...talks about how UConn hasn't been in contact and how they're out. (HT: UMHoops)
I will start my final diary of this season by thanking Dave Brandon for another "Wow" moment. He really went retro with the throwback uniforms, to a time before jerseys had numbers. Wait, there were numbers on those uniforms? One of the first things you learn when you start preparing powerpoint charts is don't use a yellow font color on a white background. (Another thing is make your fonts large enough for your audience to see them - and yes, this is a reference to the mini-numbers on the front of the UTL jerseys.)I would have thought that a marketing genius would know that. Maybe if they had made the blue border a little wider, the number would have stood out, or at least been visible. I think the problem was getting into business with Adidas in the first place. My wife bought me a couple pair of sweatpants for Christmas, because it gets cold at the Badminton Club in January. They were made by Adidas and the tags called them, "Weekender Pants." I tried on a pair and had a strange urge to move to Florida and start playing shuffleboard. In keeping with the SitCom theme of the season, I'll share a quote from Seinfeld regarding sweatpants, "You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.'" That sums up Adidas and our "wow" jerseys.
Burst of Impetus
* I didn't take notes during the game, so I was sitting here trying to remember what big plays Michigan made to grab the momentum. Then it hit me, we didn't make any. All the big plays were made by South Carolina. Ojemudia did force a fumble, but that was about it. Wile's 52 yard field goal was a nice shot in the arm and set us up for a dramatic fourth quarter. Our longest run was 19 yards and our longest reception was 26 yards. Meanwhile, both USC QBs had passes greater than 50 yards and one had a 64 yard run.
* Subtract the three long plays and our defense held SC to 236 yards on 50 plays. (Subtract the punt return and our Special Teams were pretty good as well.)
* Quoting me after game 1, "We held Bama to only 431 yards. They may be the best offense we face all year. If we can hold everyone else under 431, I’ll be happy." USC gained 426 yards. Am I happy? No, because we lost the game.
* We had been playing with fire all season against shaky B1G QBs. We saw what competent QBs can do against 2nd string CBs, and even then, we almost pulled it out. One more bobble on the Sanders TD and that comes back and then who knows?
* So the question is, why did we give up the big plays when we had been so good at avoiding those all season? Was it really the poor B1G QBs? Or was it the loss of JT Floyd?
* Gordon led us in tackles with 6. Ryan was next with 4. The defense was not on the field very much and the stats reflect that.
* We did manage 7 TFLs on USC's 53 plays. I'll take more of that next season.
* Demens only had 1 tackle. Campbell had 0 (did he play?) and Floyd didn't play. That's three of our five defensive leaders contributing one tackle total.
* Denard carried 23 times for 100 yards. He threw once incomplete. It was nice of USC to respect his passing ability (except for the 2nd failed 2pt conversion attempt.) Did they even bother to scout us? He also caught one pass for 7 yards.
* I don't really read Bill Simmons or Grantland anymore. But one of his "things" is the Ewing Theory. In brief, it states that teams can surprise you by winning AFTER the major star leaves the team. Think of Tennessee winning the National Championship with Tee Martin after Manning graduated. Secretly, in a tiny portion of my brain, way back where my repressed memories lie, I'm hoping that Denard is the next Ewing Theory example and Gardner leads us to the promised land next season.
* Let's hope Gardner develops some chemistry with another receiver besides Gallon. Might I suggest Funchess? Half of Gardner's 18 completions went to Gallon.
Bunches of Funchess
* Gallon had 9 receptions for 145 yards and 2 TDs. He would have been the player of the game had Michigan made a stop on USC's final drive.
And Justice for Rawls
* I noticed one of SC's O-linemen had a tattoo that read, "Justice IV All." Justice Hayes ran twice for 3 yards. Rawls didn't carry the ball.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet returned one kick for 32 yards and made a tackle. I like his enthusiasm, but I'm worried one of these days he's going to get hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. One of the bigger questions of this off-season is going to be what they do with him, position-wise. Vincent Smith needs to be replaced.
* OK, I do have a section devoted to the referees, so I guess I have to comment on our 9.99 yard first down. There are only three possible explanations. One, the chain is 10 yards, so the ball only needs to get to the end of the chain, not the linky thing on the yard-marker. Two, the official thought the yard marker was leaning out of the way and if it had been upright, it would have touched the ball. (I'm really straining as a Michigan homer to justify that call.) Three, it was a glitch in the Matrix. Did you all check the back of your necks for the data ports like I did after that play? Slight tangent, if the Matrix had been made today, I think they would be able to replace all those huge connectors with one fiber optic cable up your nose, or possibly a wireless link. Man, how technology has evolved over the years.
* I really couldn't understand the refs, and then it hit me, half of the group had bet on Michigan to cover the spread, and half had bet on USC to win outright, so they compromised and worked it out so that SC could win by 5. What else could explain the head referee COVERING HIS MOUTH while he discussed a play with the other refs. I felt like I was watching the WWE. What are you hiding?
