11/20/2010 – Michigan 28, Wisconsin 48 – 7-4, 3-4 Big Ten
During my illustrious high school quiz bowl career* I ran across a question about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the Tom Stoppard play about a couple of bit players in Hamlet. It started off "the first 47 words of this play are 'heads,'" at which point someone else rang in and answered. Later I'd find out via the miracle of DVR that the reason the first 47 words of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead are "heads" is because one of the characters flips a coin over and over again. It always comes up heads. Rosencrantz or Guildenstern—it's unclear who is who for the duration—arrives at the conclusion that they are "within un-, sub-, or supernatural forces."
This weekend I'm scanning the message board for threads to terminate with extreme prejudice when I run across something from Mgrowold about the events of Saturday's second half:
Wisconsin then proceeded to run the ball 32 out of 33 times in the second half of today's game. As I sat in the stadium it occurred to me that if a running play was "heads" and a passing play was "tails" then the Badger's play calling went something like this: heads, heads, tails, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads and then heads.
Wikipedia describes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as an "absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy." This is Greg Robinson rubbing a beaver on Kenny Demens's face in the midst of a game where the Michigan defense gave up 560 yards and Scott Tolzien's only incompletion was a James Rogers interception, his third in two games:
At this point the column writes itself.
Apparently this is not literally true and now I have to put words down.
This is disappointing; you always hope if you really, really nail it in the first couple paragraphs you can watch the words appear as if by magic and then you won't have to seriously think about what happened in a game where Wisconsin punted once for the second consecutive year. Not accurate.
Obviously that was awful. Michigan had no answer to Wisconsin's series of basic "hai guys we're Wisconsin" runs. They went back to the same stupid 3-3-5 with Kenny Demens lined up two inches from his nose tackle's butt that got Michigan obliterated against Penn State. Wisconsin's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern second half was immensely, grindingly depressive but did have a secondary effect: it mostly absolved the improbably young secondary from blame. The front seven/eight aren't universally freshmen and should be able to hold a team under, I don't know, 350 yards of rushing.
I said my bit on the job status of Rodriguez and Robinson already. Michigan put up 28 that would have been 31 if not for a missed 30 yard field goal. That's on par with Wisconsin's worst performances of the year—Michigan State put up 34 but got a punt return touchdown, Iowa put up 30. The defense was the same incoherent mess it's been the whole year. It was more depressing than I expected, but at this point whatever, right?
Saturday reinforced both positions. Our defensive coordinator literally rubs small stuffed animals on people's faces. Denard Robinson broke the I-A record for rushing yards by a quarterback and is the first guy in history to have 1500 rushing yards and 2500 passing yards in the same season. Michigan is the most dichotomous team in at least the last decade of college football, and while I won't be horribly upset if Rodriguez does get the axe I still think the best thing for the next year or two is to see what happens when Denard Robinson is an upperclassman and the defense isn't starting four freshmen and three more sophomores. Michigan did manage to achieve the modest goals set before it, albeit in unimpressive fashion.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are boyhood friends of Hamlet summoned to a castle undergoing chaos. They've got no idea what's going on, are used as pawns, stumble around cluelessly, and end up hanging by their necks until they are dead. Woefully underprepared and doomed from the start, their deaths are both unfair and unavoidable. The third act is set on the boat they take to England and their deaths; they discover the letter sent with them says to execute Hamlet, then discover the Hamlet's fateful switch.
Much of the last bit is devoted to a discussion of how the pair can be so important as to necessitate their execution. I wonder if that's how Rodriguez felt as he watched the half of his team he delegates to someone else ground into a fine dust, like Jeff Casteel had switched his defense with one that read "execute this man."
*(We were actually pretty good, the Wisconsin/Iowa of Michigan high school quiz bowl at the time. We'd own most teams we played but would consistently lose close games to Salem, CC, DCD, and a Henry Ford Harrison team that had lucked into the National Geography Bee winner. We prided ourselves on not having uniforms, at least.)
Existentialist, Absurdist, Tragicomic Non-Bullets
Jeremy Gallon special teams error limit: determined. It is ten billion. I'm obviously on the tolerant side of the scale when it comes to coaching errors (outside of obvious game theory errors, about which I have an Al Qaeda level of zealotry) but JESUS GOD RICH RODRIGUEZ WHY DID YOU LET JEREMY GALLON RETURN KICKS AND PUNTS FOR TEN GAMES.
On the bright side, Michigan's kick returns finally seemed like a net positive aside from the Gallon fumble. Which aaaaargh. The strange thing about those returns was that Wisconsin seemed to be putting them exactly where they wanted—right along one sideline—and still gave up big returns seemingly every time.
A note on how meaningless the NCAA's official kick return stats are: in one game Michigan went from a horrendous debacle to essentially average. They're 67th now. I'll ping Brian Fremeau for his fancy stats at the end of the year to see what the actual damage was in the kick return game.
Small move towards Pulaski. Hey: surprise onside kick that absolutely should have worked but for two Michigan players whiffing on opportunities to recover. Since Wisconsin was going to score anyway, the only tactical error was not doing this two additional times. Also, the last one was not a surprise but it was beautifully executed by the kicker. Maybe that's what they've been practicing all year.
If Roy Roundtree drops a sure first down the next pass will be batted skyward and intercepted 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Fact. Please stop doing this, Roy.
First half struggles. The offense didn't score in the first half due to a confluence of events. Event the second: field goal kicker durrr combined with coaching durrrr about the field goal kicker durrrrr. Event the first and many other bits: Robinson couldn't throw straight. Wisconsin shoved guys up to the LOS and dared Michigan to throw deep. Michigan threw deep. Robinson missed guys by yards and yards, including an open Vincent Smith on that third and six that eventually led to field goal durrrr.
In the second half Robinson hit a series of bombs, forced Wisconsin to back off, and Michigan went TD, TD, TD, fate induced post-Roundtree INT, TD. Again, the design of the offense is excellent and while Robinson's lack of accuracy is now an established issue this level of performance with two seniors on the field is remarkable.
God, this was awful. I hate to embed this and inflict it on the public at large, but this was awwwwwful:
I'm actually a fan of Old Hat Creative's work with Michigan's hype videos but Notre Dame fans would laugh at this treacly debacle. Athletic department: I will write sentimental stuff with 10% of the schmaltz for free. I will pay you if this is the alternative. Guh.
Things that were good. A fond farewell to drum major David Hines Jr., whose backbend will remain legendary, and various other band seniors. The MMB bounced back from a year in which they forced Carl Grapentine to say "the clown who laughs outside as he cries inside" and deployed a series of accessible halftime shows that did not involve various operas of the 19th century. The Wizard of Oz halftime was good, Lady Gaga translates to marching band in a shockingly effective fashion, and the hockey band just played the old Hockey Night in Canada theme. Thumbs up.
