MGoQuestion: If you had to play Alabama again, what parts of the game plan would you keep that worked well Saturday? What parts would you want to change?
“Very little would I change. Very little. Almost none. But that’s probably harder to grasp because of the way we executed. The game plan didn’t look very effective, but the whole thing was geared to if they loaded the box up, we were going to throw the ball. If they left the box light, we were going to run it. We ran the ball into a light box 12 times and had plus-four runs three times out of the 12. And we hit two out of 10 shots down the field. So the other alternative is to plus-one run with the quarterback. We did some of that, too, but they weren’t going to let you do that. As much as you wanted to give that a shot, that wasn’t going to happen. No one’s done that to them. Look at the numbers in the past. No one’s done that to them.”
(After the jump, Borges answers questions about Denard, Denard, Devin, Denard, and Air Force but does not answer a question about bubble screens.)
“Well, first of all, you saw the game, and obviously we weren’t pleased as a defense. A lot of things we stand for and the things we set out to do each year, we weren’t successful in a number of those situations. The biggest thing is missed tackles. We can’t have that in our defense. We had way way way too many missed tackles. And another thing that led to missed tackles as you watched the tape was we had missed techniques. We’re not good enough right now to be able to not play perfect technique, and when you don’t play great technique, somebody’s going to have to make an open field tackle or somebody’s going to have to make a tackle that you hope the ability of everything to stay inside and in front would take care of. That’s really a lot of what happened in the game.”
(After the jump, Mattison talks about the secondary, Alabama's offense, linebacker technique, Air Force's offense, and the defensive line)
The option has always been about making a defender wrong about who has the ball, thus effectively blocking him. Since you don't have to actually block him this means you can take out a slavering rage-beast with even the daintiest of skill position players.
Rich Rodriguez's innovation was taking the hazard-laden option and turning it into a simple yes-or-no handoff. The read option makes a guy wrong without requiring a pitch, and without getting your quarterback lit up time and again. Pairing that with plays that stretch the defense across the field horizontally opens up the box, forces safeties down, and creates the kind of environments that see his teams run for nearly six yards a clip.
Borges and Hoke have a different outlook on football. Last year when the inverted veer was running riot over Ohio State, they were consistently blocking the guy a Rodriguez-style offense would consider optioned off.
This worked, but I wondered if it was working because Ryan Shazier was an injured freshman who was pretty horrible in that game. It's hard not to look at what's going on with Michael Schofield in this clip and not pine for the guy to move past the OSU DE and take on Ohrian Johnson, thus likely springing Denard for another huge gain.
Last year both myself and fellow guy who does the picture paging Chris Gaerig thought that this was an execution issue that would be hammered out given enough time, but Tyler Sellhorn, a high school OL coach who frequently emails me tips and corrections, thought this was a philosophical thing:
I think Schofield and Omameh were coached to block the DE. Hoke/Borges do not like leaving unblocked defensive linemen out there. A famous unattributed coaching axiom that I am sure that Hoke/Borges believe in is: "First level defenders cause fumbles, second level defenders make tackles." To me, this is the "MANBALL" component of M's "option" game. True power running game people think like that. I think that is the reason there have been fewer really long runs (the second level has been blocked less consistently this season).
This is one philosophical difference: RR's first thought always was, "How can we mess with the safeties to get big yards when we break through the line", Hoke/Borges first thought is "How can we mess with the DL so they are less aggro (in run and pass situations) and we don't ever have a negative play." Both work well as we have seen.
The consistency with which Michigan guys were blocking the supposedly option DL was a point in his favor. At first I thought the Alabama game was the point at which this was undeniable, but now I think Alabama was blocking Michigan, not the other way around.
Optioning Nobody #1
It's Michigan's first drive. They've picked up a first down with a (horribly spotted) flare to Smith and a third down conversion from same. They come out in a two-back, three-wide set. Alabama responds with its base 3-4 set, half-rolling a safety into the box.
