landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
2011 michigan state
Site note. Had some issues getting and converting the game this week—my UFR process is byzantine—so UFR will be delayed until Thursday/Friday. It's a bye week, be chill.
Reminder. This is what Michigan wore on Saturday:
I hadn't seen a good shot of the sleeves, which miraculously manage to make the whole ensemble seem even dumber-looking. If you run across a picture from this game in five years you are going to laugh at the clown uniforms like people laugh at that one year a bunch of teams wore stormtrooper shoulders.
The MZone points at a prescient slippery slope prediction and says get used to it. Michigan's the first team to get their Arena League on twice in one year—even the pro combat victims only have to put up with it once.
How does this happen again? There will be a fuller discussion in the UFR of this, but it is absolutely maddening to see MSU time those double-A-gap blitzes with Molk's head going down and never get a check or read in their face. Molk on this:
"They did jump our snap count," Molk said. "They knew us, they knew how we played and how our plays were going to start."
Michigan State's Trenton Robinson originally told The Wolverine on Saturday his team could anticipate Molk's snaps because he bobbed his head down, then back up before he hiked the ball. …
Molk said Michigan recognized this during the game, but could not adjust because of the crowd at Spartan Stadium.
"Making an adjustment came down to our ability to communicate, and with the crowd noise, it sort of covered that," he said. "It puts us into a tough situation, and something we have to react to, and we weren't ready to react. They got us, no doubt."
During the game? They've done this the last three years! For Michigan to have no answer to the instant A-gap blitz into the fourth quarter is a massive, inexplicable coaching failure. Not once did Michigan block that, not once did they bring Molk's head up to reveal the blitz and then check into another play. There was no one in the center of the field for a dozen snaps and Michigan didn't use this at all.
Upside: At least this blows up the halftime adjustments meme. Downside: it's been replaced with the "Michigan State was tougher" meme, which even Molk is repeating. I guess that's the effect of an offseason in which every other word out of Hoke's mouth was "toughness." I'm not seeing it. I'm seeing MSU outcoach Michigan for the fourth straight year. It's not toughness when no one has an angle to block the same linebacker five times.
Boo-boo, line edition. Via a pouty-looking WCBN sports director hanging out in Sweden:
Taylor Lewan limping around campus with a giant boot on his left foot/ankle. Looks uncomfortable.
Somewhere on the coaching film there is evidence Gholston swept the leg. Of this there can be no doubt.
Obligatory Gholston-Dantonio statement. Anyone who's surprised that MSU is ham-fistedly taking a page from the Gene Smith playbook by declaring Saturday's events an "isolated incident" in an attempt to keep a starter on the field hasn't been paying attention. Dantonio's established a pattern. Ending a kid's hockey career with a sucker punch doesn't get you kicked off the team, every year there's a posse of 20 guys getting together to beat up some engineers, etc. etc. etc. This is the way he wants his program. End of story.
Bielema don't care. I've been annoyed with the program's public reaction to the above, possibly because it seems like they're lying through their teeth for better PR. This doesn't make me right, it just makes me annoyed. In contrast, Bret Bielema is a guy who gets his digs in:
"We'll do our talking with our pads and we'll do it between the whistles."
This is the only guy in the league who was able to call Tressel the asshat he was instead of going with that tragic hero/tragedy business that Carr and Dantonio did or refusing comment like everyone else. He also runs up scores like there's no tomorrow—it's clear he's something of an asshat himself, but these days I'll take any public figure who says what he thinks instead of what someone says he should think because it looks prettier in the paper.
Ain't hearing you about a deranged prosecutor. In the aftermath of the personal-foul-fest over the weeked the WSJ assembled their number-crunching team and came up with a list of the dirtiest rivalries in college football as measured by personal fouls of a late/unnecessary hit variety. A number are expected. One in particular is not:
|RIVALRY||PER GAME||BIGGER OFFENDER|
|Duke-North Carolina||5.2||N. Carolina 69%|
|UCLA-Southern California||4.8||UCLA 54%|
|N. Mexico-N.Mexico St.||4.6||N. Mexico 65%|
|Michigan-Michigan St.||4.0||Michigan St 80%|
|C. Michigan-W. Michigan||3.8||Western 58%|
|Brigham Young-Utah||3.6||Utah 61%|
|NC State-North Carolina||3.4||N. Carolina 59%|
All of those are competitive series save North Carolina bludgeoning Duke annually. Maybe they're just mean dudes at UNC—they're the only team to show up twice.
