Editorial Opinion: Uh... yeah. So not much is going on. Obviously.
MI LB Kenny Demens as a weakside linebacker, presumably filling up Michigan's class at the position. Marcus Witherspoon is coming in as a strongside linebacker; JB Fitzgerald is the middle linebacker. Each is ranked somewhere in the nebulous zone between the top 100 and the top 250, Fitzgerald towards the high end and Demens and Witherspoon towards the low. Demens is not a huge get or anything, but he's a nice pickup. Rivals rates him a four star, the #7 prospect in Michigan, and the #230 player overall. Scout has him a three-star not within their top 300. ESPN gives him a 78 and spends basically the entire scouting report talking about his potential as a fullback. Not useful. There's little else on him out there.
Meanwhile, CA S Vaughn Telemaque got the USC offer he was waiting on. This bodes unwell, but he plans on visiting Michigan and seeing what the school has to offer:
"Michigan has great tradition and they always have great defensive players there. Also I think it would be really cool playing in the Big House," Telemaque said. "They've struggled this season, but I think they'll be back in contention. My teammate (freshman defensive back for the Wolverines) Donovan Warren goes there and he's doing great. He's starting as a freshman and that makes me think that I can do the same thing."
Telemaque would have to wait at USC, and the pull of Warren may help out, but USC remains USC and Long Beach Poly remains their school. I doubt he ends up anywhere but there. (Previous assertion not based on anything but speculation and tea leaves, FWIW.)
And, uh... that's about it, really. Michigan is done on offense save for one more receiver, probably, and possibly another offensive lineman. Defensively they're looking for a couple DEs, another cornerback, and two safeties. The best bets appear to be PA WR Vaughn Carraway (meh), CA DE Jamar Jarrett (meh+), MI DE Nick Perry (yay!), NJ S Brandon Smith(yay!+)... and who knows? Spencer Adams might come. But names are thin on the ground at the moment.
Monday Recruitin' is Tuesday Recruitin' this week.
Oh, this is unwise. Yeah, pictures of yourself after getting battered by the sun and Stalin-era football are not good, but the serendipity of it all demands it. As my friends and I exited Ryan Field, we noticed a man walking ahead of us in a jersey that said "Mesko" on the back. Surely... surely these can't be common. I happened to be wearing a "Zoltan For Space Emperor (of Space)" T-shirt; friend Dave was sporting the "I, For One, Welcome Our New Romanian Punter Overlords." So, like, WTF, get busy livin' or get busy dyin': we approached him, said hi, showed him our shirts, and, well...
Depth chart bits: Massey is not listed; Butler and McLaurin are listed with an OR. Given the way he went down and the way they tended to him on the sideline, I think he might be shelved for a while. [Update: this is because he's out for the year per Carr's press conference.] Thompson and Graham are still your linebacker starters despite their injury problems; same for Jeremy Cuilla. Henne is back atop the QB depth chart; kicker is open again. It sounds like Wright is still way too inaccurate and KC Lopata will get a shot against Eastern.
The Chambers thing. Right, so apparently freshman Artis Chambers has been deemed ineligible by the Big Ten:
Under NCAA rules, Chambers was eligible to play this fall.
But Isaacs said he got a call from a Michigan assistant coach last week telling him that under Big Ten rules, summer school grades couldn't count toward eligibility for freshmen such as Chambers, who enrolled in the middle of a school year.
"I don't understand why these kids would be any different in their summer school GPA not being used," Isaacs said. "In one regard, they should be rewarded. They graduated from high school in seven semesters and met all the NCAA requirements."
This is a problem since he played on special teams against Penn State:
Martin said he expected resolution on the matter this week, but Chipman said the committee could take up to two weeks to decide on any penalties.
Chipman said he didn't know the range of disciplinary measures Michigan could face, but added - as Martin noted Saturday - that forfeiture of the win over Penn State was a possibility.
This "forfeiture" thing has been in every article about the situation but seems akin to giving a kid arrested for pot the chair. This violation appears to be a minor misunderstanding of a recent change to Big Ten rules and was self-reported. The player in question also covered a few kickoffs and that's all. IM (uneducated) O, the end result here will be a slap on the wrist and the media breathlessly reporting about a potential forfeiture is misleading given the severity, or lack thereof, of the situation.
Torrent spat. I don't want to get in the middle of this, but anyone looking for the Northwestern game can find it on Mininova. Here's the ~1.5 gig XVID; here is the ~4.2 gig DVD. If you pull down the XVID, you should watch it in VLC and manually change the aspect ratio to 4:3 -- it's square for arcane technical reasons. Unfortunate conflict in full detail here; hopefully this gets worked out soon.
Aaaand more. Michigan 27, Penn State 0, 1998 (Keith Jackson!):
Sportscenter's profile of the weird Crowe-Carr thing:
MGoInternets. There's a new Hart-centric blog dubbed "I Heart Hart" that's worth checking out for your full mancrush service needs. Also, Genuinely Sarcastic put together a very cool feature for the Penn State game that is a sort of niche-y UFR focused exclusively on Hart and the Michigan ground game called the Hart Chart. I've struggled for a couple years now to come up with a meaningful offensive line metric in the run game but never found one that I could do and still get UFR up, like, ever, so this is a pretty exciting addition. GS takes every Hart run and grades out relevant blocks as either "yay" or "nay" with irrelevant blocks given no grade; the results are as you might expect but still thoroughly interesting: Long crushes all comers and Boren shows very poorly after a tough day against Ollie Ogbu and Jared Odrick. Hopefully we get a Northwestern edition; this is an area of UFR I've always felt was lacking.
Etc: Braylon, you are killing me. And not with your eyes this time.
When Mike Debord plays rock-paper-scissors, he always picks rock.
Rock totally beats scissors. Why would anyone pick anything else? Sure, occasionally someone will throw his own rock, but this is Michigan. We can out-execute their rock. And there are rumors of this thing called "paper". Apparently it beats rock, which seems darned unsporting, but Mike Debord will believe that when Mike Debord sees it. We can probably out-execute paper, too. Some people will hypothesize that the potential existence of paper warrants the occasional scissors throw, but only three things can happen when you throw scissors and two of them are bad. The idea of throwing "paper" is to be regarded with naught but scorn. Oooh, a Snickers bar! Mike Debord likes Snickers and will let pet monkey Bonzo call a series as he enjoys a candy bar.
Hey, Bonzo scored a touchdown. Now we're ahead. Let's go back to rock. Rock beats scissors.
Rock, rock. Definitely rock. Rock. Judge Wapner's on at ten.
I had a dream literally moments ago that jolted me awake at 8:30 -- this is early for me -- after a weekend of getting up insanely early to drive to or from Chicago and drinking heavily. In this dream, Michigan was playing some team. It might have been Eastern, it might have been Washington. After an impressive opening touchdown drive, Michigan sent walk-on Nick Sheridan out to play quarterback. He completed a third down post. Then Michigan sent out four offensive linemen -- no right guard -- as the PA announcer said that today they were honoring the Bellevue Wolverines, singled out Steve Schilling as Michigan's lone Bellevue-ian, and ran behind him. Schilling could not out-execute three defenders and the play went for a loss. Oops let's punt.
