Do you just love being miserable?
Crimes Against Manpanda
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.
He's a guarded poster - he doesn't want to let us break down his shell and see his milky insides for fear of rejection.
On a more serious note, I've decided to take the same approach and be pessimistic about the rest of the games (i.e. assume Michigan is going to lose) so I can be presently surprised if/when they win.
It seems like the the offense didn't know what to do on 1st and 2nd down, creating circumstances where chucking it down the field was the best (only) option. That falls on coaching, but also on Iowa calling the right plays and slowing down the offense. This just feels like a youngish team that plays better at home than away, as they play more tentative and less creatively. I have no idea why, but hopefully that will be remedied in the coming weeks. Luckily, Illinois is a winnable game and then two more at home. I said that going 2-2 down the stretch would be great, and they are on pace for that. Iowa looked like the tougher road game because Kinnick hasn't been kind to UM for years, so it kind of held close. These are games that the team will learn to win as they play more and the coaching staff gets more acclimated with the players they have.
Are we playing for a one game season, keeping Denard healthy by running him less?
After 2004, UM was 1-3 against Tressel.
2001 - Marquise Walker drops a TD that probably wins the game, even with the worst first half of football UM had played against OSU in multiple decades.
2002 - Navarre was literally throwing into the OSU endzone to win the game as time expired against the eventual national champs.
2003 - Michigan wins convincingly.
2004 - UM opens a nice lead and the wheels fall off.
If you thought that was someone owning someone else at that instant and not the normal ebb of a rivalry, you are a smart dude.
Navarre was throwing into the OSU endzone from the OSO 30 yardline. It "didn't feel" that close.
But that's just my opinion. And it my recollection of the end of that game could be totally wrong. Because I haven't looked it up.
If they hadn't called the only-in-Columbus offensive pass interference on Braylon in their endzone.
That was an environment that the Big Ten really wanted someone in the BCS championship game. And anyone from the B10 might not have made it out of that stadium alive if it had gone any other way. It was hard enough to get out of there alive, and the home team won.
was a much more effective passer last year as well because a lot of the passing game was predicated on faking the run, or fear of the run. We seen this play run with success this year a few times (once to Dileo and once or twice to Koger I believe). This year he is dropping back a lot more and he is being asked ot read a defense. Not to mention he seems reluctant to tuck and run/scramble if nothing is open.
Brian was dead on though. Who would have thought our defense would be keeping our offense in games. Saturday was all on the offense.
You may not believe me, but the defense is only slightly better than I expected. We had a ton of returning players. And we got a great coach. And we have limited the number of possessions for the other team by holding the ball longer. I also thought our offense would take a step back. I predicted 8-4 at the beginning of the season. Seems like we are right on pace.
I don't see any comment on our red-zone struggles as of late. We had two drives end inside the 5 yard line (of course I think we got totally screwed on both those possessions but I'm ignoring that for now). We score those 14 points and voila that's a 30 - 24 Michigan win. How does our lack of execution at those points in the game not merit some more mention rather than bitching about the playcalling continuously?
I dislike the Devin package as much as the next guy but our offense was 5 yards away twice and came up with 0. People expected this to be close and what do you know, it was.
You're a smart guy, but you've got a memory like a good defensive back. Michigan got beat by 10 last year. At home. And it wasn't even that close. This year they lost by the possibility of a 2 point conversion. If you remember, Denard was even less effective last year against Iowa. Tate Forcier was the only reason we didn't lose by 24. Come on man.
is much worse than last year's team.
I agree that the score differential this year was better than last year. But are you prepared to argue that Michigan was competitive in this year's game until the start of the 4th Quarter? Obviously, the comeback was great, even if it wasn't successful in the end. But the first three quarters were just as miserable as any loss from last year. You can't convince me otherwise by simply pointing out the final score.
Wrong. Miserable is trying to figure out how to come back from 24 and 28 point deficits. The fact that the defense made those stops with much greater regularity and we are an INT inside the 5 from being down 3-4 at half makes for a very competitive game for me.