Bret Bielema: still a huge jerk. This isn't a surprise from a guy who saw one of his special teams scrubs attempt to injure Steve Breaston and then pretended it didn't even happen, but Bret Bielema said his team sent "a message" by chop-blocking one of Michigan's linemen on that first-half drive that didn't end in a touchdown. You know, that one.
I should start regularly linking Mike DeSimone's comprehensive picture galleries, which collect everything shot on a game-by-game basis and act as a crutch here.
I made this facial expression at the exact same time!
Joe Stapleton says he feels sorry for Rodriguez. On RR's postgame mini-rant about the exceptional youth in the secondary:
It's an excuse and reality. As much as I would like to say it, the biggest problem with the defense isn't the abjectly awful coaching of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (Though it certainly doesn't help — as gaudy as Wisconsin's offensive numbers were, they could have been a lot worse if the Badgers would've taken advantage of the WIDE-open middle of the field through the air). It's the youth in the secondary.
Some say, without thinking, that this is Rodriguez's fault. He should've recruited more (and better) defensive backs. Here's the thing: he had defensive backs. They all just kinda ... left. That, or they got injured.
I'm at the point where losing Vlad Emilien, no matter how not good he may have been, is a strike against you, but by in large most of the departures were ordained like a post-Roundtree drop INT. Wojo's column is along the same lines as this one.
AnnArbor.com runs a poll of their own about RR's job security; the ones run around here earlier in the year by The White Tiger are more extensive but MGoBlog actively discourages people from the militant wing of the fanbase from participating so the numbers at AA.com are probably more representative. They've got 3300 votes in with 41% saying boot him, 22% saying "one more year," and 33% saying "I support him." A very strange 2% of people took the time to vote "I don't care." That's a majority saying keep him but it's vastly short of the 81% who voted "keep him" at 7-5 in the poll around these parts. (Michigan had yet to play Illinois and Purdue when that poll was deployed.)
Across various blogs the reaction seems to be mostly "not surprised." Touch The Banner:
This is a game that I expected Michigan to lose. Almost everyone did. That's not to say that I wasn't frustrated by some of the things that the coaches and players did - and the offensive production in the first half was somewhat embarrassing - but ultimately, this outcome is what most educated observers foresaw.
TTB does say the constant use of Vinopal as a blitzer was stupid, which yeah. Burgeoning Wolverine Star:
Wisconsin is that good. It's not surprising, then, that Michigan struggled so mightily against an oversized, veteran unit that is unquestionably the best outfit in the Big Ten. That doesn't make Michigan's complete inability to stop the run or their general defensive incompetence any less disappointing, but it does mitigate it somewhat.
My prediction--Wisconsin 45-28--and similar ones around the blogosphere was closer than the Vegas spread (-4.5 Wisconsin). We knew we were outmatched, plain and simple. Too many things had to go our way and JJ Watt's self-tip and pick was not one of them. The disparity between Wisconsin's physicality and Michigan's, uhhh, collection of 18-year-old biceps was worlds apart. I'm sort of glad the game flew by.
The Hoover Street Rag busts out Jefferson's inaugural address in a plea for people who think one side or the other of the Rodriguez debate is full of idiots. MGoFootball peruses the board for choice bits.
11/13/2010 – Michigan 27, Purdue 16 – 7-3, 3-3 Big Ten
I lasted a quarter and a half before giving in to my inner old man and muting the television. Chris Martin had not just said that the receiver Roy Roundtree reminded him of was Braylon Edwards, but that's all I remember from the first hour. I love the Big Ten Network's picture quality and was pleasantly surprised when Saturday's director consistently cut away from highlight packages to show the game. Not so much the people paid to talk.
I was home alone since the last time I tried to watch a game in the company of people it was the Penn State game. I went home at halftime after demonstrating my severe case of sports Tourrette's. I didn't trust the team enough to expose the world to me for those three hours on Saturday, and that turned out to be a good call. Slop happened, swears were deployed, and sometime in the third quarter Sean Robinson threw a ball directly at James Rogers for the ninth turnover of the day.
It was a this point that Yakety Sax spontaneously started playing in my otherwise silent apartment.
Possibilities washed over me. One: I have been driven insane by last four years of Michigan football. Two: I am now dangerously, thrillingly super-sane and will walk-around hearing situationally appropriate music everywhere I go. I will hear "Yes We Have No Bananas" and know I don't need to bother with the produce section. People will have to tell me what Mark Dantonio says as "Breakin' The Law" thunders in my skill. I will stop complaining about Special K because instead of "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor," I will hear the marching band.
I ONLY EAT BANANAS AND HEAR YAKETY SAX SPONTANTEOUSLY WOOOOOOO—damn. It turns out that I still had a liveblog window open and when you post a video it auto-plays because it loves breaking the cardinal rule of the internet. Elaborate sigh, dreams deferred.
I'd forgotten because I don't participate in the liveblogs mostly because I'm at the games. Even when I'm not I avoid them—I don't like my own furious overreactions, let alone the furious overreactions of hundreds of other people.
What have we learned in week ten? Eh… I'm not sure you can take much out of this game except a growing concern for Denard Robinson's turnover issues and healthy fear of Ryan Kerrigan. Football played between good teams gets ugly when the rain is constant and the field starts coming up in big sliding chunks; football between bad teams causes spontaneous yakety sax. I don't think we're under the illusion that Michigan is a good team.
The footing issues were most apparent with the tailbacks but applied to everyone, so I'm not sure how much the offensive line getting owned was the conditions and how much was Kerrigan being Brandon Graham 2010 and how much was just the offensive line getting owned. The rest of the problems extended from that—Denard got the first serious, consistent pressure of his career and responded like most quarterbacks dealing with their first case of happy feet do. The running game was a slog. This week's epidemic of dropped passes has a good reason.
Unfortunately, the same logic applies to the other side of the ball, where Michigan took on Gritty Eckstein at tailback and went to work against a team that got the ball down 11 with no timeouts and a minute and a half left and decided this was the best course of action:
- Throw in the flat from one freshman quarterback to the other freshman quarterback, who had lined up at wide receiver.
- Tunnel screen.
- Five yard hitch.
The scariest thing Purdue's offense did all day was start Justin Siller. We have finally found the team whose offensive incompetency outstrips Michigan's defensive incompetency.
There is no data here not obviously affected by the opponent and the weather. Next week when the footing is solid and the opponent has a quarterback whose default option is not a dumpoff to the other quarterback everything will be completely different. Since it was a win—one that was in retrospect not in much danger after Michigan scored to go up 20-13—this game will be relegated to the scrap heap of mud-ugly games past and forgotten.
Now if I can just figure out where "Livin' on a Prayer" is coming from, we are in business.