This proceeded, as Michigan clung to a 7-0 lead whilst rotating in a vast cast of characters that had no business on the field and calling ridiculous plays that were destined to fail. Perhaps the best exemplar of the ridiculous things Michigan was doing came when yet another walk-on quarterback entered the game -- Michigan's fifth or something -- without even so much as a jersey. Instead, the new quarterback wore a Judd-Nelson style 80s jean jacket with The Realests spray-painted on it sort of where a name would go if this was an actual jersey and not an item of clothing ripped directly from The Breakfast Club. Also spray-painted on the jean jacket was the number seven.
It was at this point that I lost it. (This didn't seem like the trigger at the time, but the Michigan coaching staff inserting bloggers into the game and not picking me must have been intolerable.) Finding myself standing on the sidelines, I ran across the field between plays with the intent of finding Mike Debord and berating him or headbutting him so that his nose bled and bled and bled and Bonzo had to take over (note: don't try this, kids! MGoBlog does not advocate acting on the crazy id impulses of your dreams!) and that Michigan would yank The Realests and put in its actual starting quarterback and run actual plays. But all I found over there was my father. We crabbed about the playcalling and looked on dolorously, waiting for lightning to strike and for Michigan to blow it.
Eventually it rained.
If respected Rocky Mountain News columnist Paul Campos can let our mutual acquaintance JJ write entire columns, I can yank the most perfect metaphor ever for what Michigan football seems to be in 2007: a unit of Redcoats in the Revolutionary war walking down the road in a block, getting picked off on all sides by guerrilla fighters. They drink tea and think "by crumbs, these chaps will never make it in a real war" and feel superior to the elusive guys who are cutting them down by the dozens.
And, of course, we won. By a seemingly comfortable score, even. No doubt this will be chalked up in certain Pravda-esque circles as grumble grumble BLOGS(!) grumble downfall of public politeness grumble internets bleah. Michigan won by twelve points and the nuts on the internet are livid. See how unreasonable they are. But it's not the nuts on the internet who inserted Chad Henne for the first drive of the game, watched him score a touchdown -- albeit one aided by a fortunate fourth-down facemask call not relevant to the play -- then sat him on the bench and ran Mike Hart zone left for two yards for the rest of the first half. Against a team that let Duke's quarterback -- who plays for Duke, which is Duke, people, friggin' goddamned Duke -- do this:
Northwestern stacked the line, leaving its corners on an island the entire first half, and Michigan called rock. Because eff you, that's why. The results: oops let's punt. Or miss chip shot field goals. They did this because they were playing Northwestern, nevermind that the Wildcats were clearly moving the ball up and down the field against Michigan -- over 300 yards in the first half alone -- and that Michigan had proven quite thoroughly that it couldn't stop the spread attack of a I-AA team. Nevermind that a play here and there and Michigan would have been facing a truly formidable halftime deficit against a team that lost to the above-mentioned Duke team. Nevermind that every time Ohio State threw it deep they scored a touchdown. Nevermind all that: throw rock. We will out-execute their paper.
We might forgive this outburst of stupidity if it was a one time thing, or something that Michigan might learn from. Obviously, it is not. Michigan arrogantly assumed its front six could stop a zone read play and sat in a cover two as Appalachian State shredded them for four first-half touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, a slightly dinged Mike Hart watched Brandon Minor take 13 handoffs for 3.8 yards per carry -- Hart would finish at 6.2 even if you completely remove his 54-yard touchdown run that briefly gave Michigan the lead -- and lose a fumble despite Michigan still trailing a I-AA team. The vast stubbornness, arrogance, and outright stupidity of Michigan's coaching staff led to the most embarrassing loss in college football history... and three weeks later they let a virtually identical script play out. They will never learn. They will always play football like it's 1978 and Northwestern's starting a 190 pound defensive tackle. And it will cost us. It already has, dearly.
To reiterate, to be as clear as possible: there is no excuse for what happened yesterday. Pulling Chad Henne when he was clearly healthy enough to play and telling Ryan Mallett to hand it off time and again into a stacked line -- no, I don't buy that Mallett's just failing to check off into pass plays; even a freshman can count to eight (or nine) -- when that was clearly not working turned a game that Michigan should
win 90% of the time into a game it wins 50% of the time. Michigan's failure to take advantage of the nation's 114th-ranked pass defense is criminally negligent coaching of the sort that led to Michigan's loss to Appalachian State. The historical record is clear: Michigan does this all the time. Lloyd Carr should be extended a hearty handshake at the end of the year and given a gold watch whether he wants it or not, and Mike Debord should be the next head coach of a North Korean Pop Warner team because it's still 1972 in North Korea.
Bullets that we are specifically not aiming at anyone in particular because violence is wrong, man.
- This was my first trip to a Northwestern game; it was worth returning. We drove to a lot maybe ten minutes from the stadium on Lake Michigan, parked there for free, and were surrounded by Michigan fans, some of whom were making bratwurst wrapped in bacon. Nice. Also, Tyler Ecker was there, as was Hot Dog Man. (Hot Dog Man? Hot Dog Man.) I managed to not spend the hour before the game screaming "why didn't you pitch the ball?" until I got cold-cocked, so I've got that going for me.
- Everything at Northwestern is named: the press box, the locker rooms, the weight room, the ring of honor, some terrace. I was busy looking for Stewart F. Mandel Pole, but there doesn't appear to be one.
- It must be really frustrating to be a Northwestern fan and to have fewer than half the fans at "home" games against Michigan.
- Did Michigan miss either of its starting linebackers at all? Maybe Thompson, as there were a lot of gashing runs in the first half, but there didn't appear to be a dropoff from Graham. And where is Jonas Mouton? This has gone on too long for a little ankle sprain. Brandon Logan was his replacement.
- A Brandon Harrison blitz worked. Me == stunned. It came from the backside, so Bacher couldn't side-step it.
- Yeah, Jason Gingell is officially not a good kicker. What happened to KC Lopata?
- Another hideously frustrating thing: as soon as it looked like there was even a chance at a field goal for the lead, Michigan went back into its caveman offense. Third and long after two running plays led to a bullet Henne post for a touchdown. We scored almost in spite of ourselves.
- The zone game is showing serious flaws in year two. We have no play action that isn't a waggle and precious little in the way of available misdirection.
- We do have some, though. Where was the TE-pull thing?
- This was another log for the "Lloyd Carr always coaches like he has a killer defense and a pounding ground game no matter the facts on the ground" theory.
- Pregame prediction: 27-17. Final score: 28-16. Oh, how I wish I wasn't right about that.
- Maybe we could cut down on the spleen in the comments? There was righteous complaining all weekend, which is fine and something heavily featured above, but we can just assume that anyone defending the coaching staff is an Ohio State plant, ignore them, and keep it constructive... maybe?
Hopefully this goes better than The Horror.
Re: sopcast. Sorry, guys. I could not find one already listed. Maybe someone in the comments can help.
I will be attending the game, then crashing in Chicago for the night, so content this weekend is unlikely.
Run Offense vs. Northwestern
This should be a replay of the first three games, not the ten-yarders interspersed with lost yardage that Penn State was. Northwestern is currently a respectable 55th in rushing defense but has played Northeastern, Nevada, and Duke to go along with Ohio State. Chris Wells went for 100 yards on just twelve carries before getting sent to the bench with Ohio State up like 400 points, leaving disappointing Maurice Wells -- Ohio State should not recruit running backs named "Maurice" -- and Antonio Henton to flail into the line and bring down OSU's average. Though Penn State had a lot of success at shooting into the backfield, that requires a lot of huge agile guys. Northwestern does not have these guys.
