The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
9/22/2012 – Michigan 6, Notre Dame 13 – 2-2
Lloyd Carr coached every game like he had a fantastic running game and great defense. He usually had an okay running game and a good defense, so this caught up to him from time to time. When Jim Tressel arrived and showed the men of manball what manball really was, Michigan's downward spiral began. In time, Tresselball would come to signify the exact same thing Lloydball did except without the oh and we lose the most important game of the year every time.
I grew to hate Lloydball.
The moment I threw in the towel is crystal clear in my memory, and by this point probably many longtime readers: punting from the opponent 34 against Ohio State in 2005. It was fourth and four. The clock read 4:18. Michigan had a two point lead. They'd recently had a nine point lead, but OSU ripped off a five-play touchdown drive in under a minute to change that. Michigan's defense had faced four do-or-die drives* already that year and failed on all of them. Faced with third and eleven, Michigan threw a screen to Antonio Bass for seven yards. They punted out of a field goal formation, which was so obvious to Tressel that they put a guy back there to field it. He would have had a shot at a touchdown if the punt hadn't exited the field at the twelve.
Just minutes before—literally in the same quarter—Lloyd had taken his frenzied quarterback's advice and gone for a QB sneak on fourth and one on his own 40. This caused everyone in the stadium to pick a partner with whom to share an incredulous look. This was not the way things went. The fourth down was successful; one bomb to Manningham later Michigan had staked itself to a two-score lead. That only made the knife cut deeper when in the moment of truth Carr reverted to form.
Michigan punted once Saturday.
I'm not sure if it's football in general that has shifted or if it's just Brady Hoke, but when Michigan had a fourth and two around the same area on Saturday, eyebrows were only slightly cocked when Michigan went for it. While Michigan was down 10-0, this was still the third quarter.
Lloyd wouldn't have even thought about it if his defense had given up 139 yards to that point. But he wouldn't have been down 10-0 in the first place. He would have squinted at his quarterback, wondered where the six-six artillery piece had gotten to, shrugged, and told his offensive coordinator to thud out a ten-point win based on Michigan's superior ground game. Only he would have had that faith, because he always had that faith.
But it was true. Take out a knee and ND averaged 3.2 yards a carry. Take out three sacks and a bad snap for Michigan and they averaged 5.1. That's a cavernous gap, one that a dinosaur coach would have driven through to a boring, field-goal-heavy victory.
Instead, we got several more entries in our database of what happens when Denard Robinson gets unblocked rushers in his face.
Is it good? No. Does it make any sense at all to run play action from under center on passing downs? No. Is it ever going to stop? No.
Well, maybe. Michigan did not throw a pass before third down on their two grinding second-half drives before the hurry-up was called for. Do that for the next eight games and run play action off plays you actually run and then Denard might get back to the things he was doing in an offense that was not trying to jam him into a hole he clearly does not fit. I thought maybe we'd learned that lesson after Iowa, but apparently not.
When stressed, people making decisions find it very hard to move away from habit. Everyone reverts to their comfort zone unless they are making a concerted effort to get away from it. Even then, you fall back into old patterns. Lloyd punted. Rodriguez installed a 3-3-5 defense. Borges starts calling plays from a long-ago offense helmed by a guy who was a better passer than runner. Denard throws the ball somewhere, anywhere.
Over the bye week, Michigan will refocus on what they're good at. This will get them through some games. They'll get comfortable with this, think they can install more stuff, and we'll get another Iowa, one they might pull out since the defense might be good and the Big Ten is definitely bad. And Denard will soldier through it, taking barbs from people who don't realize he could be in his first of two years at Oregon now, doing what he was born to.
He's not. He's doing this. This is "this": Al Borges has been Michigan's offensive coordinator for 17 games now. Five were against non-BCS opponents. A sixth was against Alabama and will be set aside. Of the remaining eleven, five were out-and-out debacles: both Notre Dame games, MSU, Iowa, and the Sugar Bowl. That Junior Hemingway rescued two of those doesn't change the fact that in about half of Michigan's games against real competition, the combination of Borges and Denard can't put up 200 yards until bombed out of the gameplan by events on the field.
You can blame Denard if you want. Sure, that happened in 2010, when Denard was a true sophomore and the second-leading rusher was Vincent Smith. I'm more concerned about the guy who isn't gone after this year, the offensive coordinator who vows to never work with a quarterbacks coach again and can't stand it when anyone dares to scream "RUN THE GODDAMN BALL" at him over and over and over and over and over, except whatever the press conference version of that is. Asking about bubble screens and stuff.
One day Borges will have a shining golden hammer of a quarterback, six-four, carved from marble, jawline for days. This man will coolly survey the field after faking a handoff to a two-hundred-thirty-pound bowling ball with knives sticking out of it. No one will run up in his face, because they are afraid the bowling ball has it. He will throw it to another six-foot-four man, this one long and graceful, built for escaping packs of hunters. This will be a good day. Nails are so dead.
Until then, here's to running, punting, and humility.
[Wisconsin: 52 yard, 11 play, four minute TD drive to win. Minnesota: eight play, 75-yard FG drive to win. Penn State: 13 play, 81-yard drive to wi—OH MY GOD MANNINGHAM. Iowa: 9 play, 74-yard FG drive to tie; Ferentz played for OT once in FG range, because he is Ferentz.]
All the INTs:
Bullets Yes More Bullets In The Head Please
Sanity check. I know I may not be entirely reliable on this matter, but stuff coming through my twitter feed from the folks I respect most as college football observers helped me think this was not just a mania. Smart Football:
Nice call Borges. Denard struggling? Let's run some kind naked waggle pass from under center where we let Denard throw vs unblocked DEnd
An Al Borges cooking show would be great if you like seeing someone throw everything into a blender even if it makes no sense at all.
Blaming it on "execution" is horseshit, plain and simple. When the offensive coordinator flat-out refuses to take free yards on the outside and has not once used the devastating play action on which Denard is moving towards the line scrimmage before throwing, it is on his shoulders for not using the tools he has in the way they are most effective.
A third of the way through the ND game, Michigan had run Robinson three times. Instead Michigan threw the ball all the time against a rampant DL. The first INT was a running back in the redzone. On the second, Michigan rolled the pocket and told a redshirt freshman fullback to block Prince Shembo. On the third an unblocked Te'o roars straight up the pocket. On the fourth he ran a waggle on second and seven, which got an unblocked Tuitt in Denard's face after having thrown INTs on back to back passes.
This is a consistent theme. They go into games doing something other than making their running QB a runner, and then are surprised when it goes poorly. They have the guy turn his back to the line of scrimmage and are surprised when 1) opposing defenses prioritize getting a guy out on him and 2) he reacts poorly. The exception was last year's OSU game, during which Denard threw all of 17 times.
Robinson failed, sure, but he was put in a position to do so by a guy who puts three tight ends on the field on second and goal from the twelve yard line and fools no one with the subsequent play action. Coaches have to execute too. Borges's gameplan was a disaster, again.
Come on Denard. Let's ask Peyton Manning to be Pat White stuff aside, at some point you've got to just eat the ball, or not throw it at a guy so covered you're trying to throw it through the chest of not one but two opponents. That first Te'o interception was probably the worst throw of Denard's career; if one of the two guys underneath it didn't get it a safety in coverage on the corner had a shot at a PBU.
I bet a dollar that someone else was open on that play.
The fumble was the real killer, though. Michigan has just taken their first drive of the half 71 yards and Denard has just made it first and ten at the ND 11, boom ball out drive over everyone thinks of 2010 when Michigan put up scads of yards and usually had ten points to show for it. Down two scores and suddenly running all the time, Michigan really needed that drive to pay off.
Blame Gardner? Some people on the twitter and then Ace suggested that the slant INT was on Gardner instead of Robinson. I don't think that's the case. It looked to me like he ran a fine route and was open and Robinson just missed.
Gardner does have to catch that bomb on the last drive.
When to go for high risk trick plays. When there is a payoff commensurate with the risk. The Gardner pass is fine. You've got a play that is potentially 70-some yards if everything goes well. The Smith pass gives you at most ten and is less likely to get a guy wide open just because there's far less space. Last year's Smith TD pass was 30 yards out, which gives the WR room to break past the safeties and the RB room to throw it long. Doing that in a constricted space is asking for it when Manti Te'o is raging his way into a running back's face.
The only time I can recall Michigan running a trick play like that inside the red zone was during the 2007 Illinois game when both teams were actively conspiring to lose. With Henne shuttling in and out of the game and Mallett insane, trying the Arrington end-around pass after a muffed punt was a defensible decision. At the end of an 11-play, 78-yard drive maybe not so much.
What is this huddling business again? There's a case that you shouldn't be doing it at all; not only is huddling a useless anachronism but going away from it locks defensive personnel on the field and gives you easier looks as the opponent struggles to keep up. See Oregon, of course.
But even if you're intent on huddling the time to do so has passed when you're down two scores with 6:46 left. There's something to be said for the idea that an offense should be using tempo as much as possible so that in situations like that they are naturals at it. It's a lot easier to slow down than speed up.
Anyway, I had bad flashbacks to that Iowa game as Michigan took 3:19 and used a timeout on their last drive.
OTOH, didn't mind the end of the first half playcalling since in that situation you're worried about giving ND a possession they can use and you've just thrown interceptions on three straight plays. Why throw a Hail Mary with 16 seconds left, though? And what was Roundtree even doing there?
Defense! Woo defense! Also filed under "if you told me before the game…" with "Michigan would punt once": "Notre Dame would have under 200 yards of offense with three minutes to go." Before Floyd stumbled on that third down bomb to Eifert, Michigan had held two ND QBs to 5.6 YPA and two interceptions, with the only completion over twenty yards another tough fade on the sideline.
From way up in the stands I had a great view of the routes developing and nobody was open basically all day. Combine that with Quinton Washington problems like "is not tackling when he bursts into the backfield on three consecutive plays" and you have a soothing balm to apply as you look forward to the rest of the season. I'm actually eager to get to the UFRing just so I can see how the guys on D did. Live I saw Ryan make plays, Campbell make plays, Washington make plays, and that allowed the linebackers to flow freely, with the 3.1 YPC results mentioned above. Kenny Demens looks a lot better when he's not trying to fight off two different blockers on the same play.
