Site note: UFRs will be Wednesday/Thursday going forward; every year I suggest they will be Tuesday/Wednesday and am forcibly disabused of this idea the firs week. Also, I miss Joel A. Morgan’s cartoons and am accepting submissions for random inclusion into UFR. It’s like the New Yorker: you submit stuff and sometimes I post it when it strikes my fancy. Except I don’t pay you.
O Do Not Forsake Me. Jerry Green is officially one thousand years old:
Michigan opened its celebrated anti-tradition era with its heavily publicized modern-style offense looking as though it were conducting a fire drill.
By that, I mean helter-skelter, willy-nilly and putt-putt!
Glabdanged frozzmatozz put that in your pipe and smoke it boy howdy I got an Indian nickel lets get a phosphate at the druggist this qualifies as a sentence in a major newspaper these days.
Later, Green uses “newfangled” without a hint of irony:
So what's different, other than this newfangled offense that made Rodriguez such a coveted football coach?
Well, it's now tradition-be-damned at Michigan!
I didn’t even know you could do that. I also didn’t know you could use exclamation points helter-skelter, willy-nilly, and putt-putt!
Green is a weird mix of Grandpa Simpson and T. Herman Zweibel; the above-linked column is a must-read if only for its antiquated strangeness. I mean:
On the sideline, Threet and David Cone and then the replaced Sheridan wigwagged the signals to the quarterback of the moment. Assistant coaches in headsets, connected by wire to play-callers up above, translated the plays into the code for the semaphore artists.
These things are newfangled: wigwagging(?), connecting things to other things by telegraph, and signaling plays into the sideline. Also newfangled: the horseless carriage, fire, and the atmosphere. Don’t get proper views of the night sky anymore with all that nitrogen in the way back in my day we had proper views and also we were prokaryotes someone bring me my cranberry juice.
Green circa 2.5 billion years ago
The invaluable Smart Football might be posting at a more regular rate, and lets hope so, because…
When Rodriguez got to Tulane with Tommy Bowden they threw the ball over the place, but (a) it was in Conference USA, (b) they were excellent at the 3-step passing game, but defenses are better at defending against those passes now than they were a decade ago, and (c) his downfield passing game left something to be desired. And in the years since, it's not that Rodriguez is at heart a running guy, it's just that was what worked and it masked some of the passing game deficiencies. When I study the route combinations, they do not appear to be designed conceptually, and instead are a kind of grab-bag of a few routes here or there. You don't see his schemes organized of horizontal, vertical, and triangle stretches.
…this is about the most interesting thing anyone’s said about him since he was hired at Michigan.
Now, Rodriguez's saving grace is I've seen him in action, and he's an excellent fundamentals coach and is a great teacher. And I think he understands all these things - I mean the guy did exploit the zone-read spread stuff before anyone else - but hasn't had the chance to reexamine his offense with such a critical eye. This season, to be successful, I believe he will have to.
Being successful this season will rest less on the pass routes and more on reducing the overall Yakety Sax vibe, IMO, but down the road this will be something to look out for. Click the link for what Smart Football means by “conceptual” pass routes.
This worked out. The “Victors Walk” was a neat addition to a football Saturday:
A ton of schools do this for good reason; glad to see we’re amongst them. I hope the former letterwinners are included in the walk when Michigan does the thing where they bring back a bunch of old dudes for the Tunnel Of History.
Perception is a weird thing. Dr. Saturday, nee SMQ, on the defense:
If there's anything good to take away for the Wolverines, it's that the defense, overall, lived up to its hype. Brian Johnson shredded it for 260 yards and a couple touchdowns in the first half -- he only topped 260 yards in an entire game once in '07 -- but if you were too distracted by the offensive horrifics on the other side to notice, the Utes' second half production amounted to two first downs and six total yards. If not for the towering leg of Kicking-and-Punting Messiah Louis Sakoda, who hammered home the eventual winning margin on a 54-yarder after the Utes went three-and-out from the Michigan 40, it would have been a shut out. It was dominating, anyway, and there's some promise in that. Just some, though, not enough to raise expectations beyond the Champs Sports Bowl.
I don’t see how you can just dismiss the shredding handed out, as it’s clear evidence of a glaring weakness in the linebacker corps and something between inexperience and Cato June at safety. The overall performance graded out to “slightly disappointing,” as you’d hope Michigan scoring 23 points would be enough for victory. It would have been if not for that little kicker guy, but only just.
The second half was very encouraging and it’s better to have Michigan suddenly get its act together late—hopefully that straight 4-3 we saw against the spread is permanently junked—than come out storming and fall apart; I am still a bit leery of the unit. Notre Dame will be interesting.
Meanwhile, an even more mystifying reaction: “Michigan needs to get creative”:
A buzz went through the crowd on the first offensive play of the Rich Rodriguez era, as Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan deftly shuffled the ball to Martavious Odoms cutting across the field.
As the fans howled, Odoms gained three yards. No cloud of dust could be spotted from the press box, but it might as well have been there.
As far as creativity went, the first play was about as good as it got for Michigan on Saturday. So were the results.
To call the Wolverines' offense vanilla would be an insult to the term. Rodriguez came to Michigan as an offensive innovator, but his playbook might as well as been a pamphlet against Utah.
?!?!?!? Martavious Odoms is a tiny freshman slot receiver who received a shovel pass counter on the first play of the game. About the only thing that could have been less Lloyd Carr would have been a double-reverse trick pass. And I submit there’s a limited amount of creativity you can install into a gameplan when you have no quarterbacks who have ever taken a college snap, one returning OL starter, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions. Rodriguez was busy getting them to run the right way and was only 90% successful at that. And there was a fair bit of creativity: the attempts to get Utah leaping offsides, the option here and there, the shocking lack of bubble screens
Etc.: Braves & Birds weighs in; Varsity Blue breaks the numbers down a bit; the WLA is cranky at you, not the team; Carty is like the only guy who doesn’t have a “Don’t leap to conclusions BUT” paragraph; MVictors has the circle of death, plus a picture of a dejected Scott Shafer