Peppers at 10, which seems low.
[Ed.: Bump. This makes sense to me: Michigan should mostly dump special teams once it gets across midfield.]
As Brian highlighted in the UMass round-up, maybe forgoing the punt altogether might not be such a bad decision. He noted my earlier look at the the topic and I wanted to pull it back and revisit and refine some of the work.
I looked at the years 2004-2009 and only looked at the top 20 rated offenses for each year. This study assumes that Michigan’s offense this year will be at a top 20 caliber and provides a broad enough definition of greatness that there is a good sample size. I did not distinguish what type of offense (Texas Tech Air Raid vs Georgia Tech triple option vs spread and shred) was used to get into the top 20. I will detail more assumptions as they are applicable along the way. In place of fourth down conversion percentages I used third down conversion percentage since the data pool is much larger and covers a wider variety of opponent levels. Since the thought process on a third down and fourth downs are roughly the same in most all (for now, anyway) situations, it seems reasonable to use the third down numbers.
Time for a you know what…
Assumptions: Top 20 offense, average defense, average punt game, average field goal kicker.
Based on these assumptions, except for long yardage, the punter should grab a seat once the offense crosses midfield. On your own side of the field the decision still makes sense starting around the 30 for shorter yardage situations and becomes more viable for longer yardage as you cross further down the field. Field goals become practical with 4+ yards to gain and only from about the 5-25 yard lines.
There are two big advantages a potent offense has that make 4th down tries more logical. The first is that they have more to gain by success. With a limited number of drives in a given game, why give them away for free? The second is that they are more likely to make them. Good offenses are more likely to be in better position on fourth down and more likely to make it. Here is a chart of great offenses fourth down conversions compared with all offenses. The right hand column was the one used for the above chart.
|To Go||All Teams||Great Off|
It’s not a huge advantage on any one given down, but Top 20 offenses convert the same opportunities about 2-3 percentage points more often than the average offense. Note: the rate of conversion for great offenses was much higher in the original analysis and is part of the reason the chart isn’t quite as go for it as the original.
But we don’t have an average <blank>
<blank> = Kicker
Let’s start with the kicking game, which is currently 5 points below average on the season and rated third worst in the country after the first three weeks.
Assumptions: Top 20 offense, average defense, average punt game, below average field goal kicker (FG make odds are reduced by 25% everywhere on the field).
The decisions near midfield obviously aren’t changed but now attempting a field goal on 4th and 5-9 from inside the 25 is no longer the most valuable option.
<blank> = Punter
I know it hasn’t been the most Zoltanic of starts for Will Hagerup, but at this point if he can hold onto the snap, there is no point in adjusting him to below average, even if he isn’t an advantage at this point.
<blank> = Defense
This is the one that seems a bit counterintuitive and Brian and I disagree on. I say that the strength or weakness of your defense is irrelevant to your offensive decision on whether or not try a fourth down conversion. My belief that it is irrelevant is based on this chart.
Great defense obviously give up fewer points than bad defenses but the key point is that the difference between a great defense and a bad defense is consistent up and down the field. Giving the opponent a first down at midfield isn’t a guarantee of a touchdown even with a bad defense and isn’t a guarantee that pinning an opponent deep against a great defense will keep the other team off the board. In fact, the gap between the two is about .25 points per first and 10 all the way from the 1 to the 90. If this is true, then the ability of the defense is irrelevant to the offense’s decision to go for it. For that to be the case, there would have to be evidence that the difference between a good defense and a bad defense changes at different points on the field.
So what does all this mean
If Michigan can maintain their feverish offensive pace this year and fail to find an adequate kicker, I think their decision set in all but late game score specific situations should look something like this:
As I noted previously, if you buy into this mentality, it opens up another opportunity, changing your early down play calling. If your four down strategy has changed, so should your down by down playcalling. It may become more viable to risk a wasted down with deep ball knowing that you have an extra, or it might just make sense to keep the ball short in the air and on the ground knowing that over four plays instead of three the likelihood of getting the yardages greatly increases so play to have the shortest possible fourth down attempt if you don’t convert before that.
First: Look at those glasses! He says they're not prescription.
When he made two big plays late in the first half "I just felt like it was the momentum changing." The offense started poorly, and he needed to provide a boost. "I don't know if 2 touchdowns in 45 seconds is quite the dream," it might be better. "I was always the big-play guy in high school, I was always the deep threat in high school. I've always wanted to get that transition over to Michigan."
In the third year of the offense with Denard throwing well, it's not just Stonum that's blossoming. Everybody knows stuff so can go out there and play fast.
"I try to lead by example most of the time. I'm not really a vocal screaming yeling in the huddle type of guy." He lets his work ethic speak for itself. Always works as hard as he can in weight room, in class, and on-field.
Defenses play differently with Denard in the game. They'll contain instead of trying to sack Denard. He's making the right reads and is pretty dangerous. "We knew we didn't want him carrying the ball 30 times a game every game." They were able to get the ball to some RBs and establish something else on the ground.