* We had 24 first downs to their 17, and 38 minutes TOP to their 22. This was like the Indiana game a few years ago, except we were Indiana. We were grinding it out, 10 yards at a time. The problem with that is you need to be perfect. Any little holding penalty or hands-to-the-face penalty stops your drive.
* Time of possession was 10+ minutes for Michigan in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarters, but only 6:31 in the 4th quarter. Instead of tiring out their defense, I guess our offense got tired.
* Net yards rushing, M: 141, SC: 85. That usually correlates with a victory, but being -1 in TO margin and giving up the punt return TD negates that advantage.
* Clowney had 4 tackles, two TFLs, and the hit that SportsCenter is showing on a continuous loop. It must suck being an O-linemen. You stop a guy for 81 plays, have a miscommunication on the 82nd, and the D-linemen ends up on all the highlight shows and gets picked first overall in the draft next year. I'm sure Lewan and Clowney will meet again at the next level. Those are two outstanding football players. I wanted Muppets, but all I got was Bozo the Clowney.
Thanks to everybody who clicked on my Diary this season, even if it was just to get a handy link to the boxscore. Happy New Year, MGoFriends.
In the Tuesday Presser, which seems like ages ago already, Al Borges said, "My creative juices are flowing all the time. Depending on the game, I’m considered creative or idiotic, but they’re always flowing. That’s what kind of makes this game fun for coordinators." I'd say about 99.9% of the MGoBoard is going with idiotic. I won't defend Borges here. When Rodriguez was fired, Brandon said that they were going to pay the going rate for top notch coordinators. Mattison has earned his salary, and then some. The same cannot be said for Borges, not yet. Part of getting paid an astronomical amount for being an assistant coach is dealing with the inevitable criticism that comes when the team falls short.
At that same press conference, Borges said, "...the key is to keep the chains moving so you can call more plays." Borges called 47 plays on Saturday.
More Borges: "When people are complaining about, ‘Well, how come this guy’s not touching the ball more? How come this guy’s not touching the ball?’ Well generally it’s because you’re not getting first downs." Michigan had only 13 first downs on Saturday, three were a result of Buckeye penalties.
Borges: "You don’t get the turns. You don’t get the calls out. What Devin’s done a good job of is, when it isn’t there, creating something to get us more calls." Michigan was 4 of 10 on third down. Not great, but not terrible either. There were just so few chances.
Borges: "Get the receivers touching the ball more. Get the tailback touching the ball more." Devin Funchess had zero catches. Drew Dileo had one. Thomas Rawls had 5 carries, Devin Gardner had 7, four of which were sacks. After getting 6 carries for 117 yards in the first half, Denard had 4 carries for 5 yards in the second. Those carries were for 6 yards (over left guard,) -2 yards (over left guard,) a no gain fumble (up the middle,) and a 1 yard gain for his only carry in the fourth quarter (this time, over right guard.) Nothing went outside. They never went back to the play that resulted in a 67 yard TD run.
Borges: "There’s just no way you can call everything perfect. Can’t do it. So what’s going to happen when you don’t?" The MGoBoard is going to eat you alive.
On the 60 Minutes broadcast that featured Michigan Football last Sunday, there was a fascinating story about babies. They put two bowls of cereal in front of a baby and a couple puppets. The baby preferred the puppet that liked the same cereal as the baby. The lesson was that we are hard-wired to like those that are similar to us. I would guess that the majority of the MGoBoard is closer in age to Denard, Devin, Jake Ryan, and Jordan Kovacs. It is easier for us to walk in their shoes, than the old guy sitting in the pressbox. And so, Al Borges becomes the villain. I'm not sure that's fair, but he's the one getting paid.
Burst of Impetus
* In the first half, Ohio scored. Michigan answered. Then, Ohio scored again. Michigan answered. Ohio scored, Michigan answered, Ohio scored. Halftime. Ohio scored, and scored again. Wait, WUT? Yeah, I know, the pattern was broken. Michigan went for it on fourth and three from our own 48 yard line. Had we made it there, perhaps we're talking about an amazing victory over the hated ones. We have generally supported Brady Hoke for going for it on fourth down, so we shouldn't be critical just because we were stopped this time. The play call, though, we can criticize.
* The leading tackler was WLB Desmond Morgan with 11. Last week's leading tackler was also the WLB, James Ross III. I guess they are not kidding when they say there is an expectation for the position.
* Will Campbell had one of the craziest defensive stat lines I've ever seen: 0 solo tackles and 10 assisted tackles.
* Jake Ryan was back making plays all over the field, 9 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. On Thomas Gordon's sack, Ryan jumped on Gordon's back and tried to sack Gordon and the QB. It's been said of others, but I don't think it applies to anyone better than Jake Ryan, he plays like his hair's on fire.
