Mike Lantry, 1972
10/27/2012 – Michigan 9, Nebraska 23 – 5-3, 3-1 Big Ten
Well, it finally happened.
Pundits and opponent fans have been predicting the demise of Denard Robinson ever since he picked up that snap against Western Michigan, but the series of bumps and bruises that frightened Michigan fans every third game had never really cost Michigan anything. In 2010, Tate Forcier came off the bench to lead Michigan to a frenetic victory over Illinois and nearly did the same against Iowa. Last year, Devin Gardner shepherded Michigan through the second half of the Illinois game. When Denard's boo-boos knocked him out for halves instead of plays, Michigan got through just fine.
They were always tempting fate, though, and upped their bet that the football gods' vast malevolence was laser-focused on the Iowa running back situation by moving Devin Gardner to wide receiver in the fall. That seemed like a risk worth taking.
Unfortunately, the containment field is down.
yes, it's true. this man has no elbow.
First it leaked from the Iowa running backs to their offensive line, which suffered two season-ending injuries minutes apart last week. This week, the Big Ten set to murdering football in the morning and afternoon, then this happened to Marcus Lattimore's knee:
By the time Friday night rolled around the ambient malevolence levels in college football were so high that Notre Dame won a marquee matchup to enter the national championship shortlist.
So of course Denard would be knocked out of a potentially fun, definitely important game by falling harmlessly to the turf, thus turning the rest of it into a death-march trudge. AIRBHG is no longer contained. The forces of wheeeee that (mostly) preserved Denard through three years of running at top speed into Manti Te'o have been overrun by the forces of grinding doom football. Now we're all boned. Hail Saban.
And so it came to pass that words never before spoken—words so impossible CFL teams who don't even think it's weird they're all named "Roughriders" cock an eyebrow at their assemblage—came to pass.
Tate Forcier isn't walking through that door.
I don't know, man. I felt ill for most of the second half but it's not like anyone is at fault other than everyone. I mean, if RR doesn't implode or Forcier is a normal person who goes to classes or Michigan doesn't hire Hoke three weeks before signing day, maybe the guy backing up Robinson has a prayer of moving the ball forward. Maybe the wide receiving corps is not so awful that it must include Devin Gardner.
In the aftermath you've got the columns declaring Gardner's move to WR a stupid idea, but I haven't seen anyone reference the column questioning it they wrote before last weekend. It's easy to be a backseat driver after whatever that was. Meanwhile, Gardner is this crappy receiving corps' #2 WR, #1 if you discount Jeremy Gallon's 150-some yards on screens.
Gardner's not good. The alternative is throwing more than four balls in the first half to Jeremy Jackson. They've needed their crappy, crappy receiver who is also a quarterback even if he is dropping a 50-yard pass in most games. Whether Gardner is worth an extra three scores against Nebraska is… debatable. His performances to date suggest he is not.
Michigan was always rolling the dice on Denard's health, and that was the move to make. Didn't work. That's life as a rickety program that's endured two coaching transitions in three years—when you have to go to the bench you get tumbleweeds.
We're now entering the period of time when most program shortcomings can be blamed on Rich Rodriguez's recruiting, which is only a slight transition from the period of time when most program shortcomings could be blamed on Lloyd Carr's recruiting fade and represents very little improvement when the one completely awesome guy at the most important position is removed from the equation. It turns out that Michigan 2012 minus Denard Robinson is pretty much Michigan 2008, and that the only thing saving us from the abyss was Denard staring down a decision to stay or go and not pulling the Mallett.
He stayed, but in the game that probably decided if he would be a champion or not he watched from the sideline because his elbow hit the turf the wrong way. Malevolence is out of control these days.
Injury item. So the thing is this:
It's the same thing that knocked him out briefly against Illinois.
"He's got that nerve (injury), he hits it the wrong way (or) gets hit (and it's hard)," Hoke said. "The difference (today) was he didn't come back in. But, he gets better as the game goes on." …
Asked whether or not he was concerned Robinson wouldn't be available next week, Hoke replied "No." He also said the normal rehabilitation process for this type of injury is mainly rest and time.
He'll probably be fine by Tuesday and start against Gophers. Every time his elbow brushes up against the softest kitten in Minnesota the collective intake of breath will be audible. Sounds fun, and by "fun" I mean "paralyzing."
Frank Clark is also expected to be back next week, which is good because Mario Ojemudia limped off the field Saturday and was spotted in a boot today. He's probably sprained his ankle and won't be available.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Craig Roh. Beastmode sack, generally unblockable, got a number of those stat things for himself instead of everyone else, as he usually does.
Honorable mention. Quinton Washington, Desmond Morgan, Kenny Demens.
Epic Double Point standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Drew Dileo (Michigan State), Craig Roh(Nebraska).
We won time of possession! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Time of possession is a garbage stat.
That said, there is a clear narrative of decline in the defensive performance. Nebraska's first eight drives gained a total of 148 yards. Their last four gained 178. It's not easy going out there after a blizzard of three-and-outs. This would be better measured by plays instead of TOP.
