The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Boxscore Link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/112914aaa.html
The astute reader will notice that I put the links up first this week. The reason being is that I don't expect anyone to read through what I have to say, except for my brother, Michael Thomas (YTMT.) Ohio State's Michael Thomas (NTMT) is an imposter, I tell you! I'm not even sure why I'm bothering to write this. But write I will because I had an idea two weeks ago, and I'm not letting it go to waste.
When I was a kid, I heard that Bo and Woody preferred to run the ball because when you pass the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad. The Michigan offense of the past two years has redefined that calculus. I now believe that when you pass the ball, six things can happen and five of them are bad. Of course, you have the original two bad items, the incompletion and the interception. I've seen enough of Michigan's offense to realize that we have to add these additional bad outcomes: 1) throwing screen passes for negative yardage, 2) getting sacked, and 3) getting strip-sacked.
In case there was any doubt, Michigan drove the point home to start the game. On our first play, Drake Johnson ran for 7 yards. On the next play, Devin Gardner threw an interception. On the next drive, Michigan threw a screen pass for -5 yards, ran the ball for 15 yards, took a sack, ran for 4, and took another sack. Three good running plays and four bad passing plays. The second drive ended with yet another poor special teams play, as Jalin Marshall returned a punt 23 yards.
After the Rutgers game, someone asked the MGoBoard to sum up the season in a song. I went with Johnny Cash's version of Hurt (I focus on the pain, the only thing that's real.) While I still think that song is an apt metaphor for this season, there can be only one song that describes where we're at this weekend. I present to you, the Sunday's, "Here's Where The Story Ends," with commentary provided by yours truly. If you press play and read the following notes, you'll find they sync up like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the MOON.
People I know, places I go
Make me feel tongue tied
I think I was aware somthing happened, but I'm not fully aware
I can see how, people look down
They're on the inside
Brady's ultimate insider, Dave Brandon resigned this season. Does he have any support left from insiders?
Here's where the story ends
The story ends with a 31-20 record at Michigan with declining win totals year after year
People I see, weary of me
Showing my good side
Yeah, you can say that again
I can see how, people look down
I'm on the outside
You will be soon (wow, this is starting to sound harsh. But don't blame me, I didn't write this song.)
Here's, where the story ends
Ooh here's, where the story ends
The story ends with your fifth year senior quarterback being outplayed by a freshman and a third string QB
It's that little souvenir, of a terrible year
The tent stake?
Which makes my eyes feel sore
Watching Michigan this season made my eyes feel sore
Oh I never should have said, the books that you read
Were all I loved you for
I'll admit, graduating 69 of 69 seniors is a good thing
It's that little souvenir, of a terrible year
The two bottles of coke?
Which makes me wonder why
And it's the memories of the shed,
In year 4, Michigan was on the wrong end of woodshed games including:
0-31 versus a mediocre Notre Dame team
10-26 versus Utah
14-30 versus Minnesota
11-35 versus Sparty
that make me turn red
No! Anything but red!
Surprise, surprise, surprise
Losses to Minnesota, Rutgers, and Maryland provided the biggest surprises of this season
Crazy I know, places I go
Make me feel so tired
Tired of the losing, tired of the miscues, tired of the turnovers, tired of losing the places you go, i.e., road games.
I can see how people look down
I'm on the outside
Here's, where the story ends
Ooh here's, where the story ends
With Michigan leading #6 Ohio State 14-7 late in the first half, Michigan punted with 15 seconds left on the play clock. Unsurprisingly, Ohio State drove down the field and scored a TD with 7 seconds left.
It's that little souvenir, of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
The "KEEP BRADY HOKE" banner that flew over Spartan Stadium?
And who ever would've thought, the books that you brought
Were all I loved you for
Oh the devil in me said, go down to the shed
I know where I belong
But the only thing I ever really wanted to say
Was wrong, was wrong, was wrong
It's that little souvenir, of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside
I know, it's the "Quit Drinking and Go To Bed" novelty t-shirt I bought from the MGoStore!
So I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Here's, where the story ends
Ooh here's, where the story ends
With Michigan down by 14 points, Brady Hoke used his last timeout with 1:12 left to extend the game by one more play. Sorry Brady, you're now out of timeouts. The story ends. Your story. But there's always next year and another story to tell.
See you in '15.
At the start of the game, BTN reminded us that Brady Hoke's career record at the University of Michigan as head coach was 31-18. That means that Saturday's game against Maryland was his fiftieth game as coach. 50 is a nice round number. It makes it easy for us to compute winning percentages. 32 wins puts you at 64%. 31 wins puts you at 62%. Both are above average. Neither is very impressive, especially considering the advantages that come from coaching at the University of Michigan - budget, staffing, scheduling, facilities, recruiting, tradition, one of the better home field advantages, and an ability to attract competent assistant coaches. Considering all those advantages, 62% is failing. A monotonically downward trajectory is failing, but you all know that.