* We had 7 TFLs for 51 yards, including 4 sacks for 39 yards. The sack yardage masked what was our biggest liability on defense, an inability to stop their run. Hyde ran for 146 yards and Miller was good for 108 on his positive running plays.
* We actually faired better on third down than ohio did, as we held them to 4 of 13. No one is calling for their OC's job, though, because they won the game.
Ermahgerd, Erts (almost) Ervehr
* Denard's day was a microcosm of his career at Michigan. We all remember the 5-0 starts, those runs where he lost a shoe, and the Heisman talk of his Sophomore year. We also remember how that first season stalled. He had an electric run in the first half that gave us a temporary lead, but wasn't able (or allowed?) to finish what he started.
* I think it became clear that Denard wasn't able to throw, which allowed Ohio to bring their DBs up close to the LOS, sealing off the outside. The counter to the outside runs is either throwing - which wasn't an option - or running inside. We found out what happened when we tried to counter with inside runs.
* Devin was 11 of 20 for 171 yards. That was almost good enough to win. However, the two fumbles, four sacks, and one INT made sure that didn't happen. Let's not forget his only other road start was at Minnesota, where Michigan QBs turn into hall-of-famers. All-in-all, it's about what we should have expected from him in his first true road test.
Bunches of Funchess
* It's clear that Devin and Gallon have developed a comfort level. Gallon caught six passes for 67 yards.
* Roy Roundtree caught three for 92 yards, one of which went for 75 yards thanks to a great downfield blocking effort by Dileo.
And Justice for Rawls
* Would Toussaint have made a difference? I don't know, but ohio was playing without John Simon. His backups fared better than ours. We still have depth issues due to the transitions and the Free Press hit job.
Norf and Souf
* Net kickoff and punt return yardage was basically even. Ohio was obviously kicking away from Norfleet, who had one return late for 27 yards.
* At halftime, Urban said, "If that's a late hit, what game are we playing?" Showing that he comes from the same branch of the coaching tree as Narduzzi and Hayes. Mike Jones later demonstrated to Urban what a late hit is.
* Ohio was hit with 9 penalties for 74 yards. I kept waiting for a holding penalty on the guy blocking Roh. It never came. On our last drive, Schofield was hit with a holding penalty that wiped out a 9 yard gain. I don't recall seeing a replay. That put us in an obvious passing situation. Gardner threw incomplete, and then an interception. Ballgame.
* First downs: M 13, O 22
* Net rush yards: M 108, O 207
* Turnovers: M 4, O 2
* Red zone chances: M 1, O 5
* Braxton Miller: 14 of 18 passing
So as much as we'd like to be able to point the finger and blame someone, I think we were fortunate to keep it as close as we did. In the end, it still comes down to "The Team, The Team, The Team," and our team did not execute as well as that other team. I've seen a lot of comments asking why we used all of our good plays against Iowa. Well, buckeyes and hawkeyes have the 'eyes in common, but that's about all they have in common.
Outside the Boxscore
The one thing that bothers me most about this Blog are the posters who claim that there is some sort of moral equivalence, or that we're no better than them. We are better. We do things the right way, and when we falter, we punish those responsible. We do not bring them back and celebrate their lying, cheating ways. We do not hoist them on our shoulders and parade them around for all to see. That display with Tressel and the 2002 team sickened me. Ohio's athletic director should be fired by their worthless excuse for a president for allowing that to happen. Additional scholarships should be taken away, and the post-season ban should be extended, because it's quite clear, those assholes still don't get it. Sour grapes? Maybe, but I'm still PROUD TO BE, A MICHIGAN WOLVERINE!
If there is one thing we've learned from following Team 133 this season, it's - everybody say it with me - "there's an expectation for the position." This is not unique to Michigan football. For example, the expectation for the Iowa running back position is that you will be struck down at some point in the season by AIRBHG*. The expectation for the Iowa wide receiver position is that you will have a hypenated name. With a new offensive coordinator at Iowa, a new expectation for that position has developed. He will now wander the field aimlessly while the Iowa QB goes through his progressions, which start and end with tight ends. There is also an expectation for Iowa's safety position, that he be a fair complected walk-on, who develops into the leader of the defense. Hmmm, seems we co-opted that expectation.
I bring this up because it's pretty clear that the expectations for the QB position at the University of Michigan have been raised this season. We will now expect our backup QB to be a first string WR, and if our starting QB gets hurt, we will expect him to become a 100 yard per game running back. Shane, you might want to work on your route running and learn how to read your blockers.
* After what happened to Fitz, that will be the last time I mention AIRBHG. I suggest we all retire that meme.
Burst of Impetus
* Did Iowa ever really have a chance in this game? They kicked a FG to make it 14-10 in the 2nd quarter, but I never got the sense they would challenge us. There are only so many times you can throw to a tight end before Mattison adjusts, and you sort of need to be able to stop a team from scoring touchdowns every single time they get the ball.
