10/13/2012 – Michigan 45, Illinois 0 – 4-2, 2-0 Big Ten
Six games into year two of the Hoke and Mattison defensive regime, Michigan stands 10th in total defense. Last year they finished 17th. The year before that they languished in the triple-digits, unsure of who they were, what they were doing, and how life was supposed to have any meaning. Now, they know.
The flow thing is no coincidence.
RYAN THE BARBARIAN
Yeah, you can use the advanced numbers to push the exact measure of Michigan's improvement to and fro—Michigan is 16th in S&P+ with FEI pending—but who cares? The exact magnitude of the improvement is difficult to measure in the same way an exploding volcano is. It is organized and has long hair and will hit you very hard. Volcanoes. Dig it.
Michigan has not quite swept across the steppes, burning all in its path yet. They're still waiting for a real test after they got run over in the opener and had to survive an option attack they were ill-prepared for. Since those two games they've played UMass, a Notre Dame team that seems to score 13-20 against any opponent more competent than Miami, Purdue, and Illinois. Competent quarterbacks have exited. Chaos reigns even before Michigan gets involved.
But but but, by whatever measures you care to look at Michigan is providing novel horrible experiences to the hapless in their path:
Illinois was held to under 150 yards of offense. In blowout losses against Arizona State and Penn State, the former without Scheelhaase, they racked up over 300 and scored. They neared 300 against Wisconsin last week.
Purdue's worst yardage output of the season was versus Michigan; they've played ND and Wisconsin.
Michigan held Notre Dame to under 250 yards, also their worst output of the season.
When life gives you lemonade stands, all you can do is pillage five-year-olds. Nickels in hand, Michigan faces a recent nemesis this weekend. They've got a real nice stand set up. Would be a shame if something happened to it.
It's mostly lemonade stands from here on out. Only two of Michigan's remaining six opponents squeeze into the top half of the total yardage rankings—Ohio State (34th) and Nebraska (12th). Hypothetical Big Ten Championship Game foe Wisconsin is cooling its heels at 87th. Thanks to the BIG TENNNNNN nature of the Big Ten, Michigan's defense can get along despite being rickety in parts.
Six weeks in it's getting hard to figure out what those rickety parts are. Kenny Demens has just spent three weeks attacking third and one with abandon and dropping into all the deep seams. He's been able to do that because the defensive tackles are keeping him clean. Raymon Taylor is being avoided by opponents who would rather go at JT Floyd. Craig Roh's move to strongside end has been successful beyond all reason.
We do know now what we hoped—maybe suspected—at the beginning of the year: the GERG to Greg turnaround was 10% fumble fluke, 90% sustainable development. I watch Michigan play defense and think about watching Greg Mattison get distracted by an endzone shot of his four DL making the exact same step on a particular cutup at a coaching clinic. The line moves with perfect choreography and Mattison's supposed to be talking about higher-level stuff but is simply incapable of looking at that beautiful synchronicity and not stopping to talk about it:
Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork.
The tape winds back and forth; Mattison beams like a proud father. He fumes at imaginary people who would not direct their weakside end to put his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him. He passes the geek test.
The same folks who made Will Heininger a key piece of a top 20 defense have reconstituted Michigan's defensive line from a converted OL, a five star at the bottom of the sea, and a 250-pound weakside end. When not battered by a once-in-a-generation outfit in Tuscaloosa, they've stoned everyone they've come up against*. That line is not where Michigan's going, but it's good enough to be amongst the best in the conference.
That is the brick on which Hoke's program is built. They will take whatever they've got and turn it into a well-oiled machine. Some years they will be undersized and coping well. Some years they will be rampant. The next ten years will feature an endless procession of mashing defenses. There will be one blip to the downside and two units that put Michigan in national championship contention.
Year in, year out, lemonade stands across the Midwest will burn. Toddlers in Elmo t-shirts will weep. Winged helmets will look on impassively, knowing what is best in life.
*[Air Force's success was not on the DL, at least not much.]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point of the week. Jake Ryan, come on down. Obviously. He's got a bullet down the page, but: 11 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and a number of plays made that didn't even show up on that statline.