No, I mention the 50 games because on a selfish, personal note (and yeah, I know that's redundant) I have to mention that this is my fiftieth Inside the Boxscore Diary. I haven't counted them all, or done a very good job archiving them on the Blog, but I don't remember missing one - unlike a certain proprietor who sometimes feels that UFRs are optional. Believe me, they are not optional to the faithful west coast reader, who refreshes MGoBlog every few minutes on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, counting on that informative, insightful content to get him through the lunch hour. I do understand skipping the occasional UFR, because as I have learned over the past four years, and this year moreso than the rest, this team can be very hard to write about. I only write one diary a week during football season. I can't imagine having to write about this team, or better put, this coaching staff, on a daily basis. But take heart, dear readers, for we have surely witnessed the penultimate game in Brady Hoke's Michigan coaching career. Normally, the word "penultimate" sounds way cooler than it's actual meaning - the second to last - but in this case, the meaning matches the feeling.
Apparently, I've watched a lot of television, so much so, that I picked up the nickname, "TV Child" somewhere along the way. There's a hallowed tradition among television programs that when a series reaches a milestone event - the 100th episode or the 200th episode - the writers are allowed to take a break and instead of putting out new content, they assemble a "best of" or a highlights episode. Welcome to my personal "best of" edition of Inside the Boxscore.
Boxscore Link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/112214aaa.html
Play-by-Play Link: http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/mich/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/2014-1...
Burst of Impetus
* Bursted impetus is more like it. There can only be one play here, the punt return for a touchdown that wasn't. I'm conditioned by years of watching football to check the screen for that little yellow "FLAG" indicator they place under the score when there is a penalty. So when Norfleet broke through the initial line of defenders, and then burst past the last man making it to the endzone, I didn't celebrate. I paused a second. I watched him get mobbed by his teammates. I exhaled, and then I celebrated. I paused the screen, rewound it, and called my wife downstairs because even though she doesn't care much for football, she likes seeing those types of plays. And then we watched it again and still there was no penalty. And then it appeared. My heart sunk, but I told myself that maybe it was just an excess celebration penalty. I think we'd all understand that. But no, they called a Michigan player for a block in the back penalty that surely looked much more like a touch in the back that didn't change the defender's impetus in the slightest. In a game where the refs seemingly let a lot slide (like Maryland lining up offsides and holding and hitting Funchess' elbow moments before the football arrived on fourth down) in an attempt to limit the eye carnage and shorten the game, they threw a flag and wiped out the one brief moment of joy we had all day. I'm tempted to say all season, but I don't want to be accused of hyperbole.
* It was senior day. Speaking of my wife, I had to explain to her that it was the senior's last home football game, and not just another futile attempt to fill the stadium. Everyone over 65 gets in free! Thankfully, we're not there yet. Hats off to the seniors, who did get to experience the Sugar Bowl victory. Things better turn around or this year's juniors will have a lousy senior day next season.
* Thank you to BTN's Eric Collins who got into the spirit of my clips show (how'd he know I was going to do this?) by recycling his "Malachi Crunch" comment.
* Joe Bolden and Jake Ryan led Michigan in tackles with 14 apiece. Ryan contributed 1 QH. While it's nice seeing your starting linebackers lead the team in tackles instead of your safeties, 14 is a lot of tackles and speaks to Michigan's inability to get Maryland off the field, particularly in the 4th quarter.
Trash Cans Full of Dirt
* This section was a season 1 staple featuring Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Matt Godin and Taco Charlton each had one of Michigan's two sacks on the day.
* Michigan's rush defense had been playing better of late, but reverted to mid-season, David Cobb runs right over you for 182 yards, level of performance, only this time, we got gashed by C. J. Brown, a fellow who was leading Maryland with something just over 300 yards on the season coming into game 11. I just don't know anymore.
* Devin Gardner was our 2nd leading rusher on the day with 82 yards on 14 carries. He also ran for Michigan's only TD on the day. His running will be needed next week if we hope to score and avoid being totally embarrassed. Ohio State is not going to be happy after the egg they laid against Indiana. Perhaps they were looking ahead to next week's game. Perhaps Michigan is looking ahead to the end of the season after next week's game. How else to explain our fourth quarter?
* Gardner was 13 for 24 passing with numerous drops and poorly thrown balls, and the requisite interception.