One potential downer: Tim MacAvoy, the third string right guard, will start this game.
Key Matchup: Mike Massey versus whoever. Block someone, kid!
Pass Offense vs. Penn State
Mallett or Henne? It probably won't matter as Michigan hands off time and again, but whoever it is is likely to have major opportunities to pad some stats. Consider the following QB lines:
- 11 of 14 for 179 yards and 4 TDs.
- 19 of 23 for 246 yards and 3 TDs.
- 22-36 for 337 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 interception.
Now consider one of these quarterbacks (the second) plays for Duke and... like... wow. The Wildcat secondary is playing Oregon every week, and now they're down starting safety Branden Smith. Northwestern is 114th in pass efficiency defense. It could get ugly if Michigan chooses to balance their offense.
They won't, of course. Throwing on first down will happen a quarter to a third of the time, Mallett will be kept away from sharp objects, and Michigan will be content to have its quarterback finish with 20 attempts.
Key Matchup: Mike Debord versus spectacle.
Run Defense vs. Northwestern
The absence of Hart-like mighty mite Tyrell Sutton helps assuage fears that Northwestern's run-based spread option will slice and dice Michigan's defense in a fashion reminiscent of The Horror. Sutton's replacments are not even close to the little adorable bastard's level of play. The results have been good (204 yards on 26 carries versus Nevada), bad (3.8 YPC for Brandon Roberson, Sutton's replacement, against Duke(!)), and ugly (61 yards on 33 rushes versus Ohio State). I think we can safely say Michigan's run defense is not Ohio State caliber, but... uh... probably better than Duke. If they aren't, it's time to sound the alarm and dive, dive, dive, because it would mean Michigan is truly irredeemable against the zone read with Purdue and Illinois fast approaching.
Key Matchup: CGraham and Thompson against whatever the hell they were doing in the first couple games.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern
After what was probably the worst performance by a secondary in Michigan history, the defense bounced back with strong efforts against Jimmah Clausen and Anthony Morelli. Caveat emptor, though, given the lack of talent and intelligence evident in both. (Many will blame Clausen's performance on a leaky Irish OL and while said OL is not particularly good, many of Michigan's sacks were solidly on Clausen's inability to find anyone to throw to at all.) CJ Bacher does not come with guru-approved talent but I kind of like the kid. However, statistics do not. In the past two weeks he's thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns, though he did rack up a lot of yards versus Duke.
Meanwhile, a lot of Nittany Lion receivers found themselves open last week to no avail, and Michigan is still starting two questionable veterans and a true freshman at corner. This will not be a slam-dunk shutout. Northwestern's game is all short stuff that relies on receivers picking up yards after the catch, which should help neutralize a pass rush that has been fierce against charitable lines the past couple weeks. And our corners, well... dodgy tackling, IMO. Northwestern probably lacks the ability to execute consistently enough to shred Michigan, but a dominant performance is not coming.
Key Matchup: Cornerbacks and tackling. Trent has been good so far this year. Warren has not; Brandon Harrison has a history of taking poor angles and allowing YAC. Northwestern lives and dies on YAC... this is kind of bad matchup.
Northwestern has a decent punter, a kickoff return touchdown, a decent kicker but hasn't shown that their special teams units can be a real asset. Meanwhile, Zoltan Mesko spent the week booming 36-yard fair catch specials that prevented Derrick Williams from getting even one return and dropping balls inside the five that should have been downed. He's been outstanding. Michigan's return units have been mediocre and the kicker missed a 29-yard field goal, though.
Key Matchup: Eh... this does not seem to be a point of major concern this game.
Sorry, but I love the punching cat thing to death.
- AAAAARGH SPREAD OPTION GASH
- For some reason we can't run the ball.
- See "AAAAARGH SPREAD OPTION GASH".
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Clever zone left stuff goes for 8 a pop.
- BGraham continues his ascension.
- Henne starts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You Lost To Duke, +1 for Uh, We Lost To Appalachian State, -1 for Then You Let OSU Put Up A 50-Spot, +1 for Uh.... Right, Oregon, -1 for Technically A Road Game But Dollars To Donuts Michigan Fans Outnumber Wildcat Fans, -1 for Stewart Mandel is Your Fault and God Will Punish You).
Desperate need to win level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Oh God, The Dashed Hopes, +1 for Mike Hart, Man, Mike Hart, -1 for But Then We're Seriously Going Outside The Program, +1 for Wide Open Big Ten Means Potential Rose Bowl, -1 for ...Where We Might Well Play Oregon.)
Loss will cause me to... drive into Lake Michigan.
Win will cause me to... concoct crazy justifications as to why this means we can totally stop Purdue's offense.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Northwestern appears to be really, really bad this year, but I still believe the Michigan defense is vulnerable to all sorts of things like non-inept quarterbacks. Bacher may or may not be one of these, but he'd be hard-pressed to play as crappily as either of our foes the last two weeks. Northwestern will move the ball some. Their defense will get knocked over by a feather, but Michigan's reliance on pounding the ball time and again will put them in constant third down situations, many of which they will convert but many of which they will not. Think of it as Penn State light: many drives that pick up a chunk of yards but end somewhere short of the endzone. The end result should be a comfortable but disappointingly close win; if ill fortune intervenes this could be close well into the second half.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Manningham finally catches a deep ball.
- Our defense gives everyone the heebie-jeebies.
- 27-17, Michigan.
I was just wondering if you could shed some light on something for me: it seems pretty clear (at least from the remarks of most SEC bloggers) that Les Miles is regarded as a less than stellar coaching prospect. Aside from the obvious lack of restraint in press conferences (and running his mouth in general), what exactly is it that makes people think that he is a lackluster coach? His teams perform well in a brutal conference, he is working (somewhat) with his own recruits, and his playcalling seems inventive enough, what am I missing?
I think it's the perception that LSU is an unstoppable juggernaut that can only be held back by its coach. It is the proverbial gorilla with a chainsaw for a penis and any loss cannot be the work of anything but gross incompetence on the part of its coaching staff. When LSU has gacked up games it has been in remarkably undisciplined fashion. Last year's Florida loss, which featured six turnovers, is the grand bull-moose in this category, and it was a doozy. There was also that instance in which Les Miles took a timeout late in a game after LSU was the beneficiary of a turnover. Which, uh... you don't have to do. (This was not in 2006, the year of stupid clock rules.)
And then there is the other bit. This whole Les Miles-"Loose Morals" thing has been a fascinating exercise in the propagation of information in the Internet age. So a few months ago I put up a post titled "Les Miles Isn't A Candidate For Anything" in response to a Jim Carty blog post naming him the frontrunner. A large part of my thinking was based on the rumblings of certain insiders on the premium message boards of Rivals and Scout. But... uh... perhaps these are not the least biased individuals in the world when it comes to potential new coaches at Michigan? Insiders are insiders because they have contacts on the current staff. These are friends of people who have had their jobs come under threat by the prospect of change, and they're terrified of Miles coming in and cleaning house. The idea of Cam Cameron (before he was named the Dolphins' head coach) or Mike Trgovic coming in was similarly panned.
