Coaches' timeouts are worse. Basketball teams should get one, full stop.
Holy Offensive Extravaganza Batman! In the interest of time, I'm going to break format again, skip the introductory paragraph and get right to the numbers. Michigan gained 1237 yards on 98 plays, accruing 73 first downs in the process. Devin Gardner led the way with 712 yards passing. Jeremy Gallon's 26 receptions accounted for 560 of those yards. The rushing game returned in grand style, with Fitz Toussaint running for 234 yards and 8 touchdowns, behind a line featuring a fourth string left guard and three high school seniors. Michigan won the time of possession battle, 52:12 to 7:48. Michigan punted negative three times, and finished seven for four on third down conversions. Raymon Taylor led the defense with 37 tackles and 16 pass breakups. Yes, these numbers are completely made up. They are ridiculous, but so are these numbers:
Burst of Impetus
* Early in the game, it was obvious that Indiana was throwing to the receiver guarded by Raymon Taylor. Taylor got beat deep, giving up a 59 yard TD to IU. On the next drive, they went back at Taylor, hitting Latimer for a 14 yard gain. After an incomplete pass and a five yard run, Sudfeld went back towards Taylor. Taylor absolutely lit up the TE, Bolser, forcing an incompletion. Later in the first quarter, on another third down, Indiana went back at Taylor down the sideline. He just barely turned his head around and got another deflection. Later in the game he got another PBU on third down and forced a field goal. The boxscore lists him with 4 of Michigan's 5 pass breakups. He did make 9 tackles, so it's obvious Indiana was targeting him and giving him opportunities. He wasn't perfect, BUT HE MADE PLAYS. In a back and forth game, the key to winning was who was going to be able to break serve. Indiana was 8 of 14 on third down. Half of those stops are directly attributable to Taylor. The other defensive player who MADE PLAYS (2 of them, in fact) was Thomas Gordon. He did not record a tackle, but he did make two huge interceptions that gave the Impetus back to Michigan both times.
* Devin Gardner was 21 for 29 with ZERO INTERCEPTIONS! (That's not difficult to do when IU's DBs were rarely in the same time zone as our WRs, and the line provided good protection for the most part.)
* He threw for 503 yards, 2 TDs, and a long of 70 yards (thanks to Gallon.)
* His bad habit of flinging wild throws to avoid sacks returned, but fortunately, did not result in any INTs.
* Al Borges is the QB coach. Is Al the one responsible for teaching Devin how to pitch the ball to Fitz? I'm, of course, referring to the fumble. It was attributed to Fitz, but the pitch was the problem. I have a hard time picturing in my mind, Al out on the field giving Gardner instructions on the proper way to pitch the ball back to the RB.
* After suffering through the 27 for 27 documentary, Fitz ran 32 times for 151 yards net. The longest run was only 27 yards, so this is not one of those cases where a guy's stats are inflated by a 60 or 70 yard TD run. He scored 4 TDs.
* Derrick Green pitched in 21 yards on 6 carries.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Jeremy Gallons actual stats were 14 receptions for 369 yards and 2 TDs. He caught 2/3 of Gardner's completions.
* Devin Funchess was the second option, catching 4 balls for 84 yards. Towards the end of the game UofM was trying to run out the clock. They faced a 3rd and 6. Instead of running on third down, Al called for a pass. 38 yards later, Funchess had given UofM another first down, and three more opportunities to run clock. I think that is the go-for-the-win attitude that we became accustomed to under Brady Hoke, that was sadly missing last week against PSU.
* Jeremy Jackson returned to the field, catching 2 balls for 23 yards.
* I love Dileo and if I were in charge of the offense, I'd involve him more, so what I'm going to say next may amount to heresy. Is it possible that he's not getting open on the other ~60 plays, or that he's not great at blocking? I also wonder if he got hurt, because he wasn't back there fielding punts. Maybe Borges just wanted to give Devin a slightly bigger target in Jackson.
* Midway through the first quarter, Joey Burzynski got hurt. So let's review our situation at Left Guard this year. Glasgow started the season there, only to move to center in an attempt to shore up the middle. Chris Bryant was the next man in. He's either injured or not as effective as the staff would like, so he was replaced by Burzynski. When he got hurt, Kyle Bosch entered the lineup. Yep, our 4th string left guard. Indiana did get 2 sacks and 7 TFLs, but I can honestly say, I didn't notice Bosch out there, and that's a compliment for a lineman. He may have made a mistake or two, or missed an assignment, but I didn't notice.
* A bruised and bloodied Taylor Lewan returned to the lineup. I was a little worried before the game started, as Lewan showed very little enthusiasm jumping up to touch the M Club banner. To think he could be making millions of dollars today, all I can say is thank you, we appreciate your effort and loyalty to our shared University.
* I would be remiss not to mention Graham Glasgow's hustle. At the end of Gallon's 70 yard run after the catch, Glasgow was right there. There were several other long plays where I noticed Glasgow hustling down the field looking for another block. The guy can move for someone his size.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet returned 6 kicks for 121 yards. He made a couple poor decisions, but on average, the results were fine.
* So is this blocked FG thing something I'm going to have to worry about for the rest of the season?
* Five of Wile's 10 kickoffs were touchbacks. IU didn't do much with 4 of the 5 they returned.
* On one kickoff, we kicked from the 50 due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on IU. Doesn't game theory demand an onside-kick there? Or at least a high, short, coverage kick where you can pin them back inside the 20? If they recover the onside kick, they get the ball at their own 35. Instead, we kicked it out of the endzone and they got the ball at the 25. For 10 yards, I'd take that chance at getting the ball back. This was not a field position game. This was a ball possession game, as in, if you had possession of the ball you were likely going to score.
I'm an international umpire
* The refs let them play. IU had 3 penalties for 20 yards and Michigan had 4 for 15 yards. I noticed some holding and maybe some DBs getting to the WR a little early, but nothing outrageous, and the officials didn't get nitpicky. I'd rather they call a foul a foul, but it kept the flow of the game going nicely, and they were consistent, which is all you can ask for.