BLAME BLAME BLAME BLAME. Why are we here at QB? LET'S BLAME PEOPLE WOO
- Rodriguez's horrible recruiting at the skill positions: 40%. If Michigan has a decent deep threat at WR, Gardner is playing QB and Michigan may salvage that game. Instead, RR recruited receivers are… 2011: nobody. 2010: Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, DJ Williamson. 2009: Je'Ron Stokes. The only one of those guys to see the field is Jackson, and he's essentially a skinny tight end. That 2011 class may not be RR's fault, because there were…
- Unavoidable transition costs: 10%. RR's WR recruiting would look slightly better if Sammy Watkins was included in that group, but once he got fired Watkins was gone.
- Darryl Stonum's inability to just do what the court tells him to: 10%. Relevant to previous two bullets: we're desperate for a guy who has three catches for Baylor. Baylor's offense is pretty good, but he can't even get on the field.
- The Process: 20%. Maybe Michigan gets a guy more ready to play if they're not scrambling with three weeks left. Maybe Michigan recruits one dang WR in 2011.
- Hoke not taking a quarterback last year: 10%. Always take one every year. If Michigan has another freshman around maybe he's better than Bellomy.
- Hoke inexplicably passing on Devin Lucien: 10%. Lucien has 10 catches as a sophomore for 6-2 UCLA and their #12 offense. He still wanted to commit to Michigan after the transition, and Michigan said no by saying they wanted him to play DB.
There. It has been blamed. Seriously, though, the Lucien thing drives me nuts.
I'm not there. As soon as Denard went out and it became clear that Bellomy was light years away from readiness I was pretty much like whatever. There's not much you can do when you already can't run without your QB and the guy you put in is overwhelmed and throwing moonballs.
Before that happened, Michigan was moving the ball decently and poised to score to go up 10-7. That's okay I guess—but we're also talking about a team that is 90th in the country in run defense, so…
I saw this: after Nebraska got torn up by Hundley and Miller it seemed clear they went back to the drawing board and were going to play it safe. When Michigan put 4 WRs on the field, Nebraska responded with two high safeties and 5.5 guys in the box. Michigan ran the ball and got five, six, seven yards virtually every time. That's stealing.
I mean, when I was learning about the spread some years back I watched the videos Rodriguez put out about his offense. When he talked about making a run/pass decision based on the safeties, his general rule was one deep safety was a run, cover zero was pass. The idea that someone would maintain two high safeties against his offense never even crossed his mind. Nebraska was doing it, and Michigan didn't force Nebraska out of it. I don't get it, man.
The truly crappy thing is it's going to be four or five years before we have any real read on whether Borges is any good. At this point, year three is going to be Michigan rolling with a true freshman QB—probably, anyway—and four new OL starters—probably, anyway—with what's likely to be a horrible WR corps. Anything other than an awful offense next year is a point in Borges's favor. Hurrah transition.
But Auburn? No. 2004 Auburn had the following guys on that team: QB Jason Campbell (first round pick), RB Ronnie Brown (first round pick), RB Cadillac Williams (first round pick), OL Ben Grubbs (first round pick), OL Marcus McNeill (second round pick), Ben Obomanu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 37 catches in 2011), Devin Aromashodu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 26 catches in 2011), and Courtney Taylor (sixth round pick, now in CFL after 2008 multiple sclerosis(!) diagnosis). When you can call anything and have future NFL players on both ends of the exchange that doesn't say much either.
First Nebraska touchdown: where is that? Nebraska's first touchdown was a route that exploited Michigan's man coverage. An inside receiver ran a little hitch designed to pick the outside guy, the outside guy ran a post to eliminate the safety over the top, and the inside-inside guy used the pick to get open by yards. It didn't really matter if the receiver who ended up targeted was able to get separation naturally; the play got it for him.
Where is that from Michigan? I can't recall a wide open downfield guy that got open strictly by the play design. Gardner's been open some when DBs fall over or suck up on a double move or something; not so much the play bits.
This wasn't actually a problem last year, when Michigan quarterbacks made sport of ignoring the the wide open guys Borges was machining downfield. Is it just Junior Hemingway's absence?
I think they watched film. Congratulations, Nebraska: you are apparently the only Big Ten team to ever watch tape of the Michigan offense and leap on the throwback screen. It's not exactly hard to find, since the first time Michigan goes under center in any game is virtually guaranteed to be the throwback. It's pretty bad when everyone in the room I was watching said "throwback screen" as soon as Michigan lined up in ace.
Q: why is that play consistently run from under center? There doesn't seem to be anything about it that would require it to be.
Bellomy. Well… that wasn't very good. The most disturbing thing was probably one of Bellomy's few completions—a ten yard wheel-ish route run by Kerridge that picked up a first down and took just decades to get where it was going. Accuracy issues and a tendency to scream in horror during plays themselves (@ right by Upchurch) can be fixed with time. The arm strength deficiency probably can't.
That particular throw made me wonder why Michigan recruited the guy at all since it seems like the #1 thing on Borges's radar screen is the ability to laser it in just inside the sideline. Hurrah Process/unavoidable transition costs. Boy, is next year's offense going to be a wow experience or what I tell ya.
