FORMATION NOTES: We're a… shotgun spread offense with personnel exactly like Rich Rodriguez's preferred 1 RB, 1 blocky/catchy, 3 WR?
We were in this game. Take off… er… put everyone in identical uniforms and don't check to see which team has the 6'5" giant at WR and you would have no idea which team was which based on presnap alignments. Excluding short yardage and two snaps inside the Michigan 5, Michigan had 49 shotgun snaps, five from the pistol, 7 in ace and zero I-Form.
This wasn't quite as WR heavy as that would imply as you can see Kerridge split to flanker in the above shot, something that happened half a dozen times. But… yeah, it looked like a callback to 2010 minus non-scramble QB runs, of which there was one.
Michigan deployed Kerridge all over; here he's the H-back.
And they deployed a few instances of what I call "Pistol FB," which indicates there's a dude next to Gardner and a TE.
Michigan ran a version of this where the "FB" was Norfleet, once from the pistol and once from the gun. Norfleet also motioned to the backfield for a two-back look.
Now if the next time Michigan uses my preferred offensive style if they could just score some points that would be cool.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden the whole way. Gardner QB obviously; Green was the starting RB and vaguely the top guy, with Smith getting close to equal time and Hayes getting some third down snaps.
WR was a rotation between Funchess, Darboh, Chesson, and Norfleet with nobody else getting in IIRC. Hill and Williams saw almost all the TE snaps save a handful Butt got early; Kerridge also played H-back frequently.
[After THE JUMP: why don't you try running INTO the hole this time?]
SPORTS. TALK. RADIO. A somewhat agitated man called into WTKA after the game Saturday night. That guy can get bent with his engineering cracks. If the football team was as good as solar car we'd all have burned out dopamine receptors.
It could be worse! It could be equally as bad. Let's check in with our friends at Texas.
The eloquent Scipio Tex on a hamblasting at the hands of BYU:
Anyone coming into this game expecting a solid or even reasonably functional offense was delusional, but cold reality stings even when you know there's a blizzard outside and you're dressed only in a garter belt and a ball gag leaping from a 3rd story window into a snow bank...
Metaphorically been there, bro. And literally, but let's focus on the metaphorically please.
Meanwhile in MS paint penises. We made Shamepaint, a couple times. This is the one I can put on the blog:
So we're still better than my friend Kit.
That's over I guess. Penn State's sanctions are over as arbitrarily and suddenly as they were imposed. Suddenly free to go to the Pinstripe Bowl, Penn State fans reacted like college students do when given the slightest pretext:
— The Daily Collegian (@DailyCollegian) September 9, 2014
The previous day's Collegian was exactly the same except the headline read ONE DOLLAR TACOS.
So that may explain that. Derrick Green got a lot more carries than De'Veon Smith despite not being at all effective with them. Here is a potential reason why:
@AceAnbender DeVeon Smith is limping pretty bad around campus. No boot or brace, but he's walking like a baby deer.
— Nick McLaren (@xDQ44) September 8, 2014
Here is a list of potential SMU hires I am linking for no particular reason. Michigan's going to have more access than SMU if they need to make a coaching change at the end of the season, but Harbaugh Hail Marys aside the landscape isn't going to look too different than this list of eight candidates to replace June Jones after his sudden resignation. It's heavy on offensive coordinators, with those of Ohio State, Clemson, Baylor, and Oklahoma on the list along with some washed up dudes. (Butch Davis! Rick Neuheisel!) Michigan has a bunch of midlevel head coaches they can grab… it's just that there aren't any.
If you think that's excessively grim, look around the college football landscape for an established, pluckable head coach with a track record that makes you warm and fuzzy. I don't see one. Texas grabbed the best idea out there when they hired Charlie Strong to repair the damage letting Mack Brown hang on way too long caused. Washington picked off Chris Petersen. Penn State got James Franklin. There's nobody at a midlevel BCS program who's an obvious next big thing a la Meyer or Sumlin.
Unless you think Michigan can swoop in on a Texas A&M or Oklahoma State—extremely doubtful—there are virtually no available coaches who finished in the top 25 last year except George O'Leary (hooray!) and Todd Graham (because Todd Graham is always available). David Cutcliffe is 59; Art Briles is 58 (and not leaving).