If Washington can translate those plays against UMass and Mattison hype into an impact day on the interior line against a real opponent, Michigan's biggest question that isn't "how will Denard fail to be Peyton Manning this time" is a lot closer to resolution.
Potential caveat: ND's interior OL may not be very good. They got annihilated by Purdue (Riddick: 53 yards on 15 carries, five sacks on Golson, two by Kawann Short) and ND didn't do much against MSU that wasn't deception (counter draw) or Wood getting cutbacks similar to the one he busted for ND's only big run of the day.
Caveat caveat: "only big run of the day." The shot above is Michigan corralling the play I started calling "That Goddamned Counter Draw" after DeAndra Cobb staked MSU to the lead they'd give up during Braylonfest. I call it TGDCD because Michigan has never stopped the thing (except once, I think). They did it up there.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point of the Week. I have no idea yet, but it's obviously someone on defense. There is a weird lack of stats for such a dominating performance, with no sacks and just two TFLs, one for Kovacs, another split by Morgan and Washington.
For now, Jake Ryan gets the nod for most impactful-seeming impactfulness, but I reserve the right to switch this to Kovacs or Washington pending review.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Jake Ryan(ND)
Freshman linebackers. They're basically co-starters at this point. I'm still nervous about them but if the D continues to perform like that in the Big Ten season, expectations for that crew will be enormous next year with four-ish returning starters, all of whom will still be around in 2014.
Demens did rotate in during the second half. He was in on six tackles, Morgan seven. Ross had one and Bolden did not register. IIRC Demens was the preferred option on passing downs, which makes sense since zone drops are often a struggle with young linebackers.
Norfleet. Please do not jump like that again. The air up there is dangerously low on oxygen and people are trying to kill you. Stay low, where you are under the radar and can execute deep infiltration missions.
ND future. I wouldn't get too worried about a full-on return to glory. If that interior OL is what it seems to be and they're flipping between Rees and Golson against the rest of their schedule, they'll drop some games. They'll still probably get that BCS bid so they can get stomped on by someone a lot better.
Funchess. Didn't really have much impact; I'll pick up the Mandich thing the next time he takes a significant step towards it. Did feature in this picture:
This is my ball. Do not take my ball.
In the week preceding this game, some random internet poster guy asked what was the worst performance you’ve seen by a QB. I ran screaming from that post, but couldn’t escape the images of Demetrious Brown throwing seven interceptions – SEVEN INTERCEPTIONS!!! - in a game against MSU many years ago.
WHY DID YOU DO IT RANDOM INTERNET POSTER GUY, WHYYYYYY
When I was 16 and learning how to drive, my Dad, trying his best to impart some constructive criticism without being overly harsh, said, “ST3, your driving lacks a certain smoothness.” I think it’s wonderful how Devin Gardner has moved over to WR to help the team, but at this point in his career, I think his route running lacks a certain smoothness.
The results of this game and a record of 2-2 are not indicative of the abilities of this team, and it would do every Michigan fan good to forget about what has happened and to concentrate instead on what can be accomplished in the BIG. I rest easier after seeing the O and D-lines gel and play very well. Denard will bounce back.
The rest of the BIG continues to look shaky, to say the least, and Michigan should be licking their chops against the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and I dare say Michigan St at this point. Ohio has obvious problems as well, letting UAB run wild on them. Michigan should have distinct talent advantages against Northwestern and Purdue.
I'll skip all the articles about how Michigan turned the ball over a lot, since I think you probably know. More photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Sad Panda at MVictors. MVictors on the press box atmosphere:
It’s well known that the media is prohibited from cheering in the press box but it’s not just a collection of writers upstairs at Notre Dame. After Denard connected with Gardner on a third down conversion in the first half some dude belted out, “DAMN IT!”. When Denard took off on a run later in the game, I heard, “GET ‘EM!”. And so on. I’m actually glad this happened because it created some much needed lighter moments on the glass.
Maybe it was the guy in seat 652:
Also, that Webb tweet that looked like it was from my account? Not on purpose:
Speaking of tweets, after another turnover (I think Denard’s fumble?) this came from Sam Webb’s feed. It was retweeted 28 times instantly:
The beauty – it wasn’t a case of Sam grinding the keyboard in frustration. It was a legit accident as his phone went sideways and spit out Matrix code. Love it.
…unless the phone is also a Michigan fan.
The Daily has a great article about Denard's family in the stands:
The group sat in the family and friends section of Notre Dame Stadium. Steve wore his best friend’s varsity jacket. The two girls wore “Shoelace” and another Robinson-themed shirt.
This section is different. Here, the hits sound louder. The mistakes sting more.
From here, you can reach out and touch the bass drums in the Michigan band. When a Notre Dame wide receiver was open on the goal line, the parents shouted and pointed, so Thomas Gordon bumped over and covered.
Robinson’s supporters sat in the fifth row, tucked in between friends and family of freshman linebacker James Ross III and the family of fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd.
Robinson’s parents come to games “very rarely, very rarely,” J.T.’s father, James, said. Normally the Robinson clan gathers in Robinson’s grandmother’s house in Deerfield Beach, Fla. around a television.
“Every Saturday,” Durrel said. “Everybody (goes). I can’t even tell you who don’t go.”
Would you like frustrating losses scored? Of course you would.
9/15/2012 – Michigan 63, UMass 13 – 2-1
I don't have anything incisive to say about Saturday's events. Even if I did it would be equivalent to taking a scalpel to a pig you dropped out of a hot air balloon: the scene speaks for itself, and you're not going to come out of it with ham.
I'm with this guy:
I started poking around previous events like this to figure out what you're supposed to say when the predictable thing that doesn't mean anything happens, finding this after the 2010 Bowling Green game:
It's been a long time since this has happened, but in the aftermath of a 721-yard outburst against a I-A opponent there's no grand emotional narrative arc to relate. Last year there was a sense of relief after the Western game; the Eastern game was a reminder that sometimes Michigan plays teams obviously worse than they are and beats the pants off them and isn't that nice but sometimes the quarterback goes down and that's not nice at all. The Bowling Green game was that minus a loss to a 3-9 MAC team the year prior—i.e., a pleasant nothing in which crappy special teams play was just an opportunity to rack up more yards on offense.
A couple years further removed from actual losses to these sorts of teams, or even vaguely competitive games and you can't even offer that paragraph. That game… existed.
Things happened, but the only ones you can derive anything slightly meaningful from are scattered opponent-independent events and those in which the domination was not dominating enough for your sense of optimism. Like the defensive line. You know, the one I tweeted my despondency about in the midst of giving up six points. Denard, who made everyone a little leery when he missed on any pass. Yeah, Michigan won by 50 but the only things that meant anything were a tiny bit bad because they implied you might be unhappy at a future date.
This is what happens when you play a UMass and you're still jumpy from the bad old days. Let's always be bored and have little to say, forever and ever, amen.
The Observer/MGoBlog cooperative had not one but two(!) guys on the sideline on Saturday. Regular man Eric Upchurch:
And new guy Bryan Fuller:
A bonus NOTE for anyone out there blogging: the MGoBlog flickr page now has tags and everything, so if you're looking for a Creative-Commons-licensed photo of player X, that's the place to find it. Just hit us with a link if you use one.
This is all offense:
There's a shorter but more diverse MGoBlue version.
Bullets That Didn't Slip On Quite Enough Gore
Brady Hoke not-that-epic double point of the week. Well… nearly 400 yards of total offense and another dump truck of articles wondering if this is something that will hold up in the big bad(?) Big Ten means it's Denard again, doesn't it?
Honorable mention: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Will Hagerup, Frank Clark, probably some OL.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS:
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon (retroactively awarded for Alabama game)
Chasing Jim Mandich. Devin Funchess adds 34 yards and now needs 1355 to pass Jim Mandich. At his current pace he needs 29 games to do so.
The irrational worry that you all have too. Defensive tackles are killing us. Or will be killing us, at least. Possibly. QUALIFIERS. You get the idea.
Roh makes some plays here and there and will fill a hole, force a bounce, etc. Clark is making some plays, yes against not great competition, but that's something to hang a hat on maybe. The DTs? Yeesh.
It didn't help that Michigan ran a pass-defense crew out there with Roh and Black your two DTs with Clark/Ojemudia and SLB du jour at DE. That was their nickel setup and when Michigan ran it on standard downs the line let guys through. Usually for three or four or five yards, but we're talking about a team that has issues gaining one on most downs. Washington and Campbell weren't in much, were never in together, and Pipkins didn't make an appearance until garbage time. Ash was totally absent.
What do you make of that? Just practicing for what seems a very pass-reliant Notre Dame attack? Willfully giving up some rushing yardage just to get the linebackers reacting to QB draws and runs and whatnot? Or doom?
You can make a case for the former. Michigan started screwing around with their kickoffs to see if they could come up with anything better than Wile belting it eight yards into the endzone (verdict: no), and was probably just working on things they wanted to work on once the score got out of hand.
It gives me the willies, though. Especially Pipkins being exiled to the bench for so long. That implies he's further from the field than everyone wants him to be. Or that diabolical Hoke machinations are waiting for the ND game to spring the Great and Powerful Pipkins on unsuspecting Irish. That's the ticket.
Clark, at least. I know we've gotten just one and a half games from both Clark [@ right by Upchurch] and Beyer. Clark has had the full game versus UMass, Beyer the full game versus Alabama. This is not a strong basis for comparison.
Just eyeballing it, though, gives a clear edge to Clark. He is Making Plays™. Beyer didn't seem to be. Clark was by far the superior option against Air Force and was the most active DL on Saturday. He's making spectacular bat-downs of opponent passes something of a trademark. I like trademarks that aren't "I don't do anything much."
He and Ryan will have to get a ton of pass rush to keep heat off Michigan's secondary. Michigan really, really needs him to be a playmaker. He's the only guy who is consistently getting into the backfield even against the UMasses of the world.
FWIW, it looked like Ojemudia was doing a bunch of freshman things when he got in there. He'd overrun a play with a bad angle and let Cox cut back, giving up a big chunk, or he'd miss a tackle, etc. He's Clark last year.
