I GIVE UP ON HATING WISCONSIN
As some of you might remember, I'm a Michigan State fan (boo! hiss!) but I try to keep up on all of the Big Ten's blogs to see the goings-on around the conference. Mgoblog is a great source of information, so that explains why I'm here. Now, down to brass tacks.
After watching the abysmal Utah opener and the lackluster Michigan State flop against California, what do you guys think this season holds for the two in-state teams? I think Michigan is going to improve enough to win 6-7 games, since each game is a learning experience for them, and just because I can't imagine Michigan in an ND-esque collapse. Threet will probably have to step up and Rodriguez utilize whatever strengths he can find on the offense. Barring a Spartan face plant against the league's dregs as seems to happen too often, I'm seeing a 7-8 win season for MSU, just because Hoyer can't possibly do worse than the Cal game as a senior, and Ringer alone gives our running game a decent shot at everyone except for OSU. What do you think?
DVD coming soon, as long as my authoring program doesn't screw up again.
8/30/2008 – Michigan 23, Utah 25 – 0-1
Every rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.
We have seen it in action. It could have gone better. At least we have an incredibly direct metaphor all around us:
This program is under construction with a completion date around 2010. This is going to be a tough year. If you’re prone to hysterics you should do everyone a favor, watch something else, and annoy everyone on the Project Runway message boards with your all-caps posts. Get over it.
If you’d told me the final score before the game I would have been disappointed but not particularly surprised and wouldn’t have budged much from the preseason prediction. Unfortunately, a raft of unusual events obscured a much grimmer picture, especially in the first half. That was a near-worst case scenario. The offense was as bad as everyone feared; the defense was far worse than anyone expected in the first half. Without the latter unit’s second-half turnaround, I would be halfway to the Yukon and my new life as a gold prospector this morning. As it is, I think a bowl game is unlikely since it will probably require a 7-5 record.
But I’m here and we can talk about the game some. The best part was the warmups, and I mean that only somewhat sarcastically. Seeing the 100-some men in winged helmets go “HOO HOO HOO” whilst pivoting was a weird kind of thrill, as was the Barwis-led Circle of Death. This is not your father’s Michigan football, (TINYFMF) etc.
The second best part was Rodriguez’s inability to cope with the idea his team sucked. I also mean that only somewhat sarcastically. TINYFMF was best displayed on Michigan’s last play of the first half, when Nick Sheridan dropped back on third and long and lofted a ball on an ICBM trajectory. Everyone in the stadium knew it would be intercepted the moment it left his hand.
Lloyd Carr would have called a fullback dive and punted. Michigan would probably have escaped the first half with a manageable five-point deficit, and the defense and special teams excellence in the second half would have been enough to pull it out. The entirety of halftime that “22” for Utah rankled. That touchdown looked completely decisive.
So maybe that was a stupid call. Having your walk-on hurl a ball skyward is asking for it. But I vastly prefer the expectation your player can come through in an important situation to the fear he won’t. That tendency is probably going to hurt this year, when expecting any quarterback to do anything except soil himself is a bad bet, but when Michigan is good they’ll go through each series with a mind to score points; they should blow the doors off opponents who can’t cope. Carr’s formula was a recipe for 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3. Rodriguez will go through more swings based on how much talent he has at his disposal. Eventually, this will be a good thing.
There’s not much more to say: they kind of suck. I don’t know who any of them are. I hope they get better.
- Boy, did I hate the 4-3 Michigan started out in during the first half. That’s a guarantee of zone coverage or a hideous mismatch between first-time starters at linebacker and slot receivers. For the most part it was the former, which the first-time starters at linebacker were terrible at, and Michigan got shredded on a wide array of routes designed test the weakest part of the Michigan defense. It failed.
- Do you ever get the feeling people are prepared to criticize in a particular way even if reality conflicts with them? I’ve seen a lot of rabble rabble about “Rodriguez needs to adapt the offense to his players” in the aftermath of a game in which Michigan threw 60% of the time.
- I bet you could have gotten good odds on “boy, I wish Rodriguez had run more” as a common complaint before the game. That was perhaps the most disturbing development, as it speaks to a total lack of faith in the offensive line.
- Stevie Brown was victimized repeatedly, giving up the 50-yard pass on third and twenty that led to Utah’s first touchdown. I think he was responsible for the coverage on the score right before the half. He did jump another endzone route and bat the ball to Ezeh.
- Feagin? I mean… he couldn’t have been worse.
- The holding and pass interference penalties should be set aside in a description of Utah mistakes, as Michigan forced those errors out of the Utes with a torrent of pressure and wild hopeful downfield jump balls. One of these will serve Michigan in good stead for the rest of the season.
