11/30/2014 – Michigan 28, OSU 42 – 5-7, 3-5 Big Ten
In one of last year's season preview posts I wondered if Michigan was going to end up on the wrong side of the war after Hoke's hire. I got piles of crap for this take from people waving Stanford anecdotes around. I think a lot of people read "pro style can't work" when what I'm saying is "it's clearly less likely to." I'm not going to turn my nose up at Jim Harbaugh no matter what he wants to run. Wing-T? Yes, sir.
Anyway: the crux of that argument was that if you think running a spread makes your defense soft when you have to play Wisconsin, the corollary to that is that if you're not preparing for spread elements daily you will struggle when you go up against them. For the most part this held true during the Hoke era (if I say "tempo" you will dive under a couch), and never more so than against OSU.
Statistically, Michigan has had a defense somewhere between good and terrific under Greg Mattison. Ohio State looks at that and says naw:
- 2011: 34 points, 376 yards, about two feet from another 70 yards and game-winning points.
- 2012: 26 points, 396 yards. A decent performance, year one of Meyer.
- 2013: 42 points, 526 yards. An obliteration.
- 2014: 42 points, 416 yards. Seven of those points are via a defensive TD.
These were all slow games featuring a lot of running and a lot of Michigan dawdling. This year's version of The Game had just nine OSU possessions, which is the practical minimum. Anything played at a Pac 12 pace would have been ugly.
Michigan had a vaguely acceptable performance once in four years, and two of those games featured freshman OSU quarterbacks who weren't even supposed to be the starter preseason. Hell, this game featured an eighty yard drive led by the third string QB.
The whole "Big Boy Football" thing is all the more galling since OSU has consistently ground Michigan into paste without bothering to throw the ball much. OSU QBs have thrown an average of 20.5 passes against Michigan in the Hoke era, and I'd guess about a half of those were screens and easy stuff in the flat. With most of the rest downfield bombs, OSU's offense avoids turnovers while simultaneously being lethally efficient. If the spread does get your QBs hurt more often—something that's been hard to confirm with numbers—that's not something that has affected Ohio State. Cardale Jones came in and sealed the game.
OSU is running twice as much as they're passing against Michigan and averaging 6.1 yards a carry. These are Rodriguez-at-WVU type stats, the kind that blew me away when I was looking at his track record after his hire.
The funny thing about the Danielsons of the world is that they're old school RUN THE DANG BALL types, but they manage to sidestep the fact that forcing the defense to account for a running quarterback is the best way to run the ball. I can think of no better way to make this point than a chart from back in 2008 that compared Michigan's YPC in year one of Rodriguez to the previous seven years of Lloyd Carr:
Threet and Sheridan and no linemen and they still ended up above average. Michigan would easily top 2006 from 2009 to 2012. Lloyd Carr could talk about running the ball. His teams couldn't do it, at least not well.
I want to run the ball. I want to run an offense that doesn't ask the QB to make complicated reads, but rather asks him to make a decision about one guy. Hoke was a mistake for a thousand reasons, but prime amongst them was his "we're gonna run power" crap after he'd never been able to do that anywhere else.
Michigan spent the 2011 game running the inverted veer wrong and they still put up 40; that this had no impact on his approach speaks volumes about Hoke's lack of quality as a coach. Bo made the shift to a modern passing offense when he had to. Saban is grudgingly moving in that direction: I was watching the Iron Bowl on Saturday and Herbstreit made multiple references to how Alabama was now a no-huddle team. They found themselves down multiple scores in the second half and ripped off five straight TDs in short order.
The game moves; move with it or die. Michigan chose hidebound traditionalism on the field and whiz-bang idiot modernism in the pageantry. The former is a natural reaction after you get burned. The latter is a natural consequence of hiring a pizza marketer.
But can we learn? I would like to learn. Rich Rodriguez blew it here, and he learned. He dumped his defensive staff, got Jeff Casteel back, and is headed to the Pac-12 championship game with a freshman QB after having beaten Oregon in back-to-back years. This is our opportunity to do something right this time.
Unfortunately, Michigan's current coaching staff is going on recruiting visits today when they should be taking a day with a bottle of scotch before polishing up the old resume. I have no idea what they're supposed to say on these visits.
RECRUIT: Aren't you guys getting fired?
COACH: Almost certainly.
RECRUIT: So why are you here?
COACH: I'm like a corpse still twitching. Held in this hellish no-place, I pine for my soul's release and reincarnation as the offensive coordinator at a D-II school.
COACH: You said it.
