Blind Squirrels

Blind Squirrels

Submitted by Brian on October 22nd, 2012 at 11:53 AM

10/21/2012 – Michigan 12, Michigan State 10 – 5-2, 3-0 Big Ten

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Denard Robinson is 13 of 29 for 143 yards; he's run 20 times for 96 yards. His team is down a point and has managed to turn 120 seconds into eighteen without moving the ball anywhere near plausible field goal range. A few drives ago Jeremy Gallon was as wide open as you can be on third and goal and Denard blasted it hard and behind the guy—if it was to keep it away from a defender it was because the throw was late—or Michigan would lead by three.

Behind me, some Michigan State meathead has spent the better part of four quarters screaming "throw it, Denard, huh huh huh." Juggalo Nation, reprazent.

"Is this guy really a QB I'll say my mans vento is a better QB lol. S/O to my boy vento by the way."

-Denicos Allen, MSU linebacker, on Denard and MSU walk-on QB Tommy Vento, 9/1/2012

Michigan has second and eleven but more importantly they have seventeen seconds to get in field goal range. State shows a three man rush but also sends Denicos Allen; Allen stunts inside Will Gholston, who Lewan has nerfed, and hits Ricky Barnum at full speed. Barnum gives ground—a lot of ground. Allen is flying up into the pocket, where Denard would be.

Denard has started to roll.

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"DENARD IS SOOOO BAD! And it makes me feel so good."

-Kyle Artinian, MSU safety, 9/1/2012

The roll is bad. The roll takes out most of Michigan's routes, spends time Michigan doesn't have, removes downfield possibilities Michigan desperately needs. In the stands, my heart sinks. I have seen this script before, not just watching Michigan, but watching everyone. Michigan's win probability is sinking like a stone with every step Denard takes outside the pocket.

Denard stops. The roll steps have gotten Roy Roundtree a bracket, and made the middle of the field lonely.

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Barnum has continued shoving Allen past everything. Gholston, lined up against Lewan, is as relevant to the play as I am. Denard sets his feet.

"I can play quarterback for the school in blue."

-Jamal Lyles, MSU linebacker, 9/1/2012

Denard decides setting his feet is not for him. He starts moving up in the pocket as the State nose tackle sheds Elliot Mealer.

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Dileo's head is in a better spot to tackle someone than Gholston

As all of this has occurred with half the people on the field, the other half have been fighting hand-to-hand in remote locations. Drew Dileo has started outside, then come inside of MSU safety Isaiah Lewis. Lewis is tracking, in decent position. Dileo is entering a window between two underneath defenders. It's huge since Denard's temporary roll has caused Max Bullough to chase Roundtree—the roll truly was doomed.

Denard is moving up in a pocket that is less a pocket and more a space occupied by a no-longer-blocked Michigan State defender by the moment. He has not rolled. He is stepping into the future, whatever it brings.

Denard cocks, and throws. The stadium stops. The throw has to be on a line, at Dileo's chest. It's 20 yards downfield. As each frame ticks by, universes begin and end.

"Even a blind squirrel can get a nut ever once in a while...,"

-Nick Hill, MSU running back, 9/1/2012

It's in the number—not numbers. Drew Dileo only has one. It's #9. Denard uses the enclosed space in that number as a bullseye.

pass-6pass-7

Michigan rushes to the line to spike the ball. Mark Dantonio watches Michigan execute a maneuver that cost him a game last week when his team went all John L Smith on it.

After…

denard-roar

I keep thinking about how this clown beat us in the clutch. Sure, we beat ourselves, but for all the times we've shit on him for his arm or lack of, what did he do in the final minute?

Pride comes before... DAMN IT!

-Venomous G. Duck, 10/21/2012

denard-7denard-9denard-10

…I mean, the guy knows. He's heard it all, whether he'll admit it or not. In this game the defenses dominated as both quarterbacks struggled to about 5.6 yards per attempt. The difference: Denard outrushed MSU's offense by himself and threw a meaningless interception on an end-of-half Hail Mary while Maxwell chucked one into Kovacs's chest after Michigan State had been set up with good field position. Run and armpunt that, homeboy.

"We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?"

-Mark Dantonio, 4/18/2012

The remainder of Michigan State's season is a choice between not going to a bowl game and helping Michigan make the Rose Bowl.

Michigan State found a few nuts when one Michigan coach hung on too long and a second employed Greg Robinson, and couldn't wait to tell everybody every day all day. In the aftermath, they're asking Brady Hoke if they're as important as Ohio State and saying it's a real rivalry and it's level footing now, because Michigan is apparently also busy cutting off recruiting coordinators for no apparent reason and talking trash because Michigan State is losing a game. The little brother thing keeps getting brought up because it is the truest thing anyone has ever said about a 100-year-old football program.

Whatever. Michigan is rounding up a selection of ass-kickers and has its sights set on bigger things than one game against a program that's never been in a BCS bowl and hasn't seen Pasadena in 25 years. It doesn't matter if MSU or Iowa is Iowa. What matters is in Schembechler Hall, and MSU players watching Michigan play Alabama know it.

------------------

After the game, DenardX tweeted something about walk-on quarterbacks. 

Me and the rest of the QBs after the game with our home boy Paul Bunyan!!! #GoBlue @teamdgizzle @rbellomy

image

As of press time, Denicos Allen has not given a shoutout to his boy Tommy Vento.

Media

Eric's photoset:

Parkinggod highlights:

Other highlights from a guy named noonkick. Field level end of game video:

Presser videos from mgovideo: HokeLewan/Roh/Roundtree, Dileo/Gibbons, Roundtree is going to love that Paul Bunyan trophy yo. MVictors photos. Maize and Blue Nation photos.

Bullets

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brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3_thumbBrady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Come on down, Drew Dileo. You caught over two-thirds of Denard's passing yardage and are now The Threat. Viva slot receivers.

Honorable mention: Jake Ryan (obvs), JT Floyd (they tried but could never bust him), Greg Mattison (I mean, my God), Denard Robinson (HEYYYY COLUMN LADY), Taylor Lewan (Tom Lolston), Kenny Demens (LeVeon Bell, welcome to 2.6 YPC), Jordan Kovacs (ditto).

Epic Double Point standings.

3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Drew Dileo (Michigan State)

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DEE-FENSE. That image above is just perfect. LeVeon Bell crapped out 2.6 yards a carry against OSU… and 2.6 yards a carry against Michigan. That's all DL stuff and while the Michigan State line had the services of Dan France, they were out two of their three starters for most of the OSU game and did not have Treadwell much; Treadwell went the whole way against M and AFAIK Ethan Ruhland did not make an appearance. Dion Sims was gimpy; other than that it's basically the same performance against the same team.

Bell never got caught behind the line, which makes the 2.6 YPC even more impressive since Michigan didn't RPS their way into any TFLs. Michigan won the battle on third and short against LeVeon Bell. Thumbs up.

CLOCK MANAGEMENT. That was verbatim tweet I sent out Saturday and holy pants, WTF. Some of that was crappy luck and crappy decisions—Toussaint catching the Butterfield/Breaston memorial DON'T YOU DARE CATCH THAT pass, Denard checking down in the first place, but at one point the entire stadium was on its feet screaming SNAP THE BALL at once after Michigan let almost 20 seconds run off the clock for no apparent reason. Michigan had already burned nine seconds before the review on the Denard third-and-two lunge; they burned off a few more before snapping the ball.