"We've got some pretty athletic offensive linemen." They relish the opportunity to show off that athleticism by getting downfield and making plays. "I knew we had playmakers, it was just a matter of us getting the ball into the laymakers hands and setting up opportunities for them through our blocking."
The OL is coming together each week, as they have pretty good experience. Molk jumped back in where he left off with his injury last fall and spring. Taylor Lewan - "I watched the whole game yesterday, and he seemed to have a pretty good game." He and some others have been performing well in practice, even if they haven't seen the field much.
"There's absolutely more [offensive improvement] to come. The offense is clicking but we're still not performing to our full potential and capability."
UMass was a "mini wakeup call." Seniors have been good at getting them pumped, but they need to do better than last week. "I'm frustrated now and I was frustrated then. You just can't do anything about it now." The defense needs to prepare better and be more hungry going forward.
The first two games were good for the defense. Against UMass "looking at the tape, we just didn't tackle well." Were surprised by a few schemes as well. Have to have a certain persona to tackle well. "I really did think every guy came in with that" and it just didn't work out for some reason. They'd hit guys in the backfield, or allow 5 yards to be stretched into 10. Don't want to let guys get more than they should.
"With our training from Mike Barwis, we don't get very tired ever." The fourth quarter points for UMass were not a result of that.
Taylor Lewan played well. Proud of him because they've been buddies for a couple years. "He's finding a happy medium between being aggressive and holding a lot." That style will work well in the Big Ten.
Mike Martin "he is the strongest person I' ve ever seen in the weight room, and it's really showing on the field." Beat a double team to sack the QB.
It won't be tough to get up for BGSU. "From our performance this Saturday, this team is definitely going to get up for this game."
"The offense really helped us out this past Saturday, and that's why it's a team." One side will have to rely on the other from time to time.
Craig doesn't listen to music before games to get pumped up - reads a bit of the Bible.
Being a hometown guy, it'll be a different experience to play BG. He doesn't know anybody on the team though, outside of Bryan Wright. "It's gonna be weird" being on opposite sidelines. Knows him well, good kicker. They keep in touch a little bit, but haven't been trash talking yet.
Defense mindset - "Obviously we aren't satisfied with the way that we played defensively." It's much nicer to get that out of the way early in the season, and with a win. "I expect it to be a 1-game slip-up. I'm sure we'll make our corrections today."
Feels different than last year's struggles. They'll move forward. "I think they're pretty simple things." Technical errors and a couple missed assignments. Players might have been hesitant after giving up big plays to Notre Dame "maybe guys are just inexperienced and aren't feeling comfortable in their zones yet."
Obi and Jonas are the senior leaders on D. Each said a few things after the game in the locker room, as did Craig Roh.
"If you can control the ball, you can wear out a defense." The D didn't do their job to get themselves off the field.
Interception - "The first thing I was thinking is 'yes I finally got one.' Sometimes, you don't want to do too much." He should have tucked the ball better.
The team will be very focused after a letdown against UMass. "Last game was a reality check for many games to come. Of course, it's a good thing that we still got the win." There's a small margin for error at this level. The other teams prepare, too. "You have to prepare even better. It's not like high school."
The defense wants to do their part like the offense has been doing. "We're still not as good as we need to be or want to be." Both sides of the ball can improve, but there's only been three games.
Going against Michigan receivers in practice helps prepare for other teams' best receivers.
Transition to safety is good. Still room for improvement. "What's the best room in the house? That's room for improvement."
Choosing Michigan - "I love it here." Everyone will face adversity growing up, and he's learning at Michigan that working hard and staying in the fight will help you through.
Note for students: Maize Rage mass meeting 7PM in the League's Vandenberg room. Who wants some FREEEEEEE PIIIZZZAAAA?
Further adventures in epic rootability. Remember how Darryl Stonum was this year's Roy Roundtree, who was in turn Michigan's version of Rick Vaughn? Yeah, Stonum is taking the comparison as far as he can without literally raiding whichever Planet Hollywood contains the skull-and-crossbones originals:
Awesome. He was probably thinking Run DMC, but either way it is epic.
Just plain epic. This is astounding:
I would buy a billion of these before they were taken from us. Sadly these are not extant, but you can get it as your wallpaper.
The Freude. You will want to check out This Week In Schadenfreude this go-round for obvious reasons:
My 11 year old thinks ND football is a joke
by btd (2010-09-19 00:43:18)
She can't grasp why they are even on TV. She said it tonight. "Daddy, why does anyone care about Notre Dame? Have they ever been good?"
Basically there isn't a kid alive today that has ever seen real ND football.
This running diary didn't even make it in because I ran out of room:
12:06 Went and got a bottle of NyQuil and a bottle of Woodford Reserve. Placed them both on the table in front of me. Flipping a coin to see which one I start chugging.
12:16 WHY DO WE HAVE THIS BLACK CLOUD HANGING OVER OUR FOOTBALL PROGRAM!?!?
The freude is strong this week. BONUS: find out where Tacopants transferred. It won't be a surprise.