* I covered the important stuff in the Impetus section. We got some stops.
* Help me out, Alannis Morrissette, is it ironic that we ended the game by sacking IU's QB? I say yes.
* Besides Taylor's 9 tackles, JR3 had 8, Jourdan Lewis and Morgan had 5, and Wilson had 4. That's a lot of DBs, but that's to be expected in a game like this.
* It seemed like neither defense could stop the opposing offense. In fact, it seemed like neither team faced many difficult third downs. So I decided to review the play-by-play and see how the two teams did on first and second down. My numbers aren't quite adding up, but they are close to being accurate. In the all-important second down conversion stat, Michigan dominated Indiana going 14 for 26, to Indiana's 10 for 24. On first down, Michigan was 14 for 41 to Indiana's 10 for 35. That's right, we had 35 first downs, and gained 28 of them, 80%, on either first or second down. Indiana's defense is horrible.
* I mentioned in the Game 1 diary that my dad passed away from cancer this summer. Michigan broke out the pink accoutrements to raise awareness. I think most people are "aware" of the major cancers - breast, lung, prostrate, etc. In fact, my dad was a five year survivor of prostate cancer. Spending our limited resources attacking the most common cancers makes sense (Spock would agree, the needs of the many, etc.) but let's also spend some time raising awareness of the less common cancers, because these are often the ones that aren't diagnosed in a timely manner. A year and a half ago, dad was diagnosed with urothelial cancer. The problem was mis-diagnosed for a good 3-4 months, during which time the cancer may have doubled in size and changed from something that could be dealt with, to something that was fatal. I'm all for raising awareness, but I also think we need to be doing more in terms of improving diagnosis and treatment options.
My dad took my brother to the Anthony Carter/IU game. I suppose I should be jealous of my brother for that, but I was the one who got to hear Bob Ufer call the play. So who was the lucky one? HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK!!!
I usually avoid making comments on this Blog immediately after games, especially after level 10 stomach punch games. But I couldn't help myself last night, and I repeatedly called for Borges to be fired. I realize I'm just a casual fan and no one is going to listen to me, but there was a chorus of people calling for heads to roll last night. It was mostly Borges, but Funk and Hoke were criticized as well.
During the Denard years, this Blog discussed under center vs the shotgun formation to exhaustion. The idea being that it's easier on the quarterback to run the offense from the shotgun formation because they have a better view of the defense, don't have to turn their back to the defense, and can start running downhill immediately, as if they were another running back. This Blog also introduced me to the concept of the Lizard Brain:
The now rapidly developing lizard brain theory of college football coaching states that there is a certain level of pressure above which rationality goes out the window and coaches revert to who they really are.
My general impression was that we did not fair well offensively when starting under center, and that most of our success came from shotgun plays. To quantify my feelings, I rewatched the first half, the last 7 minutes of regulation, and the four overtimes, focused only on the offense. My hypothesis was that Al Borges' lizard brain resurfaced during overtime, and that cost us the game. I'm including all plays, including penalties, passes, and turnovers. So without further ado, let me present my mini ST3FR:
19 plays were run from under center. 12 of those 19 plays gained zero or negative yards. Five plays lost yardage.
17 plays were run from the shotgun. 2 of those plays were incomplete passes that should have been caught, and three resulted in turnovers. The other 12 resulted in positive yards. There were no negative yardage plays.
We head to halftime where mid-game adjustments should be made. I think, wow, let's avoid those negative yardage plays that are putting us in certain passing situations, where PSU can focus on Gallon and go for turnovers. Meanwhile, down 11, Al's Lizard brain kicks in and says, "Shotgun = turnovers, turnovers are bad, must run under center."
Final 7 minutes of regulation
10 plays run from under center gain 9 yards total, with 5 producing zero or negative yards.
4 plays were run from the shotgun. They gained 55 yards and there were no turnovers.
We get to overtime where you start every drive at the 25 yard line. Other than a turnover, the worst thing that can happen is a negative yardage play that pushes you out of FG range. In regulation, I charted 29 plays from under center with 17 gaining no yardage or negative yardage. I charted 21 plays from shotgun and only 5 had negative or zero yardage plays. I'd go with the shotgun formation in OT, but that's just me, a stats guy.
So on the first drive, three plays are run from under center that gain 2 yards. The 40 yard FG attempt is blocked. On the first drive, we just needed a FG to win, so Al went super conservative. He didn't want to risk the turnover by going to the shotgun, even though the turnovers were not related to the formation.
On the second drive, we needed a score, so Al went exclusively shotgun. We gained 18 yards on five plays, but are forced to kick a FG when the officials missed a blatant facemask on PSU. (Ripping a guy's helmet off has to be illegal, right? Refs -1.)
On the third drive, it's back to under center, as all we need is a FG to win. Two plays gain -1 yard, and one gains 10. On second viewing today, it's clear Gallon crossed the 15 yard line, so another -1 to the refs. Bill O'Brien goes for it in a similar situation. We kick the FG.
On the fourth drive, we start under center. PSU gets away with lining up offsides (-1 for the refs) on an incomplete pass, and it's back to shotgun (anyone getting dizzy yet?) An incomplete to Dileo and a delay of game penalty (-1 coaching staff) follow. Gardner gets 6 yards on a shotgun scramble, but we have to settle for a FG. PSU gets a TD and that's the ballgame.
So a day later, do I still think we should fire Borges? I'm willing to give him the rest of the season to turn this around since mid-season changes can lead to chaos. What would I do instead? Devin Gardner is an incredible talent that is being misused. I'd have Al watch film from Vince Young's senior season, and have Heiko ask Borges every week about shotgun vs under center until some neural connection is made in that lizard brain of his.
