This is our off-season strategy, and I love it
It's easy to forget that the "Hail Mary" is not just a football play, but also a prayer. While Brady Hoke's desired scheme is more Lloyd Carr than Rich Rodriguez, his coaching approach is certainly closer to Art Briles' play-calling than Mike DeBord's.
So what the hell does that mean?
I love--as I believe most do--Hoke's aggressiveness on fourth down. But we've learned quite a bit more about his willingness to go "all in" this off-season, and the result will be a 2014 team that looks drastically different from its predecessor. No less than six position changes that could affect the starting line-up, a new offensive coordinator, and significant scheme change on defense. This is the "Hail Mary" off-season: it is both a long, risky pass, and a prayer.
2013, to me, was The Season of Infinite Pain. It wasn't just the losing, it was the way we lost. The go-backwards offense that decided four downs were just too many combined with a defense that seemed to know exactly when to self-destruct made for a season that was excrutiatingly painful to watch, and I believe that the manner in which we lost (and won) was even more of a factor in our recruiting death spiral than the record itself. In the few games where the offense did click (Notre Dame, Indiana, Ohio) the defense couldn't keep-up, and the offensive line was never even close to adequate.
I hope we're all still smiling in December
So what did Brady Hoke do about this? He fired his friend and Offensive Coordinator--with whom he'd had lots of success. He made wholesale changes to the positions the defensive staff coaches, and removed himself as a position coach. He will be instituting a new scheme on both sides of the ball--completely new on offense, and moving from a 4-3 Under to a 4-3 Over on defense. Make no mistake about it, this change on defense is almost as significant as moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 (but not as significant as going to a 3-3-5). On top of that, Hoke is reshuffling a slew of starters and key back-ups.
Here's what I love about this:
- It's all on Hoke. If this season ends in disaster, the J. Ira and Blah Blah Blah Coach will be the last place for the finger to point. It's mostly his roster, the coaching staff has been rebuilt, player positions have been changed. The answer to the question, "Can Brady Hoke coach?" is now clearly: "See 2014 season."
- The courage to change. I get Brian's negativity about some of the changes. A new OC? A new scheme on defense? Changing the position of your best player on defense (maybe the best player on the team)? It all smacks of desperation. That's scary as hell, and should make you nervous. It makes me nervous. But last year was awful, and here is a coach saying, "You know what? We have to make significant changes. Tweaks aren't going to do it." He's admitting the failure--not just through coachspeak--and making changes that could turn things around.
- Win or lose, this should be better to watch. Devin Gardner called it "a new style of practice." We know that Nussmeier at least practiced the no huddle at Alabama. Whether or not we see U-M stopping for a group chat between every play this season, I would expect the offense to move more quickly and the QBs to have more time at the line. I can damn near guarantee you'll see some of the constraint plays many on this board have been clamoring for, since Nuss' has always used WR screens and extended hand-offs. And we now know that Devin Funchess will be playing "on the outside." Nussmeier has always used a balanced attack that focuses on getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers and scoring points. Even if our offense doesn't set records this year, it should be a lot more fun to watch.
- Defense, too. The Tampa Two defenses that were en vogue in the NLF in the early '00's (and longer for the Lions) proved that "bend-but-don't-break" defense could work. Forcing the offense to plod towards the end zone and use all their downs increases the chances of a mistake and forces an offense to be more precise. I have two problems with that: 1) It's much harder to do against a no-huddle offense, since you can't rotate your D-Line as much, which MUST get pressure. 2) It's not as fun to watch. Last season, it often seemed like Mattison's "Keep the ball inside and in front" mantra mostly meant, "If you want a first down passing over the middle, we're happy to give it to you." Compounding that frustration was the snake-bitten (or gypsy-cursed) outside coverage that always seemed to be in the right place at the right time but didn't make the play. Even though we produced 17 INTs and nearly as many turnovers as we did in 2011 (when we recovered a ridiculous 20 fumbles) it never felt like a game-changing or play-making defense, mostly because there were far too many times when we let teams like Akron, Penn State, Indiana, 2nd-half Iowa, Ohio State, and Kansas State move the ball seemingly at will. Too many times, when it mattered most, our defense whiffed. Hoke says NO MORE! The changes that have been made public about positions and scheme strongly suggest we are moving to a high-pressure, in your face defense closer to MSU's style than Monte Kiffin's. I expect more blitzing, more play-making, and more TFLs. Might we get torched more often? Maybe, but I'd rather watch that brand of football, and I think players (and recruits) would rather play that way.
