In the depths of Michigan's worst season ever (if you can't divide) or in a damn long time (if you can) they travelled to the Metrodome to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michigan was 2-7 and without the services of their starting quarterback. Minnesota was 7-2 and in possession of a functional offense. I was posting pictures of Death because Nick Sheridan was going to play the entire game. We were going to hit rock bottom when the Gophers picked up the jug they see once a decade, if that. "Henry Kissinger" was amongst the things projected to be more fun than the Jug game.
Because football is strange, Michigan waltzed into Minneapolis and annihilated the Gophers. The final score was 29-6; total yardage was 435-188. Nick Sheridan completed 60% of his passes and almost eclipsed 7 YPA. Justin Feagin averaged 7 yards a carry.
It was a crazy exception to the nigh-unrelenting misery of 2008. Yeah, they fluked their way into a win over Wisconsin despite getting outgained by 100 yards. Minnesota was different. If you had no knowledge of the context you would have thought it was a year like any other, a Michigan team like any other. Michigan did what they do to Minnesota: beat them without a second thought.
This week multiplenewspaper folk took the time to tell people the Jug doesn't matter, but when that awful Michigan team locked arms and walked over to Jon Falk to lift up the only thing they'd held onto, it mattered. Paul Bunyan, the bowl streak, most people's sanity, all of the street cred, and huge chunks of the dignity were gone. The Jug remained.
Martin, Koger, Molk, and Van Bergen were freshmen on that team. Molk started. Koger, Van Bergen, and Martin played but didn't acquire stats. Recruited by Carr, they stuck it out under Rodriguez. Many of their teammates didn't.
As a reward the four above started down a path towards the least rewarding Michigan careers in decades, through little or no fault of their own. You can win Big Ten championships with those four guys as prominent starters. You have to have other people to play football around them, though, and maybe a coach or two who can tell the difference between a stuffed beaver and a 4-3 under. Michigan didn't.
In 2008 they had little on the field and even less off it. According to John Bacon's Three and Out, Lloyd Carr signed off on Justin Boren's transfer to Ohio State and upstanding citizen Jim Tressel. Morgan Trent half-assed his way through the season and tossed bombs at Rodriguez afterwards. Toney Clemons and Greg Mathews would act as sources for the Free Press jihad shortly after the season. Given the result of that investigation it's clear they did so entirely out of spite. Brandon Minor would rail on about how leadership was going to happen in 2009 as people whispered that he was a major source of its lack in 2008. There's probably never been a more dysfunctional Michigan team, and it started from the top.
Freshmen learn from seniors. This is the way of the world. Usually they learn how to be, how to maintain the standards of the program they walked into. The four guys above did it a different way: they learned what not to do. When it came time to meet for the first time in the Hoke era, they decided not to repeat the recent past. Mike Martin:
"‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”
Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together. …
“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”
Meanwhile, Van Bergen called out the program alums who'd drifted away when times got tough. The message was clear: this is our program. We've been here for four years and gotten nothing but crap. We've paid more dues than anyone in the last 40 years of Michigan football, and now we'd like some payoff.
That payoff was going to be an Alamo Bowl at best. But the seniors' effort, Greg Mattison's expertise, Denard Robinson's existence, the Big Ten's complete horribleness, and Brady Hoke's rectal horseshoe now tempt hope.
Michigan State can't run or stay within three scores of Notre Dame. Nebraska can't throw or keep a good running offense under 30 points. Iowa can't beat Iowa State. It may be a division race on par with one of those years Wake Forest won the ACC, but by God there is a tinny flimsy division championship there to be acquired. Even if it wouldn't be much—in all likelihood it would be a historical footnote after a curbstomping at the hands of Wisconsin—it would at least somewhat fulfill a promise Bo made when he arrived in 1969.