Blergh of Impetus
* When Clark picked up PSU's fumble to start the second half and returned it for a TD, the impetus was squarely in M's favor. We rode it all the way to a 10 point lead. We kept it for the rest of the half until there was 3:10 left in regulation. Gardner gained 10 yards on a shotgun run to give us first and ten at PSU's 28. That's FG position, and a FG wins the game, so Borges Lizard brain takes over. 1 yard run. 0 yard run. Lizard Brain shutting down. What do I do? Delay of game penalty. We're out of FG position. Momentum inches back to PSU. A three yard loss leads to a punt, and the circus begins...
* We gave up 43 points, 34 in regulation, but the defense is not the reason we lost. PSU was held to 1.9 yards per carry, but I bet nobody is calling for their O-line coach to be fired, or maybe they are. Fans are fickle. We held PSU to 3 for 16 on third down AND turned them over 4 times AND stopped them on 4th down once AND had 4 sacks AND broke up 6 passes AND had 7 TFLs, YET WE LOST! My lizard brain is confused.
* JR3 led us with 10 tackles, a TFL and forced a fumble. Morgan had 8 tackles and Bolden had 6.
* During the first 5 games, Chris Wormley looked like just a guy. He had 4 tackles and 2 TFLs in this one and showed why he got all the hype. I think he belongs on the outside until he puts on some more weight.
* Heitzman blew up a couple plays, including the one time we stopped them on fourth down. He didn't record a stat, but he's my bet for being our Heininger Certainty Principle winner by the end of the year.
* Stribling had only 1 tackle and zero pass breakups. Perhaps if he had played the past three weeks, his timing would have been better.
* Gardner was 15 for 28 passing for 2 TDs and 240 yards. Can someone please introduce him to Drew Dileo? Gardner continues to lock onto Jeremy Gallon, which directly led to the two first half INTs. I don't know, maybe pass to the guys who are single covered and six inches taller than their defenders.
* Gardner ran 24 times for 121 yards net, for an average of 5 yards per carry.
* This is the stat that everyone is throwing around today: Fitz Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards.
* His backup, Derrick Green, carried three times for 1 yard.
* Whose fault is that? The backs for not identifying the holes? The line for getting pushed back five yards into the backfield? The o-line coach for not instructing the line what the assignments are? The playcaller for continuing to call plays that aren't working? RichRod for not recruiting any linemen? Bad luck, in the form of an elbow to Lewan's ribcage? Penn State had 11 TFLs. ELEVEN!!!
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Gallon had 7 catches for 95 yards, a TD, and drew three penalties against PSU.
* Funchess had 4 catches for 112 yards and two 2 TDs, but then mysteriously disappeared for the 4th quarter and the 4 OTs.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet's role continues to lessen. I don't get it. He looks like a playmaker to me. I'd try to find ways to get him the ball. He did return three kicks for 88 yards.
* Wile averaged 63.7 yards on his kickoffs, with 5 touchbacks, and he averaged 40.8 yards punting. Hmmm, sounds like the guy has a pretty strong leg. Maybe he could make a 52 yarder.
Inspired by the Great T-Shirt Debate of 2013, I've decided to completely revamp the format. But first, let me share with you some great t-shirts I found over at MinnGoBlog's t-shirt store.
Minnesota Football, Play Like a Campion Today
... BAK to the Future
... Win one for the Killer
... No Epping Way
Snake Plsek, I thought he was dead
and from the Seinfeld-inspired section of the store,
Minnesota Football, Folks are Talking about our Botticelli Shoes
Ski-U-Mah Harbison, no wait, he sounds made up
Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail me now.
* When you finally grab the momentum in a game, you want to hit the gas and build on it. UofM did just that by taking the 2nd half kickoff and going 75 yards in 9 plays, to extend a 7 point halftime lead to 14. Considering it takes Minnesota ~10 minutes per drive to score, that meant that they would have to be perfect to come back. They weren't.
We're putting the band back together
* The band will be back together when Jake Ryan comes back. For now, the defense is doing their best to bring back the tradition of Michigan defense. Once again, the Michigan defense prevented the opposition from scoring a rushing touchdown.
* It's a rather large band with an impressive horn section, as 23 players recorded a defensive stat. Desmond Morgan, once again, led the way with 10 total tackles. JR3 had 9, plus a fumble recovery.
* Minnesota only passed 21 times, so it was not a big week for QHs and sacks.
* If there is one complaint, it's that we only tallied 3 TFLs on 41 Minnesota rushing attempts. However, once they did cross the line, they didn't get far, averaging only 3.3 YPC, with a long of 18 yards.
We're on a Mission from Gard (NOW THAT'S A T-SHIRT!!!)
* ZERO TURNOVERS. Hallelujah!
* The "inaccurate" Devin Gardner was 13 of 17, for 235 yards and a TD. Let's see, that's 76% completion percentage, 18.1 YPC and 13.8 YPA, but he's inaccurate? I've heard Big Ten Network announcers better than that bozo Ed Cunningham.
* Gardner only ran 7 times for 17 yards, but he did have a rushing TD.
It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?
* Fitz had 78 yards on 17 carries, and 2 TDs. More importantly, he only lost 1 yard all day. Is it the new Bluesmobile or what? Frankly, after going through four weeks of multiple negative rushing plays, I'll take it.
* Green added 23 yards on 10 carries and another TD.
Four Fried Chickens and a Coke
* The four returning linemen joined with newcomer, Chris Bryant, to provide an effective rushing attack. Michigan only fumbled one snap, something that we were all worried about, and gave up only one sack. It was really nice not watching our center get pushed back five yards on nearly every play.
* Besides the 9 yard sack, our o-line only gave up 4 yards worth of TFL's to Minnesota.
And some dry white toast please
* Wile was back to normal, providing all the excitement of dry white toast. He averaged 51.7 yards on three punts, that netted an average of 45.7 yards.
Your women. I want to buy your women. The little girl, your daughters... sell them to me. Sell me your children!
* Norfleet returned two kicks for 52 yards total, and recorded a tackle on special teams.
* Dileo returned two punts for 13 yards and caught 1 pass for 12 yards.
Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.
* The excitement was provided by three wide receivers, particularly Funchess, who caught 7 balls for 151 yards and a TD.
