9/13/2014 – Michigan 34, Miami (Not That Miami) 10 – 2-1
Jake Ryan did a good job of not blowing up Hendrix for penalties [Eric Upchurch]
Michigan Stadium was a roomy place on Saturday, somewhat full of cranky people waiting for an opportunity to vent their ire. They held their fire after a Gardner interception; they held their fire when Michigan was tied 10-10 with a team that hadn't won a game since 2012 midway through the second quarter.
This was a bit of a surprise. Hell, the 1997 team(!) got booed at halftime of their game against Iowa when they went into the locker room down 21-7. (This was definitely performance-related, exacerbated by a late Tim Dwight punt return touchdown. The tenor of the boo was WE KNOW YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS LET'S GOOOO and when they came out of the locker room the corresponding cheer was much louder than it usually is. But damn we used to have some expectations.)
In 2014, after seven years of mostly unrelenting failure, on the heels of a humiliating shutout in the Last Notre Dame Game, I was expecting more audible grumbles. Michigan fans held off, possibly too stunned by last week to do anything but meekly absorb events in front of them.
Then Michigan took a delay of game penalty (after a timeout!) and decided to punt from the Miami 37 with a minute left in the half. This was pure coaching malpractice that reminded a grumbly Michigan Stadium of last year's Penn State game. The boos rained down. It was loud. It was grumbly. It was statistically accurate.
As the game rolled along and Michigan proved themselves about as superior as you'd think they should be, this game receded from the hateful constellation of lower-level matchups that turned into stomach-churning wins or even losses.
When you end up giving up fewer than 200 yards to an opposing offense you've established that they are very bad and you are not. Eventually Michigan's ground game kicked in and put up similar YOU ARE BAD numbers. Erase some pretty random turnovers (deflected pass at the line, redshirt freshman pop-up kickoff fumble) and this is 45-0 or thereabouts.
I know you don't believe turnovers are random, person on the internet who I am anticipating a "LOL" comment from, but even you have to admit that when a throw goes from probably on target to directly in the chest of an opposing player because it glances off a fingertip that's just life giving you the middle finger, and not—oh you just said MAKE PLAYS in seriousness on the radio nevermind this sentence. Players make plays. Etc.
Anyway: in retrospect I am not stressing about this game.
I was in the second quarter, like everyone else, and while I didn't actually boo—I am in the too-shocked-to-do-anything club—I agreed with it. What's more, I deeply appreciated that the people still mad enough to let someone know about it waited for the perfect moment.
When Pat Fitzgerald was asked about Northwestern fans being upset in the aftermath of the Wildcats' 0-2 start, he responded thusly.
This is a press conference answer to get behind. It is brief, quotable, and addresses the situation. Fitzgerald is not surprised that fans are upset; he is upset (he called the team "an embarrassment to anyone that ever put on the purple and white"); fans should be too.
When Brady Hoke was asked an open-ended question about his message to the fans, he said this:
As far as the fans that watch from the outside and see some of the similar issues that they saw last season, what would you say to them and how concerning is it as a coaching staff?
"If they’re truly fans they'll believe in these kids and what they've done and the hard work that they've put in. If they’re not, they won't."
To the great misfortune of someone whose words are repeated verbatim on the internet, he would later claim to be misquoted. At least he has been told that knocking the fans who pay his salary and are currently leaning towards "tar and feather" over "put FOR SALE signs on front lawn" is not great, Bob.
But he has succumbed to the post-9/11 Godwin's Law: eventually someone in charge of the troops is going to tell you to support the troops, because he thinks that's the best argument he's got left. You think knocking over tinpot dictators halfway across the world with no real hope of installing anything that won't collapse the minute you leave is a bad idea? Support the troops, buddy. Why don't you support the troops?
So kudos to Michigan Stadium for holding its fire until the guy on the sideline with the timeout blundered his way into a fourth and eleven punt that went into the endzone on the fly. It was 1000% clear who was and was not supported at that moment.
Michigan is at least tolerant of the troops even when they're struggling against Not That Miami. Michigan is pissed off at the guys in charge. No amount of deflection will hide that fact.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. #1 is Derrick Green, who was often the recipient of gaping holes but hit them and even made some yards himself.
#2 is Jourdan Lewis, who turned in excellent coverage all day and came up with an excellent interception.
#3 is Brennen Beyer, because it is impossible to really distinguish between the various guys whipping up on Miami's OL but Beyer got a sack.
Epic Double Point Standings.
6: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP), Willie Henry (#2 ND), Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
This was a one yard run but let us sit and savor the fact that even against a terrible defense Michigan had a touchdown that looked like this.
