Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Blake Countess, Jake Ryan, Jehu Chesson
Blake, earlier this season I remember talking to you about the secondary being a strength. Are you guys still confident that the talent’s there? I mean, you guys have given up some big plays now and then. Are you still as confident in the secondary as you were four or five weeks ago?
BC: “Oh, no doubt about it. We’re a group that’s growing just like the rest of the team and we definitely have the talent to do it. It’s just about getting better every week and proving it, but absolutely. My confidence in my secondary has not wavered at all.”
Coach Hoke has been taking a lot of heat, obviously. What do you guys talk about in the locker room? Do you guys rally around him a little bit at this point?
JR: “Yeah, I mean, we’re just trying to stick together as a team. You know, we can’t let last week affect us. We’ve got to hold our heads up and move on. It’s Big Ten season.”
[Ed. Totally inaudible, sorry]
JR: “You can’t listen to that. You know, you can’t be affected by that. You just have to block it out and, you know, these people don’t know what we’ve done behind the scenes. They don’t know what we’ve done in Schembechler Hall, but we’re just going to keep taking those necessary steps forward that we need to take to improve every single day.”
Does it tick you off, though? When you read the tweets or…
JR: “You can’t- I don’t go on the message boards and read all that stuff. You can’t do that. That’s just people’s opinions.”
[More after THE JUMP]
“Hello, everybody. I almost didn’t make it today. I was kind of busy over there trying to get ready for this next one. Somebody had to tell me to come but it’s good to see everybody. Go ahead.”
Greg, the run defense remains a strength. I know that the secondary needs some work, though. Overall, what’s your assessment of your defense through four games?
“I don’t look at four games. I always look at the last game. We didn’t win. There’s a point when you become- and that’s our goal, to become a great defense, is you do whatever you have to to win. You do whatever you have to. And that in a lot of places means don’t even let them get in the end zone in any way. Am I proud of these guys? I’ve told you from day one I really like these guys. I mean, I like how they work. I like what they bring to the meeting room every day. I like what they bring to the practice field. I like how they compete. Do we do it perfect all the time [and] have we? No. And do we have to keep working to do that? Yes. Until we do whatever we possibly have to do to get the win then we haven’t totally reached the mark.”
Coach, I’ll have you comment on a couple of things. One, the breakthrough on producing a score on defense, but then the drive that they had coming out of the second half.
“Getting the score, that’s a guy playing hard in practice every day. That’s a guy doing the things [he needs to]. That’s a guy improving, Willie Henry. That was a guy making a play that he had to make a play and we’ve talked about him, too, [and] what he’s done since the day he got here. His improvement. Becoming mature, practice habits, all that and that’s great to see that happen for him. Same thing for Frank [Clark]. That sack he got was a big league sack. Those things happen because you work hard and you practice hard.
“Coming out in the second half at half time…they got us on two plays that were corrected immediately after that happened. It’s a shame that I didn’t see it quicker. It’s a shame that I didn’t do something after the first time to eliminate- it was the exact same play that scored a touchdown on it and that’s where maybe I need to see that quicker from what happened and stop that one touchdown and, again, that’s my job. But they adjusted then and that’s how they got there. That’s what happened after [the] half.”
Jake Ryan had a career-high 13 tackles. He has an unorthodox way of doing things sometimes but gets the job done. Talk about the essence of Jake Ryan as a defensive force.
“Well, Jake and Joe [Bolden]. I’ll put them together. Your linebackers in this defense have got to make a lot of plays because you’re getting very good play out of the front in front of them. When the front demands double teams and when the front does what they’ve been doing then there are so many times when a linebacker, if he does what he’s supposed to do with his footwork, with his keys, with his recognition, is there with nobody blocking him. Now make the tackle. And their effort, Joe and Jake, their effort, their toughness, their playing what I consider linebacker, that’s been good and we’ve got to keep getting better.”
But Jake in particular. I touched on his unorthodox manner sometimes in getting the job done. Can you talk about him in particular?
