Former Colorado RB and Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam found dead at 42. Another gone too soon...2016, please end now.
Former Heisman Trophy winner and Bears' first-round pick Rashaan Salaam died at age of 42, per family spokesman. Another gone way too soon.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 6, 2016
Edit: Here's a story link
I'd posted prior to the Hawaii game that we've created [another] podcast for your enjoyment -- The Cambridge Hall Hailcast.
It's not an actual 'Hall' on campus - Michael was a Rumsey denizen while I was baptised at Bursley. It's an easter egg per our current places in the world some 25 years post Ann Arbor.
In any event we've published episode 1.4 whereby we recap CU and preview PSU. It's lots of fun to record and produce and thought we'd share the love of the Maize and Blue with the MGoBlog community.
In any event it's available on...
Cheers and Go Blue!
Best: Predictably Inevitable
People have asked how I find time to write these (needlessly-long, pedantic) diaries with two small kids at home. Well, the secret is that I rarely watch the full game live; I always DVR it and catch up Saturday night/Sunday morning. Most days I’ll catch part of it during a rare nap time, maybe a quarter while my daughter plays in the living room, but otherwise it’s always after-the-fact viewing.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that every Michigan football games elicits an amount of emotion from me regardless of how I consume it. If it’s live, it’s a slow drip over 4 hours with occasional spikes. If I only see the box score well after the game is done, it’s either a jolt of euphoria or a gut punch in a moment. But when I’m watching the game on a DVR, it’s a different creature entirely. I largely know how the game ended; I’m not remotely diligent enough to try to filter that information out (and oftentimes, I catch the final score as the game ends). I’m not living or dying by every play in real-time, but there’s still a context to them that’s tangible. In this game, I caught UM going down 21-7 as it happened; Liufau looked accurate throwing the ball and CU’s defense was humming along. Needless to say that wasn’t the best feeling on my way to dinner. But when I tuned back in, UM was ahead 38-28 and CU was struggling to get positive yardage with their backup QB. The final score was a comfortable-looking 17-points, and the per-quarter yardage breakdown largely matched up; Colorado had 195 total yards of offense in the first quarter to UM’s 66, while over the next 3 quarters it was 130 to 331 for the Wolverines. The final destination was predictable; the path the teams took to get there less so.
I know early predictions for this game were calling for a blowout, but I never totally bought it. I expected UM to win convincingly, but Colorado is a better team than people give them credit for. Their offense can move the ball quickly (especially when you add in poor tackling), they can get after the QB a bit, and they have a solid secondary. It isn’t a world-beater, but if you told me they’ll finish second in the Pac-12 South I wouldn’t be surprised. And UM still hasn’t shown an ability to lock down mobile QBs and all the bad mojo that comes with them (in this game it was an early parade of slants that were almost always open); an upgraded UCF is what I expected to see, and so 21 points of offense plus an NFL Blitz-type forced fumble for a TD was what we got.
But again, how they got to 28 was the jarring part of it. For two weeks I had seen Wilton Speight just pinpoint balls all over the field; in this game, he started 2/9 for 16 yards and air-mailed a couple of balls or left them far too short. Even at the half, after UM had come storming back to take the lead 24-21, Speight’s numbers were still pretty pedestrian (9/21, 124 yards, 1 TD). The second half was much better, as Speight went 7/9 for 105 yards, but still it was a game that he finished with barely above a 50% completion percentage and a ypa of 7.6. And at least early on, he struggled to handle the pressure Colorado was bringing and/or the coverage packages they used (he did evade pressure late on the missed FG drive), or at least the playcalling made it difficult to do so.
And the running game never really materialized despite putting up superficially-okay states (~5 ypc after you factored our sacks). It felt like the usual cocktail of problems running the ball, with backs sometimes missing holes while other times being steamrolled by unblocked tacklers. Smith had the one long TD run but was otherwise shut down, as was Isaac and Evans. Hell, Isaac and Speight ran into each other on a play late in the half and I wasn’t all that surprised. To say I’ve become comfortably numb to the reality that UM just isn’t going to be able to run the ball effectively again would probably be an understatement.
And so, UM leaned on its defense and special teams to right the ship early, and for the second week in a row they delivered. UM blocked another punt, this one opening the scoring for the Wolverines. They also forced CU to sorta-shank another punt in the 2nd quarter. The defensive line didn’t allow the Buffs to get anything going on the ground (33 carries, 67 yards, 1.9 ypc), and as a team UM had 4 sacks and another 8 QB hits. Thus, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Liufau wound up having to sit out in the second half with an ankle injury, nor that any semblance of offense went with him.
