Opponent Watch: Week 4

Opponent Watch: Week 4

Submitted by Heiko on September 27th, 2012 at 11:38 AM

About Last Saturday:

Happiness - 6, Unhappiness - 13. 

Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

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The Road Ahead:

Purdue (2-1)

Last game: Bye.

Recap: This was the B1G’s best performance last weekend in which cruelty to animals was not involved.

Next game: vs. Marshall

Picture Pages: Clean Linebackers

Picture Pages: Clean Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2012 at 4:59 PM

One of the ongoing debates in the early part of the season is "does Kenny Demens suck." He's not in on this play, but one of the biggest differences I'm seeing in the defense in this game relative to Michigan's first three is linebackers running to the ball unimpeded.

Some of this is Michigan DL—particularly Washington—MAKING PLAYS, which is encouraging. Another part of it is more subtle, something I'm still trying to figure out as we go along here. In certain situations a DL can get washed out and that's fine as long as he's getting washed out by the right guy—the one with an angle on a linebacker.

Anyway, it's second and six on ND's third drive. ND brings in a 3TE set and uses Eifert as an H-back. They'll run a zone to the wide side of the field. This is unusual. ND came out to run at Clark, run at Clark, and run at Clark. He didn't do so well at this, and the results have been a series of five or six yard runs as the rest of the D compensates well for Clark getting pushed out of the way.

Anyway:

clean-lb-1

Standard D for M. with two TEs on the line it is 5 vs seven on the first level. The playside G is not covered up and will release downfield into Bolden, the MLB. This play is a great example of why you hear that the MLB has to be better taking on blocks than the WLB: because he gets that uncovered guard a lot and the WLB is covered up.

On the snap, it's stretch blocking time.

clean-lb-2

Okay. The left guard (1) and left tackle are trying to scoop Campbell. The G wants to get a shove on him that will delay him so the tackle, who's the guy with the wavy arm who's actually taken a step back from the line of scrimmage, can get around him and wall him off as the guard takes off for the second level, destination Morgan(2).

A little further inside, Washington has already gone inside the center. Helmet across chest equals reached. He was barely shaded, though, so not a huge surprise, and later we'll wonder if that's really so bad. One OL over is the G releasing straight downfield.

At the bottom of the line, Roh(4) and Ryan are two on three.

Here's a half-second later.

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Roh has shot upfield and outside of the tackle, which absorbs Eifert and definitively forces the play back inside. +1.

Before I say anything, on the backside, let's zoom in.

clean-lb-3

Campbell has given ground. He's getting locked out to the backside. I don't think he cares at all about any of this as long as he does not let that guard get to the second level. He took two holding penalties against the fleet-footed Air Force OL trying to execute this; ND's line isn't quite as nimble and he's probably gotten two weeks of coaching that adds up to "don't let the dang guards into the dang WLB."

Half beat later:

clean-lb-4

Campbell still riding that OL, and the tackle trying to scoop him has no shot at blocking anyone; Roh finishes cutting off the outside. Washington now fully reached but he's about to…

clean-lb-5

Come under that guy and pop up in the backfield. This is not optimal but it's better than getting locked away. By now Morgan is gone. Campbell did his job, which was to let Morgan get to the ball free.

I'm still not a huge fan of Bolden's contact here, as he should stand the guy up and force it back. He doesn't, but Morgan's charging the back down anyway:

clean-lb-6clean-lb-7clean-lb-8

Video:

Watch how Campbell only has eyes for that guard, the whole play. He is not doing anything except riding him.

Things And Stuff

This is what they mean when they talk about the differences between the MLB and the WLB. Bolden has to take a guy on; Morgan gets a free gap to shoot. This doesn't really happen on power plays, on which the WLB will often have to take a pulling guard if it's to his side, but on this zone stuff you can see where the bubble is and the resulting difference in the responsibilities of the linebackers.

Linebacker cleanliness was not happening in the first couple games. Holding calls, cut blocks, etc. The major leap forward Michigan took as a run defense against Notre Dame was an ability for Washington and Campbell to either occupy two blockers or get into the running lane when one on one. It wasn't entirely consistent; it was a lot better.

Here Washington does get blocked but at least he comes through it and would be pursuing usefully if Bolden turns the play back in. I'm not entirely sure he wasn't assigned to that gap by the center and executed just fine, with Morgan the guy who is supposed to get there.

Bolden still dainty. As a true freshman this is to be expected. Improvement here is something to look for as the year goes on. At some point you hope to see the light go on and Bolden start getting into these guys with a little more authority. He needs to set up outside here and does not, BTW.

Morgan looking pretty good. That's a nice flow and tackle on a play that did not come right to him; he bails out Bolden for the failure to push it back. He gets to flow so decisively because there isn't a potential gap he's running by, which again goes back to Washington getting reached probably not being a big deal.

This is probably why they kept running at Clark. Clark had a rough time and wasn't so much with the taking out two for one blockers and keeping the edge. Roh's not an impact guy but so far he's been a pretty good player despite a lack of stats. He does a lot of the things Van Bergen used to.

Mailbag: What Is Wrong With You People? Seriously.

Mailbag: What Is Wrong With You People? Seriously.

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Arizona-Wildcats-head-coach-Rich-Rodriguez[1]

no no no no no no no no no
BTW: you can only admire Rodriguez's daughter if you are <18

Let's schedule Arizona!

Brian,

I read with interest your article on “Who replaces Notre Dame?” and was wondering if Arizona might qualify as a worthy replacement.  Seems to me they’d be a step down from Notre Dame but my guess is that RichRod would do just about anything to get Michigan on his schedule.  I’m not even sure if we’d want to play him but I suspect that this matchup would generate a lot of interest.

Ken

I didn't think a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998 was going to be a hot ticket, even if Rodriguez is there. FWIW, the Wildcats have a game at Nevada in 2015 but nothing else on the docket in the relevant time frame.

I'm opposed to an Arizona series, because the upside is low—you beat a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998—and the downside is high. By 2015, Rodriguez will presumably have some fleet-footed bastards to scare the crap out of you (or he'll be fired, but… probably not). Casteel will still be there and they'll have a weird defense that's kind of like playing Air Force on the other side of the ball. And Rodriguez will start gameplanning for the thing as soon as it's announced. That is a dangerous situation leading to much mirth if it comes off poorly, and you're just a bully if it doesn't.