Funchess. The touchdown was just Funchess being wide open and could have been scored by anyone on the roster, including guys out for the year with injuries. That third-down conversion was maybe something to hold on to despite it being Funchess's first catch of under 21 yards. [@ right by Fuller]
On that play Denard moved around a bit and fired a hard, low ball at the sticks. That was either a crappy throw or a great pass to keep it away from defenders; either way it was a tough, tough ball to dig out, especially when you're 6'5". Funchess had no problem. Give him hands to go with that frame and he doesn't have to add much weight—if any—to be a crippling matchup. If you've got a two-TE set out there the defense is either going nickel and giving Funchess someone he won't have much issue blocking or conceding the LB matchup that is never going to go well.
The wide receiver corps in general: hurray? Other than some of the guys being little buggers who are easy to overthrow, I think Denard's targets are way less of a concern than we thought they'd be at the beginning of the season. Funchess is a big part of that. Also coming through: Devin Gardner, who is looking downright comfortable three weeks in, and Drew Dileo, who may not be much to look at—he gets called the "white receiver" by his teammates, except he doesn't—but will snag that bullet you put too far in front of or behind him no problem.
Dileo's big reception was reminiscent of the key late crossing route he snagged against Ohio State, and twice this year he's kept his feet after tough catches for big hunks of YAC. He's a nice option to have.
Strength of competition disclaimers apply, but would you swap Michigan's WR/TEs for Notre Dame's? Maybe, but it's debatable. The Irish are running out versions of Jeremy Jackson (John Goodman) and Drew Dileo (the Toma kid), and Michigan's running out a guy who hopes to be Tyler Eifert (but fast!). How about Michigan State's receivers? No way. Ohio State's? Ask again later. I'll take that for a group that was supposed to be a weak point of the team.
One downer event here was Jerald Robinson not catching a 40-some yard TD pass that was in his hands. Before that he complicated matters by doing a 360 with the ball in the air—never good. If he'd just located the thing properly he could have used his body to separate from the DB and possibly have prevented the rake-out that occurred.
Oh, wait, right, the other thing.
Also a downer. The pick-six. Here's an endzone view:
That's a bad throw to a guy who was kind of open, but Jeremy Jackson being slow contributed a lot, too. He makes that post cut threat. The safety hardly reacts, then he jumps the out when Jackson rounds it off to the outside. That INT reminded me of Countess jumping a Jackson route in the spring game. Without any fear of being beat deep, that was easy pickings. Here you've got a UMass corner in straight man to man against a guy who threatens to go up the middle of the field by himself and still no separation.
I noticed something similar in the Air Force game when a heavily-pressured Denard fired one out to Jackson on third and long. Jackson had a shot to make the catch and could not, but wouldn't have gotten the first down anyway. Dileo was running the same route on the opposite side of the screen and had enough separation for some nice YAC. The smaller guys are harder to hit but they get away from opponents a lot more easily.
(Yeah, Denard has a couple other guys open here. He's also got an unblocked guy in his face and a player in man to man who should be able to get separation. It's not the decision but a combination of the throw and the route that are problems. I'm guessing Denard is repeating what Borges says here:
"It was a good read, just a bad throw," Robinson said.
The bu—LAZER screen. Michigan threw a couple of them. They gained nice yardage, because they always do. Borges has renamed it the LAZER(!) screen—the Z, I feel, is implied—and will hopefully swallow his pride long enough to test it out against Notre Dame. The Irish got smoked on all manner of WR screens against Purdue and it was only Zeke Motta making a great play that held down MSU's attempt.
MSU does not have a Gallon, and with Slaughter out Motta is either going to be in center field or Notre Dame will be rolling with a redshirt freshman who played WR last year as the last line of defense. Here's hoping the new nomenclature allows Borges to go after ND's inexperienced CBs and their tackling early and often.
TURNOVERS! Ain't got none. Problem? Eh. Most of Michigan's first two games were spent defending all of the runs, and the third did not feature many defensive plays at all. Opponents have fumbled seven times, but Michigan's only recovered two. One was Hagerup beaning the returner in the head, the other the meaningless one at the end of the half. Michigan has recovered two of seven fumbles on D and both of their offensive fumbles. So, like … about half.
Oh, that's too small of a sample size, you say? I hate you so much.
The real turnover concern. If Michigan can't get pressure on the QB, they will suffer a decline in fumbles and ill-advised passes generated, and without Mike Martin and RVB that seems a virtual certainty unless Clark busts out enormously. Save us, Mattison zone blitz machine.
Cooper Barton. …probably shouldn't have gotten a bigger cheer than Ron Kramer. Priorities, people. Now we're just waiting for him to release a song on Youtube ("Michigannnn, Michigannnnn, gotta get down on Michigannnnnnnn") they'll play every game.
But he is cute!
Seriously. That is a cute five year old. Someone cast him as a gnome in something. Preferably something in which gnomes make no sense, like the next Fast and the Furious movie.
But at least there's a hole. Second straight week we were mercifully without "In The Big House." I'd crumble to my knees in thankfulness if there wasn't a small child in front of me who would kick me in the face as a result.
Heiko? This is not professional. BUT IT IS AWESOME
(This is not actually Heiko. Obviously.)
Kramer jersey. Giving it to Moore [@ right by Fuller] clears up a lot of things: they're just going to hand them out to people, they're not going to make sure they're stars, and anyone can get them. I'm not even sure they'll make sure they're around every year now, but I'd guess once the jersey is vacated someone will hop on it. I'd bet Butt or Hill is wearing #87 next year.
I do wish those patches were a little less busy. Last name, years present, those things better, no border. /boom runway'd.
There are other players. Michigan's still struggling to make their video boards not useless hunks of metal that annoy you with any advertisements they think they can get away with. To date this has been a struggle, but they took a big step forward last week by telling the goof running the replays to zoom out so you could see more than the texture of the ball. I have no idea when they made this change because I didn't even bother to look at the replay board until the second half, so well have they trained me to believe that there is nothing of use on it.
There is no middle ground between nothing and everything. Spartan Stadium put their meat on the table with scoreboards BIGGER and MORE POWERFUL than Michigan Stadium's. Reviews:
You Know What Would Look Really Sweet On The Scoreboards??
Some f---ing statistics. 5,412 square feet of scoreboard and you can't put any kind of statistics up at any point??? I literally never saw any stats at all the entire night. Hell, with our anemic offense, you only would have needed about 10 square feet for our stats. I'm glad to see that Huntington, Pepsi, GMC, Fly Lansing, and every other f---ing company in this damn state is sponsoring us, but I feel like it wouldn't be too much to ask to set aside some room on the ribbon to put stats up. There were points that the sponsor area on the scoreboard just had the MSU logo or some little design. I don't know why you can't put some stats up at that point. …
That just really annoyed me and I'm just in a bad mood. Might already be a thread on this. Didn't look. Don't care.
The only thing preventing Dave Brandon from doing this is the threat of outright revolt in the fanbase. That's something he's directly stated multiple times in the pass. He's already fitting advertising in anywhere he can. The poles outside the sections went from vaguely-plausible-here-is-our-Stubhub-partnership ads to flat-out Consumer's Power, Whichever Bank is the Sponsor Now things.
It's a slippery slope and any relaxation in the posture will result in the kind of stuff described in the blockquoute above. Remain strong, my people.
Hype videos. They're missing something this year. I really liked the last couple years with the people saying the things; now there are no people saying the things. Probably too late this year, but for 2013 how about something based around the famous Yost quote the HSR deploys on its sidebar?
"But do let me reiterate the spirit of Michigan. It is based upon a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways; an enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan men to spread the gospel of their university to the world's distant outposts; a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours."
--Fielding H. Yost upon his retirement as Michigan's athletic director in 1942.
Maybe you need to tighten it up a little, sure.
Throw that in the mix with last year's "Team, Championships, Heismans" thing and Bo's The Team The Team The Team speech and you've got a nice rotation.
Inside the Boxscore resolves a mystery anyone watching at home experienced:
During one random play in the game, two M defenders ended up hitting the UMass ballcarrier at the same time, from opposite sides. The B1G Network announcer called this a “Malachi Crunch.” There’s nothing like B1G announcers breaking out a 36 year old reference to describe a play. For those still in college reading this diary, the “Malachi Crunch” refers to a demolition derby move employed by the Malachi brothers against Pinky Tuscadero, as shown in a three-part 1976 episode of Happy Days. Fonzi risked his life to rescue Pinky. Then, he baited the Malachi Brothers into trying the move on him. He moved his car at the last moment, causing the Brothers to Crunch themselves. I think providing you with this bit of worthless trivia is entirely consistent with my avatar.
Hawthorne(!) was our leading tackler.
Will Hagerup - This guy is back and better than ever. I must have re-watched the 70-yard-in-the-air blast off the facemask of befuddled UMass return man 7 times minimum. Punts like that could be game-changers going forward.
Robinson threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns Saturday during No. 17 Michigan's 63-10 win over Massachusetts, passing both Brady and Harbaugh on the school's all-time list to move into fifth place overall.
In addition, he's now just 91 total yards shy of passing Henne and becoming Michigan's all-time leader in career total offense.
"To be honest with you," Robinson said after the game. "The only thing I think about is winning, and coming out and being accountable for my team.
Robinson has now thrown for 5,630 yards in his four-year career, and is 208 shy of Todd Collins for fourth all-time. He's also racked up 9,210 total yards with both his feet and his arm, just 91 shy of Henne's all-time mark.
The Daily on Cooper's day out. Vincent Goodwill at the news has a novel take on things: Denard is too important. Meinke is like "how does Michigan use Denard less" and I'm like "isn't it clear that's never happening by now?"
The Daily on the band.
Blog stuff and stuff. Hinton finds an excellent picture of a terrified umpire:
I have no idea where this comes from
Hinton's survey of the CFB landscape is heavy on the Big Ten. We're not good!
