devin gardner is formidable
12/1/2013 – Michigan 41, Ohio State 42 – 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten
About a dozen people asked me during and after the game about how they should feel, and all I had and have is a shrug. I don't know, man. I know this is the part of the blog where I come up with The Big Feel (uh… working title) about what happened on Saturday, and I'm as jumbled as anyone else.
How are you supposed to feel after coming up one play short against an undefeated Ohio State team that was favored by three scores? How about when that makes you two of the last 13 against the Great Satan? How are you supposed to feel after watching whatever that was on offense since the Notre Dame game* turn in the second-most yards Ohio State has ceded in 123 years? After watching the mostly valiant defense turn into the Indiana outfit that necessitated the footnote in the previous sentence?
Football's ridiculous. There's that. We can all agree on that after the football gods cooked up the worst possible torture imaginable for Harvey Updyke, who is 100% at fault for the way the Iron Bowl ended. That is the only thing that actually makes sense about football, a 109-yard field goal return to beat the #1 team in the country. Football is ridiculous.
For me this is a giant ball of frustration. Sometimes you come out on the wrong end of a classic and that sucks but it's still pretty much okay because of the context of the game and the fact that you got to experience it. The 2005 Rose Bowl is the best example in Michigan's recent history. This aspired to that status, but was doomed from the start because of one question.
People will say things about rivalries and sure, I believe that after watching Michigan State play Michigan for the past half-decade. There is no amount of rivalry that bridges this gap:
IOWA, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 4.9 yards per play allowed, in a pack just about tied for second in the conference behind MSU.
IOWA VS MICHIGAN: 158 yards ceded at 2.8 per play.
NEBRASKA, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 4.8 yards per play allowed, also in the pack. (Yes. Nebraska's defense was actually kind of good in Big Ten play.)
NEBRASKA VS MICHIGAN: 175 yards ceded at 2.8 per play.
OHIO STATE, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 5.0 yards per play allowed, third member of pack**.
OHIO STATE VS MICHIGAN: 603 yards ceded at 7.4 per play.
One of these things is not like the others. It's the one that doesn't make you want to listen to Pearl Jam like you're 15 and a girl just laughed at you. If Michigan does anything like what they did in this game against Nebraska, Iowa, and Penn State, they're 10-1 and shaking their fist at Michigan State's defense as the reason this game won't result in a rematch. In that context, a battle of top ten teams that goes down to the wire inside the wire, sure, classic away aw shucks it only hurts when I think about it, it's on. Which BCS bowl are we going to?
After the nine games between Notre Dame and Ohio State, that's a bit fanciful.
When Dave Brandon's not making ludicrous comparisons to Nick Saban and throwing Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, and Martavious Odoms under the bus, he's pointing out that Michigan is just two… three… four plays away from being Super Awesome Team. Anyone with eyes can see that they are three rather improbable ones away from being 4-8. Michigan was a yard away from losing to Akron, needed Desmond Morgan's best Woodson impression to beat UConn, and executed the only successful fire-drill field goal in the history of football to get to overtime against Northwestern. Fate has been kind and cruel in equal parts this year. This is a 7-5 team that finished with a losing record in conference because it deserved to.
That sucks. Putting on the fireworks against Ohio State to end the season is better than taking a steel-toed boot for three hours, but you watch them run play action that curls Jeremy Gallon back to Gardner off of that bubble-iso look and the mind argues with itself about whether it should say "hooray" and wave a little flag or "did you not want to win the Iowa game?" and wave a pitchfork.
You wonder how much earlier this progress could have come if Michigan had settled on a few simple things to start the season instead of trying to run everything that had ever been drawn up on a napkin. Or how much time they set on fire by running that gimmicky tackle over stuff that was dead as soon as it was put on film. How is it that these pieces can be assembled to put up 41 points against ND and OSU and zero (approximately) against the rest of the schedule?
Actually winning the game comes with a big old bucket of redemption. Coming that close and coming up short… well, ask Devin Gardner.
“I threw an interception to lose the game,” Gardner said, his voice low and barely audible. “There’s not much else I can say.”
This is a person who just completed 70% of his passes for 450 yards and in the press conference after he's like me on the benches after the game, keeping my head down and trying not to hear the Ohio State fans around me. Hurting. In his case, both physically and mentally. All I've got on the former part is a sore wrist from bowling, but man did I feel that other bit at the same time he did.
This is a moral victory. It stops a large chunk of the bleeding, likely solidifies the recruiting class, and gives Hoke more stable footing going forward. And he's going to be here. It is much better than getting your head stomped.