Miles got it harder than most. Why? Well, this fits neatly within the realm of unsubstantiated internet rumor (appropriate since the allegations against him are mostly in that realm as well), but said rumor goes that Miles started sniffing around the job a few years ago and this was met with extreme displeasure. Thus the rip jobs. Do they have some truth to them? Perhaps, but Miles hasn't exactly been dogged by NCAA investigators. I think I may have taken the bait earlier; now I am skeptical.
I have warmed to Miles recently because the accusations of coaching impropriety only go so far when you 1) hire Bo Pelini as your defensive coordinator 2) hire Jimbo Fisher as your offensive coordinator, and 3) replace the departed Fisher with Gary Crowton. Miles seems content to hire highly respected coordinators and act as a Mark Richt-like CEO. Whatever flaws he has are mitigated by his willingness to hire the best people available as assistants. This is slightly different than Michigan's current strategy.
There are still concerns: the loony bin he left at Okie State, "we have a new rival in fucking Alabama," and the apparent bad blood between Miles and the existing staff. All these things will be hurdles, and if Carr leads Michigan to a win against OSU and a bowl victory he'll have pull no one thought possible two weeks ago when 7-5 looked like a unicorn dream. But I think that's something that might pull Michigan towards other candiates and not an automatic DQ any more. Given the widely-held opinion that Miles is Michigan's for the asking, any clearly less attractive candidates will be hard to consider seriously.
Speaking of Cam...
Is it crazy to suggest that Cam Cameron could be an option? The Dolphins now appear to be a college powerhouse feeder and he has obvious ties to Michigan. I would say it's a long shot, but don't you think we'll at least make a run at him? He's the antithesis of Carr in terms of play calling.
Highly unlikely, IMO. Part of the reason Saban left is that he was under a lot of pressure at Miami for not being good and was likely on his way out in a season or two anyway. Cameron is in his first year as an NFL head coach. If Michigan was really going to shell out enough to pry him away from that, they should be making a serious run at guys like Tedford. This is also the big strike against Ferentz: for the money it would take to get him, Michigan could make a run at virtually anyone in the country.
I have a question about the future of Coach Carr. I'm reading all over the place that our recruits, Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith, Christian Wilson etc. have been assured by the coaching staff 100% that Lloyd Carr will be coaching next year. However it seems to be a universal feeling everywhere else that this is definitely his last year, even if he wins out. My question is what gives?
I mean I know you can't announce that this is the last year because it will be a distraction all season.....but assuring these kids that you will be there, and then leaving, can make for a ugly situation come February 6th (or whenever signing day is) Thoughts?
I've read stuff like this, too, and also read things that make it sound like Carr's retirement is a slam-dunk A-1 #1 done deal. So, I don't know. The things being said to the recruits probably focus on the assistant's contracts, which are apparently all guaranteed for another year, and that Carr will have a role in the athletic department after he steps down. He will still be around. This might seem something less than convincing, and for some it is: Boubacar Cissoko is visiting Illinois this weekend.
But this happens to every school that goes through a coaching transition. Michigan will probably lose a couple recruits when/if Carr announces he's stepping down. As long as that happens significantly before Signing Day and Michigan has a coach in place shortly, things should be okay. Not great; okay.
Update: commenters report that the Cissoko visit is off, so that's good. But there have been quotes to the effect that if Carr and/or English leaves he's no longer a commit. The general point stands.
At various points during the Oregon game, I was shocked by the booing; but then I was humbled. I hadn't stopped to consider how many Michigan fans are living their lives undefeated. I've never booed our team, but that's probably because I screw up one thing or another on a pretty regular basis, and it doesn't seem fair to pretend that I don't. But there I was in Section 4 last week surrounded by people who apparently aren't much like me. Imagine having gotten all A's, being Valedictorian, playing only on undefeated teams, never making a throwing error, never tripping, never clanking a lay up, blocking all the shots, always being in the fairway, interviewing for the only job you want and getting it, getting every promotion, always receiving the largest pay increases, marrying the prettiest girl in town (who loves you dearly), having perfect kids, never getting a traffic ticket.......the mind soars.
I hadn't thought I was sitting among so many people who live in an
other dimension. Who knew? I'm not going to get mad at people who boo the Wolverines any more, now that I've figured them out. We can only hope that Coach Carr and the players think this through as well. As hard as the team works every week to prepare to play â€“ to do their jobs â€“ in front of 110,000 live witnesses plus millions more who can examine every faux pas on slow motion instant replay, they have to accept the fact that they are doing all of this for the entertainment of at least some people who believe they are working even harder and doing what they do perfectly.
Maybe at the Notre Dame game, if it's going badly, I'll sit in my seat backward â€“ not because I'm turning away from the team but because there may still be an opportunity in the stadium to observe perfection.
Hurray for stuff getting lost in my inbox. Anyway, this missive on the Oregon booing was apropos at the time. Personally, I prefer a stony silence. Booing is so gauche.
A response to the Victors query:
In response to the question about other versions of the Victors, here's what I can tell you:
- Hoover Street Rag â€“ This is a 'rag time' version of the Victors that gets played periodically in the stands and in concerts
- Calyptors â€“ This is an old take on the song with a calypso theme to it. They don't play it often, though it is a fun and complex arrangement.
- Victors Waltz â€“ At the conclusion of a Michigan victory you'll notice the band swaying back and forth as they play a slow version of the Victors. They then break into the regular song. This version originated in the late 1990's.
I think there might be another version or two from eons ago if you dig around on some of the old tapes or CDs that you can pick up at M-Den or other stores.
There was also, uh... this:
File under obscure requests:
Today's wacky Mail Bag (9/25/07) made me decide to send an email.
My question: I would love to change to look of my motorcycle helmet(s) so that they resemble the Michigan football helmet. Are those stickers available to the public? Would you happen to know where to source them? Even some very close pictures of an actual UM helmet would help.
Any help out there?