- This would be the point during a game coached by Carr where I would bemoan the zone-tipping, ineffective 4-3 Shafer came out in for the first half; this is considerably more difficult when you have scarcely less information about the football team than the actual coaches do. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get a grip on whether your defense can handle a spread offense in its base set when you’re going up against that in practice every day. Or how you’re supposed to figure out what you can do on offense when everyone’s a freshman and even the folks who aren’t played in a totally different system.
If ever a coaching staff could be forgiven for flailing about with the wrong players, it was Saturday. The halftime adjustments were encouraging.
In reading the live blog of the game and message boards, I came across a lot of the "they're giving us the game and we still are losing!" comments and claming that the only reason why we were in the game was b/c they kept screwing up. Well, as some noted in the live blog, it's really not that simple and it is incredibly frustrating to see that we cannot give our guys credit for anything.
Fact of the matter is, penalties are penalties for a reason. Example: A pass interference is usually committed by a defender that has been beat by one of our receivers. If our receiver beats their man, he deserves to have a shot at the football. On most occasions in this game, our receiver EARNED the call by beating their defender and forcing him to grasp on to anything to stop a play. If it was like the NFL, we'd deserve more than 15 and an automatic first down, so they are lucky in that sense.
When their QB intentionally grounds, it's b/c he's beat by our guys and thinks he could possibly get away with throwing the ball away. Their offense should not get that benefit. If he doesn't commit the penalty, that's a sack and their offense should lose the yardage they deserved to lose, no? Same goes with a holding call...that's a sack or an incompletion, maybe even an opportunity at a fumble. If our guys earn their way into the face of a QB and are unlawfully kept from doing what they earned to do then their offense should pay. Utah didn't give the game away on penalties...our guys forced those penalties and earned the benefit of them.
If they don't commit the PI, that could be a TD catch or huge gain. If they don't hold or intentional ground, their QB is more than likely dropped for a huge loss or fumble. What about those penalties did we not earn?
They did have a personal foul penalty, false start, and unsportsmanlike conduct. Those aren't necessarily earned like a PI, holding, or IG penalty is, but those were the minority in the penalties they committed. Either way, we gave them our fair share of those "unearned errors" as well.
As far as their turnovers, they did not give us anything we did not give them right back. The only difference is we didn't get such an easy opportunity at a pick 6 and they did. They were as lucky to be in the game as we were if not moreso.
Basically, the mistakes were a part of the game that were not a net positive/negative for either team. I just think Utah was the better team at this point, and that is why they won. It was close b/c the teams were evenly matched overall, not b/c Utah "gave" things to our team. Thinking the penalties gave either team a significant edge over the other goes into the "what if" realm, which is always a futile argument.
WS.DVD by midnight EST, HD mp4 tomorrow.
As a long time reader of this site who has never really posted his ideas, I felt oddly compelled to share something as I reflect on the game today. As I was watching our offense operate, it felt exactly like the first year in my NCAA '09 dynasty. Granted that may sound ridiculous, but please bear with me. I spent a few hours setting up formation substitutions, audibles, and the whole works before I got started. What resulted was an offense that tried to get the ball into too many different players' hands—Minor would get a carry, Brown would get two, McGuffie would mix in, along with Shaw here and there. I would screen to Odoms, or run slants to Hemingway and Clemons. If I was in trouble, I'd try to audible a go route to Matthews. I had created a monster—an offense that had no consistent play-maker. I tried to get too many different people involved. I know it's a spread offense, but that doesn't mean you need to spread the ball to 10 different guys just because they have potential. There is something to be said about setting up some consistency.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, we didn't do that today. We tried a couple of times, but when we went back to a RB or a WR who made a nice play, we got terrible blocking or a lineman completely missed an assignment. I have seen several posts here and at umgoblue.com where people have stated they were happy that our line played better than they expected. I have to ask, are you kidding me? Our run-blocking was atrocious at best, and our pass-blocking was riddled with missed opportunities. Do you want to know why Threet missed a wide open Darryl Stonum on the 4th and 5 play? His mechanics showed that he was certain he would not get quality protection and he released in such a way that it assured a high pass.
The 25-23 score is very misleading. If we were not blessed with Utah's asinine amount of mental mistakes and penalties, we could not have made it that close. They will likely attribute that to first game jitters. As an optimist, I'd also like to attribute our struggles to first game jitters. Most of us, I hope, realized this would be a tough season. Just like my NCAA dynasty, I expect a mighty struggle during year one. But in year two, when I recruited a quarterback who could handle the offense, when I trained my linemen, and when I settled on 2 backs and two top wide-outs... it was a whole different story. I get an eerie feeling that life is going to imitate art, or at least video games, in our situation.