- Musical chairs on defense. Moving Keith Heitzman to TE is a virtual no-lose change: here's a guy who had been passed by younger players at SDE, switching to a position he played in high school where we need toughness and depth. But moving your best defender (and maybe player) to MLB from what was closer to a 3-4 OLB? It's a gamble, and not a small one. The upside is huge: if you go right, Jake Ryan is there; if you go left, JMFR is there. Starting from the middle, he has the potential to be involved in every play. But what if he's not very good at his new job? What if JRIII gets put on his ass by opposing TEs? What if Desmond Morgan is too slow to play the WILL in a 4-3 Over? Hoke took his deepest, most experienced position group on the entire team and changed everything. If it works, it could be beautiful. If it doesn't, he could be fired. But Jake Ryan went from 6.8 tackles/game to 3.7 and, even more alarming, from 1.27 TFLs/game to 0.56. Sure, some of that is the injury, but some of that is opposing teams saying, "We're not letting him beat us." Now? Defensive coordinators will have to fool Ryan to beat him, because we already know he can shed blocks and move sideline-to-sideline. If he can diagnose plays, he's going to kick some serious ass in 2014. And now Mattison is his position coach.
Do these changes make me nervous? Of course. These are huge changes, and change always brings risk. But, to me, these changes seem to directly address the issues--both in terms of success and enjoyment--that made 2013 so damn unwatchable. And win or lose, we'll know what we have in a head coach.
What it all boils down to is this: it's Hoke's fourth season, and very much the fourth quarter in a game he's losing to stay on as Michigan's blah blah blah Head Coach. And he's not calling the safe, conservative I-form off tackle play, or even the single-back play-action post; while it may require some help from the heavens, he's calling the fucking Hail Mary.
We'll just have to pray it works.
In the week leading up to this game, the recognition that I might have to scramble to watch the game started sinking in, for I live in the blue portion of the dreaded ABC Game Map. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I bought ESPN GamePlan and didn't have to worry about missing any Michigan games. Then, ABC and ESPN invented the reverse mirror concept, and I didn't even have to buy GamePlan. And more recently, the Big Ten Network has almost assured me of seeing every UofM game in Los Angeles, which is amazing considering UCLA and USC are rarely on the air out here. An hour before the game, I consulted MGoBlog and looked into this, "streaming" idea. We get Verizon, so I was able to log into ESPN3. Let's just say I prefer ESPN 8, the OCHO. I tried that for 10 minutes, and after a frustrating hodge-podge of HD, LD, and ND (no definition, i.e., the screen would freeze up) I went to ESPN Gameplan and tried to order the single day coverage for $26. Perhaps a million frustrated M fans joined me in clogging up the GamePlan system, because it wouldn't let me purchase the game, so I went back to ESPN3. There has to be a better way. After sitting through a near repeat of the Akron game, I'm glad I didn't spend $26 on that.
NOT HD. <cr>We looked good in game 1, but CMU was missing their QB and top RB. We looked good against ND, but it's looking more and more like that was just an upset, or maybe ND's not that good either. Game 3 and Game 4 were struggles. A third of the way through the season, I think it's fair to start drawing some conclusions. This is a young team that is making the kind of mistakes that young players make. The frustrating (there's that word again) thing for me is that the schedule sets up perfectly for this team to win a lot of games. We play 4 ranked teams, only one of them on the road. And that road game is a veritable home game in the friendly confines of Chicago. But it's clear so far that we're still at least a year away. I could be wrong, the line could gel during the bye week, the turnover problem could magically go away, the wide receivers could learn how to run deep routes, the special teams could learn how to get out of the way of a punt. There's just so much improvement that needs to be made to be competitive with the upper ranks of the Big Ten. But at least we're 4-0, right? Wait, we are 4-0. Someone please tell me we're 4-0. So why does MGoBlue.com have us at 3-1 in the boxscore. I know it sure feels that way. Here's a screen capture of the boxscore before they fix the error:
It is an error, right? Oh Lord did that game give me a hangover, and I didn't even drink anything...
