Your thoughts are pretty close to mine as a TV observer, but Denard needs to get at least a series in every game from here on out. None of those series will be considered wasted if Tate goes down with a serious injury.
Observations on Today's Game
1. It is hard to convey how close the game wasn't. I take my hat off to Dantonio and Co. for their game plan. State absolutely dominated this game. Their 130 yard drive was an impressive display of consistency notwithstanding their efforts to self-destruct. Other than a relatively ineffective running game (I'm excluding QB scrambles), MSU played extremely well on both sides of the ball. The only thing I would pretty furious about if I was a State fan was Dantonio's decision to sub in Nichols at different points in otherwise successful drives. He was far less effective than Cousins. I have seen reporting on ESPN that Cousins was banged up, and that may explain the 4th quarter, but there were several moments in the first half where Nichols came in and absolutely killed an otherwise solid drive.
2. Paradoxically, I was pretty thrilled with the defense. Obviously, the defense gave up a lot of yards today. But today is the day when I became a true Greg Robinson believer. Our defense is seriously lacking in athletic talent. But it seemed that GERG was using the linebackers to help out in coverage in a way that help band-aid our secondary's woes. In addition, JT Floyd looked not horrible today. There was an obvious cost to the way they deployed the linebackers -- no back up containment when the defensive line broke down in the middle. But at the end of the first half, I looked up at the scoreboard and said "Hat's off to Greg Robinson." He had a great gameplan that worked well. And, as per usual, he made great adjustments in the second half. I thought the defense delivered today in every way it is reasonable to expect.
3. It took us awhile to adjust to our inability to run. State's linebackers did a great job on the run game and were clearly part of a comprehensive scheme to shut down the read option. It was impressive. RichRod adjusted well in my view, and began passing, but we were seriously hampered by drops in the first half. Koger drops a ball -- I think "Hey, he's a tight end and having those guys running full speed down the field is tough." Kelvin Grady, though, is starting to get on my nerves. From where I sit, that guy drops more than he catches. With the substantial improvement of Martavious Odoms, I'd like to see more Number 9 and less Kel. Grady.
4. I am concerned about playcalling. Complaining about play calling is obviously an age-old Michigan meme. I have been listening to people bitch about Bo's playcalling since I was eight years old. However, I feel like our playcalling today had a "let's try this; ok, let's try this" feel to it. I didn't feel like we had a philosophy that was behind our playcalling. I think the best evidence of this is when they stuck Denard Robinson in in the 3rd Quarter with Michigan's ball at the 20. We very much needed to get untracked and drive the ball at that point. We really hadn't all day. I love Denard and see the upside, but he's not the type to engineer a lengthy drive, especially because he's still learning much of the playbook. I had a distinct feel that Rodriguez was grasping at straws and was kind of hoping Denard might do something amazing and bail us out. That's obviously not a ridiculous hope, but MSU's defense is far from overwhelming, and there was real reason to think each time we got the ball that we were about to get untracked. The Denard series was a mistake.
At this point, we have to discuss the fake punt. There was a part of me that was getting concerned enough that I thought about just lining up and going for it. Then my brain said "Yeah, right. Even if it works, you still have 80 yards to go. Cost-benefit doesn't work out." And then I watched in confusion as Zoltan started running and thought "Why are we rugby punting?" And then I thought "Holy God, we just faked a punt on our 15 yard line." I love RichRod. I do. But it is absolutely inexcusable to make this call in a close game. It demonstrated a frustration and lack of discipline on his part that he simply cannot afford to have. I viewed that playcall as an example of a head coach panicking simply because his normally magic touch wasn't working.
In general, for three quarters, I genuinely felt like we had no flow to our play call. Each drive felt like everything had to go right in order for the drive to succeed -- you felt like there was no margin. Dropped ball? Dead drive. Sack? Dead drive. All the while, State was the complete opposite. No matter how bad their third and longs were (and God Almighty did they convert more third and longs than I have ever seen), you sensed that they had a chance to convert. I felt like we lacked that type of resilience.