Mascot win. So the Ohio Bobcat got fired, reprimanded, and banned for life from Ohio athletics for a spectacular attack on the Ohio State mascot:
So worth it. He's never going to have to buy a drink in Ann Arbor, State College, or any other Big Ten city.
The look on the kid's face afterward is priceless: "this never happens to me in Iowa."
The latest lack of outrage. This is probably the most convincing explanation of an assumed ref disaster ever. It's about the delay of game, or lack thereof, on the Michigan State fake punt:
"The responsibility is assigned to the Back Judge, who in this situation was standing beneath the upright. Proper mechanics dictate that his focus be directed to the play clock as it approaches zero. When the play clock display reads zero, he must re-direct his attention to the ball. At that time, if the snap has not started, a flag will be thrown for delay of game. If the snap has begun, no flag will be thrown.
"Under these procedures, there will always be a small amount of lag time between the time the clock reads zero and the time the Back Judge is able to see the football.
"On the play in question, this lag time created the situation where it appears the play clock expired just before the snap. We believe the snap occurred well within the normal lag time for the Back Judge to make this determination.
That makes total sense. I wish officials would do this more often. Issue little dicta explaining why penalties were (or in some cases, were not) called and you reduce the complaining at least somewhat.
Bork on. Hockey season is going to start soon and Red Berenson is talking them up:
"We realized we were as good as anybody at the end of last year and this team will take that (confidence) and put that on the ice," …
"Does it make our team better? Definitely, it's huge," said Berenson of having Hagelin and Caporusso back. "You're so much more optimistic because you know who your top players are. I felt they had their heads in the right place. They are really invested in this program."
The usual blunt assessments of early departures (Pacioretty and Palushaj are in the AHL and "probably don't like it") are also included along with an interesting Cold War II tidbit: the rink will be Olympic size. Advantage to a quicker Michigan team, no doubt.
Etc.: Congratulations, commenters, for not being NDNation about Dantonio's heart attack. It is in this way we will not be a newspaper's comment section. By request, shots of Michigan Stadium's renovation from above. MGoBlog invades North Korea. Srsly. The Team, The Team, The Team: the video they played Saturday.
Note: The Indiana game on October 2 will be a 3:30 kick on ESPNU.
You worry about an emotional letdown going from Notre Dame to an FCS team. Typically, they're worried more during preparation, and it seemed like that wasn't a problem last week. "We did not play with the type of urgency defensively that we did the week before." Guys have to understand the other team has players too, whether it's UMass or BGSU.
UMass wakeup call? You hope you don't need that to be a wakeup call. "Maybe we're assuming we're more mature than we are, then I look at our guys and we've got a lot of young players."
With Saturday's performance, will RR get more involved in the defense? "I'll probably spend a little bit of time with them today. Our defensive staff I think knows what we've gotta do." Some of the problems will be longer-term fixes. "Some of our issues on Saturday have to be fixed immediately." They can't play good defense being so tentative. Wants people to be happy when they win, but the defensive guys weren't pleased with their performance after the game.
Is the defense's struggle similar to last year? It's a new year, and it was a different week than Notre Dame. What's important is to play better going forward. "Everyone felt fortunate with the win, but didn't feel that we played well."
Losing contain, some of the issues were fundamental, "some they got us on a call." They stressed keeping contain in practice and during the game, but the lack of execution cost them. "The good part is we can fix all the fundamental part, and the technical part we can fix."
INJURIES: Mike Jones and Brandon Herron injuries have led to a revolving door with the nickel package. Brandon Herron probably won't be back this weekend. "Marvin [Robinson] will be back this week. Carvin Johnson is still questionable."
Denard doesn't worry about stats and that stuff. "He loves football" He doesn't worry about individual stuff. He doesn't have a personality where the hype will go to his head.
Rodriguez is not worried about getting Devin and Tate to get reps for conference season. Focused on them getting better every day. Pleased with Tate's attitude last couple weeks. Both he and Devin are improving. Either could play if Denard needs a rest. If they had gotten a stop up 35-17, one of the backups would have gone in.
Running back: "That's the one position we have not played enough guys and we have enough guys ready to play." Want to got Hopkins and Cox in, but they need to be able to run the whole offense with those guys. Toussaint practiced last week, but was not 100%.
Stonum - "I've sensed a more mature Darryl Stonum since camp started." Stonum's off-field maturity is related to on-field success. His good start on the field has carried over from camp. Seeing a guy grow and mature is good. Young people mature, that's what happens. Making a bad decision doesn't make you a bad person. "I think Darryl, hopefully, 'gets it.'" His dad and grandma came up for the UMass game for maybe the first time she'd ever flown. Stonum and Junior are the leaders, have to step up.
"Taylor [Lewan] played really well last week. He played well to the point where it's Huyge or Lewan is the starter this week... That's a definite 'or.'"
Omameh has played better last two games after struggling against UConn. He has some fundamental stuff to work on, like taking a good first step.