Honorable mention: Denard Robinson (7/11, > 10 YPC, no turnovers), Patrick Omameh (seems to be destroying Akeem Spence on a few of Denard's long runs), Kenny Demens (INT, two third and short thumps), Greg Mattison (knows what is best in life).
Epic Double Point standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois) 2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass) 1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama)
I know, man.
My God, It's Made Of Funchess note of the week. From my vantage point in the stadium, I thought the play-action rollout that eventually turned into the Funchess touchdown had been defeated by coverage. I thought that Denard saw this too and was chunking the ball out of the endzone, which I was pleased with—WOO NO INTERCEPTION—as I saw the ball soar into the stands… at least the dance team… well past Devin Funchess's outstretched… oh.
Ace made this. ESC to stop it, unless you're on Chrome.
Wow. Is that legal? Should I clap now? Is touchdown? Is touchdown. Clap. Smile. Turn to wife and console her that the Illinois people are probably used to this anyway and she shouldn't feel bad for them because… um. Return to clapping, wait for day when Michigan throws more than 15 passes and Jim Mandich Watch returns.
norfleetwatch.hai guys here's this punt i should probably fair catch this syyyykkkkkkeeeee hey i'm going this way syyyyyyykkke I PUT OUT MY HAND AND YOU STOP BECAUSE I HAVE POWERS goodbye tackler goodbye tackler goodbye tackler hello sideline i am sorry i will never touch you sideline i just don't feel like that about you ZOOOOOOOOOOOOM wait wat is punter
wat is punter wat is
Kicking from the one. Michigan pooted in the shortest possible field goal late in the first quarter, which normally would have driven me bonkers. IMO that was a close enough call that I wasn't super peeved. The situation:
Denard is out so you've got a freshman at QB.
Barnum is out so you've got your 6'1" walkon at LG.
You've just been stuffed twice consecutively since Illinois knows you're not throwing, not least because…
It's a rainstorm that could easily degenerate into an MSU-Iowa-ish slopfest in which points are at a premium.
If an 18-yard field goal in the first quarter is ever going to be the right move, it's there. It was really hard to disentangle any emotions about the kick from the momentary dread experienced as I watched Michigan's season circle down the drain in an injury deluge, but before it was a laugher it seemed like the kind of game where the first team to 17 wins and the field goal is defensible.
This is an extension of my being fine with a similar chip shot field goal in last year's Illinois game; that one came later and extended Michigan's lead from 14 to a probably-insurmountable 17. Early in this game any points seemed like a good idea in case the skies truly opened up.
Not that it mattered, but this wouldn't be MGoBlog without minute dissection of every possible game theory decision.
Even if you didn't like the kick you should note with approval that Michigan tried to take their two-minute opportunity at the end of the half only to be foiled by a bad snap after they'd moved the ball 19 yards.
Never again. Hey, guys, we're past Annual Denard Versus Illinois Injury Scare, and this one was the best of all because Denard came back and Illinois scored no points anyway. High five.
Michigan has now survived half the season with only one major injury, that to Blake Countess. While Wormley and Brink being out strips Michigan of some of its DL depth, neither guy was playing much or projected to play much—hard to imagine Wormley being a major step up from Michigan's current three-tech/SDE production.
That's getting off relatively light. Anyone glancing at Iowa City or East Lansing will get quick confirmation of that. Brady Hoke poops magic, still going strong.
Everything is not a bubble screen. I got a half-dozen tweets after the Gallon touchdown about bubble screens, and I knew that there had been a disturbance in the force due to announcer incompetence. Watching the highlights, I found out: the PBP guy thinks any throw to a wide receiver behind the line of scrimmage is a bubble screen.
That's not true, obviously, and the Gallon touchdown was the Always Works Every Time Except That One Time Against Iowa throwback screen. That play has little to do with the various critiques leveled around here about the lack of edge pressure applied by the Borges spread. It works by getting the playside tackle out on the edge without blocking that DE, and that gets you a chunk of yards. Michigan's broke huge as Michigan picked up +++ downfield blocks from Schofield and Kwiatkowski:
Schofield got a piece of the safety 20 yards downfield. That's a throwback to his days as a guard and a reason Rodriguez was so hype on acquiring him. Michigan's OL can still get downfield like a boss.