* Brady did go for it twice on 4th down. I guess those were big plays. He has shown a propensity to try to break the will of the opponent early in games, especially when playing an opponent that doesn't match up with us.
* 21 players recorded defensive stats, led by JR3 with 12 tackles. I would guess that most of those were after Iowa tight end receptions. Bolden and Ryan each had 6 tackles. Yay! three linebackers led us in tackles. That, of course, will happen when Iowa averages 9.5 yards per pass attempt. Michigan was at 17.4 by way of comparison.
* We tallied 8 TFLs, 2 sacks and broke up 2 passes, but were again shut out in QHs.
* The last two names listed were Brandin Hawthorne and Floyd Simmons. Each had an assisted tackle. I think Brady Hoke mentioned them earlier this week when he was being asked repeatedly about Denard's last home game. I would guess that Hawthorne and Simmons had larger dreams than being special teams contributors, but in keeping with, "The Team, The Team, The Team" theme, those two guys took on their roles and were every bit a part of the team as the two Ermahgerd guys.
* Devin Gardner was 18 of 23 passing for 314 yards. His first half would have made for a nice game - 204 yards, 2 TDs running, 2 TDs passing. He passed and ran for two more TDs in the second half for a total of 6.
* Denard Robinson became the #1 back after Fitz' injury, and probably got more carries than Brady wanted as a result. He ended up with 98 yards on 13 carries for a 7.5 yard average.
Bunches of Funchess
* I don't know if our receivers were that good, or Iowa's DBs were that bad, but it seemed like our guys were always a step or two away from the Iowa DBs, except for those few times our guys were open by 10 or 20 steps.
* Gallon caught a 51 yard bomb and tallied 133 yards on 5 catches.
* Roundtree also caught 5 for 83 yards and a TD.
* Funchess caught another TD, and Vincent Smith scored a TD on his patented throwback screen play, that was assisted greatly by Denard's being on the field.
And Justice for Rawls
* Fitz had 31 yards on 3 carries before his injury. I'm sure we all wish him a speedy recovery.
* Rawls' running plays was the one area we struggled. He ended up with 2.8 ypc on 8 carries. A lot of his runs were short yardage situation things, but we'll need more than 2.8 ypc in the shoe.
Norf and Souf
* We only punted once, and as a result, special teams weren't much of a factor this week.
* Iowa's punter is named Kornbrath. I'm not making that up.
* Two of the officials were named "Carr." I don't know if they were related to Lloyd. The Field judge was Ed Rohan, which seems fitting considering the Vincent Smith mini-Balrog YOU SHALL NOT PASS haiku from earlier this week.
* L. Trinca-Pasat had 4 tackles. Apparently, Iowa's hypenated name thing is spreading to their DL.
* When he was awake, Collin Sleeper had 4 tackles, and when he wasn't hyding from our WRs, Micah Hyde had 8 tackles and an INT.
* Steve Bigach had 3 tackles. I bring this up because his name is a perfect metaphor for the BIGGG TENNNNN this year. BIG ACK! (Hey, bonus points for me for working in a cat photo.)
Outside the Boxscore
We're nearing the end of another season, and I've started to reflect on the meaning of all this. It's just a game, right? And should big-time athletics really be associated with academic instutions of higher learning? Well, I'd answer no and yes, respectively. Back yard football on Thanksgiving is just a game. Preparing year round to go out in front of 110,000+ fans and a national TV audience, risking your health, while reporters and bloggers track every play, suggests that it's not just a game. There is something larger at stake, and I don't mean the millions awaiting some of the players upon graduation. There are life lessons to be learned along the way, that are completely in line with the goals of an academic institution. Let's look at Devin and Denard. Devin's dream was and is to play QB. When he found himself playing behind Denard, he didn't sulk or limit himself to being the backup. He found a way onto the field to help the team. When it was his turn to play QB, he prepared and performed incredibly well considering the circumstances. When Denard was injured and couldn't throw the ball anymore, did he sulk? Did he leave the team? No, he found another way to help the team, first as a mentor to Devin, and then as a contributor on the field. There will be situations those two individuals face later in life, where they will have to decide between doing what is best for themselves individually, versus what is best for the business they are working for or the family they are part of. I'm pretty sure I know how they will choose. Every now and then, sports teach us some pretty important life lessons, if we are willing to pay attention.
In the post-game press conference, Brady Hoke was asked, "If you were in our shoes, wouldn't you have started writing the story before the game ended?" He answered, "No." To which, he was asked, "Why not?" Let me attempt to answer for Brady. Quite simply, because we're Michigan, FERGODSAKES! That doesn't convince you? OK, how about a few examples:
On November 6, 2010, Michigan played a football game against Illinois that went to triple overtime. Had I been writing this diary back then, I'm sure I would have ended up with carpal tunnel syndrome; a lengthy boxscore that was. Michigan's defense had trouble stopping the Illini all game long. We were down to our backup QB, who managed to keep us in the game even with the defensive problems. The game ended when the Michigan defense stepped up and made a stop.