|O42||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Penn State in their base set here and in man cover one. Corners are playing soft... this is an opportunity for an easy slant or something. Instead, run it into a stacked front. We shuffle the fullback; Dan Connor immediately steps over and starts towards the LOS even before the ball is snapped. Boren(-1) is the main problem here, getting blown back by the DT over him. With a guy in the backfield and linebackers all over the second level there's nowhere to go.|
|O41||2||9||Ace Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Penn State showing a two-deep zone with soft coverage. Mike Massey(-1) is shoved two yards backwards by one of PSU's undersized DEs, forcing Hart to cut up behind him. The rest of the blocking is actually pretty good; I think Hart screws up his cut here. If he wanted to dart outside he could have probably outrun a defensive tackle and maybe picked up a nice gain. As it is he burrows for four behind his linemen.|
|Embarrassing whiff on a blitz pickup by Massey(-2) leaves Hart attempting to block two guys. This does not work. Mallett's real short read, Matthews, has run himself into coverage and there's nowhere to go; sack. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Massey.)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 10 min 1st Q. Mesko drops this inside the ten; Stevie Brown misjudges it badly. Oh... and can we make Carson Butler the starting tight end, please? What is it with Lloyd and guys named Massey?|
|O10||1||G||I-Form Twins||Pass||0||Manningham||Slip screen|
|Mallett throws this behind Manningham slightly, forcing him to delay and robbing this play of the timing it needs to succeed. (IN, 3, protection N/A).|
|Well, it's a touchdown. Mallett said he should have thrown this in the postgame, so... (BR, 0, protection 2/2). I am so mean. Should be noted that Massey(+1) gets a key block here.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q.|
|Boren and Mitchell cannot move the DT â€“ think it's Ogbu â€“ and there is no second-level block. Hart cuts behind here and up unto a couple of unblocked linebackers. Excellent job by Mitchell(+1) to seal the other DT, giving Hart enough of a crease to pick up a few.|
|M6||2||7||Ace Twins||Run||11||Minor||Zone left|
|Excellent job by Butler to turn the DE out â€“ PSU is undershifted here for more of a 5-2 look. Kraus does a great job on the DT, getting a little help from Boren late, and Long is free to go out and engulf Lee. Minor darts through an open left side.|
|Motion into a twins look. Butler is wide open off the waggle action, catches it a few yards downfield, and turns it up, making a tackler miss in the process. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|Neither Boren(-1) nor Schilling(-1) can get his guy blocked here; they meet Hart in the backfield and snow him under in tandem. Massey's block is also pretty crappy.|
|Thrown well behind Manningham, so much so that it actually hits King in the chest. Was there if accurate. (IN, 0, protection 2/2). This route had all of two guys in it, BTW.|
|Excellent blitz pickup from Hart. Mallet has plenty of time, can't find anyone, and scrambles out of the pocket. (TA, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 2 min 1st Q. An important couple of first downs on this drive, one of them on a wide open first down pass that we don't even bother trying again all day. But Mallett is pretty shaky so far. I think I am reconsidering my playcalling complaints.|
|We start with Arrington in the backfield; he motions out. I wonder what the point of this is? Mallett throws a slant; King interferes. (CA, 0, protection 1/1) Toney Clemons(-1) lines up on the line, making Massey an ineligible receiver. Also he is wide, wide open on a simple stop route.|
|M31||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||13||Hart||Zone left|
|Overshift from Penn State has an extra linebacker to the playside, but for some reason he darts inside the defensive end, allowiing Butler to ignore him and block Lee; the outside is wide open. Nice downfield block from Arrington. Long(+1) seals with authority.|
|M44||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||0||Hart||Zone right|
|Ogbu, slanting hard, splits Mitchell(-1) and Boren(-1). He ends up falling all over himself but Hart runs right into him and goes down. Play is otherwise well blocked and would have been a good gain.|
|Again with the Arrington motioning out of the backfield. The pass is batted down by a blitzer; it wasn't going for anything anyway as Mallett stared the route down. Three or four even if completed. (BA, 0, protection 0/1). Manningham open on a slant on the other side of the field.|
|A badass throw on a rope between two guys that Brett Favre would be pleased with. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Buried in the backfield as seemingly no one gets a block. Boren and Mitchell most prominently, Butler as well. I have always hated this playcall, even when it works.|
atted away; dangerously close to a pick. Mallett starts off by looking at Manningham but I get the feeling this is a decoy and not a real read for him. He comes off to Butler, who ran down the sideline for seven or so yards, then cut into zone coverage. The trick: Arrington ran right into the DB, kinda-sorta-blocking him momentarily, then released. Mallett was probably late with this ball. (BR, 1, protection 2/2)
|O42||3||14||Ace 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Hart||Insane flip thing|
|Blitz is momentarily picked up very well until Kraus(-1) lets Connor spin free and nearly sack Mallett. The only thing preventing said sack: Mallett sort of insanely flipping the ball towards Hart to avoid the sack. (TA, 0, protection 2/3, Kraus -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 14 min 2nd Q. Maguire says he'd be shocked if there weren't twice as many passes in this game as there are runs, which is insane if you consider who the coaches are.|
|Mallett has his pick of open tight ends and goes for the deeper one. This one is to Tacopants, who just caught a fairy touchdown for Penn State. Busy guy. (IN, 0, protection N/A)|
|Kraus flattens his guy and Boren stands up Connor; Hart splits the two linebackers and plows through for a nice gain.|
|M26||3||2||I-Form Big||Run||6||Hart||The Impossible|
|FB shuffle... we run away from it! Connor's so shocked that he falls down on the ground. Massey and Kraus seal a bunch of guys slanting the other way and Hart picks up a first down easily. Now debate amongst yourselves whether this play is worth tipping 20 others.|
|Pump fakes, then fires it in to Manningham past the sticks. (CA, 2, protection 2/2).|
|M44||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|No creases but excellent push from Kraus and Long turns this into a standard wad play for a few. Didn't see the start because of poor production.|
|Penn State slants opposide the direction of this play, shooting a defensive end past Schilling(-1) and screwing up the blocking such that Hart has to deal with the DE and an unblocked Connor two yadrs in the backfield. He manages to make this a positive two instead of a negative two.|
|Bump and run for the other two corners; Arringtons guy much softer. He just runs a little in route after Butler drives off the coverage. No reason for PSU to be playing this soft on third and short-ish, IMO. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O43||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||10||Hart||Zone left|
|Kraus(+1) in a tough position here, asked to block a DT lined up slightly playside of him. He's driven back a yard or two but manages to get his helmet across him and seal him before Hart gets to him. Butler kicks out the DE. Boren and Long are on the second level shoving linebackers back.|
|Mitchell(+1) impedes the backside DT, opening up a hole up the gut that could be a nice gainer except that Long's(-1) second level block is tetchy, defeated by Lee, and Hart ends up submarined after a few.|
|O30||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Minor||Zone right|
|Again PSU slants against the playside. This completely screws up any chance we have of getting a second level block; Connor fills unmolested. Mitchell is hurt on this play. Cuilla comes in.|
|Same playcall from PSU with DL slanting hard to one side as Connor comes around the backside on a blitz. This time they're caught out, though, as the draw allows the DL to run themselves out of the play and Connor gets picked out by Moudros. Result is gaping hole for Hart. (This is how hard PSU slanted: Jake Long ends up blocking the PSU DE where Boren started the play.)|
|Overshift to the pay side and PSU defends this more conventionally. Boren seals his guy to the inside but lets him slip past; he takes a dive at Hart's legs and nearly takes them out. But he doesn't and there's a hole. Zone block from Long and Kraus blows out the other DT; Butler(-1) completely whiffs his cut against the DE, who tracks Hart through the hole and brings him down from behind.|
|Minor heads right up the middle into an unblocked Connor. I have a major problem with this playcall. It's second and a yard and you're on the 11; this is a down on which you can take a shot at the endzone on a really safe route like a fade or try to pick up five or six so your first and goal is from the five and you can plausibly batter your way in.|
|O10||1||G||Ace Twins||Run||-2||Hart||Zone left|
|Arrington brought in motion to be an extra blocker; all he does is bring another defender, who he whiffs on, basically, as Ogbu gets serious penetration from behind and Hart is snowed under. Cuilla goes down; Mitchell comes back in.|
|Penn State is all over this one; Mallett just gets rid of it. (TA, 0)|
|Overthrown, possibly intentionally because Mathews had guys all around him. Could file his as BR, IN, or TA... uh. I'm sure the message was don't turn it over. A generous TA. (O, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(29), 7-3, 2 min 2nd Q. Ugh.|
|M27||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|Just before the snap PSU rushes a linebacker to the line outside of the tackle on the the playside; he's totally unblocked and in the backfield already. Meanwhile, the heavy slanting has gotten more PSU guys in the backfield; Hart has no chance.|
|Yeah... it's kind of sad that it's second and eleven with two minutes left in the first half and 1) Penn State still has seven guys in the box against this spread formation, 2) we still run against it, an
d 3) we run a freakin' draw when they're obviously expecting run. Connor is unblocked and ends the play near the LOS.