The best bet outside the HHM may be Craig Bohl, who led NDSU to three consecutive national titles and various upsets of nearby I-A teams. Dual problems: he just got hired by Wyoming and he's 56.
Maybe someone will cut a hot swath of death through some conference or another, but legit A-level hires have track records of performing over expectations over a number of years. With Petersen, Strong, and Franklin off the board the pickings are slim. They get even slimmer if you insist on a coach who runs a program that looks like 1990s Michigan, because fewer and fewer programs do that.
Hail Harbaugh full of grace and all that, then. Or ripping off ten straight wins and going to the Rose Bowl. Either one. Preferably the latter. It could happen!
AT LEAST WE COULD PROBABLY UNFOLD SOME FRIGGIN SHEETS OF CLOTH.
— Tyler Koppes (@TBooty_88) September 7, 2014
Actually, I wonder about that after the Great Card Stunt of 2012, which was not exactly North Korea quality. We are a goatish people, we Michigan fans: hard to lead, prone to irritating bleating, capable of grudgingly eating anything put in front of our face.
This week in People In Charge Of Things Are Just In Charge Of Them. Nothing about what Ray Rice did changed in the last couple days, but once people actually saw him knocking out his wife all of a sudden Rice is gone from the league. NFL officials are either 1) worse than TMZ at getting video, 2) lied to everyone about having saw it, or 3) saw it and thought two games was okay.
This is a comprehensive failure by an idiot. He's an idiot who makes 45 million dollars a year, and he's an idiot because he thinks this makes him untouchable. See Donald Sterling, Dan Snyder, etc. People in charge of things are not necessarily deserving of such a position and their judgments should be questioned, because no one inside these organizations is successfully doing so.
Meanwhile, elite sportswriters are hand-picked PR organs.
Par for the course. Obligatory hot take on the Hoke quote du jour:
'If they're truly fans, they'll believe in these kids ... If they're not, they won't'
See MGoBlog article "Fickle" on this.
It is not the fans' fault that this program is awful to be a fan of. It's not Rich Rodriguez's fault. Anyone who sells their ticket for whatever they can get—currently 60 bucks and dropping from 80 yesterday—is only making a logical decision to not get punched in the soul dong on Saturday.
You are a true fan if you want the team to win a lot. Believing is optional, and right now kind of dumb.
Etc.: Shut up, Jim Delany, it is most definitely not premature to judge the Big Ten. Michigan Monday, hooray. Miami (Not That Miami) is not good. M is a 31.5 point favorite and YOU JUST HAD TO PICK THAT LINE, VEGAS, SERIOUSLY?
FORMATION NOTES: Not a whole lot that was unusual. Michigan has changed the alignment of their backs in some shotgun sets:
I called this "shotgun deep" since the QB is still at 5 yards but the back is behind instead of parallel. I imagine they did this for the same reason the pistol exists: to give the back downhill momentum when he takes a handoff.
Conventional shotgun sets were frequent as well, as were split TEs. This is the first snap of the game and features Hill motioning from an H-back spot to the slot; he'll block for Funchess on a successful flanker screen.
Michigan would occasionally scrape up an I-Form out of whatever was laying around, like when Chesson motioned in here. This actually cut behind Chesson's force block to pick up 15.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Burzynski/Kalis-Braden the whole way. Gardner obviously QB until garbage time; he got pulled a couple drives before Michigan did much non-WR substitution.
Feature backs were Green and Smith with Hayes apparently a third down option; Drake Johnson only saw garbage carries and should no longer be considered a playing time contender going forward.
At WR it was Funchess, Chesson, Darboh, and Norfleet rotating approximately equally; Canteen did not get on until late. Bo Dever is your backup slot, apparently. Tight end was mostly Hill and Williams with a bit less Heitzman sprinkled in.
[After THE JUMP: all things discussed.]
8/30/2014 – Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 1-0
NOBODY TOLD US WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO THAT WAY LAST YEAR [Fuller]
I watched a lot of football on Saturday. I did not watch Magnolia because my then-girlfriend and current wife thought that her coping mechanism for sadness, which is apparently suffusing yourself in it until your fingers look like you've been in a pool of despair for hours, was applicable to humans. I mean:
That's what I did seven years ago. I had to turn it off because Magnolia is a movie that is unrelentingly miserable. I did not need additional resources in this department at that time.