Hoping some young guys on D can get a shot to get on the field and make plays. "We've gotta make it competitive in practice for some of those young guys." Backups on D are really young, so they have to learn both fundamentals and scheme. The coaches don't want to play a guy before he's ready unless they have to. On the defensive side of the ball, some guys have had to play. "We have a few freshmen that frankly, if some of the upperclassmen aren't playing well or they're having a bad day, we've gotta try 'em."
"If we need them to help us win games this year, we're not gonna redshirt 'em." Terry Talbott and Ash "They're freshmen, they're ready to roll, they're practicing. Looks like they're headed for a redshirt."
Mike Martin has played well, but "we didn't give out a player of the game defensively, because as a unit we didn't think anybody deserved that."
Rodriguez has probably never had kicker questions this deep into the season. "Usually something is established more firmly once you get into games." It just comes down to guys doing it right when the opportunity arises, not just in practice. "They have the ability to do it. You know, it's a situation where they've gotta do it under pressure in game time... I think it's probably most frustrating for them. It's not because they're not trying."
Hagerup "I'm convinced he's gonna be phenomenal." He just dropped the ball once, but he'll be fine as he gets experience.
Bowling Green, Etc.
BGSU has good skill guys, especially the running back. They have big guys up front and both of their QBs have played well, even though one got hurt. Spread shotgun w/ unbalanced, no-back, a variety of stuff. Have good defensive speed. "Some of the problems we've had this season, we're gonna see that again this weekend." Hopefully, they'll be able to stop it this time.
Lacking game film of the opposing QB doesn't have much effect on preparation. They'll worry more about the scheme, because BGSU will continue to run what they've been running.
Former Michigan kicker Bryan Wright plays for the Falcons, but the coaches don't have a way to scheme against him, and familiarity is not an advantage. Could do it with a lineman or QB or something. Rodriguez is proud of him - he has his Michigan degree, and is playing well for BGSU. Would rather not have to play against him, but glad he's happy.
Going for it on fourth "Those are all in our thoughts right now" - different situations factor into fourth-down decision, including down-and-distance, momentum, weather, etc.
Having to outscore people? "That's insulting (laughs). I certainly think out defense has a lot more pride in their abilities... we can play a lot better defensively... in that last ballgame, we just didn't play well. We played tentative."
Dantonio's heart attack - "Most coaches have probably known this for years, that it's a different lifestyle and you have to take care of yourself." The job is more public today. You don't just work your job, you live your job. Hard to get away from your job, "you don't leave your office and go home and leave your job at the office."
RR works out 5 days a week. Has his own personal stairmaster, lifting weights a bit. "It's hard to devote the time, because you wanna watch the film, and you've got a lot of things to do, but you have to do it." He has probably not slept for three hours straight in years. Sleep a couple, then you're up for one. "When you get five, that's good."
This weekend saw two literally and metaphorically big visitors in Chris Bryant and Jordan Diamond. No commitments were made, but there was progress in both recruitments. Here's an update on the Chicago teammates, and a few other recruiting notes.
6'5, 330 lbs.
Chris' visit was a great visit as far as Michigan making progress towards getting a commitment out of him. He was originally planning on waiting until signing day to see how things panned out, and to be able to take all the visits he wanted. That seems to have changed now.
That visit was great, I liked everything a lot. I don't think I'm going to wait until signing day now, but I'm not ready yet to make my decision.
Chris said that he wants to get up to Michigan a few more times for games to continue to expand the relationships he's building.
I'm not sure the next game I'll be at, but it will be soon. I just want to get a good feel for them, and keep meeting all the people.
So look for Bryant to make a few more visits to Michigan, and then potentially make his decision. It wouldn't be surprising if he took a visit or two to a couple different schools as well. Michigan is in great position though, and this weekend helped a lot.
6'6, 289 lbs.
The teammate of Chris Bryant, 2012 prospect Diamon came up to see a Michigan game with his mom and aunt. Just like Bryant, Jordan is very high on Michigan. He was very excited to see the Wolverines in person, and they didn't disappoint:
The game was cool, it was crazy. My mom and aunt both loved it too. The coaches told me that I will be getting an offer on August 1st, so that was great.
Being told you'll have a written offer in August is essentially a verbal offer now. Either way Diamond is planning on waiting things out since he's only a junior. Michigan did themselves a lot of favors with this game though, and they're in good position.
5'11, 180 lbs.
Jackson is the eighth ranked corner in the country and has a pretty nice offer sheet. He has both size and speed, and God knows Michigan needs help in the secondary. He hasn't been talked about much, but shared some insight with me today on who comprises his top four, and a potential visit:
I'm really interested in Michigan. I plan on taking an official visit out there, I'm just not sure which game yet. Michigan, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Arkansas are my top four right now.
This is a big time recruit, and if Michigan can get him on campus they have a chance to wow him. Terrence Robinson is also from Klein, Texas, although Terrance went to Klein Oak while Charles goes to Klein Collins. It can't hurt to have someone from your hometown up there. We'll see how this plays out. If he visits it could get interesting.