It is a very Dave Brandon thing to do, though. Not including them was a wishful-thinking-based oversight.

No, seriously!

Thanks for putting the thought into the open scheduling date; interesting stuff (as always).

But is the MGoBook putting odds on the open dates turning into additional MAC snacks?  And the better question; given the incentives that the current BCS/limited playoff creates, wouldn't it be completely irrational (and, frankly, negligent) to actually schedule a competitive opponent?

Also: I pledge the first $1K to whatever institution (charity, UM, MGoBlog) that would help apply enough influence/pressure to turn this into an Arizona-Michigan home-and-away.  Do you think Brandon could ignore a pledged collective $500K to Mott's Children's Hospital by fans if Michigan were to schedule a home and away with Arizona?  I think he'd find a way to ignore it, but I would revel in the all the headlines if the story gains traction.  And I'd also be interested to see how much fans would be willing to pledge to see these games take place (I realize there is a difference between "pledge" and "pay," but perhaps there are ways around that as well).  And we already know RichRod would take the games in a heartbeat ...

scott

Why? Why do you people want this? For revenge? Revenge on a guy Michigan fired after three years? I know Rodriguez was a disaster here but it's not like he was trying to be. Playing Arizona is beating up on the guy we already beat up on for three years… or losing to that guy. Just say no to Arizona.

As far as the 2015-2017 ND games turning into MAC games—snacks is out the window after last weekend—they might be able to get away with it in 2015, when they've got Utah and Oregon State already on the docket. 2015 is an ND/Nebraska home year. In fact, expect that slot to be filled with a one-off guarantee game.

2016 needs a marquee home game. The current home schedule: Colorado, MSU, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa. Unless the Buffs get it turned around in a major way, that's a repeat of this year's lame schedule minus the Dallas game. The Dallas game may have been a stupid thing to do but it was at least a hook for donors. Michigan needs one of those in 2016 and will have to return a trip in 2017.

As far as the limited playoff structure's incentives, I think the new system will be more inclined to reward quality nonconference schedules. Moving to a committee from polls makes it much easier to come to an agreement about the importance of tough schedules and promote last year's Oregon team over Stanford. Polls would never do that because no one is talking to each other and no common goal is settled upon.

Most years there will be a throng of one-loss teams arguing for one of two or three playoff spots, and those teams will be sorted out by schedule strength.

Let's not schedule Arizona!

Brandon won't schedule Arizona because…

I don't think Brandon would schedule Arizona because the risk / reward isn't there. If Michigan loses or splits with Arizona and Brandon's decision to replace RR with Hoke looks very bad. If Michigan sweeps Arizona, he's somewhat vindicated but given the number of down years Arizona has had, the expectations to win will clearly be on Michigan. Just my two-cents.

P.S. If RR came back to A2 with AZ, I would give him a standing ovation. Three years can change a lot of things, but if the game were played tomorrow, I'd probably be (secretly) rooting for RR to upset my own team. Does that make me a bad fan? Am I the only one who would feel that way? I wonder, though I doubt we'll ever know.

Pete

This is the thinking of a rational man. The first bit, anyway. I am not down with defecting to Team Rodriguez. Yeah, we screwed him. He screwed us, too. Let's just move on and not have that awkward conversation at the DMV.

In re: why Brandon won't do it, that's the same argument that everyone makes against the Horror II and that's still on the schedule. He does not think like other people. He likes to do things that get attention, no matter what sort of attention that is.

Let's fix our things!

Is Brandon going to take this opportunity to fix the odd-years-good-season-ticket, even-years-bad-season-ticket issues?  Perhaps, making it a point to schedule our new games so that they are not away in years we go to Braska and Hell-hole?

Presumably!

Side note: it is amazing how screwed Michigan got in the conference alignment breakdown. Not in OSU's division—which means I'm rooting for the bastards this weekend because it's in my self interest. The four other teams in the division who aren't Minnesota have crossover games with Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, and Purdue. Michigan gets Ohio State. And Brandon couldn't even wheedle out a tiny concession like splitting the Nebraska and OSU games. Hell, when Wisconsin comes on the schedule again Michigan gets all of them on the road in 2016.

The Big Ten division split literally could not have been any worse for Michigan.

They really should flip MSU and Michigan into the other division and hand Illinois and Wisconsin back. That's got better competitive equity now, especially from an intra-division standpoint. It preserves all the relevant rivalries without requiring awkward crossover games and provides a lovely parallelogram of hate between Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. And you can call them "East" and "West".

152590948_standard_1348608045_730[1]

Gardner slant suck.

This will just turn into more "you love Denard and cannot be trusted", but FWIW:

Brian,

I don't know if this means much but I played WR at a small college so I have some background when I say that the slant-interception was on Gardner. My HS or college coaches would have chewed my ass for days had I come out of a break that slow.

The key to the slant is your third or fifth vertical step is a hard jab with the outside foot and a sharp turn at less than 45 degrees to the inside. You get low over your toe on the break and accelerate across the middle. The DB is
going to be closing hard and when you round your cut or get out slow they beat you to the ball. I watched that in real time and thought right away it was on Gardner and the replay only confirmed that. He comes out of his break standing straight up and his first two steps are not full speed. Little guys run slants well because they are quicker out of breaks, big guys are better targets because they can block out a crashing DB. Gardner was slow out of the break and he was standing straight up so the jab step wasn't as convincing. That throw was on the money if Gardner runs a good route.

Now, the DB was in great position so that may mean Denard should have gone elsewhere but if Gardner runs a great route the worst that happens is a PBU.

Just my two cents,
Keegan

Denard throwing it directly at the CB actually lends this credence (also, like, this guy knows what he's talking about) since the DB is expecting the slant to go where he is so he can tackle; Gardner is not there and CB is like "look what I found."

This does not change my depression level because it just moves some of the incompetence to another guy who is critical to the success of the whole thing.

Fair catches.

Hey Brian,

I was wondering how effective you think it is to call for a fair catch when the ball is inside the 10. Shouldn't the returner gamble on the fact that it might bump into the end zone. Is there any real advantage to getting it at the eight instead of say the two?