“I don’t know what unorthodox is. To me, it’s when the ball carrier has the football and you tackle him, you’re playing linebacker. Sometimes they’re not picture-perfect tackles. Sometimes you may not be perfect with your footwork, stepping down and all of a sudden coming back. Jake’s been unorthodox since the day he got here. You know, that’s Jake and that’s why I love him but I can’t say it enough: Joe being in there with him, Joe doing what he’s doing- I mean, I don’t know what you had him for tackles but I had him the same way with pretty close. And we’ve just got to keep them both doing what they’re doing and it’s the front that’s helping them do that.”
[After THE JUMP: playing euchre, wrestling Hoke, and other tales of a 30-year friendship]
9/20/2014 – Michigan 10, Utah 26 – 2-2
[GIF via Ace]
We have a grainy screenshot that symbolizes the demise of the Carr era. It's a zone stretch against Ohio State on which every Buckeye has slashed through the Michigan line.
Michigan would trundle to fewer than 100 yards of total offense. Chad Henne's shoulder was separated and he was still the best available option because the only other was a freshman version of Ryan Mallett who fumbled 20% of the under-center snaps he took and got in screaming matches on the sideline. That's because the quarterbacks recruited after Chad Henne were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
By the time that Ohio State game rolled around Michigan had desperately talked Alex Mitchell out of retirement so they could start him. In that context that shot is barely surprising. And then Carr went out and beat Tim Tebow, because nobody got off the mat like Lloyd Carr.
We have just received the grainy screenshot that will symbolize the demise of the Hoke era.
As you've no doubt screamed into a pillow about already, there are ten men on the field as Utah returns a punt for a touchdown. I'm not sure that even matters since two of them are within 30 yards of the guy when he catches the ball.
This site has been complaining about the punting since Hoke's hire, and it has cost Michigan dearly in two losses—Ace Sanders also returned a punt for a touchdown in South Carolina's last-gasp Outback win—and seen Michigan dawdle at the bottom of punt return yards ceded the last two years.
Worse than the yards given up has been Brady Hoke's approach when challenged about it. Never has he given a justification that's even remotely plausible. Once he said he wasn't comfortable with it. At the time I said this was a crappy answer, and it remains a crappy answer:
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
When pressed a couple weeks ago he said "I don't want to talk about it."
As we get more data about Brady Hoke's tenure that seems less like an isolated crappy answer than the whole damn thing. Anybody with a spreadsheet and an ability to tell up from down could have put compelling evidence of the spread punt's efficacy in front of Hoke's face. Maybe they did.
It wouldn't have mattered. Brady Hoke isn't defending it, so you can't argue back. "We don't do it because we don't do it" is an unassailable position. It is not a rationale.
So it goes. Michigan has settled into a pattern of doing nonsense things, from everything on offense last year to the punting to their continuing, shocking inability to go faster than a waddle. That stat from last week about how Michigan was faster than only Army amongst D-I teams is astounding. Michigan had spent an entire half down three scores, and their tempo was still nationally worst. These things all come from the head coach.
When Michigan goes down by ten, it's over. Lloyd Carr isn't walking through that door. You want to talk leadership and toughness? Leadership turns a mob into an army. And Michigan is no army.
The worst thing is I don't really feel that bad. My main problem at the moment is the fact that I have to write this column, and then somehow eight more, and analyze a team that is unlikely to go anywhere and talk about a coach who is 95% dead man walking. I bet you can't wait for "Yup, Almost Certainly Still Fired: Episode VI". Here is the otter.
HENRI THE OTTER OF ENNUI: this does not break the record for earliest appearance
I fired off some hot takes in the stands, as did large numbers of the people around me, but once I was out of the stadium it was like "okay, now I can go do something else."