No one's deserved it more than the four guys above. It's relatively easy to be a "Michigan Man" when it's handed down to you. Koger, Martin, Molk, and Van Bergen had to figure it out on their own. They stayed, and figured it out when available evidence suggested being a Michigan Man was endorsing transfers to Free Tattoo University, telling recruits to go to Michigan State, and selling out your own program to a couple of hacks.
A few years ago on the eve of the Ohio State game that ended to that miserable 2008 season I wrote a thing about being an anchorless mid-20s person who is uncertain of where to go or who to be and is sad as a result. In that piece I envisioned Michigan's coaches telling their charges how to get out of this hole:
Some of you will stay. And you will go insane. You will work, and you will work, and we will build something here from nothing. Because, make no mistake, this is nothing. You will build something out of this. If you're a senior next year and you teach some freshman something, you will build something. If you're a freshman and you refuse to quit on your stupid decision, you will build something.
What you build will be yours. Few in the great history of his university have had that opportunity. Everything came based on what came before. They were part of a great chain, now broken.
Those of you who stay will forge a new one, starting today. When we are done we will fix the last link to the broken chain, and break the first link, and tell those who come after us to live up to it.
Whether or not Michigan manages a championship, flimsy or real, Michigan's seniors have done this. This Is Michigan again because they stayed.
The two QB formation thing. So that was something. That and the double pass touchdown reminded me of that Indiana game prior to Football Armageddon (IIRC) when Michigan dumped out a zillion trick plays to force the opponent to prepare for extra stuff. I didn't like it then and hope that's not the case now, not least because after the first play the thing seemed pretty effective. Gardner implied that was not the case:
“It’s really, really dangerous. We’ve also got Fitzgerald Toussaint back there and Vincent Smith," he said. "You’re going to have to wait and see. It’s going to be pretty dangerous.”
What to call it? Hoke refused to answer a direct question about what we should call it, so it's up to us. Vincent Smith suggests "two," which is a little bland. Ace got a "diamond of doom" suggestion on Twitter; while that's catchy it's also long and jinxtastic. Naturally, Ace wants to extend it to "Denard and Devin's Diamond of Doom" because it abbreviates to DDDD and if there's one thing Ace likes it's repetitive hexadecimal numbers.
But that's long and a bit awkward. Since it's a goofy, misdirection-heavy everyone's-a-QB thing that reminds people of the Mad Magicians I propose calling it "Fritz." It's not exactly what Crisler used to do…
…but what "Fritz" lacks in outright accuracy it makes up for in Getting-Itness.
[BONUS extreme history nerdBONUS: This has set frequent correspondent John Kryk alight with references to not Crisler but Notre Dame's Frank Leahy, who deployed a T formation with a close resemblance to Fritz.
Michigan sort of ran the above. Kryk actually has a diagram in which the T looks identical to Fritz:
I'm pretty sure we'll all way too abuzz about a formation we'll see maybe a half-dozen times the rest of the season, but old-timey football is always cool to see in the flesh. It's why Georgia Tech games remain an abiding fascination.]
Why does the outside pitch not bother me so much in that formation? When we run the I-form fake-dive-to-pitch it's just asking the opposition to key on the running back flying out to the corner because Michigan never runs the dive, and even if they did defenses are like "BFD." When we ran it from Fritz it played off the earlier speed option.
Is it a tenable package against real opposition? If the wildcat can work I don't see why this can't.
Triple option? May be on the way.
Records. Some happened. Smith's touchdown cycle had not been accomplished in the modern era:
It was the first time a player has ran, thrown and passed for a score in modern Michigan football history (post-World War II).
That seemed like a given. I'm waiting for MVictors to dig up the dude who managed it in 1923, because I know it's happened and I know he will.
Our helmets have wings… and numbers! Let's avoid the inevitable Rodriguez tradition rehash. It's already been done. Personal opinion of them: whateva. On a scale from 10 to –10 where 10 is Denard, –10 is Pop Evil, and 0 is total indifference I'm a –0.1. I'd rather not have the uniforms futzed with but the numbers have some history to them, don't look terrible, and are a minor adjustment.