5. God I love this team. All of the foregoing being said, I saw the heart of a lion out there today. I absolutely LOVE the fact that with RichRod at the controls, this team is literally never out of a game. With limited exceptions over the years, Michigan simply is not a team that does well coming from behind. We have been built as a horse that gets the lead and then holds it. This team is different. These guys are punchers. With four minutes to go, I honestly felt like we had a chance. Obviously, a lot of things came together to make it happen, but I would have NEVER thought we were still in this game under Bo/Mo/Lo.
6. The State of Our Union is Strong. Look at where these two programs are. MSU has three years under Dantonio. From where I sit, they look like a sailboat that is going in circles. I predict they end the season .500 or with a losing record. By contrast, in our second season under RichRod, our record is up, our recruiting is up, and you are really starting to see the possibilities.
It sucks losing to Sparty. I get that. But we absolutely stole two games already this season. We have two walks on playing defense. Our quarterback is a freshman. Our line is only OK at best, and that was before transfers. If we were going to lose today, this was a good way to lose. I am not deterred.
You know, I absolutely agree with you. And this will sound odd, but there were several times in the First Half, where I was saying "Let's try Denard." So I agree its more art than science. And I want to see him in there because you see the potential. But by mid-third quarter, I was starting to think "We may only have four touches left." I think we need to give Denard his chances earlier, and I also think we need to consider field position. I like him much better around mid-field than I do down in our own end where you have further to go.
And say "chuck it deep first play". Since "DRob runs it 80% of the time he's in the game".
He took was awful, but totally explained by his relative inexperience. Even the BTN guys noted his hesitancy in trying to decide whether to tuck it and run, or throw it away, (here is where I insert a reference to a blind squirrel and a nut when discussing BTN's commentators). More touches as the season rolls on will help him a bunch. He'll get there.
I thought timing was quite odd to bring DR in. I think there were 8 minutes left and we were backed on our own 20?
As u have mentioned, the punt and the DR series surprised me quite a bit.
I'd love to see Denard get two or three drives in the second quarter of every game. Give him some time to get in there and get a real feel for things. It can't help his confidence or rhythm when he has to wonder if every play is his last of the game. Perhaps what needs to happen is something like "Get in there and play your game kid, you've got two full drives to yourself, do what you can and we'll go from there."
That is all this is. Any success* we have this year is gravy. Tate is doing a fine job of laying the groundwork for being a future Heisman candidate and the team WILL be good in the next few years. Think future and enjoy whatever success we have in the meantime.
*Success = 6 wins or greater (fewer than that and we are in trouble)
sort of throwing in the towel motion, but I understand it. We hadn't moved the ball all game so he had to try something.
Speaking of trying something where was that Denard Robinson trick play with Carlos Brown throwing him the ball. I was disappointed that Turd_sandwich wasn't correct!
That was my thought exactly when Denard played his series. Michigan was down by 14 at that point and every series was critical. I could see giving him a play or two (maybe even a safe 15 yard pass to keep Sparty honest), but I thought that it was irresponsible to give him an entire series, deep in Michigan territory, at that point in the game. Michigan needed Tate to guide them on a long, extended drive (as him did in two subsequent series).
Props to the MSU defenders. They stayed home, not allowing themselves to be suckered by the likelihood of a Denard run.
At that point, Michigan had generated all of 60 yards total offense through 3 qtrs. So a Denard run on 2nd down doesn't seem so bad either. On 3rd and 12, however, Denard isn't going to catch the MSU secondary/defense napping, and so there I would question why you wouldn't put your best passing QB in the game for that play.
My observations were pretty much the same. Ann Arbor.com quotes RR saying that Zoltan was supposed to punt that ball though. I actually thought they were going to go for it, being 4th and inches (yeah i know, we were deep in our red zone but its RR - he does that from time to time).