Burst of Impetus
* Time for a bonus link
The story starts with a graph showing a scatter plot of winning percentage versus turnover margin. The line fit roughly goes through 100% and +2, and -100% and -2. In the fourth quarter, Michigan was staring at a -4 turnover margin. Desmond Morgan made a great play, I guess, my internet connection was bouncing back and forth between LD and ND when the play was made. He picked off the pass and returned the ball 29 yards. Michigan converted and grabbed the momentum. If I remember correctly, he played some QB in high school. He showed why on that INT return. Morgan is becoming the leader of that defense.
Captain Morgan's Crew
* First off, an explanation. I know Morgan's not a team captain, yet, but I suspect he will be. I also have been watching Bar Rescue marathons on the Spike network, and so I've seen many, many Captain Morgan's commercials.
* I had titled this section, "Young 98," as an allusion to Vince Young, but after another shaky performance, we're down to just "young 98." It's worth remembering that even though he is a senior, he still has not started a season's worth of games at QB.
* Gardner was 11-23 passing for 97 yards. He tossed two INTs and no TDs.
* Gardner gained 106 yards, YAY, but lost 42, for a net of 64. His first step under pressure is almost always away from the line of scrimmage. That is something we've seen since his early days. He needs a QB coach to break that habit and get him to step up into the pocket, if his O-Line can actually form one for him. (Why am I so grumpy? Oh, yeah, 24-21 vs. UCONN.)
* A week after I suggested they ditch the option play and simplify the system for Gardner, he executed a beautiful option pitch, leading to one of Toussaint's TDs. Yes, the universe has conspired to humble me yet again.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* Toussaint was THE running attack from the RB position, with 120 yards on 24 carries. He scored 2 TDs and had a long of 35 yards.
* TEAM's three carries matched the rest of the non-Toussaint/Gardner combined carries.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Nothing to see here, move along.
Norf and Dileo
* Dileo has taken over the punt return duties from Norfleet. America has a sad.
* I was hoping that was because they were going to involve Norfleet more in the offense. He did carry twice for 14 yards.
* I don't know if this team is lacking players, or lacking ways to get their playmakers involved. In the case of Norfleet and Dileo, I fear their talents are being wasted. That said, it's time for my new feature...
ST3's contrarian position of the week
* I think Borges actually called a good game. (/ducks) I think he's 3 for 4 so far this year, with the Akron game being the lone stinker. The problem with the Akron game is that it appeared he couldn't care less what kind of defense they were running. Let's go inside the boxscore on this game and look at the critical third down conversion stat. Michigan was 7 of 17, meanwhile, UCONN was 1 of 11. Let's look at some of the early third downs. On the second drive, we had 3rd and 1, and 3rd and 2. Gardner rushed for the first down on both plays. Later in the drive, on third and 12, Gardner ran again and ended up scoring our first TD. So my point is, Gardner rushing is one of our better (only? well, at least until Touss got untracked) options, and Borges dialed those up on the critical third down. Later in the game, he may have gone to the well once too many times, when we got stopped on 4th and 2, but if Devin had been more aggressive on that run, he would have made it. Then, after the Dileo punt return, with UCONN selling out against the Devin runs, Borges called a very safe pass play to Gallon on 3rd and 4. He had two WRs clear out the area for Gallon, who stopped just past the sticks. We eventually got down to the four, setting up Gibbons for a chip shot FG. Let's not forget that Gardner was 0 for 5 with an INT in the 2nd quarter. Had Borges continued to press the issue, Gardner might not have been able to recover to lead us in the 2nd half. Instead, Borges figured out what run plays were working, got Gardner back into somewhat of a comfort zone, and managed to get us a W in a game where we were -3 in TO margin.