Anyway, the throwback screen has been a strange disconnected bit of the offense that Borges pulls out once a game that picks up between 15 and 70 yards without fail except that one time against Iowa. It's always run from under center; it's obviously a pretty awesome play but it isn't yet anything more than a dime store novelty because the core of the offense remains spread.
Lewan injury scares. Taylor Lewan wasn't the first choice in warmups and again exited before the rest of the offensive line; a couple of people have mentioned to me that he seemed to have a limp as he went back to the locker room at half-time. This is fine, because Lewan is in fact powered by injury. Tom Gholston will rip his leg off, laugh evilly, and turn around only to be faced with a being of unimaginable power created by his very own hands.
PROTIP: let's not try to throw screens over that guy.
Fitz vs Rawls vs Hayes vs Norfleet fight. The Toussaint Job Threat watch is still on after his YPC was the worst of anyone who got more than one carry—and the guy who got that one carry also almost took a punt return 90-some yards.
Rawls has earned some more playing time—if he's not taking over short yardage duties posthaste I'll be surprised—and will be given an opportunity to take some chunk of the carries, but Fitz is going to remain the starter, I'd imagine. Michigan did hand it off to Rawls on an inverted veer, FWIW.
Rotation. Michigan had more of it in this game, especially one Pipkins:
That started early on Illinois's somewhat annoying early successes straight up the gut. I'll have to see what was going on there in the UFR; live it seemed like a thing that Michigan was not quite expecting but quickly got fixed. Think early Rodriguez offenses in the first half versus the second.
Moore return, maybe not so much. Brandon Moore was back and still apparently behind Kwiatkowski and Funchess, possibly also Williams. I saw him whiff a block badly on one of his limited snaps. I don't think he's getting much playing time back.
Everybody Hates Russell. It was bad enough that Michigan receivers reacted to Russell Bellomy's passes like they were radioactive, but does the media have to pile on? Daily:
Bellomy struggles in spotlight
Apparently the offense couldn’t move a single yard without Robinson under center, and the Wolverines settled for a field goal…
Fans’ expectations for the quarterback position could be a bit exaggerated because they’ve been spoiled by the exhilarating play of Robinson, but Bellomy didn’t do a great job of living up to any expectations in his brief role on Saturday.
On the following drive, he tossed a pair of incomplete passes — granted, the second was dropped by fifth-year wide receiver Roy Roundtree — before Michigan punted on a three-and-out.
Russell Bellomy wasn't exactly sparkling in mop up duty for Robinson. He took over with the ball inside the five in the second quarter, and couldn't get Michigan into the end zone. He also lost a fumbled snap in the second half.
Michigan's backup quarterback situation is shaky. Russell Bellomy struggled somewhat. He let a snap squirt right through his hands, and he completed just 1/3 passes. I'm not a huge fan of what I've seen out of Devin Gardner as a quarterback, and I do think Bellomy has potential down the road . . . but boy, does he look shaky right now. He wasn't helped out by his receivers, though, who had their hands on both incompletions; but Bellomy looks afraid to push the ball down the field, and he's not very crisp running the plays.
Come on guys, he handed off a couple times and threw a few passes that were dropped. Given the conditions, the fumbled snap is not a huge surprise—I file Bellomy's performance under incomplete.
Another lost shoe. An epidemic. This never happened before. What's the deal?
Roh pretty damn good. Two of Michigan's WDE's switched positions in the offseason, and that was pretty worrying. At least one of those seems to be working out pretty well: SDE Craig Roh. Check out Michigan's first third and short stop. Watch 88, the DE to the top of the screen:
Shift a step before snap to line up right over the TE, get under the TE, move upfield and pop the pulling guard. That's why Demens is free to tackle. That's a full point in UFR that doesn't show up at all in the box score, and Roh has been doing that consistently for the first six games. There's a stretch at 2:14 that's similar: Ryan gets a TFL because Roh beats his guy playside.