The conventional wisdom seems to be shifting a bit on punt returns. Previously it was heels at the ten and no steps back. Now punts at the seven or eight often get fair-caught. Until someone charts the percentage of punts that end up in the endzone after landing at the five, six, seven, etc., we won't have a yes or no answer to this, but I think catching punts a couple yards inside the ten is the right move. The value of field position is close to linear for most of the field but plunges once we start talking about the one or two yard line:

2723338601_713161096f[1]

The reason for this is obvious: most coaches will trade a down for a yard or two instead of risking the safety. I had the Mathlete take a look at whether this was correct strategy a while back, but unfortunately can't find that post. IIRC, he said that was the right move given the costs of a safety and how frequently you'll suffer one if you just run your usual offense.

By catching the ball at the seven or eight you're giving up the shot at a free first down, essentially, but you're also removing that awkward situation where you're burning a down and still trying to get out from your own goal line. It's the safe play, and probably the right one.

Internet, you are called out.

Hi Brian,

Amidst all the whining about football refereeing these days, people are STILL complaining about Mike Lantry's kick in 1974.

You would think after almost 40 years of controversy that you or one of your nerdy engineering friends could use modern technology and run a computer simulation to end the dispute once and for all.

This is much more important than the Kennedy assassination.

Best regards,

Jay McNeill
West Bloomfield, MI

Well? I mean, he's right. Computer engineers, assemble!

Picture Pages: ND Shift, Belly Defeat

Picture Pages: ND Shift, Belly Defeat

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Notre Dame has a very good defensive line, possibly great. If they still had Aaron Lynch holy pants man. They don't, but Tuitt is a 300 pound pass rusher, Nix is hard to move, and their Kapron Lewis-Moore/Prince Shembo combo at the other DE is a quality option. They've been making a lot of plays so far, and some of them against Lewan, who has a bunch of NFL hype and has shut down virtually every DE he's ever gone up against, including guys like Adrian Clayborn.

So Michigan was up against it against the Irish. They compounded those troubles with a spate of seemingly bizarre play calls that made it even harder for Michigan to execute since they often left key players unblocked, with the results you saw.

Here's a two yard run in the second quarter. It's first and ten on the first play of Michigan's first drive after the Smith interception. ND comes out showing a four-man front with one-high coverage, but will shift into their standard 3-4. Zeke Motta, currently 16 yards off the LOS, will approach the LOS for an eighth run defender against eight players in the box.

two-yard-1

Post-shift, this is about standard for ND. Note that the secondary is showing extremely soft man coverage on the receivers, which is par for the course when you are in cover zero with three converted offensive players. Or at least, I'd imagine it's par for the course if anyone else ever did this.

two-yard-2

Now, you may be thinking "AAAAAH DAMN AAAH BUBBLE." I am too. The defense is allowed to align like this because Michigan won't take a shot at that gooey soft edge. Constraint plays constrain what a defense can do, simplifying life for QBs. Here we've got a play, and it's a run despite the D showing a cover zero look.

On the snap it's revealed to be an inside zone play…

two-yard-4

…but Lewan does something unusual by flaring out to go block Shembo as Denard reads Lewis-Moore. Meanwhile, look at Toussaint's upfield angle of attack:

two-yard-5

This was supposed to be a midline type read. When ND showed a four-man front, Nix was shaded outside of Mealer. He would hit the frontside A-gap, allowing Barnum to release into the second level. Instead he's head up on the center and fights back, forcing Barnum to try and deal with him.

two-yard-shoulda

What Michigan thought it was doing

Meanwhile, Lewan's flare out on Shembo was supposed to be useful. Instead he's blocking a contain guy on a run up the middle. Lewis-Moore is not tearing up in a gap like a one-gap DL would but coming upfield under control.

So instead of a quick hit that got Michigan past the DT they get this:

two-yard-6two-yard-8

Which is two yards thanks to an unblocked LB in the middle of where your belly is supposed to go.

Video:

This Looks Familiar

Denard's second interception is a terrible throw helped along by a totally unblocked Te'o as Barnum tries to help on Nix.

int2-1int2-2int2-4int2-5

Terrible throw and all that but also not a shining example of coordinator mastery. This is a position to fail in, when you can't step into your throw because you'll get hit if you do so.

Things and Stuff

RB angle gives you the intended hole. Look at how vertical Toussaint is going. This is designed to go backside.

Checks: none. Once ND shifts to the three-man front, this play is in trouble, and once Motta slides down you're up against zero safeties. This would be a nice time to check. To what? Well, you are maybe probably getting some yards if Lewan changes his assignment and releases directly into that LB, or, you know…

two-yard-1

…that OLB has eyes only for the backfield, so you've got one guy within twelve yards of the slot receiver. Who isn't a slot receiver, sure.

Since this was the first play of the drive I assume there was time to do this after the shift; nothing comes. This might be on Denard, or there just might not be a check for this. Rodriguez took that check burden onto himself with those plays where Michigan would call for a snap and then everyone would look to the sideline.

Constraints: none. A little later Michigan will block a QB sweep well but Motta will show in the hole as an unblocked eighth guy. Denard will abort and get three. ND again went cover zero with pudding soft outside coverage:

take-the-fucking-yards

They're sitting out there waiting to give you their money! It's not the stupid little bubble itself that helps—though the yards from 2-8 averaging about 6 aren't bad—but the things that the defense can't do because they can't align with their secondary in Bolivia and bring down a run defender that erases your numerical advantage.

This alignment cannot be allowed to exist without a quick easy throw that invalidates it. Have we mentioned that both corners are converted offensive players? And one is a freshman?

Oy OL. Note that Nix not only drew a double but ripped through it to the backside hole, and that Tuitt has gotten inside of Schofield with ease. It may have been possible to get some yards here by getting Nix sealed and hitting a gap further to the playside, but none of that happens. I haven't gotten to the bit where Michigan just grinds on them yet, but so far there have been a lot of plays like this where Michigan OL get nowhere with their guys.

Why are we running a play that seems designed to go at a 4-3? ND will go to it but they are a 3-4 at heart and when they show a four man line it's usually short yardage or a passing down. I would expect an incoherent play like this to fire off when ND is giving Michigan a 4-3 curveball instead of the 3-4, especially after Michigan spent two weeks preparing exclusively for this defense. That Lewan flare-out is deadly to this play because Barnum has to help on a NT who is not shaded—and is rarely shaded. Meanwhile that guy on the edge is not a threat to Toussaint. RPS –1.

