I GET IT
Simply, what went wrong? Was it the playcalling? The execution? The refs? The wind? Dirty plays? The 88% full moon (Waning Gibbous)? What are your thoughts? And before I get negged, the purpose of this post isn't to rag on anyone, I'm genuinely curious about your thoughts. And please, keep it sane. No personal attacks or any thing of the sort.
Personally, I think the defense played as well as it could have. They got the turnovers, they put the offense in positions to make something happen. The offense just couldn't get it done. Why the offense couldn't get it done? I think it had more to do with the play calling than the execution, although the execution wasn't pretty. We were able to move the ball running and then we suddenly switched to a passing offense. It made no sense. MSU was timing the snaps, yet we continued using the same snap counts. And that 4th down play call....deep breath.... I don't care how wide open the receivers would have been if Denard had time to throw. We needed a first down and MSU was giving it to us. We have Denard and an easy first down. WHY DO YOU PASS IT??? If someone has a legitimate answer, please tell me. The execution wasn't pretty at all, but I felt like the players were put into tough spots.
We could've/should've won that game. What went wrong?
He's impressed with what Borges is doing and how standard ideas on stopping running QBs don't work with Denard. The interesting part for me was this, about the passing schemes:
It wasn't just the drop-backs that were impressive. The Michigan receivers were also using an extremely wide variety of pass routes. The slant, quick out, deep out, hook, hitch and wide receiver screen were more than enough, but then they were augmented by the checkdown/seam, wheel and throwback screen routes.
The first set of routes listed above is used to attack any manner of coverage, but it is the second set that makes the Wolverines' passing game highly dangerous. They are key-buster routes that make it extremely difficult to gameplan for this offense and are one major reason Michigan is the real deal in 2011.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
After a beat-down like what we witnessed yesterday there is much to say, but perhaps not so many new things to learn. It was a statement game, a confirmation by Brady Hoke, Al Borges, and Greg Mattison that leaves no questions as to their intent nor their identity. No one questioned the talent differential between Michigan and Minnesota as the 20 point line neatly points out. But the difference between being a 20 point home favorite and the utter deconstruction that was yesterday's contest is vast and there is nothing that I saw that would make the final 58-0 score in any way a fluke. Brady and Co. have this team pointed in a direction more right than we fans could have dared hope. The old ways and the new are coming together in what looks to be a very promising new era for Michigan Football.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Fitzgerald Touissaint – I don't recall seeing running like that since the A-Train rolled out of town. Great cuts, jab steps, and acceleration showed on the stat sheet with over 100 yards on only 11 carries. The future for Fitz is bright indeed.
2. Vincent Smith – Scoring a TD rushing, receiving, and passing the ball is remarkable. Coupled with Touissaint, Smith gives Michigan a potent 1-2 punch out of the backfield that was desperately needed.
3. Denard Robinson – His feet are a given, but it was nice to see him connecting on the short hitches and seams taylor-made to bring back his confidence. Borges is molding the offense around him and playing more and more to his strengths. 8.9 YPA is quality.
4. Blake Countess – Countess looks like the best Michigan defensive back on the field. He was blanketing receivers all day, breaking up passes, stripping the ball, making sure tackles. Hard to believe he is a true frosh.
5. Michigan's Defense – Pitching a shutout against any opponent is impressive, as is forcing another 2 fumbles. Minnesota barely sniffed Michigan's side of the field, and when they did threaten Michigan came up with the timely turnovers. This unit is gaining swagger and could be pretty good by November.
Also of note: Jeremy Gallon, Mike Shaw, RVB, Junior Hemingway, Kevin Koger, BWC (showing that fire in the belly), Thomas Rawls (nice debut, young man), Devin Gardner (haz moves too), Gibbons (3/3 is 3/3, no matter how long) and basically everyone on the team. Great job guys.
Hope for Tomorrow
My trust and confidence in this coaching staff was already pretty solid going into this game. I actually DVR'd it, a Michigan Big 10 opener, which is not something I would have felt comfortable with at any point in the past that I can remember. Yes, the opponent was obviously overmatched but it was still a Big 10 game, against Big 10 athletes that had a lot to prove to the world. I am a big believer in luck and karma, and a firm believer that watching a game live contributes to both, so this wasn't a decision I made lightly. In the end my trust in Brady and Co., coupled with the lure of great deals on Amish made furniture* at a local auction, made it OK. I still squirmed with discomfort when I ignored my phone going off several times during and after the game. Family and friends were trying to reach me to discuss the game and my first instinct was apprehension bordering on conviction that it was all going horribly wrong.
After watching the game later I can honestly say that such feelings will not again occur while this coaching triumvirate remains intact. I checked the score when I got home, not wanting to make my family deal with my uncertainty, and was of course more than relieved at seeing 58-0. I then watched what I assumed would be a series of ridiculously fortunate events leading to such a ridiculous score. There was none of that though, only near-perfect execution by a team that looked so well coached that my pride as a fan went through the roof. That was a domination that harkened back to watching Bo's teams crush the "little-8" back in the day. This is no coincidence either. The parallels between then and now is a head coach with strength of will and vision for what Michigan Football should be, coupled with the quality of coordinators needed to make that vision a reality.
It is not hard to see the qualities of Bo in Brady Hoke. At first I cringed at his seeming overconfidence, at his seeming overuse of Bo-isms, and wondered if he was trying too hard to win Michigan fans' hearts with his bravado. I don't doubt the man any longer. Brady Hoke has a Bo-like level of expectations for those he leads. He has expectations of effort, execution, and yes "toughness" that no coach since Bo has required from both his players and his staff. Hoke isn't making Michigan great again by being an innovator on either side of the ball; he is acquiring the best available parts, constructing a beast-machine, and driving the thing to eventual domination.