If this was a one time thing it would be a one-time thing; after last year's Iowa two-minute debacle it's an issue. I don't think this is much on the players when they're looking to the sideline for a call, especially after Michigan burned two timeouts in this game just trying to get the playcall in.

Michigan huddling for half the playclock is killing me. There's no reason to do it, it doesn't seem to help their attempts to audible out of obvious blitzes, and their lack of practicing at tempo is an obvious detriment when they need to go fast.

8106512600_8361189f20_z[1]Jake Ryan crazy thing of the week. This is not actually the Maxwell sack pictured at right, which came about after Ryan went around the 250-pound Bell like he was not there for Michigan's only TFL of the week. Though that was pretty awesome, you guys.

Even so, the crazy thing Ryan did this week was facing down three blockers on a screen that MSU had set up like whoah, trashing the guy who peeled off to deal with him, and holding Michigan State to seven yards. Michigan booted state off the field on the subsequent third and short.

Totals: 10 tackles, 8 solo, Michigan's only sack. HE'S SLIGHTLY GOOD YOU GUYS SRSLY

JT Floyd. It was clear once MSU started taking regular shots downfield that they had identified JT Floyd as the weak spot on the Michigan defense, but he held tough. The catch-and-YAC five yard hitch first downs from the Purdue game were eliminated entirely; he got beat deep by a step or two each time but was in good enough position that the throws had to be perfect lest he pull the press Michael Floyd and live (or "trail") technique.

The throws weren't perfect, and the only long completions Maxwell managed were against Thomas Gordon (bad play by him on a ball he would have had a play on if he found it) and Raymon Taylor (got an interference call and gave up an admittedly spectacular completion late). Floyd got off without issue.

What's more, MSU's big idea to get a touchdown on short yardage was to line up a fullback over Floyd and run Bell at him. Floyd held up, got the edge, kept leverage at the numbers, and prevented Bell from getting outside, whereupon Desmond Morgan helped him tackle. The guy had a target on his back all day and came through with flying colors.

Fumbles. Are a bitch.

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Somehow Michigan did not recover this one, nor the other one, despite having nothing but Michigan players surrounding the Spartan who clutched the ball like it was a nugget of gold.

NOW DO YOU BELIEVE ME NOWWWWWW

Denard, my man. I am totally down with the whole "not getting torn limb from limb by defenses" thing, but…

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…dude, there is a time and place to put your body on the line and turning your 44 yard run late in the fourth quarter into 50 is it.

Denard's bad throw to Gallon. Eric got a great shot of it:

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Watching the replay, Denard is throwing it in the heart of the window between the two linebackers. Gallon should be sitting between the two guys; he overruns it a bit. My thinking here is influenced by seeing Borges at that coaches clinic, where he mentioned that he wants his QBs to hold up his receivers against zone coverage.

Still, probably at least 75% Denard. He's rifling that at a guy barely ten yards downfield so his margin for error is extremely small; he doesn't read the fact that he is wide, wide open and he can just soft toss it to him.

Matt Wile: most useful backup kicker ever. Matt Wile may not have displaced Keith Stone Sasquatch Brendan Gibbons as Michigan's starting kicker but he's the best third-most-important kicker since I've been watching Michigan football. He:

  • kicks most kickoffs into the endzone
  • is a pretty effective pooch-punter
  • had a good plain-old punting record last year when Hagerup was jittery
  • nailed a 48-yard field goal that, along with all other field goals, was the winning margin.

If either kicker got injured he'd step into their shoes. Michigan should be fine on the kicking stuff for a while now. Note foregone pun.

Hagerup confidence : 2012 :: Gibbons confidence : 2011. Whatever happened with Hagerup last year to tack a four-game suspension on to his OSU suspension from 2010 led to a lot of shanks and mortifiedpunter.gif. After a couple of Sugar Bowl shanks, Wile displaced Hagerup for the rest of the game.

At that point it was writin' off time, like Gibbons after 2010. When Hagerup was still atop the depth chart in September, that made people suspicious. It wasn't alarming like Gibbons since Wile was around and fairly established, but it was only 50-50 to stick. Stuck it has. Hagerup's averaging 47.5 yards a kick and would be fourth nationally if he had enough punts to qualify.

Special teams coach: do we have one or not? The fake punt was… frustrating. Michigan's trying to set up a return, which you can't really do against a spread punt anyway, and they're playing a team that loves nothing more than faking punts and field goals. Somehow this combination results in three guys leading the punter and blocking no one at all. Michigan's even got a designated special teams/TEs guy, but they can't cover or block on punts and they got gashed for 30 yards by a punter. WTF.

Michigan did get a big return out of Gallon at the end of the first half but even that emphasized the difference in punt coverage. Gallon had to split two unblocked guys and then run laterally past a second wave. Meanwhile the one Hagerup punt that was not a 48-yard, five-second-hang unreturnable moonball was a free 15 yards for the punt returner since MSU doubled a gunner and no one else on that side of the ball got downfield.

Whatever they're doing with the kickers is great… but is that anything other than hot babes visualization exercises? I'm not sure. Everything else is questionable at best.

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Game theory bits. There wasn't a whole lot of interest from my eyes but a couple of decisions have sucked up post-game airtime.

  • MSU threw on second down on their last drive. Not even close: right call. LeVeon Bell was averaging 2.6 yards a carry and had just been stuffed for nothing. Maybe you want some slants or a hitch or something instead of what they threw but you can't assume Michigan is going to run the worst successful two minute drill ever. All running on second down accomplishes is spending a Michigan timeout; getting the first down ends the game.
  • Michigan punted on fourth and seven from the MSU 42 early. Did not have a problem with this. Not in true no man's land, yardage pretty big, and if you're in the kind of game that ends 12-10 puntosaur technology is the right tech.
  • MSU attempted a 38-yard field goal on fourth and one from the 21. This was debatable—one of reasons puntosaur tech makes sense is that even if you get the first down you're probably kicking anyway. Is MSU going to score a TD? Eh… probably not. A 38-yarder is well within the range in which you expect your established PK to hit it. Even so… that was fourth and capital-S Short. If MSU is intimidated by Michigan's short yardage defense… well, I get that. Probably a mistake but in a puntosaur game I get it.

The assumption you're making on those early calls is that you are in a puntosaur game. IME, that was clear from the get-go.

Oh for crap's sake. Dollars to donuts this is new LSJ beatwriter and slappy Graham "Alex Carder Best Quarterback In The State™" Couch:

I don’t know if you guys saw after the game, but I almost got trampled out there. [MGo: -_______-] Have the fans ever trampled the field like that after a Michigan State win? Is this rivalry getting to the level of Ohio State?

[update: Heiko says it was a photographer, not Couch; stuff below stands.]

No, and no.

Couch derided Junior Hemingway—yup, Junior Hemingway—for his classlessness after the game in a tweet, going so far as to hashtag his tweet "#classless," because he interpreted Michigan's rush to get a Paul Bunyan trophy that was on the sideline last year but not this year as taunting. He's since deleted the tweet, because nothing goes better with stupidity than cowardice.