I even watched football after! A Michigan loss is supposed to be a weekend-ruining event that makes the idea of watching more football an impossibility. Now it's not a big deal, possibly because I don't recognize whatever Michigan is doing as football. I cannot be reminded of Michigan when turning on Clemson-FSU because Clemson and FSU aren't playing sludgefart.
I know this isn't an aging and maturing thing because 1) obviously and 2) I almost died just a few months ago when Kentucky hit that three-pointer. There's just nothing there to care about. So you show up, and you shrug, and you get annoyed, and then you go home. Sometimes you get wet. Meh.
It was appropriate that Hoke's downfall came amidst a biblical deluge. The Hoke era started with one against Western Michigan. The game was over when the lightning came, but I stayed. A bunch of students did, too, roaring and chanting. When the game was over the stadium was still half-full.
There was no thought of that Saturday. Everyone except the players' parents, Utah fans, and the clinically insane cleared out as soon as the stoppage was announced. Maybe half of them had already exited before the lightning hit.
When Michigan returned to play in front of the obligated and deranged, it looked like the future had finally been created.
Take the cosmic hint.
When Can We Fire This Guy Section
There is still a small (very small) chance that Michigan pulls its collective head from its collective rear and gets to 9-3, at which point a transition is probably not happening. Anything short of that and it's goodbye. Hoke is at the point where you extend or fire him and you can't extend a guy who went 8-4 in the worst Big Ten ever, presumably went 0-3 against major rivals, had at least two humiliating blowouts starring coaching incompetence.
But please don't bring up a midseason canning. Those are reserved for severe breakdowns of authority. Most importantly, firing Hoke now erases any chance there's a new athletic director by the time Michigan embarks on a coaching search.
John Beilein Being Good At Coaching Points Of The Week.
#1 Jourdan Lewis had an outstanding game, chasing things down that other people screwed up and hunting Utah wide receivers like they were weakened alpacas.
#2 Willie Henry scored Michigan's only touchdown and was part of a forceful Michigan defensive line.
#3 Devin Funchess powered through an obvious injury to bring in a number of spectacular catches and would have had an even more impactful game if Gardner was not having one of the worst games of his career.
Honorable mention: Ryan Glasgow, Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer.
Epic Double Point Standings.
7: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND, #3 UT)
5: Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA, #1 UT)
4: Willie Henry(#2 ND, #2 UT)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Trey Burke Against Kansas Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN
mr henry this is an internet meme it's not my fault please don't destroy me [Fuller]
For all the good it did. ESPN briefly gave Michigan 12 points they were so astounded, which should be the FAT GUY TD rule.
Honorable mention: Nope!
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.
Utah: Willie Henry FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Miami takes back a punt 66 yards after Michigan obliges with a line drive punt and two gunners. Oh, and they only put ten guys on the field.
Honorable mention: Interceptions. Fumbles. Hellacious rain. Everything.
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?
Utah: lol ask Brady about punt formations again
[After the JUMP: woo! naw just kiddin'.]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke thinks ball security is their biggest issue
The starting quarterback against Minnesota will be determined during the week via competing and challenging
Jourdan Lewis’ cross-field rundown that saved a touchdown was compared to a similar play Woody Hankins made in 1996 against Ohio State. The coaches show the team the Hankins play every season.
“Obviously very disappointed with the outcome of the game. I thought our kids came out very ready to play. I thought that they demonstrated that the first drive down the field and I think the defense, what they did early in the football game, was indicative of how they prepared, how they practiced, and how they got ready to play the game.
“I think obviously you have a punt return against you for a touchdown. Anything in the kicking game is momentum and we had some momentum and then we give up the touchdown on the punt return, which is very disappointing.
“You look at, from a standpoint of taking care of the football- you know, and we’ve talked a lot about that. Probably more than I would’ve liked to or you would like to talk about it but that’s one thing we’ve got to do a better job of and that’s constantly coached and we talk about it and sometimes those things happen and we’ve got to make sure we’re going back to work, working hard on it and we can’t have that happen through the Big Ten season.