|Mallett rolls out past a crashing PSU DE, then finds Manningham wide open between levels in a zone. Excellent poise. (DO... for the scramble and playmaking, 3, protection 1/2, Schilling)|
|Batted at the line. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Arrington comes underneath zone coverage driven off by a deeper route, then fights for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|This is a much better place to run the draw. Six guys in the box, linebackers preparing zone drops and soft coverage behind it. Hart doesn't meet opposition until he's four yards downfield. Boren(+1) with an excellent block in the center of things.|
|Missed blitz pickup leads to a throw into the stands. (PR, 0, protection 1/3)|
|Hart stones Connor on a blitz; Mallett waits for Arrington to clear the DB in zone and rifles it in a small window. A little behind but catchable. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Excellent blitz pickup; Mallett finds an open Arrington... and misses him by a million yards. (IN, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Undercut by Seargeant; very nice play from him. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-3, EOH.|
|M33||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||9||Hart||Zone left|
|You can just see this is going to work on the snap. Penn State is in a base 4-3 that's actually shifted to the side away from the WRs; Michigan motions Butler over to them, balancing the TEs, and there's precious little adjustment from Penn State. Boren gets his head across the DT, allowing Kraus to get out to the second level immediately; Hart has a crease and space and a nice gain.|
|PSU more aggressive this time; Michigan can't seal the DT like on the last play. Hart cuts back behind the mess of the Boren/Mitchell double and a cut backside DE for three and the first down.|
|M46||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-3||Hart||Zone right|
|Ogbu shoots into the backfield past Boren(-1), and behind him. He should stop to wall him off but he's still doing that "I'm going to run next to you" block as Ogbu gets into the backfield for a TFL. Rest of the frontside was blocked very well.|
|M43||2||13||Ace Empty||Pass||Inc||Manningham||WR screen|
|Michigan does its usual thing where it motions a TE out to a pair of receivers on one side with an empty backfield; this is pretty much always a screen. Mallett short-hops it. (IN, 0) Butler(-1) was moving forward at the snap; declined.|
|PSU blitzes; Hart stones Connor again, but Schilling(-1) whiffs on his guy; Mallett scrambles out of big trouble and dumps it off to Massey. About as well as he could have done given the situation. (CA, 3, protection 1/3, Schilling -2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Near identical setup to the first, successful run on the previous series, but #91 for PSU dominates his Boren-Kraus double team(-1 each) and blows this play up before it can even get started. I checked: this is Jared Odrick. (NOT Dan Connor, TV persons.)|
|M35||2||12||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|Schilling(-2) gets beaten badly, badly by the defensive end.|
|Mallett right on the money a yard or two short of the sticks. Arrington hesitates and cannot stretch for the first down; punty time. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|So, this is one of the playcalls that really bothers me. Penn State has a true, no BS eight in the box with one deep safety and the corners playing eight yards off the LOS. A quick hitch or an out to Arrington or even a long handoff is open here, simple throws against this sort of stuff. We go with the day's first zone counter play, but there's no fricking way Hart can get to the backside because Ogbu has blown past MacAvoy(-1) and well into the backfield. So he goes up the frontside, where somewhat miraculously there's a tiny wedge he can fit through for like three yards.|
|Linebacker runs up into the hole between Long and Kraus, but this is going outside, so he's just run himself into a really easy block for butler. Long(+1) seals his guy and there's no one to the outside. Hart powers through Scirrotto impressively to finish.|
|Frontside all jammed up. As Hart cuts back Schilling(-1) loses his block and his guy sticks Hart for a small gain.|
|Kraus(-2) humiliatingly discarded by Chris Baker and attacked in the backfield. Baker can't tackle but the play's screwed up, as you might imagine. He turns it into two.|
|Wide open; Mallett's throw is a little high and hard but catchable. A
rrington brings it in. (CA-, 2, protection 2/2)
|Aw, come on, Ryan. This is the fifth one in two and a half games.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-3, 4 min 3rd Q.|
|Arrington motions across the formation into a twins look; Mallett fakes the zone but Maybin is out on him quickly. Butler is covered short, and there doesn't appear to be anyone open. Mallett sort of runs up into Butler; two guys converge to sack. Should have thrown this away. (TA, 0.)|
|A dead simple stop route that Manningham catches three yards downfield without a guy between him and the first down marker. This stuff was open all day, as PSU tipped three-deep coverage more often than not. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Manningham gets some nice YAC.|
|Exact same play to the opposite side of the field, as Penn State tips three-deep again with a corner ten yards off the LOS. (CA, 3 protection 1/1)|
|O48||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||7||Hart||Zone left|
|Penn State again gets superior penetration on the frontside, causing Hart to cut back. Since we're in a balanced formation we have a TE to block the backside LB â€“ PSU in a 5-2 look â€“ and Schilling(+1) walls off his DE. Hart cuts behind the penetrating DT and goes outside of Schilling's block; Connor is caught up in the mess. Something similar happened on a previous drive but Schilling lost his guy. Hart stiffarms his way for a nice gain.|
|PSU's LB blitzes on the backside right into this. To his credit, he reads it well, but Manningham manages to get around him and turn this into a small gain.|
|Mathews open on the out; Mallett throws it to Tacopants. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Penn State's DL slants into some trouble here. Massey is lined up well off the LOS over Long and pulls around to act as a fullback. To his credit, he really thumps Connor and makes a crease between him and a double on a DT from two OL. (+1 Massey)|
|O28||3||In||Ace Twins||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|Odrick again gets penetration past Kraus(-1) â€“ we are having major problems with PSU DL swimming past our OL â€“ but can't grab Hart's legs. There's a hole created by the DL's penetration. Hart moves up into it, smartly cutting behind a linebacker getting shoved downfield by Moundros; Connor also caught up in the wash.|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|We set up with both TEs to the wide side of the field, bringing Butler in motion short. They remain shifted to the wide side of the field. This time Boren(+1) manages to get Odrick under control; Long kicks out the DE as Butler and Kraus head to the second level. Kraus gets a decent block on Lee; Arrington's guy disconnects downfield to tackle.|
|O12||2||2||Ace Twins||Run||-3||Hart||Zone left|
|Exact same formation, motion, and play, except this time PSU is loaded up to stop it with an eighth guy in the box and shifted towards the playside. They slant hard; Baker beats Boren and with the frontside jammed up Hart's delay means a TFL. Virtually no one got blocked on this play.|
|Arrington looked criminally open from my seats, but maybe he wasn't. Mallett stands in, waiting for Mathews to come underneath the zone; he does. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O6||1||10||Ace||Run||1||Hart||Outside zone left|
|This is pretty awful from Kraus. He gets blown back yards into the backfield, disrupting this play's timing. I think this was designed to go outside, but we'll never know. Hart manages to get a yard.|
|Penn State's in the backfield before this play even gets started. Both Massey(-1) and Long(-1) lose their guys instantly.|
|Clear contact after the ball is in the air; an obvious call. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Wad wad wad wad wad.|
|O1||2||G||Goal line||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|The "Lionized" run. All effort.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-6, 8 min 4th Q.|
|PSU lines up with a sizable gap between DT and DE on the playside that's supposed to be filled with a blitzing linebacker. Kraus(+1) takes his momentum and shoves him back as Boren and Long get their blocks; no linebacker support with the blitz and Hart is into the secondary.|
|Penn State crashes into this, getting a guy past Kraus(-1) into the backfield immediately; the frontside is overrun and Hart has nowhere to go.|
|PSU with an extra man in the box; we're obviously running; it's a draw. What? Schilling(-1) gets driven back yards by the defensive end, Hart has to orbit around him in the backfield. The rest of it is jammed up.|
|Mallett's to-and-fro pocket
scrambling thing; Mallett rolls out and finds Mathews open. Replay shows that no one was open at first. Excellent play (DO, 3, protection 3/3)
|Massey beaten by his guy, who closes and tackles near the LOS on an otherwise well-blocked play.|
|Michigan allows the DL to slant upfield as they pass block; there's a crease created by this. Moundros crashes into Connor's legs, which is only mildly effective. Hart's only option is to run up into the mess.|
|Interesting: PSU so committed to the run here that they have basically no deep safety with Scirotto moving up at the snap; if Mallett waits like two extra seconds he has Arrington wide open on a seam running free. But a completed slant for a first is good, too. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Schilling(-1) again blown backwards. Very tough game for him.|
|Connor stands up Moundros in the Long-Kraus gap and Hart's cutback is into a bunch of bodies.|
|Apparently ABC just decided not to show this. It was a swarmed zone left IIRC.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 1 min 4th Q.|
So, Mr Grumblypants, what about this playcalling stuff?