BONUS: This blog already has a "Graham Couch's laughable homerism" tag from his days covering WMU.

Pom poms. I thought I was good when the guy three rows in front of me was an Air Force veteran—so said his hat—who would clearly rather eat glass than wave a pom-pom, but then some Ladies who Just Wanted To Have Fun ended up two rows in front of me. At some point I had to say "please don't wave those so high" because I couldn't see the field, at which point they said "it's a football game" and I said "I KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT."

I don't know, man. This isn't an old man thing, it's just… if there are pom poms it is a guarantee that some dip in front of you will forget that there are people behind them and act affronted when you say there are people behind them. This is amazingly consistent in my and my friends experience: ask the kind of person who waves a pom-pom during actual football plays to not do that and you will be subjected to a "whateva, I do what I want" style rant and petulant extra-vigorous pom-pom shaking. And yet if I was to take the pom-pom and stuff it down the pom-pom waver's throat, I would be the one removed from the stadium.

Pom poms suck, because society.

Special K. False hope is worse than death.

What the incentive program should be. Any student who wasn't in the stadium at kickoff shouldn't be allowed to buy tickets next year. I mean, seriously: a 3:30 kick for the only decent home game all year and the upper 20 rows of the student section are half-full means the student section is too big.

Here

Inside The Box Score:

We had Witvoet's crew for the game. After calling a penalty on State, he let Hawthorne have it. I'm not sure what Brandin did, but I'm just glad he didn't draw an unsportmanlike penalty call.

* The officials let it be known early that they weren't going to stand for any shenanigans this year, calling Lewan for a somewhat touchy late hit. I wish they would have sent a message by calling a penalty on the team responsible for all the shenanigans last year, but they kept things under control, so no complaints.

bronxbblue has a new thing called Best and Worst:

Best:  “It’s an in-state rival. But we have bigger expectations

I’m sure this is a bit of coach-speak, but it is also something that needed to be said. Since, oh, the Eastern Michigan game, I don’t think most people saw MSU as a legitimate Big 10 championship team. The offense was too crippled by a porous line, poor WRs, and a somewhat-shaky QB to keep pace with teams like Wisconsin, UM, OSU, and Nebraska. The Iowa game cemented their ceiling for the year at 7-8 wins, even with an elite defense.

Outside of the Alabama game, though, UM’s ceiling was never defined.  Notre Dame was a tough loss but one that felt more self-inflicted than the team meeting a superior opponent. Purdue and Illinois proved only that UM was probably as good as Louisiana Tech and and Marshall. MSU, frankly, was not going to validate UM’s season, but only give them another breakpoint from which to calibrate their potential.

And that’s what Hoke encapsulates in this statement.  He recognizes that MSU is a rival and the game mattered, but this wasn’t the season.

Elsewhere

Spartanfreude section. The "Post Your Big (Jail) House experience" thread is pretty good from an M standpoint—no one reports much untoward aside from some verbal sparring, and even that is pretty tame.

I was in Section 8 and saw some arguing going on. On the way back to the car had 3 assholes walking in back of us talking shit like everyone above said, "Little brother put back in his place again", "Leveon Bell for Heisman....", "130 seasons of football and 900 wins", "UM is back in their rightful place". This yapping went. on for the whole walk thru the golf course. Mind you that I took my 74 year old dad to the game. I finally blew. Stopped in my tracks and had a few words. That slightly shut them up.

A 74-year-old man had to listen to people describe how many wins Michigan had acquired, and was exposed to the opinion that Michigan State is not as good at football as Michigan. #thugs

This Guy:

Cut my hand open, Michigan fans threatened to "throw me out of the stadium" for cheering, got my backpack stolen, bought macaroni salad on the walk home. Typical saturday. Also I got called ugly a lot. I'm like a 6 let's be real.

Edit: in retrospect, I probably swore around children a lot more than I should have

Also This Guy:

It's an awful place. Will never return after my last visit in 2010, when I had to be retstrained from attacking Walvies who kept telling me to go back to jail. Nothing about the experience is fun, no matter the result.

And this guy made TWIS but you get a taste early:

Rolled out of bed today more upset and sick than last night

This sucks. Facing the world this week with every UM drag sporting that cocky arrogant grin, wearing their colors -unwashed.
I hate this.

Many if you rcmb'rs are too you to remember all the games from late 80's until Dantonio era.... I hate this week. I can't wait for the first one to offer some sort of mild apology or winning with fg's... Kill.

That is the same This Guy who complained about the Michigan fans who had the audacity to tell him the game would be close and Michigan wasn't good last week. If this man was ever exposed to a real taunt his head would disintegrate into a fine mist.

Blog folks. HSR:

Spock: Well, Michigan was quite fortunate to have won that game.

Kirk: Woooo!  Don't care!  Wooooo!  Woooo!  Woooo!

Spock: Four field goals is hardly the offensive output necessary over the long term to win the Big Ten Championship.

Kirk: Don't care!  Don't care!  Woooooo!  Woooo!  What the Dileo?!?  Wooo!

MVictors:

As J. Lehman was interviewing Hoke during pregame (above), I heard a woman on the sideline (with a sideline pass mind you) gesture over to Hoke and ask, “Is that the coach?”. I gave the Jim Halpert stare to anyone who wanted it. And a lot of guys wanted it.

BWS points out that Michigan passed on 7 of 26 first downs, and only 5 of 22 before the two-minute drill. The lack of a reliable play action option really hurt in this one. I'm not sure why Michigan can't throw outs to their slot receivers.

The MZone has wallpaper and shiny helmet taunting. Five takes from MNBN. Holding the Rope. Maize and Go Blue. TTB.

The Only Colors has postgame react from the MSU perspective:

There aren't going to be any four-game winning streaks in this rivalry again for a long time. ("It takes four years. Of course it will be a long time." Shut up, guy). MSU will get the favorable schedule U-M has enjoyed for the next two years, and both teams are starting to stockpile talent. (If you bring up recruiting rankings, I'm going to punch you).

MSU fans are still clinging to the recruiting-rankings-are-meaningless thing. They're in for a harsh reality check once Michigan's recruiting rankings are paired with something other than crippling attrition, lackadaisical talent evaluation, and crappy coaching. Maybe not next year, when Michigan's breaking in a new quarterback and the upperclass talent levels are still relatively even, but after that… back to the salt mines, Sparty. Or maybe Alabama, OSU, and USC are only good because of their helmets.

SBN's Bobby Big Wheel was randomly at the game and randomly ended up on the field and wrote a thing defending being on the field:

…most college kids use "if it feels good, do it" as their main decision-making rule, not a six-factor test. Thus, a few jumped on the field. At first, I smiled and wondered how I'd get out of the stadium, but more people started jumping the fence. Michigan Stadium goes out instead of up, and the student section seems to run 100 rows deep. So, I learned that when you have a mile of drunk, yellow-clad college kids behind you and someone says you're rushing the field, you're rushing the field.