On September 10, 2011, Michigan played a football game against Notre Dame. Michigan got the ball with 28 seconds left on our own 20 yard line, trailing by three. A ridiculous pass play to Jeremy Gallon brought us into scoring range. Hoke went for the win. Roy Roundtree caught a TD pass which sealed what I thought to be Michigan's most improbable victory.
On November 10, 2012, Michigan played a football game against Northwestern. Michigan's defense had trouble stopping the Wildcats all game long. But again, Michigan's backup QB kept making plays to keep us in it. Michigan got the ball with 18 seconds left on our own 38, trailing by three. A ridiculous pass play to Roy Roundtree brought us into scoring range. Hoke went for the tie (more on that later) and Gibbons made the kick, sending us to overtime. The game ended when the Michigan defense stepped up and made a stop.
Yes, on occasion we do lose those types of games, but every now and then, and more often than you would think, Michigan wins. Impossibly, improbably, with a little bit of luck or good fortune, Michigan finds a way. That's why I would never leave a game early or give up on the team, or start writing a story before the story has completed on the field.
Burst of Impetus
* NW scored with 5:30 left in the third to go up by 10. Things weren't looking so good for our Maize and Blue Men. Our next drive started off slow: an incomplete pass followed by an 11 yard chop block penalty. A little screen pass left us with 3rd and 17 from our own 15 yard line. It was then that Borges went into ND '11 mode (jump balls for all). A deep pass attempt resulted in a PI penalty against NW. First down Michigan. Gardner then went to Gallon for 42 more yards. A short pass to Touss was turned into a 28 yard TD scamper by some nifty Fitz footwork. Even though we were still behind, Impetus had clearly returned to the M sideline.
* It's hard to be positive when you give up 27 first downs to these guys, but I'll try.
* NW ended up with 431 total offense yards. That's the same amount that Alabama,
the greatest team ever assembled, a pretty good offense, had against us. I never would have guessed that Alabama and NW would be equivalent at anything. After the Alabama game, I wrote, "If we can hold everyone else under 431, I’ll be happy." NW didn't get more than 431, so I'm not unhappy, I'm just confused.
* Thomas Gordon led us in tackles with 11, not a good sign. Demens and Morgan were next with 9 apiece. Considering Mattison substituted freely with the LBs, that's a lot of tackles.
* TFLs returned with a vengeance, as we recorded 8.
* Wistert Kovacs was all over the field. You might have thought there were three number 11s out there (there really should have been.) Kovacs had 5 tackles, a TFL and 2 pass breakups.
* I noticed Bolden playing in NW's first series. I was a little confused by that since the recent trend has been to go with Morgan and Demens almost exclusively. It seems like Mattison's gameplan was to rest his guys, knowing that they were going to be doing an awful lot of east-west running, and that it was likely going to be a 4 quarters game. The plan obviously worked, as Demens was fresh enough at the end to make the two biggest tackles of the day on successive plays.
* Continuing on this theme, 24 players recorded tackles, likely a record for the 2 seasons I've been doing this.
* In case it hasn't been said before, Greg Mattison is a genius. Have you ever seen a defense run a trick play? I'm not talking about zone blitzes or OKIE packages or whatever. That last defensive play was a legitimate trick play, akin to the Statue of Liberty or Halfback pass. From going with a 4-3 alignment all season long, to switch to a 3-4 with the DEs split way outside and then blitzing your two best defensive players right up the gut. That was madness and genius all rolled up in one.
* In his first start at Michigan, Gardner was 16 for 29 for 286 yards and 2 TDs.
* I went to the Rose Bowl where Vince Young destroyed our defense. I get the comparisons. It's early, but I think Gardner is the better passer and Young is the better runner.
* For not wanting to run Gardner, he still ended up with 9 carries for 47 yards and 2 TDs. Most were scrambles, not designed runs.
Bunches of Funchess
* Funchess only catch was an 8 yard TD. I thought he was partly to blame for Gardner's INT. It appeared he was waiting for the ball to fall gently into his hands, instead of high pointing the ball. This gave the NW DB time to get over and make the pick.
* Another inconsistent day (if you don't get the sarcasm, see last week's diary) for Jeremy Gallon. Seven catches for 94 yards with a long of 42. I'm betting he gets at least honorable mention Hoke double finger points in tomorrow's recap.
* Roundtree was in the right place at the right time, twice. The first time, Fitz' fumble went through his hands. The second time, the NW DB deflected the ball to him. This time, he caught the ball and set us up for the game-tying FG. That may have been the quietest 139 yard receiving day in M history, other than the miraculous deflection, of course.