Non-Bullets Der Wet Catten
This did not happen. Remember that these things can be much, much worse. The saddest picture in the history of Michigan football came from the 2008 Fandom Endurance III game:
The Orin Incandenza Award. The play of the game is Will Hagerup's 72-yard bomb early in the fourth quarter that put Purdue on their own three. Courtney Avery would biff a long handoff on the next play but give the ball back on a fumble. Michigan punt, Purdue punt, Michigan excellent field position for clinching touchdown. Watching this game was a blast from the past; feeling my decision matrix switch from GO FOR IT GO FOR IT GO FOR IT to "it's third and seven, we should run it and then punt" was like being possessed by the ghost of Lloyd Carr*.
That thing flipped the field position in a game where field position is a tug of war instead of a minor inconvenience en route to the endzone. It soared. The returner is a lithe whippet of a man somewhere around 20 years old and he didn't bother to run since it was too long. Ain't running that far. That's going to China, yo.
*(The author is aware that Carr does not actually have a ghost.)
Growing concern for turnover issues. The interceptions were bad but maybe that just happens because of the weather and the pressure which may have been caused by the weather, etc., but the fumble was the continuation of a bad habit we've seen all year: when Denard gets outside he does not switch the ball to the outside arm. On Saturday that allowed some guy to come from the inside and strip the ball as he spun Denard to the ground. That's a basic coaching point and I'm not sure why a guy who runs as much as Denard hasn't had it hammered into his skull.
Quarterback rotation. I thought putting in Forcier here and there was the right move even if it didn't result in any of those yard things (Forcier was one for four and his one completion was blown up by a Molk hold, leading to another pooch punt) since the offense wasn't going anywhere and the two quarterbacks are different enough that it's plausible Forcier could do something Denard couldn't, especially after the two INTs.
I also liked Rodriguez's response to some question about "benching Denard." To paraphrase: benching is a strong word. If he's a tailback or wide receiver he's getting a rest. We put him back in. You are making 1000 times less than me for a reason.
Last part probably another hallucination.
Might as well try it.
Right, I mean? Right? I think the headphones are key.
Grim weather past. All games played in driving rain on shoddy turf kind of melt into each other, a never-ending parade of fumbles, third and eight runs, five yard throws that hit spectators in the face, and either shots of people looking wet and cranky in ponchos or looking grim and cranky in a poncho yourself.
But in one specific way, this game reminded me of a previous slopfest around 2002 or so when a to-that-point disappointing Justin Fargas had the first and only 100 yard game of his Michigan career in a mud pit against Northwestern. Fargas was much better than Michigan's other backs because he was small* and could change direction without engaging pratfall warp drive. I thought of him as Vincent Smith changed direction relatively quickly and came up a yard short of the first 100 yard game of his career not played against baby seals.
I also was like "aaargh why aren't you a step faster" several times. Smith's had a good couple games but unless he's not really 100% after the knee injury it seems like it's cost him some of his giddyup.
*(He would get Brian Cushing roid huge at USC—at Michigan he was diminutive.)
A moment of pure terror. Was anyone else about to have a conniption fit after Avery let that WR zip by him with nothing but Ray Vinopal between that guy and the endzone? Rogers was pursuing to the backside so if Vinopal missed he just had to slow the guy or make him cut back, but watching a true freshman two star scurry down his angle as the last thing between Purdue and a 97-yard wide receiver screen touchdown is a whiskey-inducing experience.
Vinopal made a fine tackle and Purdue had the decency to fumble on the next play, so the moment passed successful. But jeez.
I-form: die. Die die die. Die die die die die.
Oddities. One: Gallon was clearly not making a fair catch signal and shouldn't have been flagged. Two: Purdue kicked off from the 35 once. WTF?
No Video of All Varieties yesterday because the pickings were understandably slim, but here's a bird talking about the game. Stay tuned for the twist ending:
I wish this would happen to certain WTKA callers. There is also a Wolverine Historian clipreel:
Purdue bloggers say their defensive back who scored "displayed shades of Deion Sanders" by having a ball thrown directly at him whilst being five yards from the nearest receiver. They do post video of girls fighting. The guy who guaranteed a win declares the game the "ugliest football game" he's ever attended, which yeah pretty much. The comments are weirdly negative. If mean, if anyone deserves a pass it's Purdue and their new mascot:
On to Michigan blogs: the Hoover Street Rag drops a Warren G. Harding reference that I misread as a "Warren G" reference when they tweeted it out. Alas, these guys are still bandos and history teachers (I'm guessing, anyway) and we don't get to find out what bandos/teachers would say in re: Warren G and Michigan football. The Harding bit:
Harding was widely reviled for his incompetence, his willingness to let his friends do as they pleased, the general sense of fail that emanated White House followed him until his death in 1923. Except, when historians look back, they see that things were not as bad as they once thought. Harding was blamed when things went wrong, but got little to no credit for the things that went right. People saw what they wanted to see and argued their points as they chose a new path to their future. Then again, Harding never got America bowl eligible, so we'll see.
Chances Sarah Palin adopts "get America bowl eligible" as a campaign slogan: 50-50. The Big House Blog has a very silly picture of a dog in a poncho and The Wolverine Blog grabs a shot of Lewan rumbling with the ball.
11/6/2010 – Michigan 67, Illinois 65 (3OT) – 6-3, 2-3 Big Ten
At the risk of convincing everyone that the first impossibly apropos moppet was fiction, let me tell you about this impossibly apropos moppet a few rows in front of me.
He was about ten. He was wearing a number seven jersey and when he took his hat off for the national anthem his hair was staticky. Before the game he was hopping up in down in an attempt to burn off nervous energy, and when Michigan ran out to touch the banner his mind was blown. He exclaimed "this is so AWESOME" as only a ten-year-old boy can. The words forced themselves out in self defense—if they hadn't the pressure would have given him an aneurysm. I know what that excitement is like. I remember getting a Nintendo.
I can't imagine what his mind is like four fighter jets, three overtimes, 132 points, and one last-play win later. He's probably sitting at his desk right now, mouth slightly ajar and drooling, involuntarily twitching out the words "so" and "awesome" as the rest of the class learns to count to 15 in Spanish. Plans to put him on ritalin have been temporarily shelved. His father has been asked "what did you do to the boy?"
The father can only shrug and say "talk to Ron Zook, Rich Rodriguez, and Greg Robinson."
What can you say about a game like that? You can say it was entirely appropriate for Special K to play the Bed Intruder song. Yes. Michigan and Illinois just went Rasputin on that barn. They burned it, then they napalmed it, then they nuked it, then they shot up the radioactive wasteland for the hell of it, then they poisoned a flat expanse of glass with holes in it, then they dug it up and threw it into the river for it to drown. And then it was halftime.
While the kid was getting the football equivalent of heroin in his eyeballs it seemed like the rest of the stadium was strangely muted once it became clear that touchdowns were more like baskets than goals. Any individual event was far less important in a game that would last until mid-day Sunday.