I think Hoke should say he'll yank 'em if they lose, though.
On-field takeaways. Minnesota is very not good—we were playing a pretend game where the Gophers got a touchdown every time they crossed midfield and a point every time they succesfully fielded a kickoff and they still lost by 30. So disclaimers apply.
That said: Denard throwing to his receivers—and getting the opportunity to hit some short, confidence-building throws—was encouraging, as was the almost total lack of I-form even deep into the third quarter. That seems like an abandonment. If they were still working on it they would have pulled it out just to practice it, no?
Short stuff. AnnArbor.com's Kyle Mienke notes that of Michigan's first 11 passes, eight were five yards or less. He categorizes that crazy seam to Hopkins as "another was over the top to a leaking fullback," which is a goofy thing to try to lump into easy passes for Denard confidence. That was pure DO.
Patrick Omameh. Some evidence he might be struggling in the new offense: he was left on the field much longer than any of the other starters save Schofield, who was forced into the starting lineup by the Barnum injury and was granted time at tackle late.
Possible liberation society addendum. I'm so over the rollouts. It seems like the only way to get Denard Robinson pressured is to roll him out into unblocked contain defenders, which Michigan does plenty. If you leave him in the pocket people are terrified to get out of their lanes and he usually has a lot of time. If you put him on the edge against defenses keying on him he doesn't get outside and he has to make rushed throws on the move that seem to be more inaccurate than his usual ones.
I guess the rollouts do open up the throwback stuff, which has been very successful. And they did insert a heavy dose of sprint draw (AKA That Goddamned Counter Draw), something I've been pleading for since Rodriguez's arrival. So they might be developing a package there. They've got to figure out how to block it.
FWIW, I wasn't a fan of showing the sprint draw against an incompetent opponent. I'd rather Michigan's future opponents not prepare for a potentially game-breaking play. But I've got no evidence behind that.
It is not hard to see the qualities of Bo in Brady Hoke. At first I cringed at his seeming overconfidence, at his seeming overuse of Bo-isms, and wondered if he was trying too hard to win Michigan fans' hearts with his bravado. I don't doubt the man any longer. Brady Hoke has a Bo-like level of expectations for those he leads. He has expectations of effort, execution, and yes "toughness" that no coach since Bo has required from both his players and his staff. Hoke isn't making Michigan great again by being an innovator on either side of the ball; he is acquiring the best available parts, constructing a beast-machine, and driving the thing to eventual domination.
This is the section where I discuss turnovers and other momentum changing plays. There was one burst of impetus in this game. Minnesota kicked off to start the game. That's it. They were never in it. I bet that "adjusted winning percentage" diary shows us pegged at 100% for the duration.
Media, as in unwashed internet rabble. I have no idea what "Everybody pants now" means, but if you watch Parks and Rec you probably do. Amongst Adam Jacobi's things he learned in the conference this week:
So while it's easy to just say "But 2010" whenever someone mentions the fact that Michigan is still undefeated, there's one difference that's crucial to point out: the defense is showing up too. Last season, Michigan gave up over 25 points per game in its first five games. This year? 10.2. Yes, it's relevant that 31 points came against Notre Dame in a game the Wolverines had zero business winning and 20 came against tomato cans like Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, but consider that Michigan also spanked Western Michigan 34-10, and that's a Broncos team that came up just shy in a 23-20 loss at Illinois and just took a 38-31 win at Connecticut. So yes, given the context we've got, Michigan is not just pulling a 2010.
Jacobi's still not banking on Michigan "surviving" our "brutal November," but if not surviving means not winning the division instead of collapsing to 7-5 I don't think Michigan fans are going to be too peeved.
