Just to add to your titles above and skew the numbers even more !
UM Hockey - 1996, 1998
Other Finals appearances - 1977
Season Part 1 and 2
WARNING: Very long and there is not much gold left to mine from this season anyway, but I'll break it in two since 1st part is most global and second more personal whatever.
Anyway, it was a perfect storm of crappiness this season. The coaches were nearly impossible to evaluate given what they were working with, and the same will prob be said for '09 too. I think RR's offense will be unstoppable once they have the right QB to run it, I think he'll get the right QB to run it post haste, but that QB isn't on campus yet. RR has continued to recruit well against an avalanche of negative pub dating all the way back to his WVA break-up, so that is a good sign, and RRs opening up a FL pipeline is prob the most underrated story of his tenure.
UM's biggest obstacle over the next 2 years will be guarding against allowing the losing to infect the team. This IMO is what has happened to the FSUs and Miamis (better examples than Neb or ND IMO for multiple reasons). They were consistently outstanding for so long due to talent and consistently high QB level. They run into a few years where QB recruits are getting tossed and/or not panning out, and the result is some losses they never would have suffered. The ship didn't right quickly and now both programs (despite elite talent) continue to not only post poor records by their standards, but suffer multiple head-scratching losses per season. Why?
In the HBO mini-series "Band of Brothers", in one of the episodes where Easy Company is Bastonge, the first sergeant comes across a private attempting to scratch out a foxhole in frozen ground with his finger nails. He gets that guy off the line immediately and to the rear, commenting that fear is something they all deal with but must be done so in their own way, its a delicate balance as that outward fear can infect even a hardened combat unit.
The analogy I draw here is how players and programs react to lossing. These players are going to have to live with this losing and all the negative pub and shit surrounding it for the next year. The coaches are going to be on watch for the type of bad attitudes that can infect the team, and those guys will have to be run off or not offered a scholarship for their final season. Most of the team is going to stick it out and stick together and work harder than ever so that it never happens again. Problem is, its probably going to happen again next year. Not 3-9, but 5-7 or 6-6. Losses to OSU and who knows, maybe ND and MSU too. They'll have to hear all the shit about "is UM dead? RR isn't the right guy. Dantonio" etc. They'll have to go through absorbing another 5, 6, or 7 losses. Who among these players will have the strength to keep that hatred of losing burning white hot when they've been forced to deal with it so often (esp the young guys), and who among them is going to subconsciously relax just that little bit? Who in 2010 will be saying "here we go again"?
This is RR's biggest challenge. Not the recruiting. He's good at that, its M, and players want PT. Its not implementing the system. You could see the offensive system implemented fairly well this year. But breakdowns in execution along the OL, and no passing accuracy in the short game, and no running QB = death for this offense. It maybe able to over come 1 of those 3, but certainly not all of them.
RR's task of motivating these players and keeping that fire is what will be his biggest challenge. And if he rides these guys the wrong way, at what point do too many of the player start to buck and the team is lost to him? The bottom line is that there is only so much RR can do, 90% of it has to come from within. There is only so much he can do and the rest is a crap shot, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence. The good news I believe is that the bounce a coach and program gets off a positive is much greater than the help other intangibles like tradition and coaching charisma can provide in bad times. Should these players pull it off over the next two years and bring home at least part of a Big 10 championship in 2010, I think things will be well on their way to being better than ever. Its just going to suck waiting for it all to play out.
Its times like these (Lions working on a 18 game loosing streak, UM 3-9 season with second worst loss ever to OSU and 5 game losing streak) when I like to step back and take a peek at the all time scoreboard.
Since I came in in '76, I've witnessed the following championship seasons:
Tigers - 1984
UM Hoops - 1989
UM Football - 1997
Pistons - 1989, 1990, 2004
Wings - 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008
Shock - 2003, 2006, 2008
(ok, for the purposes of this, lets take the Shock out of there). That's 13 titles. In addition, we've had the following finals appearances:
Tigers - 2006
UM Hoops - 1991, 1992
Pistons - 1988, 2005
Wings - 1995
So since the time I was 8 years old, my teams have generated a shot at the title every 1.2 years and delivered every 1.8 years. Not many can come close to that. NY I think has 10 or 11 titles and Boston I believe has 8 titles in that span.
Without that perspective this would be a soul crushing sports year (even with the Wings/Stones poised to do major damage), with UM posting its worst football season of all time and the Lions working on their worst of all time, and by definition, one of the worst seasons in the history of the NFL. The Lions jumped out to a 17 pt lead at home, then surrendered the next 38 in a 38-20 loss. They've lost every way imaginable this year. Blown out early, blown out late, running out of the back of the endzone for a safety in a 2 pt loss to the Vikes. Amazing.