Michigan will run the veer. They pull Barnum (1), use Hopkins(2) as a lead blocker, and block down on the front side. This leaves the Alabama defender (3) there unblocked… for now, anyway.
Hopkins. You are not flaring out, my man. You are doing something that isn't that.
At the mesh point, Hopkins (1) has contacted the "unblocked" Alabama defensive end. This means he is now blocked. (Science!) Hopkins is also blocked. They are mutually blocking each other. Neither can go forward very easily.
This happens really fast. The DE is doing this on purpose. His goal here is two-fold: one, to force the handoff, and two to pick off one of the lead blockers.
Barnum(2) is still pulling for the front side; since the guys blocking down have actually done a pretty good job of getting push he's got a lane. Denard(3) sees the DE underneath Hopkins and gives.
And now it's over. Hopkins has indeed eliminated the Alabama DE, and Barnum reaches the hole as Smith sprints outside. Also sprinting outside: the totally unblocked Alabama LB.
Michigan's got some other problems, too, as the playside DE came through the double on the playside when Kwiatkowski released—you can see Schofield hunched over in an "oops" way right at the LOS behind Barnum. Given Smith's angle and Barnum's this is only a further indicator that Schofield got hammered on Saturday, not an actual reason the play doesn't work.
And that's all she wrote.
Who did Michigan block with Denard's legs on this play? Nobody.
[After THE JUMP: oops they did it again :( ]
Today's recruiting roundup covers last weekend's high school action, bids farewell to a couple wide receiver targets, and looks forward to a big visit weekend for... basketball?
Get That Man A Square-Toed Shoe
Michigan commits Jaron Dukes (Marion-Franklin) and Taco Charlton (Pickerington Central) faced off against each other this past weekend; Central came away with a 45-24 victory, and MGoUser Dubs was there to take in the action. If you're looking to submit a scouting report for Future Blue Originals, this is how it's done:
DE/LB Taco Charlton, 2013: Despite Marion-Frankin running away from Taco (about 80% of the time), he managed to rack up 8 tackles, and a tackle for loss (zero sacks). It was about 50/50 as to whether he had his hand down as a DE, or whether he was lined up as an OLB. Pickerington Central did show multiple fronts, ranging from a 3-3-5(!), 3-4, and a 4-3 (with Taco as DE). He even saw around 5 snaps on offense, and caught a nice PA-pass for a 15 yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter. He did leave early in the 4th quarter after an apparent shoulder injury (possibly a stinger). But after being checked with a trainer, Taco was out there after a couple of plays, only to be banned to the sideline for the rest of the game after the game was well in hand. Pickerington Central won 45-24.
As far as the "eyeball test," I must admit I was a little disappointed at Taco's lack of aggression. There were moments when a sure passing down approached, and I expected to see that pass-rushing prowess we all read about in 7 on 7's this summer, but I did not see it. The tackle guarding him was very large (some may say "fat," but I don't want to personally attack a kid), and VERY slow, so I was expecting Taco to beat him off the line, lower his shoulder, and destroy the QB. Instead, he relied more on his inside spin more than anything. I will suspect that perhaps, it was because the QB was a very good athlete, Taco was in charge of contain more than anything. Marion-Franklin sent a back to chip Taco's outside pass-rush, as well, which also would limit his opportunities. However, I feel there were times where Taco could have taken over the game but did not. I do not know if it is a motor issue, or the coaches playing him conservatively against a dual threat QB.
WR Jaron Dukes, 2013: It was very difficult for Dukes to get involved, mostly because the Marion-Franklin QB relied more on his feet than anything. The throws the QB did make were hitches, outs, slants, and screens of all sorts. That being said, Dukes still managed to haul in 5 passes (out of 8 targets) for about 42 yards. He was targeted for a TD jump-ball thrown to him early in the 1st quarter, in which he had a height advantage of at least 6 inches over the opposing defender, however, the ball was vastly under-thrown, and was broken up. Dukes also dropped a possible TD pass (at least a very large gain) during the hurry-up in the waning seconds of the 2nd. Dukes also handled the kickoff duties, which, if Michigan is looking for some sort of "Tom Dempsey style" kicker/WR hybrid, they got their man.
