This is the 2nd half diary, in the normal style.
5:29 – Bret Bielema is wearing sunglasses that make him look like a chubby Agent Smith from The Matrix.
5:30 – Kickoff to Odoms, who has a nice little runback. For the record, I would sell Cat32 for a win. Actually for a touchdown. Who am I kidding, I’d sell her for a first down. Any takers?
5:31 – Carlos Brown apparently wants Cat32. The crowd, tiring of boos, openly mocks the offense by applauding the first down. For some reason, this irks me more than the booing. It’s not like they’re dogging it folks.
5:36 – The drive breaks down and we punt. Wisconsin has bad field position for once, here’s hoping the D can get the offense in scoring position. I don’t have anything funny to say here, we need a miracle.
5:48 – Wisky picks up a couple of first downs, but the defense continues to do a good job overall. Bret, you keep calling ISO plays. I don’t think that play does what you think it does. Wisky punts for a touchback.
5:55 – Greg Matthews snags a couple passes, showing some life in the offense. Then on 4th and 1, Kevin “short yardage” Grady comes into the game and does what he does. (No, it did not involve a breathalyzer.) Am I the only one who notices that he turns around a lot toward the end of his runs?
5:58 – Touchdown Michigan! Threet to Koger. Rodriguez is shown on the sideline asking Calvin Magee what the hell a “tight end” is, anyway. I breathe out a huge sigh of relief and marvel at the 80-yard drive. Cat32 was pawing at the offense’s dead corpse, and jumped straight up when it twitched.
6:00 – I tell the cat that UFR will show something changed in the offensive line, because it looked like a switch had been flipped. Quick math shows we’re only two scores down, and I did that without benefit of a calculator. C’mon D! Get us good field position.
6:04 – The defense forces a 3 & out on a great 3rd down effort, with Evridge recovering his own fumble about 10 yards behind the line. Bielema suddenly looks like he’s thinking “Me no like Blue. Dis not plan.”
6:07 – 3 & out Michigan. Bret: “Dis plan.” I’m trying to muster some serious dislike for Wisconsin, but I just can’t. It’s Wisconsin, and even in this game they just happened to be standing around when we turned it over 5 times. How pissed can you really get at people who wear cheese on their heads, by choice? They know it looks silly and do it anyway, while happily snacking on heart-attack food. Guess I’ll have to hit a game at Camp Randall to make it personal.
6:16 – The defense forces another 3 & out. Have I mentioned how badass they’ve played today? I’d like to nominate the entire D-line for that GM scholarship thing. I don’t even have a joke here, I’m gaining hope for the rest of the season. On the down side, we have the ball in terrible field position yet again, our own 15.
6:23 – On 3rd & 15 Michigan, Wisconsin makes the most boneheaded play of the entire fall and rough the passer. Interestingly, the penalty was so dumb the ref announced it as “Sarah Palining”. Thanks Badgers, you’re on the Christmas card list now.
6:24 – Martavious Odoms catches a pass, and I find myself holding my breath every time he touches the ball waiting for him to do something spectacular. He’s like Steve Breaston in that respect. Even Cat32 finds nothing to disapprove of. We’re at midfield.
6:26 – And just like that, Brandon Minor has a long run for a TD! After the worst offensive half since probably OSU 2001, we’re only a score away with over 10 minutes on the clock! What has two thumbs and is really happy? <<points to self with thumbs>> This guy.
6:28 – OMFG we have the lead! I see a +4 in Thompson’s future. Defensive players were in a pack hitting anything in white rumbling into the endzone. Wisky looks like a deflated balloon. Also on the play, Ezeh was blocked in to Bret Bielema, severing his knee. OK, I made that up, but that would’ve made this the greatest play ever, no?
6:29 – Let’s just recap the last 7 minutes of game time. First, an offense with more plays than yards in the first half takes off the Clark Kent outfit and puts together 2 80+ yard drives. Everyone stayed mentally into the game, kept fighting. The defense stayed hot, and then delivered the play of the game. And. Michigan. Leads. Whatever ends up happening, let’s all admit that’s a good 7 minutes.