Outside of Northwestern's 3-0 run in the Smartypants Series, Big Ten teams are 1-8 against their peer group, before accounting for other marks of shame like Minnesota's overtime escape from UNLV, Wisconsin's ongoing struggles with the likes of Northern Iowa and Utah State (see below) and Penn State's loss to Ohio U. of Ohio. Even the apparent bellwether, Ohio State – setting aside the fact that the apparent bellwether is coming off a 6-7 record in 2011 and is ineligible for the conference championship under a first-year coach –legitimately struggled Saturday to put away Cal at home. That still stands along with Michigan State's win over Boise State as the most valuable non-conference skins on Jim Delany's wall, and unless Michigan delivers another dagger to Notre Dame's fragile psyche next week in South Bend, it will have to hold up until the bowl season. Who's looking forward to that?
The prize for winning the conference now appears to be an execution at the hands of Oregon, USC, or Stanford in Pasadena.
MVictors is calling Brandon "#1000SSS" for some reason:
Old 98?: Speaking of Legends and #1000SSS…while Tom Harmon is listed on the game tickets to be honored October 20th before the Michigan State game there has been no announcement of any formal plan to honor the 1940 Heisman Trophy winner. My understanding is that it’s not dead yet and U-M is still trying to talk to the family. Stay tuned.
My ask: if we don’t honor Harmon, how about honoring Willis Ward on that day, the 78th anniversary of the fateful Georgia Tech game?
Oh by the way, f*** you guys. UMass running back Michael Cox, who played for Michigan from 2008-2011, had a pretty solid game for the Minutemen. He ended with 18 carries for 76 yards (4.2 yards per carry) behind a bad offensive line with not much of an aerial attack. There were a couple plays where he ran east-and-west when there was no hole, losing a chunk of yards. But he had some impressive runs against a Michigan defense that should have been able to clamp down on the running game. I never really thought Cox was a superstar, but I did think that he deserved a shot to play when the aforementioned Smith was being used as a feature back. The knocks on him were always fumbling (he never fumbled at Michigan, though there was a botched exchange in this game), learning the playbook (I didn't see any missed assignments in this game), and running east-west too much (perhaps a fair criticism).
Everyone knew that was coming. I don't necessarily disagree, but the guy just reverses field all the time, and this has to drive coaches nuts.
Photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Here's Cox saying hi postgame:
UMGoBlue also has a gallery.
Ordinary is underrated. Seriously. Christianity calls any of its non holiday seasons "Ordinary Time" after all. But, if we have learned nothing else from our social media revolution, it's that there is a certain beauty and joy in the every day, in the expected, in the run of the mill. That is, as Ann Howard Creel put it, the Magic of Ordinary Days.
9/8/2012 – Michigan 31, Air Force 25 – 1-1
It's been a long time since the first game of Michigan's football season wasn't at home. It was 1998. Michigan headed to South Bend to get annihilated by Autry Denson and the option in the opening game of their title defense. The box score lo these many years later is horrific:
Michigan Notre Dame First downs 24 19 Rushed-yards 38-150 55-280 Passing yards 322 96 Sacked-yards lost 3-29 0-0 Return yards 6 14 Passes 28-44-0 4-10-1 Punts 2-31.0 2-44.0 Penalties-yards 4-30 5-32 Time of possession 29:46 30:14
Michigan led 13-9 before four straight ND touchdowns turned it into a laugher. Michigan got blown out despite outgaining the opponent by 100 yards and allowing the opposition to complete all of four passes. They fumbled all of the balls. They stopped none of the options. That game was 36-13 before Michigan tacked on a cosmetic touchdown at the end.
This was the Michigan-ND rivalry in the 90s. If all you know about it is 38-0, "oh, wide open," and Michigan ripping Irish hearts out in the last 30 seconds, you are fortunate. I know better because I was in college then.
The next week I sat, despondent, in the student section as a group of resilient (and probably drunk) guys in front of me chanted "Cross is Boss" in the waning minutes of Michigan making a blowout loss to Donovan McNabb and Syracuse look pretty on the scoreboard. Donovan McNabb was in college once. I said it was a long time ago.
Walter Cross went over 100 yards that day, all of it racked up long after the game had been decided. Syracuse, too, had murdered us with the option.
Saturday started strangely blank. I wrote this thing two years ago about the opening of football season that I already kind of wrote back when far fewer people were reading this blog and have to force myself not to write again every Friday before Michigan starts playing football again:
I can say that most of the time I like that I find football important. It gives life a rhythm. I think my favorite part happens on the first day of the new year, when I file into the stadium an hour early. It's still mostly empty then. You can spread out in the sun. In my mental picture of this my seats are high up in the corner so I can take in the whole vast breadth of the stadium. Perched there, looking down and across, the future stretches out across the horizon. Anything seems possible, and the wait is over.
I hadn't felt a lack of possibilities since 1998, when Michigan was not going to repeat as national champions even before Donovan McNabb showed up. I went in at the usual time and sat in the usual spot and felt… not that. It turns out getting hammered 41-14 in your opening game restricts dreams of future glories quite a bit. It's like having New Year's Day on the eighth, a week after you found out you're not getting a promotion. You found this out because your boss stapled it to a bobcat he mailed to you. The stitches still itch.
So when the band rolled out, it was weird. I did the thing with the clapping and the raising of the fist. The voice in the head that has been going ermagerd fortbaw ermagerddddd the last 13 years was not there. Alabama had taken it, ripped its pigtails out, stomped on it, and returned it to me. They said "what?" confrontationally. They asked if I was going to do anything about it. I said "no, sir." It sat in the corner, petting itself, maybe whispering ermagerd fortbaw, maybe not. It was hard to make out.
Two plays later, Denard Robinson ripped through the line, cut directly towards me, and was one on one with a safety with an angle. An angle and no chance in hell. Turbo was engaged, and Denard shot into space with the same breathtaking speed he showed after fumbling a his first snap against Western Michigan.
ermagerd ermagerd ermagerddddddd
On the first play of the second half, Denard ran 50 yards in one shoe, making a cut on his sock.
Cross (@ right via MDS) was a freshman that year. He must have thought a hundred yards in his second college game was a hell of a start. Must have thought he would be watching other guys take the meaningless carries pretty soon. But Cross never cracked a hundred yards again. He'd only match the ten carries he had against the Orangemen three more times. Once a year Michigan would blow the doors off the worst team in the Big Ten; Cross would dust himself off to pick up 40 or 50 yards as the stadium emptied and walk-ons made their moms proud.
I liked him, though. I remembered Cross Is Boss whenever he'd hit the field, and how those deranged guys in front of me were taking whatever they could from the game in front of them. If the only thing it offered was an opportunity to ironically root for some guy to rack up more meaningless yards than had ever been gained by a guy in a winged helmet, that's what they were going to do. I was still sitting on those seats as Michigan fell to 0-2, but I was less despondent. Cross was boss. If those guys could be okay with life, I could maybe be too.
So, yeah, Michigan's definitively not elite. The defense got torn up by a triple option team, and the offense got stoned against Alabama, and I guess I'll be okay with that, because if some dudes in 1998 can carve some fandom out of Walter Cross, how can you not be excited about Denard Robinson's final games in Michigan Stadium?
Fortbaw. Let's get it.
Things That Still Aren't Bullets
Honorable mention: Funchess, Gardner, Joe Bolden, James Ross, Jake Ryan(?).
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS:
1: Denard Robinson (Air Force), Jeremy Gallon (retroactively awarded for Alabama game).
Welcome, freshmen. Not really. Hey, remember when this was finally the year when Michigan didn't rely on freshmen all over the place? Yeah… nyet. Michigan rolled out not one but two true freshman ILBs (James Ross and Joe Bolden) on Air Force's penultimate drive—the last one they actually used their offense on. Hoke would later say Bolden played so much because Colerain, his high school, ran the option, but even so… man.
Meanwhile, Ondre Pipkins, Mario Ojemudia, and Keith Heitzman (a redshirt freshman) saw plenty of time on the defensive line and Jarrod Wilson was the guy who came in when Michigan went to nickel. You make shake your fist at Rodriguez's last couple of recruiting classes now.
It wasn't that bad on offense, where the only freshmen to get a lot of playing time were AJ Williams and Devin Funchess. The former is like okay, we'll deal, and the latter was going to play early on damn near any team in the country.
not having shoes is the coolest now (Upchurch)
FUNCHESS. I try not to get all I told you so because I have occasionally not been right about things—like those three solid years when I thought Rodriguez was going to work out—but dang I told you so. Not that this is any great scouting feat on my part. Pretty much everyone who went to that open practice and saw a 6'5" guy with freaky long arms getting sent deep on wheel routes thought "holy crap" to himself and wrote about it on the internet.
I'm not sure if it was wheel one, wheel two, or not-a-waggle deep bomb that was the turning point, but by the time it was over Funchess had 106 yards receiving and was the first guy out of everyone's mouths in the postgame. It doesn't take a keen eye to think that guy has potential.
In Funchess we saw the beginnings of Michigan's Swiss Army Offense. They lined him up as an H-back and sent him on a wheel against a linebacker, who had no chance because he was too slow. They sent him deep against a safety, who had no chance because he was too small. That's the stuff Borges has spent years doing instead of figuring out how to tweak a read option, and in Funchess we saw the future.
Also the present.
…and introducing Chasing Jim Mandich. Is this too early? No. For one, I'd rather put up pictures of Bo and Mandich 20 times than, like, four. For two, it's the internet. This is how we do. Suck it, guy on twitter who told me to calm down and that it was just one game. WOO!
Jim Mandich is Michigan's all-time tight end receiving yardage leader with 1494 yards. After posting Michigan's first 100-yard receiving day by a tight end since Jerame Tuman did it in 1997, Devin Funchess has 106 yards receiving and needs 1389 to pass Mandich. At his current pace he needs just over 26 more games to do so.
That was the best thing, now the worst thing. Fitzgerald Toussaint: eight carries, seven yards. Commence offensive line panic. Do not hold any in reserve. If you end up in a cornfield wearing nothing but a traffic cone holding a sign that says "AIR FORCE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN ARE 260 POUNDS," this is about right, give or take a jockstrap.
I don't know, man. Live I didn't see anything Toussaint could have done except collapse in a pile of bodies. When Carl Grapentine forgot to turn off his mic and told the stadium "they can't do anything with that" after Michigan set another down on fire by running from under center, he was only telling everyone in the stadium what they were already thinking. Most of those plays went right, we're already nervous about Schofield… conclusion… yeah.