I agree with you from the aspect of the production on defense. I completely agree. I think the focus of this thread and Brian's OP relates to the offense or, at least, that's what I was focusing on (without mentioning it). But, you're right, the defense has kept the offense within striking distance of both losses and that is a HUGE turnaround from last year. No doubt.
And that's my problem with Brians view. Our offense struggled at times but we had two possessions inside the 5 go for no points. How often is that going to happen? I was certianly frustrated at times yesterday with the playcalling but we absolutely had an opportunity to win that game and were much closer than the OP would have you believe.
I totally hear you, but we also had the goalline stand against us last week too (failed to convert last week turned into a safety so, yeah, that was a good eventual result). You're right that its somewhat of a fluke to have two possessions go like that but I would not be surprised if it happens again this coming week.
I guess I (and maybe Brian too) just feel like Borges is letting the gift that is Denard slip through his fingers. I, for one, am not sure how or why, but it feels that way as a fan watching from home.
Dude, are you talking about the Iowa game from this year?
In what world is down a score going into the fourth quarter not competitive
I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks this year's MSU and Iowa games were as competitive as last year's drubbings are as wrong as people who say the offense wasnt good last year
Good grief, last year's team would have given up over 30 before the third quarter ended and never would have been in position to tie the game
And this year, when the defense had to make a stop to give our offense a chance to tie, they made it. Last year, Avery (I believe) missed the tackle and Iowa tacked on the FG that put the game out of reach. If the defense had made that stop last year, that game is every bit as close as this year's, against a notably better Iowa team, and maybe even closer as we wouldn't have needed a 2pt conversion.
Can we play the what if game for this year too? What if the ref calls Junior's catch a TD? What if the PI on the interception near the end of the half is called?
We win if those things happen. I like this game.
and it bears repeating.
i get maybe not rolling out/running in the redzone with 16 secs the first three plays. maybe denard gets tackled etc etc time runs out.
but the 4th down call, we have two seconds, either way it's over. why we no run option here? argh. quick slant there?! ugh doom.
I haven't seen anyone mention that that throw seemed to be dead on, only that Roundtree slowed down to catch a second too early and thus ended up not being in position. I don't think the db bumps into him if he just keeps running and makes the catch attempt.
Denard's long throws are far from good but when he does make a pass that is spot on it seems our receivers aren't in position or are step too slow to make a play on the ball. Our receivers seem to be better at catching long jump balls than catching the long ball in stride. I think this would be maddingly frustrating at times even if Andrew Luck was our QB.
As bad as Denard has been on the deep ball, our receivers don't have the speed to be great deep threats.
For example, Manningham made Henne look better than he was by being so fast it was hard to overthrow him. The only time Roundtree gets separation is with a great route or knocking a defender on his ass. Hemingway never gets seperation.
I love our receivers but not having a speedster on the outside is hurting our team big time. Especially when Borges loves to take shots deep.
I really hope Stonum does what is necessary to play next year. Same goes for Diggs, because I think if he gets his shit in order he would look great in maize and blue.
It could be worse
At least we're not Penn State
Go Blue, Beat Illinois
I'm in denial about the Penn State thing just b/c it is so disgusting and upsetting I don't want to think about it. I couldn't even imagine if that was going down at Michigan how upset I'd be.
I thought that same thing, about how I would feel if it was Michigan in that situation, yesterday and had to stop. I have two PSU fans in my neighborhood (you know, the kinds that put flags out on gameday) and I don't think I can bring myself to say anything to them if I see them.
I take no joy in that happening to anyone, from the victims to the people who acted horribly and are probably justly going to have their reputations ruined. It's not just a "there but for the grace of God go I" thing, though that is a part of it. It's just sad all around. And so beyond the realm of sport that it's not a "Gotcha!" situation. Get caught by the NCAA for cheating? Sure. This? Just painful.
game), is that I don't see next year being any better than this year, unless
1. Denard becomes a much better pocket passer.
2. We employ Denard in a system that better suits him.
3. Next year's freshmen make huge contributions.
Unfortunately, I don't see any of those things happening.