Also on that first play Jake Ryan pops his guy back and disengages to make that Demens tackle a matter of stopping an already-falling guy's momentum. Funny how Demens is a lot better now that he's not eating guys on a free release. Speaking of…
JAKE F RYAN. Ryan needs no explanation, and in this game he put up the kind of stat line that makes even distant observers sit up and take notice: 11 tackles, 7 solo, 3.5 TFLs, a sack and a half. He also got some of those Roh plays—the stuffed fourth and inches was Ryan getting the two-for-one with a slant under the tackle and letting Demens roar up into the hole untouched.
Repeat of all things previous about all Big Ten, verge of—the next two weeks will either solidify that or delay it.
A screen worked, to a running back and everything. That's an everything's coming up Milhouse moment.
Scheelhaase out. At least one team in the Big Ten is willing to remove a guy with a concussion. Terry Hawthorne didn't play, either. Objection from UV withdrawn.
Difference is that Michigan was up by a billion in a noncompetitive game, and they look to have about twice the people. Win for Michigan.
Yakety sax pending. THE KIDS ARE PLAYING THEIR TAILS OFF AND THE COACHES ARE SCREWING IT UP
FURMAN DESTROY. My only disappointment with the above highlight reel is that it leaves out a fifteen-yard penalty on Michigan, when Josh Furman went Fresno State on an Illinois punt returner. A personal reaction:
OHHHH HE'S GONNA LIGHT THAT GUY UP
/ball hits ground
That punt had ridiculous hangtime, is what I'm saying.
Damn you, Special K. Damn you. You know, you get through two full games without hearing the Dog Groomers play "In The Big House" and you think you're out of the woods and then they bring it back. False hope is worse than death.
After watching the Spartan fan-fail, I was curious to see how UofM's students would approach the game. Even though the weather was basically the same - rain - the stands looked full to me. There were a few who left the game in the 2nd half, but I'm sure if we would have gone to double OT, the stands would have been full. So even though State may have won the last four games in the series, they have a long way to go to match the University of Michigan on the field, in the classroom, and in the stands.
Also, ST3 goes to badminton practice. MICHIGAN MENZ.
Michigan State athletics programs have become pioneers in 21st-century teambuilding. Concerned about the rapid decline of face-to-face contact, MSU athletes have repeated come together, in large groups, to contact the faces of their fellow athletesand classmates.
As I mentioned a moment ago, I was lucky enough to play football, first on Ferry Field and then in the stadium. And I was lucky enough to start a few games in the football season of 1934–and that was quite a year. The Wolverines on that memorable occasion played Ohio State, and we lost 34 to 0. And to make it even worse, that was the year we lost seven out of eight of our scheduled games. But you know, what really hurt me the most was when my teammates voted me their most valuable player. I didn’t know whether to smile or sue. [Laughter]
It’s seems like a simple expectation but you forget, especially in the aftermath of the Alabama and Notre Dame games, that these coaches have a track record of making players better. You are seeing it. The defense confident and fun to watch and they’ve retooled the gameplan with Denard and it’s clearly working. I’ll take this stat line 24/7: 7-11, 2 TD, 0 INT.
If yesterday was a heavyweight title fight it was over in the first round. The only drama came when the champion hurt his hand because he was hitting the challenger's face too much. TKO Round 1 - UMass played harder in the Big House.
One thing we do know is the defense put in an amazing performance against Illinois. They were held to 3.3 yards per carry (with a standard deviation of 5.1 yards). These two stats indicate that not only did the D hold the Illini in check, but that they kept them from pulling off many big runs; in fact, Illinois only had one run of over ten yards all day, the Nathan Scheelhaase dash that knocked him out of the game. If you calculate the standard error about the mean, it's 0.14 yards, suggested that if U-M and Illinois face of again and again, Michigan would hold them to under 3.5 YPC again and again and again. That's consistency. That's dominance.