NORFLEET. hey drew dileo what's up you're all catching this ball wrong yoinkkkkkkk now I'm going to run over here bad idea getting tackled bouncing back not getting tackled running back over here different way different direction funnnnnnnnn I am the NORFLEEET zip that was like two guys oops here's like three guys awwwwww now I'm on the ground oh drew dileo you look sad let me apologize I am the NORFLEET this kind of thing just happens sometimes go with the flowwwwwwwwwwww
Denard accuracy. Seemed pretty good, right? The interception was zinged too hard—I'll give him a pass on the "high" bit because Vincent Smith—and the third down Gardner catch-that-wasn't was short. But those are MAs in UFR jargon, and if you put college football in your head all Saturday you'll see plenty of quarterbacks make similar errors. The only throws into coverage were a couple at the end of the half when you may as well force it.
I've seen some complaints about Denard not seeing open guys. I'll check for that as far as is possible given the tape, but if the costs of the Borges transition are an inability to make tiny run game adjustments the payoff tentatively appears to be an ability to put the ball where Denard wants it to be, most of the time.
It helps when you're throwing to Funchess and Gardner, too. The Funchess touchdown was short, but given the target that's what you want to do. As long as that guy is jumping for the ball it doesn't matter that you made him slow up, because he's winning that battle every time.
Crazy enough to work? Air Force's combination of triple option with Oregon's tempo and a pro-style-esque formation blizzard was fun to watch in the same way Nebraska's double pitch was last year… except it was far less fun because instead of one seemingly indefensible play it was dozens of probably defensible ones that weren't.
Q: think that could work at a major college level? Georgia Tech is doing it in the ACC, yes, but I think the option + jet tempo combo would be absolute hell to play against if the guys getting the ball were Denards and Norfleets instead of 5'7" academy guys. It was kind of hell to play against even against guys who are going pro in blowing things up. You're getting gashed, you have to substitute to keep guys fresh, you are freaking out and guaranteed to let some guy run free for a 70-yard score…
worst waldo. Upchurch
…unless he bobbles the ball and falls over.
Maybe it wouldn't work against Alabama but pair that Air Force offense, personnel and all, with a quality defense and you're winning nine games in the Big Ten. Falcon total offense against BCS-ish foes the last three years:
- 2012 Michigan: 417
- 2011 ND: 565
- 2011 TCU: 416
- 2010 Oklahoma: 458
- 2010 TCU: 231
- 2010 Utah: 411
- 2010 GT: 287 (in a 14-7 win)
So unless you also run a flexbone triple option or are the 13-0 2010 TCU team that finished first in total and scoring defense and won the Rose Bowl by holding Wisconsin to 19 points (on 385 yards, FWIW), Air Force is going up and down the field on you.
You'd need a lot of breathing room to get that up and going, granted. Troy Calhoun just tweaked the thing Fisher DeBerry had been doing for decades. Implementing it from scratch would be painful at first, but if you're an Illinois or Minnesota or Rutgers or Cal, it might be worth a shot. I'd loathe it if Minnesota gradually became Air Force++ and Michigan had to deal with it annually. Therefore someone should try it.
Calhoun's just 46. If someone can pry him away from his alma mater, I promise to praise that coaching hire up and down. He even releases his Coaches' Poll ballot weekly.
Does that make you feel better? Those ND/TCU/Oklahoma numbers are just like ours. ND finished last year 30th in total D, 18th FEI. TCU was 32nd, 42nd FEI (schedule issues). Oklahoma was 53rd, but a shocking 4th(!) in FEI.
FEI has Air Force's offense 33rd and 32nd in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Last year's mark was better than Georgia, VT, Michigan State, Iowa, Auburn, and Florida State. With guys who are going pro in going Mach 3. This just happens when you sign Air Force up, even when you don't do it the week after playing Alabama.
"No, not really" -you. I hear you. All the rotation and getting zero out of the defensive line and freshmen and etc. What if I bring up last year's game #2 against Eastern Michigan?
We had all of those happen on Saturday. Nowadays "non-Martin" DTs are all of them, so expand that slice of the pie. The coaches worked some things out. They've got a virtual bye next week against UMass, so they'll have two weeks to prep for Notre Dame—this time State takes the bullet and we get the rebound.
I'm hoping we see some progress against the Irish, who couldn't run at all against Purdue and got Everett Golson sacked five times. Yeah, no Cierre Wood, but Purdue's rush defense was appalling last year.
It doesn't look good but hold out a couple weeks before hitting the panic button.
Also, Alabama couldn't run on WKU. LA LA LA NOT LISTENING
Marmot, city. I've heard from a number of people that Air Force mistimed a lot of their plays and ended up having Arena-style guys running at the line of scrimmage before several plays. Here's TTB:
The officials were terrible. Terrible. Air Force's first touchdown should have been called back for illegal procedure. Quarterback Connor Dietz tossed to A-back Cody Getz, who beat everyone to the edge. In the meantime, the wing started moving forward prior to the snap like he was in the CFL and chopped down safety Jordan Kovacs, who was responsible for the pitch. Without that forward momentum, Kovacs - Michigan's best open-field tackler - very well could have stopped Getz before the goal line. Later in the game, Air Force converted on a key third down when both the quarterback and the running back - who were in a shotgun formation - started moving to their right before the ball was snapped . . . and a slot receiver was already in motion. So three guys were moving prior to the snap, and the play was allowed to stand. Those were obvious, blatant non-calls and each one could have had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
It was hard to tell if that was the case from my vantage point, but the refs did miss a really blatant illegal motion on an AF third and long conversion late. They had a guy moving, and the tailback took off before the snap, and no one noticed. I know they're military, but this is not 'Nam. There are rules.
Adventures in Special K. One: no "In The Big House." That is also two through six hundred. NO POP EVIL~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!!!!atatatat.percentsign.asterisk.
Given how much they ran that into the ground last year, that's either a sign of that thing's merciful departure from our world or Special K's greatest ever troll. I wouldn't put it past him, the scourge.
Instead, Special K put on that Flo Rida song that is not at all about blowjobs, wink wink nudge nudge:
Is that the kind of thing we want to be exposing the youth to? The guy is seen using a Windows phone in that video.
Injuries. Brennen Beyer has a "knee strain" according to Hoke, which means he has anything from a fairy tickling his patella to a Turkmeni flaming crater where his knee used to be. Other than that, Michigan didn't get it too hard from all the cut blocks. Ash's issue seems like a one-week thing, and no one else is publicly injured.
Helmet numbers. I don't miss them.
Paging 2011 Jeremy Gallon. 2010 Jeremy Gallon has started returning punts again. Please report to the maize and blue courtesy phone.
Number stuff. The first Kovacs bullet has been dodged, and I think if they were going to give him someone else's number they would have done it right away. They probably aren't changing a senior captain's number in their second or third opportunity to do so. So, hurrah. Ryan's as good a choice as any, but I was hoping they'd put it on a receiver since Oosterbaan was famous for catching Bennie Friedman's passes and 47 is a distinctive number for a wideout.
Ron Kramer's 87 is next. Hopefully that ends up on a tight end. I'm rooting for Not Funchess because 19 is not a number I have strong associations with yet.
Air Force didn’t turn the ball over, but they only went 2 for 5 on fourth down. They missed a field goal, and were stopped on a fake field goal. That’s six points. That’s the margin of victory. Ugh.
Michigan missed chances to get off the field, giving up frustrating first downs on third and medium-to-long time and again. Brady Hoke missed a great chance at points to end the first half with some terrible clock management, ending up with a TO in his pocket. With Michigan up 14-3, Vincent Smith missed a chance to extend Michigan's drive and possibly their lead by tipping an accurate third-down pass from Denard up for an easy interception; Air Force would score a TD and keep it close for the rest of the game.
Photos and such. Galleries from Maize and Blue Nation…
Media with the main and the stream and the Theo. Funchess named freshman of the week, Denard offensive player of the week by Big Ten. Denard Robinson had more total offense than Michigan did. Michigan up to 17th in the AP. Devin Gardner's still a quarterback in his mind. Give it four more games. Also the media refuses to call people by their last names. That's what they're for! They're names!
Michigan struggled early against Western Michigan and especially Notre Dame, and wasn't exactly pretty against Eastern Michigan. But it improved.
It shut down San Diego State the following week, then shut out Minnesota the one after that, and the Wolverines were in business.
The key to that success was simply getting better every week, especially on the defensive line, and Hoke sees the same thing happening this year.
"I would say there's a uniqueness to the offense, and the schemes -- but at the same time, we're a work in progress," Hoke said. "Quinton Washington is getting better every time he plays. Ondre Pipkins is getting better every time he plays. Keith Heitzman ... Mario Ojemudia ... Frank Clark, having him back.
"We're a work in progress."
Meinke also gives Toussaint a D+, which come on man that guy could have been Barry Sanders and gotten 15 yards on those attempts. BOO THIS MAN. Also, this may be a typo or it may be that DENNIS NORFLEET IS TOO FAST FOR VERBS
Dennis Norfleet is who we that he was
So there's your answer, Michigan fans.
Denard Robinson still is Denard Robinson. And so are the Wolverines.
On days like this, that'll be enough. Just barely enough, maybe, but Robinson, with a little help from his friends, did manage to beat Air Force, 31-25, before a crowd of 112,522 in the home opener at Michigan Stadium.
A week after getting thumped by top-ranked Alabama (then No. 2), the Wolverines needed a late fourth-quarter stop Saturday to avert an even bigger disaster. And they needed every bit of Robinson's dual-threat ability, as the senior quarterback actually managed to account for 101 percent of Michigan's offense.
With 208 passing yards, Robinson is now just 12 yards behind ex-Michigan great Tom Brady for sixth on the school's all-time passing yardage list. Brady had 5,351 career passing yards as a Wolverine.
Brady only started two years, but even so…
Larry Lage gets in another holy crap:
He had his fourth game with at least 200 yards rushing and trails only Mike Hart's school record by one. His 426 yards of total offense ranked fifth in school history, trailing four of his own performances.