As far as the eyeball test goes, Dukes did not seem to show a lot of explosiveness, either off the line or to create separation against the defenders (it was kind of a soggy/muggy night, so the field may have been less-than-pristine). There were many times in which the QB was scrambling and, rather than hit that extra gear, he seemed to simply jog. Perhaps he is not used to getting much "love," as most of the passing offense derived from the slot receivers (which if true, why not put Dukes in slot?). I will say this, he did look strong after the catch, breaking a few arm tackles and showing of a pretty solid stiff-arm.
Overall, I felt that these two looked the part of a D-1 prospect. However, it is hard to tell their true potential based on their supporting cast: obviously you'll run away from Taco because his supporting DE looked half his size. And it's hard to get any love as an outside receiver when your QB cannot make the throws. So, I had to remind myself: these kids are prospects. And with that, I have great faith in the Michigan coaches that they can mold these kids into serviceable players or, hopefully, even stars.
A huge thanks to Dubs for sending this in, as well as bringing up the possibility of a Michigan wide receiver also handling kicks "Tom Dempsey style."
[Hit THE JUMP for the full recruiting roundup, including info on what could be a huge visit weekend for the basketball program.]
After a single week of play:
ALABAMA. Yeah, that'll do.
WEST VIRGINIA. I'm riding the Red Bull express until someone keeps them under sixty points, and possibly beyond that.
BIG TEN STUFF. Dammit, stupid things that exist. I dinged Wisconsin significantly from the preseason given their semi-struggles with UNI. No idea what to make of MSU's win over Boise, but raise your hand if you tackled LeVeon Bell five yards downfield. That's everyone.
VA TECH. Looked pretty janky last night, but at this point in the season a win over an actual school is worth quite a bit. Same goes for Clemson, though I think the Orange Bowl last year and Clemson's general Clemson-ness makes me leery when maybe I should not be.
SOUTH CAROLINA. Also looked janky against Vandy. I am suspicious they'll have enough offense to live up to their lofty preseason rankings.
MICHIGAN. Possibly homer overreaction to ugly loss, but I'm just looking at Michigan's lines and it's not pretty.
News bullets and other important items:
- Blake Countess is out with an ACL tear. You are totally surprised.
- Brandon Moore is out this week with an MCL strain. Taylor Lewan is "fine" and good to go for Air Force.
- Both Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark will play this week.
- Bennie Oosterbaan's number will be unretired this week during the game vs. Air Force.
- Courtney Avery is starting at field corner.
- Alabama did stuff with their safeties and linebackers to keep Denard from running, for what it's worth.
- Gardner wants to compete for starting QB job next season (not transcribed).
“Good afternoon. You know, we looked at the film and the good news is we have 11 more opportunities to play Michigan football. We didn’t play the way we needed to play to win the football game in a lot of different areas, from a tackling standpoint to blocking at the line of scrimmage. Those are two of the biggest factors. Didn’t run the ball as we liked to and didn’t stop the run, and that is two things that as a defense and offensive unit you have to do. We’ll learn from the mistakes. We’re going to practice today. We gave the guys off yesterday because of getting in at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, so we’ll start fixing the mistkaes, talking about the mistakes, coaching them better. That’s probably the number one issue. We have to do a better job as coaches. The other part of it is making sure that the execution is the way we would like it to be to play Michigan football.”
Okay, so... Ace was in Dallas and so was Jamie and I'd forgotten that Jamie was going to be in an airport until we actually tried to call him. So we're at about 30 minutes this week.
Also, this is a terrible podcast. Do not listen to it. This happens to us after extremely terrible games. We wake up the next day wanting to do nothing, go into the studio, mumble at each other for a while, and then stop. Do not listen to this podcast.
THAT SUCKED. Yup.
BONUS. The "general podcast feed link" should now work. Let me know if it doesn't.
UPDATE: download link updated.