Blake Countess is the next Leon Hall. Yep, I said it. Minnesota doesn't have the greatest talent in the world, but Countess has looked pretty darn good for two weeks in a row. Courtney Avery had a nice 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but Avery has been getting beaten more regularly than any of Michigan's other corners this year. He's still not bad, but it looks like Countess will grab a starting spot sooner rather than later.
The Hoover Street Rag notes it was appropriate that Michigan tried a transcontinental-type play on the same day they honored John Navarre, though in that case they were attempting a double pass, not a run. Was anyone else OUTRAGED that the Navarre highlight package didn't include the Buffalo Stampede? That's like having an Alan Branch highlight package without the Morelli elimination.
That was an old school Michigan blowout, like the ones you'd watch on ESPN Plus (memory lane, you are there now) back in the day, where nothing was ever in doubt and The Law was that Michigan would average a billion yards a carry under a grumpy Michigan sky. It's always the ideal of overindulgence, and if anything it's a reminder of how far we've come since 2008 when beating Minnesota on the road was considered an upset.
f and when Minnesota can get back to being competitive in the Big Ten, the Gophers can use Saturday's game as a motivational tool.
Hopefully for them, they'll remember this as rock bottom. Because Michigan blew the doors off Jerry Kill's team in a 58-0 humiliation at the Big House. The Wolverines have dominated this Little Brown Jug series for the last 40 years, but Saturday's margin of victory was the largest in the long-running semi-rivalry. It was the fifth-largest win in Michigan history, and that's a lot of history there.
For Michigan, this game was a chance to flex its muscles offensively and defensively, add a few wrinkles and give as many players as possible — in this case, 71 — an opportunity to play. Michigan was 8-of-9 in the red zone against the Gophers and is now 21-of-22 for the season (17 touchdowns and four field goals).
The three field goals were each career longs [for Gibbons] at the time, starting from 25 yards and going to 32 yards and to 38 yards. In five games this season he’s missed just one field goal — a 40-yard try against San Diego State.
I think you may have missed the point. It was "in throwing RR under the bus, the former players and coaches threw the current players under the bus as well." At least that's how I read it. I thought the post was a totally appropriate valentine to Martin, Koger, Van Bergen, Molk, et al.
Is that we haven't been able to run effectively - at all - from under center. Not that I necessarily *want* to run plays from under center - Shotgun forever - but we keep running constraint plays from under center (i.e. throwback screen, play-action) and I don't see how those constraint plays will continue to effective if we don't have a meaningful base offense from those formations.
Carr/Boren and "telling recruits to go to Michigan State"
Who allegedly did the latter and what is the evidence? Ex-players? Carr? Someone else?
I haven't read Bacon's book, but I'm a little concerned by what I've heard about allegations made by Rodriguez' staff, and apparently presented in Bacon's book as allegations only, being interpreted as unproblematic fact.
Thoughts from those who've read the book?
When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing. -Bo
I think you can be safe in knowing that.... Bacon is pretty respected as a journalist, Bacon has too much respect for Michigan's program to just throw in theories to sell a book and his lawyers have done a complete CYA on this book.
I can guarantee you Bacon is not spitting out conspiracy theories fed to him by RR's staff in this book.
I am curious on what Carr signing off on Boren's transfer even means. Carr wasn't the coach and after RR releases the kid from the scholly Boren can do what he wants. I have no idea on what Carr's input could be. This story has some holes, because didn't Carr think Tressel was a snake? Maybe that is why he encouraged Boren to go to Tressel. The 2 db's deserve each other, I'll help Rich out and get him out of his hair.
The RR bandwagon will try and say anything to make it look like the last 3 years of failure fall on anyone's shoulders except for RR. See how Brian always knocks GERG, and will sometimes allude to RR's goof in hiring him....this is a major blunder that means that RR was horrible and did a horrible job, not some minor slip up and lack of judgment that should be written off like a poor choice in wall paper color.