I was with them. I still remember thinking "that's 30% of the points we need to win" after Michigan's first touchdown in the 2006 Ohio State game. I was raised on three yards and a cloud of dust, and while I could not be more grateful that Michigan's offense now has run plays beyond "zone left" and "zone right," this style of football is all frisson. It piles up and up and up. It's amazing, but when you're not ten your mind only has so much to give before it gets complacent. Things don't build up, they just happen. So when Roy Roundtree scores on the first play of the game you're happy but you're also wondering how they're going to blow it.
The answer was "in all ways possible with a special emphasis on running back wheel routes." But they kept setting things right until Jonas Mouton leapt over a cut block and Craig Roh stunted inside and Nathan Scheelhaase finally had nowhere to go but down. My reaction to this was very strange. After feeling dampened most of the day I cracked and hugged my fiancée—making her annual pilgrimage—long and hard and relieved. So relieved.
This team isn't good at all but I love it. If Craig Roh gets to class early he runs up and down steps in his spare time. Roy Roundtree does a Donald Duck impression and wakes up hungry. Tate Forcier's gone from sulking on the bench and "out" to leaping around like a madman after leading a comeback win over Illinois and coming somewhat close to the same against Iowa. And then there's Denard, and the most put-upon man on the planet, and I just want them to succeed because it will make them happy.
A lot of sports fandom does degenerate into rooting for you in that sad Nick Hornby way. While I'm not anywhere near sports Buddhism, more and more prominent among the millions of reasons I want Michigan to win is because of how it will validate all this crap they have to put up with.
Even if that goes with the territory at Michigan, what's gone on the last three years long ago crossed the line from disappointed and upset to nastily personal, on everyone's part.
Almost everyone, anyway. After the game we're walking up the bleachers and the kid's right in front of us, trying to show his father his hand. His father seems to acknowledge the hand, but not enough for the kid's taste. "I'm never washing this hand again," he says. "Denard gave me a high five." He wears an Adidas wristband like the players. He doesn't care about anything other than Michigan won and I touched Denard and this is awesome. I think about White Noise, a Don DeLillo book I don't actually like that much* about the paralyzing fear of death driving middle aged academics literally insane, and how the only moments of respite in the book are thanks to the presence of an infant named Wayne or Warren or something.
So Saturday was awesome, and this is my favorite bad team ever, and goddammit I'm going to their nondescript bowl.
*(The moment in American literature when ironically capitalizing marketing messages to assert that the background radiation of advertising has become our national discourse has mercifully passed—David Foster Wallace got away with it a few times but only just, and not always.)
Non-Bullets, Amazingly Long
Head injuries. Michigan's bombing Illinois with Denard and pulls him because of a headache and some concussion-like symptoms in a game that is almost make or break for Rich Rodriguez's career. And he could even see:
"Certainly for his safety, you're not going to put him back out there," Rodriguez said. "I'm not a doctor, so I can't tell you where he is, but he had a smile on his face and he was talking, but obviously, you're going to be precautionary.
"Anytime you get hit there and you've got some headaches, you're going to watch that."
Is there anyone who's been unfairly demonized more than him? "Win at all costs." Right.
(HT: the Wolverine Blog.)
Skill position contributions. My takeaway from the offense other than "duuurrrr" was that's what it looks like when the skill position players are adding yards of their own. Vincent Smith made a lot of great glide cuts on the zone stretch, spun through a couple tackles, and had his best day as a runner at Michigan. Junior Hemingway's sideline rain dance created another touchdown from 15-20 yards, and Roy Roundtree was finding epic YAC. That's something we've been missing most of the year save for Stonum's screen touchdown against UMass, which is UMass and was not the #15 defense in the country entering the game.
Stretching it. Speaking of the stretch: it came back. Michigan had gone almost exclusively to an inside run game earlier in the year, and that worked well enough, but I think part of the issue with getting Denard some zone keepers has been that move away. The stretch makes it tough on the backside defensive end because if he's going to tackle the tailback on a cutback he has to flow down the line hard. On all the inside zone stuff Michigan's been running he can hang out and do whatever and still have a decent chance of making a play. That's why Michigan has been blocking the backside guy all year and probably why I'm always a little frustrated by Denard never keeping the ball.
They brought it back for Illinois and I'm pretty sure what I'll see in the UFR is an ass-kicking day from David Molk. On Michigan's last touchdown they went to the stretch on second and goal from the five. Corey Liuget, who is an all-conference type of player, shot into the backfield; Molk walled him off and eventually sent him to the ground. There wasn't a hint of a hold on the play, but a frustrated Liuget did the flag motion thing to the referee and just stood there exasperated as Michigan celebrated a touchdown that came on a gaping hole from the five because Liuget had just gotten owned.
The stretch also seemed to revitalize Vincent Smith, who had the opportunity to make darting cuts past traffic and find the creases as they developed. I'll be interested to see how it holds up on film.
End of half game theory stuff. Reverse on the kickoff was a beautiful playcall because in that situation if you get hammered for a loss you can probably just run the clock out. A perfect time for that call and one that got Michigan in scoring position with a minute on the clock. That's a win.
In retrospect, the decision to kick was not so much. I didn't think about this at the time so I'm not blaming anyone else for not thinking about it either, but with Michigan's defense and 42 seconds (IIRC) on the clock the argument for going for it is a lot stronger than it would be with 12, because if you get it you're robbing Illinois of the opportunity to get that last possession in. Even if you don't get it, most coaches will just head to the locker room if they get the ball on their own 15.
Defensive moves. While the defense remained horrendous, it wasn't nearly as horrendous as it was against Penn State (and Matt McGloin did just bomb Northwestern for 35 points despite Robert Bolden playing the first two series, so that performance was only 90% completely awful). PSU had 41 points on nine real drives; Illinois had 45 in regulation on 16, many of which started in advantageous field position after Michigan turnovers and one Hagerup punt from his endzone.
Moving Craig Roh back to defensive end seemed to pay immediate dues, but Michigan kept flipping between three and four man lines with the fourth guy on the line either Obi Ezeh or JB Fitzgerald. Illinois ran right at that and had good success—that was the setup on the first and twenty option that went the distance, though I'm pretty sure the culpable party there was Mouton. Anyway, Cam Gordon looked a lot better in his second game at spur and you can tell the difference in tackling technique between him and Ray Vinopal—Vinopal uses his arms. Sweet.
Gordon looks like a much better fit as his current position. He was surprisingly adept at blitzing—he'd get the edge on the Illinios tackle and come around to flush Scheelhaase a few times.
Demens, yo. Another thing that will have to wait for the tape but: I'm pretty sure Kenny Demens had a great game unless he blew a lot of coverage (which is possible). The number of runs that were heading outside the tackles for what looked like big gains until they were suddenly cut down by Demens after he cut through a block seemed like it was around a half dozen.