The usual links:
9/1/2012 – Michigan 14, Alabama 41 – 0-1
[ED: I retreated into humor; Ace, being there, didn't have that option, and wrote a thing that is closer to the game column thing than this.]
So I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and have concluded that Michigan's biggest tactical error on Saturday night was not leaving Jerryworld ten minutes into the first quarter and wandering around Dallas until they'd had enough random encounters to go up several levels. Once Michigan had unlocked special abilities like Mystic Separation and acquired the Arm Of Elway, they could have returned to the field and resumed playing on a more even basis.
While this would take about three years and pose several logistical difficulties, there can be no debate this would have been a preferable to the solution Michigan's dunderheaded coaches decided on, viz., not running away at top speed apologizing profusely. By not fleeing to practice their skills on, like, bats and stuff, they ended up losing the game.
Worse, they ended up continuing the game, thus forcing a great many people to watch it. At no point did Al Borges deploy the EMP weapon he must have spent the offseason perfecting in lieu of figuring out what Denard Robinson is good at. So the broadcast continued unabated, except apparently in DC where DirecTV was on the fritz. (Wolverines in our nation's capitol: keep yourselves quarantined. You may be all that's left of us once the PTSD kicks in. You must continue to tell others of our sacrifice.)
As mentioned, a better strategy would have been to exit at top speed while splicing K-Pop videos into the feed.
One of 67,200,113 things that would have been preferable to watching football on Saturday night
But hey, I'm just a guy on the internet. Maybe I haven't thought this through. There are multiple strategies for successfully executing a game like Saturday's.
INVENT A TIME MACHINE. The classic. Go back to the point at which this game was agreed upon and describe to the decision-makers what the consequences will be. Unfortunately, in this case the only part of "nationally televised debacle on par with Chernobyl" that will be heard is "nationally televised," and nothing will change.
DRINK! Not working.
DRINK MORE! Nerft veruking erngerghf.
AFTER IT'S OVER, TELL PEOPLE YOU SUCK AND WILL PUT MORE SUGAR IN YOUR SAUCE. I'm not sure what the analog of putting more sugar in your sauce is but it's probably putting more MAN in your BALL down BY THE RIVER. This move was successfully executed by the guy who replaced the guy who only hears "nationally televised" at his old job and may be replicated here once the guy who only hears "nationally televised" has been safely quarantined in a relatively meaningless BS government job like governor.
Sorry, world, that you think we suck. We're going to try not to suck any more, and look, here's some guy who works for us. Very middle America, this guy. Puts garlic on the uniforms. How cool is that?
GO LIMP. Jesse Williams may believe you are rotten and wander off in search of salmon.
GIVE THE BALL TO A 5'8" SLOW GUY OVER AND OVER. Scratch this one.
The weird thing about doing this and being this age is that you feel stuck. I did not know I was doing this when I started doing it and have felt grateful for my continued obsession it as various other people ranging from 30-50 have reported back on their waning interest in Michigan football, previously their alpha and omega. There's nothing sadder than the thing you used to think is amazing.
What I felt on Saturday was an intense jealousy of Orson/Spencer, who had a child a couple years back and is having another one. We're getting there, but not quite yet due to PhD things. It would have been nice to have a child to look at halfway through the second quarter and know with 100% certainty that what I was looking at was just a game that did not really matter.
I know this, or at least knew it. (I do not know this and never knew it even a tiny bit.) Now that the career is the game it is hard to figure out what's a reasonable response from a human, what's my response, and what's my response augmented by the fact that I've doubled down on fandom. All of it seems out whack, and never more so than on Saturday when a guy I've met a half-dozen times now, mostly at NYC Alumni Club events, was there. He's one of those magical guys who somehow makes a career out of writing stuff for Spin and the NYT Magazine and magazines that start "New York" and may or may not have additional bits in their name. He's been pitching an article about me at these organizations. He was taking notes.
At halftime I bellowed "THAT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT RUNNING DENAAAAARD" at the television. I knew that this was probably not wise with a man taking notes in the room, but only after I did it. There it was anyway. I'd already spent the entire first quarter telling myself not to say anything on twitter until the die had truly been cast.
