10/16/2010 – Michigan 28, Iowa 38 – 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten
When Michigan needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie and plenty of time on the clock they failed to get it, twice. The second time Michigan cut off Iowa's routes past the sticks, forcing a dumpoff to Adam Robinson. Courtney Avery was there.
Last year at this time Avery was in high school. He played quarterback, and basically only quarterback. Plans to have him play his college position were thwarted by an injury. In a presser earlier this year, Rich Rodriguez said in any situation short of the Bohemian Crapsody that is this secondary, the entire freshman defensive back class would redshirt. But File Not Found, man. File Not Found.
Avery did that thing you see above. It doesn't appear that he even touched Robinson, something Crapsody-projected starter Richard Nixon probably could have managed. My immediate thought was watching baseball highlights on Sportscenter during the Dan and Keith glory days. Dan Patrick's signature strikeout call: "the whiff."
And so Michigan football falls into that old incredibly fun debate for the next two weeks before the Penn State game quiets it, one way or the other. Rodriguez proponents point to the shocking lack of talent in the back four and say it's not his fault; Rodriguez opponents point to the same thing and say it's his fault.
They're both sort of right, sort of wrong. Boubacar Cissoko has 99 problems but what to do on a Friday night is no longer one of them. Troy Woolfolk was struck down by Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God. These are cosmically decreed absences from the secondary.
On the other hand, it's hard to look at the addled underclassmen out there with cornerback Nick Sheridan and not wish Rodriguez had sucked a little face to get Donovan Warren or Justin Turner or Vlad Emilien to stick around. Emilien departed the Michigan secondary in an effort to find playing time. Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster.
As he left he said something along the lines of "I'm the best safety on the roster."* He probably isn't, but this is the point at which a desperate Michigan would give it a shot anyway. They did with Kenny Demens and found out that Obi Ezeh is not the best MLB at Michigan; maybe that would have happened with Emilien. Instead there is a walk-on-sized true freshman and air backing up Cam Gordon and Michigan will ride and die with another guy who obviously shouldn't be on the field this year.
This is what Michigan football is these days—trying to figure out which incredibly inexperienced player has the least business being on a Big Ten two deep, let alone field. My vote is for James Rogers, but I get it if you're arguing for any other member of the secondary not named Kovacs. Srsly. Pick one.
Of course, Avery's mistake was as far from an isolated an incident as possible. The reason it's emblematic of the game is that you could have picked a dozen other players if their incident had happened right at the end. Another field goal was blocked, with a bonus: team walks off field still featuring live ball, Iowa returns it a goodly distance. The Taylor Lewan Drive Killing Penalty and its sequels. Two(!) kickoffs sailing out of bounds. Facemask calls. A –4 turnover margin. It's all very grrraaarrgggh. The people on the internet who say "THAT'S COACHING" are saying "THAT'S COACHING."
Maybe it is, but how would anyone know when freshman quarterbacks are waving at Adam Robinson's feet? In one very limited way it would be nice if this was a Tim Brewster situation where galaxy-spanning incompetence met a total lack of a track record and firing the guy was obvious. That's not this. We have very good reasons to expect what is happening to happen but don't know if it's ever going to stop.
*(to someone in the media, but not to the public at large.)
To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up.
Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011.
Crap, I guess that's job talk.
Kenny! After two three-and-outs featuring Kenny Demens at middle linebacker, Obi Ezeh returned to the field to start the third drive. On his first play he was humiliatingly owned by an Iowa OL, getting pancaked as Robinson whizzed by for his first real gain of the day. I started complaining to everyone in the vicinity about Ezeh's presence as Iowa marched down the field; Demens returned as Iowa neared the redzone. Ezeh's Michigan career is for all intents and purposes over, and Demens is the new king of everything.
How did he do? I don't actually know yet, but if you take out the three Robinson runs (14, 8, 5) when Ezeh was in the game Robinson rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, 4.2 per. That's not terrible and for the most part it was done without Mike Martin, who missed the entire second half and was not effective when he did play in the first.
Last I said I was rooting for an inexplicable personnel decision here and it looks like that's the case: Demens is considerably better than Ezeh. That's a nice boost for the rest of the season and the next couple years. If Demens was really Ezeh's equivalent or worse we'd be facing down MOTS or freshmen at MLB next year; instead it looks like we'll get the upperclass years of a decent recruit who's already an obvious upgrade.
Ezeh epilogue. I will remember him as that guy from Memento.