Watching the game again, the narratives played out perfectly: Colorado came out and rode emotion, execution (good from CU, bad from UM), and some luck to an early lead, but it never felt sustainable. UM slowly clawed back behind it’s defense and some big plays, and in the end imposed their will once again. In the moment, though, I’m sure it didn’t feel quite so clear-cut.
Best: Chill Peppers
On the same day that Lamar Jackson completely undressed FSU to solidify his September Heisman, Jabrill Peppers submitted his own entry for the award. Jim Harbaugh said after the game that Peppers was the best player on the field this day, and it’s hard to look at the numbers and disagree: 24 yards rushing, nearly 200 return yards and a TD, a team-leading 3.5 TFL with his 9 tackles, and the immeasurable fear of God he put into every Buffalo player whenever he touched the ball. Coming into the game he was third in the country for TFLs, and only added to his total here. In a game featuring a fair number of athletic guys on both sides of the ball, Peppers looked like a man apart.
The only concern I have is that the team will come to rely more heavily on his offensive contributions, especially if running the ball continues to be an issue. Peppers is best when he can be deployed strategically on offense, as otherwise you are doing your opponent’s dirty work tiring him out on the defensive side of the ball. Both PSU and Wisconsin will likely continue the running game’s woes, and I worry that Peppers will be leaned on to get some yards on the ground. Hopefully PSU’s recent struggles on defense and Wisconsin’s issues moving the ball will allow UM to give Peppers breathers when he’s not killing screens and QBs, because right now he is playing as complete a job as a defender as we’ve seen around UM in a long time.
Worst: Unnecessarily Interesting Secondary
We all knew coming into the year that the secondary had a lot of experience and talent. But we also knew that the era of boring safeties (both Kouvacs and Wilson) was probably over as well. Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill are great athletes who can make plays on the ball in space, and in Don Brown’s defense they can wreak havoc in both the running and passing games at a moment’s notice. But at the same time, they can absolutely run themselves out of good position or the right coverage, resulting in big plays. In the wash you assume math favors the aggressors and those crunching hits, timely turnovers, and drive-killing deflections are worth the occasional bust. And thus far, that’s largely been true, as UM has as many fumble recoveries (2) as they did all last year, and Hill has a pick-six to his name.
But at the same time, Hill was also the guy who got beat badly on that 70-yard TD throw, and Thomas was largely responsible for UCF’s 87-yard TD run going from a first down to a dash to the endzone. Again, in totality, I think both of them have been solid beyond the breakdowns, but when your position prominently includes the word “Safety”, a flaming truck going down a backwoods road shouldn’t be an image that pops in my head.
And it wasn’t just the safeties today. Both Stribling and Clark struggled at times to tackle in space, no more so than when Clark just sorta bounced off Bryce Bobo on his way to a 50-yard slant that flipped the field and gave Colorado a chance to extend their 21-7 lead (luckily CU botched the kick). Watching games this weekend, teams like OSU, MSU, PSU, and even Iowa have receivers who can make UM’s secondary pay, and giving up multiple 50+ yard completions largely due to bad form or poor angles can’t be a common occurrence if UM is going to thrive this year. Some of this is undoubtedly transition pains to a new defensive philosophy, but bad tackling and pursuit angles aren’t usually due to learning new playcalls and, even more, shouldn’t be occurring with some regularity for seniors who have played significant minutes before.
Worst: Second-string Excuses
I saw a couple of people (mostly on the Reddit post-game thread but also stray eggs on Twitter) claim this game would have been different had Sefo Liufau not been injured in the third quarter. Hell, our favorite "newspaper" claimed that he stood "tall" in the pocket while leading his team to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, even though his team was behind at halftime and only took the lead for about a minute before UM jumped ahead for good.
Liufau played well in spurts and with poise under a heavy UM rush, but well before he was knocked out of the game it was clear that UM was adjusting to the slants and screens that CU used to move the ball in that first quarter. The yardage disparity after the first quarter is one thing, but after his aforementioned long completion to Bobo that broke because of poor tackling, he was 5/11 for 23 yards before that 70-yard heave. So beyond two broken plays that totaled 120 yards, Colorado could barely move the ball and their QB was getting hit hard both when he dropped back and when he ran. That's going to take a toll on anyone's body, and so it shouldn't be some huge surprise that he went out with an injury.