- Fort Myers, FL teammates DB Dallas Crawford and WR Sammy Watkins are visiting for the Iowa game. Watkins needs to get a higher score on one of the required tests and is working on it. As of right now we have a really good shot with Crawford, and maybe not so good with Watkins. This visit could change that though if he gets a chance to see Denard in action playing against another team. They were up for the spring game, but didn't get to see a lot of the offense opened up.
- 2012 instate DL Danny O'Brien was told that he would be getting (verbally) offered at the U Mass game. I'm not sure if they indeed told him he has an offer, or if that was their way of saying you'll have an offer on August 1st. Either way he knows Michigan is very interested in him, and he feels the same.
9/17/2010 – Michigan 42, UMass 37 – 3-0
Well… at least it wasn't as grim as it looked a with about a minute before halftime, when my head was in my hands and I could feel the cave feces covering my body as I wished for a merciful death. Maybe an albino salamander would crawl down my throat or something. Then the offense did a large number of very fast things and the defense managed to stop the UMass offense like once or twice and then they managed to not quite blow it at the end.
And so here we are. If you ever wanted to know what it would have been like if Michigan had made that field goal at the end of The Horror you have your answer: not at all good but approximately a trillion times better than the alternative. The stanktastic defensive performance was exactly what Michigan fans feared was going to happen after every defensive back within hailing distance of the two deep exploded, except worse. I kind of expected Wisconsin might put up 37 points on a series of long, grinding drives. Not so much a team that launched a stirring comeback to nip William & Mary.
That combined with the pratfall by UConn against Temple and Notre Dame's admittedly delicious overtime punking leaves an uncomfortable taste in the mouth. Last year around this time I was surveying the outlook after Michigan got significantly outgained by Indiana but escaped by the skin of their teeth. The game column was sarcastically titled "The Soaring Majesty!":
Since we didn't [lose], we should all just breathe a sigh of relief, recalibrate expectations back down a little bit, and move on. Michigan's not at a point where any win against any Big Ten team is one to freak out about. The freshmen quarterbacks remain freshmen and it's becoming clear that the defense has about the same raw talent level that last year's offense had. The only thing keeping them from plunging off a deep, dark cliff is the fact that no position on defense is as singularly important as quarterback is on offense.
Michigan didn't win a game against a non-seal opponent the rest of the year. It was this much fun: no fun.
This is the point where I take a finger, insert it into the collar of my shirt, and make an uncomfortable facial expression David Letterman has mastered and is impossible to Google. (What do you type, "Letterman shirt uncomfortable"? "Letterman neck trick"?)Just imagine you're wearing a tie and your boss has called you into his office during a period of right-sizing and you're a big vaudeville buff. It's like that.
It's like that because of the following facts:
- Jonathan Hernandez had 114 yards on 26 carries with a long of 15.
- John Griffin had 96 yards on 17 carries with a long of 19.
- Kyle Havens went 22 of 29 for 222 yards with a long of 19.
That is a complete demolition at the hands of a I-AA team without even blowing it big. UMass got two short fields when Michigan had a punt blocked and Cam Gordon fumbled an interception, but even dropping those out of the equation UMass drives went FG, punt, TD, punt, TD, fumble, punt, TD, INT; both of the short field drives started around the 25 and ended in Michigan's endzone. And at no point did they get a cheap touchdown due to a secondary implosion. They just ground down the field as if Michigan was the I-AA team. Given the level of competition, it's probably the worst defensive performance of the Rodriguez era, and that's saying something. If not for the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game we'd be reaching back to Bump's days to find something worse. The parallels to last year are scary.
I can tell you to look at the yardage and feel better, which still works for me to some extent. Michigan still didn't outgain a BCS opponent until the Purdue game in 2009 and they have a demolition of UConn to their name. I can tell you to look at what Purdue and Indiana and Illinois are doing and count to seven that way and then rely on someone else (MSU? Iowa? Penn State?) getting Denarded for the eighth win that would officially exceed expectations, and that helps too. I can point to Iowa's 2009 season, which started out with a one-point win over Northern Iowa in which the Hawkeyes were outgained and had to block two(!) field goals on consecutive plays to avoid the killer upset. Four games later Iowa survived 24-21 against Arkansas State; they ended the year by whipping Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
All of these things say football is weird and last weekend was probably an aberration and Michigan's defense will be bad but probably not that bad. But it's hard to shake the feeling of deja vu. We jumped out of a plane and went WOOOOOO because everything is fast and fun and now we're trying to ignore the feeling that the parachute might have transferred to West Virginia. Again.
But at least there's Denard, right? Right. The silver lining to all of this is that he's going to have insane stats because Michigan's got no choice. That's the ticket.
Pulaski time. This has been kicking around message boards and my head since I was annoyed that Michigan threw the ball on third and six early in the game and then whiffed another field goal: given the situation, should Michigan emulate that Arkansas high school team that never, ever punts? Consider:
- The offense is pretty awesome, making a successful fourth-down conversion worth more points than it would be if it was still 2008.
