In the week leading up to this game, the recognition that I might have to scramble to watch the game started sinking in, for I live in the blue portion of the dreaded ABC Game Map. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I bought ESPN GamePlan and didn't have to worry about missing any Michigan games. Then, ABC and ESPN invented the reverse mirror concept, and I didn't even have to buy GamePlan. And more recently, the Big Ten Network has almost assured me of seeing every UofM game in Los Angeles, which is amazing considering UCLA and USC are rarely on the air out here. An hour before the game, I consulted MGoBlog and looked into this, "streaming" idea. We get Verizon, so I was able to log into ESPN3. Let's just say I prefer ESPN 8, the OCHO. I tried that for 10 minutes, and after a frustrating hodge-podge of HD, LD, and ND (no definition, i.e., the screen would freeze up) I went to ESPN Gameplan and tried to order the single day coverage for $26. Perhaps a million frustrated M fans joined me in clogging up the GamePlan system, because it wouldn't let me purchase the game, so I went back to ESPN3. There has to be a better way. After sitting through a near repeat of the Akron game, I'm glad I didn't spend $26 on that.
NOT HD. <cr>We looked good in game 1, but CMU was missing their QB and top RB. We looked good against ND, but it's looking more and more like that was just an upset, or maybe ND's not that good either. Game 3 and Game 4 were struggles. A third of the way through the season, I think it's fair to start drawing some conclusions. This is a young team that is making the kind of mistakes that young players make. The frustrating (there's that word again) thing for me is that the schedule sets up perfectly for this team to win a lot of games. We play 4 ranked teams, only one of them on the road. And that road game is a veritable home game in the friendly confines of Chicago. But it's clear so far that we're still at least a year away. I could be wrong, the line could gel during the bye week, the turnover problem could magically go away, the wide receivers could learn how to run deep routes, the special teams could learn how to get out of the way of a punt. There's just so much improvement that needs to be made to be competitive with the upper ranks of the Big Ten. But at least we're 4-0, right? Wait, we are 4-0. Someone please tell me we're 4-0. So why does MGoBlue.com have us at 3-1 in the boxscore. I know it sure feels that way. Here's a screen capture of the boxscore before they fix the error:
It is an error, right? Oh Lord did that game give me a hangover, and I didn't even drink anything...
Burst of Impetus
* Time for a bonus link
The story starts with a graph showing a scatter plot of winning percentage versus turnover margin. The line fit roughly goes through 100% and +2, and -100% and -2. In the fourth quarter, Michigan was staring at a -4 turnover margin. Desmond Morgan made a great play, I guess, my internet connection was bouncing back and forth between LD and ND when the play was made. He picked off the pass and returned the ball 29 yards. Michigan converted and grabbed the momentum. If I remember correctly, he played some QB in high school. He showed why on that INT return. Morgan is becoming the leader of that defense.
Captain Morgan's Crew
* First off, an explanation. I know Morgan's not a team captain, yet, but I suspect he will be. I also have been watching Bar Rescue marathons on the Spike network, and so I've seen many, many Captain Morgan's commercials.
* I had titled this section, "Young 98," as an allusion to Vince Young, but after another shaky performance, we're down to just "young 98." It's worth remembering that even though he is a senior, he still has not started a season's worth of games at QB.
* Gardner was 11-23 passing for 97 yards. He tossed two INTs and no TDs.
* Gardner gained 106 yards, YAY, but lost 42, for a net of 64. His first step under pressure is almost always away from the line of scrimmage. That is something we've seen since his early days. He needs a QB coach to break that habit and get him to step up into the pocket, if his O-Line can actually form one for him. (Why am I so grumpy? Oh, yeah, 24-21 vs. UCONN.)
* A week after I suggested they ditch the option play and simplify the system for Gardner, he executed a beautiful option pitch, leading to one of Toussaint's TDs. Yes, the universe has conspired to humble me yet again.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* Toussaint was THE running attack from the RB position, with 120 yards on 24 carries. He scored 2 TDs and had a long of 35 yards.
* TEAM's three carries matched the rest of the non-Toussaint/Gardner combined carries.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Nothing to see here, move along.
Norf and Dileo
* Dileo has taken over the punt return duties from Norfleet. America has a sad.
* I was hoping that was because they were going to involve Norfleet more in the offense. He did carry twice for 14 yards.
* I don't know if this team is lacking players, or lacking ways to get their playmakers involved. In the case of Norfleet and Dileo, I fear their talents are being wasted. That said, it's time for my new feature...