Khoury! The most encouraging part of the game was Michigan owning the Iowa DL despite playing most of the day without Molk and a chunk of it without Lewan. Michigan averaged 4.8 YPC on the ground despite not breaking a run longer than 15 yards, gave up just one sack, and saw its quarterbacks go 30/44.
The lack of long runs is a function of the Iowa gameplan, which left six-ish guys in the box most of the day and gave Michigan a numbers advantage, but Michigan took advantage of that against a massively hyped DL. They did it without their starting center. At this point they've established themselves one of the best units in the conference.
Tate! Hell of a relief appearance there, and more indication that keeping Forcier in the program is an important offseason task. Also: pretty sure they ran the midline option for their last touchdown.
Lewan sad face. It's a good thing that late false start was on Schilling; if it was on Lewan blood vessels would have burst all over Michigan Stadium. I don't have to remind you of the three crippling penalties that ended Michigan drives, because you were doing your very best not to unleash a torrent of boos at the kid.
On the upside, I hear that Clayborn did nothing when Lewan was in the game; if that proves true on tape you can ramp your Lewan==Long hype up to maximum.
Turnover damage metric. Tate's last desperate chuck on third and nineteen == 0. Not completing a pass in that situation is almost a turnover anyway.
Robinson's interception == 2. It was third and ten and he didn't have underneath options apparently; in that situation a deep INT is basically a punt. The problem was with how terrible the throw was. When the receiver can't even get over to tackle that's a problem.
Vincent Smith fumble, First Forcier interception == 8. Guh.
Hagerup. At least the punting issues have resolved themselves spectacularly. Hagerup averaged 50.3 yards a kick and yielded no return yards. Net punting is now above average. It's just everything else that's terrible.
Photo I was looking for found at Mets Maize, which focused in on that same moment as the tale of the game. BWS recap is a little down on RR's playcalling with Denard in the game; I just see third and okay turned into third and long by Lewan penalties. With Denard, Michigan is a team on a schedule, like option teams. Getting off that schedule is very bad. I should dig out my old third down code after the year so we can see the big red bits from third and seven out.
Something, something, realistic expectations, something, something, glass half-full, something something, more experience needed, something, something, witch hunt commence, something something, life goes on. Something, something, not 2009.
While it could have ended there, it continues. Meanwhile in the News, John Niyo says "OMG 2009," something only a Penn State win will fix. The Ann Arbor News launches "moxie" to describe Forcier's day.
No Molk, no Martin, injured Denard...and MICH outgained Iowa by 120yards. Had you told me that before the game, I'd have laughed hysterically and been happy.
This is definitely not last year. Around this time last year PSU responded to a early 7-0 MICH lead by whacking around a Molk-less team all day. This year the team fought like hell and almost battled back. I'm ok with it.
almost positive Denard had an underneath option for a first down on that interception. I say this because I was watching the game saying, "There it is, right there, why did you not throw it to him, ugh, almost the same one that ended the game last year" while watching the replay. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Other than that, yes if a tack is made on the catch, that would have been just a pretty good punt.
no matter what, he's a threat to run the ball everytime -- on that first interception it looked like he could have made an easy 10 yards by just running it? Does it feel like we've just gotten used to scoring on that big play that it's all we're looking for? Maybe he's getting annoyed that he hasn't ripped a big run off in a couple games?
Oddly, this game left me kind of hopeful. Demens (at least live) looked OK, and unlike Ezeh, is likely to get better with time. Kovacs was Kovacs again, in a good way. It was great to see the offense continue to function without Molk- it's a testament to the donkey-hating group we have now, which even includes depth.
Let's get to 7 or 8 wins, call it a year, get T-Wolf back, and kill everything that moves in 2011.
Hail to the colors that float in the light-
Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue!
Good Lord, have you seen our secondary? A competent anything back there is an instant upgrade, and based on his play last year he's more than competent. No, he won't make us a good defense by himself, but he'll at least be moving us in the right direction.
a huge upgrade at whatever position he ends up playing. If it is corner then you now have two solid corners and better odds that 1 of the 3 freshman that will be sophomores next year improves to a quality level.
The corner spots go from above average and terrible to very good and above average. JT can also make strides to be very good as well.
If he plays saftey we already know what he can do there and he is a major upgrade there as well to anything on the roster.
We're banking on him comming back and our Freshman and Sophomores improving enough to make this D competent.
I think the hope comes from the fact that from our two deep, we are going to lose only Rogers, Banks, Sagesse, Patterson, Mouton, and Ezeh.
