trash cans full of dirt
After nearly every game this season, my son would ask me if I took notes on the game for the diary. It's something I started doing early on when I realized this was going to become part of my weekend ritual. But this season I decided I wanted to just watch the games and experience Harbaugh's first season as a fan. You only get one chance to make a first impression in life, and I didn't want to be busy scribbling notes while Jim Harbaugh was making his first impression as Michigan's head football coach. However, after bemoaning the performance of Brock Huard last week but not being able to provide any specific examples, I decided to get the old pen and paper out this week and take a few notes. Next game, I'll revert back to my now annual tradition of rocking back and forth in the fetal position for three plus hours, but we'll worry about that later. For now, I'll just focus on game 11.
Burst of Impetus
* Impetus, as discussed here many times is just another way of saying momentum. In the normal ebb and flow of a game, the momentum can swing back and forth many times. But that's just another way of characterizing the relative success or lack thereof of a series of offensive playcalls. Your team got RPS'd on back to back plays? Well, you lost the momentum. I use this section to try to pinpoint the one or two major plays in a game that change the narrative. Against Indiana, we were controlling the action until they returned a punt for a TD. In this game, the fumbled punt by PSU was important, but I don't think it changed the eventual outcome of the game. Michigan was the better team. How do I know this? Well, there are at least four major impetus-changing events that can happen during a ballgame. First of all, you've got penalties that can kill or extend a drive. Next would be big plays that can swing field position and energize a team and the crowd. Third, special teams can make a play (for example, Chesson winning the Northwestern game on the opening kickoff.) And finally, turnovers take the momentum from one team and give it to the other. Let's look at how these four impetus-influencing factors played out in the first half.
Penalties: Michigan committed seven for 45 yards to PSU's 1 for five. Edge to PSU. (More on this later.)
Big Plays: Michigan completed a 39 yard pass to Jake-who Chesson. Saquon Barkley had a run of 56 yards. Slight edge to PSU.
Special Teams: Michigan was called for a penalty negating a nice return. PSU blocked a Michigan punt. Big edge to PSU.
Turnovers: Rudock threw an INT (although I'm not real upset about that considering it was 3rd and 17.) PSU did not turn the ball over in the first half. Edge to PSU.
So all four of these favored PSU, and yet, the halftime score was 14-10 in favor of Michigan. Sometimes you can get all the breaks and still lose the game because the other team is better. Michigan is a better team than PSU. Michigan is more talented, more experienced, and better coached. Does that make me arrogant to state that? My Dad often stated, "humility is truth," borrowing from St. Vincent dePaul's quote, "Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying." I've never understand exactly what that meant, but to me, it says that to be humble you have to be truthful with yourself, and that means knowing what you are good at as well as what your problem areas are. Football is a great game because it exposes truths about ourselves and the teams we root for. Michigan has a darn good defense and an awakening passing game, and I'm just humble enough to admit that.
Trash Cans Full of Dirt
* I've got to bring this section heading back out from retirement in honor of the defensive line. Six of Michigan's 10 TFLs were made by defensive linemen, with Taco Charlton recording 3 for 18 yards. The defensive line also tallied 4 sacks. Excising sack yardage, PSU was held under 100 yards rushing on the day, finishing with 96 yards on 18 carries. Remember, 56 of those came on one run. Remove that and it's 40 yards on 17 carries. Not quite 27 for 27, but not bad either.
* A week after the two safeties led Michigan with 10 tackles each, the top 5 tacklers were non-safeties. Hill and Wilson each recorded 3 tackles. That's more like it.
The Three Jakes
* Jake Rudock was extra talented in his efficiency, completing 25 of 38 passes (65.8%) for 256 yards (6.7 YPA) with only 1 INT.
* Jake Buttttt caught five passes for 66 yards and a TD while Jake-who Chesson caught 4 passes for 69 yards.
NFL Route Tree Runners
* Early in the season, a couple B1G Network announcers discussed the complex "root trees" that UofM's receivers would have to learn to operate in Harbaugh's system. This week, just-a-guy Bob Windshield noted how Michigan's receivers were running NFL route trees. I suspect they are very similar to college route trees - a down and out is a down and out - but I never played the position. It is clear that the passing game has continued improving over the course of the season.
* Darboh had the biggest game among the receivers with 7 catches for 68 yards and a TD.
* Do I have to report on this?
* De'Veon Smith carried 13 times for 39 yards. His total was held down by not being able to break a run longer than 8 yards. It should be noted that PSU's formidable front 7 was only able to accumulate TFLs for 5 yards of non-sack plays. This prevented them from putting us in long down-and-distance situations. Of course, we compensated for that by committing numerous penalties, some real and some imaginary.