Offensive line. I'm not entirely sure how they did since once Bellomy came in it was open season and Michigan settled into a routine that exposed them to the same "eight of them, five of us" problems that Michigan experienced against MSU. Hoke was not impressed.
Ryan got edged. When Michigan gave up some yards it was often on the edge when various Nebraska players broke contain. The most spectacular incident was when Abdullah broke Cam Gordon's ankles…
…but it happened to Ryan a few times. When Nebraska was not bouncing it outside they were getting very little; excellent day from the interior DL and the LBs.
Roh beastmode. Also Roh, who took the opportunity presented by Abudullah being assigned to block him to destroy Martinez in a hilarious beastmode sack. If you've ever wondered why tailbacks always cut block guys on pass protection, that's why.
Where is Rawls? I don't know what happened to Toussaint but at this point I'm not even irritated at Vincent Smith carries because it's not like Toussaint is consistently making yards past what the blocking gets him. Meanwhile, Rawls ends up watching, even when Michigan deep into Bellomy panic time and trying to run from under center.
I'm sure there's a reason they don't trust him yet; whatever it is it must be pretty bad. If you're down to running power from the I-form—and Michigan was—you might as well find out if your backup guy can break some tackles.
Defense: stepping towards elite. Nebraska entered the game averaging 512 yards and 42 points a game, leading the league in rushing yardage, pass efficiency, total yardage, and points per game. Michigan held the Cornhuskers to 326 yards and 23 points. Six of those points were field goal drives of two and five yards in length. Without turnovers, that's 17 points.
Relative to the quality of opponent, that's their best performance of the year by far and a major step away from criticisms that Michigan's defense hasn't actually stopped anyone. If the offense doesn't implode with Denard out those numbers are undoubtedly better, probably under 300 yards for the game for the Huskers.
Not relevant but worth it. This happened after Northwestern's win over Iowa:
Bo Cisek, walk-on DT and new internet legend
It speaks for itself except for the fact that guy's wearing #1.
Michigan + Nebraska == refereeing atrocity. The Roundtree catch that was overturned was one of those plays where it's not clear either way because of the goofy fuzzy catch rule and should be left to stand, and then you've got that terrible terrible late hit call and some terrible terrible pass interference calls both ways. This combination of teams is not good for ref sanity.
Cats! So hey like if you follow me on twitter I'm sort of sorry for retweeting like 30 cats into your timeline except not really. People started sending them to me, so clearly there was a need. Here is another cat if you are not satiated.
* As bad as we played, the first downs were close, 20-18 in favor of Nebraska. Of course, 6 of our first downs came from Nebraska penalties.
* Nebraska's 20 1st downs translated to 326 total yards, we managed 188 total yards. At least we were efficient with our first downs. Why get 20 or 30 yards when you only need 10?
* We won the TOP, 31:36 to 28:24. Yippee. We did control the clock early, and I was expecting that to pay off in the fourth quarter when we should have been able to grind down their defense, but then, you know, Denard got hurt.
Edit: I forgot the main silver lining, BELLOMY CAN AUDIBLE!
Yeah, what was with that?
Yeoman scans Massey, comes back with Michigan having a 30% shot at winning the division now. Let's go Spartans.
Blog stuff. Sap's decals hand out nothing to the offense. Nebraska fans are far too enthusiastic about snuffing Bellomy out. TTB. Maize and Go Blue. The M Block considers what happens next year at QB.
Duct tape. It's was held together with duct tape, hope, and rolling dice. And now the questions will come for the coaching staff, although any questions to Greg Mattison will likely consist of "Why can't you guys score too?" But we caught a glimpse of a future we will need to face all too soon, a future without Denard Robinson. That future consisted of three field goals total output on offense.
You watched the second half perhaps with some hope that Spring Game Bellomy would emerge but save for a few late first downs it wasn’t really even close. I swear I caught Jeremy Gallon staring off into space after the RS freshman was calling a pass play early in the second half and remember thinking, “Gallon knows this ain’t happening…”
Also, Denard's jacket was old school split M style now verboten.
Probably got it off Jon Falk's back.
Regular stuff. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. AGGRESSIVE DECISION TO FALL ON HIS ELBOW GENTLY COSTS DENARD ROBINSON. RUSSELL BELLOMY MAY NOT HAVE DONE TOO WELL. ROBINSON'S EXIT REVEALS THAT MICHIGAN IS NOT GOOD AT ANYTHING AND SHOULD PROBABLY JUST DIE. RUSSELL BELLOMY WAS NEVER GETTING PULLED.
Three Bellomy interceptions rushed the defense back onto the field and into quick-change situations. Nebraska started drives in Michigan territory, including one on the four-yard line. There’s a good excuse.
“No,” Kovacs said. “We take pride in that. Our motto is: ‘Spot the ball.’ It doesn’t matter where the ball’s at, just put the ball on the field and we’re going to go play defense and not let them get any yards.”
That's a Rodriguez-era phrase that remains as mysterious today as it was when it was introduced and probably should have gone in the bonfire with GERG's playbooks and stuffed beavers and hair. I guess that's appropriate for the reappearance of the 2008 offense. If someone says "hold the rope" any time soon I'm going to hide under the bed.