Bye Week Presser Transcript 9-25-12: Brady Hoke

Bye Week Presser Transcript 9-25-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on September 25th, 2012 at 7:02 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Devin is "fine" (as reported from teleconference) and unlikely to be limited in practice.
  • Marvin Robinson did not make the trip due to an injury, but he should be back.
  • Hoke really dislikes injury reports because it helps gamblers. Shame on you, Jamie.

Brady Hoke

File

Opening statement:

“Are you ready?”

Shoot.

“You’re the only one who answers.”

I’m ready, coach.

“All right. Good. Um, you know, we’re obviously moving forward. I think we’ll move forward pretty well as a team. The kids, I thought they played hard and all that. We talked about that the other night. We’ve got to execute a little better on a lot of things. You know, there’s enough in there. We had some missed assignments that we can’t have on both sides of the ball for us to be as effective as we want. I thought up front both sides of the ball, we played better. I think there’s more in there that we’ll get out of them. We went back to basics and the fundamentals which we always do in a bye week because the times you lose a little bit of your individual technique work as the season progresses because you do so much together. That being said, I liked the attitude of our football team. We start the Big Ten season, and the expectation is always to win the Big Ten championship. I like how our kids -- where they’re at mentally.”

Unverified Voracity Stops At Resistance

Unverified Voracity Stops At Resistance

Submitted by Brian on September 25th, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Scheduling note. I sat down to start UFRing last night and found that I'd actually re-converted the UMass game and hadn't downloaded ND at all. My subconscious is protecting me as best it can, but I now have the thing. UFR will be a day late, which it traditionally is during a bye week anyway.

Denard's night went better than at least one person's. Mmmm Northern Indiana style:

The man on the ground had severe facial and upper body wounds. According to police, both men said they were hit by a car, but police have not confirmed that. Investigators say it's possible that is a story to cover-up a fight.

While police were talking to the men, a woman approached officers and said she'd been hit in the face with a case of Natural Light Beer. The woman had very visible wounds, most profound, her entire bottom row of teeth were missing.

This was at 9 PM, so I assume all of this arose from an argument about whether Borges or Denard was the worst.

The pants! They are motion pants. That's not a Sufjan Stevens song title yet, but I bet it's on his next album. No, it's a reference to some digging done by UMHoops that unearths a piece of basketball's uniforms for next year:

52-89213-F[1]52-89213-1-F[1]

THEY'RE TUBES FOR YOUR LEGS!

The way this works is you put one leg in one tube and the other leg in the other tube and then pull up until you feel resistance. Once you feel resistance, STOP. You will now be wearing your legtubes. You will kind of look like a 12-year-old from 1993. If you did not stop when you felt resistance you will also be in severe pain, but that's your problem. That's what you get for not following instructions.

Nobody at commenting at UMHoops likes these, but they do like Glenn Robinson III.

Uniforms are supposed to be, you know, what's that word… the same. Adidas is still not executing this task, apparently:

8015478800_18ba3c7d75_c[1]

Piping: it's just all over the place man. Also, Washington's missing his block M. If you sent this to me, thanks, but I forget who did.

Bye week activity. WTKA is replaying Ufer's call of the 1979 Michigan State game at noon on Saturday. 1050 on your dial, or on the internets. Here's Keith Jackson doing the same:

Band noise solution? They amplified the band a couple years back to mixed reviews. If you couldn't hear them before it's great. If you could, it sounds horrible as the slightly delayed noise coming out of the speakers conflicts with the band itself. I'm in an area where it sounds horrible.

I thought about this on Saturday at some point in the third quarter when I noticed I could hear the ND band loud and clear despite being about as far away from them as possible, but couldn't hear the Michigan band that was just below our section. I was going to mention this in the game column as depressing commentary on how quiet the MMB, but MVictors pointed out the speaker setup they had on the sideline:

speakers_thumb[1]

Audio people: does this make a difference, having the speakers in the same place the band is? Or am I grasping at straws?

Idiots in charge of stuff. Replacement refs screw up Monday Night Football and the NFL burns its credibility all for a pathetically tiny slice of their enormous revenue pool. In the NHL, Edmonton's ownership laughably threatens to move the Oilers to Seattle; the NHL is bunkered down for another strike less than a decade after an entire season failed to happen.

At some point, it has to be about something other than the pursuit of as much money as you can get right damn now, doesn't it? Maybe, maybe not. They'll have to start to see some erosion before they act, just like college football teams are starting to now that the terrible scheduling practices of the last 20 years are finally resulting in empty seats.

In other news, someone is paying bowtied twit Gordon Gee an exorbitant amount of money and allowing the guy to spend 7.7 million in expenses(!), including $64,000 on bowties(!!!). How's that going?

At the University of Michigan, President Mary Sue Coleman’s travel and entertainment expenses from 2007 through 2010 totaled $410,235. Upkeep and utilities at the university-owned house runs an additional $100,000 a year and if Coleman takes someone to lunch or dinner, she pays the tab out of her own pocket, according to University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.

Coleman’s compensation package is $860,782 a year and includes housing and a car. Her employment contract does not call for first class airline tickets or private jets, as Gee’s does. In Michigan’s last endowment campaign she helped raise $3.2 billion — the most ever by a public university at that time.

There are signs that OSU isn’t keeping pace nationally on the size of its endowment. OSU slipped from 27th in the four years preceding Gee’s return to Columbus to 31st in 2010-11, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Commonfund Institute. The Big 10 universities Northwestern, Minnesota, and Michigan all ranked above Ohio State for the size of their endowment.

Jim Tressel, fire this man.

Come on Tim. Baumgardner on Tim Hardaway entering his junior year:

"I've watched and probably had more interaction with Tim this summer (than ever before)," Beilein said recently. "With him just coming in, sitting in my office, hanging out and feeling very comfortable as a Michigan man.

"Him being more comfortable with everything has allowed him to have a lot of confidence in the intangible area (off the court). And there's a strong correlation between that and how he'll perform on the court."