I didn't turn anything off on Saturday. I watched twelve hours of football after getting back from Michigan Stadium. The only mention of Michigan's game before insomniac time was one dismissive sentence from Rece Davis, something about how there will not be "another seminal college football moment" this weekend. They didn't even take the opportunity to put gratuitous Funchess on the screen.
The only difference between this game and Michigan's opening-weekend romp over CMU last year: a nation's hope Michigan would blow it again. Once it became clear this would not be the case, a nation forgot the game happened before it had even ended. This was the best possible outcome.
So 1) hooray for the best possible outcome and 2) don't let that change your opinion about whether this was the dumbest scheduling decision in the history of scheduling decisions. The nation knew this about Michigan before Saturday: lol Appalachian State. This is what they know today: lol Appalachian State. On College Football Final their brief treatment of the game gave more time to 2007 than 2013. We are experiencing the maximum possible upside from this game, which is everyone immediately forgetting about it like Michigan was thumping a MAC opponent.
And thank God for that. Michigan eased out to a 21 point lead, and then it was suddenly 42, and at no point did Appalachian State look anything like a secret powerhouse; at no point did Michigan look so utterly clueless that they might blow their immense physical advantages. At no point did I wish I had a cyanide capsule handy.
The one thing worth noting here is that Michigan does seem prepared to deal with the football reality of 2014. Greg Mattison's defense played in the face of the opposition all game long, featuring nickel and dime packages frequently. They shot a safety into the box on most plays. They've got the personnel they need to deal with the spread. Possibly two at once.
Contrast this to 2007, when Johnny Sears started at cornerback in the Horror, with a patently unprepared Stevie Brown at safety. The linebackers available outside of Shawn Crable were Obi Ezeh, Chris Graham, and John Thompson. Michigan spent the entire day with two safeties twelve yards deep like they were playing Peyton Manning, and were surprised when the numbers didn't work out. Their linebackers were two-down thumpers for whom space is a cold vacuum in which death awaits. They barely had one cornerback, let alone a chorus line of them.
A big chunk of my spread zealotry has been the fact that Michigan has made it look unstoppable from the drop. They validated the entire idea against Northwestern and set their program on fire in the Horror and the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon game that followed. Put a running quarterback in front of them and they will die explosively. It's happened far too often the last 15 years for it to be a coincidence.
My primary worry about Brady Hoke is that he's stuck on a vision of 1990s Michigan in a world that's evolved past that. There was no sign of that Saturday. The defense's radical makeover paired with what was not the cram-the-box cro-magnon ball it certainly could have been against this opponent felt a tiny bit like John Beilein overhauling his program to be a man-defense, ball-screen offense juggernaut.
I'm not looking for a juggernaut this year. This is the punch-the-cow-for-butter year in which any yellow semi-solid will do. I proclaim this semi-solid yellow, and thank God for that.
Now let us immediately forget this game ever happened, like everyone else.
Parkinggod's usual Michigan-centric one:
And if ten minutes isn't enough here are 20:
Also a guy noticed an eerie parallel between Blake Countess's LOS stick and one from Charles Woodson:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Yes, points. We're moving this to a hockey-like three stars system.
Michigan racked up 350 first half yards while holding App St to 60 en route to a 35-0 first half lead, so there are many, many candidates. It says here that Devin Funchess gets #1, because good Lord that is an unstoppable freak show.
#2 is Devin Gardner, who was on point with every throw except one, flashed that athletic ability, and stepped up (up!) in the pocket when suffering edge pressure
#3 is split between Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Michigan started gashing App St when Kalis replaced Joey Burzynski, with big runs repeatedly coming over the right side of the line.
Honorable mention: Basically the entire defense. There were no particular standouts, though.
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Devin Funchess (#1, APP)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
Michigan had gotten a couple of solid 10-20 yard runs from Smith and Green already when Green took the snap on an outside zone and shot downfield untouched by man or beast until 60 yards had elapsed. Runs. We may have them.
Honorable mention: They threw a screen to Norfleet! Any of the variously unstoppable Funchess touchdowns. Hellacious Stiffarm wins by a nose over LOL I'm Tall. Tacosack, hopefully the awesome thumping cousin of Tacopants.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. That one time Devin Gardner threw way behind a blitheringly open Devin Funchess to prevent him from going 14/14.