Greg Mattison is Greg Mattison. He is everything he was advertised to be and is turning this defense into a capable unit quicker than anyone could have hoped or expected. His experience since his last stint at Michigan, especially in the NFL, have given Michigan an advantage over the competition. Give the man a few years and he will have Michigan's defense back amongst the best in the country. Mattison will prove to be to Hoke what Gary Moeller was to Bo, only better.
The man that has the potential to put Michigan in National Championship contention as soon as next season is Al Borges however. All reports on the man were positive when he came in with Hoke, but all reports also sold Borges far short of reality. If we can take anything from the first 5 games of 2011, it is that Al Borges is in no way married to any system. Instead Borges is both humble and extremely intelligent. He has taken this offensive personnel, with all of their considerable talents, and used the soft part of the schedule to tinker and learn. He looked at what worked last year and used it to beat a good Notre Dame team. He used his knowledge of SDSU and Rocky Long to make that contest look easy. He played with the parts he has and got to know their strengths and weaknesses and displayed much of what he has learned against Minnisota. My first reaction to seeing such elaborate trickeration was he should be "keeping it in the bag" to be used when needed. As the game evolved, and the offense rolled out new wrinkles seemingly every drive (for the first half at least), my thoughts changed to how on Earth was the next opponent supposed to game-plan for this? Al Borges may make this offense look like a modern version of the Mad Magicians by year's end, and it will be in a genuinely humble effort to do what it takes to win each game.
I realize this is a lot to take from a single game against an overmatched opponent, and that these words could look ridiculous in a month's time. I don't care. I'm calling it now: Michigan is back and better than ever. They may not (probably don't) have the pieces to run the table this season, but if this staff stays together it won't be long before Michigan rises to the top.
*Seriously the only uniquely nice part about having to live in south-central PA.
Go Blue and stay safe.
A couple people touched on it earlier but I'm almost ashamed of how excited i am about the DG wishbone formation. I think that Al borges was just testing it out to see if the concept was even plausible. Even though it had mixed results i think this was very vanilla version of what we could see moving forward. I wholly expect to see more and more of this in the future. There are two main reasons for this. First, there are so many possibilities. Having two athletic quarterbacks on the field just gives so many options (speaking of which think of a DG to denard option play). Second, this allows DG to get more game experience and its not going to be just scrub time. It puts DG on the field under pressure without distrupting our offense. DG is just too good of an athlete to be riding the pine for the next season and a half. Here's to innovation and terrified D coordinators.
The second half against ND was not an aberration. He threw only 17 passes today-if he hit 12 or 13 of those including the Roundtree deep ball-wow. The most he's thrown is 24 attempts vs. ND. Why so few attempts for Denard this year? We're playcalling to his strengths while developing balance while winning ball games. It's just a matter of hitting 3-5 more throws a game including a few deep balls. Do you really think he can't improve in his passing?
Please, please hear this quote from last Tuesdays presser w/ Al Borges:
How key is it to have Denard establish a passing game? “It’s critical. We’re about balance. We’re going to find a way to be a balanced football team. We’re going to keep working to that end. We do it everyday in practice. For every run we throw a pass. A lot of people say, ‘What do you do that for? You’re a better running team.’ Well we’ll still be a good running team because we still work on running. But I know that at one point in time it’s going to be a difficult thing to do against certain teams. And if you don’t have the ability to throw it over the top of a defense or under a defense without a relative amount of consistency, it’s going to show up. You have to be able to do it, and we’re never going to give up on it.”
I know this may not be a popular thought. I know plenty of people will thing "who cares? we won the game!"
However, I just rewatched the EMU game and haven't been more upset at the offensive playcalling, especially in a blowout win in...well, maybe in my lifetime.
I was critical of Borges after the ND game, saying that he has not called plays to get Denard in a rhythm all season. Particularly early in the game. He's been BRILLIANT at figuring out the defense and calling plays later in games. I think the numbers prove this thought.
Now I'm going to discredit any plays called inside your own 5 yardline, there is only so much you can do there. But where are the quick slants? the bubble screens? the short rhythm throws to get the QB in sync and the WRs involved. Where are the throws that Oklahoma have been making a living off of for YEARS?! Now do we run that offense or have that personnel? Heck no. But that doesn't mean you can't run some of the same plays.
To me it just seems so obvious because it's two-fold. Not only do you get Denard and the WRs involved and in rhythm...you also loosen up the middle of the defense so that your RBs get more space to operate (or Denard in the run game). As much of a genius as Borges is claimed to be, what is the reasoning for not doing this?
The most frustrating drive for me was actually our first touchdown drive. Denard has a beautiful long run to flip field position, and then we run him like 5-6 times in the next 6-7 plays! #1 let the kid get a breather, #2 don't get the kid hurt, #3 get others involved, #4 this is EMU! why are we wearing down our QB vs. EMU!? and #5 they have 8 guys in the box!
So I ask, was anyone else disappointed and frustrated? Was anyone else hoping to establish a short passing game against EMU and SDSU that we could combine with the deep throws from ND? I'm not saying we need to be the Air Raid offense, I would've just liked to have seen Denard get the "Lloyd Carr - he's a freshman QB treatment" and have a bunch of short throws that gets the ball in the hands of the playmakers and allows them to get involved and make plays early.