I mean, not to call anyone a liar, but I am hard-pressed to think a guy as level headed as Zoltan ran onto the field thinking a fake was a likely play from our own 16. I really hope RichRod isn't hanging Zoltan out on this one.
On the other hand, if Zoltan got his signals crossed, than someone needs to explain what the fuck our punt calls are like! Isn't it along the lines of "Emperor -- go punt it as far down the field as you can"? How do you get that signal crossed?
if you are "hard-pressed" to believe RR. I don't care either way, but u cant have it both ways.
Let me rephrase: if our punter has the discretion to fake a punt on his own motion at our 16 in any situation other than "The entire defense collapses of a collective heart attack" than that is a fundamentally moronic way for a coach to delegate discretion to his punter. Getting up at a press conference and blaming Zoltan doesn't make sense to me.
Whoops, sorry. Duplicate post
but i don't believe anyone on that sideline expected anything else but a punt. If RR wanted to go for it, he had 4 and inches and would of made that call instead. You expect your players, especially seniors, to use good judgment when they have discretion to change a play. Zoltan has been great, but i dont think we should lay it on RR for something the kid decided to do on his own.
We expect some accountability w/ our players at the U. RichRod cannot coach them prior to each individual play. They are expected to read the field and the situation and make the right call. This one play is not what lost the game though... This is a loss to a road opener. The fact that it is to MSU means little to me, we do not recruit the same base. Witness the fact they set home and homes w/ directional squads...
What in our short history with Rich Rod would leave you doubting the man's loyalty to and support of his players. If Rich Rod said that the punt fake was Zoltan's call....it was Zoltan's call. Maybe Zoltan just thought that he could make it. He's a senior, his team was in trouble, he was going to come through some how. It worked out for him last season. No luck this time.
RichRod didn't make the fake-punt call; it was Zoltan's read. First time he's misjudged one.
everyone is blaming richrod it seems for that but i am almost positive that it was a run/punt option for zoltan. i.e. if it's there run, if not just punt it. i think zoltan was feeling the desperation set in
To be where the team is at this point in the season (4-1) is practically amazing. The realism is that Michigan will not be a top 15 team this season. With the inexperience and lack of talent in certain areas, Michigan is a top 20-30 team at best. Wait...this is the second season under the RichRod regime; being in the top 20-30 teams is impressive.
The other things to think about are these: 1) Although RichRod has been at the healm for at least one season, GregRob hasn't. Our defense is essentially in its infancy. These guys will learn the new system and should show the same improvements next season as the offense did this season.
Give it time. The coaches will recruit the talent they need to fix the areas that are weak. I can't wait to see what this unbelievably young team will do in 2-3 seasons. Now that will be stellar...
Relax, enjoy the Tate comeback. Sparty spit the bit on that one.
the D-line for gumming MSU's run game. Mouton had an absolutely awful game, and he should get some serious wind sprints for his matador job on Cousins' 41 yard scramble. A completely half-hearted effort. No excuse for that. Ezeh made some plays and seems to be getting better, but he still disappears (caught in the wash) for long portions of the game. Stevie Brown is the only LB having a good year. Isn't he the only LB that Hopson doesn't coach?
I agree with you about Greg Robinson, but my lasting impression from this game is that our offensive line was pathetically awful in a manner that the English language cannot describe. Unimaginably terrible until about the last five minutes. Run blocking was beyond awful and pass blocking was awful too. Up until Michigan's first TD, this was the worst performance by a Michigan offensive line that I have ever witnessed. This is really disturbing. That was supposed to be one of our strengths. If a mediocre Michigan State team can completely dominate us at the line of scrimmage, I hate to see what Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa are going to do to us. It's going to be really really ugly.
The most glaring example of this was the OT pick. Schilling, a guy who is supposed to be our best lineman, couldn't hold off a rushing defender one on one. That's what lead to Tate's ill-advised throw. You've got to plant that guy on his ass and give your Freshman time to make it happen.