Wolfolk is an obvious upgrade at pretty much whatever secondary position he plays (most likely taking over for Rogers). If Demens proves to be competent and better than Ezeh as a sophomore, we're really looking to only replace Mouton and Banks.
We will return a defense with two good to dominant seniors on the D-Line, one more as an anchor in the secondary, and sophomores and juniors at every other position, most with a year of starting under their belts. There will be improvement. We're not going to be a dominant defense next year, but I think we'll be good enough that our offense doesn't have to be perfect anymore to win tough games.
The biggest issue of the day involving Taylor Lewan, as I saw it, was that he was flagged for that personal foul in the first half, while locked into mortal combat with Clayborn that was only periodically interrupted by the odd whistle here and there.
It was a kind of a cheap whistle, that was glaringly obvious when, about five minutes later, a Michigan defensive back (Mouton?) was wiped out on a late hit directly in front of Rodriguez, whereupon RR did a pretty mild imitation of Lloyd Carr screaming at a Side Judge and the Back Judge for their failure to call the same penatly that Lewan had been hit for.
The refs deserved far worse than what Rodriguez was giving them.
how could lloyd brady, or at least one of his friends, not read this site and/or know someone on this site well enough to reveal his identity/glory to us? doesn't he know that his smile causes michigan touchdowns?
Is that pick on Roundtree? It's hard to tell on the video because he is off screen for part of it, but it looks like Tate is throwing to the spot Roundtree would be if he continued his curl (or out)... Roundtree just stops.
When do we, if at all, start using Denard and Tate?
I think two things by now are pretty obvious. One, when the offense is ticking ("on schedule" as Brian described above), or facing an overmatched opponent, a Denard led offense is more dynamic. Two, Denard hasn't matured as a passer to the point that he is an adequate qb in obvious passing situations against Big 10 defenses not named Indiana.
What I'd like to see: Denard on all run downs. Tate on all passing downs and leading any drive where we obviously have to pass, i.e., down two scores late, or end of half drive with under a minute to go. I also wouldn't mind seeing Tate get an occasional drive just so every opponent has to prepare for both quarterbacks.
blackheartgoldpants touched on this in their latest post, and I think it's worth a shot.
This is pretty much exactly what we did last year in our usage of Denard. And we see how that turned out. Putting in guys in situations where they do anything to make obvious to the defense what is forthcoming sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. The whole point is to keep the defense off-balanced so they don't know what is coming. I think Denard will be fine and back to 5-0 Denard when he's not playing a top-flight defense like we'll be doing the next 3 weeks.
I can understand you wanting to only use one and there's a logic to that line of thinking. But in football, you always want your best 11 players on the field at all times.
To me Tate and Denard are the 2 best players on offense. It makes sense to have them both in the game at the same time. One's a split out/backfield and the others the QB. I know it will never happen but I think it could be a helluva move. Especially since Tate has proven he can move the team through the pass and Denard moves it more by the run. Mix it up a little and have some fun. See if Tate can catch a ball and move him out and actually throw the ball his way. That would really confuse a defense. And maybe we don't come out at half and go 3 and out any more. Or score on the first drive but don't sniff a point until the 4th quarter.
To me, the offense needs consistency. With both guys playing every series, we could move the ball a little more consistent.
I would also like to see a bit of this type of creativity. To me, the reason we haven't seen it so far is because of how unbelivable Denard was the first 5 games. MSU could have been viewed as an aberration (not saying I viewed it this way) and that he would return to running all over people against Iowa. Given he was held in check pretty well a second straight week could be a reason to break from the status quo an be more creative. I'd love to see both in at the same time on a few plays, but not the whole game. Seeing Denard come on a reverse with the option run or pass would be pretty exciting. However I still think Denard is our meal ticket and needs to be seeing the vast majority of snaps so he can develop. Even if it means him having some growing pains along the way.
I think you want the most talent at each position that you can get, and even then, not at all times: there aren't a lot of guys who can play every down and still produce at a high level, paritcularly in this offense and particularly considering how some of them can run.
The problem with what you suggest is what I have written before. While Forcier is competent with the zone read, he's not a RB, so if he's in the game and not taking the snap, he's wasting space. Robinson can obviously run and pass well, but RBs in this offense need to block well: if Forcier is taking the snap, then Robinson is either a) the recipient of a pitch, b) the recipient of a pass, or c) a decoy ... and really, do you want Robinson catching passes, by which I mean "Do you want the possibility of Robinson being lit up by safeties running in from about 25 yards away?" (Hint: the correct answer is no.)