6:30 – Michigan doesn’t convert a 2-point attempt. I’m normally not a fan of going for 2 until there’s less than 5 minutes left in a game. If this is one of the trade-offs for the new coaching staff, I guess I’ll shrug and accept it. Hell, it might even be the right thing to do.
6:38 – I should just put this on a hotkey: “The Michigan defense forces a 3 & out.” This one was really close, but there’s the punter.
6:42 – Threet just rushed for 58 yards. I am officially hoarse. I am also going to stock up on canned food, just in case that was one of the seven signs. Seriously, the Wisky DB’s were catching up, but *slowly*. His acceleration might be on the lower end of the scale, but give him a few seconds to achieve top speed and you’ve got a big play. Wow.
6:46 – McGuffie scores, 27-19 Michigan. 27 straight points. The Threet run is a nice echo to another big comeback, the 2003 Minnesota game where Navarre rumbled for a long TD on the throwback. Let’s hope this one has a happy ending as well, which with an 8-point lead and the defense playing pretty saucy, I’m feeling good about things.
6:53 – Wisconsin builds a long drive where they look as good as they have all game. Then Evridge fumbles, and it’s recovered by Taylor. Evridge is actually lucky he fumbled, because if Wisconsin scored Cat32 was going to eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
7:02 – OK, we run 3 straight times and punt, leaving Wisky 1:42. I want to say “that was nice of RR to let Lloyd call a drive” but I probably would’ve done the same thing.
7:08 – Wisky scores. Cat32 added fava beans to the grocery list. When we needed to really get pressure on the QB, we only rush 3-4. Can’t wait for the UFR on this one, seems like we changed what we were doing more than Wisky did anything different. This drive and the last that ended with a fumble gave me déjà vu for the 2006 ND drive to end the 1st half. The game comes down to one play.
7:10 – Obviously I’m delighted that Wisky didn’t line up right the first time and missed the 2nd attempt on the 2-pt conversion, but I think we’d have beaten them in OT anyway. Easy to say now, but I really believe the D would’ve changed things up in OT.
7:11 – This is one of the greatest games, especially the 2nd half, I can remember watching. The highs and the lows were gigantic. My guess is it’ll be on Rich Rodriguez’s Top Ten wins list for his whole Michigan career.
7:12 – Thanks for the memory gentlemen, and I, for one, loved the heart and toughness showed in not folding.
Just read this quote from Bielema
"We missed opportunities on our end. I give all the credit in the world to Michigan to come back after hearing all the things that I heard being yelled at them at halftime. To come back in the third quarter was impressive."
First, he must be mistaken because on the field during the post game interview RR said he didn't say much to the team at halftime. Second, if there was a little shouting that must have been pretty loud, seeing as the visiting locker room is on the opposite side of the tunnel from Michigan's
- The defense was outstanding on Saturday. For most of the game, the Wisconsin O-Line could not block any Michigan D-lineman one on one. Even when Mike Martin was in the game, he was getting by people.
- I think Mouton played his best game. He was the only linebacker that was consistently blowing up the lead blocker. He was giving up about 45 pounds to the guy, so he had trouble driving him back very far, but he was meeting him in the backfield and holding outside leverage. On the touchdown run, he crushed the fullback behind the line of scrimmage and Brown had a chance to make the play in the back field. Obviously, he failed to do this. Mouton is getting better quickly, and could be a star by the end of the year.
- Thompson and Ezeh looked ok. I thought Thompson made some improvement. He made one outstanding play in the third quarter where he took on a double team and held outside leverage allowing the other guys to get there and stop the play for a one yard gain. Ezeh still has some bad habits. He drops his head sometimes on tackles, stops moving his feet, and seems to wait for lineman or lead blockers to come to him. He is still playing ok, but these types of things cost you an extra yard or two per carry. That adds up after a while.