ST3's contrarian position of the week
* I think Borges actually called a good game. (/ducks) I think he's 3 for 4 so far this year, with the Akron game being the lone stinker. The problem with the Akron game is that it appeared he couldn't care less what kind of defense they were running. Let's go inside the boxscore on this game and look at the critical third down conversion stat. Michigan was 7 of 17, meanwhile, UCONN was 1 of 11. Let's look at some of the early third downs. On the second drive, we had 3rd and 1, and 3rd and 2. Gardner rushed for the first down on both plays. Later in the drive, on third and 12, Gardner ran again and ended up scoring our first TD. So my point is, Gardner rushing is one of our better (only? well, at least until Touss got untracked) options, and Borges dialed those up on the critical third down. Later in the game, he may have gone to the well once too many times, when we got stopped on 4th and 2, but if Devin had been more aggressive on that run, he would have made it. Then, after the Dileo punt return, with UCONN selling out against the Devin runs, Borges called a very safe pass play to Gallon on 3rd and 4. He had two WRs clear out the area for Gallon, who stopped just past the sticks. We eventually got down to the four, setting up Gibbons for a chip shot FG. Let's not forget that Gardner was 0 for 5 with an INT in the 2nd quarter. Had Borges continued to press the issue, Gardner might not have been able to recover to lead us in the 2nd half. Instead, Borges figured out what run plays were working, got Gardner back into somewhat of a comfort zone, and managed to get us a W in a game where we were -3 in TO margin.
* Is it too harsh of me to suggest that the ST coach might want to get his resume polished up?
* Fortunately for us, it was 4th and 7 when we ran into the kicker, not 4th and 5. The angle that Gedeon took was awful. It took him directly into the path of the punter. Who is teaching that? These ST players are mostly frosh and RS frosh, and probably as BMOC in high school, didn't play a lot of special teams.
* On our punt return fumble, someone has to be screaming, "GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!" Instead, Jones is trying to block someone and the ball bounces off his leg.
* Dileo's great punt return was brought back because another young kid made a mistake 25 yards from the play.
I'm an international umpire
* Penalties were 5-45 against us, and 6 for 70 against them.
* In addition to all the mistakes made by the younger players, Lewan had a holding penalty wipe out at 35+ yard run.
* For the second week in a row, I have no complaints with the refs. I must be getting soft in my old age.
UCONN'T be serious
* I don't like UConn's stadium. First of all, their turf looks like this:
Secondly, their mid-field logo stretches from one 30 to the other. That's disconcerting for me. I'm used to seeing a team reach the mid-field logo and thinking they've reached mid-field. You know, the 45 yard line. At UCONN, you've still got a long way to go even to get to the 50.
* The attendance 42,704. I'm pretty sure most Texas High School teams draw more than that.
* Yawin Smallwood led UCONN with 13 tackles. Hey Yawin, Ya-lose. But seriously, he played a heck of a game with 2 TFLs, a forced fumble, a pass breakup, and a sack.
* Their nose guard made 6 tackles and had 2 TFLs. Nose guards aren't supposed to make 6 tackles. I'm putting together a mock NFL Draft for next April, and so far, my first round has the 12 nose guards on our schedule.
* Last week I said I was delaying the 100%BLU anecdote until I was in a better mood. I'm beginning to realize, that time may never come, so on with the story. As I was perusing my "Early Fall 2013" copy of Michigan Alumnus magazine (a benefit of my Lifetime Membership to the Alumni Association, a gift from Mom and Dad upon graduating - a car would have been nice, but I'm not complaining) I read that UofM's School of Social Work is ranked #1 nationally. I mentioned earlier this season that Dad graduated with his MSW from UofM and Devin Gardner is currently in the School. The inquisitive reader might ask, what does one do with a degree from the nation's top School of Social Work? Let me share two University of Michigan-related items from Dad's career. 24 years ago (normal disclaimer about the accuracy of my memory applies) the Chinese Government reached out to the State of Michigan for help with their treatment of the mentally ill. The State of Michigan had some brutal budget cuts in the early 80's, forcing the closure of many State-run hospitals. They were somewhat successful in transferring institutionalized patients into less costly, community-based group homes. So the Chinese wanted to learn more about this cost-effective, more humane approach. Dad was working for the State Department of Mental Health at the time. He was tasked with organizing the trip. He reached out to a Professor of Chinese Studies at UofM, and together they planned the trip. They were in China for three weeks, visiting different areas. The professor recommended they visit Tainanmen Square, a very famous location. While they were there, students were protesting the Chinese government. One student got to talking with Dad. The student took off his bandana, gave it to Dad, and asked him to tell their story in America. One week later, the tanks rolled in. So that's my "Dad as Forest Gump" story.
Second story, if you'll indulge me, a few years later, Dad is putting together an educational video about the benefits of community living and group homes for the mentally ill. There are many levels or gradations among the mentally challenged. Some can function quite fine in society as long as they are given the right medication, or looked in on periodically. One such group home was a couple blocks from the Bo building on South Campus. Dad arranged for Chris Burke, the famous actor from the 80's drama, Life Goes On, to appear in the video. Knowing that I was a fan of the show, and was still on campus at that time, Dad called and invited me over to the location where they were filming. I got to meet Chris and his parents, and Dad took this photo (that's me on the right, in the - HORROR - red shirt and gigantic glasses, Brady would be sooo dissappointed in me.)