And Justice for Rawls
* After last week, I thought Rawls had won the job, but this week it was back to the Fitz 2 YPC show (with the possibility of one long run that may or may not end in a TD or fumble.) Rawls gained 1 yard on 3 carries.
* Touss led us with 92 yards rushing, and caught one TD pass that was due all to his footwork.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet had 4 kickoff returns for 107 yards, with a long of 37, but the real story of the return game was the 23 yard punt return from Jeremy Gallon that gave us hope near the end of the game.
* We were a +6 in net yards per punt, but a -4 in net yards per kickoff, and it could have been a lot worse.
* NW was penalized 8 times for 75 yards, while Michigan was penalized only twice for 26 yards. Some penalties are obvious, and some can be considered judgment calls. For example, when Gardner gets NW to jump offsides, that's an obvious call. When a NW lineman grabs a Michigan player's jersey, while it may be obvious to us, it's still somewhat of a judgment call. The reason NW was penalized so much more than us is that they made several obvious penalties.
* What frustrated me were the judgment calls that were not called on NW. On their first drive, the first time we've given up a TD this year on a first drive, an NW player grabbed Jake Ryan's jersey and pulled so hard, the "7" on Ryan's back ended up on top of his shoulder pads. I think that was on Trumpy's 21 yard run, also the first time in awhile we've given up anything to a running back. So for the rest of the game, I kept waiting for the Zonkeys to call a holding penalty on NW. If you think about, NW's style is to run a lot of east-west directional plays, which requires linemen (and receivers) to hold (there's that word again) their blocks longer than a straight north-south type running attack. That should make them more susceptible to holding calls.
* If you think I'm spending too much time on this, go look at the last play GIF where Demens makes the tackle. I watched that play a dozen times. Jibreel Black busts through the gap between the center and the guard. The center reaches behind Black, grabs his shirt, and pulls it down below his butt. No flag. Didn't matter as we made the stop, but that crap went on all game long and NW was called for at most, one holding penalty (the kick return that wiped out a TD, FWIW.)
Outside the Boxscore
* Last year, Brady went for the win against ND. This year, he went for OT. I think both decisions were correct, maybe just based on hindsight, but Denard had just broken ND's spirit, and we weren't sure about our FG kickers yet. Plus, we had an extra second to spare. Against NW, I just had the feeling that with a short field in OT, Mattison could play more aggressively and sell out against the run. Make Kain Colter beat you with his arm. NW's last four plays: run, run, run, run. Kain Colter was never going to beat us with his arm. Game, set, match, Greg Mattison.
It's Michigan versus Minnesota week, at Minnesota, which means one thing. A University of Michigan quarterback is going to have a career day. In 2008, Nick Sheridan was 18 of 30 for 203 yards and a 127.8 QB rating. In 2006, Chad Henne was 17 of 24 for 284 yards, 3 TDs, and a QB rating of 211.5. That may not have been his best performance, but I don't ever remember seeing a QB rating greater than 200. In 2003, John Navarre was 33 for 47 for 353 yards and 2 TDs. During my college years, we put up these scoring numbers at Minnesota: 49, 52, 58, and 44 ('89, '91, '93, '96.) I guess what I'm saying is, we shouldn't have been surprised by what transpired yesterday, but after that first quarter, I'm betting that I'm not the only one that was shocked by the next three quarters. After 9 consecutive TD-less quarters, we scored 5 in the next 3.
Burst of Impetus
* We stopped Minnesota early on a 4th and 1, but promptly turned the ball over on an INT, so net impetus = 0.
* Michigan started the 2nd quarter trailing Minnesota 7-0, with the ball at our own 9 yard line, due to less than special special teams. Rawls got the ball for 4 of the next 5 plays, and we pushed the ball out to our 34. However, the drive was about to stall as we faced 3rd and 17 from the Minnesota 45. Gardner was chased out of the pocket, did some Gardner things, and found Dileo WIDE open in the end zone. Boom, 7-7. The team collectively took a deep breath, regained their confidence, and controlled the impetus for the rest of the game.
* Minnesota had a chance to get right back in the game in the 3rd quarter, but decided to run a fake FG on 4th and 16. It would have been a great call on 4th and 1 or 2, or even 5, but 4th and 16?
* 22 Michigan defenders recorded a defensive stat, lead by linebackers Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan with 10 and 9 tackles, respectively.
* Our one sack was from a patented Jordan Kovacs heat-seaking-missile style blitz that also forced a fumble. Unfortunately, that was the only pressure on Minnesota's QB, as Michigan registered 0 QHs.
* Michigan recorded 7 TFLs, led by Ryan with 3. He returned to super-human status this week.
* Floyd had 2 pass breakups and Morgan had 1.
* Minnesota was held to only 275 yards total offense. However, they managed to eek out 21 first downs from those meager yards.