* Jabril Peppers is now 2nd on the actual depth chart at tailback, carrying 5 times for 19 yards. Are we sure we can't clone him?
* While playing defense, Peppers interfered with a PSU receiver using his facemask. Huard's commentary claimed it was normal hand fighting. That's the first time I've seen hand fighting between a WR's hand and a defender's facemask. Peppers had half of Michigan's 6 BrUps.
* Of Sione Houma's 4 runs and 1 reception, 4 either gave Michigan a first down or TD.
* There were 30 special teams plays out of 152 total, for 19.7%. Both teams punted 6 times. Both teams kicked off 5 times. That's what happens when both teams score 4 times. As Ace pointed out, we scored TDs and they kicked FGs.
* Net yards per punt were fairly even at 31.3 and 32.7 yards, but Michigan picked up an average of a first down on every kickoff. Our net yards per kickoff was 44.2 yards to their 34.2 yard. A big 55 yard return late in the game by Jourdan Lewis helped seal the victory.
* PSU accumulated 6 first downs via penalty. That's one more than OSU gained against MSU's defense all game. As a humble person, I can admit that MSU's defense is playing very well right now. So well that I don't think Saquon Barkley and Christian Hackenberg have a chance to score a single point.
* Michigan scored a touchdown in every quarter.
* Late in the game, Brock Huard admitted to being "hyper-critical" of Christian Hackenberg. He spent the rest of the game discussing Hackenberg's NFL chances. Apparently, his idea of being hyper-critical is pointing out one time that Hackenberg should throw the ball away instead of taking a sack. I just don't understand the love affair with Hackenberg. He looks the part - tall, apple-cheeked, All-American boy - but in my opinion, he's just a below average college quarterback. He does hold the ball too long, he's not "extra talented in his accuracy" (BTW, Brock Huard, what the heck does that even mean?) and he sometimes gives the appearance of a spoiled child who isn't getting his way. That's not exactly a great leadership quality. And to top it off, he pulled off the first, "no mas," moment since Leonard-Duran. I do hope he proves me wrong, starting next week.
* Ron Snodgrass was the referee. I think he's been sniffin' some grass. He correctly identified a targetting hit against Anthony Zettel, only to be overruled by the replay official. Since it's apparent that the officials have no idea what a targetting foul is anymore, I have to conclude it's a 50/50 call. Michigan's coin has come up heads (no pun intended) about 8 times in a row now. The probability of that occurring randomly is 1 in 256. I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but I think this targetting thing is just a matter of incompetence.
* Quick aside, I heard a conspiracy theory stating that Ronda Rousey lost on purpose because she is leaving MMA for a while to do a movie or another side project and they don't want to be without their champion for an extended period. The fellow espousing this theory is a pro wrestler and says this happens all the time in WWE. The difference is, WWE is staged entertainment. Besides, if Rousey really wanted to lose on purpose, why did she let herself get smashed in the face 30 some times before getting knocked out?
* Michigan was flagged 13 times for 117 yards to PSU's 3 for 30. Yeah. Sure. Uh-huh. Ezekiel Elliott was asked about PSU's gameplan. He said he couldn't understand why PSU went away from the one play that was working for them in the first half - the-hard-count-to-get-them-to-jump-offsides play.
* I've written numerous times that all I want from the officials is some consistency. So if they are not going to throw a flag when Joe Bolden is flagrantly held and waves his arm around trying to get their attention, they shouldn't throw a flag when PSU's center waves his arm around trying to get a holding penalty on Michigan's nose tackle. The fact that these two plays happened on the same drive is further maddening.
* When Darboh was correctly flagged for stepping out of bounds and coming back in, the side judge didn't throw his hat down to indicate Darboh going out of bounds, nor did he throw a flag. It was clear the other official had to explain the rule to him. It's high time we started paying officials as full time employees and required them to know the rules and interpret them correctly. Snodgrass from accounting and his crew aren't getting the job done. Instead of throwing more and more money at coaches salaries and facilities upgrades, how about the NCAA actually take a concrete step to improve the quality of the game by hiring and training full-time officials?
The box score from the Hoke Bowl can be seen here:
This was the first game where I knew while watching that I was going to post this diary, so I took a few notes during the game. Unfortunately, my notes are full of really strange things the B1G Network announcers said. In a post this week, Brian lamented the dearth of good names for our weekly features. I'm going to offer up a couple, and use them for sub-titles. First, after SDSU recovered UofM's first fumble, B1G announcer Eric Collins suggested this could be the "burst of impetus" for SDSU to get back in the game. (Trust me on this, I took notes during the game.) I can only guess that Eric got tired of the "change in momentum" cliche, went to the thesaurus, and treated us all to Burst of Impetus. So when I talk about the turnover margin, that section will be sub-titled, "Burst of Impetus." I think this one works for the weekly turnover feature.