Not a controversy but not a clear cut thing either. I was thinking this myself but Adam Jacobi already wrote it and blockquoting is easy:
Forcier is clearly not Denard, but the fact remains that Forcier is good enough that he should be spelling Robinson periodically throughout Michigan's game regardless of Robinson's health. Michigan has two starting-quality quarterbacks, and as Robinson's accumulation of minor injuries demonstrates, they clearly need to use them! It's just up to Rich Rodriguez to use both on his own terms, rather than waiting for Robinson to get knocked out of the game first.
The frequency of Denard Robinson dings has seen Forcier enter most games this year, with extended relief appearances in the fourth quarter of the Iowa and Illinois games. When Forcier comes in Michigan generally punts quickly (or Forcier yakety saxes an unforced fumble). Forcier gets his feet under him a bit later and things are fine. It may be time to put Forcier in on the regular, say two or three drives a game. This would reduce wear on Robinson, have Forcier ready to play each week, throw defenses a curveball, and lessen the chances a desperately-needed Forcier lights out for somewhere else after the season. The offense doesn't seem quite as good when Tate's in there but the difference isn't vast and the benefits are tangible.
Special K, I hate you. The level of odiousness from Special K was exceeded by a factor of 100 on Saturday when he played "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" and "Down with the Sickness." We've gone from minor league hockey to WWE. Thanks, Special K. This is the no-BS one thing that makes me think the Brandon era will be something other than a success: he hasn't taken this guy and put him in stocks on the diag.
Some photos from an Illinois guy. AnnArbor.com has an extensive collection as well.. Purdue blogger guarantees victory over Michigan. The Hoover Street Rag riffs on A Better Son/Daughter. Doc Sat's take:
If for some reason you were kidnapped by maniac who forced you at gunpoint to make sense of Michigan's roller-coaster season in 12 words or less, you'd probably settle for something like this: The offense is unstoppable. The defense is horrible. Denard Robinson got hurt.
If you hadn't seen a single one of the Wolverines' first eight games, that would pretty much bring you up to speed coming into today, except for one minor detail: Against a string of respectable competition over the last month, you could also add "Wolverines lose."
And a random video of the Michigan drumline:
There's another one on the tubes as well.
An finally, Maize n Brew headline:
Hallelujah!!!! Holy S@#%
10/30/2010 – Michigan 31, Penn State 41 – 5-3, 1-3 Big Ten
these were the same pictures used in the very first Greg Robinson post and were named –fail1, –fail2, –fail3.
A few years back my fiancée (then girlfriend) and I had one of those conversations that draw out over two weeks. You have them when the other person's position is so bizarre and unbelievable that unlocking the reasoning behind it is important if you're going to hang around this person for a long time—because it's possible the reasoning goes something like "I'm a stabby person who stabs you in the stab places."
The argument was about the narrative of overarching, capital-P Progress that the world is or is not making. I, the engineer, pointed to various statistics that all point in the right direction. She regarded all of it as different paths to the same thing: misery for all but a few. A Foxconn factory is just a handy place to jump off, and they take even that away from you.
I don't think we ever came to a satisfactory conclusion despite the lingering threat of stabbing, but I don't think we have to anymore. Since that conversation the world's financial system exploded, the economy fell into a deep and lingering malaise that figures to last most of a decade, and Greg Robinson was hired to coordinate Michigan's defense.
The worst part has been the illusion. Actually, the worst part has been the actual progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress and the relentless losing.
The illusion: two straight years Michigan has leapt out to a hot start only to see all the supposedly quality wins evaporate. A thrilling win over Notre Dame devalued as the Irish collapse into a heap of laughable crap. UConn goes from team on the verge of a Big East championship to a team that can't even keep its head above water in a horrible conference. Indiana is still not a surprisingly good, competitive version of Indiana. It's just Indiana. Then there is losing, and not competitively.
The actual progress: Michigan has the #1 yardage offense in the Big Ten by a huge margin. The gap between Michigan and #2 Ohio State is considerably bigger than the gap between Ohio State and #7 Iowa. The prophesied Rodriguez Leap, which did happen last year, happened again this year. Rodriguez is what he was sold as.
That progress looked like enough to get Rodriguez through 2010 into a prove-it 2011 until some walk-on shredded Michigan for 28 first-half points. If Progress means not being Minnesota, Michigan is failing. At some point last night the extremely depressing score was 31-10 and the ticker scrolled to the OSU-Minnesota game, which was also 31-10. The Gophers managed to hold Penn State to a mere 33 points and caused them to punt an astounding six times. Michigan did it twice. A comprehensive description of the ways in which Michigan's defense failed last night is impossible, but here's an attempt: Penn State scored 24 points against Kent State, 22 against Temple, 13 against Illinois, and 44 against Youngstown State… with their starting quarterback.
Youngstown State is a 3-6 I-AA team ranked 94th in total defense. They are the closest comparison to Michigan's D amongst Penn State's opponents to date.
Greg Robinson should be fired. Tomorrow, yesterday, bring in Gary Moeller, bring in anyone, don't care. He should never have been hired, just like Jay Hopson and apparently Scott Shafer. At the time of his hiring he was a decade removed from his last sustained success, fresh off driving a respectable Syracuse program into Washington State territory. As a head coach, he sounded like an idiot. His team played like he was an idiot. Michigan hired him and has gotten exactly what they deserved.
The worst part other than the illusion and the actual progress and the relentless losing is that this was obvious at the time:
Anyway: being a stunningly incompetent head coach does not necessarily mean one is a stunningly incompetent coordinator. Numbers will have to make that case. Go, numbers, go!
Year Team PassEff Rush Scoring Total 2008 Syracuse 101 101 101 101 2007 Syracuse 109 108 104 111 2006 Syracuse 81 110 72 107 2005 Syracuse 37 97 67 57 2004 Texas 31 16 18 23
I'm a little stressed out by that. Robinson walked into a good situation at Texas* and managed not to screw that up, then went to Syracuse, where he had an average defense on a horrid team (1-10), which he then proceeded to crater for the next three years. Before his brief, star-making turn at Texas—again, for doing nothing more than treading water—he presided over one of the worst defenses in the NFL, getting fired after three years. The last actual success you can plausibly attribute to Greg Robinson came during his tenure as the Denver Broncos' DC, when his defenses were top ten in the NFL and a significant aid in Denver's back-to-back championships. Since then it's been abject failure save the one year in Texas.
