The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
henri the otter of ennui
11/14/2009 – Michigan 24, Wisconsin 45 – 5-6, 1-6 Big Ten
Well, I finally broke: I've checked out emotionally. This happened last year, too, and the game columns from the on were pleas for something else to do and grim, brief recaps of the latest indignity. It's progress of a sort that it took eleven games for the team to TKO any interest in what might happen the rest of this year, but it's not a fun sort of progress.
A serious thematic analysis of the Wisconsin game is pointless. Michigan's defense is exactly as horrifying as it's been all year. Everyone wants to fight each other in the liveblog. When the MGoPosse assembled to record this week's podcast, Paul said "at least we didn't muff a punt" and I responded "they didn't punt." (It turns out they did punt once in the first half, and Junior Hemingway misjudged a short one, almost fumbling it.)
Today I'll go on the radio and say the exact same things I've been saying all season to people who say the exact same things they've been saying all season. Here I could either repeat the assertion that firing Rodriguez after two years is idiotic or the description of what this season turned into in the third quarter of the Illinois game. Nothing has changed, and there's nothing to say when the team is turning in uncompetitive loss after uncompetitive loss.
There is an increased chance that sometime today I will read or hear something that cause my entire body to crumple and my head to thump audibly on the desk. So I guess that's different. Not different: for the second straight year the Ohio State week is only welcome because after it there won't be this unpleasant thing that happens every Saturday. The Notre Dame game seems like another decade.
- Surprised that Mouton and Ezeh got the whole game after their backups played at least as well as they did against Purdue. I guess there were huge busts by both Fitzgerald and Leach, but… um… right.
- Seriously: after Wisconsin completed their sixth or seventh big gain over the middle because Ezeh and Mouton were hugely out of position on zone drops, I was begging for the backups. No dice. The prospect of starting these guys next year is not fun.
- I'm betting the adjustment Wisconsin made to their running game was to start doubling defensive linemen for real and leaving the linebackers to their own devices, or down-blocking them on their slants and getting outside where the linebackers are on their own. Michigan was shooting into the backfield a ton early.
- Poor Brandon Graham: if Michigan would just cover anyone for two seconds he would have an incredible number of sacks this year. It wasn't Graham who had the most frustrating non-sack on Saturday, though. Stevie Brown came free up the middle on a third and five in the third quarter and Tolzien nailed a wide open tight end for a first down. That turned into the drive Wisconsin used to go up three scores, salting the game away.
- Vincent Smith is now your tentative leader for the starting tailback job next year, though that title figures to be a ceremonial one in a sea of options. I know Shaw's had the occasional nagging injury but I think he's just beat him out, fair and square. My favorite play from Smith was the screen he took past three or four defenders in the first half. He was one desperate hand-wave by a Wisconsin safety away from
a touchdowna long run that looks like it should be touchdown but disappointingly ends short of it. He's got skills. There was one out that was incomplete that anyone else on the team would have caught by virtue of being bigger than a marmot, though.
- Brandon Smith seemed pretty mediocre on the edge. I know he didn't make any of the huge, obvious mistakes that Mike Williams did, but Wisconsin isn't the sort of team that puts you in the backfield unblocked to make a huge, obvious mistake. I bet a lot of the outside running Wisconsin did will be on Smith somehow.
- I did think Wisconsin was the grabbiest line Michigan's played against all year. Wisconsin's first drive saw Graham held twice on long completions, and while they got a number of calls later they just love getting their hands outside the shoulder pads. Default disclaimer whenever officiating as mentioned: would not have changed outcome of the game, would merely have led to more second-and-twenty conversions. Maybe I should thank the refs for mitigating the damage I would have done to my forehead and the sidewalk if I watched another guy wide open over the middle.
Stupid being correct:
UConn has reached an agreement with Michigan on a home-and-home series that will see the Huskies travel to Ann Arbor in 2010 and the Wolverines head to Rentschler Field in 2013, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Well, at least it's not a MAC school, but if Michigan was going to give up a home game I'd rather seem them play someone more interesting.
(That's Henri, The Otter of Ennui, by the way. Wave all you want: he doesn't care.)
10/25/2008 – Michigan 21, Michigan State 35 – 2-6, 1-3 Big Ten
Here's a tip for Windows users who suddenly find their computer freezes on bootup: instead of booting into safe mode and wasting a day running disk checks and searching Google for advice, just select "last known good configuration" and save yourself the trouble.
If only that worked for football teams.
It does not, so we're back with the same story again: mostly outplayed and totally outgained. The only reason it was even somewhat competitive was Michigan State's determination to waste their massive advantage in yardage, but even their essential Sparty-ness couldn't blow this one.
I was completely wrong in the preview, wherein I suggested Michigan would prove itself slightly better on a down-to-down basis and be done in by more critical errors, and I've now given up any semblance of hope the team is going to turn a corner this year. I figure they might beat Purdue since the Boilers look pretty awful; everything else looks like a stretch.
So, like, what should I do with the rest of this season? I don't have anything interesting to write about on Mondays, as you can tell, just another rehash of "Michigan is epically bad and they have just lost by many points." Game previews seem as pointless the last four games. UFRs… well, I guess I have to do those. But expending a ton of energy covering the last few games of a season that might end up 4-8 at best seems unproductive.
In fact, it's time to bring back Henri, the otter of ennui.
Henri's crushing existential dread pins him to ground. Mine makes me go play videogames. I put it to you: what should I do over the course of the next month?
- What does it take to get fired around these parts? This has been all over the place by now so you already know this, but the NCAA rulebook has a specific provision indicating that an airborne player who touches the pylon is out of bounds.