Of course, this pretends the personal foul stuff is a two way street, which it isn't in certain cases. On a per team basis your winners are:
- UNC (vs Duke)
So… yeah, UNC hates Duke a lot. Either that or it's impossible to not get personal fouls for unnecessary roughness when you've got a lot of illegally acquired future NFL players and they've got eleven mewling kittens.
The fresh take NOTline*. Magazine writer Chris Jones came up with a fresh take that really adds to the sporting zeitgeist: you shouldn't say "we" when you are identifying the team you root for because you are not on the team. Awesome, dude. Thanks. For your troubles SBN's Andrew Sharp effectively compares you to Whitney.
Sharp has ten reasons a fan might break out the we but doesn't hit the reason I do it periodically: it is a convenient linguistic trick. If I am discussing the Michigan-Michigan State game and wish to refer to the teams by words shorter to read and type, I can either continually re-introduce the team names and briefly refer to whichever one is the most recent antecedent as "they." That's potentially annoying and confusing. The other option is to dump them entirely in favor of "we" and "they," which clearly indicate who is who while preventing constant repetition of already established facts—that we are indeed talking about Michigan and Michigan State.
It would take a fun-hating mutant whose super power is pedantry to object to this, which is why someone who works for a newspaper or magazine writes this column every three months.
Trouba: pretty good. Hockey 2012 D commit Jacob Trouba is good, first round good. As of late he's pushing his way into the top half of the first round:
Defenseman Jacob Trouba (U-18 U.S. national team development program): He is most likely to land in the top 10 picks and could crack the top five if he keeps progressing. He's 6-1 and 170 pounds, and he can skate well, fire the puck with authority and show a physical presence.
Boo Nieves, LW, Kent HS
Nieves has rocketed up the charts after showing off his stuff with USA at the Ivan Hlinka on top of several favorable viewings last season. Nieves is a skilled, offensively productive center who has the potential to grow into his body. He has great hands and displays a real high level of skill. He also has better then average skating, utilizing a smooth stride that provides him with a top gear when required.
He's still not in ISS's top 30.
Comment truth. Let me pull this out from the depths of the game column comment thread:
With our personnel, I think most people would want Rodriguez running the offense. They would just want him to stay far, far away from the defense.
The dirty little secret is this: This game was the cost of doing business, by deciding for a full scale switch from the head coach - who didn't earn himself a 4th year based on results, everyone settle down - on down, rather than just going after the massive problem that was the defensive coordinator and staff. Now, in the long term it was probably the right decision, but in the short term, we have set ourselves up for frustration. …
[discussion of last year's game vs this year's game with focus on field position and yardage]
So reality is this: Because Rodriguez was defensively incapable, he lost his job. In turn, Hoke was hired and he brought in Mattison, a guy who has proven - along with having a more experienced secondary - to be one of the best hires in college football. He also brought in Borges, who isn't the proper fit for our offensive talent. It's not his fault and as has been stated, won't be a problem in 2 years time. But this year, we're going to have to suffer through another flawed season, which to me is incredibly frustrating given that a spot in the Big Ten title game is there for the taking.
That is exactly where I'm at. We had to deep-six Rodriguez and the coaching hire appears to be working out about as well as anyone could have hoped, but burning Denard's career in an offense he's not suited for is killing me. Shades of gray exist.
Etc.: Basketball ranked 20th by Rivals. Smart Football on combining quick passes with runs and screens—this is like extending the zone read concept to linebackers downfield. Michigan Monday in case anyone thinks the Sparty == Dirty meme is restricted to homers. Lake the Posts also jumps in with outrage(!).
Some things that are inevitable are impossible to call until they happen. Like that Google AdSense would eventually find the perfect sponsor to reach the massive and growing audience of Michigan/cat readers. Or that Michigan would eventually run a fake from the FB dive.
It's 4th and short. Michigan has cut MSU's lead to 7 and has the ball on the MSU 9 with a little over 6 minutes to play thanks to a State fumble on its own 32. Michigan has already converted a 4th and 1 on this drive (the ZR where Denard pulled it after his RB was already being tackled). A fumbled snap, a short pass to Koger and a dead-on pass to Gallon at the sticks for 11 yards (had Michigan challenged the spot we would have gotten it) later it's 4th and inches. Then everything goes wrong:
Somewhere in Michigan, a cat is being abused.