Obviously, you can't completely ignore those 2 completions; one flipped the field and led to a FG try and the other was for a score. But UM had already started to impose it's will on the game by that point, and given his career's penchant for turnovers I'm not sure his luck would have continued. I mean, he couldn't even escape the hits on the sidelines.
On the other side of the ball, UM was without Jourdan Lewis, Bryan Mone, and Taco Charlton, all three men who would have made Sefo's day even longer. That's the nature of football, and had UM lost I'm sure a couple people would have pointed to this absences as a cause. But don't let the narrative that Colorado was holding serve with UM settle in too deeply; it was more that Colorado hit some early shots but the inevitable talent and skill difference kicked in. That doesn't mean losing their starting quarterback didn't hurt CU, only that I think him leaving affected the margin of the victory, not who won.
Worst: Offensive First Quarter
Take it away, Jared…
I’m not sure how to read that first quarter. Michigan was able to move the ball on the ground a bit, but it was mostly by giving the ball to Peppers or McDoom on sweeps. Smith had one nice gain, but that was about it. Speight went 2/9 for 16 yards, and most of that was picked up on a nice little catch-and-run by Butt. But that’s it for the offense, and that also included Speight air-balling a couple of throws and getting obliterated by Awuzie on a blitz that led to Colorado’s second TD. He seemed profoundly off, and seemed physically rattled after that sack, with O’Korn taking at least one snap while they worked on Speight’s shoulder.
People will look at the box score and see a long of 45 yards to Darboh and think Speight started airing it out, but that was a really short pass to the flats that Darboh turned into a TD by shaking one defender and fighting off a couple one-arm tackles. For most of the game, Speight struggled to get the ball downfield consistently, leaving a couple short including one that forced Darboh to bat it away lest it get picked off. It seemed like the speed of the pass rush and Colorado’s legitimately-good secondary messed with his reads and timing, and to his credit Speight found ways to move around in the pocket to buy some time and completed 7 of his last 9 throws. Yet, for all of the optimism I had after the first 2 weeks about him at QB, this week’s performance tamps that down a bit. He should obviously remain the starting QB and he could have a great week against PSU to quiet the whispers, but his trajectory toward stardom took a dip this weekend.
As for the rest of the offense, it got better after that first quarter. Chesson didn’t have a catch in this game and seemed to be covered well when they did throw to him, though Speight’s inaccuracy probably played a part in that. And he still did get to the endzone on a nice run to pull UM within 7 in the second quarter. In his stead, both Butt and Darboh had a number of big catches, and in particular Butt looked unguardable again.
As for the running backs, like I said earlier, this might just be it. I’ll let PFF and Brian grade out the linemen, but it sure seemed like there were holes to be hit at times and Smith and co. failed to get to them. And yes, running the ball can oftentimes be very feast-or-famine, with outcomes sometimes independent of what play was called and if it was executed properly. Smith’s big run against BYU, as has been noted a couple times around here, probably shouldn’t have happened; Smith ran the wrong way, had to fight off the same guy trying to tackle him twice, and it still resulted in a long TD. His long run this game was more conventional, but again sometimes you just get lucky and that can turn a meh day into a good one. But at the same time, this is week 3 and outside of Chris Evans against Hawaii there hasn’t been a particularly memorable performance by any of the backs. Smith did have a couple of nice blitz pickups that helped give Speight some time, so definitely shouldn’t be minimized. But I am profoundly worried how one-dimensional this team will look against PSU and Wisconsin these next two weeks if UM struggled to get yardage against CU and UCF.
Best: Defensive Line
This should probably be a weekly segment, but kudos to the defensive line again for dominating an opposition. Colorado couldn’t do anything running the ball and their QBs were getting demolished even when they got passes off. Gary had 4 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs, and led the team in QB hits. Even with a short rotation, guys like Winovich and Hurst kept getting through the line, and they rarely ceded ground to CU’s offense. I fully expect them to continue this against PSU and Wisconsin, as both teams have issues offensively (PSU’s line and Wisconsin’s QB).
Best: This is Apparently a Thing
So yeah, another week, another couple of great special teams plays. UM blocked 1 punt decisively, leading to Grant Perry’s opening TD, returned a punt for a TD, and even with a missed FG by Kenny Allen decisively won that phase of the game. In terms of field position, UM started each drive on their own 37, while CU was at their own 28. That’s basically a free first down every drive, and lot of that was due to UM having 213 yards in returns (including 50+ returns on both punts and kickoffs) on the day to Colorado’s 159. I’m sure this string of decisive special teams performance won’t last, but the ghost of John Baxter (as well as the coach’s seeming willingness to game planning for this part of the game) has definitely paid off these past couple of weeks, and I hope it continues into the conference season.