Well... after going over the tape I am less offended. Frequently Penn State was lined up in decently attractive fronts to run against and Michigan just couldn't execute its blocks. Also, Mallett was extremely shaky in the first half and was clearly an option not to be leaned on. Still, I question the lack of simple routes against Penn State's frequently-displayed three deep zone.
Also bothersome: two instances upon which Michigan found itself in second and very short in the redzone and declined to use the opportunity for anything other than a three-yard run. The one at the 11 was the biggest disappointment. If Michigan gets down to the five or something, pounding it into the endzone is a real possiblity. First and goal from the ten is basically a field goal attempt when you're running against this Penn State defense.
|Oregon - Henne||1||13||6||3||1||0||3|
|Oregon - Mallett||3||7||2||3||1||1||2|
|ND - Mallett||2||7||4||1||0||2||0|
|PSU - Mallett||3||12||6||3||6||1||2|
This is a seriously rough outing; things were seriously rougher in the first half. At one point I looked down and I was checking off a fifth IN and Mallett was like on 4 CAs, one of them generous. Kid was very shaky early aside from that ridiculous post dart to Arrington. In the second half, things improved greatly.
Special Mallettchart addendum as requested by some commenters:
I... wow. This has to be something of a coincidence, right? I am not a believer in Shotgun, the Curer of Ills, but my God that's stark.
Oh, and protection: 42/51, -3 Schilling, -2 Massey, -1 Kraus, -3 "team" on missed blitz pickups or a batted ball. More on Schilling and the blocking later. First, receiverchart:
An outstanding day. Anything that was catchable was caught.
What was the deal with all the Penn State defensive tackles all up in Mike Hart's grill?
One: Penn State appears to have an outstanding DT rotation. Though Michigan had played three very sketchy defenses to start the year, they were moving guys like Trevor Laws around like they were on skates. The Lions had guys overpowering Michigan players time and again. They're young but Penn State's defensive line was extremely impressive in the run game.
Two: I think PSU had a plan coming into the game that was high-risk, high-reward. Time and again Ogbu or Odrick would actually duck behind the OL firing out to one side or the other, engaging momentarily, then swimming behind the guy. This was one source of all that penetration. Sometimes it worked to the tune of a three yard TFL. If the DEs and linebackers did well enough to slow Hart at all, the DT coming from behind would crush him. However, when this did not happen the out of position DT would end up diving at Hart's legs and there was a major gap for him to exploit. Thus the infuriating pattern of Hart running for 13 or 9 or whatever alternating with three-yard losses that put Michigan behind the eight ball. Note the pattern above: hardly any three-and-outs for Michigan and a lot of first downs but there's always one series that starts out with Hart getting tackled for no gain or a loss and usually a punt that follows shortly thereafter.
Three: Steve Schilling and Justin Boren both had poor outings, Schilling moreso than Boren. This is not entirely unexpected in both's first start against class-A competition. Schilling got blown into the backfield multiple times, and though he maintained a few blocks nicely he was overall a liability.
Four: Mike Massey's not much of a blocker.
The end result was the most negative rushes in Hart's career. Hart lost 22 yards on various carries; his total for the entirety of last year was 39 yards.
So the PSU defensive plan was to bleed a couple first downs and play it safe until they could put Mallett in third and long?
Yes, and it worked. Penn State held Michigan to ten points, basically, if you discount the ten-yard touchdown drive and credit Michigan with the drive that ended in a Brabbs special 29 yard missed field goal. It was a good idea, and if they had any help from their offense it probably would have resulted in a win.
Is there anything we can do about this?
I don't know, man. I think Iowa employed a similar strategy to good effect last year until we started running what looked like intentional zone counters. Why didn't we go with some of that TE-pull stuff that worked so well the last couple weeks? We only ran it once and on that play it was blown up by DT penetration, then we went away from it entirely. Our single other misdirection play was the near-disastrous end-around that PSU was fortunate to blitz an aware defender into. Other than that, bupkis. The lack of misdirection seems a major problem with this run game against competition with guys who can slash into the backfield. See: the Rose Bowl, when Trojan NT Sedrick Ellis crushed Mike Hart over and over, and Iowa, when the undersized but slashing Iowa DL held Michigan down for a half and most of a game.
So what does it mean for Northwestern?
Given Northwestern's performance year to date, probably nothing. It does portend ill for the end of year matchup against OSU and Wisconsin and possibly the upcoming Illinois game. We'll have to find a way to combat PSU's strategy or there will be lots of stops and starts and punts.
This week's guest is Northwestern blog Lake The Posts, your one-stop shop for Wildcat bloggin. No chit chat this time, just a barrage of questions.
I kind of expected Northwestern to be their usual 6-6, 7-5 selves with a significant upset somewhere along the line. Then you lose to Duke and get housed by Ohio State. So... uh... what happened?