But the thing about moral victories is that they aren't, you know, victories.
*[Indiana just gave up nearly 500 yards passing to Danny Etling. Indiana is rookie mode, and is set aside.]
**[Wisconsin at 4.8 without a Michigan game is the fourth member; Michigan is next in a tier by itself at 5.4, but then again it didn't get to play its offense; FWIW, Penn State's defense was meh at 5.7 and Michigan got 4.7 per play.]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. At one point late in the game, Gardner scrambled out of the pocket, found himself alone with a defensive back, and faked a throw to absolutely no one. This got him a first down and what looked like a sprained ankle. He managed to limp back to the huddle, whereupon I felt Michigan should just run the ball because their QB needed some time to not be dead. They threw it; Gallon was wide open on a corner route; Gardner missed it badly. Because he was dead.
When not dead, he turned in a superlative performance despite being pretty much dead. Devin Gardner is tough. Yes.
Honorable mention: Gallon and Funchess are pretty good you guys. The offensive line had a pretty good day not just by their standards but by the standards of average-ish D-I teams everywhere.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana), Devin Gardner(ND, OSU)
1.0: Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU), Matt Wile (Nebraska), James Ross (Northwestern)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. In a game that was more about holding serve than field position, Michigan somehow stripping Carlos Hyde as he GRRAAAHHHHed his way towards another first down was even more important than a turnover usually is. That got Michigan back on level terms after being down a break, as it were, and provided the frenetic finish.
Honorable mention: Gallon screen goes for 84, announces that Michigan is not going to roll over dead. De'Veon Smith rumbles for 38 yards, looking like he did as a high schooler what with dudes bouncing off of him and such. That thing with Gardner pump-faking at air. Fight!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
11/9/2013: Nebraska muffs a punt through no action of Michigan's.
11/16/2013: Michigan executes a clock-running last-second field goal to get the game to OT.
11/23/2013: 404 file not found
NEW! MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. At the fine suggestion of a reader, this goes to the worst, most ANGAR-inducing thing in the game. Because double birds will live forever.
Your inaugural Epic Double Bird: Devin Gardner's "fumble" that was reviewed and confirmed after about three seconds when he looks clearly, obviously down.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Throw it up at the tall guy, FIGHT, defensive implosion, further double-birding at the replay official.]
HELLO! HI! I AM BLUE! I AM A TUBE! I HOPE AT LEAST TEN OTHER STUDENTS MAKE BLUE TUBES! HELLO! ISN'T LIFE EXICTING!
THING NOTES: Torrent had no audio this week, so neither do the clips. Good news for people who get creeped out by the walrus lovemaking noises in the slow ones.
FORMATION NOTES: A note on nomenclature here: Indiana had a kind of weird system where they had a linebacker/safety type (6'1", 225) out over the slot.
That in itself isn't too weird against spread formations, but he still hung out over the slot when there was one in I-form twins packages and the like, and Indiana brought down a safety.
I designated IU formations with that guy in the gray area (and no safety down) "nickel" since the defensive formation thing is more about what the O is looking at than personnel packages the opponent has in and I felt their slot LB was a Hybrid Space Player, but I understand if you think IU was just in a 4-3 all game.
As for Michigan, they did not do much exotic in terms of formations. A lot of shotgun 3-wide stuff, some ace, some I-Form, etc. A couple things: I've changed Funchess to a WR in my personnel set tracking, so if you see "shotgun 3-wide" with four WRs that's because Funchess is the TE-type-substance. Also, when there are only four skill position players that's because Michigan has brought in an extra offensive lineman. Tackle over was still employed but rather rare.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Hoo boy. First: QB and RB were pretty obvious, with Green getting more run than he has in some other games in the past. FB was about split between Kerridge and Houma.
WR was a ton of Gallon and Funchess. Dileo went out early with an injury, leaving Jeremy Jackson to pick up most of the slot snaps. Chesson got in a bit but has clearly ceded a lot of PT to Funchess; Reynolds got a few snaps.
TE was mostly Butt and Williams; Williams ceded snaps to a sixth OL and also Jordan Paskorz, who got in some good blocks in the middle of the game. Funchess also lined up at TE from time to time.
And the OL. Burzynski started, tore his ACL, was replaced by Bosch. Glasgow was the C. Lewan was the LT, Magnuson the RG, Schofield the RT, except when guys were flipping all over the place. This game's version of tackle over was almost always a 6 OL with Kalis reclaiming his RG spot and Lewan flanking someone else: Schofield on the left and Magnuson on the right. Much less likely to get your QB murdered.