I hope that's true. Hardaway's three point shooting should bounce back just because 27% is incredibly low, but if Michigan is going to live up to some extremely hefty preseason expectations he'll have to either be more effective creating his own shots or go from terrible to elite from behind the line.

wat. Mac Bennett on the twitter:

The @BeatsPointZero "Deblois is a Bag of Milk" EP will be out later today. Excited about it

I don't know. I've notified Jon Bois about this, though.

A fast one. The Michigan-ND series opened up in South Bend, and if it's ending semi-permanently in 2014, it'll end in South Bend. Not a smooth move to not build an even number of home/away games into the contract, Michigan. This is probably Bill Martin's fault, FWIW.

Chalk. Via Jamie, Michigan's… performance type thing against Notre Dame has finally provided a leader in Big Ten betting whatnot:

MSU now "clear" betting chalk to win Big 10: MSU +220, Braska +250, Wisco +300, UM +400, PU +700. Odds lot less muddled than a week ago

Purdue's down from 20-1 recently. I TOLD YOU JAMIE /ignores Wisconsin

Also, Michigan lines are frightening. Michigan's favored by less than a field goal at Purdue and about a touchdown at Nebraska and Ohio State. This is all an overreaction to something that won't happen again, right guys? Right?

I'm a little surprised things are shaking out like this after last weekend. I mean, MSU-EMU couldn't have moved the needle in favor of the Spartans, could it?

Here's your statistical nutshell. Michigan State snapped the ball 72 times on Saturday with the intention of advancing the ball.

On 46 of those plays, the ball ended up, or was targeted to end up, in the hands of Le'Veon Bell or Dion Sims. The average gain on those plays was 7.8 yards.

On the remaining the 26 plays, the ball was intended to end up in someone else's hands. The average gain on those plays was 2.8 yards.

Yipes.

Etc.: Hockey starts off ranked third. Seems high. Bois fake mailbag about those refs with mini-Packers TWIS. This is not Ace holding his head, but both Ace and I had to check. Kirk Ferentz is unfireable. Which person is Borges and which is me in this XKCD?

Hokepoints on the Day of Atonement

Hokepoints on the Day of Atonement

Submitted by Seth on September 25th, 2012 at 8:07 AM

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Of the totally surreal and unnecessary things that could ever happen, Denard Robinson issuing an apology for his play against Notre Dame ranks right up there with Ryan Van Bergen claiming fault for the 2010 defense. Not so much that he took responsibility—I wrote in my HTTV article that personal culpability is one the hallmarks of this team—but that watching from above I felt like he wasn't entirely at fault.

Part of that was the drunk dude in my section yelling "awwww c'mon!" at Denard, to which I felt responsibility to point out things like "play-action out of the I-form" or "Schofield just got beat bad." Part of it to was my own culpability for last week's article being all "hey Denard can pass and Borges is doing an incredible job!" So in the mea culpa spirit of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (pretty much our Christmas) which begins tonight, I admit I have sinned, and that I'm not quite sure who sinned on all of our six turnovers this week. Let's find out where responsibility lies in this six-play al chet, using a combination of Seth's pathetic attempts at UFR-ing, with a bonus chart of culpability.

1. For the sin we have committed against you by trying to get too cute with Vincent Smith, who is not Tom Brady

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O10 1 G Ace TE Trips 1 1 3 4-4 under Pass RB Pass Dileo INT
Dileo and Roundtree lined up as H-backs on same side. Since it's a pass Dileo doesn't block Te'o, who shot into the gap the millisecond he read pitch and pressures Smith. Funchess blocked down an irrelevant crashing DE instead but that's the play. The CB bites hard so Dileo can leaks out into the end zone, where he has the safety beat to the corner, but Smith is 5'6 with the world's best college LB in his face. He jump-balls it way inside of his receiver, so when the safety looks back he is all "ooh, football--take." (INX, 0, Protection N/A, RPS –2)

When Michigan tried this against Minnesota it was from 30 yards out, and against Minnesota. It did get a guy open in the end zone, and was set up a little bit I believe by some pitch plays earlier. However leaving Te'o unblocked versus a tiny RB is a risk, but Smith has shown in games (and presumably many more times in practice) that he 8013857982_cf5e4abbb5_ocan throw the ball accurately enough.

What I really hated about this play call is there was no reason to get cute. This was meant to be a dagger play, just like the fake dive on 4th and 1 vs. Michigan State was meant to be the dagger in the trash storm game.

Borges likes his daggers. When Brian queried my UFR database on Michigan passing from Ace 3TE sets, I found the Funchess 30-yard (PA TE corner) and Gardner (Waggle) TDs, plus a PA dumpoff for good yards (until it was fumbled) against SD State last year. Daggers. Thing is about the grab-bag and dagger offense is that it doesn't adjust for things that are working, and until that point the offense was working. When Pompey backed out of Rome because he didn't have the troops to defend it, Caesar didn't say "oh waitaminute, this is a trap, I'm gonna go attack the Barbary Coast—ha ha they'll never suspect!" He walked into damn Rome.

Chart of culpability: Borges x2, ND Te'o is that good, Smith isn't Joe Montana

Mitigating Mitzvah: Jake Ryan sticks a receiver after he gains just 1 yard on 3rd and 4 from the ND37 to force a punt. ND shanks the punt.

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After the jump, five plays more depressing than using a day off of work to fast and contemplate what a terrible person you've been all year.

MGoPodcast 4.4: Origami Pants

MGoPodcast 4.4: Origami Pants

Topics!

WHAT WAS THAT? It warn't good'n, I tell ya.

DEBACLE COUNT. It's really high.  What's going on, man.

ZOMBIE ACE IS ZOMBIE ACE. I but he does bring up the Vincent Smith halfback pass call.

LLOYDBALL. I take it all back, Lloydball.

PAPER RUSTLING. Record. Record paper rustling. 

DEFENSE! That was pretty awesome. Maybe ND can't move the ball that well but any way you slice it it's encouraging. 

DOES QUINTON WASHINGTON HAVE ARMS? I say yes. Ace says no. 

DEFENSIVE LINE DOING THINGS. Linebackers moving as a result. 

HEIKO SLEEPING IN THE BACKSEAT. Where you at, Heiko?

TALKIN' BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC. He still won't concede Purdue as the favorite in whatever the other division is. Also discussion of the Illinois loss to Louisiana Tech descends into manic laughter. 