That's how I, a 28-year-old, job-having person, rushed the field at Michigan Stadium. And I did it con gusto. I joined in the chants, yelled "wooooo!" a lot and got my picture taken with the band. It might have been the rum and "Coke" (I suspect that the mixer was either another type of rum or a non-poisonous brand of varnish) that I'd been taking swigs of during the game, but it was still a fantastic experience. Please keep in mind that I have no ties to the University of Michigan beyond a sister in grad school there. Never mind that; running around a football field makes you feel alive.

I have to admit I rolled my eyes at the field-rush, which was epic in its half-assery. The first students over the wall waited for the team to leave the field, basically, and then it was a slow trickle as only 30-40% of the people in the front row at any particular juncture actually wanted to get on the field. The contrast from last year's OSU field rush to this one was appropriately vast.

Q: I can't remember anyone ever rushing the field outside of the 1997 OSU game before the two incidents mentioned above. Can anyone else?

The HSR is figuring out what's going on in the game based on Ace's ability to keep all of his veins in his head. Dr. Sap's decals go to Dileo, Floyd, and Gibbons, plus others. Brady Hoke's Pet Viking reprazent. MVictors did this:

mealerbunyan_thumb[1]

MVictors is pretty cool, yo.

There is another Wangler. Not Jack Wangler. Another another Wangler. Michigan picked up a commit from a guy who makes Logan Tuley-Tillman seem small.

Media folks. Nesbitt column. Baumgardner explains what happened at the end of the game with the "classless" business hopeless unprofessional slappy Couch mentioned:

Moments after Michigan's 12-10 win over Michigan State on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Lewan, teammate Roy Roundtree and a host of other Michigan players rushed the field and sprinted toward the Spartan sideline.

They were, of course, searching for the famous Paul Bunyan Trophy. But the effort was futile.

"This was my first time beating Michigan State, so I don't know how this works," Lewan said, believing Michigan was supposed to receive the trophy from MSU after the game. "I ran over there to get the Paul Bunyan Trophy, because I remember (MSU having it on the field once before).

"I didn't see him until I went into the locker room. ... I think they were upset about it."

The Michigan victory brings the trophy back to Ann Arbor for the first time since 2007, even if it wasn't brought onto the field Saturday.

After beating the Wolverines for a fourth straight time last season, Michigan State players were seen celebrating with the massive trophy on the field at Spartan Stadium. On Saturday, though, the exchange was more low-key -- it was done somewhere inside the stadium tunnel, and the trophy was waiting for the Wolverines in their locker room after the game.

More classless behavior.

Wojo. Gibbons called the attempt to ice him "pointless." You've come a long way, baby. Chengelis no doubt jinxes Gibbons.

Michigan is 20th in both polls. Jennings on The Threat, who is a football player. Grades. Numbers. Avoiding predictability.

Mailbag: Snap Jumping Again, Clock Management Win, Jake Ryan Of Christmas Past, Legends Logistics

Mailbag: Snap Jumping Again, Clock Management Win, Jake Ryan Of Christmas Past, Legends Logistics

Submitted by Brian on October 16th, 2012 at 11:29 AM

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Past Jake Ryan, hopefully not future MSU

Snap jumping. Not again?

Dear MGoBlog,

Please address Sparty jumping the snap. What can be done to prevent it or even use it to the Wolverines' advantage?

Please, please, please use all your influence to prevent Sparty snap jumping from successfully occurring this Saturday.  This is an important key to Michigan's offensive success.

Thank you,
Philip McEachern

I AM USING ALL MY INFLUENCE MAN YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unfortunately, that influence consists of squinting really hard and making "wahwahwahwah" noises to project psychic sound waves about me. I have no influence.

I do think that we will see that snap jumping significantly reduced in frequency, possibly almost eliminated. One of the hidden transition costs last year was a coaching staff that had not endured Jerel Worthy's sometimes-offside-but-usually-just-eating-your-heart dance party and did not spend big chunks off the offseason fuming about it and scheming themselves a plan to defeat it. This year everyone is well aware that snap timing blew up the Michigan offense in all different ways and that changes must be made. We have seen Michigan vary their snap counts—they did it last week—and with a home game Michigan should be able to use audible signals if they want. Meanwhile, Worthy is gone and I haven't seen the Spartan replacements be able to replicate that maddening skill of his.

Unfortunately, this prediction about the snap jumping has reached the status of turnovers under Rich Rodriguez: logic says it can't happen again, and then it happens again. At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are before I believe it.

If not this year, though, when? Michigan State's coming off three straight nail-biters that required them to dump everything they had on the field in an effort to win the game. Michigan's coming off a bye and two laughers. MSU is shuffling guys on their OL, has benched a senior captain LB, and is trying to find two tight ends to rub together.

They don't have the depth to do much other than what they've done already. They don't have a changeup like Baker they can go to; they don't have the tight end depth that threw Michigan off; they are trying to find anyone who can catch a ball. Please, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, yea the most powerful of all fictional supernatural football deities, hear our plea.

Bellomy on the goal line.

Brian,

I am a little confused by the play calling after Denard went out with his "boo-boo".

1) Why is Toussaint in the "jumbo" (unsure if package name is correct)? Rawls just seems to have the short yardage figured out a little bit better i.e. size and running style: see 6:35 Q2. (I know my example comes after and did not have 6/7 on the line and all 11 within 5 of the LOS and inside the tackles but still).  Was Rawls insertion later a sign that he may now have the short yardage job?

You've got me on this one. I have two theories, neither of which seems that convincing.

Theory one: Fitz is in a funk and rusty and getting flack from people and some cheap touchdowns will help his morale, maybe get him driving harder at the goal line.

Theory two: Rawls is fumbling a lot in practice or going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.

Pick one or make one up yourself; I think either explanation is going to quickly fall by the wayside as Rawls becomes a preferred option inside the five. He probably would have scored on one of the two attempts. I do think the BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE theory has some credibility behind it since I just watched Rawls look at this…

rawls-wtf

…and decide to bounce that outside the TE instead of slam it up at the gaping cutback lane like he was born to do. Amazingly, the guy seems to have some Michael Shaw to him. Go north-south, young moose.

2) Why the vanilla play calls? It was clear later that they trust Bellomy with some measure of the offense that is clearly larger than watching the RB run into some ineffective down-blocks. With the alignment of weak-side DE, LB, and FS, why not run a PA boot with the TE rubbing off and going all Funchey in the back of the end zone? Is this just a manball fundamental that we must live with this year while the donkey punchers are being groomed?

Stuart

There's a big difference between trusting Bellomy to run around and fling stuff once you're up a billion points and having him take his first meaningful snaps in a rainstorm in a game that could still go either way.

Personally, I wanted him to hand off come hell or high water—when you're the silverback you want to lower variance, and having Bellomy think about all the stuff he's going to do after the snap could lead to bad news. Bellomy fumbled a snap later, after all, and Michigan doesn't want to open the door for anything cheap for the Illini because that's the only way they lose.

In general I don't think there's much to criticize either way about  goal line playcalling. The defense is selling out one way, you pick one or the other and succeed or don't.

[After THE JUMP: clock management, Afghanistan face-off, Legends logistics, Jake Ryan of the past.]