* Is it too harsh of me to suggest that the ST coach might want to get his resume polished up?
* Fortunately for us, it was 4th and 7 when we ran into the kicker, not 4th and 5. The angle that Gedeon took was awful. It took him directly into the path of the punter. Who is teaching that? These ST players are mostly frosh and RS frosh, and probably as BMOC in high school, didn't play a lot of special teams.
* On our punt return fumble, someone has to be screaming, "GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!" Instead, Jones is trying to block someone and the ball bounces off his leg.
* Dileo's great punt return was brought back because another young kid made a mistake 25 yards from the play.
I'm an international umpire
* Penalties were 5-45 against us, and 6 for 70 against them.
* In addition to all the mistakes made by the younger players, Lewan had a holding penalty wipe out at 35+ yard run.
* For the second week in a row, I have no complaints with the refs. I must be getting soft in my old age.
UCONN'T be serious
* I don't like UConn's stadium. First of all, their turf looks like this:
Secondly, their mid-field logo stretches from one 30 to the other. That's disconcerting for me. I'm used to seeing a team reach the mid-field logo and thinking they've reached mid-field. You know, the 45 yard line. At UCONN, you've still got a long way to go even to get to the 50.
* The attendance 42,704. I'm pretty sure most Texas High School teams draw more than that.
* Yawin Smallwood led UCONN with 13 tackles. Hey Yawin, Ya-lose. But seriously, he played a heck of a game with 2 TFLs, a forced fumble, a pass breakup, and a sack.
* Their nose guard made 6 tackles and had 2 TFLs. Nose guards aren't supposed to make 6 tackles. I'm putting together a mock NFL Draft for next April, and so far, my first round has the 12 nose guards on our schedule.
* Last week I said I was delaying the 100%BLU anecdote until I was in a better mood. I'm beginning to realize, that time may never come, so on with the story. As I was perusing my "Early Fall 2013" copy of Michigan Alumnus magazine (a benefit of my Lifetime Membership to the Alumni Association, a gift from Mom and Dad upon graduating - a car would have been nice, but I'm not complaining) I read that UofM's School of Social Work is ranked #1 nationally. I mentioned earlier this season that Dad graduated with his MSW from UofM and Devin Gardner is currently in the School. The inquisitive reader might ask, what does one do with a degree from the nation's top School of Social Work? Let me share two University of Michigan-related items from Dad's career. 24 years ago (normal disclaimer about the accuracy of my memory applies) the Chinese Government reached out to the State of Michigan for help with their treatment of the mentally ill. The State of Michigan had some brutal budget cuts in the early 80's, forcing the closure of many State-run hospitals. They were somewhat successful in transferring institutionalized patients into less costly, community-based group homes. So the Chinese wanted to learn more about this cost-effective, more humane approach. Dad was working for the State Department of Mental Health at the time. He was tasked with organizing the trip. He reached out to a Professor of Chinese Studies at UofM, and together they planned the trip. They were in China for three weeks, visiting different areas. The professor recommended they visit Tainanmen Square, a very famous location. While they were there, students were protesting the Chinese government. One student got to talking with Dad. The student took off his bandana, gave it to Dad, and asked him to tell their story in America. One week later, the tanks rolled in. So that's my "Dad as Forest Gump" story.
Second story, if you'll indulge me, a few years later, Dad is putting together an educational video about the benefits of community living and group homes for the mentally ill. There are many levels or gradations among the mentally challenged. Some can function quite fine in society as long as they are given the right medication, or looked in on periodically. One such group home was a couple blocks from the Bo building on South Campus. Dad arranged for Chris Burke, the famous actor from the 80's drama, Life Goes On, to appear in the video. Knowing that I was a fan of the show, and was still on campus at that time, Dad called and invited me over to the location where they were filming. I got to meet Chris and his parents, and Dad took this photo (that's me on the right, in the - HORROR - red shirt and gigantic glasses, Brady would be sooo dissappointed in me.)