1. He will become much better. Not NFL pocket passer good, but much better than he is right now. Denard showed massive improvement from year 1 to year 2. Year 3, in a totally different offense, he has obviously regressed, but I think he is better at this offense today than he was at the beginning of the year, so I have hope for a better senior Denard.
2. I think Borges will get better at playcalling the longer he works with these players. Coaches get better with familiarity too.
3. I definetely expect freshman wide receivers to make significant contributions. We will hopefully get Stonum back, which should help as well.
The biggest question on offense next year will be if Khoury can play center even close to the level of Molk and will our oline stay healthy. If those two things come to fruition, we should be a lot better on offense next year.
(1) could happen. Denard is a "want-to", coachable guy from all accounts. Borges seems like a great teacher, and has self-assessed that his QB's are markedly improved from year 1 to year 2. Will he be an NFL QB? Probably not. Who cares. His speed alone will get him a gig at the next level at some position. I would settle for: can complete passes with regularity (60-ish percent) to open receivers and not make the crippling mistake.
(2) Not happening. This is a product of a coaching change. Trying to blindly recreate the glory days of the Rich Rod spread n shred would be disastrous without the mastermind at hand. I don't want a Made-in-China replica spread offense, I want the real deal. (Un)fortunately, we fired that guy because his defense gave up 35 points a game. We're going in a different direction. Get on board with it. The staff will find ways to effectively utilize Denard's speed in a west coast offense. I mean, he's going to go for 1k yards this year, after-all.
(3) eh, you can't count on that.
I don't see a backslide next year. Various phases of the game will improve. I think, at least, our offense will be more cohesive, and presumably, less turnover prone. I don't think we'll be back among the top O's in the country, but it's not as though there won't be talent there. At worst, 8-4, and when we're back to a worst case scenario of 8-4, whatever, we can deal.
however JT Floyd is at fault sorry. Thomas Gordon should of been in the lineup with Kovacs. Woolfolk on CB with Countess. Morgan will get better, but UM has no Lb's to put in his place. We all know they are slow and hesistant right now. No matter what Hoke has to rely on some FR to come in and compete. Bear defense sure would of helped, but with Floyd consistently giving catches to Iowa WR's it doesn't matter.
That's why Woolfolk should be CB, better in coverage then JT (I play 9 yards off the ball then let my WR catch it and tackle him) Floyd. So many first downs were at his expense. Thus, leading to Iowa's points on the board.
What happens when we have an injury at safety? Just put Woolfolk there even though he is practicing at corner back? Put Marvin Robinson in even though he is probably worse for this defense than Avery?
Its a tough call and I agree that our best eleven would put Woolfolk, Countess, Gordon and Kovacs on the field at the same time, but since Carvin Johnson transfered and Kovacs got hurt, I'm not sure we can afford to move Woolfolk back.
Our fearless leader must be listening to The Smiths right now.
Didn't see this game (first one all year, Disneyland for a friend's birthday) but the blog's mood ring seems to be set on depressing.
Was it really that bad?
Seems like we had a shot to win it at the end if not for two dubious calls.
Also, the tide seems to be turning against Borges for declawing the spread-n-shred we used to put up 65 in a game last year.
Big 3 games.
0-3 makes it seems like a repeat of the last two years. 3-0 puts us at 10-2 and in line for a good bowl game and stamps the "Hoke Gets It, We're Back" vibe from the early season.
1-2 or 2-1 (with a win against Ohio) and it becomes a good, not great, but I'll take it season.
Man, people are all poopy pants.......
MICH didnt play well, and still almost won
Thats a whole lot better than MICH didnt play well, cant stop a JV team on D and got routed until a bushel of garbage points made the game cosmetically better
Look, I know we cant even pencil in another win, but I dont think we can even pencil in another loss either. All these games are coin flips and MICH has more going for it now than it did a year ago....and besides, a year ago and in 2009, those big games in November, they were stencilled in with permanent ink as a L weeks before kickoff
For me, at least, it's not the loss itself, but the uninspired play, and the fact, which you pointed out, that the next three games are coin flips. If they are 50-50, bad play is going to tilt them in the other direction. It's not just Denard. Dropped passes. Where the heck is the run game (other than Toussaint's great game against Purdue)? If there's no Denard breakout runs, and no Tate Forcier gun-slinging, what is there to get us over the deficits in the other areas?