But one of many examples. In the third quarter, MSU once rushed three against six and got immediate pressure.
I was thinking the same thing about the read option throughout the game. It just wasn't working for us. I haven't gone back to look at those plays, mostly because that seems like it'd be painful, but I'm interested to see what the UFR will have to say about that. It seemed like they began to work in the fourth quarter, maybe the passing opened it up a bit.
I agree with the post. Any success this year is a bonus since we are a year ahead of schedule of being really good. Rich Rod went 9-3 in his second year at WV and I think realistically we can go 9-3 easily this year. I'll put aside my (we will win every game mentality) and say I think we lose at Wisconsin and we lose to Penn State putting us at 9-3 and looking at a pretty nice bowl game.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, but you forgot one game brother. The Hated Ones.
I was at the game and I was very proud of the team in the last six minutes. I think if Michigan State lost that game, Dantonio was fired. He should have kicked the field goal to make it a 3 possession game (even with the rain they have an All-American-caliber kicker), yet he decided to go for it on 4th and 4, and got stuffed. That was an abysmal play call, almost as bad as the option read roll-punt.
I was wondering about Dantonio's call about the FG as well. Anyway, I understand that if MSU makes it the game is pretty much over, but it made me wonder if that wasn't a case of Weiss level arrogance to go for it.
There's no way he'd be fired.
48-49 yards in the rain? I think I'd take my chances going for it too. If it works, you run more time off the clock and probably win even if you later miss a FG. If it doesn't, you're no worse off than if the FG was missed. And I think you're at least as likely to pick up 4th and 3 than make a FG that long in the conditions they had yesterday.
If we're talking 4th and 8, or another ten yards closer, then obviously you kick (unless you're Weis E. Coyote). But this was far enough out, in bad enough conditions, with a short enough distance to go on 4th, that it's not unreasonable to go for it.
Kickoffs in the direction State would have been kicking were noticably short, often bouncing in front of the return men, while kickoffs in the other direction regularly reached the back of the end zone.
That's all I could figure. A FG would have made it a 3 possession game and likely sealed it for MSU.
Good post dude.
I especially like your final statement about the "Union being strong." Amen brother. We are on the way up. Sparty is treading water at best.
Forcier was a stud today. Just imagine how fucking good this kid can be in two seasons when he has learned an additional 1/3 of the playbook and has seasoned a bit more as a QB. Oh my.
Plus, we have Gardner coming in next year. D Rob will progress. The D gets more time in Robinson's system...man, this could be a sweet thing in a couple more seasons.
This is a YOUNG team that played their first game ever in a hostile envirnment. They looked pretty bad for most of the game. At the end they put on a very valiant effort to bring it into OT (and almost won it). I am very optimistic about this season. For one I think they are ALWAYS a threat because they can put up a lot of points quickly. This team took a very long time to settle their nerves, but next time (next week) they'll know what to expect and hopefully play well earlier on. I still believe this team is going to surpass my preseason expectation of 6-6. This team is gonna lose some games. We ALL knew that, but they can/should still in be around the #3 spot in the Big Ten at seasons end. Let's not let this loss devistate us too much. It does suck, but they showed heart at the end and we should all be excited about that.
Yeah very true. Everyone had us at 2-3 after this game. I'll take 4-1.
Am I nuts, or do you go for 2 at the end? You have your foot on their throat. The crowd is dead. I kept thinking 2 pt conversion and go home.
I wondered about that, but our D had seemed to have stepped it up a bit and we had just had two drives for TD's. Or maybe RR wanted to keep half of his fan base from coronaries.
I thought the same thing about going for 2 at the time. However, now I think RR made the right decision to kick the extra point and send it to OT.
While we certainly had momentum and had been driving, I just don't know what play you call for a 2pt conversion in that instance. With the fact that the Oline had been getting pushed back all day, you kind of have to call a pass. But with the weather and the pressure that they were getting, does it really make sense to put the entire game into one throw.