SONGS.  "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," Monty Python. "Panic," The Smiths. I must have used this before but Google didn't think I did. Surely I must have though. Surely. 

The usual links:

Golden Hammer

Golden Hammer

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2012 at 12:38 PM

9/22/2012 – Michigan 6, Notre Dame 13 – 2-2

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Upchurch

Lloyd Carr coached every game like he had a fantastic running game and great defense. He usually had an okay running game and a good defense, so this caught up to him from time to time. When Jim Tressel arrived and showed the men of manball what manball really was, Michigan's downward spiral began. In time, Tresselball would come to signify the exact same thing Lloydball did except without the oh and we lose the most important game of the year every time.

I grew to hate Lloydball.

The moment I threw in the towel is crystal clear in my memory, and by this point probably many longtime readers: punting from the opponent 34 against Ohio State in 2005. It was fourth and four. The clock read 4:18. Michigan had a two point lead. They'd recently had a nine point lead, but OSU ripped off a five-play touchdown drive in under a minute to change that. Michigan's defense had faced four do-or-die drives* already that year and failed on all of them. Faced with third and eleven, Michigan threw a screen to Antonio Bass for seven yards. They punted out of a field goal formation, which was so obvious to Tressel that they put a guy back there to field it. He would have had a shot at a touchdown if the punt hadn't exited the field at the twelve.

Just minutes before—literally in the same quarter—Lloyd had taken his frenzied quarterback's advice and gone for a QB sneak on fourth and one on his own 40. This caused everyone in the stadium to pick a partner with whom to share an incredulous look. This was not the way things went. The fourth down was successful; one bomb to Manningham later Michigan had staked itself to a two-score lead. That only made the knife cut deeper when in the moment of truth Carr reverted to form.

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Michigan punted once Saturday.

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I'm not sure if it's football in general that has shifted or if it's just Brady Hoke, but when Michigan had a fourth and two around the same area on Saturday, eyebrows were only slightly cocked when Michigan went for it. While Michigan was down 10-0, this was still the third quarter.

Lloyd wouldn't have even thought about it if his defense had given up 139 yards to that point. But he wouldn't have been down 10-0 in the first place. He would have squinted at his quarterback, wondered where the six-six artillery piece had gotten to, shrugged, and told his offensive coordinator to thud out a ten-point win based on Michigan's superior ground game. Only he would have had that faith, because he always had that faith.

But it was true. Take out a knee and ND averaged 3.2 yards a carry. Take out three sacks and a bad snap for Michigan and they averaged 5.1. That's a cavernous gap, one that a dinosaur coach would have driven through to a boring, field-goal-heavy victory.

Instead, we got several more entries in our database of what happens when Denard Robinson gets unblocked rushers in his face.

Is it good? No. Does it make any sense at all to run play action from under center on passing downs? No. Is it ever going to stop? No.

Well, maybe. Michigan did not throw a pass before third down on their two grinding second-half drives before the hurry-up was called for. Do that for the next eight games and run play action off plays you actually run and then Denard might get back to the things he was doing in an offense that was not trying to jam him into a hole he clearly does not fit. I thought maybe we'd learned that lesson after Iowa, but apparently not.

When stressed, people making decisions find it very hard to move away from habit. Everyone reverts to their comfort zone unless they are making a concerted effort to get away from it. Even then, you fall back into old patterns. Lloyd punted. Rodriguez installed a 3-3-5 defense. Borges starts calling plays from a long-ago offense helmed by a guy who was a better passer than runner. Denard throws the ball somewhere, anywhere.

Over the bye week, Michigan will refocus on what they're good at. This will get them through some games. They'll get comfortable with this, think they can install more stuff, and we'll get another Iowa, one they might pull out since the defense might be good and the Big Ten is definitely bad. And Denard will soldier through it, taking barbs from people who don't realize he could be in his first of two years at Oregon now, doing what he was born to.

He's not. He's doing this. This is "this": Al Borges has been Michigan's offensive coordinator for 17 games now. Five were against non-BCS opponents. A sixth was against Alabama and will be set aside. Of the remaining eleven, five were out-and-out debacles: both Notre Dame games, MSU, Iowa, and the Sugar Bowl. That Junior Hemingway rescued two of those doesn't change the fact that in about half of Michigan's games against real competition, the combination of Borges and Denard can't put up 200 yards until bombed out of the gameplan by events on the field.

You can blame Denard if you want. Sure, that happened in 2010, when Denard was a true sophomore and the second-leading rusher was Vincent Smith. I'm more concerned about the guy who isn't gone after this year, the offensive coordinator who vows to never work with a quarterbacks coach again and can't stand it when anyone dares to scream "RUN THE GODDAMN BALL" at him over and over and over and over and over, except whatever the press conference version of that is. Asking about bubble screens and stuff.

One day Borges will have a shining golden hammer of a quarterback, six-four, carved from marble, jawline for days. This man will coolly survey the field after faking a handoff to a two-hundred-thirty-pound bowling ball with knives sticking out of it. No one will run up in his face, because they are afraid the bowling ball has it. He will throw it to another six-foot-four man, this one long and graceful, built for escaping packs of hunters. This will be a good day. Nails are so dead.

Until then, here's to running, punting, and humility.

[Wisconsin: 52 yard, 11 play, four minute TD drive to win. Minnesota: eight play, 75-yard FG drive to win. Penn State: 13 play, 81-yard drive to wi—OH MY GOD MANNINGHAM. Iowa: 9 play, 74-yard FG drive to tie; Ferentz played for OT once in FG range, because he is Ferentz.]

Photos

Eric Upchurch

All the INTs:

Bullets Yes More Bullets In The Head Please

Sanity check. I know I may not be entirely reliable on this matter, but stuff coming through my twitter feed from the folks I respect most as college football observers helped me think this was not just a mania. Smart Football:

Nice call Borges. Denard struggling? Let's run some kind naked waggle pass from under center where we let Denard throw vs unblocked DEnd

Orson:

An Al Borges cooking show would be great if you like seeing someone throw everything into a blender even if it makes no sense at all.

Blaming it on "execution" is horseshit, plain and simple. When the offensive coordinator flat-out refuses to take free yards on the outside and has not once used the devastating play action on which Denard is moving towards the line scrimmage before throwing, it is on his shoulders for not using the tools he has in the way they are most effective.