It's just amazing to me that we can be terrible at nearly every aspect of football for 3 years, and people still try and place blame on the hall of fame, national championship winning coach (cupboards were bare, hurting recruiting, adding to attrition, blah blah blah), while favoring the head coach who couldn't field a respectable defense, special teams, or offense against any team of any sort of defensive competence. Mind blowing.
Another issue that maybe the book will examine about Rodriguez is why the players didn't like him or the new situation and wanted to leave. We're seeing with Hoke the power of having spot on people skills in successfully managing the diverse aspects of the job.
I found Rich to be likeable and self-depricating to a reasonable degree. I also heard anough scuttle that he never connected with the players. It is a fair presumption that the defections and the loss of that talent was largely on him and his approach in communicating.
The fact that he was the head coach with full authority over the football program at Michigan is what hung him at Michigan. That's more powerful times 50, than what an ex-coach or a couple lazy players could do to him. If that power wasn't enough to overcome those things, he was not the right guy for the job. All the side stories, however valid, will never gain traction, because the gorilla in the living room was the fact that Rich was head man and common sense makes him at least slightly less than totally responsible.
“First, understanding what their intent is, what our team’s intent is going to be. You’ve got to be willing to work for that. You’ve got to be willing to earn that..." 12-30-2014
In fairness, Brian is consistent in not going into depth blaming RR for for the past defenses (he usually just gives a token comment about it and doesn't elaborate) and also not giving credit for Hoke for Michigan's defensive improvements this year. In general, he puts all the blame/credit on the coordinators. I don't agree with that necessarily, but he is consistent.
"A flute with no holes is not a flute. A donut with no hole is a danish"
I liked Rodriguez. I also think if he were here he would have won 10 games this fall.
That being said, I blame Rodriguez for most of what happened the last three years. But I think it should be equally clear that he was fighting uphill the entire time against a group of so called Michigan Men who should have supported the program regardless of whether or not they liked the head coach. He was undermined and it wasn't fair to him or the current players.
edit-this comment meant for poster above, not coastal blue
with your analysis are the facts. Becausee of poor/unlucky recruiting and also because of some issues out of LC's (and RR's) control, the cupboard was, factually, "bare" in '08 just as the "bandwagon" guys say. And sadly for your side of the argument, you still trot out the factual untruth that the offense was poor against any sort of competent team. Facts are facts, look into them before you rant.
BTW, another sort of fact, Brian is on record favoring RR's firing, as were most (not all) of the "RR bandwagon" supporters at that point.
RR owns the defensive decisions, and that largely is why he isn't here--and that was a legit reason to fire him if one were inclined to do so. But that doesn't mean that your analysis is correct.
"Before I could pull the trigger, I was hit by lightning, and bitten by a cobra."
I'm not certain, but I think Brian endorsed RR's firing with the specific qualifier that Harbaugh needed to be available. Obviously, he was not happy when the replacement turned out to be Hoke (at least not at the outset).
but basically Boren was signed to the Ravens and Andy Moller and is on their practice squad now. Now, Boren sucked at the combine and wasn't that good at tOSU, so why would Andy Moller give him a chance? Because Boren and Moller are down with Lloyd.
1) JUB says that Lloyd facilitated Boren's transfer to OSU
2) Boren, was picked up by Lloyd's former Oline coach in the NFL. I'm not saying that it was "hush" money or a conspiracy, just that it's likely JUB is correct and that Lloyd did facilitate this. Otherwise, he would be pissed at the Boren's, just like every other Michigan fan is and Moller would pickup another low prospect for the Scout team. I think Lloyd is friends with the Boren's (bothe parents went to M) and wanted to help them out by giving Justin the best chance to play in the NFL and play with his brother.
If you could go ANY post without getting multiply negged for it. (Don't you ever get the feeling that people just don't like you? I'm not the most warm or cuddly person around here, and yet sometimes even my posts are well received).