Do you wish you would have called a running play on the fourth and one? “No. I liked the play. If we execute the play, Koger’s in the endzone. We don’t make a block that we need to make, and that’s part of it. That play’s been very successful for us. It’s a nice complement to the dive. We just didn’t execute it.”
WE DON'T MAKE A BLOCK THAT WE NEED TO MAKE
Before the snap the TE on the top of your screen (Moore) is looking inside for the snap and misses the CB start his blitz. By the time Moore is out of his stance the CB is already past him. The fake doesn't work because the corner is coming from the edge and knows exactly who has the ball.
IF WE EXECUTE THE PLAY
There was more than just the missed assignment. MSU's strongside end managed to hit both Watson (the TE) and Koger (the H-Back), which occupied Koger long enough to throw off his route. By the time Denard was on the ground, Koger still hadn't made it out of the backfield, and had picked up a safety escort.
BUT THE DIVE-FAKE WAS SET UP!
How many times in a short situation has Michigan come out in the I, shifted the RB outside, then run a FB dive? Eventually there was going to be a wrinkle off of this. Such a wrinkle was primed like a Guitar Hero Star Power Meter. Or was it?
Here's all the goal-line dives this year:
- 4th and 1 from WMU's 19. Toussaint gets 3 against the 3-4 defense.
- 2nd and goal from WMU 1. Well defended but Toussaint just barely gets the nose of the ball to break the plane.
- 3rd and goal from ND 3. ND stuffs, Hopkins fumbles, Denard picks it up and runs in unmolested.
- 3rd and goal from EMU 1. Because it's EMU they are slow to react and Toussaint leaps over the pile.
- 2nd and goal from Minn 1. Michigan gets a yard.
- 1st and goal from NW 1. Wildcats spot the play, meet Toussaint's leap, stopped just short.
- 2nd and goal from NW 1 (the next play). Toussaint doesn't jump, they stop it.
In Star Power terms this is Note-plink-plink-plink-plink-plink-plink = U No Haz Str Pwr.
DeBordian thinking would tell you a fake off the dive is perfectly set up. MSU knows the dive by heart. They're even tempting Michigan to run it by shifting the alignment. There's a hole to the left of Molk that either Toussaint or Norman will get to first. This is Man-Ball at maximum chest hair.
Because of Molk's block (he's 3/4 of the way to a seal before anyone else is out of their stance) and Toussaint's athleticism, the dive probably would have worked. It would depend on the spot, and be close.
The point is a fake off this thing was as incredibly surprising as a DeBordian waggle. MSU had seen it defended, and knew just like the rest of us that a fake was eventually inevitable. Their answer: blitz the corner in case of a keeper and having Norman shoot the hole they left.
IT'S THE WRONG OFFENSE AT THIS MOMENT
I am totally fine with the FB dive and its variations this year. It is a staple of power offenses, and except in terrible, cat-abusive situations, saves Denard from taking hits. Saves him, for example, for those times you're down a score and deep in your opponent's territory late in the 4th quarter against a rival with a three-game streak against you.
What caused this…
That was the dumbest goddamned $%&*^-*$#*ing #&!$brained dip*&%$ mother*(%$ing horse_+$# goat-&^%t &%$*y-infested $%^&stick playcalling I have ever &*$ing seen in my life.
…wasn't any of the execution problems. It was conceptual. Hoke and Borges are betting that MSU sells out against the dive—never mind the plinking—and he can use that to take an easy touchdown. This is the opposite of correct, the equivalent to Weis throwing a bomb on 2nd and 10, and giving Tate and company an extra 28 seconds for the comeback. It's throwing away a huge advantage for the advantage of surprise. It's making lemonade when God gave you apples and an apple crusher.
Every second the quarterback is moving backwards or isn't facing the line of scrimmage is a second that the quarterback isn't going to be running forward. Even if it was properly blocked. Even if Koger wasn't held up by a great rush by MSU's end, it's a terrible play call because it leaves Michigan's biggest weapon—Denard Robinson's legs—in the garage, while trusting Denard's arm (not good in a garbage tornado), Koger's catching (iffy all day), and Michigan State to not play disciplined defensively (between the whistles they were fine).