* Michigan averaged 6.5 yards per rushing attempt and 4.4 yards per passing attempt. I understand that passing is supposed to be more of a boom-or-bust type situation. You either get a big play down the field, or the ball falls incomplete. The reason why one passes the ball and deals with the drive-hindering incomplete passes, is that usually, on average, you gain more passing than you do rushing. When I was a kid, I learned that a 0.300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 RBIs are marks to strive for. I'm still new to the advanced stats in football, but 7 yards per attempt seems like a number you should shoot for when passing. 4.4 yards per attempt, from a fifth year senior quarterback? That brings us back to the, "is Gardner broken" discussion. He certainly ran the ball better, but he still didn't throw the ball downfield. The coaching staff will allow him to throw the long out to the sideline for a few yards, but they won't call plays to throw the ball down the center of the field. One poster has posited a belief that Gardner was hurt during the Notre Dame game. I tend to believe this because I watched him play QB last year and the year before. I don't remember his flutter balls from this season showing up last season. I don't remember him being wildly inaccurate and having major timing issues last season. The YPA stat backs this up. So he is either hurt or the coaching staff is so afraid of him throwing interceptions down the middle of the field where there are more defenders and this is more likely to occur, that they have abandoned a major feature of their beloved MANBALL philosophy. MANBALL works best when you are averaging 6.5 yards per rushing attempt like we were yesterday, so you suck in the safeties and then play action pass over their heads. That's what made Anthony Carter famous. That's what earned Braylon Edwards the #1 jersey. Michigan has thrown one deep ball all year (hyperbole alert, but not by much) - the TD to Funchess against Penn State, and even that fell in front of the safety. Have we thrown a ball over a safeties head all season? I can't remember one. And that's how you get held to 16 points against a middling Maryland team while averaging 6.5 yards per attempt rushing.
* There was a time when Michigan could run the ball effectively. In Fitzgerald Toussaint's sophomore year, he ran for more than 1000 yards. Then he got hurt, and then last year happened. This season started off slow, but the running game appears to be effective, if not exactly filthy.
* In the game of musical chairs that is our backfield, it was Drake Johnson's turn again, as he ran for 94 yards on 14 carries. Justice Hayes was also quite effective gaining 6 yards per carry. Last week's star runner, De'Veon Smith, was the only one held under 5.9 yards per carry.
San Diego 49ers
* I noted very early in the third quarter when BTN showed Funchess had 30 yards receiving on 5 catches. He finished the game with 30 yards receiving on 5 catches.
* Funchess looks as out of place on the field as would a San Diego 49er. Is he a small tight end or a large wide receiver? I don't know. I do know that dominant, #1 wearing wide receivers should be averaging over 6 yards per completion. He sits in short underneath zones and catches passes you would throw to a tight end, but too often lets a smaller DB knock the ball away. He doesn't box out the defender like a big tight end would and he doesn't stretch the field like a fast wide receiver would.
* Jake Butt caught four passes for 28 yards. He had a long of 17, meaning his other three catches went for 11 yards. Running the ball at 6.5 yards an attempt makes more sense than that.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet is listed once under the "All Returns" section of the boxscore. They did not get him involved in the running or passing game. I suppose that's because he's just getting back from injury, but it would have been nice to have another play maker available on offense.
* Norfleet returned two punts for 17 yards, three kickoffs for 74 yards, and basically won the game for us until a ref decided that that was the one play all game that needed to be called by the book.
* How do you lose when you outgain your opponent 398 yards to 312 yards? The answer is simple. Not-so-special teams (and turnovers, and failing on fourth down twice.)
* Maryland's fourth FG attempt is not in the boxscore because Jourdan Lewis roughed the kicker. On the very next play, Jourdan Lewis failed to keep contain and Maryland scooted in for a touchdown.
* Michigan's high point on the day, a 52 yard fake punt, was more than offset by a touch in the back penalty that resulted in Michigan losing 70 yards of field position, oh, and a game-deciding touchdown.
I'm an International Umpire / Big John R. Studd Referee Section
* Yeah, I never did find a good section heading for this, but I've covered these guys enough for one game.
* No hexadecimal uniforms in the boxscore, yet again. Brady Hoke gets criticized for lacking organizational skills, but I tell you this, he figured out how to give out numbers so that the boxscore didn't need to revert to hexadecimal numbers. So there's that.
* Actually, I didn't get into the M00N meme, and I'm glad that Michigan scored early to save us from the M00M meme, but Maryland countered with a FG, setting up a potential M3M3 meme, or would that be a M33M meme? See, when writers try to add things to the clips show they usually fail in spectacular fashion. Like on Seinfeld, for 99 episodes it's a TV show about four people living in New York, but for some reason during the highlights show, Jerry's allowed to break the fourth wall and talk directly to the viewer. Let's just move on.
* Maryland's second leading tacklers were Nixon and Goree.
Hey, you know the rule, no politics.
It's Brian's bolded alter-ego. Thanks for stopping by our special highlights diary. Yes, I know the rules, but it's Maryland, and that's practically the nation's capitol. Can't we make an exception this one time?
OK, I'll just post this snarky photo instead:
I hope you had as much fun traveling down memory lane as I have. But you know what the problem with the TV highlights show is? There's nothing new. That feeling that we've been here, done that, leaves us feeling disappointed that we wasted our time watching something we've already seen. After this, the penultimate game of the Brady Hoke era, I can't think of a more fitting epitaph.
With apologies to Charles Dickens and BronxBlue, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Michigan won a football game. Michigan almost lost a football game in heartbreaking fashion, but Michigan was playing Northwestern. So when Northwestern's quarterback slipped and fell to effectively end the game, we all exhaled, smiled, and thought, of course that happened because it's Northwestern.