- Beckum and Graham not playing hurt Wisconsin. It took them out of their two tight end sets, and put the full back in the game a lot more. They ran a lot of the same running plays I described in the scouting report, but they were forced to throw more to their wide receivers. It turns out their receivers are not good at catching the ball.
- They had a lot of success with their bootlegs. Most of the time they pulled the eventual playside guard or tackle to really sell the run. We bit on this hard a couple times, and were bailed out by dropped balls. They did run that zone stretch play action as well, but they never handed that ball off.
- Despite a couple of those play actions, the coverage was pretty good. On Wisoncsin's final TD drive, Everidge had to make a perfect throw twice. Harrison shold have picked the one to Beckum. Have to give credit to Everidge on these plays though. He made some tough throws.
- We really were not that far away from moving the ball in the first half. We actually did ok against Chapman and Shaugnessy. We are still having some problems with backside cut blocks. I think a worse problem is on the left side of the line. We have problems when there is a DT line up in the A gap. One of three things seems to happen: the left guard releases to second level without chipping the guy and helping Molk get across his face, the left guard and Molk both get on him, but then they both release to the second level leaving the free to make a play, or the left guard does get enough of him to allow Molk to get a block and stay on. Obviously the last one is what needs to happen. From what Rich Rod has said in his press conferences, he is going to shuffle the line up until he finds people to figure this out. There were also a couple running plays that were blocked well. McGuffie didn't seem to be as patient as he did against ND. A couple times he cut up the field too soon or looked for the cut back lane immediately when running to the play side looked better. Maybe this was by design, but it didn't appear this way.
- I don't really like Threet's throwing mechanics. He kind of has a 3/4 delivery and sometimes looks like he his trying to pitch off a mound when he is throwing. Rodriguez mentioned something about getting his shoulder in the right spot in the second half. I think when you have this type of delivery, it is very easy to let your elbow drop a little bit. This puts the nose of the ball up upon release and causes the ball to sail. He also appeard to take a larger step towards the target in the first half which may have opened his body up too soon. This could also cause the ball to sail. I tried to compare the game Saturday to the spring game, but the youtube footage was fuzzy. If anybody was a qb or qb coach, feel free to correct me.
- I think Massey missed every block he tried to make. If its not going to be Butler, Koger has to be the guy here. I'm sure Massey is playing hard, but he just didn't get it done. Koger was not asked to block as much, but looks more athletic. These tight end blocks are crucial especially on those bubble screens. One missed block on those plays and it gets blown up.
- Some of the ABC replays showed a wide view of the field and you could see some of Michigan's routes. Most of their passing game is based on selling four vertical threats. They like to run a couple plays off of this. One is where Odoms runs down the seam. Griese mentioned this on the ABC broadcast but didn't really explain it. Odoms is reading the safety. If the safety bits on the play action, Odoms is going to run by him. If the safety is bailing he runs the dig route. Odoms was open on the dig three times and Threet missed him all three times. If we hit this play a couple times, all of a sudden we catch the safety sitting on the dig and run by him for a big play.
- They also like to run a curl route which I think has been open every time they have run it. The outside receiver comes inside and runs hard vertical to about 14 yards, stops and comes back to about 12. We hit Matthews on this a couple times in the second half. They also like to run a deep hitch route, and then run the hitch and go off of it. We had Matthews twice for big plays in the second half, and he dropped it both times. We also actually run the four vert, and we can do it with different personel. Koger's touchdown was the seam route on four vert, and it was beautiful execution on that play. Threet made a perfect throw with the safeties playing over top.
- There were two plays in the beginning at the beginning of the third quarter that didn't work for us, but provide some good coaching points for receivers. The first was the out to McGuffie that almost got picked. I think Wisconsin was in its soft 2 coverage here and Michigan runs a pretty common out/fade three step combo. On this play the outside receiver takes an inside release on the corner. This allows a cover two corner to see the out the whole way. Against a cover two corner, the outside reciever has got to figt to get outside on this play no matter what. This will cause the corner to turn his head, and he won't see the out develop. The other play was the slant to Matthews that almost got picked. On this play the corner is playing an inside shade, and I think he was in man coverage. On this play Matthews has to stem his route so that he is head up on the corner before he makes a cut. He tries to do this, but the corner is able to maintain his inside leverage and make a play on the ball. It was actually a good throw, but a better defensive play.