I noted OL changes in the notes below. Anyone not mentioned is playing their usual position. Apologies for cutesy name shortenings, but you try writing "Burzynski" and "Magnuson" for 80 plays. (Schofield defies shortening.)
[After the JUMP: nuclear samba Gallon.]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan was split close to evenly between shotgun/pistol/under center. Notre Dame, meanwhile, was in a ton of four-man fronts until late, when they went back to more of a 4-3 look. Here you can see Shembo with his hand down and a 1-3-5 technique split to the strongside of M's formation:
I know I've mentioned in the past that Notre Dame's defense is not really all that different from Michigan's, and this game was a good demonstration of that. ND prefers over fronts when they go to a four-man line since their SAM equivalent is Jaylon Smith, a fast light bugger. I guess that's kind of a big difference. The point is: ND runs a lot of four man fronts.
Here's ND's 3-4:
The DL are head up on the Michigan OL, with the SAM over the TEs and Smith is over the slot.
This is the pistol. Pew pew:
Another 4-3 over from ND.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: QB Gardner, RB Toussaint on almost every play. Derrick Green got in for two, I think, and M lined up Norfleet as a back once. The line was the starters the whole game, but when Lewan got poked in the eye, Michigan sent in Magnuson, not Braden. Lewan returned, so Magnuson didn't get a snap. He's your #3 tackle it appears.
Williams, Funchess, and Butt all played plenty; Williams went out with an injury, came back for a few plays, and then left permanently. At WR, Gallon (obvious) with Chesson and Jackson rotating more heavily than Reynolds, who may still be dinged. Excepting the Norfleet package early, the slot was always Dileo. Michigan never had more than two outside WRs in the game. On passing downs they filled out with Funchess and Dileo.
[After THE JUMP: slicing and dicing goes both ways.]
Al Borges CMU press conference:
"He's a third play guy. You guys have heard me talk about the third play, right? He's a third play guy."
Devin Gardner's ridiculous redzone efficiency last year has gone to ludicrous this year. The standard answer we've been giving for this is "well his legs and size" but there's been more to it. I grabbed this one play from the ND game because it shows several things that Gardner and Borges have been doing to defeat what should have been one of their toughest redzone opponents.
What you saw: Michigan gets a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line after a pass interference. They line up in…is that an unbalanced formation? Then Devin checks out of it, runs what seems like an option play, then dives through the whole thing suddenly for the score. Afterward we learn Hoke was trying to call timeout.
Play the First: Ace 2TE Twins Unbalanced HB Dive:
It is unbalanced: Funchess (on the l.o.s. just outside the left hash) is covered by Reynolds, and Schofield
is an eligible receiver would be eligible if he had a non-OL number on. There's also some epic space between the end (Sheldon Day) and the linebacker to his side (Shembo).
The middle linebackers are seeing this and pointing. Let 'em; we're motioning to something else anyway.
[after the jump]
9/7/2013 – Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30 – 2-0
The media trend of the last ten years is a demonstration of the power of hope. There are now three national networks covering recruiting, plus ESPN, plus a cottage industry of who-dat bloggers who get picked up by these national networks far faster than actual journalism majors get picked up by, you know, newspapers. (Michigan has no journalism major, which explains why you can't throw a rock at a sports editor without causing him to hire a Daily grad.) This site alone saw two guys snapped up and almost hired a third who was snapped up just a bit later. Meanwhile, newspapers continue to give us Drew Sharp and wonder why they're withering on the vine.
Here's all you need to know about recruiting sites: they can charge for content on the internet. Hope, man. Hope.
Because the next guy is always going to be The Guy. The Guy will rescue us from the purgatory of not being Alabama and deliver us unto glory. He may be a defensive back, or a running back, or a quarterback, or a defensive lineman. He is going to be Woodson or Adrian Peterson or Andrew Luck or Jadeveon Clowney—except Clowney's defense just got torched for 41 points and lost.
Jadeveon Clowney! Indisputably The Guy, and somehow still not. If Jadeveon Clowney can't be the guy, well… there's always the recruiting sites. It's college football. The next arrival is always just around the corner.
Devin Gardner turned in what I can confidently state is the worst play in the history of organized football—I have watched all of it from Pop Warner on up—and was still awesome Saturday night. Awesome. I do not mean this in the Spots-gave-me-extra-wings way. I mean this in the light-from-the-sky, tremble-at-the-power, bow-down-lest-we-all-perish kind of way. If I could use the words "yea" and "lo" genuinely, I would deploy them now. The numbers are amazing. The numbers do not do it justice.