Michigan-Nebraska: The Sick Man of Europe
By HoldTheRope on Oct 29, 7:00a
The red balloons floated upward, little harbingers of doom dotting the night sky. I didn't know what to make of it, but it could not have been anything else but that. Or, maybe they were just balloons.
By HoldTheRope on Oct 29, 7:00a
/hides under bed
10/6/2012 – Michigan 44, Purdue 13 – 3-2, 1-0 Big Ten
For three hours on Saturday, October 6th, 2012, a rapidly-expanding event horizon engulfed the Indiana town of West Lafayette. Inside, gold chains were cool, Playboy featured natural breasts, you could lose four-year-olds in your carpet, and mass colorblindness reigned. Hair erupted from everywhere. Do not talk to central Indianans about storm drains.
A Jed Smithson from nearby Frankfort found his balding pate mysteriously replaced with a resplendent afro. Leaping atop a teal Chevy the size of a city block, he proclaimed a quest to fornicate with every hot broad in the county. He was a half-dozen hot broads into this project when the effect dissipated as mysteriously as it had arrived; the aftermath was even more appalling than that of the average middle-aged central Indiana sexual congress. Do not talk to Frankfort residents about what you can find in storm drains.
Unfortunately, due to the remote location of the event the only video evidence of this supernatural phenomenon was a foot-ball game between the University of Michigan and Purdue University in which the former team ran on every down for six yards a carry and the latter meekly accepted its place in the college football firmament. Up eighteen points at halftime, Michigan's head coach groused about his offensive line and said "you can't win football games like that" in reference to a fumble at the end of the first half. His team won by thirty-one. They ran for 300 yards and grudgingly passed for 100.
It was the greatest three hours of Jed Smithson's life, and pretty all right for Michigan fans watching on TV.
Michigan stewed for a week after intercepting away the Notre Dame game and came back resolved to boringly suffocate opponents. Thanks to Greg Mattison's ability to turn anything more coordinated than a tube sock into a functional defensive tackle and those things on Denard Robinson that aren't arms—leargs or something—their first experiment in 1970s death football was a resounding success. There were no interceptions, and one lost fumble. Michigan won by many points.
Iowa fan Adam Jacobi crashed in the guest room en route to and from Blogs With Balls 5; at some point he complained that his job required him to actually watch that incredibly dull game from start to finish, and the two halves of my brain high-fived each other. I have taken walks to the other end of sanity where Michigan beats Illinois 67-65 or loses to Penn State 41-31 and feel like settling down with a vacuum cleaner repair manual for a while just now. There are worse things than boredom.
Call it Lloydball or MANBALL or Every Michigan Game Before 1986 or whatever. The plan was obvious, and executed, and would have resulted in a resounding victory even if Purdue hadn't thrown in a free touchdown. Lloydmanbopigball it was, and it was beautiful for being so ugly.
After Michigan's first drive, a 17-play Viking saga that ended with a one yard plunge into the endzone, I told twitter that was the second half of the Notre Dame game continued. As that expanded into the whole game it seemed like Jesus had indeed been come to by both Al Borges and Denard Robinson. Borges put his head down and rammed various players into the line; Robinson threw the ball away once and pulled the ball on the read option lots.
How long will it last? Ask again later. This was an easy game to get away from your comfort zone as a playcaller, what with the enormous lead and the instant success and the 9.8 YPC from the quarterback. When things get tight and boredom threatens to send Michigan into a grim Big Ten loss with both teams in the teens, will Borges and Denard be able to find a middle ground that does not lead to crippling interceptions? Will folks be blocked, will throws be on, will anything be anything?
We've seen these moments before, moments where Michigan dials it back for Denard. Once that works and everyone's feeling good about themselves, the playbook sets to exploring the exact contours of Denard's competency, usually with slate gray results. Trash Tornado. Iowa. Etc.
At some point this year Michigan may be forced into dropping back and throwing over and over again; let's make sure we give the leisure suit offense every chance to succeed before flinging the doors open to this modernity business. Given the state of the league there's a pretty decent chance that gold chains and chest hair are all you need to make reservations in Pasadena.
Boring, Boring Bullets
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point of the week. This could go to Denard Robinson, obviously, but in the aftermath of a 213 yard performance by the opposing offense it feels more appropriate to hand it to Jake Ryan, whose sack leads this column. He picked up a second TFL, as well; more importantly he was tasked with sitting out on the perimeter against trips sets and annihilating anyone who took a step backwards in preparation for a WR screen.
Purdue was so discombobulated by this their WR-screen-heavy offense was reduced to a series of short passes in front of JT Floyd that were unsustainable as a method for driving the field. Ryan's performing at an All Big Ten level, easy.
Honorable mention: Al Borges (running the damn ball), Brady Hoke (for establishing the tone on the first drive by going for it on fourth down and likely for sitting Borges down and saying "get the gold chains, Al, and run the damn ball"), Denard Robinson (for running the damn ball), Kenny Demens (six solo tackles including the key stuff on Purdue's first three and out), defense in general.
Epic Double Point standings.
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass), Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama)
I be like dang. When you only throw 16 times, your freshman tight end is not going to get a ton of looks but um guys I think he's pretty good anyway.