- The defense is pretty terrible, making the loss of field position from an unsuccessful conversion less of an issue than it would be with a defense more likely to stop the opponent. A good defense is more likely to get you the ball back approximately where you booted it from; Michigan's is likely to get you the ball back via kickoff.
- Will Hagerup spent the ND game shanking balls into the stands and dropped a snap against UMass, getting his punt blocked.
- The field goal kickers are 1 of 4 and Rodriguez is openly pleading for any student, clueless or not, to try out.
So… yeah. When the Mathlete did a study with his enormous database of plays he concluded that 1) your defense has no impact on the decision (something I disagree with) and 2) that if your offense is good the light is almost always green:
Maybe some of the Mathlete's assumptions are wrong there (he gives an across-the-board 10% increase in conversion percentage) but even an average offense should be going on fourth and medium anywhere near midfield; Michigan is looking considerably better than average.
I'm hoping Rodriguez starts playing with going on fourth down in mind. If anyone was ever going to test the limits of Romer-ian game theory it would be this Michigan team. It's NCAA '11 time.
Probably no need to get alarmed for next week at least. Bowling Green is 1-2 with losses to Tulsa and Troy with a win coming last week over Marshall. In that game, Marshall's QB chucked four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. MGoUser BGwolverine13 has some information on their season to date. It sounds like the starting quarterback will sit out this week after suffering a concussion, which is doubly bad for BG since their rushing offense is currently 111th nationally at 2.7 YPC.
Is it sad that we're talking about this? Yes.
Yeah, pretty much.
What happened? Michigan's first two opponents went down to defeat over the weekend, too, seriously damaging their value when it comes to projecting the future. You probably know what went down in the MSU-ND game, but UConn losing to Temple 30-16 hurts.
How did that happen? Well, the Huskies did outgain Temple by 34 yards. (WOO!) They went from 16-14 up to 27-16 down via a fumble return touchdown and a four-yard touchdown drive after a big punt return. Zach Frazer appears to be pure awful (4.8 YPA) and their defense grim in all phases. Temple RB Bernard Pierce had 169 yards on 26 carries and his long was just 38; UConn is not good.
Meanwhile, the ND-MSU game was as dead even as you would expect an overtime game to be. Michigan State ended up outgaining ND 477-461, with the final 29 yards for MSU coming on the trick play that's going to make TWIS so fun this afternoon. Notre Dame's defense was thoroughly gashed by land and sea, giving up 203 yards on 43 carries and allowing Kirk Cousins to complete 23 of 33 passes. ND ran Armando Allen just 13 times despite the fact he is very good and was picking up 5.5 yards a crack; Dayne Crist was 32 of 55 for a bunch of yards, one INT, and 4 TDs. The teams had 13 possessions each.
Conclusion? Michigan State is about Michigan's equal and the game will be a shootout nailbiter.
Goals met? On defense obviously none. On special teams obviously none. Jeremy Gallon is on a streak of five straight terrible decisions on difficult punts to field and should either be replaced or given a return buddy who hangs out ten yards in front of him and fields the crappy ones.
On offense, we did see the healthy and productive return of Junior Hemingway. Taylor Lewan got in and was reportedly mauling people, which okay I-AA team but still that's an encouraging sign when your freshman tackle gets in to replace a guy who's played well so far. And Michael Shaw put up some of those yard things that Denard always gets. We did not get to see Cox, Toussaint, or Hopkins, unfortunately. (Toussaint may still be injured. He dressed but was only participating in some drills before the game.)
The one important thing that Michigan seemed to establish is the existence of a Denard deep ball. UMass was playing tight man coverage most of the day and Denard went deep twice to beat it, hitting Kelvin Grady on a deep seam and Stonum on a fly route. Both balls were well thrown. If you add that to the rest of the stuff Denard can do, hoo boy.
A note on the interception: he had Roundtree open for a touchdown but did the same thing he did against ND where he threw the ball on a line, allowing a safety to come underneath it and deflect it to the guy running a step or two behind Roundtree.
Lloyd-ballin' it note. Hated the third and one iso to Vincent Smith, though not getting it wasn't Smith's fault since there was an unblocked guy tearing in from the edge. But the whole advantage of having a running quarterback is that you get that extra blocker, which seems most useful on third and one. Michigan should have a version of Gator Heavy where Koger, Webb, and whichever RB they think is the best blocker line up to the same side of the formation and they just Tebow their way forward.
The Hoover Street Rag tries to maintain calm:
Now, all of the said, consider, if you will, where a Michigan fan might be standing right now. Since September 1, 2007, you have seen your team play 40 games. In that time span as of this weekend, you have seen your team win as many games as they have lost. Twenty Saturdays up, twenty Saturdays down. Twenty times happy, twenty times sad. You have seen hope crushed in the waking moments of a new rising sun. You have seen hope's corpse taken out back and burned repeatedly. You've seen redemption come from unlikely sources. You've seen a cold night in Champaign. You've seen a darn near miracle in Orlando. You've seen a comeback like nothing you've seen before in Ann Arbor. You've seen another quarterback in orange and blue leave flame trails behind him like a time-traveling DeLorean. You've seen a walk-on save the Jug. You've seen a freshman led an unlikely comeback in a shootout. You've seen all hope die on four chances from the one. You've seen an invasion of red into the Big House. You've seen a sophomore do things we only thought that other teams did to Michigan. You've seen 20 wins and 20 losses.So maybe this is why Saturday's performance doesn't bother me. It was a win. The gap between "survives upset bid" or "gets a scare from an FCS school" and losing is a chasm visible from space. We've been on the other side of that chasm, or perhaps more accurately at the bottom of it.