Blogz! The flyover:
MVictors has some bullets:
The two Devins: Added to the postgame press conference hall of shame was the fiasco around the media trying to figure out how to address individual questions to Devin Gardner or Devin Funchess, as the Two Devins were trotted out to meet the press at the same time. The Wolverine’s Michael Spath asked the first question and intentionally addressed the question to “Devin” as a joke, but that didn’t help matters. More than a few times the players had to ask for clarification as to whom the question was addressed and it got silly. “The old one,” was offered up at one point to clear up the confusion, making Gardner, who was trying to be a bit stoic, crack up. Props to WTKA’s Steve Clarke who directed the final question to “Number nineteen”. I was going to direct mine to “number square root of 144”.
No one asked why they love bucket hats. Get with the program, media. Get with the program, Heiko.
MVictors also has helmet stickers Hoover Street Rag:
Air Force looked exactly like I would want to see a group of my nation's future military leaders look like as a football team, disciplined, focused, moving quickly, attacking the enemy's weaknesses, and fighting to the last man. They gave Michigan all they could handle and earned the respect and admiration of hopefully every Michigan fan. I had joked earlier in the week that "It's hard playing against Air Force because you can't boo freedom*", but I stand by it. Air Force, along with Army and Navy, are America's teams. Every one of those players made the choice to not only become an officer by going the Academy route. Every one of them has taken on the additional responsibility of being a football player at the Division I level, above and beyond what is asked of them. It was the same reason that I found it so hard to be angry when Air Force beat Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA Hockey Tournament in 2009. The cadets did an outstanding job and I am proud of their service to our country.
I agree with all of that save the "hard to get angry after the 2009 Air Force hockey game."
9/1/2012 – Michigan 14, Alabama 41 – 0-1
[ED: I retreated into humor; Ace, being there, didn't have that option, and wrote a thing that is closer to the game column thing than this.]
So I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and have concluded that Michigan's biggest tactical error on Saturday night was not leaving Jerryworld ten minutes into the first quarter and wandering around Dallas until they'd had enough random encounters to go up several levels. Once Michigan had unlocked special abilities like Mystic Separation and acquired the Arm Of Elway, they could have returned to the field and resumed playing on a more even basis.
While this would take about three years and pose several logistical difficulties, there can be no debate this would have been a preferable to the solution Michigan's dunderheaded coaches decided on, viz., not running away at top speed apologizing profusely. By not fleeing to practice their skills on, like, bats and stuff, they ended up losing the game.
Worse, they ended up continuing the game, thus forcing a great many people to watch it. At no point did Al Borges deploy the EMP weapon he must have spent the offseason perfecting in lieu of figuring out what Denard Robinson is good at. So the broadcast continued unabated, except apparently in DC where DirecTV was on the fritz. (Wolverines in our nation's capitol: keep yourselves quarantined. You may be all that's left of us once the PTSD kicks in. You must continue to tell others of our sacrifice.)
As mentioned, a better strategy would have been to exit at top speed while splicing K-Pop videos into the feed.
One of 67,200,113 things that would have been preferable to watching football on Saturday night
But hey, I'm just a guy on the internet. Maybe I haven't thought this through. There are multiple strategies for successfully executing a game like Saturday's.
INVENT A TIME MACHINE. The classic. Go back to the point at which this game was agreed upon and describe to the decision-makers what the consequences will be. Unfortunately, in this case the only part of "nationally televised debacle on par with Chernobyl" that will be heard is "nationally televised," and nothing will change.
DRINK! Not working.
DRINK MORE! Nerft veruking erngerghf.
AFTER IT'S OVER, TELL PEOPLE YOU SUCK AND WILL PUT MORE SUGAR IN YOUR SAUCE. I'm not sure what the analog of putting more sugar in your sauce is but it's probably putting more MAN in your BALL down BY THE RIVER. This move was successfully executed by the guy who replaced the guy who only hears "nationally televised" at his old job and may be replicated here once the guy who only hears "nationally televised" has been safely quarantined in a relatively meaningless BS government job like governor.
Sorry, world, that you think we suck. We're going to try not to suck any more, and look, here's some guy who works for us. Very middle America, this guy. Puts garlic on the uniforms. How cool is that?
GO LIMP. Jesse Williams may believe you are rotten and wander off in search of salmon.
GIVE THE BALL TO A 5'8" SLOW GUY OVER AND OVER. Scratch this one.
The weird thing about doing this and being this age is that you feel stuck. I did not know I was doing this when I started doing it and have felt grateful for my continued obsession it as various other people ranging from 30-50 have reported back on their waning interest in Michigan football, previously their alpha and omega. There's nothing sadder than the thing you used to think is amazing.
What I felt on Saturday was an intense jealousy of Orson/Spencer, who had a child a couple years back and is having another one. We're getting there, but not quite yet due to PhD things. It would have been nice to have a child to look at halfway through the second quarter and know with 100% certainty that what I was looking at was just a game that did not really matter.
I know this, or at least knew it. (I do not know this and never knew it even a tiny bit.) Now that the career is the game it is hard to figure out what's a reasonable response from a human, what's my response, and what's my response augmented by the fact that I've doubled down on fandom. All of it seems out whack, and never more so than on Saturday when a guy I've met a half-dozen times now, mostly at NYC Alumni Club events, was there. He's one of those magical guys who somehow makes a career out of writing stuff for Spin and the NYT Magazine and magazines that start "New York" and may or may not have additional bits in their name. He's been pitching an article about me at these organizations. He was taking notes.
At halftime I bellowed "THAT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT RUNNING DENAAAAARD" at the television. I knew that this was probably not wise with a man taking notes in the room, but only after I did it. There it was anyway. I'd already spent the entire first quarter telling myself not to say anything on twitter until the die had truly been cast.
So, I feel stuck, you know? I'm 33 now, the age when Jim McManus had his Age of Miracles and went to the World Series of Poker to write about it for Harper's, married and not disjointed and blessed by the cosmos. It's a hell of a football game to watch that makes you wish this stuff didn't have such a hold on you, but the first time I looked at the clock and boggled at how much time was left was in the first quarter.
It'll pass, I'm sure. It's just a hell of a football game to do that do you, to leave you blank and unthinking until you laugh in a way that frightens even you.
Bullets we need for this post so you can't use them, find others
The takeaway. DENNIS NORFLEET WOOOOOOOOOOO. He looked fast! And returned some kicks a moderate distance! And got lit up by Dee Hart! And Fred Jackson doesn't think he can play!
Some other stuff that's not about Norfleet for some stupid reason follows.
Obligatory uniform opinion. Highlighter yellow emphatically not getting fixed, so the shoulder things combine with the pants to give off a blinding aura. If that was the goal—maybe Alabama won't even be able to look at us!—okay. I'm guessing it's not. Meanwhile, Alabama just wears their uniforms because they're Alabama. Their brand seems to be surviving.
At least Michigan got the helmet numbers right, amirite?
Blown out. I debated just posting the Hoke presser and saying "Hoke's voice is all you need to know about this game."
Obligatory Borges stuff. Guh. The best thing you can say is that once you're down 31-0 you might as well get out of there without getting anyone hurt. When the opponents are saying stuff like this…
“I thought with the running back being out, I thought (Robinson) would’ve got more touches, because he’s a playmaker, he’s a good athlete, good player,” said Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson. “And I don’t know, it was a shock.”
…you totally outsmarted them. And yourself. Mostly yourself. Any hopes you may be harboring that this will all work itself out and Denard's legs will be the primary engine of the offense are looking pretty sickly at the moment. At least we've been here before, and Borges has retreated to plot anew. Usually he comes back with "hey, this guy can run."
The only rationale I can think of that makes any sense is that Borges believed flat-out that Michigan could not run at all and wanted an offense predicated on that. I don't know how much I buy that given Alabama replacing a number of starters and football coaches' general self-belief, but the numbers are clear. From Bill Connolly:
In 2011, Michigan ran the ball 74 percent of the time on standard downs (national average: 60 percent), 40 percent on passing downs (national average: 33 percent). Despite pro-style intentions, the Wolverines catered to Denard Robinson's strengths for the most part and kept things run-heavy, especially when Toussaint caught fire late in the year.
Against Alabama on Saturday, though, the gameplan was quite different. In the first quarter, Michigan ran just five times on 11 standard downs (45 percent) and just once in six passing downs (17 percent). These are Air Raid percentages.
If Robinson has 30 carries against Air Force I'll again descend into the Walter White laugh. (Spoilers, obviously.)
Would have been nice to see what Robinson could have become in an offense that catered to—or even bothered to use—his primary skill. (Everything else would have been terrible, of course.)
Yeah, yeah, Robinson had reads and could have kept the ball blah blah. Planning to get Robinson carries when Alabama's defense decides not to put a guy on him on the read option is not a winning strategy.
Gardner WR stuff. Gardner probably took more snaps at WR than anyone else and looked like a 6'4" version of Darryl Stonum from 2008. He consistently looked over the wrong shoulder on deep stuff and his routes were crap. But he scored a touchdown and could have had a couple more long gainers if he wasn't going up against yet another Alabama cornerback from hell. Gardner didn't get an opportunity to catch that opening slant thanks to that Milliner kid and had a few more potential long completions broken up by the Alabama secondary. Milliner raked one out; a few others never got there.
Once Gardner's away from a 6'2" junior who was a five star and the #2 CB in his class to Rivals, he'll do fine. Unlike Stonum 2008, Gardner did find the ball even if it looked ugly as he did so.
Roundtree. The first interception was debatably interference as Milliner shoved Roundtree to the ground on his route. Penalty or not, that sequence should make Roundtree's shortcomings as an outside receiver clear. He is not big enough, strong enough, or athletic enough to compete with standout corners. His assets are about as wasted as Denard's, though at least in Roundtree's case it's clear he's on the outside because of a lack of other options.
The ground game. Hard to get a grasp on anything, obviously. Michigan was overwhelmed; Toussaint would not have done much better. Aside from one Vincent Smith run that Alabama lost contain on, Michigan got jack on the ground. I can ask questions all day: why was Rawls going east-west? Why was misdirection hardly attempted? Did Michigan come into the game with more than one running play?
It doesn't really matter.