- Michigan ran a couple sprint out passes. This is supposed to be a quick throw to an out or short hitch route, but I think it backfired a little this game. This brought the linebackers in underneath zone coverage to the play side. A couple specific examples were Threet's rush that led to 4th and one and the two point conversion play. On Threet's scramble, they had a smash route called. In a cover two, this creates a two on one on the corner. The #2 receiver runs a corner route while the #1 runs a hitch. If the corner jumps the hitch, you throw the corner and vice versa. However, on the sprint out, the hook/curl linebacker gets out and underneath the hitch route. Threet makes the right decision here, tucks the ball and gets what he can get. The two point conversion was supposed to be a crossing route with Odoms and Koger. We ran a similar play when I was in college, and it worked almost every time. However, in this case, Odoms and Koger ran into each other and the linbacker was able to get out in front of the guy running to the flat. This is supposed to be a quick developing play, but the collision allows flowing linebackers to break it up.
- It also looked like we ran a couple routes similar to what Utah did to us where a receiver, either wide out or tight end, is simply going across the middle and sitting in a hole in the zone. Hitting these routes comes with experience. The key is both the qb and receiver knowing when the receiver is going to sit. Its got to be a quick release when the reciever sits in the zone. Threet still looks unsure on these plays, and holds the ball too long. As he holds the ball, the route gets covered. I think he had the curls open a few times and held the ball before trying to scramble. He has got to trust the route a little more, but that will come with mroe experience against good teams.
- In the second half, Michigan was able to get Casillas matched up one on one with Odoms in the slot. I think they did this by keeping Koger on the line, but running a trips set forcing the OLB out onto the slot. I'd have to watch the film again to make sure. Unfortunately, we didn't take advantage of this. One time he ran right by him on a wheel route and Threet threw the slant. The other time, was a sprint out and Threet didn't throw the out right away so Odoms turned up field. Odoms had Casillas beat, but Threet missed him.
- On Threet's long run, I don't think he could have held the ball at the mesh point any longer. It was near perfect execution.
Overall, This was a great effort to come back in the second half. It was the most exciting Michigan game I have ever attended, and hopefully the second half gives the offense some confidence. Threet was accurate and made better decisions in the second half, and if he can speed up his reads and pull the trigger a little quicker, this offense could become very good before the end of the year. The D was outstanding, and if they wouldn't have been put in so many bad situations with turnovers and poor special teams would have been dominant.
Note – The first half nearly broke me. I was in the fetal position for most of it, with visions of 3-9 haunting my every thought. Needless to say, Cat32 disapproved of everything that happened in a massive, epic way. But the second half was so redeeming, and they showed so much heart and resilience that I just can’t bring myself to adequately describe the suckitude of the first half in my own words. It would just be something pathetic, like “well that sucked.”
Therefore reader, you get two diaries… Since the first half was basically a Shakespearian tragedy, this first half diary is done with occasionally edited Shakespeare quotes. You’re a smart audience and can handle it, I think. The second, wonderful, glorious half will be done later in the week in the normal style.
· 3:30 – Game is about to start. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Each have their entrances and exits, and each in his time plays many parts.”
· 3:35 – Kickoff. “Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war.”
· 3:36 – The dogs of war allow a 55 yard kickoff return by Wisky. “Oh, that way madness lies. Let me shun that.”
· 3:41 – Wisky misses a FG. “Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind, when you push Welch’s 34 yard attempt wide left.”
· 3:45 – Threet fumbles. Wisky ball. “O, woe is me, to have seen what I have seen, see what I see.”
· 3:53 – Wisky kicks a field goal. Good job to hold ‘em D. Some advice Badgerfan: “Glory is like a circle in the water, which never ceaseth to enlarge itself, till by broad spreading it disperses to naught.”