Florida knows what's going on; Tulsa knows what's going on; Illinois knows what's going on. Michigan doesn't. Comparisons to Nebraska are invalid. Michigan's not 9-3, and no one is going to be blindsided by Hoke getting axed.
Poke the Russia Today outlet in the Michigan e-sphere and you'll hear that it's about Doing Right By The Staff and that it's about Keeping The Pressure Off Harbaugh; neither of these explanations make any sense. That coach doesn't want to be on that visit. He wants to be looking for another job. Harbaugh speculation does not start with, or even focus on, Michigan in NFL circles.
I can't see a reason to drag it out, but here we are, dragging it out. The guy in charge may be competent but he has no track record. We're stuck here hoping this guy is actually qualified and that things turn out for the best. Maybe it will. Forgive me if I have a tendency to look on everything this department does as a mistake.
That's' going to be a tough habit to break, but here's a suggestion: act like a collection of people instead of a committee for once and acknowledge that there's no good way for this to go down. The first major Brandon warning sign was when he infamously took two days of meetings to fire Rich Rodriguez when that was a fait accompli.
[After THE JUMP: offensive line ups and downs, clock lol, etc.]
"This week, and we talked about it earlier on Monday, is always a different week. We had two very good sessions. You always start early it seems like for this game, but in preparation we were outside yesterday. Had a really good practice. Team’s working hard with the preparation. We got a lot that we've got to correct from a week ago but there's a lot to build off from a week ago also. The big thing is you always, listening to coach Schembechler and coach Moeller and coach Carr throughout the years, you want to play your best at the end of November. That's what we're trying to do, have our best performance on Saturday. Great rivalry. We've talked about it and it’s special. Unless you've coached in it and played in it I think sometimes it's hard to explain, but the intensity in this game is like no other you'll play."
Do you bring in special speakers? You mentioned Mo and those guys. Do you bring those guys in? I know Mo’s around here a lot. Does he come in and talk?
"At times you do. We have in the past. It hasn't been every year but yeah, we've had people come in. We do a lot of that in August during camp because you've got those days and you’ve got each other so you refer back to some of those if you're not bringing somebody in."
Bo was famous for every practice they did something for Ohio State. Is that how you handle that?
"Not every practice. We talk about it. It's visually up here in this building all the time [the countdown clock], and we talk about it weekly if not daily about the rivalry and the extent of it."
But you don't do something specific and practice for Ohio State every week?
"Not every week."
For a player like Mason Cole or Bryan Mone, what is this first experience like? How do you bring them into the rivalry and what is it like for them to go into it?
"I think a couple things. Number one, you bring up those two true freshmen. Playing at South Bend this year and then at Michigan State and now going to Columbus, which we've never done that, and we've never done that with those two teams [on the road] in the same year so playing in those venues, and Michigan State playing a night game on national television – er, Notre Dame, I think that's part of it. I think the passion in Spartan Stadium is hopefully something they can refer to but as I said earlier this is even a louder environment. It'll be a test but they've been playing football a long time and that's, at the end of the day, what it is is playing football."
[After THE JUMP: So about last year…]
Greg, two-parter. First, as a defensive coordinator, preparing for JT Barrett. Secondly, as a defensive coordinator, looking at what Joey Bosa’s able to do and affect offenses.
“Barrett is an outstanding quarterback. He’s very, very talented. He can throw the football. He can run it. He runs that offense very, very well. We’ve played against some great quarterbacks so our guys will be ready and we know what we have to do and we’re looking forward to the challenge of doing it.”
Is he your biggest challenge?
“I always look at the next challenge as being the biggest challenge so this is the next one so yes, it is the biggest challenge. It’s the next one, whoever you’re playing next. That’s the way we look at it and we’re excited about it.
“Joey Bosa, I recruited him. I’ve seen him as a youngster. He’s an outstanding football player. He’s like some of our guys. He’s a good football player. He’s young. He does some really good things, and it’s fun to watch him.”
What’s the single best game that sticks out in your mind in the series that you’ve been involved with, and what do you like about the challenge of going into that stadium and playing?
“I’m very, very fortunate to have been in this rivalry a number of times, and there are a couple of them. Every time we play is great. I was very fortunate the five years prior that I think our record was 3-1-1, and I remember going down there in ‘96, I believe, and they were second in the country and we beat them 13-9 and I remember that very well. I also was part of another school that had a pretty good game against them, too, at one time. I remember that one too and I still felt pretty good about that one too. Going down there’s special. To me it’s the greatest rivalry in college football. There’s nothing better. It’s two great programs and we are very, very excited to be part of it and we are excited to take our guys down there and see if we take the next step, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Brennen Beyer seems to step up a little more each week, and you’ve had him the whole way through. Talk about how you’ve seen him develop and what he’s doing for you this year.