* Chesson had three catches as he increasingly becomes a larger part of the offense, and Gallon had two grabs.
Cook County Assessor's Office
* Minnesota was called for 6 penalties to our two.
* There was one drive we had in which penalty flags were thrown on long Michigan gains. My heart sunk, but fortunately, both calls were on the Gophers.
* I was a little leary going into the game, as these officials just sound like Gophers: Roggeman, Krogstad, and Riepenhoff. Wasn't that the starting frontline of the '79 Minnesota basketball team?
I hate Illinois Nazis
* If you're going to make a Blues Brothers-inspired T-Shirt about one of our longstanding rivals, how is this NOT the shirt?
* This is the announcers section, but I already discussed them. That was a brutal game to listen to. Minny-Tebow for Heisman!
Minnie the Moocher
* Minnesota almost matched us, with 16 first downs to our 17. They also converted 8 of 15 third downs, but couldn't get us off the field either, as we went 10 for 13.
Besides being a huge UofM football fan, my dad was a big fan of John Belushi's. He would have a Mass said every year on the anniversary of Belushi's death. Dad was extremely protective of his kids, not allowing us to see or hear anything R-rated. However, he made an exception for John Belushi. There were two movies that mattered when I was a kid, Animal House and Blues Brothers. One year for Christmas, Dad bought us "The Best of Belushi" video that had his best SNL skits. While other kids were learning the Beastie Boys and Run DMC raps, I was memorizing Belushi's "Luck of the Irish" SNL News bit (Let's talk about the bad luck of the Irish, all right? How about this, POTATO FAMINE!! How about that? It scares them, doesn't it? Well, it should.) So with that as a backdrop, I can still honestly say, I think Dad would look at that T-Shirt and ask, "Why is Joe Paterno praying on that shirt?"
In the week leading up to this game, the recognition that I might have to scramble to watch the game started sinking in, for I live in the blue portion of the dreaded ABC Game Map. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I bought ESPN GamePlan and didn't have to worry about missing any Michigan games. Then, ABC and ESPN invented the reverse mirror concept, and I didn't even have to buy GamePlan. And more recently, the Big Ten Network has almost assured me of seeing every UofM game in Los Angeles, which is amazing considering UCLA and USC are rarely on the air out here. An hour before the game, I consulted MGoBlog and looked into this, "streaming" idea. We get Verizon, so I was able to log into ESPN3. Let's just say I prefer ESPN 8, the OCHO. I tried that for 10 minutes, and after a frustrating hodge-podge of HD, LD, and ND (no definition, i.e., the screen would freeze up) I went to ESPN Gameplan and tried to order the single day coverage for $26. Perhaps a million frustrated M fans joined me in clogging up the GamePlan system, because it wouldn't let me purchase the game, so I went back to ESPN3. There has to be a better way. After sitting through a near repeat of the Akron game, I'm glad I didn't spend $26 on that.
NOT HD. <cr>We looked good in game 1, but CMU was missing their QB and top RB. We looked good against ND, but it's looking more and more like that was just an upset, or maybe ND's not that good either. Game 3 and Game 4 were struggles. A third of the way through the season, I think it's fair to start drawing some conclusions. This is a young team that is making the kind of mistakes that young players make. The frustrating (there's that word again) thing for me is that the schedule sets up perfectly for this team to win a lot of games. We play 4 ranked teams, only one of them on the road. And that road game is a veritable home game in the friendly confines of Chicago. But it's clear so far that we're still at least a year away. I could be wrong, the line could gel during the bye week, the turnover problem could magically go away, the wide receivers could learn how to run deep routes, the special teams could learn how to get out of the way of a punt. There's just so much improvement that needs to be made to be competitive with the upper ranks of the Big Ten. But at least we're 4-0, right? Wait, we are 4-0. Someone please tell me we're 4-0. So why does MGoBlue.com have us at 3-1 in the boxscore. I know it sure feels that way. Here's a screen capture of the boxscore before they fix the error:
It is an error, right? Oh Lord did that game give me a hangover, and I didn't even drink anything...
Burst of Impetus
* Time for a bonus link
The story starts with a graph showing a scatter plot of winning percentage versus turnover margin. The line fit roughly goes through 100% and +2, and -100% and -2. In the fourth quarter, Michigan was staring at a -4 turnover margin. Desmond Morgan made a great play, I guess, my internet connection was bouncing back and forth between LD and ND when the play was made. He picked off the pass and returned the ball 29 yards. Michigan converted and grabbed the momentum. If I remember correctly, he played some QB in high school. He showed why on that INT return. Morgan is becoming the leader of that defense.
Captain Morgan's Crew
* First off, an explanation. I know Morgan's not a team captain, yet, but I suspect he will be. I also have been watching Bar Rescue marathons on the Spike network, and so I've seen many, many Captain Morgan's commercials.
* I had titled this section, "Young 98," as an allusion to Vince Young, but after another shaky performance, we're down to just "young 98." It's worth remembering that even though he is a senior, he still has not started a season's worth of games at QB.
* Gardner was 11-23 passing for 97 yards. He tossed two INTs and no TDs.
* Gardner gained 106 yards, YAY, but lost 42, for a net of 64. His first step under pressure is almost always away from the line of scrimmage. That is something we've seen since his early days. He needs a QB coach to break that habit and get him to step up into the pocket, if his O-Line can actually form one for him. (Why am I so grumpy? Oh, yeah, 24-21 vs. UCONN.)
* A week after I suggested they ditch the option play and simplify the system for Gardner, he executed a beautiful option pitch, leading to one of Toussaint's TDs. Yes, the universe has conspired to humble me yet again.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* Toussaint was THE running attack from the RB position, with 120 yards on 24 carries. He scored 2 TDs and had a long of 35 yards.
* TEAM's three carries matched the rest of the non-Toussaint/Gardner combined carries.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Nothing to see here, move along.
Norf and Dileo
* Dileo has taken over the punt return duties from Norfleet. America has a sad.