Now it's even more blitheringly obvious. Syracuse is 6-2 despite Doug Marrone having R-U-N-N-O-F-T huge swathes of Robinson's leftover pack of unmotivated jackaninnies and while Scott Shafer's defense has gotten bombed in a couple games and is severely overrated because of games against two terrible I-AA schools and the worst I-A school (0-9 Akron, 56-10 losers to WMU and everyone else), the last two weeks they've allowed 7 and 14 points in road games against West Virginia and Cincinnati. Neither of those teams is good at offense, but neither is Penn State.
Greg Robinson is a terrible football coach. Hiring him was literally the dumbest thing Rich Rodriguez could have done, and he did it. Hiring Jay Hopson to see him leave two years later was a terrible decision, as was whatever the fiasco was with Shafer. The rot on defense goes deeper than Robinson, though—Michigan has insisted on being "multiple" this year, to what purpose is unknown. Week after week Michigan plays teams that sit in a 4-3 with a two-deep shell and play defense adequately enough for this Michigan team to be headed for a New Year's Day Bowl; Michigan has not maintained the same system year-to-year during the Rodriguez era, largely because the leftover guys on the staff are all 3-3-5 guys and they keep insisting that these DCs who have never run the system become One of Us. Braves and Birds nailed this problem when he compared it to Tommy Tuberville's zombie offensive assistants submarining Tony Franklin and eventually Tuberville himself.
Michigan's addiction to the 3-3-5 is causing them to do the exact same thing Rodriguez rejected as dumb his first year when he installed the spread because that's what he knew how to coach—they're shoehorning a coach into a system when that coach doesn't even know how to properly align his middle linebacker. At left, Michigan's horrible defense. At right, West Virginia's excellent 2007 D:
Kenny Demens finally moved further from the LOS in the second half of the Penn State game. The supposedly attacking, slanting, different-front-making defense has been a passive heap of quivering goo coached by someone who clearly doesn't understand what the system he is running is supposed to accomplish. Robinson's been put in a terrible position, but he has no track record save blithering idiocy and there is no reason to retain him.
As for Rodriguez, well, hell. The are four games left, for one. Michigan is #4 in total yardage nationally and isn't scoring at an insane pace only because the special teams and defense have been beyond terrible. The special teams were not a problem before this year and really the only problem this year has been the kicker*, which is a thing that just happens sometimes in college. If they overhaul the defensive coaching by either bringing in an actual 3-3-5 guy like Jeff Casteel—who may be in need of a job after the season—or toss the Tuberville saboteurs overboard and bring in a Serious Man, I'd be willing to see where the Denard Robinson era ends up.
*(Willing to bet that by year's end Michigan isn't giving up any yards on an average exchange of punts; kickoff returns have been bad but that's an incredibly minor facet of the game—an average team is gaining one more yard per attempt than M.)
Change please. How many terrible decisions does Jeremy Gallon have to make before he loses his job at returning things?
Also: gararagagagargh Vincent Smith third and two. Hopkins's fumble was not his fault; Robinson put the ball in his shoulder. (I'm surprised he handed the ball off high—if Smith was in the game Robinson's handoff would have been in Smith's facemask.) Shaw can't be healthy, Cox is not healthy, Toussaint is not healthy… it's actually possible that Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God has been more wroth than Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God this year. The tailback situation is so bad that even Fred Jackson has gone no sugarcoat:
“We have to play better,” Jackson said. “Let’s call a spade a spade. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got plays there to be made and we’re not making them, I’m talking from the running back position.
“We have to play better.”
This is different from Jackson's usual approach of calling a spade a fantastical thousand-story casino in the clouds.
DerpBord. The circumstances behind hiring Greg Robinson are eerily similar to those behind the re-hire of Mike DeBord after his "no mas" faceplant at Central Michigan, down to the seemingly more competent guy being pushed out due to unconfirmed but widely speculated conflict. One dollar Robinson is assistant (to the) linebackers coach in the NFL next year.
The Ron English Effect. The next defensive coordinator (or next head coach, depending) is in line for a mega Ron English Effect, wherein some guy takes over a crew of players returning a ton of starters and looks like a genius for improving them when all he really did is not prevent his players from aging normally. In 2006, Ron English inherited Alan Branch, Lamarr Woodley, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable, and Leon Hall and looked like a genius. The next year absent all those guys save Crable he was bombed into oblivion during The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game.
Anyway, next year's DC gets every starter back save Mouton, Rogers, and Banks, adds Troy Woolfolk, and should have a healthy Mike Martin. He could pick his teeth and look SMRT.
Martin doom. It's clear by now that Martin's injury is the dreaded high ankle sprain and we probably won't see him play effectively the rest of the season. Hurray.
Aw, hell, it's just variations of this with either equal or slightly less tolerance for Rodriguez's terrible choices on the defensive side of the ball. I do like the Hoover Street Rag saying the "shields are down." That's about right. Zook is loading his photon torpedoes.
10/16/2010 – Michigan 28, Iowa 38 – 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten
When Michigan needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie and plenty of time on the clock they failed to get it, twice. The second time Michigan cut off Iowa's routes past the sticks, forcing a dumpoff to Adam Robinson. Courtney Avery was there.
Last year at this time Avery was in high school. He played quarterback, and basically only quarterback. Plans to have him play his college position were thwarted by an injury. In a presser earlier this year, Rich Rodriguez said in any situation short of the Bohemian Crapsody that is this secondary, the entire freshman defensive back class would redshirt. But File Not Found, man. File Not Found.
Avery did that thing you see above. It doesn't appear that he even touched Robinson, something Crapsody-projected starter Richard Nixon probably could have managed. My immediate thought was watching baseball highlights on Sportscenter during the Dan and Keith glory days. Dan Patrick's signature strikeout call: "the whiff."
And so Michigan football falls into that old incredibly fun debate for the next two weeks before the Penn State game quiets it, one way or the other. Rodriguez proponents point to the shocking lack of talent in the back four and say it's not his fault; Rodriguez opponents point to the same thing and say it's his fault.
They're both sort of right, sort of wrong. Boubacar Cissoko has 99 problems but what to do on a Friday night is no longer one of them. Troy Woolfolk was struck down by Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God. These are cosmically decreed absences from the secondary.
On the other hand, it's hard to look at the addled underclassmen out there with cornerback Nick Sheridan and not wish Rodriguez had sucked a little face to get Donovan Warren or Justin Turner or Vlad Emilien to stick around. Emilien departed the Michigan secondary in an effort to find playing time. Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster.
As he left he said something along the lines of "I'm the best safety on the roster."* He probably isn't, but this is the point at which a desperate Michigan would give it a shot anyway. They did with Kenny Demens and found out that Obi Ezeh is not the best MLB at Michigan; maybe that would have happened with Emilien. Instead there is a walk-on-sized true freshman and air backing up Cam Gordon and Michigan will ride and die with another guy who obviously shouldn't be on the field this year.
This is what Michigan football is these days—trying to figure out which incredibly inexperienced player has the least business being on a Big Ten two deep, let alone field. My vote is for James Rogers, but I get it if you're arguing for any other member of the secondary not named Kovacs. Srsly. Pick one.