So, I feel stuck, you know? I'm 33 now, the age when Jim McManus had his Age of Miracles and went to the World Series of Poker to write about it for Harper's, married and not disjointed and blessed by the cosmos. It's a hell of a football game to watch that makes you wish this stuff didn't have such a hold on you, but the first time I looked at the clock and boggled at how much time was left was in the first quarter.
It'll pass, I'm sure. It's just a hell of a football game to do that do you, to leave you blank and unthinking until you laugh in a way that frightens even you.
Bullets we need for this post so you can't use them, find others
The takeaway. DENNIS NORFLEET WOOOOOOOOOOO. He looked fast! And returned some kicks a moderate distance! And got lit up by Dee Hart! And Fred Jackson doesn't think he can play!
Some other stuff that's not about Norfleet for some stupid reason follows.
Obligatory uniform opinion. Highlighter yellow emphatically not getting fixed, so the shoulder things combine with the pants to give off a blinding aura. If that was the goal—maybe Alabama won't even be able to look at us!—okay. I'm guessing it's not. Meanwhile, Alabama just wears their uniforms because they're Alabama. Their brand seems to be surviving.
At least Michigan got the helmet numbers right, amirite?
Blown out. I debated just posting the Hoke presser and saying "Hoke's voice is all you need to know about this game."
Obligatory Borges stuff. Guh. The best thing you can say is that once you're down 31-0 you might as well get out of there without getting anyone hurt. When the opponents are saying stuff like this…
“I thought with the running back being out, I thought (Robinson) would’ve got more touches, because he’s a playmaker, he’s a good athlete, good player,” said Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson. “And I don’t know, it was a shock.”
…you totally outsmarted them. And yourself. Mostly yourself. Any hopes you may be harboring that this will all work itself out and Denard's legs will be the primary engine of the offense are looking pretty sickly at the moment. At least we've been here before, and Borges has retreated to plot anew. Usually he comes back with "hey, this guy can run."
The only rationale I can think of that makes any sense is that Borges believed flat-out that Michigan could not run at all and wanted an offense predicated on that. I don't know how much I buy that given Alabama replacing a number of starters and football coaches' general self-belief, but the numbers are clear. From Bill Connolly:
In 2011, Michigan ran the ball 74 percent of the time on standard downs (national average: 60 percent), 40 percent on passing downs (national average: 33 percent). Despite pro-style intentions, the Wolverines catered to Denard Robinson's strengths for the most part and kept things run-heavy, especially when Toussaint caught fire late in the year.
Against Alabama on Saturday, though, the gameplan was quite different. In the first quarter, Michigan ran just five times on 11 standard downs (45 percent) and just once in six passing downs (17 percent). These are Air Raid percentages.
If Robinson has 30 carries against Air Force I'll again descend into the Walter White laugh. (Spoilers, obviously.)
Would have been nice to see what Robinson could have become in an offense that catered to—or even bothered to use—his primary skill. (Everything else would have been terrible, of course.)
Yeah, yeah, Robinson had reads and could have kept the ball blah blah. Planning to get Robinson carries when Alabama's defense decides not to put a guy on him on the read option is not a winning strategy.
Gardner WR stuff. Gardner probably took more snaps at WR than anyone else and looked like a 6'4" version of Darryl Stonum from 2008. He consistently looked over the wrong shoulder on deep stuff and his routes were crap. But he scored a touchdown and could have had a couple more long gainers if he wasn't going up against yet another Alabama cornerback from hell. Gardner didn't get an opportunity to catch that opening slant thanks to that Milliner kid and had a few more potential long completions broken up by the Alabama secondary. Milliner raked one out; a few others never got there.
Once Gardner's away from a 6'2" junior who was a five star and the #2 CB in his class to Rivals, he'll do fine. Unlike Stonum 2008, Gardner did find the ball even if it looked ugly as he did so.