I haven't changed my opinion about these coaches: we have awesome coaches and I'd rather have them than any other person who's coached in this state the last four years. But that was a terrible, terrible call.
[Guh. Google image search for "rugby punt" and one of the first images is Zoltan making his very bad decision against Michigan State. Thanks for nothing, BWS.]
Rugby punt responses.
What do you think about having an up man for punt returns when we play against a rugby style punter? How many times have we seen 25 - 30 yard punts turn into 50 yard net results because it was impossible for one man to cover enough ground to catch the ball. If we had an up man he could immediately start moving toward the side that the punter runs toward and would be in position to fair catch many of these 30 yard floaters. I actually like a two man return set up for all punts but it certainly seems to make sense against the rugby style. My nomination for up man is Drew Dileo - great hands, dependable and seems to have an unflappable field presence.
All the best,
Jerry in Ibiza
Against traditional punts putting a second guy that far back could be an invitation for the opponent to run a fake. You could get away with it for a few games but once opponents plan for 9-on-11 you're asking for trouble.
That problem doesn't exist with spread punting*. Fakes there are invariably the punter taking off after he sees the opponent bug out downfield, something the returning team can prevent with three or four guys. So… yeah, I've been in favor of a second returner for a while now. The combo of spread with rugby style punting means returns are infrequent and the best you can hope for is to field the thing on the fly and hope to get lucky—having a guy a closer to the roll side who's 30 yards deep could save you dozens of yards of field position.
In the last year of the Rodriguez regime we actually saw something like that in the open practice. Michigan came out with three returners, one at normal depth in the middle of the field and two guys outside of him closer to the line of scrimmage. Never actually saw it in a game, though, and the punting was so terrible in that practice that we never even saw it return in practice.
I doubt Michigan ever does something like this—using the old-style punting is indicative of a regime that's not particularly innovative on special teams.
*[Rugby punt googling also turns up a coaching video on the thing calling it "shield" punting and enumerating its many advantages:
The traditional punt formation has only two gunners. Everyone else is tasked with protecting the punter until the kick is off, which means they lose time they could be using to go after the returner. The basic shield punt formation allows for much better coverage by spreading out seven gunners on the line of scrimmage with three defenders protecting the punter.
The shield punt is a simple formation that results in your opponents giving you fewer looks and allows you to minimize practice time spent on punt coverage. Your athletes have limited assignments which translates into quick learning and fewer reps in practice.
Seven gunners, man.
BONUS RANDOM Australian team logo:
Is that a location or a description? ]
One of about a dozen emails about why we couldn't do anything against MSU.
Denard, Borges, and the o-line are rightfully getting a lot of heat after Saturday's loss. How much of the blame should go on the wide receivers? MSU loaded up the box and dared UM to beat them through the air. They manned up on the wide-outs and sent the house. I remember a few plays Denard missed open guys, but on most passes the receivers were blanketed. On one pass over the middle, Denard stepped up into the pocket and threw a bullet to Roundtree. The pass was slightly to Roy's left, but instead of sliding his feet, he just reached for it, and the ball glanced off his hands. The best way to stop a team from blitzing is to beat man coverage. On the Roundtree TD, it took a near perfect throw to fit the ball in there.
Clearly MSU didn't respect our wide-outs' ability to beat man coverage. This is the first game I think we missed Stonum's speed. He had that huge catch and run to jump start the team 2 years ago against State. He also got the offense over the hump last year vs. (gulp) UMass. Hemingway is a good position guy, crafty after the catch, great on jump balls, but he's no burner. What impact do you think Stonum might have had on Saturday's game?
PS - why no more bubbles? On the Denard pick 6, UM had 3(!) on 2 and didn't throw it. I don't think we're stretching the field enough horizontally anymore.
I have many of these arguing that various things were wrong with the offense, so if this isn't yours, apologies for not replying—I did read it and will go into UFR looking for it.
As for the wideouts, it seemed like the wind was also screwing with them. Michigan State suffered a half-dozen drops to go with Roundtree's. That's more evidence passing was not the best idea on Saturday.
Did they get open and if not was that their fault? It's hard to tell. While the WRs weren't open on that disastrous three-play sequence in the second quarter, other players were. If the QBs throw to the hand-wavingly wide open guys we're not having this conversation. On other plays they may not have been open because Michigan ran three guys deep into cover three. There was a shocking lack of short routes to exploit MSU's constant double-A-gap blitzing.
