor.com surveys big time recruits as freshmen to see what they managed.
SIDE NOTE: People are talking about maybe getting two years out of McGary if he doesn't blow up upon entry. I've seen some hopes that the NBA mandates a second year in college, as has been rumored, but that would actually hurt Michigan's chances of keeping him around. As a kid who prepped he would probably be eligible anyway, and with a huge swath of talent suddenly off limits he'd be a major attraction in a weak draft. In the long term Michigan should hope for a setup closer to baseball's, where a big chunk of Calipari's recruits don't even get their cup of coffee in the NCAA before heading to the league.
The pump up. Jeff Goodman has moved to CBS and uses his new gray platform to pump up one John Beilein:
McGary is heading to a Michigan program that is dangerous this season -- and could be downright scary in the next couple of years with the addition of a monster in the middle.
Even without Morris, Michigan should still be a factor in the Big Ten race this season.
There's Novak -- one of those guys who every coach regrets passing over when he came out of high school -- and fellow senior Stu Douglass.
Much is expected of Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of the former NBA guard with the same name who is coming off a strong freshman season. The same can be said of skilled forward Evan Smotrycz, who has a year under his belt.
Freshman Trey Burke, who was a teammate of Ohio State star Jared Sullinger in high school, will likely share the point guard duties with Douglass.
And while he isn't overly intimidating from a physical standpoint, Burke is a guy who makes quality decisions -- and can really shoot the ball (something Morris was unable to do).
"He can do it all," Sullinger said of Burke. "He's fast and knows how to get his teammates the ball. There's a lot of pressure having to fill the role of Darius Morris, but he'll be able to do it."
What are we thinking here? Six seed? I think maybe a six seed.
Oversigning Bowl gets some attention. Cribbing from Eleven Warrior's previous post, the WSJ points out this weekend's 1-vs-2 matchup is pretty close to a 1-vs-2 matchup in a more dubious department:
Alabama has signed 137 players over the past five years, for an average of 27.4 per year. It signed 32 in 2008—a class that included nine starters on this year's team, plus Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. This total places Alabama among the top five nationally in oversigning.
LSU has signed 126 players over the same period, which works out to 25.2 per year. That number is considerably lower than Alabama's but higher than many other top teams.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, whose football team has signed just 112 players over five years (25 fewer than Alabama) said oversigning is "certainly an advantage."
LSU says that the Tigers have signed "at the NCAA limit of permitteed enrollees or one or two above," which is reassuring since 25 times 4 is probably less than 85. LSU doesn't know. They're not in the business of knowing.
Molk in the NFL. NFP's Wes Bunting on one of Michigan's NFL candidates this year:
A shorter, compact lineman who looks nearly maxed out physically, despite weighing 288-pounds. Looks a little tight hipped trying to sit into his stance, but has a quick first step, and snaps and steps very quickly. Creates leverage for himself consistently, extends his arms and can easily reach and seal on plays off his frame. Displays a compact, sturdy punch and can stun defenders at the point. Looks really natural when asked to quickly reach block on runs to the perimeter, as he's coordinated getting his feet around and can seal the edge routinely. Displays natural range/balance getting into blocks at the second level as well. Breakdowns well showcasing the ability to routinely seal on contact.
The rest of it is about how he lacks the power to win in-line or create push, with some dings on his pass protection. Generally positive about his ability to be an NFL player in a zone (cough cough) system.
The Merrill situation. Mike Spath has an update on what's going on with Jon Merrill:
"The initial suspension was in concrete - it was a dedicated suspension to so many games and so much time - and in further discussions, we changed that to an indefinite suspension, which means it's going to be longer," head coach Red Berenson said.
"There is no game we can point at and say he'll be back. But what we have done is we've put him back on the ice and he's practicing with the team."
It sounds like he's passed his OHL flirtation and will stick at Michigan unless something untoward happens in the near future. Spath also floats the potential return of Merrill for his junior year—if he's only playing half of this year the usually-patient Devils probably won't be pressing him to sign.
Meanwhile, it seems like Phil Di Giuseppe's recent trade to Windsor isn't something to worry about. Windsor just blew up their team by shipping out Jack Campbell and one of their top scorers for a bucket of picks and speculative assets like the rights to PDG; if Di Giuseppe wanted to bolt he'd be walking into a crappy team after he'd already reached a college campus. When defections like that happen they're usually players struggling with the level of play (Jason Bailey: 0-0-0, –11; Robbie Czarnik: 3-3-6) who want to take it down a notch or people who just hate their coach (Duncan Keith). PDG is obviously not in the first boat and it would be a surprise if he was in the second.
Even the scenario in which Di Giuseppe is drafted by the college-phobic Kings and signs doesn't get him to the OHL—he is AHL eligible already because pro teams don't prohibit college kids from playing in the A before 20. (Why don't they, by the way? Shouldn't College Hockey Inc be all over the NHL about this double standard? Sure could have used Max Pacioretty a second year, no?)
Etc.: The Willis Ward documentary is live and in the wild. Jacob Trouba in a skirt. Meet all the people who won't be filling wherever the Hurricanes are playing in 30 years. Hockey preview from MLive. We are less of a fraud than PSU. A Nebraska zone read wrinkle that gets the QB outside. Would love to see this—have been wanting this for three years, actually.