Roundtree. The first interception was debatably interference as Milliner shoved Roundtree to the ground on his route. Penalty or not, that sequence should make Roundtree's shortcomings as an outside receiver clear. He is not big enough, strong enough, or athletic enough to compete with standout corners. His assets are about as wasted as Denard's, though at least in Roundtree's case it's clear he's on the outside because of a lack of other options.
The ground game. Hard to get a grasp on anything, obviously. Michigan was overwhelmed; Toussaint would not have done much better. Aside from one Vincent Smith run that Alabama lost contain on, Michigan got jack on the ground. I can ask questions all day: why was Rawls going east-west? Why was misdirection hardly attempted? Did Michigan come into the game with more than one running play?
It doesn't really matter.
Bubble screens. They existed, and they got eight yards each, and they were Michigan's best plays that weren't chucking it deep. Gallon looked very good on both; there's no reason not to keep going to it when the defense is giving it to you.
In case of Lewan emergency. Move Schofield to left tackle (where he was pwned on his first play), Omameh to right tackle, and bring in Burzynski at right guard. In case of Lewan emergency, we are dead dead dead dead dead dead.
Defense. Ask again later. I stopped paying close enough attention to tell you anything interesting after the first quarter.
The Countess injury is of course a major blow; with Talbott out the door earlier their CB depth has gone from excellent to shaky before game two. Webb says($) expect Raymon Taylor to pick up the slack. The line was always going to get pounded. Somewhat disconcerting to see a lot of James Ross out there unless Michigan had also just packed it in and was screwing around with getting some experience.
Freshmen. Maize and Blue News has a comprehensive recap. Other than Ross (and NORFLEET) the most prominent freshman contributor was Jarrod Wilson, who stepped in as the free safety in the nickel package as Michigan moved Thomas Gordon down to nickel. Pipkins looked like he got some push on a few plays, too.
We did not see much from Chesson and Darboh, but if Roundtree keeps playing like he is that won't last.
Your winner for dumbest burned redshirt: Royce Jenkins-Stone.
Well, at least this isn't particularly unusual. Various recent Alabama scores:
- 2011 Citrus Bowl: Alabama 49, MSU 7
- 2011 Arkansas: 38-14
- 2011 Florida: 38-10
- 2011 Tennessee: 37-6
- 2011 Auburn: 42-14
- National title game: 21-0 over LSU, LSU never crosses midfield.
Other than Georgia Southern, no team has put up more than 14 points on Michigan since Cam Newton's Auburn outfit.
Michigan is getting Raped right now. I bet Jerry Sandusky is proud lol
Get your yuks in now.
At least it wasn't the most embarrassing thing to happen over the weekend. This GIF of Kentucky fans is destined to go head to head with Rollerblading Raptors Mascot someday:
Don't forget the guy in the bottom corner and the dude left hanging at the top right. This is a gif as complex and layered as Yankee Enthusiasts and will in time take its place in GIF Valhalla.
Inside the Boxscore returns:
Morgan had 8 tackles, but they were all assisted tackles, which epitomizes the game. In all of the one-on-one matchups, we lost. Bama was just more “-er” than us, bigger, stronger, faster, tougher. I avoided watching Bama last season because I hate that “ESS EEE SEE” crap, but there’s no denying how good they are.
As does Hoke For Tomorrow:
I turned off the TV after Bellamy's first career pass attempt/interception and made my way quietly upstairs to bed. The rest of the family (wife, 5yo son, 1yo daughter) had long since decided that a good night's sleep was a better option than watching Michigan get smeared across the turf in Texas. I didn't feel any bitter emotions really, mostly concern for the collective knees of Taylor Lewan, Blake Countess, and Brandon Moore. I guess the Rich Rod years knocked all of the conceited sense of entitlement out of me for real.
Hinton is gloriously reborn and his article is mostly about Alabama, because obviously. The bit on Denard:
That said, Denard Robinson did not look like a quarterback on the verge of turning the corner as a passer. On one level, it's hard to judge a guy who's being consistently hit and hurried by a defense as relentless as Alabama's, which seems to have an answer for everything on almost every play. But Robinson was well below the Mendoza line tonight in terms of completion percentage (11 of 26), and his two interceptions in the first half were about as ugly – and as costly – as they come.