Just last week the WRs brought in seven iffy passes from the QBs against Northwestern, and while they aren't Edwards, Avant, and Breaston issuing those guys the blame when they hardly got a hand on the ball is goofy. The QBs and Borges were the main issues.
RE: bubbles. I don't know, man. Argh. They looked open all day. That's a symptom of a larger issue: lack of constraints in general. The base didn't do anything in large part because MSU was cheating it and Michigan had nothing to punish the cheating. It's possible they did but couldn't execute it—Meyer thought the pick six was a slant that a WR did not run.
Ticket wait list: not so good.
So I decided after many years to get my own tickets, expecting to go on a waitlist for end zone seats, maybe take a couple years or more for my name to come up.
I read the online info and sent an email to the ath dept to clarify.
To sum up what I learned, I'm told that I have the opportunity to make a donation of $500 to be on the interest list for this year. Key points: 500 minimum donation, but no guarantee of getting tickets. $500 puts me on the list for this year only. If I don't get them this year, then I need to cough up another $500 to try again next year. Or just donate a large enough amount move higher up the list. It's all about points. More points move you up the list. My degree is worth 5 points, which I could buy for a mere $500.
I told them to tell pass along my dislike to DB.
This is bizarre given the many stories floating around on the internet stating that over the past half-dozen years or so you could jump the season ticket wait list with a donation of $100, $150 at worst. To reiterate, this is next year's home schedule: Air Force, UMass, Illinois, MSU, Northwestern, and Iowa. You could pay $500 for the privilege of being on the wait list, or you could take your 500 bucks, scalp every game, and have enough for a Wii left over.
I'll be fascinated to see how this works.
Since there has been much criticism and analysis of the various systems deployed by current and former coaches, I am just curious: what is your ideal offense? As in, if you were to become an offensive coordinator, what would the personnel look like and which current system would it most resemble?
Oregon. Oregon has the whole toolbox: power, inside zone, outside zone, constraints on all of those, the zone read, and a downfield passing game that is often a blitheringly open touchdown factory. There are a number of other systems that I wouldn't mind—I like Oklahoma's "have an NFL first round QB throwing to NFL first round wideouts" strategy—but the tiebreaker for me is Oregon's ability to manipulate the tempo of the game in their favor.
Oregon can play lightning fast when they have the opponent off balance, which keeps the opponent off balance. If they were to hypothetically be behind in a game, the up tempo nature of the system helps them there, too. If you're trying to kill a game it's nice to have a rushing attack well over seven yards a carry. And finally being really good and playing fast makes you less vulnerable to weird stuff because you're putting more possessions in the game.
Oklahoma's air-raid derived passing spread is also quite lovely but seems more vulnerable to vagaries in quarterback talent. Oregon made Jeremiah Masoli an all-conference player.
We will make an exception this time.
I graduated from UM Law in 2006 and consider myself to be a huge Michigan fan. I went to Yale as an undergrad and was in an a capella singing group (I know, I know) called the Baker's Dozen. Through some weird circumstances, I found out last year that from the early '60s until the late '80s, my group sang and recorded "Hawaiian War Chant."
As you would imagine, or, I would hope, can at least understand, I freaked out and immediately found and purchased a copy of an album from the 80s that contained the song. In the meantime, an alum of the group sent me the attached mp3 which is a recording from the Baker's Dozen's 1960 album.
My wife's about to have twins, so I figure the only logical thing to do is to send the girl to Michigan and the boy to Yale where he'll join the same group and revive the song. That's not a weird plan, right?
Here is one without the other:
Someone in the readership will no doubt find a 60s a capella version of Temptation now. This is what the readership does. It is a machine.
This week on the podcast: complaining, complaining, and more complaining. It's kind of jovial-like, though, so it's not as annoying as that might sound. But in the interests of full disclosure:
We complain about the fourth and one call.
We complain about the offense in general.
Ten minutes in, we consider whether we will stop complaining. Answer: no.
We complain about throwing the ball in a trash tornado.
We start talking about the defense, get in a few complaints about holding the edge, find the defense too not-depressing to talk about for an extended period of time and so move on.
We complain about Rich Rodriguez's offensive and defensive line recruiting.