That's Funchess's third and long catch that set M up on the goal line, which was impressive on the TV and more so in that shot. Mandich watch still won't return this week—may not return until Michigan has completed the Denard era if the ground game keeps this pace up—but I'm pretty sure he'll get there even with a freshman year detour into a 1970s offense.
Funchess did get pushed out of bounds on a long wheel route later, but I'm not sure if that's on him or just excellent coverage by the Boiler safety checking him.
Shoeless Shoelace. I don't remember more than one or two incidents in Denard's career where his shoe actually came off until this year, when it seems there's a 50-50 shot that any long run will feature one of Denard's socks. Tighten up that velcro, man.
Denard given time. …makes better decisions, and he's often given time because of his legs. Your nervous "oh God is Denard going to throw an INT" sickness was finally—at long last, sir—unnecessary, as on third and long Michigan just dropped back and threw, no funny stuff. The Funchess catch above saw Denard step forward in the pocket and shoot that ball in between three defenders:
Rollouts probably can't be dumped entirely but reducing them, as they were reduced in this game, is a good idea.
If someone on the schedule can stop Michigan's offense from the Purdue game and put up enough points to win, tip your cap and say "well done." I'm not sure anyone in the Big Ten eligible for the postseason can do both.
The Fitz issue. I don't know, man. I think some of his ineffectiveness was on Denard, who gave when he should have kept a couple times. Some of it was on the line, which was not getting creases except when the veer made it easy to do so. And some of it was on Toussaint, who got impatient and started going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.
There was a particularly egregious instance in the second half where the line had gotten decent push and he could have gotten three to five by running up the backs of his linemen; he decided to go backwards around a Lewan kickout and got a yard for his trouble. He is getting impatient.
I'm not sure Rawls is going to be much of a solution because the veer is Michigan's best play and a moose like that is not going to be much of a threat going laterally as that play demands the RB do. I wouldn't mind seeing Norfleet get some cracks at that, though.
As for Rawls, Michigan can fit him into the spread offense. Think Brandon Minor: a lot of plays that go right upfield. Michigan tried a couple belly plays against ND and got defeated by shifts into the 3-4; that shouldn't be a problem going forward and is a way to get a power back going straight downhill at the snap.
Where is the stuff that fits with the other stuff? The one lingering issue with the offense was a lack of play action off the plays Michigan actually runs. I count two first down passes in the entire game(!), one of them a bubble to Gallon, the other a long bomb also to Gallon that was IIRC run from under center. Michigan's other attempt to get a big gainer was a shot at Funchess down the sideline that played off the throwback screen that always works (even when it's deflected).
That was covered pretty well, and I get why. After watching Borges for a year and a half he has a tendency to iterate through different things you can do with a new (or recycled from a while back) package. He runs that fly sweep off the veer look, then runs the veer, then runs play action. He runs the throwback screen, then runs play action off that throwback screen. He runs an iso from the gun, then runs play action from iso from the gun. He runs a pitch play, then runs a halfback pass off the pitch. The pattern may be too obvious to get guys wide open downfield.
If you're running play action off stuff you run a lot, not just once, it become a lot harder to say to yourself "okay, this time they're going to fake it." As long as Michigan's staple plays don't have ways to dick with the safeties built in, there will be a lot of Epic Viking Saga drives and not much of the five-play, 80-yard stuff. That could come back to bite M against the better teams in the league.
Here's hoping that Michigan has it but decided to keep all that stuff under wraps for another week since there was no point at which Michigan needed to do anything other than choke the game out after the Taylor INT. I'm still waiting for Michigan to get a wide open dude way downfield.
Speaking of that bomb to Gallon. I'm just like man you gotta be a half-foot taller there, Jeremy Gallon. No excuse for still being 5'9" as a redshirt junior.
Raymon Taylor entered a "free touchdown" coupon code. The game swung from plausible matchup to laugher on the fourth and two on which TerBush throws high and the WR deflects it directly to Taylor's meh coverage for a touchdown—that's 14-7 or 14-3 versus 21-0 and kind of a big deal. Given the yardage disparity, not enough of a big deal that it could have flipped the game but it is a big swing.
Holy pants defense. Film necessary to be sure but the DL kept those linebackers clean and kept contain, which led to a lot of nice sticks in or around the LOS. Kenny Demens set the tone when he shut down an outside run that looked like it was going to pick up a first down for the Boilers; he was allowed to do so because the DTs didn't allow anyone to get to him on the second level. Funny how he looks like a better player when he's not getting cut by multiple 260 pound Air Force guys on the same play.
Purdue's rushing output in this game was awe-inspiringly terrible. Restore seventeen yards lost on two sacks and Purdue still only gets to 73 yards on the day, barely over three yards a carry.
Purdue's only other relevant datapoint comes against a Notre Dame defense that's looking elite after a 41-3 stomping of Miami. Remove sacks and Purdue averaged 4.3 yards an attempt there—point Michigan.
Illinois hasn't put up more than 14 against a BCS opponent yet and have only managed to crest 300 yards once, that thanks to an 87 yard drive at the end of the Penn State game while down 35-7, so expect another outing like the last two before the Michigan State and Nebraska games define Michigan's season.