This started out as a focus on a great play that James Ross made en route to 8 tackles and several TFL in less than a full games snaps. Safe to say this kid might be pretty good. Anyways, it somewhat evolved into realizing that however talented and large our interior offensive line may be, they're still developing and gelling this spring. Usual caveats apply, I am not a football coach, just an educated fan and former high school player - let me know if you disagree with any assesments.
Link, thanks to mgovideo, one of the biggest free perks for Michigan fans. Play starts at 1:11
Michigan comes out in what Al Borges would probably draw on the first page of his autobiography: offset I with a tight end (the size of a small tackle) and a full back with his hand on the ground. All that's missing is Funchess lined up next to Lewan with Jake Butt in motion and this would turn into what Al Borges probably dreams about at night. The tight camera angle doesn't show the wide receiver personnel or formation, but I'd bet it's some combo of Gallon/Darboh/Jackson/Chesson based on my memory. Lewan appears to be trying to make a check of some kind, but that's just my hope based on the breakdown that happens on the interior. It was not uncommon for him to make line calls last year apparently, so it wouldn't surprise me if he's still encouraged to do so, if not moreso.
The defense, meanwhile is lined up in basically its base 4-3 under, with Beyer and Ross only slightly outside of their normal positions. Ojemudia is offsides, too. Get onsides there, terminator eyes. Your D-lineman are Ojemudia, Willie Henry (who played a lot), Pipkins and Godin (I think).
As the ball is snapped, it's apparent why James Ross was a half a yard closer to the line of scrimmage than Desmond Morgan - he was real excited about his A-gap blitz. Coach Mattison probably was too. We already see that Kalis is pulling: he's opened up his hips well and his first step is directly for the spot Devin Gardner is vacating. Everyone save Kalis and Williams will down block. Kerridge is headed for Godin. Notice that Miller has his sights set on double teaming Henry despite James Ross and his reckless abandon for the A gap. I think this is the first breakdown, and Miller ends up being a non-factor when he probably could have picked up Ross and turned this into a gain. I think he could be good, this is just a growing pain of a young center in the spring.
As Devin reverse pivots and prepares to hand off to Drake Johnson, most of the offensive lineman have done their road grating jobs. Lewan has joined Braden on Pipkins, and Peewee doesn't have a shot against the All-American and his young giant friend. AJ williams has left Ojemudia for Willie Henry and Schofield is prepared to help see him off. Miller, in hopes of sealing off the back side, has now taken himself completely out of the play as I mentioned. Desmond Morgan has read run as well, but I think he heads for the wrong gap. James Ross is already going to be in Kalis' hip-pocket shortly - that's his guard read anyways. Guard pulls, you run right through where he left straight to the ball carrier. Meanwhile, Morgan should be scraping playside as fast as possible until he sees daylight and or Drake Johnson with the ball.
Kalis has his sights for Brennan Beyer. Schofield has Henry sealed and Williams has left him to chip Ojemudia and keep ole laser eyes away from flying down the line. Ross continues his plan to arrive early for his scheduled meeting with Johnson.
Kerridge has stalemated Godin, Kalis is headed upfield ready to for either Beyer, a hypothetical Desmond Morgan or a safety. But, James Ross is not only deadly, but apparently silent. Kalis needs his head on a swivel here - I have a feeling he got a little excited for 5 yards of momentum and a one-one matchup in the open field. Then again, he thinks the backside should have been handled. Anyways, at this point it's pretty clear to Drake Johnson that things are not going to end positively. Could Braden have left Pipkins earlier and found Ross? Possibly, but I'm pretty sure his job is to donkey the guy who is head up on him until there can be no more donkeying and then find someone else.
Drake Johnson, I have a Mr. James Ross here to see you. Again we see Morgan could've taken a better angle, and if Ross were picked up, there is a lane and a freight train named Kyle Kalis headed downfield.
Two yard loss.
P.S. Devin please calm down when celebrating and wrap yourself in bubble wrap.