The Lamentation Of Their Women

The Lamentation Of Their Women

Submitted by Brian on October 15th, 2012 at 12:18 PM

10/13/2012 – Michigan 45, Illinois 0 – 4-2, 2-0 Big Ten

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Eric Upchurch

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.

arnold-schwarzenegger-conan-the-barbarian-movie-image-2[1]x350[1]

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.

The big hole on the defense is…

…weakside end? Maybe Floyd himself? It's unknown, really.

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.]

Media

Highlights from parkinggod:

The Ford presentation:

Also pressers by Hoke, Denard and Desmond Morgan, Jake Ryan and Patrick Omameh, and Kenny Demens and his disco 'stache.

Upchurch photos went up this morning.

Real Bullets

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Ace

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3Brady 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.

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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

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Upchurch

wat is punter wat is

wat

/dies

RESPAWN

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.

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Upchurch

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 hyped 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:

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Upchurch

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.

Baumgardner:

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.

TTB:

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.

Hoke likes him. Yeah.

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.

OL doing stuff. Big Robinson runs resulted from:

  • Omameh blowing up Spence one on one.
  • Lewan blowing up a DE on the easy Denard draw TD.
  • Omameh blowing up Spence again on the 49-yarder

Student section fight. Michigan State:

aint-nobody-end

Michigan:

crowd2_thumb[1]

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

OHHHHHHHH

/ball hits ground

oh?

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.

I am so with you HSR:

Really, I could have like six anti-Special K bullets here, but will it really do any good?

The weirdest thing was the soulful acoustic guitar thing they played for like an entire commercial break. YEAH I'M FIRED UP HIT ME WITH THE JOSE GONZALEZ I CAME HERE FOR WARRRRRRRR.

Now you can't do it. Ace mentioned the on-field proposal after everyone had cleared out Saturday, and now the gentleman who totally one-upped you passed along the event itself:

Jonathan San declares "I've never made that many girls scream before," and he's got you topped. Unless you're Steve Breaston—in which case respext, you are good at football.

Dang big gap. The MSU line opened at M –11.5 and currently stands at M –10.5.

Here

Inside The Boxscore:

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.

Turd Ferguson kicks off a rivalry week with a dossier of Michigan State's recent achievements, as well:

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.

Spartans are known to generously extend a hand to those in need.  They’ve developed a prison-to-work program seen by many as a model for how to reduce to an absolute minimum the time between prison and work.  Their athletic director moonlights as avolunteer career counselor and their football coach as a public speaking coach, offering their time even to supposed athletic rivals.  When one of their neighbors could use help just stretching his neck, scratching his eye, massaging his arm, or bludgeoning his face, a Spartan is always there to assist.

Elsewhere

Blog folk. MVictors pulls out a Gerald Ford speech from 1975 in an effort to figure out what he might have said if he was around for the event:

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]

MVictors postgame:

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.

Big House Blog:

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.

More HSR:

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.

Maize and Go Blue:

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

Holding The Rope:

When Odysseus* returned home, he was met with a cohort of unruly suitors. Like those suitors, Illinois simply did not have the strength to string the bow and fire.

MICHIGAN MENZ.

MNBN:

RAMROTH FINNEGAN declares Michigan by far his best visit. I know the kid is destined to end up at Cincinnati, where all the best names go, but let's savor this moment when it is just fate, not fact.

The Illinois perspective:

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?

TTB awards. M&GB on the RB platoon. Sap's Decals. Photos from MNBN.

Mainstream folk. Grades are somewhat good from Meinke. Daily game story. Smith sat out with a hamstring issue, "boo-boo" resurfaces as nonspecific Denard injury term. Helfand on Michigan's defense. Estes on Kenny Demens. Meinke on MSU week. Baumgardner on lack of turnovers.

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Notre Dame

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Notre Dame

Submitted by Brian on September 27th, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Formation notes: I called whatever the heck this is "Nickel rush". The two DT types next to each other stunted, FWIW:

nickel-rush

This was "okie one": man to man on the outside with a free safety and six guys on the LOS. Okie was rare.

okie-one

Substitution notes: Roh and Clark went the whole way save for a drive or two on which Ojemudia spotted Clark. Washington and Campbell got the large majority of the snaps on the interior; Black was pretty marginalized. He seems to only be playing in the nickel package, of which there wasn't much.