Kickoff WTF. The wind was not a factor Saturday so why did Wile cease booting things deep into the endzone? Did he get tired? Is he inconsistent? Is Michigan doing this on purpose for some reason, like maybe forcing a turnover when a returner tries to make a tough running catch?
We saw Michigan start screwing around with kickoffs in the UMass game, put all available into the endzone against ND, put all available into the endzone against Purdue until Michigan was up 14, and then more screwing around. Tentative guess is that it's experimentation with the new rules and that wind permitting we won't see anything fancy tried against MSU or Nebraska unless they've got something in their pocket.
A shorter version:
Bryan Fuller's full photoset can be found in a previous post.
Denard didn’t throw any interceptions, and actually threw a ball out of bounds. Whoo-hoo!!!
Remembering the Touchdown Rabbit.
I think it was easy to believe that "Bad Denard" was going to show up because we only tend to remember the last thing we have seen. But Denard's apology after the Notre Dame game, and all of the right things we heard from the team and the coaches during the bye week* brought me to the conclusions that this was going to be an OK day. It didn't make me any less fearful about the game, but I had staked out my position ahead of the game on that ground.
I'm all like man how do you even get Bad Denard when he throws 16 times. It's a lot harder, at least.
Also I can't agree with this bit from Touch The Banner…
Denard Robinson zone read anger. Twice in this game, Robinson held onto the ball too long before pulling it out of the running back's stomach. The first time it worked okay for him because he gained a bunch of yards, even though his running back (Toussaint or Smith, I can't remember) got smoked. The second time it was disastrous because he got Smith crushed and, oh yeah, Robinson fumbled the ball in the process. He gains a lot of yards because he's a dynamic runner, but he's never been adept at running those plays.
…when yanking the ball from his running back was something he did three times for huge gains on the veer. Michigan stayed away from a lot of reads when he was a sophomore and then de-emphasized them when Borges came in; we haven't been given a chance to see what would happen if he is put in a situation where he's doing it all the time. Probably too late now, but declaring anger after ten yards a carry against a DL featuring a first round pick that held ND to like 50 yards rushing… uh.
JAKE RYAN – After watching #47 do his thing again, one word came to mind – MANSTER. In the late ‘70s, Bob Ufer recalled how UM D-Tackle Chris Godfrey was called “manster” by fellow wolverine Ron Simpkins. Why manster? He was half man, half monster. Jake Ryan – ‘nuff said!
Michigan came out and did exactly what I hoped it would do: run, run, run. In my preview post for this game, I predicted (hoped, really) that Borges would call a run-heavy game, something to the tune of a 65:35 run-pass split. The Gorgeous One blew that figure away, with Michigan running it 51 times (not including the kneel downs) and passing only 16 times, good for a 76:24 run-pass split. It was the perfect gameplan for a team like Purdue: good tackles and good corners (with good playmaking ability) but not much else, particularly at linebacker, is basically a flashing neon sign saying RUN DENARD.
This game was also another building block in the not-so-straw house of Michigan's defense. This Boilermaker offense, while not prolific, is still the most recent team to score an offensive touchdown on Notre Dame and had properly rolled the cupcakes you would expect from a good offense (48 against Eastern Kentucky, 54 against Eastern Michigan, and 51 against Marshall). Putting aside Raymon Taylor's gift pick-six* Michigan held Purdue to just 56 yards on 26 carries (2.2 YPC) and only 157 yards through the air on 23/35. Perhaps the most promising stat of the game is that Michigan's top four tacklers were all front-seven guys (Kenny Demens, Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, and Craig Roh). Michigan was controlling the line of scrimmage and hitting Purdue ball carriers at the point of attack. When Jordan Kovacs only makes one tackle in a dominating defensive performance, you know things are looking up.
Linking this just for the bizarre headline:
Pur"don’t": A Gravy Train With Biscuit Wheels
iseewhatyoudidthere.jpg AND lolwutpear.jpg in the same headline: well done.
Purdue POV. As you might imagine, the Purdue folk are not taking Saturday well. Purdue: Saturday :: Michigan : Alabama game.
From the opening drive by Michigan yesterday Purdue was simply outmanned, outclassed, and quite frankly outcoached. Purdue looked lost on offense for much of the game and seemed completely baffled that Denard Robinson was running with the ball. Everyone knew coming in that Robinson was THE GUY that Purdue needed to stop in order to defeat Michigan. Purdue failed miserably to do that. Robinson ran for 235 yards in the game. That’s more yardage than Purdue had on offense. Wrap your head around that.
That was an embarrassing display in Ross-Ade Stadium this afternoon. Truly shameful. There's simply no way Michigan is that much better than Purdue. And to lose like that at home? In the first conference game of the season? When there are high hopes and getting off to a good start could quite possibly catapult you into the Big Ten title game? Much more easily than in most years? To come out like that and just stink up the joint so disgracefully?
Aaand Boiled Sports:
If you didn't watch it, congratulations. Those hours that you spent coaching your children, watching better football, gardening, painting, napping or hunting for the perfect pumpkin were hours well-spent. But the three hours that I spent in one of my favorite places in the world, I'll never get back.