Meh: Other Games Played This Weekend
I wound up catching a lot of other future opponents this weekend due to the late-night starts for MSU-ND and OSU-OU, plus having Temple-PSU on in the background. Here are some brief takes:
- PSU is much better offensively from the QB spot, but overall the offense still seems sort of janky. This isn’t last year’s Temple team, and their defense isn’t close to the one that beat up Hackenberg to the tune of 10 sacks. And yet, PSU’s offensive line had trouble holding up for the run game, with Bakrley having one 55-yard TD run but not much else. As a team, the Nittany Lions only rushed for 3 yards per carry, and they haven’t played anything close to UM’s defensive talent. As for their defense, they held Temple to 38 yards rushing but also gave up nearly 300 yards passing and 74% completion percentage to a QB who entered the game with a 3:4 TD/INT ratio and a sub-.50% completion percentage. Oh, and they also decided to honor Joe Pa’s 50-anniversary of his first game, because they are the worst-run college sports team in America and their fans are insane. There is not a score high enough that I’d ask UM to take the foot off the gas if they had the chance.
- Watching ND and now Texas, I think what we’re learning is that neither of those teams were all that good to start the year. Notre Dame’s defense is terrible and doesn’t look to be getting any better. Their offense is fine but doesn’t blow your doors off, and despite MSU’s garbage corners they rarely went after them vertically. As for MSU, they won another game littered with dumb luck and a near-collapse. MSU got a lucky punt bounce off an ND player’s leg, at least one drop by an ND receiver with nobody around, and so many holds that it was almost comical. O’Connor didn’t look all that comfortable throwing the ball, with his TD pass to Corley being underthrown and bouncing out of ND’s arms. To their credit they did stymie ND’s rushing attack, but their secondary is terrible (witness an ND receiver beating 3 of them for a end-of-half Hail Mary and just missing it), and their offensive line never got much push. I still see them as a 3- or 4-loss team, but at this point expecting sanity with the Spartans is probably too much.
- OSU is good. OU is probably overrated, but OSU is just a very good offense with an improving defense. They aren’t as talented as last year’s squad, and like much of the Big 12 I think the Sooners have been exposed as bit along the defensive line. But at the same time, this game is going to be a war. On a positive note, Barrett still seems tentative throwing the ball and, despite his 4 TDs to Noah Brown, hasn’t really chewed up anyone in the air. If UM can hold up against the run like they have most of the year, that could make this game interesting. But Urban Meyer is a very good coach and an elite recruiter, and so expecting OSU to have a “down” year isn’t a reality.
- Also, Iowa lost to NDSU because of course they did, and Wisconsin struggled again offensively. Those games look much more tractable than they did a week or two ago.
Next Week: The James Franklin Anxiety Parade Stop
With all due props for beating a mediocre AAC team team at home, James Franklin and PSU have not had a good first couple of weeks. They struggled to get by Kent State, then lost against geographical-neighbor-but-otherwise-irrelevant, and held on against Temple. Again, people say Franklin needs another couple of years due to sanctions, but this still looks like a team with major issues at the top, not just on the depth chart. Plus, it’s a fanbase that just makes everyone else uncomfortable with its lack of perspective, and continues to canvases to paint itself as victims on instead of just shutting up and moving on. But since this game is played on the field and not the court of public opinion, it’ll be closer than in years past because PSU’s offense is now pretty decent. Unfortunately, the defense has taken a step back, and I don’t see how McSorley stands up to the defensive pressure he’ll face. I expect it to be a 10-13 point win, with Penn State staying close but never really challenging.
It's time for another wallpaper!
The opponent this week is well known in the Michigan fanbase (we won't talk about why). The Buffaloes from Colorado come into the Big House this week. Before the season, this seemed like another cupcake game. It could still end up being a cupcake game, but Colorado does seem to be a little better than Hawaii and UCF.
It's time for 'ol Harbaugh and the boys to wrangle up some buffs.
This wallpaper is an edit of an old John Mix Stanley painting. He was an artist in the mid-1800's that painted a lot of of landscapes and Native Americans. This specific painting can be found in the Smithsonian.
This is one of the more difficult wallpapers I've created. I cobbled together a few photos from the MGoBlog Flickr to get Harbaugh in the right pose. Hope you enjoy it.