I was in the stadium so missed the analysis that followed the touchdown, but everyone was pretty sure that call was bogus from the get-go, and I privately wondered if this could possibly be the work of the infamous Jim Augustyne and, yes, it was.
Augustyne was the guy responsible for what's now the second-worst call in Big Ten history when he ruled that Chad Henne's incomplete forward pass was indeed a fumble and awarded Domata Peko a long touchdown on the return. (That call is second-worst because it was a missed opportunity to overturn the play; on this one Augustyne actually screwed up something called correctly on the field.) Both calls required a total ignorance of the rulebook anyone who's watched football for ten or so years would know.
Augustyne should be given a gold watch and told to stay away from replay booths. Can someone dig up gambling debts and maybe an arrest or two for domestic violence?
- Michigan's inability to run against State is the last straw as far as hope for the offensive line goes. They couldn't block the Big Ten's iffiest defensive line; there's no hope until next year.
- I really don't get Michigan's decision to keep Cissoko on the bench in favor of a third (bad) safety in the nickel package. Late in the game white receiver named White (we're from White!) lined up with Charles Stewart in man coverage; his out route was open by yards and yards. As I've mentioned before, I'm willing to accept the idea Scott Shafer is working with a really shaky back seven; I'm less willing to accept the wacky tactical decisions that clearly aren't working.
- Speaking of, the one time we go to a three man line on something approximating a running down was Ringer's 60 yard touchdown.
9/4/2008 – Michigan 20, Illinois 45 – 2-3, 1-1 Big Ten
Any attempt to list the full dossier of Michigan errors over the past few weeks would provoke a cascade of emotions from the reader starting with rage and ending with full-bore ennui. Along the way we'd touch grim sarcasm, depression, contempt, fatalism, resignation, dread, and a whole host of other things that in no way relate to happiness.
So let's skip it and just say there have been a lot.
It seemed like youthful nerves or inexperience in the first couple games. Against Notre Dame it seemed like the usual screwing over by Angry Michigan Ball-Oiling God. And, hey, we beat Wisconsin and the negative events therein were supplanted in our minds by the Thompson return and the unlikely Threet gallop and so on.
All of it could have been unfortunate randomness. The true abilities of Michigan's team would be unleashed as soon as they stopped turning the ball over every ten seconds or busting coverages that left, say, a guy running wide open downfield on fourth and ten. If they don't put themselves in a 21-0 hole against Notre Dame, if they just complete those bubble screens, if they don't suck on this play or that play &c &c &c.
As more evidence piled up it became harder and harder to justify the vague hope Michigan was a competent team stuck in Charlie Weis's body (it's like Innerspace except there's no machine to shrink you), but we endured. We are fans. Until such time as you declare EVERYTHING TO BE BROKEN because THIS IS THE WORST TEAM EVER and EVERYONE MUST BE FIRED NOW NOW NOW, people strive to find whatever hope they can. And also: how can kick returners just flat dropping the ball be a replicable event? Seriously. I want to know this.
But now it's pretty hard to come to any conclusion other than "they just suck." The last straw on my pet camel's back was Steven Threet dropping back to pass with Michigan down 45-20. Untouched, he cocked his arm to throw and fumbled backwards for the fifth time in approximately four games of play. This, like Ryan Mallett's mystifying inability to receive a snap, is now an event that will happen on a depressingly regular basis. There are similar events scheduled all over the field—especially in the secondary, where someone (Charles Stewart) has miraculously supplanted Stevie Brown as the whipping safety du jour.
We've passed the point where these things could be random chance. It's just a bad team. This revelation will probably be met with "duh" from everyone who's not a Michigan fan, what with skill positions that usually read junior, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman and a coaching transition and, oh, I don't know, the nation's 110th best turnover margin. But, hey, we beat Wisconsin and for sports fans even lead balloons float when filled with hope.
My balloon is now filled with a sticky gray-green substance that smells like sewage and glows when the moon is gibbous. Saturday's event was tough to watch. While the long term outlook isn't affected much by the pratfalls to date, it's still no fun to watch 25-point beatings. Sadly, I just want to fast forward to 2010.
- I think Juice Williams may have the greatest ball fakes I've ever seen live. You know that thing where the cameraman follows someone who ends up not having the ball and freaks out when this becomes clear? I did that on like half of Illinois' runs. It was really annoying when I'd be watching the running back get tackled for no gain only for Williams to have the ball and run for a first down.
- Missing Hemingway and Stonum was a big deal, since it's obvious why Savoy can't get off the bench. Apparently the TV guys criticized the coaching on his long-bomb drop; I think the more plausible explanation is that a redshirt junior who hasn't seen any time is probably not very good.
- Holy Lord did Michigan get jacked on at least three different pass interference calls. Greg Mathews was obviously hit early on an unsuccessful third down conversion. Illinois got bailed out on third down by a PI call on a ball yards behind the receiver. Donovan Warren got shoved not once but twice on a downfield jump ball and drew no flag. The first two either ended Michigan or extended Illinois drives. The latter set up a third and two instead of a second and seventeen; the next play was the dagger Williams scramble.
- Michigan again used that goofy formation where Greg Mathews is 1) split out and 2) covered up by a receiver outside of him. They ran twice for minimal yardage. WTF?
- Despite Odoms' fumble he should definitely keep the return job. He consistently broke through the first wave of defenders and acquired Michigan excellent field position. The fumble just appeared to be a guy putting his helmet on the ball, which usually can't be helped.
- Perhaps the most disturbing event on the day was Illinois dominating the Michigan offensive line. The Illini had been shredded by all previous opponents. The offensive line is going to be an anchor around this team's neck for the remainder of the year.