"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
*programming note, got busy during the holidays, sorry if anyone was looking for scouting reports. Things have slowed down now, so expect a Nebraska game wrap next week, or the week after, depending on if I feel like writing anything about the SEC non-championship exhibition game.
Winners find a way to win.
It started as a joke, but now no one can deny the awesome power that is Brady Hoke's magical golden poop. Everything he touches turns into roses. When he walks through a forest, flowers bloom in his wake. Youtube is sadly lacking in good golden poop videos, so a unicorn farting rainbows of destruction was the best I could find. I hope it's not too disturbing.
Our ND friends gave us the wonderfully self-fulfilling cliche' "Winners find a way to win, losers find a way to lose." But we'll just focus on the first half of that, and they can focus on the 2nd half, thank you very much.
Was Brady Hoke lucky that Tressel was caught lying? Maybe. Maybe he pulled a Peter Wiggin and dropped a few well placed emails. Was it luck when we fumbled on the 1 yard line against ND and Denard scooped and scored a walk in? Maybe. Maybe Hoke used his secret telekinesis.
I don't know, I don't care. At this point I'm just happy to be along for the ride.
But how else can you explain what happened?
How does a sure INT on a fake FG where no receivers went into pass patterns end up in the arms of the long snapper for a first down? How does what looks like a TD to 80% of the twitterverse get reversed in OT? How have all the great things that have happened this year happen to one team, in one year? It boggles the mind.
They say you make your own luck. They say that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." But whether it's luck, or karmic retribution, or a secret plot by an undercover invisible agency from the future, it can't be sustained at this high of a level. So let's just enjoy it while we can.
On to the pics.
Al. Al? ALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
This week's love-hate relationship status with Al Borges is .... .... Love? That's odd, because during the game there were times when the needle was strongly tilted towards hate. But after a second look at the game film, the final analysis, just like the outcome of the game, is slightly positive.
Much like the Iowa game, the lack of production on offense wasn't really his fault so much as it was a combination of a lack of execution, personnel limitations, and a darn good defense.
Oh sure, there's plenty of things he could have done better and a few stinkers that make you want to pull out your hair... hmmm....nevermind. And I'll get to those in a moment, but overall, we did what we've done all year. And many of the plays should have worked.
I mean, Molk getting injured and having this
happen on two consecutive plays to kill the first drive can't really be blamed on Al. Maybe it would have been better to go under center with the backup playing, but after we've been crying all year for more shotgun, you can understand why he didn't. Luckily Molk came back in, but wasn't at 100% which probably put a dent in our selection of play calls.
And give VT credit. They played a lot of Man-Free forcing Denard to make tough passes to the outside, which frankly, we all know is not his comfort zone.
Yes, the manball mentality is frustrating especially when VT is putting 9 men in the box.
(It's 8 because Denard going backwards is not a threat to run.) But it's there to setup big plays.
With both safeties up like this, the thing you have to do is make them pay for it.
But with two defenders beating their blockers, Denard has pressure right up in his face resulting in this jump pass.
It's not Al's fault that Denard threw to the wrong guy. Roundtree had a step on his man and Jr. was getting interfered with. Despite the interception, you can't argue that it wasn't the right play call.
[ED: More after the jump.]
So far no presser video from mgoblue.
I would just like to aknowledge several things that have really helped me put things in perspective about this team, this season, and this coaching staff.
(1) I've been vocally hard on Denard this year, as more people have tended to be. He's got some serious fundamental flaws that are being exposed in a system that awkwardly hybridizes (word? word, now.) things that he does well with things that he doesn't do well. This naturally has made for frustrating moments where you want to string up borges, denard, rich rod, anyone tangentially related to this transition, etc.
Given (1), (2) Denard has accounted for 29 TDs through 10 (11) games, which is 3 short of his scoring production in 13 games-ish last year. That's actually pretty nuts, given his apparent struggles. The point is this: we can handle the reduction in yardage/ per play average if he's getting us into the endzone with that kind of regularity.
(3) Acknowledging that Denard's turnover rate is still unacceptable, and given (1) and (2), if this is a down year for D-Rob, I'm OK with it. I'm more than ready to give Al Borges the benefit of the doubt and see if his Year 2 progression theory holds up. I've been pleased with the job he's done overall, and I'm more than happy to sacrifice the bubble screen for the package deal of hiring Borges and Mattison. The development of Fitz Toussaint has been amazing to watch.
(4) Speaking of Mattison and his defensive staff, holy hell. I'd trade flashy QB heisman-ish stats for this defensive turnaround 3 times over.
(5) I'm ready for 8 years of frustration to be taken out on OSU next weekend. 41-17 M with the coronation of Fitzmonga Biakabatoussaint. 200+. Go Blue. Good times ahead!
Out of whack
So that game kind of sucked. If you're wondering why this diary is so late in the week, I try to wait until I feel like the foul language will be minimized after we lose.
Despite the video above, I'm not really blaming Borges for this loss. Not entirely anyway. He did not have a very good game. But that could be said for many people. Denard, Hemingway, Vince, Roundtree, Morgan, Floyd, the refs. THE REFS. THE MOTHERFUCKING REFS. But we'll get to that later.
You know when an offense is clicking, it's when guys are wide freaking open. And not just in the passing game. When an offense is in rhythm, running lanes open up too. That really didn't happen on Saturday until the final drive (when Iowa was backed off in prevent). Every pass and running lane was contested. That's partially due to the vanilla cover two. But a larger problem for us is our failure in self-scouting and our lack of an identity on offense.