Here's the thing about Notre Dame's defense: it's going to be just fine. Gardner ate plenty of defensive lineman Saturday, usually after delivering a perfectly-placed dart. Notre Dame blitzed him almost two-thirds of the time and got the one huge mistake and nothing else. Notre Dame defensive backs were, with rare exceptions, in position to make a play on anything other than a perfectly-placed ball. They could not make plays without committing pass interference, called or not, because Devin Gardner was spitting hot death all night long.
If you happen to rewatch that game you'll see did-that-just-happen surgical strikes even more impressive the second time around.
On third and goal from the 14, Drew Dileo screwed up his route. He ran next to Gallon, bringing a third defender into the area. Gardner fired a ball in between all three guys that hit Gallon in the hands instead of the chest because KeiVarae Russell was riding him like a horse. Earlier in the drive he'd tossed up that back-shoulder throw that he might have been attempting against Central Michigan when he got hit, and Gallon plucked it out of the air. Russell was there. He just couldn't do anything about it.
By the fourth quarter, Gardner and Gallon had become so proficient at the back shoulder fade that Notre Dame was actually sitting on it, which I have never seen before. There were a lot of things last night that I haven't seen before in a winged helmet, that have traditionally been the province of passing specialists like Texas Tech. They tried to man up Crab, once, and Texas Tech beat the #1 team in the country without a running game or defense. Michigan has at least one of those.
In the aftermath, Michael Crabtree looked a lot like you did at some point last night:
IS THIS REAL LIFE
Oh and Gardner led the team in rushing at 7.5 yards an attempt. He might be The Guy. Gardner hinted at this kind of thing over the last six games, and now he has delivered. You could feel it coming, maybe, but Michigan just graduated a guy who was The Guy, like Jadeveon Clowney is, and could not get over the hump, like Clowney. Even in the world where talent comes through it doesn't always end up steamrolling the opposition.
Devin Gardner just left Notre Dame a two-dimensional smudge in the rear view mirror, and now it's downhill for a while. Shovel on a little more coal, and let's watch old 98 roll.
Parkinggod has the Michigan stuff:
And Notre Dame has some things that Notre Dame did right:
Pressers are available from Maize and Blue News.
Gardner thing from Gameday:
Also a lady got hit real hard.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. How does a guy who threw four touchdowns at nearly 10 YPA and ran for 90 additional yards split this award? Well, to get the award by himself he has to be a separate entity from guy who caught eight of his passes for 184 yards. This does not appear to be the case. DevinJeremy GardnerGallon, come on down.
Honorable Mention. Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson (invisible all game in a good way), Drew Dileo (THROW IT TO DILEO), Brendan Gibbons (your record-holder for kicking consistency /2009 version of your head explodes), Blake Countess (drifted off his man for critical INT), Brian Kelly (thanks for not running the ball).
SPECIAL NEW RULE. Doubling points from this game because I can.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Since it featured Borges screwing with ND, an NFL dart from Gardner, a crazy spin move from Gallon, and Chesson The Destroyer reveling in the blood of the fallen, this is an easy pick:
Honorable mention: Countess's game-changing interception, Jeremy Jackson catching a long handoff for seven yards because ND is playing in the parking lot against Jeremy Jackson for some reason, Fitz Toussaint using a tackle attempt as an awesome juke to dart 20 yards when Michigan really needed something, either of Gardner's perfect back-shoulder throws to Gallon, Gardner nailing Gallon 40 yards downfield, and Gardner taking off on a zone read so open you'd think Stephen Threet was running it.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
[After THE JUMP: offense, defense, and everything in-between. Plus incredible chicken gif!]
Number one breakout. ESPN's Travis Haney compiled a list of 50 breakout players for the upcoming season based on "a lot of input from coaches" and your new favorite quarterback is #1:
“I recruited him,” said one of the Big Ten coaches who played against Gardner late last year. “I know how good he can be. I would say I have been looking forward to him getting his chance, because he’s a really good kid, but they’re on the schedule again this year.”
Frank Clark also features at #35.
Swag. We are totally losing Michael Ferns to Mississippi State, you guys.
Following up on earlier assertion. I mentioned in passing in a previous post that I felt Bill Connolly was way underrating LeVeon Bell and way overrating Michigan State's offensive line in his Spartan preview for the year, and as I was looking up various things about Derrick Green I came across a stunning stat on Bell:
Le'Veon Bell gained 921 yards after contact in 2012, most among players from AQ schools. Bell gained more than 50 percent of his yards after contact and averaged 2.4 yards after contact per rush.