* I was hoping that was because they were going to involve Norfleet more in the offense. He did carry twice for 14 yards.
* I don't know if this team is lacking players, or lacking ways to get their playmakers involved. In the case of Norfleet and Dileo, I fear their talents are being wasted. That said, it's time for my new feature...
ST3's contrarian position of the week
* I think Borges actually called a good game. (/ducks) I think he's 3 for 4 so far this year, with the Akron game being the lone stinker. The problem with the Akron game is that it appeared he couldn't care less what kind of defense they were running. Let's go inside the boxscore on this game and look at the critical third down conversion stat. Michigan was 7 of 17, meanwhile, UCONN was 1 of 11. Let's look at some of the early third downs. On the second drive, we had 3rd and 1, and 3rd and 2. Gardner rushed for the first down on both plays. Later in the drive, on third and 12, Gardner ran again and ended up scoring our first TD. So my point is, Gardner rushing is one of our better (only? well, at least until Touss got untracked) options, and Borges dialed those up on the critical third down. Later in the game, he may have gone to the well once too many times, when we got stopped on 4th and 2, but if Devin had been more aggressive on that run, he would have made it. Then, after the Dileo punt return, with UCONN selling out against the Devin runs, Borges called a very safe pass play to Gallon on 3rd and 4. He had two WRs clear out the area for Gallon, who stopped just past the sticks. We eventually got down to the four, setting up Gibbons for a chip shot FG. Let's not forget that Gardner was 0 for 5 with an INT in the 2nd quarter. Had Borges continued to press the issue, Gardner might not have been able to recover to lead us in the 2nd half. Instead, Borges figured out what run plays were working, got Gardner back into somewhat of a comfort zone, and managed to get us a W in a game where we were -3 in TO margin.
* Is it too harsh of me to suggest that the ST coach might want to get his resume polished up?
* Fortunately for us, it was 4th and 7 when we ran into the kicker, not 4th and 5. The angle that Gedeon took was awful. It took him directly into the path of the punter. Who is teaching that? These ST players are mostly frosh and RS frosh, and probably as BMOC in high school, didn't play a lot of special teams.
* On our punt return fumble, someone has to be screaming, "GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!" Instead, Jones is trying to block someone and the ball bounces off his leg.
* Dileo's great punt return was brought back because another young kid made a mistake 25 yards from the play.
I'm an international umpire
* Penalties were 5-45 against us, and 6 for 70 against them.
* In addition to all the mistakes made by the younger players, Lewan had a holding penalty wipe out at 35+ yard run.
* For the second week in a row, I have no complaints with the refs. I must be getting soft in my old age.
UCONN'T be serious
* I don't like UConn's stadium. First of all, their turf looks like this:
Secondly, their mid-field logo stretches from one 30 to the other. That's disconcerting for me. I'm used to seeing a team reach the mid-field logo and thinking they've reached mid-field. You know, the 45 yard line. At UCONN, you've still got a long way to go even to get to the 50.
* The attendance 42,704. I'm pretty sure most Texas High School teams draw more than that.
* Yawin Smallwood led UCONN with 13 tackles. Hey Yawin, Ya-lose. But seriously, he played a heck of a game with 2 TFLs, a forced fumble, a pass breakup, and a sack.
* Their nose guard made 6 tackles and had 2 TFLs. Nose guards aren't supposed to make 6 tackles. I'm putting together a mock NFL Draft for next April, and so far, my first round has the 12 nose guards on our schedule.
* Last week I said I was delaying the 100%BLU anecdote until I was in a better mood. I'm beginning to realize, that time may never come, so on with the story. As I was perusing my "Early Fall 2013" copy of Michigan Alumnus magazine (a benefit of my Lifetime Membership to the Alumni Association, a gift from Mom and Dad upon graduating - a car would have been nice, but I'm not complaining) I read that UofM's School of Social Work is ranked #1 nationally. I mentioned earlier this season that Dad graduated with his MSW from UofM and Devin Gardner is currently in the School. The inquisitive reader might ask, what does one do with a degree from the nation's top School of Social Work? Let me share two University of Michigan-related items from Dad's career. 24 years ago (normal disclaimer about the accuracy of my memory applies) the Chinese Government reached out to the State of Michigan for help with their treatment of the mentally ill. The State of Michigan had some brutal budget cuts in the early 80's, forcing the closure of many State-run hospitals. They were somewhat successful in transferring institutionalized patients into less costly, community-based group homes. So the Chinese wanted to learn more about this cost-effective, more humane approach. Dad was working for the State Department of Mental Health at the time. He was tasked with organizing the trip. He reached out to a Professor of Chinese Studies at UofM, and together they planned the trip. They were in China for three weeks, visiting different areas. The professor recommended they visit Tainanmen Square, a very famous location. While they were there, students were protesting the Chinese government. One student got to talking with Dad. The student took off his bandana, gave it to Dad, and asked him to tell their story in America. One week later, the tanks rolled in. So that's my "Dad as Forest Gump" story.
Second story, if you'll indulge me, a few years later, Dad is putting together an educational video about the benefits of community living and group homes for the mentally ill. There are many levels or gradations among the mentally challenged. Some can function quite fine in society as long as they are given the right medication, or looked in on periodically. One such group home was a couple blocks from the Bo building on South Campus. Dad arranged for Chris Burke, the famous actor from the 80's drama, Life Goes On, to appear in the video. Knowing that I was a fan of the show, and was still on campus at that time, Dad called and invited me over to the location where they were filming. I got to meet Chris and his parents, and Dad took this photo (that's me on the right, in the - HORROR - red shirt and gigantic glasses, Brady would be sooo dissappointed in me.)
Unlike Bronxblue, I didn't take any notes during the game. My thinking was, hey, we're playing Akron, how much effort do I really need to put into this? Unfortunately, it appears the entire operation - offense, defense, special teams, scout teams, coaching, the students, and the band* - felt the same way. The boxscore will tell you that this game was played Sept. 14, but it sure felt like it was still Friday the 13th.