Honorable mention: Jake Butt shakes free for a fake screen(!) touchdown, something we haven't seen since Hoke's arrival. Jourdan Lewis runs a guy's fade for him, picks off a ball thrown too far inside. Dennis Norfleet and the KO unit execute a right-sided return on a kick to the left out to the 50. Derrick Green breaks backside and breaks a tackle for a 20-yard gain.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Devin Funchess standing on the sideline because Michigan threw him a bubble screen halfway through the fourth quarter of a 31-0 game.
Honorable mention: Delay of game ack ack ack, Gardner interception (deflected, FWIW), kickoff mishap, Darboh fumble, various early runs that didn't go anywhere.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
[After the JUMP: getting it together, strangling the opposing offense, and goodbye gun.]
WITH AUTHORITY [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
The gulf between box score and eye test is vast this evening.
The box score says Michigan gave hapless Miami their 19th straight loss with authority, outgaining the RedHawks 460-198, moving the ball well on the ground (6.1 YPC) and through the air (8.4 YPA), and ultimately cruising to a 24-point victory.
My eyes saw Michigan cough up three turnovers in the second quarter, allowing Hapless Miami to tie the game at ten apiece and hang around for a while.
The box score shows that Miami scored ten points against the Wolverine defense, but the eyes know those should be charged against Michigan's offense, as those scoring drives covered all of 26 and 21 yards following U-M turnovers.
The box score doesn't contain a giant red "WTF" flag. My eyes saw this at the end of the first half:
You can click to enlarge that picture, or I can just tell you that Michigan ran a four-minute drill with zero urgency or effectiveness. After Michigan tried to run a quick play on fourth-and-1, only for Miami to call a timeout before the snap, Brady Hoke decided to punt on 4th-and-6 from the Miami 37 when the Wolverines took a delay of game penalty coming out of that timeout. The decison to punt was so surprising Miami didn't put out a returner, then called a timeout of the "you can't be serious" variety. Finally, U-M took another delay of game to give Will Hagerup more room to boom a punt that hit the end zone on the fly.* Insert giant red "WTF" flag here.
The box score shows Devin Gardner had an efficient 184 yards and two TDs on 20 attempts, with one lone interception blemishing his stat line. The eyes saw his mechanics, which are all over the place, and at least two should-be interceptions hit the turf or, in the case of Jake Butt's first catch, get rescued by a great effort on the receiver's part. In fairness to Gardner, the box score also doesn't show that his interception was tipped at the line.
A crease, that. [Upchurch]
The box score and eye test agree on a couple things, at least. The offensive line did a fine job opening up holes after Miami stopped packing the box with eight defenders; when the RedHawks had to adjust to account for Michigan's wide-open receivers, Derrick Green went off, finishing the game with 137 yards and a pair of scoring runs on 22 carries. Green showed off patience, vision, and the decisive cuts necessary for success in a zone running scheme, and the numbers say as much.
Amara Darboh also looked good as he stepped into a starting role with Devin Funchess in street clothes; the redshirt sophomore caught six passes for 88 yards and Michigan's first touchdown—when he caught a quick slant and powered through a tackle to poke the ball across the plane—though he did lose a fumble during that stressful second quarter. Jake Butt looked healthy after playing sparingly against Notre Dame, finishing with three catches for 59 yards and a score on a clever fake screen called by Doug Nussmeier.
The defense thoroughly dominated Miami. RedHawks QB Andrew Hendrix could only muster 165 yards with one TD and one INT on 26 passes. The Miami passing game fared a whole lot better than their running game, which managed a paltry 33 yards on 24 attempts. The defensive front looked great, and even without starters Ray Taylor and Jarrod Wilson, the secondary held strong. Jourdan Lewis recorded his first career interception with a leaping grab on the sideline, while Jabrill Peppers impressed with his physical man coverage, forcing throw after throw to sail into the sideline.
The box score, which must be taken into account—our lyin' eyes being what they are—says Michigan turned in a dominant performance, with the final score a bit deceiving thanks to those turnovers. While it took longer than anyone hoped or expected, the Wolverines ultimately dispatched a bad team with relative ease.
On my drive home, however, I'll remember the groans that accompanied Hagerup's ill-fated punt, and the boos that followed the team into the tunnel, and I'll wonder what that kind of first-half performance would result in next week, when a plucky Utah squad coming off a bye week visits the Big House. The mental image isn't a pleasant one.
*Apologies for initially screwing up this sequence of events; now edited for accuracy, though the general "WTF" feeling stands, of course. This was horrible clock management and an infuriatingly conservative call in a one-score game against an overmatched opponent.
File. Today was a blue polo day.
News bullets and other items:
Kyle Kalis’ back is fine, but Hoke cautioned that it could always flare up again
Jake Butt and Delano Hill will not play Saturday. Hill will likely be back next week.