Honorable mention: That one drive where the Mountaineers drove the ball on the ground against the second team.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
[After the JUMP: Funchess! Holes! Teddy KGB!]
Coverage is irrelevant. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
There was Devin Funchess, galloping through and leaping over the Appalachian State secondary. There were Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, bursting through holes opened up by Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis. There was Devin Gardner, completing all but one pass. There was Dennis Norfleet, catching bubble screens and darting past defenders.
There was offense, making sense at last.
Sure, Michigan's 560 yards on 55 plays came against an Appalachian State team that went 4-8 as an FCS program in 2013, but the coherence and explosiveness of Doug Nussmeier's offense proved undeniable. Funchess more than earned his new #1 jersey, scoring on three of his seven receptions, including a spectacular leaping grab over two defenders in the back of the end zone. Gardner had no difficulty finding open receivers, connecting on 12/13 passes for 173 yards and those three TDs to Funchess before giving way to Shane Morris in the third quarter as the blowout continued unabated.
Green (15 carries, 170 yards, 1 TD) and Smith (8, 115, 2) became the first pair of Michigan running backs to crack the century mark in the same game since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor accomplished the feat against a hapless Minnesota team in 2007. They found running room. This was to be expected against an undersized, overmatched ASU squad, but this was not to be expected because last year happened. The offensive line held their ground and then some, giving up just one sack and paving the way for 350 yards on 36 carries.
The production excited, but more than that it was the fashion in which Michigan got that production. Screens to Funchess and Norfleet* opened up both the running game and downfield passing. The emphasis on inside zone allowed the line to find their rhythm; after some early stuffed runs, they started opening up big creases, especially when Kalis entered the game at right guard in place of starter Joey Burzynski. Michigan got explosive plays—ten of their first 30 went for ten yards or more—and also showed that they could move the ball methodically; the first scoring drive, capped by a nine-yard touchdown to Funchess, covered 63 yards in nine plays.
De'Veon Smith displayed power and balance on his way to 115 rushing yards. [Fuller]
On the other side of the ball, the defense played up to their lofty expectations, forcing punts on each of ASU's first seven drives, including five three-and-outs. 171 of the Mountaineers' 280 total yards came on two second-half drives with the game well out of reach, as Greg Mattison liberally rotated through defenders. They came through on their promise to be more aggressive, playing lots of tight man coverage and putting ASU QB Kam Bryant under consistent pressure—Michigan's two sacks and four QB hurries don't tell the whole story.
The special teams even managed to chip in a scoring play, as Ben Gedeon caught a punt blocked by Mike McCray and managed to extend the ball just past the pylon to put U-M up 35-0 just prior to halftime.
Only two things came up as real concerns during the game. Jabrill Peppers missed the second half with an ankle injury; Brady Hoke confirmed after the game that his absence was precautionary, and he'll be back on the field next week for Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Jake Ryan looked uncomfortable at times at middle linebacker, getting overaggressive on run defense and allowing a big gain through the air when he didn't get enough depth on a zone drop. If your biggest defensive concern is Jake Ryan, however, your defense is in a very good place.
"We weren't competing against the score, we were competing against our abilities," Hoke said. At the very least, Michigan showed their ability to dominate inferior competition. They certainly drew up the blueprint for how they'd like this team to operate the rest of the year, too. Next week, we'll learn a lot more about just how far they've come.
For now, it's nice to sit back and enjoy a stress-free Saturday.
*Or "Little Fleetwood" as Hoke (accidentally?) called him in the postgame presser.
News bullets and other items:
Captains will be voted on after the Ohio State game, with seniors representing the team at each coin toss
The depth chart was released prior to the presser. Read Ace’s take on it here.
Injury update: Kyle Kalis is fully healthy, while Delano Hill is meeting with doctors this afternoon to determine whether he can play Saturday
Hoke raved about Devin Gardner’s progression on the field and as a team leader
Ty Isaac’s status is still uncertain; they’re waiting to hear back about the appeal
The freshman and sophomore classes have an edge to them. Hoke does not know that he has said edge.
Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 12
[After THE JUMP: a mini scouting report on Appalachian State, Devin Gardner’s development, and the captain situation (or lack thereof) explained]