The first he simply put up for grabs, recklessly lobbing a jump ball in the direction of a receiver who had already been shoved off of his feet and out of bounds by Tide corner Dee Milliner, who found himself all alone to gather in the pick; Eddie Lacy scored three plays, extending 'Bama's lead to 21-0. On the second, Robinson stepped up in the pocket and drilled the ball directly into the chest of linebacker C.J. Mosley, who jogged in for an icing score that pushed the lead to 31-0. In both cases, Robinson had no idea what he was seeing when he put the ball in the air, and seemed more interested in getting rid of it under pressure for the sake of getting rid of, whatever the cost on the other end. Michigan fans have seen that before; all indications tonight are that they'll be seeing it again.
I think that The Hoover Street Rag is not correct:
We have a choice as fans. We can sulk, we can lament, we can shake our fists in anger. But I don't think we will.
That would be nice.
In the second quarter, with Michigan trailing 24-0 and backed up inside their 10-yard line, Kirk Herbstreit was talking about Michigan's non-existant running game. The camera panned up to Al Borges in the coordinator's booth. After relaying the upcoming 3rd down play, Borges shook his head in disbelief and rubbed his face. It was the unmistakeable look of someone who had run out of answers, like working your way through a maze and finding only brick walls.
Al Borges deserves some blame, but not much. Michigan wasn't going to be able to run the ball in this game. I predicted that Michigan would rush for fewer than 100 yards; the final tally was 69, despite having one of the most electrifying players in the country at quarterback. Yes, Denard Robinson probably could have run the ball more, especially before he got dinged up. Would it have made much of a difference? Probably not. Where Robinson really could have made a difference was in the passing game. He had lots of open receivers early in the game, but he's just as erratic as ever in the passing game. He kept throwing deep (inaccurately), and completed just 11/26 passes. The offensive line did a decent job of pass blocking, but if Michigan has to rely on Robinson to win the game with his arm, they're going to struggle.
Erratic, maybe, but I saw a lot of accurate-enough passes that would have been complete if not for Dee Milliner and other members of the Alabama secondary.
Wojo wrote a column. Maize and Brew did a thing. MGoRecruiting returns from the dead to pine for the spread 'n' shred. MLive now TWIS-ing their own readers. Big House Blog is not thrilled with Brandon. Me, I say that whenever you can get less money to play thousands of miles from campus against a team that's signed an extra recruiting class of players over the last five years without getting a home game in return, you have to do it.
At least the server held up, amirite?
A source close to the team has told me Blake Countess has torn ligaments in his knee and is done for the year.
Countess will get a medical redshirt and be a redshirt sophomore next year; in his stead, Michigan has some hard choices. Courtney Avery was not up to the task on the outside against Alabama. Raymon Taylor and Terry Richardson also got in there, though in the part of the game in which Alabama was just running out the clock. This might mean we see a lot more of Jarrod Wilson in the nickel package. Last night he came in and Michigan moved Thomas Gordon down to the nickelback spot.
I'm writing this at a Starbucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, already one 20-ounce beer deep after a most depressing lunch at a nearby Chile's. I packed three shirts for this trip, all maize; my 2006 student football shirt draws pitied looks from those in red, hollow stares of sadness from fellow Michigan faithful.
Last night, I surveyed the carnage from my perch in the second deck; all I could think of was Switch, staring at inevitability.
Not like this.
Not like this.
Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 34 for a 1ST down.
The one Alabama fan I spoke to at length has but one question as we prepare to go through security and enter Cowboys Stadium. He is the archetype of the middle-aged Tide male, red polo with the script 'A' tucked into his khakis, carrying the air of a man who's seen the bottom of many a bottle.
"So, do y'all really think you have a chance?"
The question isn't spoken derisively, at least on its surface—like the others, he's almost disarmingly polite. Over the course of the next four hours, this particular trait goes from charming to infuriating.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 33.