900. 68-32-5. 113,833. 12-0. 40-3.
Those are the most important numbers this weekend, and only one of them showed up in the boxscore. 900, of course, is the total number of wins that the University of Michigan football teams 1 through 133 have accumulated. That's against only 312 losses and 36 ties. Michigan State, by comparison, has 629 wins. That's more than I thought, but still, cue Nelson Muntz:
68-32-5 is our record against MSU. My dad is always ready to answer two questions. One, "how many days are there to kickoff?" and, two, "What is Michigan's record against MSU?" That's a helpful way to survive living in East Lansing. It's nice to see that 67 change to a 68. Let's not wait that long to make it 69.
113,833 was the attendance for the game. It was the third most attended game in Michigan history, which makes it the most attended game in MSU history. 12-0 is now Brady Hoke's record as head coach at Michigan Stadium. He's given us a few scares over the past season and a half, but so far, he remains perfect.
40-3 is the record of the team that gained the most yards rushing in this game, in the last 43 games. For some reason, the TV-types have chosen to look at the past 43 games which coincides with the number of games I've been alive for. Maybe that's why I'm a defense-loving, MANBALL enthusiast. OK, you've been patient enough. Here's your link.
Burst of Impetus
* Holy impetus, Batman, where do I begin? After two conference cakewalks, we had to battle down to the last 0:05 seconds. However, I didn't get the feeling that either team ever got much momentum going. The defenses were just too strong.
* That said, there were several plays where momentum COULD have been seized, for example, if we had recovered either of State's fourth quarter fumbles, I thought we could have put them away. If Toussaint or Robinson's long runs had gone to the house, we might have broken them. Instead, we had to settle for FGs.
* State's fake punt was a huge play, but they lost the game, didn't they, so I guess it wasn't that big. Suck it, Dantonio.
* Defensively, the Kovacs interception was big, but the biggest play of the game was 3rd and goal, when State ran to the wide side of the field and our defense knocked Bell out of bounds short of the goal line. Last year, they scored TDs twice (I believe) on similar plays. Not this year.
* Le'Veon Bell was held to 68 yards on 26 carries, for a 2.6 YPC average.
* I remember in Ron Dayne's Heisman season, when he gained 1800+ yards and was in total beast mode all season, we held him to 88 yards. Le'Veon Bell isn't Ron Dayne, but he is one powerful runner, and the Michigan Defense shut him down.
* 19 players registered a defensive stat, lead by Desmond Morgan with 11 tackles. Keep that up, and we're going to forget all about Gerald WhatsHisName...
* Ryan was second with 10 tackles. I'm thrilled that sparties around sparty nation - basically East Lansing and parts of Bath, Pewamo and Westphalia - are dreading that they have to face Morgan and Ryan for two more years.
* Ryan got the lone sack on the day and forced one of State's two fumbles.
* Dernard carried 20 times for 96 yards, for a 4.8 YPC average, helped out immensely by his 44 yard run. I know we want Denard to stay healthy, but in the 4th quarter against state, I want every yard we can get. The plays following his long run backfired and we were left with no choice but to punt.
* Denard didn't quite get to 50% passing, but he did just enough for us to win, and avoided the costly turnover. (The one INT was at the end of the half, and basically meaningless.)
* The TEAM had one incomplete pass. I don't remember the TEAM throwing that pass.
Bunches of Funchess
* Dileo was the star of the day with 4 catches for 92 yards.
* Fitz caught 3 passes for 2 yards. Ugh. The last one he should have let fall to the turf. Instead, the clock kept running and we had to burn our last timeout.
* Funchess only caught one pass and wasn't a big part of the offense. That was basically true for all the younger guys. Brady and Borges put this game in their veterans hands, and they came through.
And Justice for Rawls
* Last week, I asked for suggestions for this section title. I was thinking of going with a Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis inspired name, and call it FitzJustice Smith-Rawls. I emailed that to my brother and he responed with "And Justice for Rawls." It seems fitting, considering how much time we wasted playing air guitar to that album.