The second thing I wrote down was, "trash can full of dirt," when commentator Chris Martin was straining for words to describe Mike Martin. I don't think trash cans full of dirt are particularly mobile, so this doesn't really describe Martin, who last I checked, was bursting past SDSU linemen with tremendous impetus. I think the trash can full of dirt more aptly describes the 330 pound nose tackle a la BWC. Regardless, the defensive stats section will now be sub-titled: "Trash cans full of dirt." OK? OK. On to the commentary, bullet-style with awesome B1G Network style sub-titles:
Burst of Impetus
* SDSU won the turnover margin, 4-3. However, if you look deeper into the box score, you'll see the stat of the game, 4th Down Conversions. SDSU was 0 for 3, UofM was 1 for 1. Getting stopped on 4th down is effectively a turnover, since you don't get the punt yardage, so really, we won the extended turnover margin 6-4. I'd like to know what went on during the timeout before our decision to go for it on 4th down. I'd like to think that Brady Hoke said, what the heck are we doing punting here, WE'RE MICHIGAN FERGODSAKES!
* SDSU went 3 and out after our first turnover. The defense stepped up all day long and limited the damage from our turnovers.
Trash Cans Full of Dirt
* 20 players showed up in the defensive stats. I like this stat as a measure of our depth and gang tackling. Getting more helmets to the football is a UofM defensive tradition, and that created the first Hillman fumble yesterday.
* Three players tied for the lead in tackles, Gordon, Countess, and Demens. It's clear SDSU went after Countess when he entered the game, but I thought he held up well. AMDBHG stay away from Woolfolk. Just stay away. I hired you to work in East Lansing this season. At this point, Woolfolk is basically taunting AMDBHG. He's hobbling around on two bad ankles, has his hand in a cast, gets a bloody nose against EMU, and still manages to get 5 tackles.
* For only getting 2 tackles, Craig Roh had another good day. Both tackles were for losses, one was a sack that forced a fumble. All I can say is Roh Yeah!
* Ronnie Hillman was shut down (<100 yards) in three of SDSU's losses last season. I didn't think we could hold him under 100, but if we could keep him under 150, I was confident we'd get the win. He ended up with 109 yards and a 5.2 YPC average. That, combined with Lindley's 23 for 48 passing day were the stats of the game for the defense.
* Hawthorne shows up as number "7A" in the box score. Could hexadecimal numbers be the answer to our "retired numbers" problem?
San Diego 49ers
* I learned during the game that Braylon Edwards now plays for the San Diego 49ers. If I had any WR stats to comment on, they would go in this section. Consider it a place-holder. (In defense of the B1G announcing crew, this seems like a reasonable mistake to make.)
Random, As of Yet, Un-Named Bullets
* Matt Wile. Wait, let me try that again. MATT WILE!!! Yeah, I think he was properly pumped up to play his Dad's team. Net yards per kickoff were 50 for SDSU and 49.2 for UofM. To be even on kickoffs is a win for us. Net yards per punt were 34.7 for SDSU and 43.5 for Michigan. To gain almost a full first down per punt is huge. Two punts were inside the 20, and two were 50+ yards. #82, Terrance Robinson had 2 ST tackles and did a great job as the gunner on punts.
* Jeremy Gallon didn't get a FR in the boxscore (but J.T. Floyd did get credit for a fumble, was that for the time the ball glanced off his leg on the punt return?) but his head's up play to cover the punt was big at the time. That could have given SDSU a huge burst of impetus.
* Kickoff time: 12:00. Yes, it's in the box score. It's hard to quantify what impact it had on SDSU, but it's well known that you never bet on the west coast NFL team traveling east to play the 1:00 pm game. I don't think it's worth 21 points, though.
* Total yards: SDSU 376, UofM 413. We gave up around 450 yards per game last year. My hope for this year is to stay under 400 yards given up through a combination of better defense and slower offensive tempo (fewer plays.) Against a good offense, we only gave up 376 yards. I'll take it.
Big John R. Studd Referee section
* This was our first Witvoet game this year that I recall. I got negged for complaining about Witvoet last season, so just in case the Witvoet family reads this blog, I will say the refs did a great job. Penalty yards: SDSU 55, UofM 25. The refs rightly called several holding penalties where SDSU tried to undress Mike Martin. That hurt them and was one of the reasons they only scored once, even though they were in UofM territory 11 times. Sacks, turnovers, and holding penalties. Those are all the result of putting pressure on the offense. Thank you, Greg Mattison, thank you.
I also wrote a note that simply says, "UCONN," but I refuse to believe that this is 2010. This is 2011, Brady Hoke poops gold nuggets, and Borges and Mattison are the two greatest coordinators ever. So there.