Michigan's defense held Northwestern to 95 yards total for their first 13 drives. 95 yards in 51 plays; that's less than 2 yards per play. (I is good at math.) One drive lasted 9 plays. One drive lasted 7 plays. No other drives lasted more than 6 plays. So, of course, on Northwestern's last two drives, they go 95 yards in 19 plays and 74 yards in 14 plays. 169 yards in 33 plays. That's better than 5 yards per play after demonstrating complete futility all game long. Of course that happened, because this was the Michigan-Northwestern game.
Michigan's offense gained 147 net yards rushing and only gave up 3 TFLs. Michigan's offense averaged 4.2 yards per rush to Northwestern's -0.3 yards per rush. That's usually a recipe for success, unless it's Michigan versus Northwestern, and then the normal rules of the universe don't apply.
Northwestern had more first downs than Michigan, 18 to 13, and ran 84 plays to our 59. Gaining more first downs and dominating ball possession are usually recipes for success, unless it's Michigan versus Northwestern.
Northwestern was only flagged for 10 yards in penalties to our 50. Northwestern had 82 yards in interception returns to our 2. Hidden yards can often determine the outcome of a game, unless it's Michigan versus Northwestern.
I know you are patiently waiting for the links, but I've got one more of these, so bare with me. Northwestern was 10 of 20 on third conversions to Michigan's 1 of 12. How in the heck did we win this game? Oh, yeah, that's right, we were playing Northwestern.
Boxscore Link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/110814aaa.html
Burst of Impetus
* Pat Fitzgerald would have you believe that when Northwestern blocked Michigan's field goal attempt to end the first half, Northwestern seized the momentum. I'm a scientist, so I'm fairly certain I can explain why he was wrong. Momentum is mass times velocity. Since neither team had any forward velocity, there was no momentum to be had. Michigan's touchdown drive came after Northwestern muffed a punt return. Gardner threw an 18 yard pass to Funchess, down to Northwestern's three. De'Veon Smith punched it in from there. Michigan's offense was functional for two plays, and that's all we really needed, because Northwestern.
* Jake Ryan led the defense with 11 tackles. He had half a TFL for 1 yard, a BrUp, and a huge, impetus reversing interception. There were some growing pains earlier in the season, but he seems to be settling in at MLB.
* Will Hagerup banged a punt 57 yards early in the game, but only netted 37 yards on the punt as it snuck into the endzone. That was his only touchback; however, and he contributed mightily to the cause by knocking three punts inside Northwestern's 20, with 2 of them being downed at the 1 yard line.
* Devin Gardner continued to explode in every direction. He finished 11 of 24 for 109 yards and 2 interceptions. I thought the blame for the first interception could be split equally between Gardner and Butt, but that second INT was vintage Gardner. I've been wondering why Michigan hasn't been throwing the deep ball this season, and I think it's because Gardner can't be counted on to get the ball within 10 yards of the receiver, and if by accident he does, the receivers can't be counted on to make a play on the ball.
* My one prediction going into this game was that if Gardner threw a pick-six, we'd lose. If he didn't, we'd win. At least I got one prediction right this season, but Northwestern had a 79 yard interception return and had a couple other chances to score from the defensive side of the ball.
Love the Drake, but Really Love De'Veon
* I saw Brian give De'Veon another -2 in the UFRs this week, and that got my dander up. I can't help it, I love watching him run. Well, you can't really call it running. It's more like slogging. But the guy gets YAC like nobody's business. De'Veon gained 122 yards on 18 carries and only lost 1 yard. He finished with 121 net yards, 1 TD, and a 6.7 yard per carry average.
* Michigan won a game with special teams? Yes, Michigan won a game with special teams, but it's probably more accurate to say that Northwestern lost because of their special teams.
* Northwestern netted 30 yards per punt, about 5 yards less than Michigan. Michigan picked up about 30 hidden yards on punt exchanges.
* Northwestern did block a Michigan FG attempt, but also missed a 36 yard attempt.
* Northwestern's offense dominated Michigan's defense on it's last two drives. This would suggest that Northwestern would have been better served kicking the extra point and going to overtime. However, Northwestern's field goal kicking appears to be so bad that Michigan would have a decided advantage in the kicking game had the game gone to overtime. Teams start at the 25 yard line in overtime. Michigan can make 42 yard field goals. Yes, they occassionally get blocked, but more often than not they go in. Northwestern would need to gain a first down to get into field goal position. I think that's likely the reason why Fitz went for two and the win in regulation.
* I normally don't complain about the umps, but I thought they were awful. It wasn't just the penalty yard discrepancy. There was Funchess' offensive pass interference call, and numerous questionable spots that went against us.
Who was worse?
* Your candidates are Brady Hoke, Pat Fitzgerald, and whomever directed the game for ESPN. The coverage was awful. They were continually late cutting to the sideline view at the start of the play, and they even missed an entire play to let Adnan Virk give us an Auburn-Texas A&M update. Hey, ESPN, we're watching a Michigan-Northwestern football game. That means we're certifiably insane. No one who bothers to watch Michigan versus Northwestern gives a sh!t about good teams playing good football.
