11/22/2014 – Michigan 16, Maryland 23 – 5-6, 3-4 Big Ten
A version of this game happened in 2008, when a Michigan team headed for 3-9 had a dismal, rainy home finale against a bad team. That was Northwestern; Michigan blocked a punt for a touchdown but lost anyway. I spent halftime attempting to warm my hands on a pretzel heater.
It was tolerable because of its novelty. That team provided an opportunity for Michigan fans to demonstrate the vast depths they would go to in order to support their team. It wasn't fun, exactly, but it felt like a transitory period, a cost gladly borne for the promise of ass-kicking modern football to come. Merit badges were awarded to the hardy souls who stuck it out.
I don't have to tell you how that worked out.
I know I've referenced that game many times before as we've struggled to deal with Michigan's broken offense over the past couple years, but the similarities to the Maryland game are striking enough to bring it up again. While the weather wasn't nearly as bad, the slate-gray sky was highly familiar. So too the mutual Keystone Kops antics, what with receivers deciding it was that year EA's NCAA Football series decided that the way to balance their broken game was to have WRs drop half the passes they got their hands on.
So you naturally think about that game before and compare your mental state then and mental state now. The only thing I've got at the moment is relief I don't have to do that again. Humorous exclamations about how "we do this for fun!" are so 2008.
Michigan had built up piles of fan goodwill over their 40 year bowl streak; after Schembechler's arrival there were years Michigan wasn't great, but none in which they were actively bad unless their starting quarterback's leg broke. They started tapping that in earnest in 2007, and now it's all gone. I didn't want to go to the Maryland game even a little, but I did. I have a personal streak at stake here. And they fired Dave Brandon.
But there was no silver lining. The depths of my fandom have been tested; there's a bottom there. I'm fed up with ticket prices and the cookie-cutter inanity imposed on a Michigan Stadium experience that used to be unique.
CAKE [Bryan Fuller]
There are bits and scraps of it left. I got bizarrely misty when they did the Blues Brothers cake, because it was a thing that was ours and still existed as what it had been since my youth. I was at Yost for the final game of whatever hockey season it was when the "Can't Turn You Loose" dancing extended from the most humorously overweight guy in the section to everybody. It was a thing that some people decided to do and they keep doing it.
Then that student section sat near-silent for the rest of the game because every space that wasn't filled with actual football was crammed with noise. It was especially jarring since the most interesting football on in the noon window was Manchester United-Arsenal, full of everything but Pitbull being piped in at deafening levels.
That's where we are right now, fighting a losing battle against the spreadsheet people. Jim Hackett may be a nice guy and vast improvement on Brandon, sure. Not much has happened to indicate that he's anything but another spreadsheet person making the columns add up and importing what passes for creativity at other places.
I don't know what's about to happen. I mean, I do: Ohio State is going to punch Michigan's delicates in and Brady Hoke's going to get fired. I don't know what happens after that.
During the last coaching search I used logic and common sense to declare that Michigan would not hire Brady Hoke because he was so transparently unqualified, so I can't do that again. Even if I was so inclined the fact that an interim AD is going to make the most important hire in the department would prevent me. Michigan is determined to do it weird in the ways they shouldn't and do it conventional in all the ways they shouldn't.
But whatever. It's over, and it ended in the way it probably had to: a sodden mess of football about as interesting as a pile of dirty laundry. Hopefully there's something to care about next year.
There is not going to be a UFR. I'll go back and get the relevant parts over the offseason but I am going to have a real Thanksgiving instead of one where I spend the first half of it in a bedroom putting up a post; it was just going to say the same stuff you already know anyway.
This fourth down was on Gardner [Upchurch]
I don't know what I expected dot gif. The same pattern of ludicrous errors part XVIII. Roughing the kicker, a block in the back on a punt return touchdown, dropped passes, penalties, throws nowhere near the target, an inability to deal with tempo or mobile quarterbacks—none of it was surprising. It's not even infuriating anymore. It's just the way it is.
Cripes, Funchess. His lack of GAF has been clear for big chunks of the year—I still go back to that bubble screen that was a likely touchdown if he blocks his guy at all—and it's getting more prominent as we near the end of the year. The dropped passes are epidemic, and they don't even try to use him as a blocker anymore.
It'll be interesting to see if any of this impacts his draft stock. I bet 1) it does and 2) not nearly enough to induce him to return for his senior year. This feels like a situation similar what went down with GRIII, where it might be a good idea for the guy to come back to establish himself an elite talent but the guy is clearly done with college.
The offensive line is kind of okay now. There was a period in the second half where Michigan was blowing the Maryland DTs off the ball on every single play; occasionally Maryland would get Michigan in the backfield with a blitz allowed by the fact that M really didn't want to throw but anything that ended up neutral on the RPS scale was a nice gain for Michigan. Even excluding the fake punt, Michigan went for 5.5 YPC.
That's not unusual for a putrid Maryland D, but Michigan bested MSU, OSU, and pre-Diamont Indiana. They didn't hit Wisconsin numbers or a rampant Syracuse(?), but they looked quite functional. Darrell Funk is going to get run out of town on a rail like the rest of the coaching staff but the improvement this year is real. With literally everybody back next year they could be good-ish.