UM was down 7-14 at the half v. OSU. They failed to get any points the early INT and Odoms about to field a punt on OSU's side of the field, which he instead fumbled to take our amazing field position and give it to OSU. Taylor was comically held on Wells' touchdown run. Jamison literally had his jersey ripped off of him without a holding call against OSU all damn day.
But even if all the things that could have or should have gone right did, it wasn't going to be M's day. The M defense was just called on to answer the bell too many times dealing with terrible field position. It goes back to 4 things that are going to kill ANY team:
1. Starting a walk-on QB that didn't even have a MAC scholarship offer. What would Alabama's record be starting Nick Sheridan at QB? This occurred because Henne starting as a Fr scared recruits, Forcier then transferred when Mallett came in after Mallett scared off all good QB recruits for 2 classes, then Mallett left. That left one Fr. who was a top 10 drop back passer in his class, but drop back passers are useless in this offense.
2. 9 baby offensive starters. Starting QB, RB, C, and WRs all FRESHMAN.
3. Freak turnovers out of the coaching staffs' control.
4. Horrible special teams with the exception of the punter. Too often UM was forced to go 80+ yards to score and that is insanely difficult given 1-3 herein. Inability to return KOs and punts resulting in poor field position. On sat. McGuffie got killed on on KO return after a couple yards, Cissoko muffs and only gets out to the 17, Odoms fields 2nd half KO at the 13 and gets only to 24, Cissoko fumbles KO in second half to OSU. They took a 2nd half KO back 80 yards. Toss in a missed chip shot field. All-in-all, your average day at the office for M special teams. How many games you gonna win with 2 TOs in the kicking game and a missed FG?
Knowing all this, what is the coaching staff's culpability here? Long view, they could have tried to keep Mallett around. Did RR and staff's arrogance hurt them there? Hard to say. Mallett was widely considered something between malcontent and team cancer last year, and LC's last year was country club compared to RR's first. Instead of kissing Mallett's ass and hoping for the best, RR choose to use it as a message to the team (if you don't want to be here we don't want you) and forced the decision early in an effort to get Pryor. Prob right move. I also think the special teams blocking on returns was horrible all season which you could put on the coaches. As far as the fumbles, they worked on it like crazy and rotated players (all of whom couldn't hang on). You can't coach catching the ball back there and when you go through everyone and they all suck, it can't be on the coaches.
Short view, UM couldn't run or pass in the first half v. OSU, but Sheridan was so awful. They passed too much. After he bounced the first 5 passes of the turf they should have just said "screw it" we're going to try and run it at them all day. In fact, they should have gone that route from the jump before watching his bounce-pass clinic. At least the run has a chance of getting some positive yards (and shortens the game), as were you knew Sheridan's pass attempts were futile or worse (sack, int). He's been god awful all season outside of the Minni game. And what was with all the rollouts? I understand they must be passes he completes well in practice because they called so many. But they were terrible (longest loop on a rollout you'll ever see, he had to throw 15 yards down field just to bounce it to the LOS). If I was RR, I would have gone 70% run, 15% swing/screen pass, and 15% deep ball. Grind the ball and some clock, try to keep the CBs rolled up, and try to hit some big plays over the top where a miscue is either a inc or deep int. Loosen the S a bit and give yourself a shot at more big plays. We may as well make our INCs 35-40 yards down field rather than 1-3 yards off the LOS.
Also, when M got that INT in the 1st quarter, what should they have done? I love aggressiveness, but you've got to get pts there (and consider your QB). Once Brown went out I was just praying for 3. Try run it in and you're either in or get the FG. Instead, Sheridan losses yardage on 2nd down. After that I said just run it toward the middle of the field to make it an easier FG. Instead, Sheridan throws INC and Loppata misses a 35 yarder from the right hash. I think that's on the staff (not that it would have mattered).
Just to add to your titles above and skew the numbers even more !
Rollouts are good for inexperienced QBs since they make decisions easy. They're awful for a "spread" philosophy in that they end up taking much of the field out of play, minus a cross-body psycho pass that's as often an INT as not (and somehow was a reception in the Minn game).
Unless you're facing Ninja Linebacker with ball homing device in his shoulder pads and a name that sounds like it recently wiped out a 3rd-World community, it's a great play for getting the QB away from the pressure (and he knows where it's coming from) and hopefully put a linebacker in charge of stopping both the QB and a crossing TE or receiver.
DeBord liked the rollout because the left side of the line was so effective that the Sam Linebacker would cheat that direction expecting an off-tackle run (with good reason). This would give the QB plenty of time to get out, set up, and find a crossing route from an open tight end, or perhaps a deep receiver if the safeties came up too.
That's not RR's offense. He's just using it because it's a kindergarden play for a kindergarden QB.
is ok. He has an idea of where he wants to go, and how to get there. Charlie Weis is the poster boy for how arrogance and ineptitude can hurt a program. Despite matching their 3-9 record from last year, I dont think we go down that road. Maybe that's my own arrogance.