Of course, Avery's mistake was as far from an isolated an incident as possible. The reason it's emblematic of the game is that you could have picked a dozen other players if their incident had happened right at the end. Another field goal was blocked, with a bonus: team walks off field still featuring live ball, Iowa returns it a goodly distance. The Taylor Lewan Drive Killing Penalty and its sequels. Two(!) kickoffs sailing out of bounds. Facemask calls. A –4 turnover margin. It's all very grrraaarrgggh. The people on the internet who say "THAT'S COACHING" are saying "THAT'S COACHING."
Maybe it is, but how would anyone know when freshman quarterbacks are waving at Adam Robinson's feet? In one very limited way it would be nice if this was a Tim Brewster situation where galaxy-spanning incompetence met a total lack of a track record and firing the guy was obvious. That's not this. We have very good reasons to expect what is happening to happen but don't know if it's ever going to stop.
*(to someone in the media, but not to the public at large.)
To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up.
Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011.
Crap, I guess that's job talk.
Kenny! After two three-and-outs featuring Kenny Demens at middle linebacker, Obi Ezeh returned to the field to start the third drive. On his first play he was humiliatingly owned by an Iowa OL, getting pancaked as Robinson whizzed by for his first real gain of the day. I started complaining to everyone in the vicinity about Ezeh's presence as Iowa marched down the field; Demens returned as Iowa neared the redzone. Ezeh's Michigan career is for all intents and purposes over, and Demens is the new king of everything.
How did he do? I don't actually know yet, but if you take out the three Robinson runs (14, 8, 5) when Ezeh was in the game Robinson rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, 4.2 per. That's not terrible and for the most part it was done without Mike Martin, who missed the entire second half and was not effective when he did play in the first.
Last I said I was rooting for an inexplicable personnel decision here and it looks like that's the case: Demens is considerably better than Ezeh. That's a nice boost for the rest of the season and the next couple years. If Demens was really Ezeh's equivalent or worse we'd be facing down MOTS or freshmen at MLB next year; instead it looks like we'll get the upperclass years of a decent recruit who's already an obvious upgrade.
Ezeh epilogue. I will remember him as that guy from Memento.
Khoury! The most encouraging part of the game was Michigan owning the Iowa DL despite playing most of the day without Molk and a chunk of it without Lewan. Michigan averaged 4.8 YPC on the ground despite not breaking a run longer than 15 yards, gave up just one sack, and saw its quarterbacks go 30/44.
The lack of long runs is a function of the Iowa gameplan, which left six-ish guys in the box most of the day and gave Michigan a numbers advantage, but Michigan took advantage of that against a massively hyped DL. They did it without their starting center. At this point they've established themselves one of the best units in the conference.
Tate! Hell of a relief appearance there, and more indication that keeping Forcier in the program is an important offseason task. Also: pretty sure they ran the midline option for their last touchdown.
Lewan sad face. It's a good thing that late false start was on Schilling; if it was on Lewan blood vessels would have burst all over Michigan Stadium. I don't have to remind you of the three crippling penalties that ended Michigan drives, because you were doing your very best not to unleash a torrent of boos at the kid.
On the upside, I hear that Clayborn did nothing when Lewan was in the game; if that proves true on tape you can ramp your Lewan==Long hype up to maximum.
Turnover damage metric. Tate's last desperate chuck on third and nineteen == 0. Not completing a pass in that situation is almost a turnover anyway.
Robinson's interception == 2. It was third and ten and he didn't have underneath options apparently; in that situation a deep INT is basically a punt. The problem was with how terrible the throw was. When the receiver can't even get over to tackle that's a problem.
Vincent Smith fumble, First Forcier interception == 8. Guh.
Hagerup. At least the punting issues have resolved themselves spectacularly. Hagerup averaged 50.3 yards a kick and yielded no return yards. Net punting is now above average. It's just everything else that's terrible.
Photo I was looking for found at Mets Maize, which focused in on that same moment as the tale of the game. BWS recap is a little down on RR's playcalling with Denard in the game; I just see third and okay turned into third and long by Lewan penalties. With Denard, Michigan is a team on a schedule, like option teams. Getting off that schedule is very bad. I should dig out my old third down code after the year so we can see the big red bits from third and seven out.
Meanwhile, In Rod We Trust kicks off its post like I wanted to:
Something, something, realistic expectations, something, something, glass half-full, something something, more experience needed, something, something, witch hunt commence, something something, life goes on. Something, something, not 2009.
While it could have ended there, it continues. Meanwhile in the News, John Niyo says "OMG 2009," something only a Penn State win will fix. The Ann Arbor News launches "moxie" to describe Forcier's day.
I hate it when he is sad, and not just because I feel the same way.
10/11/2010 – Michigan 17, Michigan State 34 – 5-1, 1-1 Big Ten
This just popped into my head in the same way a chorus of angels singing hosannas delivered calculus to Newton: they were probably Juggalos.
There were two of them, and they were walking south down the train tracks just east of the stadium as Michigan State bled the final minutes off the clock. I was in the midst of a stream of mostly Michigan folk who'd had enough—my breaking point was the running into the kicker penalty—moving east with the intent of hitting State Street and parts beyond after following the pathway between the field hockey stadium and football's practice field.
I don't remember much in the way of Juggalo-identifying characteristics except the hats. They were those oversized baseball caps with an enormous, off-center Old English D surrounded by graphic frippery I'm pretty sure designers call "grunge." They were carefully placed on the head, maybe 15 degrees from straight. This has been scientifically determined to be the angle that communicates maximum defiance.
The hats, man. These were the hat equivalent of chrome skulls, because apparently the best way to destroy your credit rating is to buy a bunch of chrome skulls. Maybe this is an urban legend but it's too good not to be true: men in a tall building somewhere have determined that credit card purchases of chrome skulls are inevitably followed by default, and will cease lending money to people who make them. If defiant hat angles left a paper trail these guys wouldn't have been able to get a loan in Zimbabwe.
The rest of it was just a way of confirming the hats. These were guys who had thought to themselves "wait, how do fuckin' magnets work?" They may have been blazed out of their minds at the time but no one can tell the difference any more. The reader will be utterly unsurprised to find out that as these guys approached the intersection with the Michigan fans one of them shouted "who's the little brother now?"
You. Still you. Always you.
Someone in front of me who was either a really pissed off 6'5" guy with a beard or the living manifestation of my id got into it with them. I get why. I mean, you're an adult with a family and a dishwasher. You've never thrown a rock at Tila Tequila. And these guys—who almost certainly didn't even go to the game because they couldn't afford it given the hats, the time and the direction they're walking*—start talking shit to you.