"We were terrible on defense," Roh said. "We just didn't look like we were prepared to play and we didn't make adjustments during the game.
"I promise you'll not see another game like that from us again."
From Roh's lips to Tebow's ears.
A few notes: Ohio State and Alabama are still the top two, and without too much useful information to separate them, I left them in their previous order, although there's a legit argument for Alabama being #1 now. On that note, Oregon is far and away #3, and if they can continue their hot streak when they run into legit competition, they could make a run for the top of the table.
Nebraska is also rocketing toward the top behind Taylor Martinez. However, they don't play any truly legit competition (depending on how you classify Washington) for y a month, when they'll take on Texas.
Arkansas moves up for beating Georgia on the road. I may be a little irrationally exuberant on them, since their other two wins are bottom-feeders, and Georgia currently sits at 1-2. Please advice.
LSU moves up for no real reason, as the only legit team they've played all year (North Carolina) sits 0-2 on the year, and the Tigers should be expected to take care of Mississippi State on the road. They'll probably move down in the final ballot.
West Virginia moves down despite a convincing win because they Marshall team that took them to overtime just got pasted by... Bowling Green. Maybe the Maryland win should be considered impressive enough to keep them were they were.
Michigan moves down for Saturday's debacle, although I'm still holding out hope that the poor defensive play was something of an anomaly. Michigan State sticks where they were for an overtime win against a decent opponent.
Uh, well… hmmmm. You probably won't want to watch a ton of them, but yeah. Here's Denard's Gameday feature:
And the Big Ten Icons item on Charles Woodson, featuring Keith Jackson:
Somehow Woodson finished 20th, which like lol ok.
Press conferences and some other bits after the jump.
Not pleased with the way they played, but happy with the win. All three phases of the game had letdowns. "As quiet a winning locker room as you'll ever see."
"I can promise our guys will look at the film, coaches will look at the film, I'll watch everything on all three phases." "Defensively we thought they would pressure us a little bit" so Denard couldn't run. Has to talk to D coaches to see if UMass did surprising stuff. "They're pretty good up front."
Nobody was injured outside of Banks, and his injury isn't serious.
Take what they give us. Stonum made plays, Shaw stepped up. Not worried about starters being tired because they only played 56 snaps.
3-4, 4-3 shift "We saw the same thing last week." Switch just about every other snap. "That's kinda part for the course. Our guys have seen that." UMass adjusted at the second half. UMass played a lot of cover-0, gave up lots of 1-on-1 opportunities. Maybe Michigan should have taken even more deep shots. Wanted to run to give the D a break.
"[Denard] was pretty sharp with his eyes and his decisions." Ball-handling was the problem. Denard not as sharp as he was first couple weeks. "Amost like a first-game feel." Execution wasn't clean. Denard made some great throws, a few good runs. "We didn't run him as much. We didn't want to." Shaw stepped up.
Offense is QB-centered, he has to run sometimes. More designed RB runs today to give him some relief. Shaw - "runs hard, got great speed, used his vision well today." Team's biggest homerun threat.
Lewan - "we should have played Ricky Barnum too some." They'll decide if a few more guys should have gotten onto the field. "If we'd have payed better, we could have played more guys. Didn't happen, so we've gotta play we've we've got to to win the game."
"We have some warts, that's still out there. Let's not pretend that we're the 1985 Chicago Bears." Have to play with passion, intensity, and intelligence in all 3 phases, but especially on D. Didn't get better today, but the guys know without being told that they need to work hard this week.
Some of D struggles lack of execution - missed tackles, losing contain, "there's a lot of things that we've gotta clean up, and everybody knows that." Going against a different scheme this week, made some mistakes. Has to watch film to compare where the breakdowns were. Losing contain to our left was bad, because they knew it would happen coming in. Lost contain 5-6 times at least.
Kovacs strip - scored quickly, then got the turnover for 2 quick scores. Momentum with the ball in third quarter. Didn't happen to shut them down and put the game out of reach. "They played well." Went into the UMass locker room to tell them that.
Special teams - The return game was OK, a couple times Darryl almost broke one. Missed only field goal, kick coverage needs to improve. Kickers make them in practice. Will just dropped the snap on the block.
Thought Seth Broekhuizen kicked better for kickoffs. Placekicking - "We had a student body tryout. Any student out there... we'll have another tryout for you.