Ermahgerd Dehrvern ERMAHGERDNER
* Gardner threw an early INT, but then settled down. That's what experience will do for you.
* He finished 12 of 18 for 234 yards and two TDs passing.
* Gardner also ran 10 times for 21 yards and a TD, but subtracting sacks he was 7 for 44, for a healthy 6.3 YPC. He also showed an ability, time and again, to make the first tackler miss.
* For anyone who thinks height is overrated in a QB, the Devin/Denard case study should be exhibit A. I got the sense that Devin's height allowed him to see open receivers better, particularly on the bomb to Dileo.
Bunches of Funchess
* Michigan receivers had long catches of 47, 45, 47, and 22 yards. It was that kind of day.
* Jeremy Gallon caught four balls for 72 yards and a TD. Chris Martin of the B1G Network continuously criticized Gallon for being inconsistent this season. Has anyone in the MGoUniverse felt like that? Where did that comment even come from? I wouldn't make a big deal of it, if he only said it once, but he must've come back to that three more times during the telecast. Did someone tell Martin that Gallon was a pre-season All-American, or something? I just don't get it. I'll take Jeremy Gallon on my team any day.
And Justice for Rawls
* Is Thomas Rawls our new #1 running back? Except for Toussaint's last run, I'd have to say yes. Rawls had three more carries than Fitz, and they were about even in yards until Fitz' last run. Granted, I'm just a casual fan watching from home, but I see Rawls break tackles, move the pile, and fall forward for extra yards. I see Fitz getting brought down by the first defender he faces.
* Fitz, Rawls, and Gardner all ran for TDs.
Norf and Souf
* Ugh, where do we begin. Our net yards per kickoff was 33.8. Their net was 43.7. Our net punt was 29.3 yards. Their net was 41.3. So every time we had an exchange of punts or kickoffs, they gained the equivalent of a first down.
* Even Norfleet comes in for a little blame this week, as he brought one kickoff out of the endzone that he should have downed. We had a penalty on the play and started the drive at our 9. When you are starting a new QB in the 9th week of the season and he's been practicing at WR all year, I want to give him every chance for success. Starting from the 25 instead of the 9 could have been a big advantage. However, it didn't matter this week as we had scoring drives of 91, 90, 86, 79, and 50 yards.
* Jerry Kill did not appear to agree with a pass interference penalty against his gophers. I hope the lip readers at home weren't easily offended. I tend to think that shoving a WR with both hands in the chest, and then grabbing an arm to prevent the receiver from reaching for the ball is pass interference, but maybe that's just me. The refs may have felt bad for Jerry, because they appeared to give the gophers three make up call PI penalties on a drive later in the game.
* Memo to the B1G Network: No more Chris Martin, please. And by the way, a 45 yard TD pass does not count as a Red zone score. You actually have to be in the red zone for that to occur.
* Minnesota had some great names, lead by Martez Shabazz and their kicker, J. Wettstein. Sorry Minnesota, no little brown jug for you, but at least you have a wet stein. Lincoln Plsek caught a pass, now he just needs to buy a vowel. And Cam Botticelli made three tackles. Somewhere, Elaine Benis is asking why I'm writing about her shoes. (I know that's a stretch, but I had to continue the sitcom theme we've been exploring this year.)
* How about a little game theory from ItBS. Why did Minnesota spike the ball with 16 seconds and two timeouts left in the first half? They proceeded to throw two incomplete passes and miss a 55 yard FG with 2 timeouts still in their pocket. Also, I'd normally agree with Kill going for it on 4th and 1 early from our 40, but under the circumstances, I think you punt the ball and keep the pressure on Gardner.
Outside the Boxscore
* I spent a lot of time last year discussing our myriad uniform combinations - throwbacks, shoulder stripes, pink accents, helmet numbers, etc. Fortunately, I haven't had to go there this year. But I did notice something on the base of the Minnesota players' helmets. It says "Ski-U-Mah." Being the inquisitive sort, I started looking into the origin of this. It dates way back to the old tongue of the Sioux nation. Apparently, Ski-U-Mah is Sioux for "Man without jug."
Brian's alter-ego/literary device paid me a visit prior to the game. Here's a transcript of our discussion.
Who do we play this week?
The corn guys, from out west.
You mean Iowa?
No, the other corn team, the one that wears red and white and is famous for their huge offensive lines.
Oh, Wisconsin. Gotcha.
No, no, NU.
The team that recently joined the conference.
Oh yeah, we are Penn Shhhtate.
No, think of the other one, that has a less than stellar academic reputation.
Of course, Michigan State!
No, the guys with the black shirt defense.
I give up.
So the point of all that is it's my way of saying that we are still learning about Nebraska. Obviously, there is the corn. The telecast showed us one of their mascot things making corn angels (like snow angels, but with corn) and wandering through a corn maze.* It's quite obvious why Nebraskans are so taken with Nebraska football, it's because that is their only respite from all that corn.