Drake Harris and Ian Bunting could be redshirted
Ty Isaac’s hardship waiver was denied; Michigan appealed the decision last week
"Okay, everybody ready? You ready? Thanks for coming. We have 72 hours until we kick it off. We’re excited about that and I think that’s something that every team in this country -- you've been practicing against each other, you've been doing things against each other. Our preparation has been good. I think there's a couple of things we are trying to teach every day are the good habits that you want from a fundamental and technique standpoint and so that's a goal for us. A goal for us [is] to play fast and play physical every Saturday with consistency.
“Yesterday we had to come inside which we didn't really want to, but that storm kind of came through and put us back inside but we had a good practice. We have continually, and Nuss[meier] has done this, done wet ball drills every week even when we've been outside so if we can get in those conditions, which we have a good chance to all the time in the fall. But mental errors, we had a little bit too many of those. We want to make sure we clean those up today but it was a good physical practice. We've got to clean up some areas though when you look at some of the mental errors on both sides of the ball."
Are all openers special no matter who the opponent is?
"Yeah, I think anytime [because] you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Also, as you go out there you want to see what kind of team and where you're at. I think it's important that every week you get improvement from your team and so this will be a starting point obviously that we'll have this weekend."
Are Delano [Hill] and Jake [Butt] the only ones that you're still worried about from an injury standpoint?
"Jake definitely will not play. Delano won't play. I think he'll be ready next week."
What's Drake Harris' status?
"He won't play. He's back in practice now and he's missed a lot of football so there's a good chance he'll be a redshirt this year."
What's your timetable for naming captains for this game and how will you inform them?
"Well, I'm going to meet with the seniors again and [the] leadership group and we’ll name them sometime before the game."
Maurice wasn't on the depth chart…
"He's on there. He's got a good chance of playing for us. It's just, how many guys do you want to list?"
Talk about what you plan to do with the rotation there. Is it going to be quite a bit?
"Well, we're going to start with the guys who are out there, the guys who are first up on the list unless they absolutely don't practice like they need to. I'm assuming that won't happen. Then we'll really just take it how the game goes. There's a good chance that if you're looking at certain positions, especially the interior of our front, I think all those guys are going to play some football for us."
[After THE JUMP: Kyle Kalis’ injury, tight ends, and a Ty Isaac waiver update]
Butt don't fail me now [Adam Glanzman]
|Joe Kerridge||Jr.*||Khalid Hill||Fr.*||AJ Williams||Jr.||Jake Butt||So.|
|Sione Houma||Jr.||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.*||Keith Heitzman||Jr.*||Ian Bunting||Fr.|
Just when we'd split out the various gradations in blocky-catchy guys into its own section of the preview, Al Borges had to go and get himself fired. Cumong, man.
They're all still on the roster and Michigan's going to try to use them so we're sticking with it. This section of the preview consists of everyone who isn't quite a skill position player and isn't quite an offensive linemen. Let's reprise last year's explanation of what is what to orient ourselves:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- U-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
- FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: every ND tight end ever.
And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.
Kerridge hits his upperclass years, also linebackers [Maize and Blue News]
Same guys, potentially less of a role. Doug Nussmeier comes from a one-back coaching tree, and one-back guys are usually a lot more interested in putting two tight ends on the field than a fullback, because fullbacks don't threaten vertically. Given the situation at tight end and the need to bash out a yard or three on the regular, these guys will still be involved. Just maybe not quite as much.
JOE KERRIDGE remains the starter here and should hold on to that designation. It seems like he's been around forever already and he's still got a year left after this one; now is the time for him to start imposing himself on opponents. He did a fair job of doing so last year:
|CMU||4.5||-||4.5||FBs did well.|
|Notre Dame||7.5||1||6.5||Isos were a high point.|
|Akron||2||-||2||Blocks got cut away from.|
|UConn||1.5||2||-0.5||Not heavily involved.|
|Minnesota||6||3.5||2.5||Let some guys under him.|
|Penn State||1||0.5||0.5||Blocks couldn't even become relevant.|
|Nebraska||6.5||3.5||3||Got good movement.|
|NW||3||1.5||1.5||Soon to be a WR.|
|Iowa||4.5||1||3.5||Good game, quasi third-down back.|
When the blocking was good enough to make him relevant he did his job, and did it well. It was not all terrific, as he had some questionable plays against Minnesota:
But by the end of the year he was taking a bunch of snaps as a pass protector on throwing downs, acting as Gardner's lead back on occasion, and even catching things out of the backfield. I didn't chart the OSU game but I did review it and Kerridge had a quality day highlighted by this thunderous block:
My God man. I heard that this place's Heap of Smoked Linebacker was excellent, but the descriptions do not do it justice. That is Dudley-worthy there.
Nussmeier isn't likely to deviate from his belief that tight ends on or near the line of scrimmage are much more threatening to a defense than fullbacks, but when Michigan absolutely must scatter a linebacker's equipment across the field, Kerridge will be the weapon of choice.