After the path to State Street intersects the tracks it jogs right to give the football field room. So there is this stream of slowly-moving Michigan fans including me and id guy separated from the Juggalos by just a few feet and a fence. For what was probably only a minute but seemed like forever, then, I'm listening to the back and forth between these guys. It's the usual—id guy is repeatedly asked where he went to school until he defiantly points in the direction of campus and says "here," then says his major is "FINANCIAL MATHEMATICS!!!" when pressed.
That was Saturday: financial mathematicians screaming at Juggalos, and the Juggalos winning. The State meathead directly behind me literally said "bitch! fuck you!" whenever MSU tackled Denard Robinson for less than five yards. On Friday, Tim came back to his apartment to find a trail of blood leading to a passed-out State meathead who'd broken in. The same guys who clumsily spray-painted a bedsheet in 2008 to declare their glorious victory over the worst Michigan team in 50 years reprised their genius. As I walked home every glassy-eyed Stiffler that passed me upped the amplitude of my anger/depression cocktail. Jesus, they were everywhere. They came to Ann Arbor cocky and stupid and left cocky and stupid. Enduring it was brutal. In their eyes, that was probably the point.
That's why Mike Hart's comment cut to the quick so much that three years later it's still the first, last, and only thing on the Juggalo mind. If coaching doesn't work out, Hart should start a consulting agency that visits bitter people on their deathbeds and devises things to say that just stick, nagging, sitting on your shoulder and telling you that's really not okay.
As for the current Michigan program, they took a grim step back against Stiffler U and are now poised on the edge of the same cliff no one knew they were falling from until the Illinois game last year. It is really hard to step back and say "it's just one game" after that travesty at Michigan Stadium, both inside and out, but long experience has taught me that gritting your teeth and just getting on with it is better than screaming the name of your major to the world at large.
*(The tracks are mostly fenced and anyone walking down them at that point is coming from well north of the stadium.)
This guy. I'm about to double this guy's yearly traffic but oh well—this is exactly what I am talking about in blog post form:
And FUCK ROBINSON because it was more than him, Michigan State BEAT THE SHIT out of Michigan across the board, offense, defense, special teams, YOU NAME IT. WE BEAT THE YELLOW BELLY ASS UP AND DOWN THE FIELD.
I feel bad for the MSU fans I know, all fine people who don't own SHAGGY 2 DOPE jerseys, and the guys at The Only Colors but Christ, man. Normal-ish MSU fans were outnumbered ten to one.
Forgotten kindness. I meant to mention this in the aftermath of the Notre Dame game but it slipped my mind until the events of the weekend made me wish I was on the road in South Bend instead of at home against Michigan State: ND fans really are the nicest in the country. There are always Those Guys. In South Bend we had one in the row in front of us a few seats over who kept looking back at us and doing the usual dumbass fan taunting routine. The ND fans around us made fun of him for it. ND spawns the kind of pathology that makes ND Nation the most unintentionally entertaining message board on the internet but the vast majority of the fanbase are just nice people sad about their team.
With Weis gone, I'm not rooting against them in an active way until they're threatening for BCS bowls.
Also something I've forgotten to mention a lot. Drum major David Hines, Jr., probably has the best pregame back bend I've ever seen, and since I remember when the drum majors went from taking off the hat only for big games to doing it all the time, that's probably an all-time record.
This was always going to happen. People complaining about the defense, and there are many: WTF, are you surprised? Are you? Did you sit down at the beginning of the season and look over the post-Woolfolk secondary depth chart and think to yourself "boy, this looks like an average unit we've got right here?" This was already always going to happen last year, when the Decimated Defense Diaries and a simple count of available upperclassmen would have revealed that there was a giant gaping dropoff from the legitimate first-stringers Michigan had at maybe 8 or 9 positions to the second string. Then Donovan Warren, Justin Turner, and Troy Woolfolk departed Michigan's thinnest position. This was entirely predictable:
Plugging the enormous hole at safety would be great, but even if you make the reasonable assumption that Gordon/Kovacs/Robinson is going to be way better than Williams/Kovacs, the massive downgrade at corner means you're probably just treading water. Treading horrible, polluted, razor-blade-filled, despair-laden water.
The defense is off from hopeful expectations in that post but the reason is obvious. The depth chart is what it is.
The doom. I never thought Denard Robinson's problem throwing the ball would be a refusal to take off and run after the timer in the head expires. On all three interceptions he should have just run after he sat in the pocket for two or three beats. The second one was just death—pump-fake, hesitation, slant on the goal line? Guh. I think we all expected Denard would have some issues throwing the ball but three huge mistakes in one game is fatal unless you're going up against a team making those mistakes back at you. Michigan gained 263 yards in a half and had ten points from it.
FWIW, Touch The Banner suggests Denard's first two interceptions were just poor throws against man coverage. I haven't had the benefit of replay yet.
The frustration. The game's killer sequence occurred when Jordan Kovacs tackled an MSU TE three yards short on third and ten only for MSU to catch a break on a false start. On the ensuing third and fifteen Michigan couldn't tackle Keshawn Martin after he caught like a five-yard hitch and they converted. The ensuing touchdown drive was the distance that put Michigan in desperation mode. That's a ferret-puncher right there. Makes you want to go find a ferret, and punch it.
Also you can add many drops, a hopeless MSU pass getting deflected to a receiver, and another missed field goal.
Punt? I know you're down seventeen and it looks grim but a comeback isn't totally out of the realm of possibility… until you punt with like seven minutes on the clock. Apparently Rodriguez owned up to that as a mistake afterwards.
Long runs. I'm going to have a lot of fun figuring out the basic off-tackle runs that Michigan State hit for touchdowns. I'm just hoping Ezeh was not involved so that someone else can come in for the tsking. I do know that on the second one the right side of the line was Patterson and JB Fitzgerald at DE, which got run directly at and did about as well as you would expect. That one's probably on the DL at least somewhat. I'm sure Cam is at fault, too, because I said I like him and he would be important and that he was really good at filling on run plays. This is how the world works.
Cam also had an opportunity to undercut a receiver and intercept a long pass that he did not take; I believe that drive was the one on which MSU ended up in third and thirty-two, so it didn't end up mattering much.
The usual Vincent Smith complaining and counter-complaining and etc. You probably don't want Smith ever getting another third and one carry whether you're on Team Smith or Team Whoever Else. I couldn't believe Michigan 1) went with another inside zone to a back who almost never gets one yard after contact, let alone yards, and 2) didn't get it. Hopkins may have fumbling problems but at some point Michigan's fail on third and one is just as damaging.
Also, the difference between Smith and Shaw was painfully apparent and relevant on a run during one of Michigan's early drives when he broke into the open field with nothing between him and the endzone and got tackled by a linebacker coming from the inside. Shaw probably scores there; Michigan got a field goal on that drive IIRC.
Silver lining. Hey, Penn State looks winnable!