We complain about the uniforms.
We complain about our wow experience.
Then Jamie of Just Cover comes on and we talk about the Big Ten. I don't think we complained much in that segment.
Musical interludes from Bonnie Prince Billy, one of Will Oldham's alter egoes, and Rilo Kiley. The former's tune is "Death to Everyone" of off I See a Darkness. The latter is "The Execution of All Things" off the album of the same name. I see what I did there.
The usual links:
10/15/2011 – Michigan 14, Michigan State 28 – 10/15/2011, 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten
right via Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THROWING 30 YARDS DOWNFIELD IN A CYCLONE
YOU'RE ASKING DENARD ROBINSON TO BE JOE MONTANA IN A TRASH TORNADO
YOU'RE COMING OUT FIVE WIDE
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Brian Cook's brain channeling Mike Valenti, 3:07 PM 10/15/2011
The now rapidly developing lizard brain theory of college football coaching states that there is a certain level of pressure above which rationality goes out the window and coaches revert to who they really are. It came to me in a horrible epiphany when Lloyd Carr punted in the 2005 Ohio State game less than a quarter after going for it on his side of the field. Coaches panic, go to their binkies, and then try to convince you otherwise in the post-game.
Different coaches have different levels. Ron Zook reverts to the lizard brain on the opening kickoff of every game. Kirk Ferentz makes it about five minutes in. We don't know about Tressel because he constructed his team such that the lizard brain was right. Les Miles exists on an entirely different axis with taffy on one end and victory on the other. He is the only one who escapes. The lizard brain is unavoidable.
Al Borges's lizard brain kicked in after Vincent Smith ran for two yards on Michigan's first offensive play of the second half. First and ten after that:
Robinson sacked for –9 yards
Smith rush for two yards
Gardner rush for four yards
Robinson rush for –1 yard
Robinson slant complete for 34 yard touchdown
Robinson rush for –1 yard
While this doesn't paint a pretty picture for the run game, either, after halftime Michigan passed on 60% of its first downs, got one completion on a short route that turned into a big gain when Roundtree broke a tackle, and did nothing else.
For the game Michigan tried to pass at least 41 times*, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt and giving up a defensive touchdown.
TWO POINT EIGHT YARDS
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!
Michigan tried to run the ball 26 times and averaged… oh, Jesus… 5.2 yards per carry. Fitzgerald Toussaint got two carries, Denard twelve.
I just realized this is what it's like to be Walter Sobchak.
MARK IT 2.8.
(This is not a threat against anyone's person. Do I look like Will Gholston?)
So, yeah. There is no way to put this without getting an email from some guy concerned about his eleven year old without resorting to Bloom County methods. That was the dumbest goddamned $%&*^-*$#*ing #&!$brained dip*&%$ mother*(%$ing horse_+$# goat-&^%t &%$*y-infested $%^&stick playcalling I have ever &*$ing seen in my life. I see you, Valenti. I get it now. I get it.
ON FOURTH AND ONE AL BORGES HAD THE QUARTERBACK, WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS RUNNING QUARTERBACK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, TURN HIS BACK TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE AS IF EVERY DEFENSE EVER CONCEIVED AGAINST THE GUY DOESN'T HAVE EDGE CONTAIN OF HIM AS THEIR FIRST THREE PRIORITIES
ON FOURTH AND ONE AL BORGES HAD THE QUARTERBACK, WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS RUNNING QUARTERBACK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, TURN HIS BACK TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE AS IF EVERY DEFENSE EVER CONCEIVED AGAINST THE GUY DOESN'T HAVE EDGE CONTAIN OF HIM AS THEIR FIRST THREE PRIORITIES
Okay, okay… sorry. Sorry. I'm vented.
What we have to deal with now is the cold certainty that the honeymoon is over and our football coaches are football coaches, like they always are, and we cannot assume that everything will be honeydew and game theory from now on. Hoke punted on fourth and short-ish from inside the opponent 40. Borges did that above.
That's okay, really. Given the crapfest we endured on offense I almost can't blame Hoke for the punts. And in many other situations I prefer an offensive coordinator who wants to throw when he's in trouble to one who wants to go into a shell. The Morris/upperclass Gardner offense won't put the Ferrari in neutral until the second half. Recruit like they're recruiting and coach like it seems they can and eventually we'll get to a nice place to be.