[After THE JUMP: I googled Jake Butt's name so by god you are going to read the things I have to say about Jake Butt.]
Shooting for the "most times a single GIF hits the front page" record.
Michigan lost one of the most genuinely enjoyable players to watch in recent memory with the graduation of Jeremy Gallon, and unfortunately, I don't think we'll be seeing a 5'8" dude with rocket boots and a cloaking device breaking school receiving records again anytime soon.
That said, the Wolverines don't lack players that can make your jaw drop. Inspired by this Matt Hinton piece on college football's most exciting players, here's my list of the Wolverines who should provide the most entertainment this season. Take note: this isn't a rundown of the best players, but a subjective list of who I think will be the most fun to watch—it's ordered by position, since what constitutes "fun to watch" varies wildly from person to person.
QB Devin Gardner
An obvious choice, especially since some of Gardner's bad habits—namely, reversing field when under pressure—can still produce spectacular results. He's an electric runner even when not at full health. He's got a heck of an arm; this throw against Notre Dame last year simply defies explanation. He continued the grand tradition of Michigan quarterbacks hilariously punking Tanner Miller. His ability to improvise has bailed out the offense on many occasions. Yes, this sometimes gets him into trouble—I know another throw from that otherwise amazing Notre Dame performance is going through your head right now—but it also poses a threat to opponents that is extremely difficult to defend, and it's sure fun to watch when everything clicks.
WR Devin Funchess
Again, an obvious choice is obvious, as evidenced by the GIF that graces the top of this post—and that wasn't the first time Funchess leaped over an oncoming defender:
The whole "hurdles defensive backs on the run" thing is pretty great, but that's just a small part of what makes Funchess so remarkable. He's a 6'5", 230-pound former tight end with legitimate top-end speed; his movements bear the grace of a much smaller player. Even when he slips, he seamlessly recovers, and the average defensive back is going to have a very difficult time contending with his ball skills or bringing him down once he makes the catch. Oh, and having oven-mitt-sized hands allows for him to make catches like this while on a dead sprint.
If Funchess isn't on the team in 2015, it'll be because he turned in a monster year and justifiably went pro, and I don't think anybody could begrudge him that move.
[Hit THE JUMP for eight exciting players not named Devin.]
This is an actual movie. See? There are worse things than Draftageddon
Draftageddon is complete, to the relief of many of you and the heartbreak of… well, some of you. Maybe. But there are still some non-terrible football players to be discussed, so to be properly prepared for the season, let’s take a look at some of the players who were not selected, but could have been if we’d Heiko’d just a little deeper. We’ll also review who WAS taken at various positions and take a quick gander at the position group as a whole. If you want to go back and read our snark, on any of the players, the hyperlinks on players' names will take you to the relevant articles.
Who was taken:
Joel Stave, Wisconsin – Threw for 7.4 YPA with 22 TDs, 13 INTs. He’s a game manager, though not a particularly inspiring one. Stave didn’t exceed 9 YPA in any game against a power conference team, despite a massively effective running game behind him. Wisconsin’s passing game stagnated last half of the season, and as a result, Stave is theoretically battling w/ Tanner McEvoy for the starting job. Stave will almost certainly win the job, but he’s returning to a gutted receiving corp: Wisconsin loses their four leading receivers, including Jared Abbrederis & Jacob Pederson. Their leading returning receiver had 127 yards. Way more red flags than green ones.
Jake Rudock, Iowa – Threw for 6.9 YPA with 18 TDs and 13 INTs. These are not inspiring numbers, especially for a quarterback with a solid running game behind him. Another game manager type, Rudock didn’t throw for more than 256 passing yards in any game, and didn’t crack 9 YPA against any non-Purdue opponent. Meh.
Trevor Siemian, Northwestern – Was a pretty stoppable Throw God last year, throwing for 7.2 YPA with 11 TDs and 9 INTs. In B1G play he went for 4 TDs and 0 INTs against Illinois… and 3 TDs and 7 INTs against the rest of the conference. He seemed to regress over the course of the year (along with Northwestern’s entire offense), and whether it is the result of missing Venric Mark (SIT DOWN, SETH) or just Northwestern not being that good, it’s hard to expect great things this year.
OVERALL – Braxton, then a few guys, then wheeeeeeeeeee. Despite the gap in draft rounds between the second and third quarterbacks taken, there is a solid tier just below Miller that includes Devin Gardner, Christian Hackenberg, and Connor Cook (and potentially Nate Sudfeld or CJ Brown, but probably not). Beyond that, you’re looking at uninspiring game manager-types, young guys prone to moments of WTF, and Gary Nova. Michigan is very much in the “haves” half of the draw in this respect, so be pleased.
[After THE JUMP: other positions, as you probably guessed.]