Postgame thread from Hammer And Rails:
I love Purdue football and basketball like a battered spouse loves their abuser, which is why I continue to spend my hard earned money to watch games like Saturday’s debacle. I am more disappointed for the program and students than anything. This was a chance to get some fans back. This was an opportunity to win some hearts and minds. No such luck. The fact the game wasn’t sold out was sad. The michigan fans sitting behind me were semi-mocking the stadium and number of fans and I could say nothing because they were right. …
I don't know why some of you guys have to hit the special ed kid in the face. BE NICE.
MSM stuff. Michigan is ranked in the AP poll. I'm not sure where but probably first. Air Force and getting pounded by Alabama still distorting Michigan's pass D stats. Michigan had lots of time of possession, so therefore they outgained Purdue 2-1. I'm pretty sure that's the direction it goes.
Hoke is grumbling about penalties in the manner of an affronted walrus:
"We had some bad penalties, really three dumb penalties," Hoke said. "We don't want to play football that way."
This is a good sign when you have four penalties all game.
Grades of A for everyone! Except you, Fitz. Angelique suggests that maybe the defense is okay. Denard ties Ron Dayne for most B10 offensive player of the week awards. M-MSU won't have a set gametime until October 20th. Also Joe Rexrode should explore the "rotate" option in his friendly local paint program.
ESPN predicts M to the Rose Bowl.
9/29/2012 – Georgia 51, Tennessee 44
[WHAT THIS IS: I took the opportunity presented by the Michigan bye week to head down to Georgia and take in an ESS-EEE-CEE game with Spencer Hall, Doug Gillett, and Michael of Braves and Birds and SBN Atlanta. I'd gone to an Auburn game a few years back because a good friend is an Auburn guy and acquired a taste for college football tourism, which is why I went.]
You go on a plane and get off of it and eventually you end up in the upper deck of a stadium far more vertical than Michigan's and look down at everything and in that moment you get the full weight of college football.
When it's your fandom, you've got a lifetime of dog-kicking and air-walking that tethers you to the larger institution. On Sunday I ended up watching most of the Falcons-Panthers game with a couple of Falcons fans who had mostly contempt for the larger NFL*. When you're just there to catch some football, you can appreciate the thing itself. On Saturday, I wiped the corners of my eye when Georgia put that Herschel Walker run on the screen and saw Orson do the same when they put a solo trumpeter in the corner of the upper deck to play the opening notes of the Battle Hymn of the Republic as Larry Munson said the same thing he always has.
Neither of us gives a damn about Georgia; both of us are pledged to other outfits. Doesn't matter. The weight of the institution is heavy, and genuine, and involves weird things that evoke Ghostbusters…
…and that Herschel Walker run. There's a dog on the opponent's sideline with an air conditioned house, and Tyler Bray is about to take the field. Football.
I was pretty sure the guy who would leave the lasting impression would be Jarvis Jones, Georgia's missile OLB/DE. He'd spent most of Georgia's game against Missouri flossing Tiger QB James Franklin's teeth and promised to do so again against college football's leading artillery piece, Tyler Bray. That was not to be the case. Jones did little, and I left thinking "I saw Tyler Bray play."
Bray is not great. He may be good, but it's hard to tell on a Tennessee team that can't run the ball or stop the run or maintain leverage even one damn time in a three-hour football game. This only increases the enjoyment of watching Bray play as he tries to cover up for Tennessee's myriad other flaws. Bray is gonna Bray. We have Derek Dooley to thank for this.
Several times a game you will see Bray decide to unleash the dragon well before it's clear this is a good idea. If you see Bray lean back, the ball is going 40 to 60 yards. He will do this ages before it's clear this is a good idea. Bray don't care. You will see teams of orange-pantsed gnomes wind the kid up as the play develops. He'll sidestep a rusher (or fumble) as the gnomes get a satisfying CHUNK out of Bray and he clicks further back. Once sufficient chunks have been chunked, the ball will zing out of Bray's hand at lethal speeds, destination unknown but awesome.
After Georgia rolled out to a 27-10 lead that was one fluky pick-six away from being game over, they did neutrals a favor by taking a shotgun to their foot repeatedly at the end of the first half. After the first of these, the game became a series of spectacular MMA knockouts. Orson and I ended independently going "OHHHHHHHHHH" and jumping up and down and laughing when Bray would laser a flat-footed pass 60 yards downfield into coverage for a completion, or do the same for an interception, or fumble, or throw a perfect deep ball that Cordarelle Patterson would drop, or chop a linebacker down as Patterson turns a failed trick play into a knee-slapping did-you-see-that winding touchdown run that took him from one side of the field to the other.
By the fourth quarter, the Bray lean was Christmas morning. On Tennessee's second to last drive, he tossed a back-foot laser to Patterson 30 yards downfield (dropped), then leaned back to hurl a spectacular NFL interception twenty yards downfield on a line. On UT's last drive he scrambled around in the pocket, leaning back the whole way until he fumbled, ending the Vols' hopes. Bray finished 24 for 45 with two touchdowns, a third eighty-yarder dropped, three interceptions, and a lost fumble.