The usual ILB rotation went down with Demens and Morgan getting a solid majority of playing time but Ross and Bolden featuring as well. Ryan played every snap, I think. Secondary was Taylor/Floyd/Kovacs/Gordon the whole way with scattered nickel plays featuring Avery.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O9 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 even Pass 4 Fade Taylor INT
All day; Taylor jams his guy and ends up losing him deep a little. Golson leaves it short and Taylor(+2, cover push) snags it as he recovers. There was a window here between Taylor and Kovacs that was missed, but it's not the easiest thing in the world. Taylor is sinking in cover two, and you never want to throw over a sinking corner.
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Cutback zone Floyd 8
End around fake to the boundary and the WR headhunting Kovacs from the start of the play implies this is a designed cutback. Clark(-1) gets pushed way too far down the line and opens it up. Floyd(-1) again totally fails to read a WR cracking down on a block a la Air Force and the corner opens up after Kovacs tries to fill the hole Clark left and gets blindsided by the WR.
O33 2 2 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Clark 5
Campbell(+1) takes a double and doesn't move, or get sealed, and takes two guys all the way to the end of the play. They're also doubling the backside end, bizarrely, so no second level guys. Wood has to go all the way outside. He gets the corner and I'm not sure if it's Morgan slowing up instead of hauling for the outside or Clark getting sealed inside that's the culprit. I think Clark(-1) since I haven't seen Michigan not use the end as the contain guy.
O38 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Demens 2
This looks grim for a moment as Clark gets sealed inside (ND's game plan is clear) and a tackle pulls around, but a couple of nice LB plays save it. Ryan(+1.5) delays, then jets past a center who got a free release. He comes around him in a flash and shoots up into the interior gap, taking the lead OL. Demens(+1.5) reads it, shoves a slot WR past him, and fills near the LOS.
O40 2 8 Shotgun 2TE Nickel even Pass N/A Sack Ryan 0
Yeah, they didn't credit Michigan with a sack, but I don't care. ND has one guy in this route, and it's not there as Avery(+1, cover +1) drops pack into the slant Eifert is running. Golson starts scrambling. Ryan(+1, pressure +1) grabs him by the ankles as he threatens to break into space and scramble a bit.
O40 3 8 Shotgun empty Dime Pass 4 Hitch Taylor Inc
Golson has a hitch route right at the sticks that is going to be 50-50 depending on whether Taylor can stick the guy right on the catch, but Golson airmails it. Probably a first down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 7 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ross 5
Ross in at MLB. He gets a free run as ND goes at Clark(+1) again. This time he stands up to a double and gets a little push, forcing a cut up. Campbell(-0.5) is flowing down the line, too, but eventually gets sealed. Ross can't quite get to the hole and impacts from the side, riding Atkinson to the ground but giving up 3 YAC. Like his decisiveness but not quite there on this one.
O25 2 5 Ace 3TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Clark 6
ND combos Campbell(+0.5) and gets out on Ross; Campbell comes through the block and shows in the hole, but it's too big and Ross(-0.5) does not funnel to help, but the real issue is probably Clark(-1) getting kicked out too far. He ends up way outside, so even though Ross does get outside of the G eventually he can't shut it down because of the big gap. Floyd and Kovacs fill after the sticks.
O31 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Clark 4
Michigan seems to be running a run blitz here as Clark(-2) pops outside immediately and Kovacs and Ross shoot into a backside hole. Campbell(+0.5) prevented anyone from getting out on Ross(+1), who saw the gap forming and flew up into it. Kovacs(+0.5) also there, and he didn't have to pick a gap. Michigan has this stoned until Clark is pancaked on the edge and the bounce opens up.
O35 2 6 Ace 3TE 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Roh 2
Roh(+1) slants outside past the T and gets into the backfield, picking off H-back Eifert and forcing a cutback. Campbell(+0.5) appears to block the guy supposed to get to Morgan on the second level. Morgan has a free run as a result. Bolden(-1) again gets tentative and then fights inside the blocker, momentarily giving Atkinson a lane outside that Morgan(+1) shuts down with a flash of speed. Could have been no gain and a thumping Morgan hit if this doesn't open up outside. Picture-paged.
O37 3 4 Shotgun empty 4-3 even Pass 4 Tunnel screen Ryan 1
Ryan(+3) is sucked out to the edge by the formation. He runs up hard to the outside of the TE, gets that TE moving out to block him, then pulls up short and dives back inside, making a tackle(+1) in space on Riddick as the DL recovers to cut off angles further inside. Great, great play.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Washington 1
Washington(+2) shoots under the center and forces a cutback into an unblocked Ryan(+0.5). Campbell(+1) had also gotten push and effectively two-gapped his blocker if the play went playside.
M16 2 9 Ace twins 4-3 under Pass 4 TE seam Demens Inc
Eifert does beat Demens down the field and is separating as he reaches the endzone, but he's close enough to force a very tough throw out of Golson, who has to drop it over Demens's head before Gordon can get over. He misses. Cover +1.
M16 3 9 Shotgun 2TE twins 4-3 even Pass 4 TE seam Demens Inc
Roh(+2) roars off the ball and plows over the LT, hitting Golson from behind as he throws (pressure +2). Pass is still amazingly accurate, but Demens(+2,cover +2) is step for step with the TE and there is literally nowhere the ball can be that will be a catch.
Drive Notes: FG(33), 0-3, 10 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 4-3 even Pass 4 Dumpoff Demens 13
No pressure(-2) as Roh oddly makes a fake pass drop before rushing on a a four-man pressure. Clark got off the ball late. Coverage downfield is good but they run everyone off and Demens gets stuck in space with Riddick and that doesn't go great. Considering the situation, Demens(+0.5) does well to hold Riddick relatively stationary until the cavalry arrives. (Cover -1, RPS -1)
M26 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 even Pass 4 Dig Bolden 10
Bolden(-1, cover -2) slides out of his zone, opening up a dig route before the safeties. Again little pressure(-1) but it was better this time.
M10 1 G Ace 3TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power Campbell 0
Campbell(+2) slides over on the snap, moving past a couple of DL, one of whom falls. He takes on Eifert head up, sheds him to the inside, and hits in the hole. Roh(+1) had slanted all the way from the backside of the play to help close the hole. Washington(-0.5) ended up blown up a bit but I don't think that's too bad since he got doubled and downblocked.
M10 2 G Shotgun 2TE 4-3 even Pass 4 Improv Gordon INT
Clark(+1) gets a bull rush that spooks Golson even though it's pretty harmless. He gets held so maybe that's why it ends up harmless. Roh(+0.5) also gets held on the edge as he's trying to contain the rollout; he still manages to cut Golson off before he can reach the LOS. Golson makes a decision as bad as Denard's first INT, chucking up a moonball Gordon(+2, cover +2) is in coverage on and intercepts. No one open at all. WTF.
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-3, 8 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M48 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A TGDCD Morgan -3
Morgan(+1) reads this all the way and shoots up into the intended hole unblocked, forcing a bounce. Ryan(-1) allowed that to happen by trying to close down and giving a ton of ground; Kovacs(+1) flows up quickly to cut off the outside, at which point Atkinson hesitates and is lost. Kovacs with the open-field TFL(tackling +1). RPS +1; Michigan did not bite on the action.
O49 2 13 Shotgun empty TE 4-3 even Pass N/A Improv Roh 16
Dig in the middle of the field is open but Rees doesn't like it for some reason; Campbell(+1) bulls his way into the pocket and spooks Rees out; Roh(-1) loses contain and allows that to happen, at which point the zone has been dragged open by all manner of things. It seems like Bolden is running vertical with a TE, opening it up, FWIW. (Cover -2, Pressure -2)
M35 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Bolden 2
Line makes a very shallow slant away from the play that ends up preventing anyone from getting to the second level. The DTs get sealed away by three guys and Roh ends up taking on two. Bolden(+1) sees the gap forming in front of him and starts flying up into it before the handoff is even made, forcing a bounce; Gordon(+1, tackling +1) fends off a block from a WR, tossing him away, and tackles near the LOS. I'm not even sure which ND player is hypothetically supposed to block Bolden. RPS +1.
M33 2 8 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Roh 3
Exact same play. This time Roh is not banging into two guys as M plays it straight. G releases into Demens, single blocking on front. Roh(+0.5) gets some push and comes off to tackle; Washington does the same(+0.5); Demens(+0.5) gets outside of the G and the RB runs right into him thanks to the narrow crease.
M30 3 5 Shotgun empty TE Nickel even Pass 4 Fade Taylor 24
RT moves a hair early but no call. Taylor(-3, cover -1) is in the right spot to make a play on this ball if he turns around or could just play NOBODY CARES coverage, but when the WR slows up he overruns it a little bit, getting out of position and drawing a PI flag. Catch is made.
M6 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Angle Ryan 5