More Best and Worst
* I watched two games today. This one, and State versus State. The latter was a contest to see who is the best of the best of the Big Ten. After last week, it's obvious that Indiana - due to their present QB situation - is the worst of the worst. So what does that make the Michigan - Northwestern game? I was going to say it was a contest to see who was the best of the worst of the Big Ten, but after winning, Michigan sits at 3-3 in the conference and 5-5 overall. We're solidly in the middle of the middle. Next week will determine if we're the best or worst of the average teams. We were all expecting, or at least hoping for better in year 4 of the Hoke administration.
* I made the statement this week that I'd take Hoke back next season if we won by 1 point on November 29. I hemorrhaged quite a few MGoPoints as a result, and rightly so. I'll readily admit that a one point victory over Northwestern is not the same as a 1 point win over the Buckeyes. But after today, after what Ohio State proved by going into Spartan Stadium and doing that to Dantonio and his nationally renowned defense, you've got to admit that if we upset the Buckeyes to end the regular season, Brady Hoke should be put up for sainthood because a few major miracles will have occurred. I think it's far more likely that we lose by 40+ points than we win, but that's why they play the game. Maybe Gardner, Funchess and Norfleet can get healthy during our bye week and our passing game can provide a nice complement to the newfound competence in the running game. That would be the best outcome going down the stretch. I'm prepared for the worst.
"AD" for After Dave. Once the head coach has been hired, an athletic director, being so far removed from the day-to-day workings of a football team, should not be able to impact the success - or lack thereof - of the football team. A quick check of the boxscore does not show the athletic director's name (though this season I have hinted at it showing his finger prints.*) In fact, it does not even show the coaches' names, which makes this a less than perfect archive since I believe that the coaches do matter. (It does, however, list the officials.) So the boxscore is populated by people who set foot on the field and determine the outcome of the game. Did the resignation of Michigan's athletic director release a dam of pent-up frustration, stress, and ill-will that allowed the football team to perform to their highest potential, or is Indiana just really bad? I'm going to take this opportunity to focus on the positive and leave the rest of the nonsense for later in the season. For now, there's still a chance the team can become bowl eligible, earn another chance to put on the winged helmet and play for Michigan.
*I've referenced the advertisement placement that blocks some of the stats.
Boxscore Link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/110114aaa.html
Burst of Impetus
* Michigan stopped Indiana on their first possession and responded with a decent drive that ended in a field goal. Michigan's drive was highlighted by a 34 yard Gardner to Darboh completion. On Indiana's next drive, Jake Ryan forced Tevin Coleman to fumble the ball and Bryan Mone was there to recover the ball. Given a short field, Michigan's offense responded, going 27 yards in 6 plays for a touchdown. Down 10-0, Indiana's coach benched his one great player for fumbling, allowing Michigan to extend our lead to 17-0. With Indiana sorely missing their QB, there was little to fear the rest of the way.
Love the Drake
* I thought the story of the running game this year was going to be the battle between Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith. With Green out for the year, and Smith dinged up in the first half, Michigan turned to Drake Johnson. Johnson carried 16 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Even subtracting his long run of 32 yards leaves him with 90 yards on 15 carries for an even 6.0 yards per carry. That was a solid performance.
* Smith and Hayes combined for 42 yards on 13 carries against the same Indiana defense, so I'm inclined to be optimistic that we may have stumbled on something positive in the running game. Time will tell.
I'm Having a Hard Time Coming up with Positive Section Headings. It's Been That Kind of Year.
* Devin Gardner completed 22 passes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns.
* Even though he mostly targeted Darboh and Funchess, eight Michigan players caught passes, including Bo Dever, Joe Kerridge and A.J. Williams.
* Darboh had a career game with 9 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown.
* Jake Ryan led the defense with 11 tackles, 2.5 TFLs and 2 forced fumbles.
* Michigan recorded 12 TFLs and had two sacks.
* The top four tacklers were all front-seven guys. Wilson and Hill each had 3 tackles. The starting CBs, Taylor and Lewis combined for one tackle.
The Glass is Half Full?
* Indiana did not earn a passing first down. I wonder when the last time was that happened. For the game, Michigan doubled Indiana's first down production, 20 to 10.
* Michigan ran 64 plays, of which, 61 ended in non-negative yards.
* In a near reversal of last week, Michigan more than doubled Indiana in total yardage, 404 to 191.
* Michigan won the time of possession, 33:35 to 26:25. Hey, it matters to Brady, so we'll record it as a positive for this week.
* We had twice as many third down conversions as Indiana, 6 to 3.
* Michigan was perfect in the red zone, going 6 for 6 with four touchdowns, and unlike previous weeks, we actually got there quite often this week.
* For the second week in a row, Michigan scored more points off turnovers than their opponents. This week it was 14-0.