A third of the way through the ND game, Michigan had run Robinson three times. Instead Michigan threw the ball all the time against a rampant DL. The first INT was a running back in the redzone. On the second, Michigan rolled the pocket and told a redshirt freshman fullback to block Prince Shembo. On the third an unblocked Te'o roars straight up the pocket.  On the fourth he ran a waggle on second and seven, which got an unblocked Tuitt in Denard's face after having thrown INTs on back to back passes.

This is a consistent theme. They go into games doing something other than making their running QB a runner, and then are surprised when it goes poorly. They have the guy turn his back to the line of scrimmage and are surprised when 1) opposing defenses prioritize getting a guy out on him and 2) he reacts poorly. The exception was last year's OSU game, during which Denard threw all of 17 times.

Robinson failed, sure, but he was put in a position to do so by a guy who puts three tight ends on the field on second and goal from the twelve yard line and fools no one with the subsequent play action. Coaches have to execute too. Borges's gameplan was a disaster, again.

Come on Denard. Let's ask Peyton Manning to be Pat White stuff aside, at some point you've got to just eat the ball, or not throw it at a guy so covered you're trying to throw it through the chest of not one but two opponents. That first Te'o interception was probably the worst throw of Denard's career; if one of the two guys underneath it didn't get it a safety in coverage on the corner had a shot at a PBU.

I bet a dollar that someone else was open on that play.

The fumble was the real killer, though. Michigan has just taken their first drive of the half 71 yards and Denard has just made it first and ten at the ND 11, boom ball out drive over everyone thinks of 2010 when Michigan put up scads of yards and usually had ten points to show for it. Down two scores and suddenly running all the time, Michigan really needed that drive to pay off.

Blame Gardner? Some people on the twitter and then Ace suggested that the slant INT was on Gardner instead of Robinson. I don't think that's the case. It looked to me like he ran a fine route and was open and Robinson just missed.

Gardner does have to catch that bomb on the last drive.

When to go for high risk trick plays. When there is a payoff commensurate with the risk. The Gardner pass is fine. You've got a play that is potentially 70-some yards  if everything goes well. The Smith pass gives you at most ten and is less likely to get a guy wide open just because there's far less space. Last year's Smith TD pass was 30 yards out, which gives the WR room to break past the safeties and the RB room to throw it long. Doing that in a constricted space is asking for it when Manti Te'o is raging his way into a running back's face.

The only time I can recall Michigan running a trick play like that inside the red zone was during the 2007 Illinois game when both teams were actively conspiring to lose. With Henne shuttling in and out of the game and Mallett insane, trying the Arrington end-around pass after a muffed punt was a defensible decision. At the end of an 11-play, 78-yard drive maybe not so much.

What is this huddling business again? There's a case that you shouldn't be doing it at all; not only is huddling a useless anachronism but going away from it locks defensive personnel on the field and gives you easier looks as the opponent struggles to keep up. See Oregon, of course.

But even if you're intent on huddling the time to do so has passed when you're down two scores with 6:46 left. There's something to be said for the idea that an offense should be using tempo as much as possible so that in situations like that they are naturals at it. It's a lot easier to slow down than speed up.

Anyway, I had bad flashbacks to that Iowa game as Michigan took 3:19 and used a timeout on their last drive.

OTOH, didn't mind the end of the first half playcalling since in that situation you're worried about giving ND a possession they can use and you've just thrown interceptions on three straight plays. Why throw a Hail Mary with 16 seconds left, though? And what was Roundtree even doing there?

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Upchurch

Defense! Woo defense! Also filed under "if you told me before the game…" with "Michigan would punt once": "Notre Dame would have under 200 yards of offense with three minutes to go." Before Floyd stumbled on that third down bomb to Eifert, Michigan had held two ND QBs to 5.6 YPA and two interceptions, with the only completion over twenty yards another tough fade on the sideline.

From way up in the stands I had a great view of the routes developing and nobody was open basically all day. Combine that with Quinton Washington problems like "is not tackling when he bursts into the backfield on three consecutive plays" and you have a soothing balm to apply as you look forward to the rest of the season. I'm actually eager to get to the UFRing just so I can see how the guys on D did. Live I saw Ryan make plays, Campbell make plays, Washington make plays, and that allowed the linebackers to flow freely, with the 3.1 YPC results mentioned above. Kenny Demens looks a lot better when he's not trying to fight off two different blockers on  the same play.

If Washington can translate those plays against UMass and Mattison hype into an impact day on the interior line against a real opponent, Michigan's biggest question that isn't "how will Denard fail to be Peyton Manning this time" is a lot closer to resolution.

Potential caveat: ND's interior OL may not be very good. They got annihilated by Purdue (Riddick: 53 yards on 15 carries, five sacks on Golson, two by Kawann Short) and ND didn't do much against MSU that wasn't deception (counter draw) or Wood getting cutbacks similar to the one he busted for ND's only big run of the day.

Caveat caveat: "only big run of the day." The shot above is Michigan corralling the play I started calling "That Goddamned Counter Draw" after DeAndra Cobb staked MSU to the lead they'd give up during Braylonfest. I call it TGDCD because Michigan has never stopped the thing (except once, I think). They did it up there.

Speaking of…

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointBrady Hoke Epic Double Point of the Week. I have no idea yet, but it's obviously someone on defense. There is a weird lack of stats for such a dominating performance, with no sacks and just two TFLs, one for Kovacs, another split by Morgan and Washington.

For now, Jake Ryan gets the nod for most impactful-seeming impactfulness, but I reserve the right to switch this to Kovacs or Washington pending review.

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.

2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Jake Ryan(ND)

Freshman linebackers. They're basically co-starters at this point. I'm still nervous about them but if the D continues to perform like that in the Big Ten season, expectations for that crew will be enormous next year with four-ish returning starters, all of whom will still be around in 2014.

Demens did rotate in during the second half. He was in on six tackles, Morgan seven. Ross had one and Bolden did not register. IIRC Demens was the preferred option on passing downs, which makes sense since zone drops are often a struggle with young linebackers.

Norfleet. Please do not jump like that again. The air up there is dangerously low on oxygen and people are trying to kill you. Stay low, where you are under the radar and can execute deep infiltration missions.