Denard is our biggest asset and our biggest liability. And I mean that in the best possible sense. But there's no Plan T (Tate) this year to bail out Denard when the liabilities outweigh the assets. Also, (and I say this with very little knowledge of the X's and O's), why don't they utilize designed Denard running plays? I've seen him follow blocks in amazing ways - he's so good at that - but they rarely do that. I'm not saying every time, but sometimes?? Is it that our O line isn't good enough? And why has Vincent Smith been so quiet? Is it because they like having just one back? I think Toussaint has shown great things, but it's crazy not to utilize a very versatile guy like Vincent Smith, and run-by-design for Denard (assuming he's not injured and/or they're afraid he goes down, leaving Devin as the go-to guy).
THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE ... AND WE LET EM OF THE HOOK!! (Storms off in a huff)
The final three games will feature defenses that 1) are decent, 2) whose LBs are coached to understand the concept of gap responsibility, and 3) whose perimeter defenders are coached not to let Denard outside of them. These defenses will bring a safety into the box and sell out against the run. These defenses will say what the two other (MSU/IA) defenses said: Okay Denard, you and your RB won’t find much room to run against us --- beat us with your arm. Alas, Denard has proven that against such stout defenses, he’s unable to do that.
And it’s not as if Hoke & Co haven’t attempted to find an answer to that problem: short, possession passes, throwback screens, maybe a jailbreak/bubble screen or two, whatever --- anything to loosen up the opposing D. But against teams with a defensive pulse, even this approach hasn’t worked very well. Denard seems to have trouble with throwing from a three-step drop. He doesn’t set himself properly. He throws off the wrong foot. His passes float, are many times hard to catch, or they’re intercepted --- okay sometimes they’re just dropped. The dilemma is that Denard simply lacks the mechanical skills to mount an effective passing attack at the BIG level ( In fact, name one starting BIG QB whose passing skills are demonstrably below Denard’s). But the more Denard runs against defenses stacked against him, the fewer yards he gains and the more susceptible he is to injury. Devin isn’t the answer either --- at least yet. As many have pointed out on this board, last year Tate capably picked up the slack when Denard had to leave the game. There’s no evidence of a similar capability this year.
M will wrap up its (hopefully) 8-4 (or wildly hopeful) 9-3 regular season. Now that every team in the BIG (and Notre Dame, and well, probably next season’s Alabama) knows how to defense Denard, we’ll have to live with another season of building a modest winning record against the nonconference and BIG’s low-hanging fruit while we await the arrival of a true BIG-level QB. But we have no alternative.
Here is where we are at this point: To become a good team, you first have to stop being a bad team.
We have officially taken that step. We are no longer a bad team. We are beating the teams we should beat. We are competitive in our losses. We are still playing for something in November. We are not going to lose to Toledo anymore. We are not going to lose to Purdue anymore. We are not going to squeak out wins over Indiana. We are not going to get blown out on our loses to good teams.
Now the next step is to become a good team. We have the coaching in place. Our talent level needs to be improved, and we are addressing it with recruiting. When we hit the nexus of excellent caoches and excellent talent, we will be in the running for championships in December and January, not just November.
I feel for Borges and Denard. Both have been thrown together and are out of thier comfort level. They would never have "recruited" each other if they were starting from scratch. We may have to resign ourselves to the fact that it will never get fully resolved. Denard is probably never going to be a great I form QB, and Borges is probably never going to run a great RR spread. I think we are stuck in less than perfect hybrid purgatory for this year and very possibly next year. They will muddle through, never fully optimal, but hopefully with at least somewhat better execution.
I think we have seen enough glimpses of Borges' offense to know where it will be headed down the road. The good news is that Borges is NOT Debord. My biggest fear was not that Borges would misuse Denard, it was that he would be DeBord and misuse QB talent in general. That won't happen. So yay for "down the road".
Am I giving up on Denard? Never. I have never rooted for a kid so hard, in an almost fatherly non-football fan way. He stood by us. It would have been easier for him to go elsewhere where he could just be Denard. His road is admittedly tougher with us. His loyalty may not be fully rewarded and that makes me a kind of sad.