“Brennen Beyer’s a Michigan football player. I mean, Brennen Beyer, I said to him before the game, and I couldn’t- I told him, I said, ‘I will not look at some of you guys because if I look at you I’ll fall apart seeing as how we all came together.’ I remember Brennen Beyer as skinny little guy and we came walking in the office and he was guy that the last staff recruited and I coached him for a number of years, and just to see the man that he’s become. He’s always been a man, but he’s what you hope every young man that goes to college becomes. He’s an outstanding football player. He gives it everything he has. He’s played through injury. He’s played through ups and downs, and he comes out every day and does his best in the classroom, off the field, everything. He’s just why Michigan is Michigan, and he’s just why it’s great to have an opportunity to coach him.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison’s Monologue]
News bullets and other items:
Derrick Green won’t be far enough along in his recovery from a broken collarbone to play against Ohio State
Hoke said that he has no idea whether a win over OSU would help him keep his job
He said he doesn’t worry about his job, because that would be a distraction and would detract from what he’s trying to do for his players
Someone asked Hoke how he would make the case to Jim Hackett that he should keep his job and he declined to make said case, saying that a press conference wasn’t the venue for that
The Game, mutual respect, rivalry, atmosphere, preparation, etc.
"Thanks for coming. This is one of those weeks where there's a lot of excitement and obviously with this rivalry, which I believe is the greatest one in sport and that obviously would make it the greatest one in college football, and so it's fun and it's fun to prepare. It's a game where the intensity level between both teams is always at its highest. I think we all want to play our best, and that's the goal, to play your best game that last Saturday in November. Very balanced team we're going to play when you look at what they do from [an] offense, defense, special-teams standpoint. There's a great deal of pride when you play in this game and coaching this game that's special, and you talk to the guys who've played in it and they can tell you how special it is.
"We've got to improve. We've got to improve every week, and that's one of the goals we've always had. At times we're making strides and at times we're not as good executing as we'd like to be, but this is a game that is like no other and we're excited about it."
So many people thought that Ohio State was going to be in big trouble when Braxton Miller went down. Can you talk about what their quarterback is done just filling in?
"Yeah, I think JT [Barrett], I think you look at the progression from the first start to going through the season and I think he's done a great job in how they manage and what he wants and has to do offensively. He's athletic obviously. I think the way he's thrown the ball, the precision on that – I know last week was one of those games where the way it started wasn't as good. I think he's overcome a lot when those things have happened and I think he's been a guy who's done a great job for them."
Given the nature of this rivalry, given the perceived disparity between these two teams, in what ways do you prepare differently for this weekend differently than past weeks if at all?
"I think it's always a little bit different preparation, number one, because of the game itself and being The Game that you both on both sides have a lot of passion for and those kind of things. In rivalry games I think the preparation that you put in, how hard you're going to play is a big part in what happens in it."
From your perspective having lived in Ohio, having coached in Ohio, even having coached across the nation what makes the Michigan – Ohio State rivalry unique compared to other national rivalries?
"Yeah, I think the intensity and the masses themselves. Buckeye graduates and Michigan graduates, I think that's huge is how they feel. The size of the stadiums they both have, the atmosphere in the stadiums, and the passion in the stadiums."
There's obviously some speculation about your own future. How do you handle that personally and professionally, especially this week when there seems to be more speculation?
"Well, you know, they can speculate and do all that. I honestly – if we get distracted, if I get distracted with what we're doing then that's not fair to those 115 kids, so from that piece alone, and I think I've said it, I've never been worried about a job. I worry about the job we do for those kids."
[After THE JUMP: Basically “can you explain why everything is so terrible?”]
[Ed. note (Adam): A huge thank you to Greg Garno of The Michigan Daily for the audio. The following transcript is from the portion of the press conference in which video cameras weren’t allowed. The first part of the presser can be found here: http://www.mgoblue.com/collegesportslive/?media=476826]
Just a little finer-point follow up on the questions about recruiting. Other ADs have spoken to recruits to assure them one way or another. Will you have any direct contact with people that are being recruited in football?
"I haven't thought about that. I would tell you this, that the role that I'm playing as Athletic Director, as interim Athletic Director is supporting these coaches. The coaches own the point of view of their programs. This is how I led the businesses I have in my history, and so I'm there to help them. Of course I'm evaluating them. I'm trying to build resources and structures to help them be more effective, to help train them, to help develop them, to help motivate them so if there's anything I can help them do in the broadest sense I'm going to be there for them."