Wow, I'm sorry guys. I'll admit this was far from my finest effort. It's going to take more than a new AD to rescue this program. I tried to put lipstick on this pig, but it's still a pig. On to the next one...
As the saying goes, it's always darkest before the dawn, and things have gotten pretty dark around here. Recent events have motivated students to protest on the Diag and in front of the President's house. There have been daily discussions of boycotts, and numerous coaching change threads have blotted out the sun. When darkness is all around, what can one do to restore hope? Should we accept our fate and wallow in the depths of mediocrity? Or should we boycott games, kickoffs, or concessions? Should we question the team's spirit, the coaches' intelligence, or the athletic department's priorities? Should we complain that things were better in our day? Should we cry metaphorical tears at the loss of our Michigan? Games started at 1pm when I was a kid and they should always start at 1pm because Bo said so. Should we blame all our problems on noodles, ticket prices and Special K? I don't know about you, but when things are bleakest for me, I make light of the situation.
As a result, I decided mid-week to change up the format and give out light-related awards for this game, regardless of the outcome. I really didn't know what to expect from this game, except that there would be lots of punting. Unlike our previous opponents, I was a little familiar with Penn State, having watched them play against UCF and Rutgers. From that, I knew their offensive line was struggling, and Anthony Zettel is really, really good. In a match-up of two good defenses and two suspect offenses, we were treated to exactly what everyone expected. But how often does that occur?
Boxscore link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/101114aae.html
Flash of Impetus
* I decided to Google "burst of impetus" so I could contrast that to today's award, the "Flash of Impetus." The first two links Google returned were to my diaries of Sept. 25, 2011, and Oct. 2, 2011. So that was no help. Simplifying the search to just "burst," I learned that a burst is an explosion. This makes sense in the context of Doug Nussbaum, sorry, Nussmeier's (darn espn announcers) focus on explosive plays. A week after Rutgers exploded all over our defense, the biggest unknown coming into the game was would Christian Hackenberg have enough time to replicate the Champagne Super Nova from the prior week. Mattison dialed up the pressure and eventually broke Hackenberg. At first, there was a flash of impetus, as a Penn State receiver dropped a pass that Delonte Hollowell scooped up and returned for an apparent touchdown. My heartrate didn't budge, as I was sure that was coming back. Why that replay took any more than 2 seconds is a question for another day. So like a flash, the impetus was there and then gone.
Burst of Impetus
* A definition for impetus is, "the force or energy with which a body moves." So technically speaking, the burst of impetus is an explosive play that moves a body. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, so these plays propel the team forward. In prior weeks, we thought Willie Henry's fatboy TD could be a burst of impetus. But the team didn't respond. There was a flash of excitement, and then nothing. In this game, on a play late in the 3rd quarter, the defense pressured Hackenberg, drew a holding penalty, and forced him to make a poor decision, lofting a ball that Jourdan Lewis intercepted. From then on, the rout was on as Michigan tallied the next three scores and turned a 13-10 deficit into an 18-13 victory. Hey, in this game, a five point advantage is huge.
* It was recently announced that three inventors won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention of the blue light emitting diode. As this is the top prize in physics, we will give this award to the top performer of the game, the defense.
* The defense held Penn State to 54 yards rushing on 35 attemps for a 1.5 yard average. Penn State was limited to 214 total offense yards on 68 plays, for an average gain per play of 3.1.
* The defense forced 5 punts, did not give up a fourth down conversion on three attempts, and tallied one critical turnover.
* Allow me to share my "cool story bro" story. Back when I was a student at UofM, I gave a paper at the Materials Research Society Meeting in Boston. This meeting had somewhere around 30 parallel sessions going on at the same time (hence, the word parallel.) Some of the more popular topics, like silicon, were granted the larger meeting rooms. Folks like myself who were studying compound semiconductors (like indium phosphide) got to speak in a closet in front of 15-20 people. At this conference, I overheard talk that Shuji Nakamura was giving an invited talk. He is one of the three fellows who just won the Nobel Prize. So I wandered over to that session's conference room. It was a little larger than a closet, but the interest was extraordinary for a compound semiconductor talk. I'm talking standing room only at a technical conference. This guy was already a rock star. This was over 20 years ago, when gallium arsenide was still regarded as the technology of the future ("...and always will be" is how that joke finished up.) Now, everyone's phone has a GaAs power amp and gallium nitride based blue LEDs are ubiquitous. At that time, no one thought a blue LED was possible because the defect density in gallium nitride materials was extreme, and defects cause non-radiative recombination, etc. So halfway through the talk, Nakamura pulled out an array of green LEDs (the pre-cursor to today's blue LEDs) and powered them up. The brightness was more intense than anyone thought possible. The audience was shocked, awed, and amazed. He explained how they were motivated to generate all LED traffic signals, and the green LED was the only thing missing. I had a feeling I was witnessing the future. And now, more than 20 years later, Nakamura has rightly earned his Nobel Prize. I was a witness to this due to my attending the University of Michigan. Damn right, I'm proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.