Bubble screens. They existed, and they got eight yards each, and they were Michigan's best plays that weren't chucking it deep. Gallon looked very good on both; there's no reason not to keep going to it when the defense is giving it to you.
In case of Lewan emergency. Move Schofield to left tackle (where he was pwned on his first play), Omameh to right tackle, and bring in Burzynski at right guard. In case of Lewan emergency, we are dead dead dead dead dead dead.
Defense. Ask again later. I stopped paying close enough attention to tell you anything interesting after the first quarter.
The Countess injury is of course a major blow; with Talbott out the door earlier their CB depth has gone from excellent to shaky before game two. Webb says($) expect Raymon Taylor to pick up the slack. The line was always going to get pounded. Somewhat disconcerting to see a lot of James Ross out there unless Michigan had also just packed it in and was screwing around with getting some experience.
Freshmen. Maize and Blue News has a comprehensive recap. Other than Ross (and NORFLEET) the most prominent freshman contributor was Jarrod Wilson, who stepped in as the free safety in the nickel package as Michigan moved Thomas Gordon down to nickel. Pipkins looked like he got some push on a few plays, too.
We did not see much from Chesson and Darboh, but if Roundtree keeps playing like he is that won't last.
Your winner for dumbest burned redshirt: Royce Jenkins-Stone.
Well, at least this isn't particularly unusual. Various recent Alabama scores:
- 2011 Citrus Bowl: Alabama 49, MSU 7
- 2011 Arkansas: 38-14
- 2011 Florida: 38-10
- 2011 Tennessee: 37-6
- 2011 Auburn: 42-14
- National title game: 21-0 over LSU, LSU never crosses midfield.
Other than Georgia Southern, no team has put up more than 14 points on Michigan since Cam Newton's Auburn outfit.
Michigan is getting Raped right now. I bet Jerry Sandusky is proud lol
Get your yuks in now.
At least it wasn't the most embarrassing thing to happen over the weekend. This GIF of Kentucky fans is destined to go head to head with Rollerblading Raptors Mascot someday:
Don't forget the guy in the bottom corner and the dude left hanging at the top right. This is a gif as complex and layered as Yankee Enthusiasts and will in time take its place in GIF Valhalla.
Inside the Boxscore returns:
Morgan had 8 tackles, but they were all assisted tackles, which epitomizes the game. In all of the one-on-one matchups, we lost. Bama was just more “-er” than us, bigger, stronger, faster, tougher. I avoided watching Bama last season because I hate that “ESS EEE SEE” crap, but there’s no denying how good they are.
As does Hoke For Tomorrow:
I turned off the TV after Bellamy's first career pass attempt/interception and made my way quietly upstairs to bed. The rest of the family (wife, 5yo son, 1yo daughter) had long since decided that a good night's sleep was a better option than watching Michigan get smeared across the turf in Texas. I didn't feel any bitter emotions really, mostly concern for the collective knees of Taylor Lewan, Blake Countess, and Brandon Moore. I guess the Rich Rod years knocked all of the conceited sense of entitlement out of me for real.
Hinton is gloriously reborn and his article is mostly about Alabama, because obviously. The bit on Denard:
That said, Denard Robinson did not look like a quarterback on the verge of turning the corner as a passer. On one level, it's hard to judge a guy who's being consistently hit and hurried by a defense as relentless as Alabama's, which seems to have an answer for everything on almost every play. But Robinson was well below the Mendoza line tonight in terms of completion percentage (11 of 26), and his two interceptions in the first half were about as ugly – and as costly – as they come.
The first he simply put up for grabs, recklessly lobbing a jump ball in the direction of a receiver who had already been shoved off of his feet and out of bounds by Tide corner Dee Milliner, who found himself all alone to gather in the pick; Eddie Lacy scored three plays, extending 'Bama's lead to 21-0. On the second, Robinson stepped up in the pocket and drilled the ball directly into the chest of linebacker C.J. Mosley, who jogged in for an icing score that pushed the lead to 31-0. In both cases, Robinson had no idea what he was seeing when he put the ball in the air, and seemed more interested in getting rid of it under pressure for the sake of getting rid of, whatever the cost on the other end. Michigan fans have seen that before; all indications tonight are that they'll be seeing it again.
I think that The Hoover Street Rag is not correct:
We have a choice as fans. We can sulk, we can lament, we can shake our fists in anger. But I don't think we will.
That would be nice.
In the second quarter, with Michigan trailing 24-0 and backed up inside their 10-yard line, Kirk Herbstreit was talking about Michigan's non-existant running game. The camera panned up to Al Borges in the coordinator's booth. After relaying the upcoming 3rd down play, Borges shook his head in disbelief and rubbed his face. It was the unmistakeable look of someone who had run out of answers, like working your way through a maze and finding only brick walls.
Al Borges deserves some blame, but not much. Michigan wasn't going to be able to run the ball in this game. I predicted that Michigan would rush for fewer than 100 yards; the final tally was 69, despite having one of the most electrifying players in the country at quarterback. Yes, Denard Robinson probably could have run the ball more, especially before he got dinged up. Would it have made much of a difference? Probably not. Where Robinson really could have made a difference was in the passing game. He had lots of open receivers early in the game, but he's just as erratic as ever in the passing game. He kept throwing deep (inaccurately), and completed just 11/26 passes. The offensive line did a decent job of pass blocking, but if Michigan has to rely on Robinson to win the game with his arm, they're going to struggle.
Erratic, maybe, but I saw a lot of accurate-enough passes that would have been complete if not for Dee Milliner and other members of the Alabama secondary.
Wojo wrote a column. Maize and Brew did a thing. MGoRecruiting returns from the dead to pine for the spread 'n' shred. MLive now TWIS-ing their own readers. Big House Blog is not thrilled with Brandon. Me, I say that whenever you can get less money to play thousands of miles from campus against a team that's signed an extra recruiting class of players over the last five years without getting a home game in return, you have to do it.
At least the server held up, amirite?
3/16/2012 – Michigan 60, OHIO(!!!) 65 – 24-10, 13-5 Big Ten, end of season
I'm about to paint with the kind of broad brush that had a couple people call me kinda racist after I asserted that Illinois DT Corey Liuget and I probably didn't have a lot of common life experiences, but here goes anyway.
A guy on the internet asserted that there seemed to be a big gap between serious Michigan hockey fans and the rest of the Michigan fanbase in their reactions to Michigan's frustrating loss to OHIO(!!!) on Friday, and man do I see that. I did the usual kick-the-cat, drink-the-whiskey thing in the immediate aftermath, but then it was just… fine. It sucks for the guys, especially Zack and Stu, but they don't put up banners for getting to the Sweet 16. They do for winning the league, and Michigan did that.
The disappointment from the tournament is real, and I feel what Dylan evidently did after taking that punch in person…
In the present, the retrospection and drooling about the future can wait. This one hurts and there’s no sugarcoating it.
…it's just not viscerally there for me. The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better.
So, yeah, it's a downer. But if you've been trained in the fu of an April gut punch as well as Michigan hockey fans have, it ranks below… almost everything. Certainly the Nickelback goals and the Air Force horror and the black, burnt grass of an OT loss in the championship game. The hockey team is rarely facing a wall of doom in the bracket that promises to end things well short of the ultimate goal.
The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.
As for the game itself, Michigan was never a team that could go into an opening-round game with the outright expectation of victory. Kenpom had 'em by five and then the Bobcats and Michigan combined to do this:
The statistical outliers are what truly decide any game. DJ Cooper, a 31% three point shooter, hitting three-of-six NBA range triples. Or TJ Hall, a 27% three point shooter, knocking down a critical second half three, his only shot of the game. Add in Michigan, the ninth best two point shooting team in the country, missing nearly a dozen layups and Ohio, a 68% free throw shooting team, hitting 15-of-17 freebies.
Don't forget Ivo Baltic canning two or three fadeaway 15-footers with Novak's hand in his face. Yeesh. There is your ten-point swing.
There are teams featuring very long forwards and centers who can rely on their arms to dissuade opponents from that ability, teams that get second chances on a ton of missed shots, teams that are just so much of one thing or the other that an OHIO(!!!) can't hang with them unless the probabilities swing two or three standard deviations against them. Michigan was never that team.
They were the best mid-major in the country, per Mark Titus, and when the other team was chuckin' it real good there was always the chance this happened. It did, and if we're executing Real Talk neither Michigan getting hammered by OSU in the Big Ten tourney nor the early NCAA exit was unpredictable given the nature of the season. Evan Smotrycz was the second-most-credible post player on the team for the entire Big Ten season. Tim Hardaway Jr. took more threes than anyone else on the team by a good margin and hit 28% of them. I mean, come on.
I tried to warn us. We didn't listen!
None of that changes the narratives of the seniors or the trajectory of the program. Michigan just graduated two universally-beloved program builders and going-pro-in-something-other-than-sports icons who will get a banner sometime next fall. They welcome three top recruits and get a couple of guys off redshirts; collectively they should transform the program from scrappy overachieving underdogs to a full-on Big Ten power program.
After the cat was kicked and the whiskey consumed, it's hard to find something to brood on. If Beilein wasn't about to give his team an extreme talent makeover, we could complain about an artificially low ceiling. If Michigan hadn't broken its Big Ten title drought we could complain about our beloved program builders leaving without anything to mark their passage.
Neither of these things are true, so it seems the thing to do is salute the departed and look to the very near future. Godspeed, men taken from Valpo and Harvard. The last word goes to Novak:
"…coming in, personally, I was the fat kid from Indiana.
"And (we were) able to make three NCAA Tournaments, win the Big Ten in a year when it was the best conference in the country and win a lot of games. You have to keep things in perspective."
The downer bit. I did find it very frustrating that Michigan never switched to a zone for extended periods of time. Michigan's initial forays into zone did give up open looks from three, but given Michigan's crap defense all night it seemed like it couldn't be worse than the man to man. Whereas most of Michigan's shortcomings seemed to be necessary adaptations to their limitations, the man-to-man insistence was one of those things that makes you wonder long-term.
Only slightly, though. Beilein has dumped his 1-3-1 already and adopted a bunch of ball screen sets. He's not exactly a stick in the mud. It was just a little surprising to see Michigan get cut up like that without a response.