In the near term, though, those happy thoughts over the first few weeks about Borges adjusting to Denard evaporated in a flurry of sacks after which you look at the receivers and there are three guys thirty yards downfield with no one between them and the carnage. You can fake it against defenses that can't play, but when it comes down to it the combination of Borges and Denard makes everyone wonder that bad old question about whether he should really play QB. IE: the worst-case scenario from the offseason.
A certain genre of Michigan fan will say this was always who Denard was, but last year he completed 58% of his passes for 9.3 YPA and a 12-9 TD:INT ratio in the Big Ten. Whatever his limitations were they seemed a lot less limiting last year, when Michigan stressed the defense to the edges and exploited the ruthless equation of the spread: a running quarterback means someone's open if you can just find him.
I don't blame Borges for that. You can't up and be someone else at the drop of a hat. If we are again pointing the finger of blame it's aiming at Rich Rodriguez for not deserving a fourth year. I do blame Borges for throwing almost two-thirds of the time when that should be inverted. The incoherent grab-bagginess of the offense is a natural effect of hiring a pro-style guy with a spread offense. Running Denard twelve times in a trash tornado is not.
So here we are, with football coaches instead of magical fairies who can do anything. That sucks. The honeymoon over, life re-asserts itself.
*[I'm not sure how many QB carries were scrambles. I counted the 8-yard Gallon scramble as a pass.]
Non-Bullets of I Wish They Were Real Bullets
Hurray clowniformz! So much for a one-time thing. It's as if they knew they would need to both play and look like Yakety Sax:
That's the third time this year we've had a uniform stunt, this one the ugliest and stupidest of them all*. It's like Dave Brandon took in the majesty that is the Spartan Stadium game experience and said "someday this will be mine." Chengelis's headline on the subject…
Spartans, Wolverines compete with fashion statements, too
…is even more evidence that Dave Brandon Gets It less than anyone has ever not Gotten It before.
I had a wow experience. Did you? Everyone looking forward to the analwowing in Dallas next year when we take our freshman defensive tackles and paper-thin offensive line into a game we are absolutely not prepared for? CEOs are psychopaths.
[Bonus: last time we did this was 1976, the very heart of the era when people lost their minds about fashion. We lost then, too.]
*[No, that guy on every message board who could spin Denard Robinson's arm being torn off by William Gholston as a positive for the program, they did not look good. A sane political system would prevent you from voting. You suck. I'm sure you've got a comment all lined up to complain about the complaining. Bring it, I've got an itchy trigger finger today.]
Obligatory personal foul section. Yeah, it was ugly. The truly sad thing was that band of morons getting away with 120 yards in penalties without losing. If we had a sane offensive plan and/or a plan to deal with snap jumping those personal fouls are only 10% enraging—the intent to injure bits—and 90% hilarious Sparty being Sparty. That's where we are as a program right now: we can play the stupidest 85 people ever assembled on one football team and still lose by two touchdowns.
Gholston should obviously be suspended at least two games for the helmet rip—as bad an intent-to-injure play as the Reynolds-Sorgi incident—and the punch, which has been established by the great Jonas Mouton Suspension Fiasco as a one-gamer. There was also a less obvious judo chop that forced Lewan out of the game for a few plays. I bet nothing happens, because that's the way life goes.
This is the second consecutive year a player has been knocked out late after the game is decided by a dirty hit. Look at Dantonio's jaw… you are feeling very sleepy… you cannot put together incidents to see a pattern forming… so much… fake… bible… Spock.
I guess targeting other football players is progress relative to beating up mechanical engineers en masse.
Edge destruction. Early candidates for big negative days in the defense UFR: Roh and Ryan, who were targeted by the MSU offensive coaching staff to good effect. MSU's first TD drive was a series of easy outside runs as those two got destroyed. They improved a bit as the day went on but were clearly a weak spot targeted effectively.
Woolfolk also got pulled after a series or two; he's obviously hurt. Avery was the nickel corner since MSU doesn't spread to run much.
Man, Baker. It kills me whenever I see a really good running back go against Michigan because the mind immediately plugs that guy into rotation at the RB spot post-Minor and groans. Baker is one of those guys, a leg-churning tackle-breaker who would turn a lot of Michigan's two yard runs into five or six or more.