* The section title would have worked a lot better last week, when Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls actually got some carries, but at least between this and Bunches of Funchess, I've got two sections covered for a few years.
* Fitz chipped in 52 yards, most coming on a 38 yard run. I had nightmares last night of Fitz getting the ball 6 yards behind the LOS, and immediately facing two spartan defenders.
* Vincent Smith had one huge 12 yard gain late in the game, where Borges went against tendency and actually ran someone other than Fitz or Denard.
Norf and Souf
* Punts were 7-290 for State, and 7-295 for us. They did have a slightly longer net, FWIW. Each team only returned one punt.
* Norfleet had one KR for 21 yards.
* Over the years, it seems the one advantage State has consistently had over us was in the kicking game. This goes way back to Morten Andersen. But this time, we hit the long FG, we made all our attempts, and they missed an easy one.
* We had Witvoet's crew for the game. After calling a penalty on State, he let Hawthorne have it. I'm not sure what Brandin did, but I'm just glad he didn't draw an unsportmanlike penalty call.
* The officials let it be known early that they weren't going to stand for any shenanigans this year, calling Lewan for a somewhat touchy late hit. I wish they would have sent a message by calling a penalty on the team responsible for all the shenanigans last year, but they kept things under control, so no complaints.
* Penalty yards were roughly even, 50 for them, 55 against us.
* I thought they let the defensive backs play aggressively, which I'm fine with, but that seems to benefit State's defensive approach more than ours.
I’ll Take Bullets for a Thousand, Alex
* First downs were even, 16-16. Each team had 7 rushing, 8 passing and 1 by penalty. Yeah, it was that close.
* Even though the rushing first downs were even, because of the two long runs, We outgained them on the ground 163-112, and as a result, won the game. History don't lie.
* Turnovers were even (Boy, do I feel like I'm repeating myself) at 1 apiece, but their's was much more costly.
* Third down conversions were almost the same, as they were 6 of 17 (~1/3) and we were 5 of 15 (exactly 1/3.)
Outside the Boxscore
* A win is a win, and this was a particularly huge one, but I'm a little concerned about the mental errors late in the game. Roundtree had a false start penalty, Fitz caught that pass with 19 seconds left, the punt defense let a gaping hole open for state's punter, and the guys had a penalty for excessive celebration at the end. I'm sure Brady will address these and other points this week. The Legends Division is there for the taking, but we've got to cut out the mistakes.
* With about 8 1/2 minutes left in the game, I saw Lloyd Brady for the first time this season. Lloyd, where have you been? At that point, I knew we were going to win, because even AIRBHG isn't mean enough to make Lloyd Brady sad. That would be like kicking a cat or something.
Announcers’ Derpity Derp
* Glen Mason claimed that Dantonio called a timeout to remind his defenders not to "rough the holder." After thinking about it for second, I figured he was probably correct, because you can never be sure about who sparties are going to rough.
* Can they just replace Glen Mason with J Leman, is that possible?
Now that’s more like it.
Burst of Impetus
- Before checking the boxscore, I thought that Purdue wasn’t as bad as the score indicated, and that the game came down to a couple key fourth down plays. I mean, we only had four more first downs than them, 19-15. However, I quickly came across the “TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS” line which showed MICH 409, PUR 213. Yeah, we crushed them.
- The 4thdown plays were still key to setting the tone early. On Purdue’s first drive, they were stalled at their own 34, 4thand 1. They could have made a statement there. They punted.
- On our first drive, we stalled at their 22, 4thand 4. That’s 5 yards within Gibbons range, as we later found out. We could have put some points on the board and been happy. Instead, Brady made a statement. You cannot stop us. Denard to Gardner for 8 yards and the drive continues, leading to an eventual TD.
- Fast forward to the 2ndquarter, now Purdue has 4thand 1. This time, Hope goes for it. The ball bounces off the receiver’s hands, into the awaiting arms of Raymon Taylor, who Rayces into the endzone for six. UM 21, Purdue 0, game effectively over. And if it wasn’t over then, the fumble on the ensuing kickoff confirmed to Purdue that it just wasn’t going to be their day.