I have seen Tyler Bray play football, and it was everything it could have possibly been. He's three hours of jumping up and down and going "OHHHHH" as you feel a stadium you don't belong to lurch back and forth queasily, in a place that puts the weight of Herschel Walker on your shoulders.
*[As they should, since this is a league that looks at fourth and one for the game with Cam Newton at QB and says "punt." Rod Gilmore swells with pride, NFL.]
Obligatory Comparison Bullets
Apparently I only do this when Michigan has two losses. M was 1-2 in 2008 when I went to Auburn.
Auburn test: passed. The weirdest thing about that Auburn game a few years back was preparing to stand and yell on what would eventually be LSU's gamewinning drive, looking around, and having to sit down sheepishly because no one else in the section thought this might be a good moment to yell their throat raw. I really needed "they s'posed to be SEC!" to be invented already to describe that.
Anyway, on two different Tennessee fourth quarter drives to tie, Georgia passed the Fans S'posed To Be SEC test. Auburn, you're on notice.
Bands. For the second straight week I was about as far away from a band as I could be—this time it was Tennessee's—and could hear them loud and clear. Unlike Notre Dame's, this had nothing to do with amplification. They were just loud as hell. Michigan either needs to figure their amplification out or start blasting it as loud as other folks, or they won't recover their lost status. The piped-in music at Georgia was significantly less frequent than it is at Michigan Stadium, FWIW.
I asked Orson, BTW, and he related that virtually all SEC games feature both bands. They're more tightly packed than the Big Ten—or at least were before expansion—but not busing the MMB down to Northwestern or Indiana or Purdue is pretty lame.
Also the MMB should play "Paint it Black," as the Georgia band did.
Chants. Georgia fans are short on them. They have a couple of generic GO X and GEOR-GIA chants but I didn't come away from the game with anything else in my head at all. Auburn was considerably different, and Michigan has a lot of inscrutable student stuff and Let's Go Blue and the wave and whatnot. [Ed-S: They bark a lot. There's also a "Who's that comin' down the line?" responsive chant the students were doing during the walk down to the stadium]
Georgia fans. A collared shirt tucked into khakis is their equivalent of OSU fans wearing jerseys. Median names are "Tad," "Chad," and "Brad." In general looked like a group of folks keenly interested in Ryder Cup updates. Extremely friendly—didn't see anything approximating crap given to Tennessee fans, or vice versa, though there weren't a whole lot of opportunities because Volunteers seemed scarce.
Michigan similarities are obvious.
Athens. Like Bray, everything it was supposed to be, at least insofar as that can be determined in a day. Gorgeous, seemed packed with things to do, kind of like an Ann Arbor that happened to be the best place in the state to catch a show. A college town with adult things in it.
SEC tailgating: great until you turn campus into Fallout. This was also a thing at Auburn I noticed: there's a lot of extremely pretty tailgating going down on the campus itself. The equivalent would be if a large portion of Michigan's tailgating was on the Diag, which is not possible because Michigan's main campus is extremely compact and the football stadium is a hike.
By contrast, a lot of Big Ten tailgating takes place in parking lots. Michigan: golf course or parking lots. Ohio State: all parking lot. ND: parking lot. PSU: not a parking lot because it is an open field. Northwestern: parking lot. Etc.
This makes for excellent tailgating, and a lot of dead grass on campus.
Desire to play Georgia: significantly incremented. I would love to go back to see winged helmets run out of the tunnel. That would be a wow experience.
Spread is dead, part XVIVII. Four years ago at Auburn I watched a guy do this:
Auburn now does the thing where the team doesn't huddle, lines up, looks ready to snap the ball, relaxes, and then looks to the sideline for the call. Whenever Auburn would do this, an elderly Auburn fan was visibly, I-can't-set-the-time-on-this-damned-VCR agitated, throwing his hands in the air in disgust. This obvious discontent seemed to spread to the other oldsters around him as the game continued.
This was during Tony Franklin's brief tenure as Auburn OC. Four years later Auburn has won a national title with a spread option and both of these teams spent a majority of their snaps in the shotgun, refusing to huddle and looking to the sideline for play checks. Now, this spread does not equal a Rodriguez spread 'n' shred or Oregon or the Air Raid or whatever, but I was struck by how much different the conventional wisdom is now. No one had a conniption fit about any of this; it was just natural.
This is bizarre.
That is all.
Orson on the game:
One scoreboard graphic is the shell game cartoon most stadiums use as interstitial entertainment. In UGA's case, a bulldog puts an order of fries beneath one of three small doghouses, and then shuffles them around quickly while fans scream out "THREEE! IT'S UNDER THREE, Y'ALL!!!"
At one point the cartoon came to a stop, and UGA pulled up one doghouse to reveal a tiny UGA. A guy behind us, in the thickest Georgia accent imaginable, cried out:
"NOOOOOO!!! YOU WANT THE FRIES, NOT THE DAWG!!!!"
Maybe it's because Tennessee fans have been beaten down by life, but I did not see a single angry word exchanged between Dawg and Vol fans in Athens on Saturday. It was really the best that the SEC can be in terms of a passionate crowd that does not spill over into being Philadelphian assholes.
Doug takes the UGA fan POV.
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."