But he has another full year and he's amazed us before with what he could pick up over the winter. He starts hitting some of those single-coverage long balls and it's a whole different world. He starts getting help from the O-Line and a non-Denard running game and it opens up his prospects again. Next year should be (another) wild ride for all of us.
- Denard's ridiculous production last year was a perfect storm of (1) a 4.3 speed in the QB position with (2) Rich Rodriguez tailoring his offense to maximize the production of one guy. Rich is a pro at this. Taking a guy who would be a receiver or DB at other schools and making him the most dangerous player in CFB. This is what he does (did).
- Al Borges does not have the same frame of reference (somewhere in here is a Lebowski conversation) as Rich Rodriguez. He doesn't have the experience with a spread n shred QB/offense needed to be able to make those subtle adjustments that Rodriguez did last year. He's been quite accomodating, I would say, but it's taking, for example, a PC whiz and throwing him into an Apple world with the same expectation for immediate productivity. Not reasonable. He doesn't know all the hot keys that Rodriguez put into good effect. The end result is an offense with no identity, as Borges tries to implement what he knows and can coach. People around here (Brian, included) often give the impression that, since we have 10 offensive starters returning, we should just let them call the offense as they played it last year. Nostalgia Act? Nostalgia Act. That's not happening. Not how coaching works. This is a new era and the growing pains are happening. Of course Denard is being mis-utilized. The mastermind behind the scheme that got him 4000+ total yards is gone. You can't just re-create that with new coaches and a new system. It's fine to be upset that Rodriguez is gone, but to be upset that our OC is not Rodriguez and not running the same plays? That makes no sense to me. You can't have it both ways. I'll trade growing pains in a new system for a defensive coach who can give our team a chance to compete.
- While Denard is an incredible athlete, his fundamentals are atrocious, and his decision-making can be all over the place. Right now, he is not a good quarterback. Stop blindly thinking he is. He's hesitant and confused in a new system that is built for someone who can throw with NFL accuracy. Sure, he can always break a big play at any time, but that doesn't make him a good QB.
- Given the last point, let's wait and see how year 2 under Borges unfolds before we crucify our OC - and our QB. The great thing about Denard is that he seems like a workaholic who always wants to learn and improve. Let's see if he and Borges can get it turned around during this off-season. Borges has flat out told us about year 2 in terms of progress.
- Take these points, and try to place yourself in the head of Al Borges and call a game:
(1) Our O-line is not Ohio State's: We are not built to support a 2 pass per game offense. Unless it's Purdue, we can not line up and blow teams off the ball. Furthermore, teams are catching up to your athletic QB's running tendencies. He'll still get at least 1 or 2 chunks of big-yardage plays, but teams are containing him.
(2) Your QB at the moment is 50-50 whether he'll complete a pass. every 10-15th throw is an interception, roughly. Also, your QB refuses to take off and use his speed to punish over-zealous defenders.
(3) You have receivers that have shown they can go up and fight for the jump ball, but who also show the propensity to drop easy short throws.
(4) Your back-up QB and potential QB of the future appears slow, indecisive, fumble-prone and mentally erratic. You can't trust him to drop back and pass.
- No wonder our offense is totally scattershot. We don't do any one thing really well, except hope for Denard to break into the secondary, which isn't happening much at all. We have little spurts where Fitz looks like a feature back, but as soon as teams not named Purdue or MAC school du jour realize what's happening, they shut it down.
- I don't think there's a clearcut answer right now. Time, recruiting and extra practice time (bowl) seem like the only antidote. People seem to think MOAR RUNZ is the answer. Thing is, i've never really gotten a feeling this year in games where Denard has been less productive that quantity of carries was a factor that would improve his production. If teams are going to send 9 guys to Denard, you have to be able to throw a fucking 10 yard pass with accuracy to whichever receiver is left open. Teams seem to make a concerted effort to contain Denard to the inside, and force M to run up the gut which is not a strongsuit when your O-line averages what, 290 pounds?