* When a quarterback is on, he's described as throwing lasers. Devin Gardner was 16 for 24 passing for 192 yards. His long pass was a 43 yard arc that was anything but laser-like, but Devin Funchess stepped in front of the defensive back, bobbled it a bit, and then strode into the endzone for a touchdown.
* Gardner also ran 10 times for 18 yards. Of interest, Gardner ran for 121 yards last year against Penn State. This year, through the first six games, he had run for only 131 yards. If the goal was to run Devin less to protect his health, that strategy has failed miserably as he looks as beaten up after 7 games this season as he did after 12 last season.
* I watched Auburn play Mississippi State before our game. Both teams feature a dual-threat QB. I couldn't help but think as I watched that game, "THAT! That is what I want from our offense."
Quantum Cascade Laser Award
* A photon is a single quantum of light, and so this award goes to #1, Devin Funchess.
* Funchess led the receivers with 7 catches for 69 yards and 1 touchdown.
Quantum Dot Laser Award
* What's smaller than a two-dimensional quantum well? The one-dimensional quantum dot, so this award obviously goes to Michigan's smallest player, Dennis Norfleet.
* Norfleet caught one pass for 24 yards, but it was a huge play. The game had settled down into a defensive struggle, and it sure looked like overtime beckoned. Gardner was able to complete one pass downfield to Norfleet and put us in FG range.
* Norfleet also returned two kickoffs for 52 yards and set some sort of record for kick return yardage, but that's not something I want to focus on because of what it implies.
Phosphorescent Light Bulb Award
* The phosphorescent light bulb I'm thinking of is that curly tube like one that replaces the common household incandescent bulb. You know, the one that looks totally out of place.
* Jake Ryan led the team with 10 tackles. He had three TFLs and a sack.
* I'm starting to get used to those compact fluorescents. Jake may be getting used to playing MIKE. We'll find out in 2 weeks.
* The defense tallied 11 TFLs, six sacks, and 2 QHs. I did notice a couple times Hackenberg was able to shake off a potential sack. I hope we practice sacking this week and next. The scout team QB better be needing some serious hot tub time is all I'm saying.
Neon Deion Award
* For the defensive back who played most like shutdown corner, Neon Deion Sanders. I contemplated not giving this out, but Jourdan Lewis did have one huge interception and was credited with 5 tackles. (That's about 4 more than Neon Deion averaged in his career.)
* I watched the end of the Minnesota-Northwestern game (yes, I watched a lot of football yesterday) and Minnesota's defensive backs had more BrUps in the 4th quarter than I think Michigan's had all year. For the game, Minnesota had 6 BrUps. SIX BrUps! Raymon Taylor was credited with Michigan's only BrUp.
* Quick tangent, I've been banging the Gopher drum all year. They are now 5-1 and face Purdue and Illinois next. They scored on a 100 yard kick return that was exceptionally blocked. Norfleet isn't going to bring one all the way back until the 10 guys in front of him execute their assignments. I'd take Minnesota's DB and special teams coaches any day. Gee, I wonder if there was some way to make that happen...
The Phoebus Cartel Award
* IEEE Spectrum has an article about the Phoebus Cartel and their efforts to engineer a shorter life span for the incandescent lightbulb; what we refer to today as planned obsolescence. This award is given to the awful coaching decision of the game, and will be given retroactively as follows:
Vs. Utah - punt with 10 men on the field and give up a punt return TD
Vs. Minnesota - start Shane Morris over Devin Gardner
Vs. Rutgers - hurry-up at the end of half to give Rutgers more time to score
Vs. Penn State - call a timeout with 3 seconds left in the half to allow PSU a risk-free opportunity to throw a Hail Mary. Seriously, what are the odds that we intercept the ball and return it for a score versus Penn State throwing a successful Hail Mary to their 6'7" tight end with their QB who has a rocket arm? Fortunately, we didn't get burned by this decision.
* Goes to the program most in need of shining a flashlight in all those dark corners. As bad as things are in Ann Arbor, this award goes to Penn State.
Debbie Boone, "You Light Up My Life" award
* Debbie sings, "And you, light up my life. You give me hope, to carry on."
* The winner of this award is Team 135. Carry on, men.
I, for the most part, kept my comments to meaningless snark this past week, as I don't think I'm close enough to the situation to weigh in on Brandon, his handling of the athletic department, or concussion-gate. I do know enough about football; however, to blame the coaching staff for costing Team 135 three victories so far this season.
#1 - A stubborn refusal to embrace modern punting strategy and failure to count players on the punt team leads to a Utah punt return touchdown. Emboldened, Utah rose to the occasion and played significantly better in the second half. It's worth remembering that Michigan outgained Utah 308 yards to 286 yards. That was a winnable game.
#2 - Brady Hoke makes the decision to start Shane Morris over Devin Gardner, and stays with him long after it is obvious that playing Gardner gives the team the best chance to win. After leading Michigan on their lone first half scoring drive, De'Veon Smith gets one carry in the 2nd half.