ND future. I wouldn't get too worried about a full-on return to glory. If that interior OL is what it seems to be and they're flipping between Rees and Golson against the rest of their schedule, they'll drop some games. They'll still probably get that BCS bid so they can get stomped on by someone a lot better.

Funchess. Didn't really have much impact; I'll pick up the Mandich thing the next time he takes a significant step towards it. Did feature in this picture:

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This is my ball. Do not take my ball.

Here

Inside The Boxscore:

In the week preceding this game, some random internet poster guy asked what was the worst performance you’ve seen by a QB. I ran screaming from that post, but couldn’t escape the images of Demetrious Brown throwing seven interceptions – SEVEN INTERCEPTIONS!!! - in a game against MSU many years ago.

WHY DID YOU DO IT RANDOM INTERNET POSTER GUY, WHYYYYYY

Also:

When I was 16 and learning how to drive, my Dad, trying his best to impart some constructive criticism without being overly harsh, said, “ST3, your driving lacks a certain smoothness.” I think it’s wonderful how Devin Gardner has moved over to WR to help the team, but at this point in his career, I think his route running lacks a certain smoothness.

Hoke For Tomorrow:

The results of this game and a record of 2-2 are not indicative of the abilities of this team, and it would do every Michigan fan good to forget about what has happened and to concentrate instead on what can be accomplished in the BIG.  I rest easier after seeing the O and D-lines gel and play very well.  Denard will bounce back.

The rest of the BIG continues to look shaky, to say the least, and Michigan should be licking their chops against the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and I dare say Michigan St at this point.  Ohio has obvious problems as well, letting UAB run wild on them. Michigan should have distinct talent advantages against Northwestern and Purdue.

Also:

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Elsewhere

I'll skip all the articles about how Michigan turned the ball over a lot, since I think you probably know. More photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Sad Panda at MVictors. MVictors on the press box atmosphere:

It’s well known that the media is prohibited from cheering in the press box but it’s not just a collection of writers upstairs at Notre Dame.  After Denard connected with Gardner on a third down conversion in the first half some dude belted out, “DAMN IT!”.    When Denard took off on a run later in the game, I heard, “GET ‘EM!”.   And so on.   I’m actually glad this happened because it created some much needed lighter moments on the glass.

Maybe it was the guy in seat 652:

rudy

Also, that Webb tweet that looked like it was from my account? Not on purpose:

Speaking of tweets, after another turnover (I think Denard’s fumble?) this came from Sam Webb’s feed.   It was retweeted 28 times instantly:

RT

The beauty – it wasn’t a case of Sam grinding the keyboard in frustration.  It was a legit accident as his phone went sideways and spit out Matrix code.  Love it.

…unless the phone is also a Michigan fan.

The Daily has a great article about Denard's family in the stands:

The group sat in the family and friends section of Notre Dame Stadium. Steve wore his best friend’s varsity jacket. The two girls wore “Shoelace” and another Robinson-themed shirt.

This section is different. Here, the hits sound louder. The mistakes sting more.

From here, you can reach out and touch the bass drums in the Michigan band. When a Notre Dame wide receiver was open on the goal line, the parents shouted and pointed, so Thomas Gordon bumped over and covered.

Robinson’s supporters sat in the fifth row, tucked in between friends and family of freshman linebacker James Ross III and the family of fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd.

Robinson’s parents come to games “very rarely, very rarely,” J.T.’s father, James, said. Normally the Robinson clan gathers in Robinson’s grandmother’s house in Deerfield Beach, Fla. around a television.

“Every Saturday,” Durrel said. “Everybody (goes). I can’t even tell you who don’t go.”

Daily's Luke Pasch on the thing. Both the HSR and Maize and Brew Nation are on the "oh, God, Denard had to apologize to everyone" angle. TWIS preview.

Would you like frustrating losses scored? Of course you would.

Opportunity Seized

Opportunity Seized

Submitted by Ace on September 22nd, 2012 at 11:32 PM


Upchurch/MGoBlog

It was there for the taking.

It was there when Michigan had a first-and-goal on their third possession, when Vincent Smith—yes, Vincent Smith—threw an interception in the end zone.

It was there on each of the next four drives, each ending with a Denard Robinson interception.

It was there when—despite the above—Michigan faced just a ten-point deficit on their first possession of the second half, when they drove to the Notre Dame 16, only to lose a Robinson fumble.

It was there when the defense forced a do-or-die third-and-four with 2:35 on the clock, only to see Tyler Eifert beat J.T. Floyd down the sideline for a 38-yard completion.

In a game that felt like karmic retribution for the last three years, however, Michigan never seized control, instead making error after crippling error until there were no more errors to make. The defense did everything in their power to overcome the offense, holding Notre Dame to just 239 yards on 4.8 yards per play and forcing two interceptions of their own. They could not stop Robinson from turning the ball over, though, and in the end it was a triumphant Tommy Rees kneeling the clock out.

The turnovers overshadowed a stellar defensive effort, one that will sadly be forgotten in the aftermath. Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson was completely ineffective, completing just one fewer pass to Michigan (two) than he did to his own team. The Irish rushing attack never got going, gaining 94 yards on 31 carries. Jordan Kovacs (7 tackles, 1 TFL) and Jake Ryan (5 tackles, all solo) both turned in outstanding games. With no margin for error, however, all it took was two poor plays on third downs—a pass interference by freshman Jarrod Wilson on the goal line and the final pass to Eifert—to foil an otherwise textbook Mattison game.

On offense, the bright spots are fewer and farther between. Fitz Toussaint finally got some holes to run though and looked like his nimble 2011 self when he found them. Roy Roundtree make a few crucial catches after largely disappearing from the offense this year. Al Borges added a promising wrinkle when Devin Gardner took an end-around only to throw downfield to fullback Joe Kerridge, drawing a pass interference on the opening drive. That's about it.

As I'm sure will be said ad nauseam in the coming bye week, all of Michigan's goals are still within reach. The Big Ten is awful and still very much there for the taking. If the Wolverines are to seize that chance, however, they'll have to be far more opportunistic than they were tonight, when a fourth straight victory over the Irish slipped through their fingers and into the hands of a team more willing to take advantage.