It's not that MOAR RUNZ is the solution people are proposing. I, for one, would like to see our OL asked to execute a blocking scheme that they can actually execute. Right now we've managed to take the most productive run offense we've had in a generation and shelve it because it's not manly enough.
I agree with your overall assessment of Borges - it's unreasonable to ask him to be RR. I'm not so sure it's unreasonable to ask him to use blocking schemes that fit our linemen and not have Denard have nearly 40 pass attempts in a game.
Welcome back Emo Brian!
Last week it seemed that Brian was beginning to see the first glimmers of Borges genius, as in we have no base offense, we are "multiple." Now, not so much.
We are seeing one of the deeper truths of the QB position playing out before our eyes: you must be able to throw accurate balls and make good decisions, quickly under pressure. Other than at a few places, such as Georgia Tech, perhaps Oregon, having a run first QB will only get you so far. A QB must be able to throw a football. This is why everyone is salivating over Andrew Luck. Stand in the pocket and throw darts! (As an asside, I am not sure any team, no matter how good defensively, if they cannot move the ball downfield can be called the best in the nation...here is my vote for Stanford as the best team in the nation and Alabama should be ranked below Oregon as at least they moved the ball against LSU) It is clear that Denard on a good day is maybe an average or slightly below average passer. He throws so many wobble balls it is painful to watch. He makes so many bad decisions. Teams load the box, put a spy on him, pound him till he is not himself and when called upon he cannot make the throws necessary to open up running lanes. Nice kid with thousand watt smile whome I would be honoured to let date my daughter, but the only reason he has not been converted to reciever is that we don't have any better options. There is a reason he was so available to us late as a QB prospect. He is not a QB! He cannot throw the football! Not having QB's who can throw on scholarship is on RR.
As for the "Toughness" meme, anyone who has been a part of any organizational change knows that you have to pick a few major themes and hammer them and then demand changes consistent with those themes and eventually they will take hold. This is no different than RR wanting to "Play Fast." Whether or not we are "Tough" in any given game or on any given play, the meme is going to stay untill it is so ingraned in the team culture that it no longer needs to be preached.
Here is the big thing to wrap our heads around as a fan base. Hoke was right when he said we were over rated. We are not a top 15 team, never have been this year in spite of our record. Too many thought that Michigan was "back." I remember when we were good (and I don't mean 2006...no one really thought...we hoped...but deep down knew we were not going to beat the team that does not exist...in 1997 you knew every game that we were the best team in football. We passed the eye test, the feel test, the numbers test. That was a good football team). We are not good. We are aspiring to respectablity, and that is it.
This is not time for emotional highs or lows. Certainly there is no cause for Emo Brian to come out of the closet again. Give it a couple of years. I am encouraged that with our undermanned and undertalented team we are doing as respectably as we are.
I guess offense is more fun to talk about, but other than last year's blip, who was the #1 vs. #2 big Saturday game? The #1 and #2 scoring defenses. Neither really run a spread. Doesn't mean you can't get there with a spread. Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, heck Boise or Oregon could all get there playing that. Just brings up the point again that you can win with any type of offense, if you're defense is good enough. That's why you're right that Stanford (another non-spread team) probably has the best chance against the SEC, because to go with that great QB lead offense, they also have a pretty respectable defense (#11 scoring). Which is why the future should generally be exciting. We may not have a genius innovator on offense, but we certainly don't have GERG 2.0 on offense either. And we've made ridiculous leaps on defense, with not a lot of talent, frankly. This should still be a bad defense, and it's probably a bit above average. Keep recruiting all those defensive studs, and hopefully we can look like LSU someday. Crazy, wacky, WTF offense, and really good defense. Because that seems a sounder foundation that "great offense, but maybe just get to AVERAGE defense".