· 4:02 – On a five play Michigan drive, three plays lose yards and one is an incomplete pass. “Something is rotten in the state of Michigan.”
· 4:11 – The defense does a great job stuffing Wisky on 3rd and 1. Then Thompson gifts them a 1st down by jumping egregiously offsides on the punt fake. “Off with his head!” (Cat32 picked that one out.) “Every man has his fault, and punctuality is his.” (Mine.)
· 4:18 – The defense recovers nicely, and forces a Wisky field goal. 6-0 WI. “Now is the winter of our discontent.”
· 4:23 – Michigan does a fairly ugly 3 & out. “Be great in act, as you have been in thought.” End of quarter. How does Threet look to this point? “I am not bound to please thee with my answers.” OK, but how would Sheridan have looked? “I dote on his very absence.”
· 4:28 – We punt, then Evridge’s first pass is intercepted by Charles Stewart! Hey Evridge: “Tremble thou wretch! Thou hast within thee undivulged crimes, unwhipp’d of justice!”
· 4:34 – And we take good field position for the first time all game and promptly go 3 & out. “We do not keep the outward form of order, where there is deep disorder in the mind.”
· 4:35 – “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Nothing football here, just good advice.
· 4:39 – Wisky does some good things, has a nice big pass play, but then Evridge takes far too long to throw on 3rd and 5. “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” Mouton causes a fumble, recovered by Michigan. The Michigan defense did come to play today. “Thou art all the comfort the Gods will diet me with.”
· 4:40 – 4:45 – Threet fumbles on first down, Michigan recovers. “Assume a virtue if you have it not.” McGuffie has his perhaps only productive play of the first half, not that the offensive line was helping him. “Be not afraid of greatness. Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some men have greatness thrust upon them.” A punt from Zoltan.
· 4:49 – The defense rises up yet again, and forces a Wisky punt deep in their own end of the field. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” Then Greg Matthews fumbles the punt. “O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; it hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t, another fumble.”
· 4:50 – A brief, non-Shakespearian message from Cat32: HOLD ON TO THE #$@%!! BALL ALREADY.
· 5:04 – (I paused the game here for a few minutes to collect myself.) Wisky has a long run down to the Michigan 5 yard line. “True is it that we have seen better days.”
· 5:05 – Wisky punches it in for a touchdown. “How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.” 13-0 Wisconsin. Bonus coverage: “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
· 5:08 – Mike Hart is interviewed by the sideline reporter. The ABC cameraman does a good job correctly framing his halo. He says, and I quote, “This Michigan never did, nor never shall, lie at the proud foot of a conqueror.”
· 5:09 – We fumble the kickoff. I’m not even making this up. 2 quotes, mine first then Cat32’s: “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” Cat32’s: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
· 5:13 – Wisky kicks a field goal. 16-0 WI. They show Rodriguez scowling. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
· 5:16 – ABC points out that 45% of Michigan’s offensive plays this season have gone for zero or negative yardage. “I pray thee cease thy council, which falls into mine ears as profitless as water in a sieve.”
· 5:18 – The defense forces another 3& out. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, and close the wall up with our Wolverine defense.”
· 5:22 – Threet throws an interception. “When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” The crowd is booing fairly loudly. To the crowd I say, “A wretched soul, bruised with adversity, we bid be quiet when we hear it cry.”
· 5:27 – Wisky kicks yet another field goal. 19-0 Wisky. They show Rodriguez again. Two quotes are appropriate: “A first down! A first down! My kingdom for a first down!” and “Come not within the measure of my wrath.”
· 5:32 – Threet caps the half off with another interception, thrown with 10 seconds on the clock. “The attempt, and not the deed, confounds us.”
· 5:33 – Wisconsin quote: “They have been at a great feast of turnovers, and stolen the scraps.”
· 5:33 – Halftime. What to say about that? “This half’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his half-hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
One of my pet peeves when discussing college football is the conventional "wisdom" that there are supposedly set-in-stone rules about going for 2. Broadcasters constantly say that "coaches have a chart" that tells them when they should go for 2, based simply on the score.