A lot of what an OC does during gameday is psychological. You're supposed to mess with people's heads. RR was great at this. And the people he targeted most were the outside linebackers, DE's, nickel backs, and safeties. The reason why all forms of the option offense are so strong is because of the ability to always make a player wrong. You read which way he goes, and then go the other way. It's about taking what you're being given.
Which leads us back to Borges's failure this week. Ideally an offense creates an identity by beating a defense in a certain way so much that the DC has to adjust to take away those plays. But when that happens, it opens up the companion play.
Back during Lloydball that script went something like this. Offtackle run, offtackle run, offtackle run, bootleg pass for a TD. It was boring as hell, but when it worked, it was a thing of beauty. Tuman wide open in the Rosebowl, Breaston taking a reverse for a TD, etc.
With Richrod it was more like, zone read/bubble play left, zone read/bubble play right, Denard, Denard, Dena-OH SHIT! TD!
With Borges it is ... uh ... ? What exactly? Brian discussed this at length already, so I'll just add that it feels like we're just throwing random crap at the wall to see what sticks. Borges has called better games and it's hard to establish an identity when your 'bread and butter' plays are getting stuffed. But our best play this season has been for Denard to hold the ball too long in the pocket and then heave a prayer downfield. No one is going to mistake Denard for Andrew Luck, I don't understand why we're trying to use him like that. I don't understand why he's in the pocket reading pass coverages.
What is our base play? A zone read? Then why the hell don't we have the companion bubble screens? Is our base play an I-form Iso? Then where are the reverses that keep the backside DE honest? I'm getting sick of watching the backside end or OLB making a tackle in the opposite B gap. Are we running Denard? Then why are wasting a blocker by handing it off to him?
I understand that we're trying to keep him healthy, but we're losing the numbers game. Every time we go to that Denard Jet Sweep formation, the defense doesn't have to account for him. We hardly ever give him the ball, and we never throw it to him. And why is that the trick play formation we're stuck with? When we came out one week with the diamond Fritz formation and then had the jet sweep thing the next week, I was expecting to see 5 more different variations. Instead we've settled into this one that opposing DC's have figured out.
There's only three games left. It's time to take the reins of our biggest offensive threat. It's time to put in all those counters and companions and make play calls during the game that are, uhm..., like fucking coherent. (I wrote and rewrote that sentence 5 times, and still have an expletive, if not in all caps.)
I understand you're transitioning to a new philosophy and we're under-manned and can't hurt people with the base plays you want to run. But there's only three games left, if we want to win any of them, some of that will have to go out the window. I know you're not trying to use up Denard, but there's only three games left. If not now, when?
I appreciate that we've only lost two games, but there's only three games left and none of them are gonna be any easier than the two we lost. There's only three games left, and none of them are against Minnesota. There's only three games left. It's time to bring out our "A game".
A bad game all around.
So I noticed Brian noticed my noticing of Desmond Morgan getting a good tackle on a kickoff against Purdue. How was his game against Iowa?
It's pretty bad when even the TV guys are pointing out your bad play. (Although Spielman is one of the handfull of guys that knows the game pretty well and points out good and bad LB play)
And Fitz had a great game against Purdue, did that carry over?
Oh. (That's two unblocked middle linebackers on an A gap dive.)
But at least we've still got Denard who has been excellent at reading blockers and -
It's hard to blame any one person on offense when the entire blocking day was sub-par.
Looks ok here. That is a linebacker (and supposedly an above average one) not a DB. So our little slot guy should either go low or try to pin him inside.
Oh. Nevermind. But look, Fitz is leading the play for Denard, so we're still good.
We've got two guys on him, no problem. Except Denard has no place to cut back because Huyge couldn't maintain his backside block.
Still, a 2 on 1 means Denard should be able to bounce it outside.
*sigh* I guess this is where I'm supposed to mention something about teaching cut blocking and then I get pissy about how small blockers should take on big defenders by going low ... but I just can't get too upset about this play. I guess my rage is being reserved for something else...
And about those refs....
They started the game by missing a holding call
And then they decided that pass interference was no longer an enforceable rule.
They actually threw a flag and then talked themselves out of it. Maybe they thought it was uncatchable.
Maybe they're FUCKING BLIND.
And this was on Denard's interception right before the half. Denard has thrown some bad interceptions this year. This was not one of them.
At this point, someone needs to be in the ref's ear. I know Hoke is not the fire and brimstone kind of guy, and that's fine, but we need somebody to be working on the refs. The same thing happened during the Northwestern game, the refs never woke up and gave us a makeup call.
And our receivers need to do a better job of getting the call. Throw your hands up and dive on the ground. Watch some European sissy boys play soccer and learn how to embellish a call. I'm not saying all the time, because 'boy who cried wolf, blah blah blah.' But when you've got a legitimate case, don't be afraid to hop up and down a bit more. Make the ref peek at the video board and maybe you'll get the call next time.
Or just ... fuck.
So there's about 14 points that they owe us.
If this diary seemed overly critical, you win as a team, you lose as a team. Win and there's plenty of credit and high fives to go around, lose and everyone gets shat upon.
Amongst those few that had good games:
- Gallon, not as dropsies as Hemingway or Roundtree
- Interior O-Line, not as bad as the tackles
- Fitz, his running and hole reading were not as bad as his blocking
- Demens, not as bad Morgan
- Countess, not as bad as Floyd
- Martin, ... ok he was still awesome, in fact the entire D-line had a decent game. I guess that's what happens when you've got 3 D-line coaches (Hoke and Mattison are both ex D-line coaches)
- Mattison, not as bad as.... well I think I've covered that already.