The word of the week should be "Perspective." I completely agree with you about defense. This is the most exciting part of this year is seeing what Mattison is doing with the recruits he was given. This is a respectable defense. Not dominant, but respectable. We live in an era where offence is the thing. We all want to talk about innovative and funky offence. The X's and O's on offence are far more interesting than defense which is much more about boring "fundamentals." But as Alabama and LSU make painfully clear, it is defense that wins championships. (In the NFL, the best predictor of success is a team's "Defensive Passer Rating" ... the flip of the QB rating). The young guns among the Michigan's fan base, which seems to be the largest demographic here, who came of age during the RR era or perhaps during the malaise years of the Carr era, don't really understand "Michigan Football." Our football is about suffocating, tough, defense first, offense second. This is exemplified in the 1997 team. What I liked about watching Saturday night's contest is how much it reminded me of old Michigan teams. So, yes, this old timer is excited about what I see with this staff, but not for today, for tomorrow: excellent recruiting, great defense, and a pro style offence waiting for a QB who can throw the football. Stop the hand wringing and enjoy that during this transition we are average and getting better.
Our problem wasn't really offense. It wasn't the most exciting, and it certainly could have been opened up more to better effect, but we scored a lot of points and had some great talent. Our ebb and flow was on defense. When our defense started to slip, so did our record. In 2006, when the defense returned, we were really good again...till the defense faltered. Our recruiting wasn't as strong on defense as offense, and we had more bust outs there, and that's when Michigan Football struggled. We had plenty of good offenses...99, 00, 03, 04, even 05 and 06....the years that weren't as good as others, or the games we lost, were usually shoot-outs. Our defense wasn't up to par. Give yourself a great defense and even Alabama's lame offense looks good. That's time and time again. A great offense with an average defense? It worked last year. It hasn't really very many others. And doesn't look likely to work this year, either.
I am with you there...for someone who started watching Michigan football in the 2000's it would seem like those were the "good old days" when we played great defense, but I cannot remember how many times in the later Carr era where I would be shouting at the TV for some sin the defense would be commiting. I would always wonder how we suck so bad and could not stop anyone. Yeah, compared to today they would seem stout. It was watching the defense decline in the late Carr years that it became increasingly obvious that a malaise was settling on the program. And in 2006 they never really inspired confidence. We were winning, but there was this uneasy voice telling you it could not keep going like this...and it didn't. Wheras in 1997, you know in the core of your being that we could beat anyone. Someone would have check the stats, but we had games where in the second half teams were negative yardage against us and no one scored on us in the second half until the final game of the Big 10 season, and evemn then it was a meaningless TD. When I hear Hoke talk about Michigan football I know that is what he means...and that is why he is able to say we are an over rated team. I like the trajectory we are on...
I just rewatched the Iowa game from last year. Several observations:
(1) RR ran Denard much more than Borges but it was not all that effective at getting points on the board. The offense failed to score more than a touchdown through the 3rd Quarter. Denard got beat up and had to leave the game in the 3rd with an injury that kep him out of the game. Downside of running Deanrd more than the RBs. Iowa's defense also contained him fairly well.
(2) Same issues were apparent, especailly turnovers. Denard threw one. Tate threw two.
(3) Panlties are less of a problem this year.
(4) The game this year was much closer as we could have easily tied the game. Last year's game was a blow out. We were behind 35 to 14 going into the 4th Quarter.
Although the result was the same you can see the progress this year. Defense is much better (and probably helped by the slower pace of the offense). The offense is more balanced with fewer turnovers (Iowa 2009 5 turnovers, Iowa 2010 4 turnovers,Iowa 2011 2 turnovers).
One officiating thing to watch in UFR: I SWEAR there was a first down where the clock never stopped on our final drive that cost us 8-10 seconds.
Brian stated that, "Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted." I suspect this a commentary on my use of arrows instead of bullets. So shoot me (pun intended.) I learned early on to write my diary on something that I could save, which for me, is Microsoft Word. When I write in Word, I use bullets, nice, round bullets. For whatever reason, when I copy the finished product into this site's editor (Drupal?) my bullets become arrows. Hey, I'm learning.
One thing about writing the weekly diary is I've gotten a feel for how much work goes into generating so much content for this blog. I spend 3 hours watching the game, think about angles, storylines, and bullet points for the rest of the day, and then spend 2-3 hours on Sunday writing one diary. Brian does this on a daily basis, and must watch each play 5 or 6 times to get the UFRs put together. My beveled guilt is rising.