Mad about carry distribution. I've seen a lot of ANGAR about the carry distribution since Johnson was picking up big chunks. That's one of the few things that I'm not
incensed bitchy and eye-rolling about in the aftermath. Hayes picked up 6 YPC on his six carries and while Smith only had 2.8, he was the short yardage/goal-line guy and played much better than Johnson against Northwestern. Overall the run game was highly effective, and only the usual slate of derp and the broken Devin Gardner prevented actual offense from occurring.
this was not tempting apparently [Upchurch]
I will be
mad snarky about this. I know Funchess was dropping balls left and right but how on earth do you go an entire game with a 6'5" WR against "5-7" Will Likely and not, like, try to use that fact? Everyone got peeved at one goal line play, and I'm with you. I would like to extend that peevishness past that specific series and apply it to every damn time this inept offense didn't punt the ball to Funchess 40 yards downfield.
When is the last time they tried a plain old bomb down the sideline at Funchess? I know it can't actually be the Notre Dame game but it feels like the Notre Dame game.
Seriously though. How do you rush for 240 yards on 44 carries, plus a 52-yard fake punt, and score 16 points?
Defense. The usual: pretty good against the run, though CJ Brown's QB stuff was highly effective because Michigan still regards that as cheating (or maybe it tends to be effective), highly iffy against the pass especially in the middle of the field, late collapse.
Brown's 6.9 YPA on 24 attempts isn't great, but you have to take the fact that Maryland was down two of its top options at WR and replacement slot Jacquille Veii dropped at least four passes. If Maryland WRs actually caught the ball this could have been significantly uglier.
It's clear that opponents have IDed the slot and TEs running against M LB/S types as a major weakness and targeted it.
The demise. Grimly appropriate that Maryland should get its key play on their go-ahead drive thanks to a fake bubble screen that went over the top. The end came thanks to a concept that's been around since Rodriguez's first year that Michigan could not deal with, nor successfully replicate except once against Miami(NTM). When they tried to imitate successful offenses they did it poorly because they were bad at coaching, and then blamed the concepts.
* How do you lose when you outgain your opponent 398 yards to 312 yards? The answer is simple. Not-so-special teams (and turnovers, and failing on fourth down twice.)
* Maryland's fourth FG attempt is not in the boxscore because Jourdan Lewis roughed the kicker. On the very next play, Jourdan Lewis failed to keep contain and Maryland scooted in for a touchdown.
* Michigan's high point on the day, a 52 yard fake punt, was more than offset by a touch in the back penalty that resulted in Michigan losing 70 yards of field position, oh, and a game-deciding touchdown.
Yes, there have been meager signs (mostly on defense, but also with the offensive line) that this program was playing better, especially given the fact that Indiana has since nearly upset PSU and held tough against OSU on the road, while Northwestern upset Notre Dame and then demolished Purdue to, improbably, set up for next week’s intra-state battle with the Illini as a battle of two teams playing for their bowl-game lives. They weren’t dominating wins, but if you squinted you could see something faintly resembling progress and improvement, and maybe with a new QB and some healthy running backs next year Michigan might be on its way “back”.
But all along, this team kept displaying the same numerous flaws that absolutely, positively shouldn’t be happening 50 games into a coach’s tenure. The offense remains painfully predictable, to the point that pointing this out is equally reflexive. The defense, while certainly the stronger unit during Hoke’s tenure, continues to play at a B+ level, seemingly never figuring out how to handle anything approaching tempo or a mobile QB. Barring a Biakabutuka-esque performance against OSU, Michigan won’t have a running back break 600 yards total on the season, and for the second year in a row won’t have one even sniff 1,000 yards total. Hell, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman are going to significantly outrush this team as a whole, and that’s after dropping 292 yards rushing on Maryland in this game. Devin Gardner went from pre-season All Big-10-ish player to a guy who’ll probably not throw for 10 TDs on the season, and one of the best runs of the year was a 52-yard run by a FB on a fake punt. Timeouts continue to be called or saved without any regard for reality, and the team long ago ran out of feet to shoot with dumb penalties, incorrect number of players on the field, and turnovers. Oh my gawd the turnovers, King.
Sap's Decals nails Gardner:
DEVIN GARDNER – To me, New 98 is the LaVell Blanchard of the Michigan Football Team. Great kid. Smart kid. Face of the program for the past few years. Much like Blanchard, Gardner has been caught in the middle of a coaching change during his career. Caught in the middle of a program trying to find its way. Caught in the middle of a university trying to figure out what kind of identity they want their football team to have. Much like we do when looking back on the career of Blanchard, I’m sure we will say much the same for Gardner: “Oh, the Gardner years! Tough kid. Never quit. Never gave up. Sad that his record wasn’t better.”
So, things happened yesterday. A few of them good, some of them meh, and most of them bad. For Michigan, it was yet another in a long line of games everyone would just rather forget.
Brady Hoke knows what's coming. You can just tell. Nothing will happen before the Ohio State game, but its over. This is the end for Hoke at Michigan.
You know it's bad when newspaper folk don't edit out your uhs and ums:
A self-inflicted mess, toward the tail end of a self-inflicted disaster of a season that can't end soon enough, with a head coach who has only gotten worse every year he's been in charge.
Another game that made little sense, and more talk afterward that made even less.
"We just didn't, uh, execute at times when we had opportunities, and, uh, at times we did," Hoke said Saturday night. "We had some mistakes in the kicking game that, uh, obviously hurt us as a football team. Some of those were very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and aggression. At the same point, we've got to be a little smarter.
"If that's the right word for it."