Roh chucks the TE as he comes out of his stance, which slows any pass rush from him considerably. This play looks like a guaranteed quick hitter to the RB, which is caught in front of the zone picket-fencing the endzone. Ryan(+0.5) does get a hit on the RB to make it short of the endzone. (Cover -1)
M1 2 G Ace Goal line Run N/A Dive Kovacs 0 (Pen -5)
Kovacs(+1) blitzes inside of the tight end and into the middle of the formation, which takes away any lanes there, forcing a bounce. Morgan(+1, tackling +1) and Demens are moving hard to the bounce at the snap, with Morgan chopping Riddick down for no gain. RPS +1. Illegal motion takes it back a little.
M6 2 G Shotgun empty Nickel under press Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
Oops.
M11 2 G Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 3 Corner Avery Inc
LBs threaten double A blitz, back out. Michigan's dropping eight into coverage; Avery(-1, cover -1) does not get depth as he's trying to drop to the corner of the endzone with the slot WR and ends up beaten. Ball is overthrown; M escapes.
M11 3 G Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Dig Wilson Inc (Pen +9)
Wilson(-2, cover -1) gets beaten by Eifert in man and holds, drawing a flag. RPS -2, why is M in man coverage with no deep safeties from the eleven? And why is a freshman safety one on one with ND's best WR?
M2 1 G Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A QB draw N/A 2
Just one LB in the box and he's too far away; RPS -1. Five guy box against six blockers from the two is not going to go well very often.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-10, 1 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Kovacs 0
I'm not sure about Clark here. He gets a big push on the RT and forces the back to change directions but does so outside, where Morgan is cut off and Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) is dealing with a WR crackdown. Seems like this is what they want to have happen and Clark needs to flare out to force it back away from blocking. OTOH, Kovacs gets a jump outside early that gets him past the block because Clark forced a quick decision from the back. Okay, +0.5. Kovacs in space, TFL, the usual.
O25 2 10 Shotgun empty 4-3 even Pass 5 TE out Ryan Inc
This TE out is going to be open as Morgan was tasked with coverage and is way far away from Eifert; an unblocked Ryan(+1, pressure +1) is in the throwing lane and leaps to bat it away. RPS push, I guess? Open guy, blitz did nerf it, kind of risky.
O25 3 10 Shotgun empty Okie zero Pass 3 Hitch Floyd 7
Michigan backs everyone out; Rees hits a hitch a few yards short of the sticks that Floyd escorts OOB. Cover +1, RPS +1 as Rees ended up throwing this way faster than he had to as he assumed blitz.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-10, 13 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O8 1 10 Ace 4-4 under Run N/A Zone stretch Floyd 15
Campbell(+0.5) drives single blocking back, but this is always going way outside so his angle is not tested. Floyd(+0.5) does recognize the crack down this time and comes hard, cutting off the outside and forcing it back; he also gets an ankle tackle in; Kovacs(-0.5), Morgan(-0.5), and Ojemudia are each coming off blocks to hold it down. Would like Ojemudia(-1) to hold his ground better to maybe get this down to minimal yardage, and definitely want him to keep his feet and actually tackle. He ends up on his knees as Wood manages to stay on his feet (tackling -2) and burst for a first down.
O23 1 10 Ace 4-4 under Run N/A Inside zone Ojemudia 4
Morgan blitzes and threatens to shoot a gap, causing the ND LT to pull off of Ojemudia(-2) just as the TE releases outside to block Taylor. This leaves Ojemudia alone in space with Wood; he gets juked and beat to the outside(tackling -1). Taylor contains. Gordon(+1, tackling +1) fills well.
O27 2 6 Ace 4-4 under Run N/A Inside zone Morgan 2
Washington and Campbell(+0.5 each) get playside of their guys and don't give ground; no creases. Roh(+0.5) also makes this true. Ojemudia(+0.5) is in the cutback lane, forcing Wood to feint outside. He hops outside. Morgan(+1) has blown past a block now to show up in the hole and tackles at the LOS.
O29 3 4 Shotgun empty TE Nickel rush Pass 6 Hitch Ross Inc
Formation explained above. Michigan sends six, getting Ross(+1, pressure +1) in basically clean and forcing a crappy inaccurate short throw from Rees that's wide of a decently covered WR.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-10, 5 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Swing Gordon 8
Ryan(+0.5) reads it and gets outside the slot TE trying to block him, forcing the play inside to Gordon(-1, tackling -2), who comes up hard and whiffs; Bolden(-1) tries to go upfield of a block and does not get there so there is no support to the inside.
O33 2 2 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ryan 4
Washington(+2) blows this play up by slanting and getting under the C. He's into the backfield. Ryan(-1) is not holding the edge well—he's downfield of Roh and not prepared for a bounce and Floyd(-1) is late reacting. He tackles, but really this should be a TFL after Washington forces the bounce.
O37 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Bolden 5
Roh(+1) dives under the G and ends up absorbing the pulling T. That seems like a bust by the T but results based charting. Bolden(-1, tackling -1) is unblocked in a big hole that rapidly constricts and misses a tackle. Morgan(-0.5) got blocked out of the play but he was going to have a hard time with this guy's angle.
O42 2 5 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Washington 6
ND flips both TEs, M flips in response. Washington(-1) gets penetration but this is a stretch and he gets too vertical, opening up a seam. Campbell(-1) got pushed down field and let a blocker into Morgan. That makes cutback lane that is hit up for first down yardage. If you go upfield of a blocker I will minus you unless you make a play. UFR guarantee.
O48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 over Pass 4 Rollout hitch Floyd 12
Actually pretty good coverage by Floyd(+1, cover +1), who breaks on the hitch and has a play on the ball. Unfortunately it's high and he can't quite rake it out. A lower ball and he's got a PBU coming. Great throw or lucky, you make the call.
M40 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Washington 2
Washington(+2) is again boom gone past the center and directly into the frontside hole. He can't quite make a tackle as Wood runs through him as the C pushes him past the ballcarrier. Kovacs(+1) shows up in the cutback hole and puts him to the ground.
M38 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Flare Gordon 5
No response to Eifert motion and M's soft zone gives up a lot of room on the edge. This time Gordon(+1, tackling +1) comes up well and tackles. RPS -1.
M33 3 3 Shotgun trips TE Okie one Penalty N/A Offsides Washington 5
Washington(-1)
M28 1 10 Ace twins 4-4 under Run N/A Inside zone Clark 1
Heaps of bodies, no holes. Washington(+0.5) holds up to a double. Campbell(+0.5) flows down the line. Roh(+0.5) holds up. Clark(+0.5) gets under a blocker and tackles from behind.
M27 2 9 Ace twins Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Demens 5
Morgan inexplicably starts moving to the field right before the play. M is in full nickel with Roh/Black as DTs and slanting hard to the playside. This does force a cutback; Black(+1) got good penetration; Ryan(-1) ends up buried. LBs both come under blocks as the slant has fouled angles; Demens(+1) does a good job to do this and tackle as Riddick threatens to cut behind this into space. Still a little dangerous because Riddick didn't have to cut it as outside as M wanted with the Ryan fall.
M23 3 4 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Demens 1
Again the TE flip again the front flip. M seems lucky or prepared this time with Gordon(+1) blitzing off the corner and Ryan(+0.5) slanting inside to pick off a second level guy and get a two for one, allowing Demens(+1, tackling +1) to flow. Gordon forces Riddick inside at the hash and Demens tackles. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: FG(39), 3-13, 7 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Ace 3TE 4-4 under Run N/A Power Morgan 2
ND doubles Washington(+0.5) and moves him out of the hole but no one releases, so good job Washington I guess. G pulls around for Demens. Morgan(+0.5) is unblocked in the hole and tackles.
O27 2 8 Ace twins 4-4 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 4
Campbell(-0.5) gives a little too much ground in his quest to keep Morgan clean, which ends up opening up a cutback lane; Morgan gets blocked by the other guy as the RB comes back. Kovacs fills. There's too much space to shut it down entirely and the block on Morgan prevents him from holding this another yard or two shorter.
O31 3 4 Shotgun empty TE Nickel under press Pass 5 Fade Floyd 38
Floyd(-2, cover -2) tries to chuck and ends up stumbling as Eifert moves past him, which opens up the fade for an easy completion. Too bad.
M31 1 10 Ace 3TE 4-4 under Run N/A Inside zone Gordon -1
Gordon(+0.5) walks to the line and blitzes past Eifert; Riddick tries to pop outside of him and is slowed by the tackle attempt. By the time he moves outside, Demens(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) have converged to tackle.
M32 2 11 Ace twin TE 4-4 under Run N/A Zone stretch Demens 2
Gordon again just flying up; Demens(+0.5) also flows into the same hole with a tougher assignment; cutback handled by Washington(+0.5), who got a free pass from the line but did take a good angle to close down the cutback lane.
M30 3 9 Ace 3TE 4-4 under Run N/A Power Washington 9
Washington(-1) ends up giving up way too much ground on this double, which forces Morgan to hold up in case of cutback and gets him chopped by the center. Campbell(-1) also got pushed back, which gets Morgan's blocker out on him and prevents a scrape. Morgan(-1) does get cut and ends up out of the play. Demens takes on a lead guard and funnels, but to no one.
Drive Notes: EOG, 6-13.