You mentioned your criteria for evaluating the football program. What are your criteria for evaluating a potential new Athletic Director?
“Well, because that sits with President Schlissel I’m going to let him hold the answer to that, and what I probably owe him is I can say as someone who used the seat of Athletic Director [that] I can give him some input, but it’s probably premature to do that right now. I’ve been 25 days or something on the job.”
In that input though, in your 25 days what do you think is the most important thing that you would say to President Schlissel is a key attribute of this new leader?
“What I’d be answering is how I feel about what I think we need in leadership. I walked in here with this notion and nothing’s changed my mind, and it begins with we stand in service of others. The job of a leader is to help people who want to achieve more, to be there for them, to support them. I’m a big believer in very thoughtful approaches to problems plus a mix of doing them, so it’s not only about getting things done but it’s about being really thoughtful. You heard more than an inference that I believe you’ve got to align yourself around the most competitive set in the world. We compete in our product with other kinds of institutions around the world- around the country, sorry, and to have the highest sense of acuity of what does it takes to compete, to make our fans so delighted, to make our alums so proud, to make the student-athletes believe that this is the best place in the world and on and on is really important. To have that acuity and help rationalize that is the part of leadership.”
[More after THE JUMP]
News bullets and other items
Delano Hill served a one-game suspension against Maryland and will return against OSU
The vulnerability to a fake punt was something the coaches spotted on film, and Joe Kerridge had the ability to call it off if necessary
The problems with the passing game are “multiple”
Hoke used one timeout in the third quarter to avoid having 12 men on the field and another to try and slow the game down for the defense
"Obviously we're really, really disappointed and disappointed in the – cuz our seniors, the 12 guys we're graduating, the 12 guys who played their last game [at Michigan Stadium]. We always talk about playing for them and coaching for them and we just couldn't execute at times [when] we had opportunities and at times we did [execute]. I also think that we had some mistakes in the kicking game that obviously hurt us as a football team, and some of those are very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and that kind of aggression but at the same point we've got to be a little smarter, if that's the right word for it. The one thing is in our locker room there's a lot of disappointment and there's also a lot of pride that these guys have in how they've practiced and how they've done things all year and obviously we've got the greatest rivalry game in college football, in my opinion, coming up and that's what we're going to focus on."
You alluded to it but this hasn't been a very penalized team this year. Can you talk about the punt return and the play on the field goal with the field-goal kicker?
"Yeah, some of this is all subjective and what do you think it is and not. Not seeing the whole thing from the angles that you all get I'll have to look and see, especially on the block in the back. On the field goal, the guy was trying to make a play and he was a guy who was supposed to be coming hard off the edge and I guess he hit him hard enough for a 15-yard personal foul."
Can you take us through the time out and the decision to go for it on fourth down instead of just kick?
"Yeah, on fourth and seven?"
"Number one, it was going to be a long field goal and I believe there was some wind coming out of the south. Matt… could have kicked the opportunity. Punting it, thought pooch it there. Little worried about Will getting too much on it. Thought our defense was playing very well at that time. Was playing very well. Believed in the call, believed in what the kids could do. Still."
Did you take the timeout to make the decision?
"Yeah, in my mind I wanted to be sure. I wanted to make sure I talked to Doug also and how he felt about it also and having the right play, and I felt very good about it."
A big punt [fake] to start the game, a couple fourth downs; did you call this game a little more aggressively?
"You know, I don't know if it was more aggressively. We had seen on film that we could take advantage of the fake. We were- we go for it on fourth-and-one and we had the penalty, so that knocks it back. When you look at different punt teams and you look at different zone of the field, what they like to do, or punt return teams and what they like to do and what they like to be in and we got exactly what we wanted. Joe has the ability, Joe Kerridge, to call it off. He's a really intelligent guy football-wise and so it was there and we went with it."
The difficulty stopping the run in the third and fourth quarters; what did you see there?
"I think they got a little bit up-tempo. I think we lost some of our discipline a little bit in some of those things. I thought we missed a couple tackles in there that we needed to- I think we tackle better than that. I think that as much as anything hurt us a little bit. And I'll give them credit too. I want to give- CJ Brown I think he's one of those quarterbacks who's a little but of a gunslinger and does a nice job with running that football team and he's a good athlete."
[After THE JUMP: more words that are strung together into mostly complete sentences]