Growing up, I learned about all the great football rivalries, with Michigan-Ohio State topping them all. Nebraska-Oklahoma was next, right up there with USC-UCLA and Auburn-Alabama. Then, the Big 8 became the Big 12 and they tried to start a new rivalry with Colorado. That didn't work out because Colorado is a tire fire. Nebraska then joined the Big 10 and were rivalried up with Iowa (corn vs. corn! It's cornageddon!)
But you can't force a rivalry. Our biggest rival is Ohio State because of Bo and Woody, and all the history of The Game. However, after two seasons of Nebraska being in the B1G, it's becoming apparent to me at least, that you can add Nebraska to a list that includes Ohio State, MSU, ND, and, in their own minds at least, Illinois. Our division is going to come down to us vs. Nebraska more times than not, if past is prelude. And that means, prepare yourself for another rivalry game.
* Sparties have a bumper sticker that reads, "You call it maize, we call it corn." With Nebraska, it reads, "You call it maize, we call it our entire life." If you will,
Nebraskans: corn :: Native Americans: buffalo.
It's that time of year when people watch horror flicks, like Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Children of the Corn. In that spirit, I present to you another horror flick.
Burst of Impetus
* So we've got this quarterback who is pretty good, maybe you've heard of him, Denard Robinson. Well, he got hurt. Game over.
* Except it wasn't game over if someone could have stepped up and made a play. Returned a kick, made a pick-six, caused a FF on a sack, or just caught a pass from Bellomy, anything. It seems like when Denard went out, the air went out of the bubble.
* 21 players registered in the defensive stats, lead by Kenny Demens with 10 tackles.
* After taking the last two weeks off, Gordon and Kovacs were back in the top 5 for tackles.
* We had 6 TFLs after not getting any against STAEE. Roh definitively proved that he cannot be blocked by a RB, as he picked up the running back, carried him to the QB and sacked both players.
* We had zero QHs. Note to self: Must get MOAR PASS RUSH.
* Dare I say it, Jake Ryan appeared human, with almost as many missed tackles as tackles.
* Denard was on pace for a nice day, 10 carries for 46 yards and 6 of 11 passing for 55.
* In times of trouble, I try to find the silver lining. Bellomy did hit some receivers in their hands, but no one stepped up to help him out. And then he panicked and all heck broke loose. The less said the better.
Bunches of Funchess
* If Gardner is going to continue running backwards and not jumping for jump balls, and Denard is battling some on-going arm issue, it's about time to move Devin back to QB.
* Funchess nor Dileo caught a pass.
* Bellomy threw a pass a little behind Funchess. Another foot to the right and the Belches era* would have started with a TD pass. Instead, all we got was this:
And Justice for Rawls
* For the 2nd week in a row, no Rawls or Hayes. Perhaps I broke this out a season too early.
* Fitz had what is now, unfortunately, his routine day, 15 carries for 38 yards and a long of 9.
* Gallon had a few end arounds for 17 yards.
Norf and Souf
* Gallon doinked a punt return off his helmet, which caused us to start a drive at our own 1. It was a line drive punt, so if he just lets it go, it likely is a touchback.
* Wile missed a 53 yarder, so Gibbons got the next shot at 52 yards. I thought we learned that his range was only 44 yards. Gibbons is the man.
* NU was penalized 8 times for 104 yards. We were hit with only 3 for 44, and yet, I think that was a horribly officiated and replay officiated game.
* Roy Roundtree caught a 55 yard pass that was overruled. I did not see a conclusive replay showing the ball wobbling when it hit the ground.
* But even if Roy's catch was not a catch, by that standard how in hell was Bellomy's first INT not overruled? If the refs are correct, I'm supposed to believe that the ball hit Vincent Smith's hands which are apparently made of stone, causing the ball to deflect six feet in the air? I mean, there's no chance that ball hit the turf? None?
* Last week I complained about the refs not calling pass interference. Forget I said anything. In this game, if you looked cross-eyed at a WR it cost you 15 yards.
* I will credit the refs with nailing Neb twice for helmet shots. One was so egregious that it ripped the N off the NU player's helmet (but according to him, he hit the WR with his shoulder pad.)
I’ll Take Bullets for a Thousand, Alex
* As bad as we played, the first downs were close, 20-18 in favor of Nebraska. Of course, 6 of our first downs came from Nebraska penalties.
* Nebraska's 20 1st downs translated to 326 total yards, we managed 188 total yards. At least we were efficient with our first downs. Why get 20 or 30 yards when you only need 10?
* We won the TOP, 31:36 to 28:24. Yippee. We did control the clock early, and I was expecting that to pay off in the fourth quarter when we should have been able to grind down their defense, but then, you know, Denard got hurt.
* H/T my brother, who really should be writing this instead of me.