It is possible that the coaches thought they were fine if they would just rotate better. Novak got caught in the paint time and again when he was one pass from the ballhandler and seemed to be a major reason OHIO(!!!) found itself with open looks from three.
Other downer. Michigan was down three late for about three straight possessions and the offensive devolved into… actually, this may be my memory playing tricks on me. The late-clock offense did feature Burke twice pulling up from three when a big switched onto him, but it also got Novak a corner three and Smotrycz yet another layup Michigan somehow did not convert:
Burke finished the year shooting 35% from three and those were pretty easy to get. That might be the play given that you're down three.
Final numbers. A shooting profile of Michigan's returning contributors:
- Burke: 75% from the line, 49% from 2, 35% from three.
- Hardaway: 72%, 54%, 28%
- Smotrycz: 78%, 53%, 44%
- Morgan: 51%, 62%, N/A
Novak was the most efficient guy on the team, hitting 86/56/41 and having the lowest turnover rate but he and Douglass were also in the "limited roles" category on Kenpom. Michigan isn't replacing guys who did the heavy lifting on offense. To maintain their offensive efficiency they'll only have to get few extra shots generated by Burke, Stauskas, Hardaway, et al.
Returns. Speaking of "returning contributors," Burke and Hardaway said they'd be back in the aftermath:
"No, I'm coming back next year," the [Hardaway] said after Michigan's 65-60 NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Ohio on Friday. "I'm coming back."
Burke, who earned the co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year award this season and finished the year as the team's leading scorer, was right in step with his teammate.
"I'm definitely coming back," he said. "I'm just going to learn from this loss and get ready for next season."
Those are emotional postgame sentiments that may or may not hold up over time. Still, Hardaway is not much of a threat to leave after struggling with his shot most of the season and Burke probably has to be an All-American sort to get a lock first-round grade at his height. It doesn't seem likely either will change his mind, especially with the lockout backlog clearing up.
IT'S NOT MAGIC IT'S CHANCE. Arglebargle argle:
Late-game magic escapes when it matters most
Glarb glarb glarb.
Are we really talking about this? Yeah, Smotrycz turned the ball over when Michigan put him in a crappy situation with seven seconds left. He'd also put up 15 points on seven shots before that. We really need Daily article and message board threads defending the kid because e-loons are on his jock? Sometimes I hate people. Sometimes is almost all the time.
Butthurt. One thing this has really driven home is how amazingly butthurt OSU fans are about Brady Hoke calling them Ohio. It drives them nuts. Their reaction to this whole upset was as if it was some kind of vindication.
And yet they use "TSUN" constantly without recognizing the irony. Even operating under the assumption that many OSU fans are only technically human, that's surprisingly dumb.
Suddenly next year
Stauskas, Robinson III, McGary
As this season wraps up, eyes turn towards next year. Michigan loses Stu Douglass and Zack Novak; they bring in freshmen Mitch McGary, Nick Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III. They also get bigs Max Bielfeldt and Jon Horford off of redshirts.
Though Novak was regarded as more integral to the team his absence is going to be easier to cope with. His minutes at the 3 and 4 will be fiercely contested by four or five players. Douglass's role as the go-to perimeter defender and secondary ballhandler… um. Michigan's best bets are Stauskas's nasty crossover immediately translating to the college level or a leap forward from Carlton Brundidge. Both are possible. Neither seems especially likely. If Michigan ends up with an unexpected scholarship dollars to donuts they scour for a backup at the one, whether it's the Italian kid with the 'fro or a grad-year transfer. If it's a grad-year guy, Beilein might sidle up to Max "My Name Is On Several Buildings At Illinois" Bielfeldt and delicately broach the idea he could pay tuition next year.
If that doesn't happen, one man's minute breakdown next year:
- Point guard: Burke 35, Brundidge 5.
- Shooting guard: Stauskas 25, Vogrich 15
- Small forward: Hardaway 30, GRIII 10
- Power forward: Smotrycz 20, GRIII 15, Bielfeldt 5
- Center: McGary 15, Morgan 15, Horford 10
Center is up in the air. McGary could come in and establish himself as a 30 minute guy, in which case I'd bet that sucks up most of Horford's minutes. Christian and McLimans probably won't see the light of day.
That's an 8-9 man rotation with spot minutes from a couple other guys—Michigan's bench minutes should reach the middle of the pack.
Michigan is suddenly huge. If Michigan actually sees the playing-time breakdown above, Michigan's average minute will go to a guy just under 6'6". (Assumptions: Stauskas and GRIII are listed at 6'6", McGary 6'10".) That's a five and a half-inch(!) difference from this year's roster, and that could be a conservative estimate. McGary and Smotrycz may see more time than estimated but probably not less; rosters do things like list Douglass at 6'3" and Burke at 6'1". With that conversion rate, guesses at 6'10" for McGary and 6'6" for GRIII may be an inch or so short.
That will take Michigan's effective height from –1.1 inches, good for a mid-major-ish 250th, to +4.4, which should be top ten nationally. That is whiplash-inducing. It's also pretty good company. Three of the four one seeds (all but MSU) are in the top 12 along with a two (Duke), a couple of threes (Baylor, FSU) and a four (Indiana). And… uh… Illinois.
Even if it's not a guarantee, height is strongly correlated with both offensive and defensive efficiency. This year's Michigan was about the third-best team you could put together with two guys over 6'5". That ceiling—one so harshly experienced by fellow first round upset victim Missouri—is about to lift.
Michigan's suddenly deep at places that aren't point guard. Assuming one of Robinson or Hardaway can handle some minutes at the two, they'll have two reasonable bench options for every spot on the floor except point guard. When Hardaway is broken, Michigan can put him on the bench. When he's hot they can ride him. They can effectively threaten playing time in a way that they could not last year.
Someone's going to lose out at center. The above minute breakdown at the 5 may be realistic over the course of the season, but when it comes down to crunch time they'll probably go with two guys unless severe foul trouble intervenes. That guess seems like the weakest above.
Can anyone spot Burke? Everyone on the roster has a reasonable backup or two except Burke, whose only support is a seldom-used guy who came in as a shooting guard who can't really shoot. It was a very bad sign for Brundidge when Eso Akunne was drafted to take over point guard opportunities early this year.
I know there's a lot of time for the guy to develop but I'm not seeing it. Maybe there's a system in which a 6-foot guy who could get to the basket in high school but doesn't seem to have the handle to do it in college could be effective, but it's not this one. Add in a scary asthma incident that kept him out of a few practices and prevented him from traveling to Michigan State and his prospects of serious playing time get slimmer still.
Should we play a ton more zone? Length is commonly associated with being good at playing zone. Michigan will have lots of it next year.
Also, a quick survey of the backcourt options reveals nothing even resembling a shut-down on-ball defender unless we want to hand that job to Burke. Since Burke is going to be heavily relied on to run the offense, I'd rather not do that. Other options are Stauskas, Vogrich, and Hardaway. None of them figure to be even above-average, let alone shut-down. While Michigan figures to have a lot more shotblocking next year to cover up for that deficiency, consistently allowing penetration is a recipe for open shots and bad defense.
So… zone, whether it's a 2-3 or a resurgence of the 1-3-1, seems like something Michigan might look at. The argument against it is that you should focus on your existing system and get better at it; the football team has amply demonstrated that changing your D every year is not a recipie for great success.
Can Bielfeldt play? The plan at the beginning of the year was to redshirt and Michigan stuck with that even when Horford went down. This would be ominous except Bielfeldt had some tendinitis issues that sounded relatively severe. Also, big men develop slowly and unpredictably and getting a fifth year out of them is often a much better idea than flinging spare minutes at them when they're an overwhelmed freshman.
Bielfeldt is a wide guy with a good jumper who Beilein says is a "tremendous" rebounder and good in short spaces. This is him:
“Long and bouncy, Max is not,’’ Mathews said. “But in the right program, he could be ultra productive. Because good big men are hard to come by.
“He’s a throwback. He’s gonna bang. He’s gonna be physical. He’s gonna draw contact. He’s gonna set a hard pick. He’s gonna pop and hit an open jumper. He’s gonna be able to guard their 4, their big who is posting up back to the basket. He can get in there and guard that guy. Sometimes, 6-10, long and bouncy doesn’t guard those big, husky bodies inside.
“But Max can do that.’’
I'm not exactly sure where he fits. He's probably not big enough to play as a 5 in college and if he doesn't have a three-pointer it's going to be tough for him to contribute enough on offense to supplant Smotrycz or Robinson.
Hardaway: the usual? Please bounce back please bounce back please bounce back.
Is Nick Stauskas finally the ludicrous 45% three point shooter Beilein has been craving forever? Would it be nice, yes? I speak like Russian contemplating this. Da.
Almost 10 minutes after their final games in a Michigan basketball uniform, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass emerged from the Wolverine locker room one last time — and neither one of them quite knew what to do.
Douglass, eyes puffy and red from the tears that welled inside them moments earlier, and Novak, wearing an emblematic bruise on his cheek and bump across the bridge of his nose, walked a lonely hallway inside the bowels of Bridgestone Arena to meet with the media one final time.
"I don't know," Douglass said in a somber tone. "I just didn't think this would happen today."
With that, Novak and Douglass were gone.
It was the end of an era of low expectations for the Wolverines. And that's the kind of ending so many Michigan fans have been anxiously waiting for, isn't it?
Five years after John Beilein arrived to begin another tedious rebuilding effort in Ann Arbor, it's safe to say, as departing senior Zack Novak did following Friday's loss, "The foundation is set in place."
From the new-and-improved basketball facilities on campus to the stable coaching situation to a more-energized fan base, that's hard to argue now, even in a cramped postgame locker room choked with disappointment.
3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals
This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.
That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.
A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.
Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.
It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.
Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.
I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.
Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.
It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.
It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.
Hunwick on his last game at Yost:
The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall.
I want more flags. All of the flags!
That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:
Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.
Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.
Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:
If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.
Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.
Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.
The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.
Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.
Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.
The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."
This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.
I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.
Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.
MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.
Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.
Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.
As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.
It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:
- Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
- Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
- Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team
In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.
That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.
As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.
One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.