So did NU Nation. [Yikes... N_ Nation is not a good thing to call yourself around these parts. -ed] The Duke game exposed the fact that our much anticipated defense is really not much different than it has been for most of this decade - which is to say - not good. Those in the know here thought this unit was the best since '95 in terms of potential, but they simply haven't produced. Part of the problem has been from very conservative play-calling -- minimal blitzes and pressure packages. The Duke game scared all of us b/c we are very sensitive to "Dark Ages" (pre-95) references. When you are the holder of the all-time DI losing streak (which we STILL are at 34 games) and you play someone who has lost 22 straight the Lou Holtz in all of us gets scared of the karma and many predicted a tight game. The actual game was a result of poor game management - we actually took 3 points off the board in the FIRST half to go for a 4th and 3 and likewise went for TDs instead of the sure FGs in the second half that would have won the game.
The Ohio State game has sent the Purple mafia on a tirade thinking the 2 week stretch has diminished 12 years of respectable play. That is why this week's game is so big for us. Purple pride is on the line.
Were these losses fluky in any sense -- turnovers and rabbits tripping quarterbacks and so forth and so on -- or were they more indicative of systemic problems that will last the season?
No - that is the scary part. Duke beat us from start to finish and made our D look terrible in the process. We looked like a HS team against the Buckeyes. It was worse than the score indicated. The only "fluke" is that Tyrell Sutton, our best player, sat out both games due to an ankle injury and is questionable again this week. The difference between our program and yours is speed and depth. Sutton is the glue to the spread b/c he is the best receiving RB in the conference and there is a huge drop-off to our back-ups. The systemic issues are 1st half terrible play followed by 2nd half respectable play which leads to coaching questions. There are a lot of head scratchers about the validity of our coaching staff right now.
Michigan fans are always a little jumpy against the Wildcats because NU's run-based spread option has been successful in the past. And I'm not sure if you know this, but Michigan is rumored to have some slight issues with that sort of offense this year. Any chance Northwestern puts up 30? Is Bacher much of a runner?
Great question. With Sutton - yes. Without - not a chance. How good he'll be even if he plays is the big question. We are deep at WR, but have no gamebreakers. Our lone true stud (Andrew Brewer) is out for the year (see depth comment above). We truly spread the wealth and ding you to death with 5-7 yard passes. Bacher has shown that he is mobile, not like Juice Williams, but he has had several key runs (3 of 20+ in 4th quarters) when the game was on the line. We like Bacher, but he has been inconsistent - although part of the blame rests with the WRs who have been less than reliable.
It is not the Zak Kustok or Brett Basanez spread by any means. Bacher has only played 8 games and is just starting to develop the flow - that was until the last two weeks. Despite last week's debacle, he is third in the conference in passing. He always seems to make one or two bad decisions a game that lead to INTs. I like him though.
How is the offensive line? Michigan's overrun a couple of meh lines the last couple weeks... can NU avoid this fate?
Good not great. Our center, Trevor Rees, is the anchor, but all bets are off after last week's showing when OSU absolutely crushed us on the line giving Bacher zero time to find receivers. It was downright scary.
Ryan Mallett is likely to start, [Just IMO. -ed] which means Michigan will be running on most plays that don't start with "third" and end with something like "and sixteen". How is NU's young defensive line holding up? How did Beanie Wells do?
Our D-line was supposed to be the crowned jewel of the entire team. It has turned out to be the biggest disappointment. We rarely get penetration and have proven uncapable of not getting scorched in the secondary. We seem to faceguard and yet never know when the ball is arriving - it is a trend that has been with us for years and is infuriating. Beanie Wells ran at will against us. We tend to go "nice stop, nice stop...oops 20 yard run...nice stop nice stop....oops 30 yard pass".
What's the general opinion on Pat Fitzgerald? It seems too early to have anything definitive, but are there some positive indicators?
General opinion is hot seat -- already. I love the guy. His passion is unquestioned and who better to be at the helm than a smart guy who was the heart and soul of the team that turned around the program. Last year, everyone was in shellshock and chalked up a mulligan. Fitz inherited the reigns with 6 weeks til the first game, had a slew of new coaching staff and had the unenviable task of keeping assistants 20 years his elder part of the "team". General consensus is that he needs to get "his" guys in at the assistant spots and most people want to see D-coordinator Greg Colby gone. The players love to play for Fitz, but there is a major learning curve he's going through having jumped from LB coach to head coach. Bielema was groomed, Fitz was bodyslammed. It has been an extremely disappointing year to date, and the true test will be how we play in October. Attendance has been laughable. The MSU and Minnesota games are must wins after this weekend. No confidence in the program right now, but we're all trying to point to something positive. Grasping. Anything. We keep hitting rewind on the 2000 game.
Michigan 41 NU 14.
[Wow. I can't imagine Mallett-led Michigan putting up more than 30 on anyone with a pulse. -ed]
138... is the number of yards Mike Hart should max out at against Northwestern. Is this low for a team that is not particularly good? Perhaps. But there is a reason:
Hart is just 139 yards away from breaking the school's career rushing record.
Hopefully Michigan does not need Hart to exceed this number against the Wildcats -- dude also could use something of a break after 44 carries against Penn State -- and he can break the record at home.
Scotty 2 Hotty. The worm, in digital form:
This should end all debates about whether it was Hart or Manningham.
Michigan == sexxy. First, Essence highlighted Braylon Edwards and Dhani Jones as two of the three most do-able dudes (who are also awesome and charitable people) in the NFL. Now, Leon Hall stars in a Macy's ad campaign for something or another with Robert Palmer-esque chicks:
Hockey TV. The hockey schedule has been updated with television info; a whopping 24 of Michigan's regular season games will be televised on a huge variety of networks: CSTV, the BTN, Comcast Local, Fox Sports Detroit, and a couple of regional sports networks elsewhere: FSN North for the Icebreaker and one Boston U game on "CN8". Oddly, no ESPNU.
Moffatt(!). The commitment of 2010 forward Luke Moffatt was noted here with a WHL disclaimer, but Western College Hockey says that the Moffatts have changed their tune:
Shortly after the article ran, the Moffatt family said that the quotes pertaining to Luke's decision were said on Tuesday, and by Thursday, when he made his decision to commit to Michigan, he had completely made up his mind and was 100% committed to the NCAA route.
As always, there is a catch:
That sounds like good news for Michigan. Of course, a more cynical person might say that Moffatt's camp felt they lost bargaining power with Kelowna, and "playing the NCAA card" might be a way to gain more leverage. It certainly wouldn't be the first case of that. It should be interesting to watch this situation play out over the next couple of years.
More. Bob Miller took in the captains' practice and reports back:
Max Pacioretty was the player who stood out most in one day's observation. His size/skill combination should be very effective. Quick on his skates despite his size, he showed several nice moves and, ready for this, finished when he had the opportunity. Skates with very solid, balanced form. Quick to spot an opportunity and capitalize on it.
Also says he would not be surprised if Porter/Kolarik, Turnbull/Pacioretty, Rust/Hagelin, and Caporusso/Palushaj were duos that stayed together during the year as the third members rotate through. I'm a little wary of taking Pacioretty, a first round draft pick, and sticking him on a checking line.
Etc.: The Realests guarantee Les Miles is the guy; Band member collapses, is okay, hanging out with Lloyd; UFR-esque things spread to Iowa; Black Shoe Diaries had a nice trip to Ann Arbor, except for the game part; Drew Sharp doesn't even go to press conferences; MVictors has another killer post on Michigan history, this on the Joy Miller scandal of 1909; Braves & Birds rips into Mandel's stupid defense of the media circling the wagons on this Gundy thing.