The two words are reflex, easily deciphered by the amateur lip-reader any time an Alabama fan appears on the behemoth jumbotron, spoken any time two groups of fans pass in the concourse, emblazoned on T-shirts, seared into my soul.
Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 33.
Denard Robinson's third carry comes on the first drive of the third quarter. The scoreboard reads Alabama 31, Michigan 7.
Had I known this was the plan, I'd have watched from my couch.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 40.
Vincent Smith's fourth carry comes on the first play of the second quarter. To this point, Michigan's 34 yards of offense are almost entirely offset by their 25 penalty yards.
Had I known this was the plan, I'd have not watched at all.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 2 yards to the Mich 38.
Alabama's five-star running back, Dee Hart, hurtles down the field and connects flush with Dennis Norfleet. This is a kickoff return. Hart is on the coverage team. Had he stuck with his initial commitment to Michigan,—and after yesterday, nobody can blame him for not doing so—Hart would have started at running back for the Wolverines. He certainly would not have played kickoff coverage.
Half of the stadium erupts. It is not my half.
Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Mich 5.
My friends and I enter the stadium at six o'clock local time. After locating our section, we exit the concourse to stand at the railing behind out seats and stare agape at the jumbotron. It is as advertised, so mind-blowingly large that it takes every effort to avert my eyes and watch the players on the field. I briefly note how much larger the Alabama players look before going back to ogling the screen.
A 30-something man wearing crimson from head to toe strikes up a conversation. He tells us that he's really a Michigan fan, too, and still was trying to decide upon a team for which to cheer. He is gregarious, pleasant, and wishes us all the best when we head to our seats.
I hate this man.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 12.
Seven Wolverine defenders—Joe Bolden, Keith Heitzman, Mario Ojemudia, Ondre Pipkins, Terry Richardson, James Ross, and Jarrod Wilson—make their career debut.
None can stop the bleeding, of course. They are but freshmen, and freshmen cannot save you here.
Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 25.
Each Miller Lite costs $8 at Cowboys Stadium. This is criminal, of course, but the alternative is so much worse.
I'll take two, please.
Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Alab 46.
Thomas Gordon finishes with nine tackles, leading the team, and—in my memory, at least—missing at least as many.
God bless Thomas Gordon. He tried, long after the point when I'd given up hope.
Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 15.
Hours before kickoff, we park in Lot 10 to begin tailgating. The signs for the lot bear the image of a Dallas Cowboys legend of some sort, though I don't recognize the face. We are next to a Wal-Mart. It is a stark reminder of where we are, and where we are not. By the time this sniveling jackass graces the big screen...
...I'll have vowed never to attend a regular season neutral site game again.
Vincent Smith rush for 22 yards to the Alab 48 for a 1ST down.
Vincent Smith—God bless him, too—finally turns the corner on his 11th carry, scampering 22 yards before screeching to a halt in front of an Alabama safety, falling to the turf when his legs cannot dance as his panicked mind intends. A Michigan fan behind me then utters the stupidest sentence in the history of man:
"He could’ve gotten about three more yards if he ran through that guy.”
I nearly miss Devin Gardner's touchdown two plays later as I frantically tweet to save the quote for posterity's sake.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 7.
This morning, before we load our luggage into the rental car, my friend Dan grabs an unopened 12-pack from the trunk.
Last night, in our haste to reach the hotel and never talk about that again, we forget to drink away our sorrows.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 28.
We find ourselves in the exclusive club section of Cowboys Stadium. We shouldn't be there, but Dan's girlfriend has that invaluable charm that renders such things moot. After a day of drinking and ignoring more basic needs, I am hungry. The concession stand offers a $13 Kobe Beef BBQ Burger, so of course I order one.
I eat my burger on a marble countertop. I state unequivocally that it's the best burger I've ever eaten, and long after the beers wear off I stand by that statement.
That turns out to be the highlight of my evening. An hour later, Alabama is up 21-0, and I've barely had time to get comfortable. I gaze at the field, resigned.
Not like this.