"You never know" how many points you'll need to win. UMass is a good team. "They gave us a run for our money." The D carried the offense last week, so in the team concept, it's time to pay it back a bit. "They'll make some corrections, and so will we."
Came out slow, but for the most part did a good job executing. Offense knew they were shooting themselves in the foot early, just started executing better.
"On that play, I'm usually a backside outlet" on the long TD reception. Omameh and Grady did a good job blocking to open the hole.
Last time he scored 2 TDs back-to-back like in the second quarter was in high school. Personal breakthrough game? "With all the talent we have at receiver, you never know who's gonna be the hot hand for the week." Just his job to show the coaches he's capable of making plays. He and Roy joking about who would be the guy this week.
On his long (non-TD) reception "Denard fakes the sprintout, and we knew that the whole defense is gona key to his running." Just had to run past the cornerback.
Denard throwing: "His accuracy and his... total quartebrack, just being a pocket passer." His accuracy has improved. Puts the ball where the receivers can run away from the defender after the catch.
"[Denard] told me on the sideline, mid second quarter, that he was gonna start giving up the ball a lot more." Denard's been getting yards because Ds are keying Shaw instead of Denard. Today was different. Other guys need to step up so the offense can click without Denard having to do it all. "We have playmakers, but now we're coming into our own as an offense."
There's no way to tell from film who the end is keying on. Had an idea they'd try to contain Denard (like ND, which didn't work out for them).
He was trying to hit the hole fast early in the game, but the DL was 2-gapping the OL, so he tried to hesitate on his long TD run to make sure he had the right read.
Offensive pressure opposite that D? "We added pressure to ourselves." Held each other up each of the past two weeks. Denard kept the team poised when they were down 17-7.
Special team struggles? "I don't really expect our kicking game to miss kicks. We all have faith in all of our teammates." Offense's job is to score TDs and not have to rely on those guys as much. "Those 40-yard kicks can turn into 2-yard extra points."
UMass held onto the ball well. Defense didn't do their job to get them off the field. "You've gotta give them a lot of credit they're a very good team. Maybe they caught us off guard." "They've got some big offensive linemen, I know it's nothing like we'll see in the Big Ten."
"We're happy that we didn't lose, but we're not satisfied with the way that we played defensively." Defensive play overall: "Clearly it's disappointing." Better to have that happen in a game that they still win, instead of have them cause a loss.
On his strip and recovery: "At that point in the game, they had a lot of momentum." Knew his team needed a big play, noticed the guy was carrying the ball low.
Losing contain - "Tough to see defensively. I'll admit that it happened to me a couple times." Need to get back to fundamentals and responsibilities. Would have been a different story if everyone executed well.
"We never underestimate a team. We're not good enough to just walk in and get a victory." The team just has to play hard. "I think a focus that we needed" was lacking. Had a good week of practice. Need to get back to fundamentals this week in practice. "Michigan came out with a victory, and that's all we can ask for."
UMass offensive line - "They had a good line. They were smart and they did a good job with positioning their bodies a certain way." Called some plays to keep UMass unbalanced, disguise some things. They did a god job reacting.
Fighting through doubles. "It feels good as a nose guard because you don't get a lot of chances to be free." If you hit a rock over and over and it breaks after 100th hit, it's not the 100th hit that breaks the rock, it was the 99 before that.
Fewer sacks - "We've just gotta keep playing hard." Last year, it took BG 4 games to get a sack, there's still a lot of football to play.
Cam Gordon int/fumble "That's tough. I think it's just one of those freak things." The way it happened, they didn't complain and just went to go play the next play.
The team has done a good job not getting worried, pointing finger. "That's what we did in the past and we've done a better job this year in that aspect." Just do your job to win.
Coach went over a few things on the drawing board, and the halftime message was to go out and play as hard as they can for the final 30 minutes.
Make sure guys buckle down and get ready for Bowling Green.
UMass is a good team on both sides of the ball. "We watched film and knew they was pretty good." The team just came out sluggish. Can't come out sluggish and expect to win. That was the lesson they learned today. Have to re-focus to make sure this doesn't happen next week.
"We just had to focus and everybody had to play as one, play as a team, play smart" when they were down 10. Team started slow, and everyone needed to whole team to play.
"They really didn't contain me, I guess. That's why Shaw had a great game." UMass made that decision, not Denard. "It was great to have [Shaw] running the ball like that." All the running backs are threats, they just needed a D to give them a chance to break out.
"I'm all in for Michigan. Whatever it takes to win. We winning for Michigam, we're not just winning for me." Doesn't care about his stats if they win. "If we get a W, that's good." Nobody's perfect. He knew he wasn't going to go a whole season without throwing a pick. "We're gonna face adversity the whole season."
He thought he would play the whole game, until the coaches tell him otherwise.
On the long Stonum touchdown, "It was designed, he read the blocks perfectly, he made one guy miss, and got going." It was a big shift in momentum before the half. The offense just had to make the plays happen. Everybody knew they had to step it up.
"We've moved from that Notre Dame game, that was last week. And will move on from UMass after we watch film tomorrow to Bowling Green."