Bell got 2.3 yards before contact and 2.4 after. That is a man doing work to clean up for a terrible offensive line. And quarterback: Bell's 382 carries led the nation by 26.
Countdowns to kickoff. Taylor Lewan:
Lewan is a thousand times more boring than he used to be. Leadership!
Also Quinton Washington and Jeremy Gallon. True story: bought a chair at Art Van this summer, marveled at the size of the guy they had hauling stuff around, realized that I knew who this was: Quinton Washington. Woo minimum wage, for one more year.
Also, the first day of practice:
Derrick Green's first carry went for 50 yards and birthed a unicorn.
Wide receivers block, then they receive. In-depth ESPN article on the blocking aspects of playing out wide comes highly recommended for interesting quotes and such. Minnesota safety Brock Vereen is either worried about his knees or an expert at backhanded compliments:
“They act as if they are more excited to block than they are to catch a pass,” Minnesota safety Brock Vereen said. “Sadly, I’m not even exaggerating.”
Michigan's dumped cut blocking for a lot of reasons, but the primary one is the fact that defensive backs just get up too darn fast these days:
“They are like those Weeble Wobbles that you had growing up,” Hecklinski said. “You can throw a great cut and he’s right back up making a play and golly, that’s a great cut."
"Golly," says the man eating everyone's lunch on the recruiting trail. #TheMichiganDifference.
The article gestures at one of the main reasons Michigan's wide receivers were so pumped up to block: with Denard Robinson on your team, any play could be a 20 yard run you fail to turn into 80, and then your ass is roasted. Hopefully they maintain the same urgency as Michigan moves to a system more likely to get you five (after contact, and by "contact" I mean "safety murder") than 50.
Hoke advocates earlier official visits. Makes sense, will never happen for the same reason a baseball season that makes sense will never happen:
“Having an official visit date in June would help football,” Hoke stated. “I know some of our friends in the Pac 12 and the SEC probably don’t want the young man and his family coming up to Michigan during the first two weeks in June, because they’re hoping it’s 10 below zero when those official visits take place.”
A rather large win. Wolverine Historian puts up the '95 Minnesota game:
Mack Brown offer letter. I just find this interesting. It's an official offer letter from Mack Brown to a guy named Lorenzo:
- The first bullet is basically Michigan's much-discussed and much-misunderstood "policy" about commits taking visits: you are committed if you are not taking visits, and if you visit elsewhere Michigan will not consider you committed. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll pull your scholarship offer, but your spot is no longer reserved and they may recruit someone else or just reconfigure their class. Why recruiting sites, opposing fans, and Michigan fans keep going on and on about it is a mystery to me.
- Texas is explicitly offering four year scholarships, and seems to state that a fifth year is also guaranteed… but I think the fine print there means the firm handshake is still an option if the Head Coach wants it to be.
- The pointlessness of the rule where players cannot get written offers before August 1st of their senior year is brought home in the first paragraph: Texas is "pleased to reconfirm our commitment to the football athletic scholarship you committed to earlier this year." The lack of written offers has led to the rise of the incredibly annoying "uncommittable offer" and prevents players from getting the exact stipulations of their scholarship offer in writing until long after many of them have committed. And it obviously does nothing to slow down the pace of recruiting.
The only way to slow down the pace of recruiting, by the way, is to let kids sign whenever they want. Eighth grader offers will come to a screeching halt, for real.
SBNation has a roundup of offer letters from around the country, featuring Comic Sans from Virginia Tech, "formally" spectacularly misspelled as "formerly" by Virginia, and Illinois claiming that those who attend there will play "championship football." That latter might be true if in fact the Big Ten has been relegated to the second level of English soccer. Which it probably has after last year. We done got relegated you guys.
Quite a rise. Four Michigan players make the final roster at the USA World Juniors evaluation camp: JT Compher, Tyler Motte, Boo Nieves… and Andrew Copp. I think 14 of the 18 forwards on the roster will be on the WJC team, so Copp's gone from JJ Swistak But Big to a guy with a very good chance of making the WJC team in 12 months. Wow.
Amen. Hoke on ND:
"I do not like the fact it's going away," Hoke said.
Asked who is a fault for all this, Hoke responded simply: "We would like to continue the series."
Realignment has replaced the ND game and games against Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Northwestern with Rutgers and Maryland.
Etc.: Harmon Of Michigan's theme song is a "Hollywood-style rendition of the Victors," and MVictors has it. Michigan Hockey Net posts the famous 2002 Denver-Michigan West Regional Final at Yost. Michigan players on the O'Bannon case.