I doubt this is the case, because I imagine coaches know that going for 2 is a decision that must be made based on the context of the situation. It's complicated and risky, and it's not always clear what the right thing to do is. No scoring chart will be able to take all the important factors into account.
What are those factors? Aside from the obvious factor of...
1. What's the score?
...there are, in my opinion, at least three other questions that must be asked, all with the assumption of a missed 2 point conversion:
2. How much time is left in the game?
3. Do I believe the opponent will score again?
4. Do I believe my team will score again after that?
My philosophy on 2 point conversions: assume you'll miss, and only go for 2 if it could make a difference in the score, there is little time left in the game, and/or there won't be any more scoring done by my team. In other words, I believe the 2 point conversion should be put off until the last score. That way, missing the 2 point conversion doesn't unnecessarily hurt your team's chances of victory.
Questions 2, 3, and 4 are related, of course- with little time left in a game, for example, there will most likely be little to no more scoring done by anyone. But again, the context matters- a lights out offense like Texas Tech might believe they'll do more scoring with only 3 minutes left in the game, whereas a slug offense like Virginia Tech might feel they are done scoring with 6 minutes left in the game.
With all this in mind, let's turn to this past weekend's game: should Michigan have gone for 2 after the Thompson interception?
Reading through the liveblog transcript, there seemed to be universal and instinctive agreement that yes, Michigan should go for 2. Everyone quickly came to that decision and expressed confusion about RichRod's decision to take a time out to think about it. Based on that, I assume everyone was looking at the scoreboard as the only factor in the decision. But let's look at the context:
1. The score was 20-19. A successful 2 point conversion prevents a subsequent Wisconsin field goal from winning the game. The score says "Go For It."
2. But there was over 10 minutes left in the game. Each team has at least 2 more possessions coming. Time left says "Go For It Later, Not Now."
3. The Wisky offense was not doing much, kicking FGs off of turnovers in the first half. One big run in the first half set up their lone touchdown. They had yet to score in the second half. Their quarterback was not showing himself to be anything special, having just thrown a Pick 6. Was Wisconsin done scoring for the day, even with more than 10 minutes left? It appeared so. A Wisky score appeared unlikely, but even on the off chance that they pull something together, that was offset by the off chance of a successful 2 point conversion by Michigan. Wisky offense says "Go For It and Ensure Overtime, Just In Case."
4. But the Michigan offense wasn't really a solid bet either way. The offense had been a little, uh, erratic. 21 total yards and multiple turnovers in the first half was just plain awful. A solid drive for a TD and a big TD run by Minor in the second half, however, had raised hopes. Was Michigan done scoring for the day, even with more than 10 minutes left? Maybe, maybe not.
That's why I believe RichRod took a timeout- it wasn't clear whether Michigan was done scoring or not, and he needed a moment to think about it.
It was a gamble, and as it turned out it hurt the team. If he ended up deciding to just take the PAT, then the ensuing touchdown would have put Michigan up by more than one score (28-19), and the game would have effectively been on ice. Michigan scoring again wasn't out of the realm of possibility- the Wisky defense had been on the field for a LOT of the second half, and they were starting to get pushed around. There was at least a hint of foresight that indicated another Michigan score.
Instead, RichRod gambled on the thought that they wouldn't get another chance to score, so he may as well get some while the getting's good. Michigan did score again, though, and the chance to ice game had already been lost in the previous 2 point conversion. Because of the failed 2 point conversion, Wisconsin was only down by one score and still had a chance to tie. As we all saw, everything worked out, but when Beckum caught the 2 point conversion pass (and before we saw the flags), for a moment Michigan's failed 2 point conversion loomed large.
Ultimately, I agreed with the call to go for 2- I was still unsure about Michigan's ability to score again, despite the gobs of time left on the clock and the tired Wisky defense. My point, however, is that this was NOT an easy call. This was NOT a "no-brainer." And in hindsight, it was the wrong call.
These decisions are NOT easy, and they depend on more nebulous things than just the score.