- Have I mentioned before how much I love good defense? We held TerBush and his brother Akeem and his other brother Akeem to 213 yards. (Nothing racial intended here, just playing off of the, “I’m Larry, and this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl” from the old Newhart show. The theme of this season is rapidly coalescing around old sitcoms.)
- Purdue was 1 of 11 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down. When we had an opportunity to get off the field, we did.
- 22 players show up in the defensive stats, including the mysteriously named, “TEAM” with ## “TM.” TEAM had 1 solo tackle.
- Demens, Ryan, and Morgan all lead us in tackles with 6 apiece. Notice something about that, they’re ALL linebackers!
- We had 6 TFLs, 2 INTs, 3 pass breakups (2 from J.T. Floyd) and 2 sacks.
- Neither team recorded a QH.
- There was a thread earlier this week about Kovacs’ tackle totals. He only had 1 this week. He basically wandered around centerfield watching everything happen in front of him. That’s how impressive our defensive performance was.
- Denard ran 24 times for 235 yards. His one TD rushing was not awarded by some weird replay officiating. The Purdue catch was conclusive enough to be overturned, but Denard’s TD wasn’t?
- Denard averaged 9.8 yards per carry with a long of 59 yards. It seemed like Purdue’s gameplan was to not let Fitz beat them again. OK, fine. Let Denard run for 235. Had Denard kept on all the handoffs to Fitz, I bet he could have run for 400 yards. He set some records or something. What else is new.
- Denard didn’t throw any interceptions, and actually threw a ball out of bounds. Whoo-hoo!!!
Bunches of Funchess
- Gardner’s TD reception was smoooth.
- Denard completed one pass on 3rdand 11 to Funchess. It was behind him, much like the throws against ND that were deflected and picked off, but Devin reached back with one giant meathook and snagged the ball out of the air. First down Michigan. On the next play, Toussaint scored making it 14-0.
- Gallon lead with 3 receptions for 37 yards.
- Purdue was the more interesting team at least in this regard. They had a 4D, 2D, and a 7D record tackles, they wore pink for awareness, and their students raise shoes during kickoffs. What is that all about?!?
- They also have players named Akeem, Akeem and Raheem, and Bush and TerBush.
- On defense, they have Kawann Short (pronounced KAY-wann, and all this time I thought it was Kah-wann,) Schmeig, and a Higgs. I hope they recruit a Boson for next year.
Norf and Souf
- Norfleet continues to impress with his “get as many yards as you can, as quickly as you can” approach.
- Apparently, we don’t like punting in Indiana. After punting once against ND, we did not punt in the first half. In the 2ndhalf, Hagerup boomed a 57 yarder.
- Gibbons doinked one off the cross-bar from 44 yards. He made his three other attempts from 27, 29, and 42 yards. Two FGs from <30 yards? That score could have been a lot worse.
- Dileo had a punt return for 10 yards. I like the fact that they are putting a 2nd guy back there to prevent the "punt plus roll" which usually costs another 10-20 yards.
- Wile only had 1 touchback out of 9 kickoffs. While that did lead to a Purdue fumble, it seemed odd not watching him kick it 5 yards into the endzone.
- This was at least our second game with LeMonnier’s crew. Very few penalties were called. They basically didn’t factor in the game, and for that, we can be grateful.
Outside the Boxscore
If it’s true that defense wins championships, I like what these scores say about our ability to win the Legends division:
- MSU 31, IU 27, yeah, they beat IU, but they gave up 27 points
- PSU 39, NorU 28
- OSU 63, NebU 38
- Iowa 31, CMU 32 (Iowa had a bye, so we get to relive the CMU shocker for another week. Heck, let's relive this all season long.)
- Minn 13, Iowa 31, after getting beat by Central, Iowa blows out Minnesota.
- OSU and PSU are probably the two best teams in the Leaders division, and both are ineligible for the championship game. This is the year to win the Legends if you want a cakewalk in the championship game.