Al Borges continues to pare down his play calling to suit this team, and it has worked the past two weeks as Michigan has run for just under 330 yards per game and thrown the ball only 27 times total. The
In our last nine Big Ten games, we’ve scored 7, 14, 7, 14, 17, 7, 7, 14, and 0 points. 9.7 points per game. Has to be the worst such stretch since the 1970′s, right? We had huge offensive failings in 2005 and 2003 and 1997 and even 1993. But we’ve never had a stretch like this, have we? I mean, since the days of 0-0 ties with Northwestern and such in the 70′s. Can anyone remember anything this bad?
Less than two years ago, we scored 63 points at Michigan. With Nathan Scheelhaase at quarterback. How could we fall that far in 24 months? Yes, Michigan’s defense has improved tenfold over RichRod’s 2010 defense. But from 63 points to zero? How is that even possible?
Who picks these numbers? Is there a windowless room in the basement of the Junge Center, with a giagntic revolving lottery-thing, out of which they pick the day's attendance number?
Seating capacity in a filled Michigan Stadium is 109,901. The student sections (say, 26 to 34) were one-quarter empty at best, and I suppose "at best" is the number that the Athletic Department will go off.
It simply cannot be. Not even when you count the 75,000 concessionaires, ushers, security staff, MDen sales clerks and Alumni Band members who must have been part of Saturday's count.
I'm gonna crawl out on my very own limb and suggest that there were less than 100,000 people seated in the Stadium on Saturday. And you can argue about how many "others" might make up the rest of the attendance numbrs but remember that attendance for the UTL game was 114,000+, and there was not an empty seat in the house. So "extras" = @5,000, right? For a huge night game.
...or so they say (see Daily link in my reply below). Scanners are just looking for duplicate/counterfeit bar codes. But surely; a scanning system that is checking against a database for correct (not forged) UPC-type codes could also electronically count all tickets entering the Stadium. It almost seems deliberately phony; to not use an available electronic system to count whether Michigan is actually hosting "the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in America today..."
When they told us at the gate that the scanners were not working, I told Mrs. Lampjaw that I was suspicious because the weather and the game were expected to be lousy. (Wrong, apparently, in thinking that they used the scanners to count.) When the attendance was announced you could hear the crowd murmur, because no one believed it. I would prefer that they drop the bragging if it is so phoney. Maybe they could announce the fine print very rapidly, so you don't catch it.
And yeah, "attendance" has basically nothing to do with anything like 'how many people are actually in the stadium to watch the game.' Silly, I know.
Last Saturday was just a glaring example of how the methodology, such as it is, can produce a grand lie. The largest hypothetical crowd watching a game anywhere in our conceptual space.
[Edit.: btw, I don't recall Carl Grapentine actually using the 'largest crowd...anywhere in America' line last Saturday. Insted, he used the 'thank you for being part of the umpteenth consecutive game of over 100,000...' line. Which caused me to look and the half-empty student section and think, 'Wha...?']
When the attendance figure, by its own twisted little terms, doesn't involve the number of people "watching the game," but merely measures "tickets sold plus other staff and everybody we can think of." Nobody knows how many people are watching the game. Nobody is even counting that number.
I'll say; attendance throughout the rest of the Stadium looked light (it was light in Section 1 by most standards; every row around me was missing 3 or 4 usual attendees; very roughly, that is a 10% reduction), but not absymal. The student sections, however, by their general admission nature, looked abysmal. All of the vacancies stood out, in the upper rows.
The highest capacity stadium to host a collge football game on Saturday was the Rose Bowl(#7 in the country) out in Pasadena at 94,118. The schools 2-6 were either on a bye(Penn St), away(Tennessee, Alabama, OSU), or at a neutral site(Texas). So even if you take your claim that we were below 100k (which is ridiculous, but whatever), UCLA would have to have exceeded capacity by 5k+ (they only announced 66k) or the Red River shootout would have had to draw 7k+ more than their announced attendance to have eclipsed Michigan's number. Since every other sporting event counts attendance the same way UM does there are probably the same exaggerations present.
In conclusion, I feel confident I was part of The LARGEST CROWD watching a football game ANYWHERE in America on Saturday.