Even on running plays, WRs need to block. How well do you think Forcier and Robinson can block? Do you want to see them try? Do you want to see defensive players fighting past those blocks?
Besides, if you want consistency, then you need to give players reps at their best positions. That's not going to happen if you're moving QBs to RB and WR ... and what happens to the RB depth chart if you're taking an entire game's worth of snaps away from them? Look at how Robinson has improved from last year to this year. I think a lot of that has to do with reps. He needs those reps as a passer, not as a WR. (I think this is why he's been staying in the pocket so much this season, too. RR wants his to work on progressions to the point that it is automatic. 1-run is not acceptable. 1-2-3-4-take off is.)
In one respect, this offense is exactly like every other offense: if you have two QBs who can run it well, then you have two QBs. You don't have a QB and a RB/WR hybrid.
I disagree, it couldn't be more different than last year. Last year, with Denard, you knew it would be a run. Under what I'm proposing, Tate comes in when the situation dictates that a pass is obvious. Denard would still run the full offense until down and distance dictated a pass, when Tate should be in. I like Denard as a passing QB, when, as you say, the defense is off balance, I don't like him so much when he has to pick up a third and ten. I wouldn't do anything to change the play-calls, I'm just talking about putting the talent on the field that is most likely to succeed. If it were up to me, I'd treat Tate like the offensive version of a pass-rush specialist.
I understand why most coaches prefer to stick with one qb. But I think we have the situation that is ripe for an unorthodox approach. We have two qbs capable of running essentially the same offense, who just happen to excel at two different focuses of that offense. I think that, in our offense, a qb can be shuttled in and out without destroying any rhythm.
Edit: I see now why you think it would be the same. When I said running downs and passing downs, i was talking only about the down and distance, not plays where we run and plays where we pass. Just to clarify: 1st down, 2nd and anything less than about 12, and third and anything 6 or less = running downs, second and 13+, 3rd and 7+ = passing downs.
false start on Lewan was BS. I watched the game again and not sure if I saw him move at all before the snap, it looks like he's moving with everybody else. Also - anyone else get a little irritated by how they pump in music RIGHT before the team runs out? I was disappointed by that, let the team walk to the end of the tunnel, line up, run out and let the electricity build for itself, no need to try to 'enhance it.'
You're right. I have one of those Fanvision gizmos (which, awesome) and I was screaming to everyone around me that he was not offsides. Have to see the video. Also, screaming when Demens played well early (Demens is in!... Demens made that tackle!!... that's Demens!!!), screaming when Ezeh got pancaked. No one knew what the hell I was talking about
The failure to be aware of the situation on the blocked field goal attempt was particularly troubling because a similar thing happened the previous week, except neither team covered the ball. After the block against MSU you could see the official near the ball waiting for someone to do something and not blowing his whistle. FInally everyone headed off the field and he blew the whistle. In that instance, I could not tell on which side of line of scrimmage the field goal had been blocked. If it had been blocked on the MSU side of the line (it was a low kick into the center of the line), then it was a free ball that Michigan could have recovered for a first down. Either way, the coaches should have seen that on video (and live of course) and reviewed the situation with the team to know that kicked balls shouldn't be left lying around on the field without covering them.
The offensive line was already destroyed and the kick already blocked. So what if someone fielded it and ran it back to the 50, there never should have been a field goal attempt.
If the staff wanted to give Iowa the ball back, they should have called for the pooch punt method and not the field goal block method.
A turnover on downs there (if we go for it on fourth down and don't get it) doesn't spoil the confidence of the team as much as a blocked field goal. As Brian says every week, STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL...
I didn't have enough to make a post of it, but I literally punched my hat on this missed tackle, so I am glad someone else focused on it.
I punched my hat. I didn't even know what else to do. I had thought we would lose, I knew all the reasons why, and yet I was angry when it played out exactly as I suspected it would. So I guess the good news is that I don't have losing football Stockholm syndrome.
Also, side note: Did anyone else enjoy that one of the big cheers of the day went up when it was announced that Ron English and the Eagles got their first win of the last two years?
Saying "such-and-such play == value" is testing for equality ... that's a comparison operator rather than an assignment operator. Even if we consider all such statements to evaluate to True, that assumes there has previously been an assignment of value to the play.
I am not a fan of Robinson taking snaps under center, but I recognize it is a good change of pace. I am less of a fan lining V. Smith as the deep back when Denard is under center. I am even less of a fan running V. Smith between the tackles of out of I-formation. If we want to run between the tackles for short yardage, line up Hopkins at tailback, and give it to him.