“We talked as a team afterwards about what we need to do and I reminded them of the 1998 team, which was a team that went to Notre Dame- I was part of that team- and lost and then lost here at home against Syracuse and then went off and won the Big Ten or a part of the Big Ten championship. Those goals, our goals, are all out there. And I do believe we have a team that can do that. Now, you can’t play the way we did today and do that. We realize that. But we’ve got a bunch of guys in that locker room who every day work their tails off and are supportive and believe in each other.”
Brady, after a game like this when you pulled your quarterback and the score was what it was what do you see and why do you believe you can contend in the Big Ten this year?
“Yeah, and that’s a great question but I think the one thing I have that you don’t is I’m with this group of young men every day, these kids. I know how they go to work. There’s some things we did very well today. We did some things not as well as we needed to. And we’ve got to improve on that. We’ve got to go back to work. It starts with me as the head football coach. It starts with the assistants [and] everyone who’s in Schembechler Hall. We’ve got to do a better job for those kids.”
The incident on the sidelines with you and Greg Mattison right before or right after the penalty, was that a little loss of control there? What was that?
“Well, I’ve known Greg since 1984 and I can guarantee you that that wasn’t the first time two competitive men have had a- I wouldn’t even call it an argument.”
“Did I finish that? Sounded like it. Discussion. You ought to see us play euchre. We really have discussions.”
[More after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan actually played their SAM linebacker extensively for the first time this year. Behold:
That is Jenkins-Stone over the slot. This mostly indicated zone coverage; almost everything indicated zone coverage, with the exception of that rolled-up boundary corner, who was often nose to nose with his man. More discussion of this in a bit.
On short yardage Michigan had this press man okie-ish look with one LB back: I called this "Okie one robber," FWIW.
Nickel packages were saved for passing downs for the most part.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rotation has whittled down to an obvious starting front seven-ish with mostly obvious backups. The line is Clark/Henry/Glasgow/Beyer with Bolden/Ryan behind them and Jenkins-Stone as the SAM when they have a SAM. The primary backups are Ojemudia/Wormley/Mone/Charlton with Godin and Pipkins also fighting at the two DT spots.
The backup ILBs don't play and probably won't until Morgan gets back; Ross does spot RJS regularly.
They are still working through injury and uncertainty in the secondary, and this is a spot that will develop over time. Once Wilson is back it seems like Jeremy Clark is going to be his partner; he's gotten the most playing time of anyone so far and he seemed to be out there while Hill and Thomas rotated. Corner is still in flux but a dollar says Peppers is a boundary corner the rest of the year with Lewis your top field corner option and Countess preferred at nickel; Taylor is likely to spot Lewis and Peppers, or Lewis will spot Taylor and Peppers, to the point where calling two guys starters and one a backup is semantics.
EDITORIAL POLICY: I'm calling Frank Clark just "Clark" and Jeremy Clark "JClark." Jeremy can be just Clark next year.
[After THE JUMP: derp and darts from Miami, mostly derp.]
Todd asked me to guest star on the anachronistically named HuddlePass podcast this week while Cato was celebrating a family event. Here it is:
Nothing too surprising to you in there. Lots of love for Jourdan Lewis and Jake Butt, taking things too seriously that we saw in the Miami game, can't scout Utah because they've played only bad teams so far.
Note he cuts me off right after he says time of possession is key. This would not do; the conversation spilled into text messages. Also before we started recording we talked a little about press technique and he said ND was doing a few things to screw with guys who didn’t have it down; practice was needed, and Michigan should have given them some help from the safeties until that was well practiced.
“Publisher”? Apparently “associate editor of MGoBlog and publisher and co-editor of Hail to the Victors” became “publisher of MGoBlog,” which I guess is accurate in that my job entails hitting this button a lot:
…but I mention in case Brian thinks I’m going around making up more titles for myself than those I’ve already made up.
-Seth, MGoBlog Executive Vice President of Consumption and Procurement, Coping Beverages Division