"At worst we failed at trying to do the right thing rather than succeed at doing the wrong thing.."
you need to go back to obsessing about 3 & Out Section... there were not - and can NEVER be - fewer than 100K in the House!
You see, as we finally dragged our soggy asses back downtown to a warm, dry bar, the PA thanked us for being part of, I believe he said, the 241st CONSECUTIVE crowd of over 100,00!
So you can see now where you HAVE to reassess your predicted head count, right Sect?!
Bashing the AD for undercutting RichRod is all well & fine for a predilection, but don't go shatting on us that spent over 3 hrs in a cold drizzle by suggesting WE were part of the crowd that broke that streak... kaykay?!
Bellomy did fine for what he was asked to do, but this offense will seriously suffer if Denard misses significant time. It's less about the passes (which were dropped) than his command of the offense. His footwork is sloppy at times, he fumbled a snap, he won't throw the ball downfield, etc. There aren't any playmakers in the backfield with Denard out of the game, and Bellomy won't be able to get the ball to the playmakers on the outside (Gardner, Roundtree, Funchess, etc.) unless they're just running simple, short routes. If Bellomy's in the game, I'm putting 8 or 9 guys in the box and daring him to beat me over the top; everything short is going to be shut down.
I don't think anyone will dispute that Bellomy is not as far along as a guy who's started 32 games (obviously), but some of the criticism seems unfair. How can you say that he "won't throw the ball downfield"? Was he supposed to on any of the plays called for him?
Lets not forget we called something like 17 passes all day.
I'd say "throw it a little past the sticks" was our passing gameplan.
First, Bellomy came in on the 2 yardline. It's hard to "push it downfield". Second, he came in during a rain storm. Third, he came in during mop up time, which is an odd time to "push it downfield". Fourth, we threw deep roughly 0.00000 times.
It doesn't matter that he didn't do it in this game. He never does it. Go back to the spring game and watch him throw a bunch of checkdowns. Watch the end of the Alabama game. Watch this game. If he has to throw it more than 7 yards downfield, he'll check it down or tuck and run.
Never mind. I will think the same thing everybody thinks.
RUSSELL BELLOMY IS AWESOME AT EVERYTHING!!! WHEEEE!!!!!!!!
He's just not very good right now. And that's okay. He's a redshirt freshman. He's not supposed to be awesome. But that doesn't mean it's pleasant to watch him running Michigan's offense. He needs more seasoning.
I still like Bellomy. I actually think he has the potential to be a solid starter. I gave him a TTB Rating of 74, and I said complimentary things about him when he was recruited. But most people assumed he was a project. His redshirt freshman season is one of his "project" years before he becomes a finished product. I'm not saying he has no future; I'm saying he hasn't reached it yet.
Michigan was on the Illinois 42 yard line and Bellomy threw a pass to Jerald Robinson along the left sideline at the 15 yardline, a 27 yard pass attempt. This didn't count as an attempt though, as Illinois was offsides.
This doesn't count as a downfield attempt in your book?
Illinois jumped offsides, and Bellomy knew that it was either going to be a penalty or he could get a long completion, maybe a touchdown. Some receivers/quarterbacks are trained to run deep routes when they see the defense jump offsides.
I've seen his high school highlight tape. I also saw Sam McGuffie leaping over people in high school, but that doesn't mean he was capable (or willing) of doing it in college. Kids in high school do things that they never accomplish in college.
Magnus, I typically agree with you on things (and typically disagree with chitown, no offense) but you're way off here. Bellomy threw one pass in his first game ever against Alabama. It was a pick, but you gotta throw it out, it wasn't even his fault.
Since then, he's gone in either to blow clock, or in a massive monsoon. Even in the rain yesterday, he looked pretty good, and would have done well had his receivers caught catchable balls, so you can chalk that up to rain. The long throw to Robinson was a solid pass as well, even though it was still in a downpour.
Basically, we haven't seen Bellomy play in a situation that wasn't either against the best defense ever or in a rain storm where his receivers were afraid of the ball. I'm not ready to annoint him yet, but I certainly don't have anything to say he's not a good player.