Before we wring our hands, gnash our teeth, rend our garments and run around screaming in panic-mode, let's remember what this game was: the classic letdown game. I don't understand the psychology of "playing to the level of your opposition," but I've seen it enough times to know it's real. Michigan played down to Akron's level, and the Zips did their best to seize the opportunity. We were just one play and one yard better than them on this day.
*Before BandoCalrissian gets up in my grill, where was Beyonce?
Burst of Impetus
* There were surprisingly many plays where the momentum changed hands. The 2nd quarter turnover-fest was wrought with impetus changing plays. The key moment in the game to me was late in the 2nd quarter, with Akron driving. Pohl lofted a beautiful pass headed right into the hands of his receiver, only to have a beaten Jourdan Lewis swipe at the receiver's arms moments before the ball arrived. The flags remained in the officials pockets. Akron ended up missing a 45 yard field goal and we went to half up 7-3. Those three points would end up being huge as Akron got down to our 1 on the last play of the game, but needed 4 to tie instead of 3 to win. I think the other big thing about that play is it let Akron know that their WRs could beat our non-Countessian corners 1 on 1, and they would go back to that twice in the 2nd half for huge gains. Akron drives in the first half went for 12, 26, 4, -2, 33, 47, and 0 yards. In the 2nd half, they had drives go for 75, 59, 67, and 71 yards. Pohl was only 5 of 14 for 60 yards at half, but was 20 for 35 for 251 yards in the second half. Clearly, they made adjustments on offense, and I think the biggest were challenging Lewis and Taylor, and getting O'Dorizzi matched up against our linebackers.
Unit Desperately in Need of an Identity
* 23 players showed up in the defensive stats section, but not for the reasons I would have guessed before the game. Five of those were offensive players, due to the turnovers and possible special teams play.
* I get it that the D-Line doesn't normally get involved in a lot of tackles, and Akron was throwing the ball quite a bit, but they still ran the ball 30 times. Our D-Line was led by a reserve, Ojemudia, with 4 tackles. The starters ended up like this: Clark 2 assists, QWash 0, Heitzman 0, Black 0. Did they even play?
* For the folks bemoaning our lack of a pass rush, we did end up with 8 QHs. For as long as I've tracked that, which is not long, that strikes me as a big number. We didn't get any sacks, but what is the right number of sacks to get per game? Is it 2 or 3? So if they get the 2 or 3 sacks, is their job done? Of course not. I'm more worried about the other ~70 plays during the game. I contend that QHs and QB completion percentage are also valuable metrics to look at. 8 QHs and ~50% completion percentage suggest that the line's performance wasn't all bad.
* JR3 was the defensive leader for the game with 10 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass broken up.
* Countess and Wilson each had an INT, making a profit out of Magnus. I bet Stribling would have gotten the third INT if he had been in there instead of Lewis.
* Gardner was responsible for all four turnovers. Yes, the INT to Funchess deflected off of his hands, but that throw was into traffic and shouldn't have been made. I was hoping the turnover problem was going to go away with Denard and his inability to see over the line. It's still happening. So at this point, we have to say it's systemic, which gets to coaching. Are the coaches asking Devin to do too much? For example, on the option play, he should have pitched to Toussaint. But how often does Devin practice that play, considering all the under center, shotgun, pistol, read-options, power, zone-blocking, and inverted and extroverted veers he's asked to run? He certainly didn't look comfortable on that play, even though it was the perfect audible and play to run against that defensive formation.
* Gardner was 16 for 30 for 248 yards and 2 TDs passing. His long was 48 yards to Funchess, but that was the result of YAC. As numerous posters have pointed out, we didn't test Akron deep all day. My self-annointed deep threat from game 1, Joe Reynolds, caught one pass for 1 yard.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* We ran for 177 yards on 32 attempts, better raw numbers than the ND game, but I thought the performance against ND was better. Why? I'm sure we all remember Barry Sanders. He could make an amazing run, but then be stopped for a 5 yard loss on the next play, trying to make something happen. So, would you rather have a back who goes for 20, 3, and -5 yards (total = 18), or a back who goes for a dependable 4, 4, and 4 yards (total = 12). I'll take the fours, because it keeps drives alive. We only had 10 third downs in this game, and went 3 of 10 on them. Had the line held up better and eliminated all of the negative carries for Toussaint, we could have MANBALLED Akron. Instead, they ran 79 plays to our 62, and never let us get in a rhythm offensively.
* Fitz had 19 carries for 71 yards, and Gardner had 10 for 103. Green, Chesson and TEAM had 1 carry each. I thought we had 5 or 6 RBs on the depth chart.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Gallon was one of the few bright spots, catching 6 balls for 66 yards.
* Funchess and Butt each caught two passes, but I suspect their UFR blocking numbers aren't going to be great. Folks think that our edge blocking is good because of Lewan and Schofield, but Akron attacked the edge with their defense because without Williams, we are left with two-undersized TEs who haven't mastered the finer points of blocking just yet.
* Dileo was held without a catch. WHY, BORGES, WHY?!?
* Graham Glasgow got a tackle, by falling on a guy who recovered Gardner's fumble. It's usually not a good sign to see O-linemen getting in the boxscore.
My boxscore has a Butt Cheek in it
* In addition to Jake Butt's two catches, Akron's Bryce Cheek had two tackles. Did anyone get a photo of the two of them standing side-by-side?
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet caught two passes for 20 yards. He only had one kick return for 15 yards and no punt returns. It's almost like Akron scouted us, or something. Imagine that. Meanwhile we had no clue what to do with D'Orazio and kept treating him like a tight end instead of a slot receiver. But why bother scouting Akron, AMIRITE? So you don't almost end up one play away from the Horror II. Like I said, I think it was a total team letdown, including the coaches, scouts, and scout team. If I can suggest an MGoQuestion for this week's press conferences, it would be, did they bother to scout Akron? and is that what Brady meant by the coaches not doing enough last week?