Additionally, I think going to OT especially makes sense when you consider that both the defense had just played very well and that Cousins was a bit gimpy.
In that case I think he was right in deciding to let Tate try and engineer another drive in OT (instead of just asking him to make one all-or-nothing play) and then to see if the defense could make another stop.
Just my thoughts though. I am sure this point will be talked about a lot in the coming week.
Take the point and go to overtime with momentum. There are too many bad things that could've happened on a single attempt two-point conversion.
You go for two when you like 40% odds (i.e. you feel you're up against a superior team). I'd rather play a 50/50 game (where I've got the momentum, and therefore believe the odds are even better than that) than take a one-shot 40/60 attempt.
Good post. I will continue to hold that 8-4 is the ceiling for this club, and 7-5 is the most likely result. They will lose games like this during the season, when they are outplayed for large chunks but find a way to win. That said, the offense is making strides, and I honestly think that GERG is one of those guys who isn't a great head coach but a really good DC. Sure, this team has struggled, but they don't look lost out there. They are giving up yards because they are not that good, not because there isn't some consistent plan being taught by the coaches. Recruiting should fix the talent gap, and then watch out for this team.
I agree with you for the most part. Overall, the Space Emperor had a terrible day. I think his punts were well below average which affected field position a little bit. It sucks to come back thinking it's deja vu all over again for State only to have our hearts ripped out in the end. I'm taking this one hard and I think I need help because even though it sucks I shouldn't feel this bad about it. I just can't stand thinking of another year of Sparty running their mouths off.
And I think they're unbearable when they lose, so this is going to be a looooooooooooooong year.
in ~1999 to UConn (& Richard Hamilton)
Duke had the ball down one for the "last" possession. Duke's slow-afoot, All-American shooter Trajon Langdon was dribbling the ball preparing to go one-on-one for the game against UConn's best defender.
After the game, when asked why he let Trajon continue without calling a timeout, Coach K responded that he trusts his players, and that the results of that on court freedom usually are better than the results of players going through robot-like motions.
I don't have any problem with giving Mesko the option to run if it is clear that it is there. Of course, you run the risk of a misread when you give that freedom. But that's not the only risk out there, and I think it's a reasonable risk to assume if you trust your punter's judgment.
I dont think that punter can be given this choice when backed up on his own 20 yard line. It is never safe for a kicker to run the ball at that point.
As to a fake punt and throw... thats a different story, but if the kicker's calling the fake no one else knows to look to get open.
Allowing punters the freedom to chose to run from our own red zone, where there is no botched snap, is too much leway and this play should have never happened.
Tough loss after a great comeback, but the longview on this is if you didn't get the Wolverines last year, or don't get them this year, good luck. How many personal fouls on the Spartans? Year Three of the Dantoolio era looks a lot like the same old Spartans. With another of RRs' recuiting classes in next season, I predict the chances are slim we'll see Kurt Cosins waddling all over the field or converting repeated 3rd and 27s. Enjoy, Sparty Nation. It's going to be another 41 years before you see this again. Go Blue!
I don't believe that I can express how baffling I find your paradox, but I will try.
The M defense is basically bolstered by a stout line, a corner and several hundred thousand prayers every single play for divine intervention for the other 6 players to somehow contain the play almost certainly designed to exploit them.
i don't mind bringing him in, but why take tate off the field? just line him up as a far wr like everyone else...
but also think that, comparatively, Mr. Shoelace has no place being put in the game as QB on 3rd and long... has he proven he can make the clutch throw yet?
The play calling in this game came from the same source that got Michigan to 4-0. The fact is, practically nothing was working, and that invariably makes the calls look bad. I think Rodriguez figured, "Let's see if Denard can make something happen." At some point, I think Robinson will start converting these opportunities, but this wasn't the day.