And it doesn't take much research to find a post you JUST POSTED a dozen posts up or whatever. Do you just post stuff not even realizing what you're writing, just to blather and foam at the mouth, and attempt to piss people off like a 12 year old? Can I remember you calling people out (specifically, me) and saying "I never said that, prove it", and it taking all of 5 minutes to prove you wrong, again? Sure. It's called a memory. Usually comes with a brain. You should try using it rather than casting insults to cover up your lack of knowledge and rebuttal.
But you are right about one thing, since your existence here is obviously just to troll and incite, I should be done with you.
Justin Boren - a guy who started three years at two different Big Ten programs - probably is a practice-squad level player. Being on an NFL practice squad is not prestigious. Those guys hardly make anything. It means you weren't good enough to make the active roster. Finding that as "evidence" of a conspiracy is silly.
Seriously...why is that a big deal? It could have just as easily been Moeller who decided to cut Boren after he was signed and sent him to the practice squad. I mean, as long as we're devising conspiracy theories - that's just as likely.
I think Boren was signed by Ravens, and then his position coach, Andy Moeller, who thinks he's a big lump of shit, said "Fuck him, he's no good, to the practice squad he goes."
I agree with jmblue, I'm not sure putting a 4-year Big Ten starter on an NFL practice squad is a big favor.
Omameh - isn't that by necessity? Mealer is at Tackle now I believe, Khoury at Center, and sure Bryant/Miller but redshirts for them, and maybe Burzynski or other walk-on but they don't want to get Gardner killed, and there's really no one else but the void.
Great piece on RVB, Molk, Martin and Koger, Brian. You could add Schilling, Mouton, Ezeh and a few others.
This may be correct. Burzynski did take Omameh's place once Patrick came out for good. Don't remember seeing Bryant or Miller out there.
Also, having Barnum swap in as a starter was obviously not a problem, but the drop-off after that when the rest of the line subbed was worrisome (or, as worrisome as anything can be in a game you win 58-0). Let's pray for no further injuries to the O Line this year.
Football allows the intellectual part of my brain to evolve, but it allows the emotional part to remain unchanged. And this is all I want from everything, all the time, always. --Chuck Klosterman
"Those who stay" just got a lot harder. There used to be as many as four co-champions in one year in a ten-team conference. Now, like the HIghlander, there can be only one. It skewers the math a lot, and means there are a lot less "championships" to go around than there used to be. I guess it will have to be expanded to include the division champion.
As for this year, I don't see Nebraska as an auto-loss anymore after Saturday. And if Michigan does play Wiscy in the inauguraly B1G Championship Game, they will still have a decent chance. They won't get pushed around as much do to being an older team, and the experience and maturity could make a big difference if it comes down to one or two "tipping point" plays.
Will Michigan be favored against Wiscy? No way. Can they beat Wiscy? Yes.
A rundown of this game needs much more Thomas Rawls in it than this. I thought he looked very good in his 73 second half yards. He reminded me of a shorter Anthony Thomas, and I'm not trying to get all hypebole-y but that's the type of back he looks like.
He doesn't have the consistency yet to get regular reps, but that's a guy I'm excited to see more of a year or two from now.
It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Some did, while some - including many who immediately publicly praised the Hoke hiring - did not. That second group was the subject of the RVB comments that Brian referenced.
I assumed, but am not sure I ever had seen confirmation
that David Molk does indeed have teeth. Nice to seem him smile (and have ample reason to). I love that kid.
Brian, the opening to this post was brilliant. The more you know about these kids, the more you want to seem them rewarded. And dammit, if I have to teach 95% of Michigan fans in twenty years how this group of seniors saved Michigan football, I hope I can still link back to these posts to do it.
I came away from this game feeling that it somehow meant something. It shouldn't, right? Minnesota is horrendous, and while it's not Baby Seal U, nobody should get ahead of themselves. I think you've put it in the right perspective, Brian, and found the words for my jumbled mix of thoughts. I simply can't wait for these next two weeks to find out what we're really made of..,.