* Our special teams have not been special so far. We gave up more than a first down on every exchange of punts. That's bad.
* Gibbons missed his only attempted FG, but he was due to miss one. I just wish I didn't have that gut feeling that he was going to miss. It's just how the day went.
* The silver lining to the special teams cloud was that the kickoff teams were ~6 yards per kick better than Akrons.
I'm an international umpire
* They saved our bacon, as I pointed out in the impetus section. The pass interference they called on Butt's defender at the end of the game wasn't nearly as bad as Lewis' hacking across the arms of the Akron receiver.
* Akron's fans should be furious at the refs, but that raises an interesting question. Does Akron have any fans? And if so, why? Whenever the conversation starts about the smaller schools trying to compete with the football factories, Akron is brought up as an example of a school that should de-emphasize football. And yet, they almost beat us.
* Penalties were even at 5 apiece. The penalties on us seemed to wipe out bigger gains and were more consequential, but we deserved them.
* The attendance was 107,120. That's not a sell-out, but to be fair, when I was a student, that would have set the record for the largest crowd in Michigan history. The stadium has grown, meanwhile, the population of the state has decreased. We may have reached the limit on what the market will accept.
* Michigan came into the game with three impressive streaks going - Hoke's home winning streak, Gibbons FG accuracy streak, and the Team's redzone efficiency streak. We left the game with only one streak, but it's the most important one.
* Since our staff apparently didn't bother to scout Akron, I did a little research on them. They play in InfoCision stadium, which sounds like a novel surgery technique.
* In their last game, James Madison tallied 12 more first downs than Akron. They also sacked Akron 4 times, but had 0 QBH's.
* The attendance at their last home game was 19,653. So apparently, they do have fans, but I have to ask again, why?
* Akron's helmets have images of zippers running along the top. I thought "Zipperhead" was this guy:
but apparently, he's Eraserhead, and there is no "Zipperhead," except that's a slang term our GI's called Koreans during the Korean war, so let's just forget I brought this up. I've always been terrorified of Eraserhead, but I've never seen the movie. A question for the MGoCommunity, is that worth watching?
I had a great anecdote planned for this diary, comparing Dad to Forest Gump, but I'll save that for when we are in a better mood. Instead, I'll just leave you with one his sayings, "On any given Saturday, any given team can beat any other team." And that's why we play the games...
Many years ago, I played the part of Tiny Tim in my grade school's production of "A Christmas Carol." My only line was to announce that Scrooge had provided the Christmas goose for supper. The class decided that we should have a prop for the goose, to make my part look more authentic. One of my classmates volunteered his rubber chicken. Having some dimensionality, we thought that would be better than a cardboard cutout of a goose. Fast forward to the night of the play. I enter stage right, say my line, and hold up the rubber chicken. The audience burst out laughing; I dare say, that's the biggest laugh I've ever gotten. I learned a very important lesson that night. Rubber chickens are funny.
Burst of Impetus
* For a game that finished with an 11 point margin of victory, and where Michigan had a 14 point lead for a large portion, the momentum seemed to go back and forth quite a bit. One could say that the deflected passes were huge. Like that old adage goes, "live by the deflected pass in the endzone, die by the deflected pass in the endzone." What? There's no old adage like that? Well, there should be. Anyway, each side benefitted from one of those, so I'm not choosing that as our burst of impetus. My burst of impetus award goes to Fitzgerald Toussaint, as I will explain below.
* Honorable mention goes to the 4th and 4 play late in the game, when 3 or 4 of our guys jumped offsides, only ND didn't snap the ball. We got back onside, blitzed and forced a hurried throw. Incomplete. Impetus back squarely with Michigan. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, or something like that. ND had the opportunity to get a cheap 1st down. They weren't ready for it. Luck of the Irish? Not last night.
Captain Morgan's Crew
* ND only punted twice, after their first and second drives of the game. Perhaps that is why there is some grumbling about the defense. We did turn them over a couple times, stopped them on 4th down twice, and forced them to go for three FGs. Still, I like seeing the other team punt more than twice.
* As should be expected in a game where the other team threw the ball so much, our two leading tacklers were DBs. Taylor had 11 and Gordon had 7. Countess and Wilson round out the list with 4 of our 6 leading tacklers coming from the defensive backfield. I was impressed by our DB's tackling. I don't track these things, but there seemed to be very few broken tackles.
* We had 4 TFLs, 1 sack, and only one QB hurry. The four man line just wasn't getting to Rees. Neither was the blitz, the few times Mattison used it.
* In case you were wondering, Funchess did not get credit for a BrUp on the last play before half.
Ermahgardner, Young 98, Master of Social Work
* Devin is racking up nicknames as he begins his assault on the Michigan record books. At first I was against him being given #98, but now I realize he's the only guy who could wear it. Tom Harmon is known as Ol' 98. That makes Devin the Young 98. (P.S. the 100%BLU license plate was firmly attached to an Olds 98.)
* Additionally, Michigan created College Football. Innovation is in our blood. If we want our guys to wear bumblebee stripes, or M's instead of numbers, or our QB to wear #98, so be it. We're Michigan, FERGODSAKES!
* Gardner was our leading rusher with 82 NET yards, and he ran for 1 TD. He was also mistakenly called Denard half a dozen times. Hey, I get that, but he's making a name for himself pretty quickly.
* Gardner was also 21 for 33 passing for 294 yards. Phenomenal. (We won't mention the one brain-fart, considering it was his 7th game starting, not bad.)