#3 - Michigan calls for a hurry-up quarterback sneak with 2 minutes and 24 seconds left in the first half. At the time, Rutgers only had one timeout left. Michigan fails to score on the play, but does so on the next play. The additional 20 seconds Michigan could have run off the clock provides Rutgers enough time to score a touchdown instead of a field goal on their next possession. Michigan loses by 2 points.
So that's three very different aspects of the game - special teams strategy, personnel decisions, and clock management. This coaching staff made egregious errors in all three.
Boxscore link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/100414aaa.html
Burst of Impetus
* I don't know. It was back and forth and for awhile it seemed like neither team wanted to win. The only time we stopped Rutgers on defense was when their receiver would drop a pass. They even failed to block Frank Clark on a blitz up the middle, but he failed to wrap up the QB, allowing the TD at the end of the half. Rutgers called a ridiculous fake punt on 4th and 10 and gave us the ball back in great field position. Michigan went in to score a TD, but called an equally ridiculous hurry up QB sneak to leave Rutgers with enough time to score at the end of the half.
"What kind of throw was that?"
* I think if Gardner had started against Minnesota and played to this level, we would have won. He was 13 for 22 for 178 yards. He distributed the ball to 7 different receivers. The one critical error he made is one he has made throughout his career. Rutgers blitzed, leaving Gardner little time to find an open receiver. He avoided the rush, but instead of tossing the ball forward to Hayes, who could have easily scampered for a first down, Gardner lofted the ball downfield. The Rutgers defender could have called for a fair catch as he waited for it to gently flutter down into his open arms. Funchess was a good 5-10 yards away from the play.
"That doesn't help at all."
* Calling for a hurry-up, when that is exactly what Rutgers wants you to do. When the other team is happy you did something, that's usually a bad sign.
1A and 1B
* Derrick Green re-stated his case for being the feature back, as he carried 12 times for 74 yards. Your lead back averaged 6.2 yards per carry and he got 12 carries. The running game looked better, especially in the fourth quarter. We have got to figure out some way to get our lead running back more carries. Part of that is figuring out how to get the defense off the field. Rutgers was 8 for 16 on third down.
* Michigan rushed for 158 yards to Rutgers' 74. I don't want to hear anymore criticisms of the offensive line, unless they deserve it. They played well enough to win the game. The defensive backs played poorly enough to lose three games. Yes, Rutgers sacked Gardner three times, but we sacked Nova twice. Sacks happen. That's football.
* We only gave up 5 TFLs, while TFL'ing Rutgers 8 times. The story of the game is not our offensive line troubles. It is our defense giving up passing plays of 26, 53, 26, 14, 12, 80, 33, and 16 yards. Those are just the long receptions for eight different Rutgers receivers. It would be one thing to be beaten by Leonte Carroo. I've heard he's pretty good. But Janarion Grant, Tyler Kroft, Desmon Peoples, and Andrew Turzilli? That's just zilli, peoples.
"Another huddle? Really?"
* Well, we scrapped the huddle during portions of the game. The pace was still lacking as we spent long periods looking to the sideline to get the play. The point of skipping the huddle is to prevent the defense from substituting when you have a personnel advantage. Gashing them for 8 yards on a run when their nickel defense is in, and then passing on the next play doesn't accomplish anything. The key to the no-huddle is to get the opponents in a mismatch and then exploit the mismatch.
* We scored 24 points. According to Bo, that should be good enough to win. Rutgers only had 74 yards rushing. That should be good enough to win. It's those 402 passing yards that Rutgers gained...
* The announcers were going on and on (well, except for Shaun O'Hara, who never spoke. Do they have someone in the booth checking every 5 minutes or so to see if he's still alive?) about how Friedgen likes to go deep. If the announcers can figure that out in the couple hours they put in preparing for the game, why is it that our defense seemed completely surprised and unprepared for their deep passes? On one long pass, I saw three M defenders covering Carroo (meaning Nova missed someone else glaringly wide open.) On the 80 yard TD, Countess was obviously expecting safety help that wasn't there. (Which is also a symptom of poor coaching.)
Facilitating the Comfort Level
* I used to cover the officials in this diary. I stopped doing that because they have a tough job to do and don't need some crazy internet conspiracist to cast aspersions on their character. That said, I was a little curious to see who worked this game. Unfortunately, Dave Brandon placed a Geico ad over the officials' names. They were a little difficult to resolve, but I think this is what it says:
Referee: Tony Soprano
Umpire: Chris Moltisanti
Linesman: Silvio Dante
Line Judge: Paulie Gualtieri
Back Judge: Bobby Baccalieri
Side Judge: Vito Spatafore
Field Judge: Phil Leotardo
Alternate: Vince McMahon*
I don't want to suggest that the umpires were paid off by the mob, but during the Rutgers University commercial, they highlighted their efforts in plastics recycling, AKA, waste management.
*I threw that last one in there for BronxBlue. I gotta say, I'm a little surprised he didn't have a "Worst: the Piscataway Screwjob" section.