Penetration. They had it. Michigan didn't. Why not?
One part: It's clear all these late-developing passing routes are exposing the Mark Huyge we saw trying and failing to block for Tate Forcier as a sophomore. After a year of being covered up by the spread 'n' shred he's back to allowing sacks on a three man rush.
But the interior line? I saw Molk ole guys. Molk! How is this year four of MSU using a simple parlor trick of slanting under at the snap without two different coaching staffs being able to do anything about it?
Old school punting. Positive of a sort: When asked to coffin-corner punts Will Hagerup does a pretty good job. Haven't seen that in 15 years—you know it's old school when Sap is referencing Harry Kipke when handing out helmet stickers.
Why "of a sort": if you can coffin-corner a punt you probably shouldn't be punting.
The Minnesota plays. Doesn't seem too smart to have run a zillion new things against Minnesota now, does it? Michigan brought out the sprint counter once and it got stuffed—would MSU have been prepared for it if they hadn't seen it against Minnesota? Since Michigan isn't running the QB stretch that motion was a tipoff the counter was coming and an expected counter is a dead counter.
Inside the Box Score points out a huge swing play:
The refs did miss one backwards pass from Cousins, who clearly let go of the ball on state’s 37 and hit his receiver’s hands on the 36. The explanation was really lame, something along the lines of Michigan didn’t recover the football right away. The way I saw it, the ball hit the ground and the Michigan defender bent down and picked it up. What am I missing?
With no one around the ball except Wolverines if that's correctly called that is a potentially game-changing defensive score. This isn't a bad offsides penalty or uncalled false start, it's a touchdown being wiped off the board because the refs blew it dead too early. Very frustrating. I thought they were supposed to let it go if it was too close to be sure about now.
Also there is this:
Our leading tacklers were Gordon, Kovacs, Roh, and Countess, with 8, 6, 6, and 6, respectively. Do you notice what’s missing? Linebackers. Demens was the leading tackler among the linebackers with 5. I noticed this week that Touch the Banner was high on Demens for last week’s performance against NU, but Brian was critical of him in the UFRs. I think this game was the tie-breaker. I don’t think our LBs were productive enough. Baker gashed us all day long. His longest run was only 25 yards, yet he gained 167 yards on 26 carries. State was consistently able to pound the football against us.
How many times did MSU linebackers shoot out to the sideline on plays that looked like they were going to work and hold them down to a few yards, and how many times did Michigan linebackers do that? That's not always on the linebackers—could be on the M OL not getting out or DL not taking on doubles effectively—but given what we saw against Northwestern I'm betting some of the big chunk plays from Baker see linebacker minuses aplenty.
Hoke for Tomorrow is briefer. I would like to interject about this amongst the things learned:
That strong winds + Kirk Cousins > strong winds + Denard Robinson.
Cousins averaged 5 YPA and threw a backwards pass that should have been a disaster. Drops had a lot to do with it but it's possible the wind messed with both WR and QB, which is even more reason that throwing 41 times in the trash tornado was inexplicably dumb.
Media, as in stuff. The official site valiantly found highlight-type-substances in the wreckage:
Blogs. Come on, Braves and Birds picture comparison. Come on. The Hoover Street Rag does something long and complicated that I don't understand. Parody of a bad NBC hour-long drama? Mathlete says Michigan underperformed expectations by 28 points, his worst number of the season for all of I-A. Various bullets from MVictors. Touch the Banner also has them.
National variety from Doctor Saturday:
On seven trips into MSU territory after the opening possession, Michigan punted on five and turned it over on downs on a sixth.
Series by series, punt by punt, the sense of progress over the first half of the season dissolved into a disheveled mess. The running game stalled. The two-quarterback shuffle failed to gin up any semblance of a steady passing game, or a big play with Robinson lined up as a wide receiver. The pass protection broke down. In almost every aspect, it was Michigan's worst nightmare: At the exact point on the calendar that optimistic starts began to give way to collapse each of the last two years, the Wolverines looked like a team on the verge of collapse.
Newspapers. Michigan fell to 17th/18th in the polls. I did not find anything else of a newspapery variety that is open in my tabs.
I am headed for East Lansing very early in the morning so I should put this up now so that it actually gets done. Here it is. Please see the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post for information on how to be an excellent liveblog participant.
Go Blue. If I don't post by Monday, avenge my death.