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* A few weeks ago, there was a post about incoming freshmen and "that guy." I think it was in an Unverified Voracity. Anyway, the point was, Michigan is a huge university, but there is going to be one guy you see everywhere, who will make you think the university isn't all that big. For me, that guy was V. Sinha. My gameday experience wasn't complete until I saw V. Sinha sporting his personalized, #21, "V. SINHA" jersey. I went to school during the Desmond Howard era, so I'm pretty sure V. Sinha's jersey was a tribute to Desmond. If this blog had existed back then, V. Sinha would have been the equivalent of Lloyd Brady or Facepalm Guy. Why do I bring this up now? Well, Brian, Ace, Seth, BronxBlue and all our favorite bloggers are going to have takes on this game, and in the hopes of not being overly repetitive, I'm providing my personal experience. My brother went to the game last night. Of all the things he could have taken a picture of and sent me (flyovers, Beyonce, Eminem, #98, the laser show, etc.) the one thing he sent was this photo of V. Sinha. Now like any great photo of a legendary creature (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, Sasquatch) the picture is a little blurry, but it's proof that V. Sinha is still cheering on the maize and blue.
* Gallon caught 8 balls for 184 yards and 3 TDs, and successfully deployed his cloaking device.
* Critically underutilized WR, Drew Dileo caught 3 for 18 yards, and had the other receiving TD. Kudos to Borges for calling that play on 2nd down. If ND holds us to a FG, it's still a one-score game. Instead, I imagine Borges going over his playsheet, thinking, hey, it's been awhile since we threw one to critically underutilized WR Drew Dileo. Let's do that. TD. Ballgame. I go to sleep happy.
* Is Jake Butt the TE with the frying pan-sized hands? I can't remember from all the recruiting profiles I've been reading. Anywhere, there were two balls that he could have caught that would have made us all breathe easier. On one, he drifted back instead of coming forward and highpointing the ball, allowing the ND DB to sneak in and break up the pass. Force that DB to go through you, Jake, and make the official throw his flag. He's a frosh. He'll learn.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* I somehow managed to forget to include this in last week's diary, when Derrick Green was listed at 220 pounds, but Glen Mason said he looked like he was a cheeseburger shy of 240 pounds. My apologies for the oversight, chalk it up to a first game mistake.
* Touss led the RBs with 22 carries for 71 yards. I was hoping for competence from the rushing game this week, and 166 yards, 4.3 YPC, and 11 first downs certainly qualifies. That's actually better than I expected. By forcing ND to respect the rushing game, Michigan was able to isolate WRs (Gallon) one-on-one and exploit the ND secondary. But it all started with some tough, tough running from Touss.
* Gallon, Norfleet, Green, and TEAM all carried just once. Green may be a *****, but it's clear he hasn't earned the trust of the coaching staff yet. If Touss hadn't been able to make it back from that gruesome injury, there goes the running game. Without the running game, ND attacks Gardner (ESPN had a split showing his ATT/COMP with and without ND blitzing, and the numbers against the blitz were less than stellar.) Fitz' ability to crank out 3-4 yards at a time made those 2nd and 3rd down throws that much simpler. Let's not forget that he was running behind three interior linemen with a grand total of 3 collegiate starts as of game time. That was a workmanlike performance. That was a man's performance. Every ounce of sweat and pain he endured during the off-season was like storing up impetus in a jar, to be deployed against ND.
* Once again, the linemen had no stats.
* Notre Dame did get 3 QB hurries and 1 sack. Frankly, against that D-Line, that's a victory for us.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet had 1 punt return for 0 yards, and three kick returns for 78 yards. He ran the ball once, and caught one pass. Borges and Hoke were keeping this game in Gardner, Gallon and Fitz' hands. Norfleet will get his chances later this season.
I'm an international umpire
* There were a few questionable calls and non-calls during the game. Mid-way through the 3rd quarter, Brent Musberger mentioned that it was an all-ACC crew. After that, everything made sense. I kid, I kid.
* It was a relatively penalty-free game. Michigan was called for 6 penalties to Notre Dame's 2, until 2 late pass interference calls went against ND, making it 6-4. Notre Dame's penalties were arguably more damaging to them as we garnered 3 first downs by penalty to their zero.
* I have to disagree with Ace on the pass interferences. The ND player clearly shoved Gallon out of bounds, stepped in front of the pass and would have had an interception if he held onto the ball. He clearly gained an advantage by making contact beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage. Funchess' jersey was nearly torn off on the 2nd interference call. The only controversial part of those calls is that plays similar to them weren't called earlier in the game. Twice, I quoted Musberger as saying the ND DB was, "All over the intended receiver," but no call was made.
* Kalis got his first, off-setting, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. After reading so much about his nasty streak, it was nice to see him get that first one out of the way. ESPN did not show the play, so we may never know how he earned that.
Fantasy Announcer Team
* Like Eminem, I was born in Southfield, Michigan. Makes me wonder what was in the water back then. Unlike Eminem, Brent Musburger would never be on my Fantasy Announcer Team. I love how he left Herbie off his team. That whole segment was so bizarre. As Eminem said, "I'm really uncomfortable now." Weren't we all. Best to just move on...
* I find it interesting that both of Michigan State's games so far have been delayed by weather. Had this happened, oh say, 10,000 years ago, the natives would have rightly decided that the land was cursed, burned everything in site, and moved on to appease the gods. And that's how I believe the couch-burning tradition got started in East Lansing.
* Shout-out to Seth's Robots.
* We had 25 first downs to their 23, but were more balanced with 11 rushing and 11 passing.
* Total offensive plays was split 50/50 with 72 plays for each team. We tallied an extra 50 yards on offense. We also took an extra 8 minutes and 8 seconds to run our plays. MANBALL UBER ALLES!
Dad was a pretty prominent member of our Parish. He was a lector and sang in the choir. So whenever we played Notre Dame, he was sure to get confronted by a Golden Domer after Mass. "Hey, ST2, are you really rooting against the Irish this week?" His response was simple and educational, "The University of Michigan was founded by a Catholic Priest and a Protestant Minister*, and UofM has more Catholic Alumni than Notre Dame." He left those Irish fans wondering why they weren't rooting for Michigan.
I'm pretty sure Dad would not have been pleased with Special K playing the chicken dance after the game. His response would most likely be something like, "We're Michigan, we don't mock our opposition. How boorish." And then when nobody was looking, he'd chuckle, because chickens are funny.
*Yes, the University of Michigan was leading the ecumenical movement decades before it became popular.