That was rather delightful.

It was. Michigan was one stumble away from holding Notre Dame to under 200 yards of total offense. ND drives started at the Michigan 17, 39, and 48 in the first half and Michigan still gave up a total of 13 points on nine drives (ND had a tenth on which it was not trying to score, FWIW.)

How did that happen?

Well, this ND offense probably isn't very good. Michigan forced a QB switch after Golson's second horrible interception, and neither Purdue or Michigan State had too much trouble shutting down the Irish.

You'd better have a "but…"

Okay: but Purdue gave up nearly 400 yards on 11 drives. ND had 314 on the nose against MSU on 12 drives before kneels took away 14; even if you chalk that long Goodman TD up to punt chuckin' Michigan is about even with what was supposed to be the league's best D, and their performance was on the road instead of at home. Michigan blew up the counter draw MSU fell victim to and the rush yardage comparison goes to M. MSU gave up 4.9 YPC once a sack and some kneel-downs are excised. Michigan gave up 3.3 after taking out a zero yard not-quite-sack on Golson and a knee. Purdue did even better but gave up nearly 300 yards passing to the guy M chased from the game.

It was a bit of a downer that the D couldn't hold at the end when Michigan pulled to within a score twice, but that Michigan was even within striking distance after six turnovers was a little miracle.

You still haven't said how.

I think I need a—

probably pretty dang good CHART

--chart to answer that question.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Roh 7 1 6 I call him mini-RVB. /self high five
Campbell 8.5 3 5.5 whoah whoah whoah
Washington 8.5 3.5 5 what what what what
Black 1 - 1 Hardly got a snap.
Brink - - - DNP
Ash - - - DNP
Pipkins - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Heitzman - - - DNP
Clark 3 5 -2 Targeted extensively, got smashed a bit.
Ojemudia 0.5 3 -2.5 Miss in space on Wood.
TOTAL 28.5 15.5 13 Take the money and run.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Morgan 5 2 3 Solid tackling day, looked pretty athletic.
Demens 7.5 - 7.5 !!!
Ryan 8.5 3 5.5 Great tackle on screen.
C. Gordon - -   DNP
Ross 2 0.5 1.5 Hard to get a lot of PT when the vets play so well.
Bolden 1 4 -3 Work in progress.
Hawthorne - - - DNP
TOTAL 23 9.5 13.5 Combo the DL numbers with the ILB numbers and that's the run D.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 1.5 4 -2.5 Stumble unfortunate, edge softness frustrating.
Avery 1 1 0 Rarely appeared since ND so TE heavy.
Taylor 2 3 -1 Had a play on the fade he gave up but didn't make it.
Kovacs 5.5 0.5 5 Excellent on edge. No deep stuff on S.
T. Gordon 7.5 1 6.5 Also quality.
Holowell - - - DNP
Wilson - 2 -2 Critical PI.
TOTAL 16.5 11.5 4 Safeties got a workout and passed.
Metrics
Pressure 5 5 0 This was a little bit of a downer for the DL.
Coverage 8 11 -3 Close enough to even.
Tackling 9 6 60% Most of the minuses on two bad runs.
RPS 5 5 0 The Wilson PI does grate.

So, like, yeah. I pulled out that Picture Pages on the linebackers because that was night and day from Air Force, when poor Kenny Demens was picking OL out of his teeth on every play. ND hardly ever got a release and when they did their blocks got beat fairly often.

Defensive tackles! We has them?

Okay, I think ND's interior OL sucks. Sucks pretty hard. Let's put on our caveat berets before we wade in here. Secured? Have your baguette of skepticism prepped? Let's go.

Dang, ND could not single-block these guys. When they tried it Campbell two-gapped dudes and Washington flashed into the backfield. This could have happened last year:

All DL there. Both get penetration and Washington forces a cutback into an unblocked Ryan. A Riddick spin manages to prevent a loss; I'll take it. So ND doubled, and we got results like the ones we saw in the Clean Linebackers picture pages. Occasionally one DT or the other would give too much ground, like on the last run charted. Most of the time they held their ground well enough to make cutbacks awkward and allow linebackers to flow. Like so:

No crease, forced cutback, OL is robbed of his blocking angle, and Morgan gets around him to make the play. There were a lot of half-points handed out for this sort of thing where PLAYS are not MADE but the tailback has nowhere to go. After getting shredded by Alabama, anything approximating quality against a BCS level opponent—one with a veteran line—is welcome.

Washington in particular was impressive with his repeated penetration. He's probably as shocked as anyone about this, so he's continually overrunning things, but whatever, man, he's blowing up blocking. I told you this would happen after UMass! (Pay no attention to the Robinson prediction behind the curtain. Also I didn't really.)

So we're back on the immediate post-Ezeh Demens-is-a-god thing I see.

Hey, man, find a tackle he missed or hole he didn't fill and I'll fire up my minus machine. It's possible his coverage on that Riddick dumpoff was subpar but I chalked that up to RPS because he was one man in all of the space. He managed to hold Riddick basically in place for two moves to limit the damage there.

Meanwhile, Kenny Demens is sneaky good in coverage. This is perfect:

And he flung dudes past him (along with Ryan) to impressively shut down a dangerous looking counter:

Ryan's ability to get around that OL is a squee moment.

Michigan kept guys off their LBs and they responded well. The hesitation was gone, the tackles were made, and everyone said a little prayer of thanks.

Caveat: against a team more likely to screw with your linebackers in a play action game this may go more poorly. ND quickly committed to the run in this game. Teams that can throw a bit are going to make it harder on these guys.

Speaking of Ryan, I'm about two games from declaring him All Big Ten caliber. There's that above and then he shows the same ability to change directions faster than a guy his size should as he comes under the TE on this screen:

I have developed certain rules for grading these things as we've gone along. One is losing leverage == minus… unless you make a play. Ryan would get away with a zero here if he just forced the guy inside of him; instead he gets +3 because of his ability to charge and redirect, which both keeps contain and makes a play.  Sometimes he goes a little too far in the "make a play" direction, but M has another 2.66 years out of the guy.

I'd like a bit more pass rush on the edge, please. Other than that, would recruit again A++++.

Little stingy on the Taylor INT, no?

Ah, man, I'm not giving three points unless the coverage is actually blanketed. Golson had room to drop it over the corner. He is sinking and it is a tough throw to get it over a guy, but this was not exactly Woodsonesque.

Later Taylor would blow a coverage on a similar play in which he was in man press on a fade like that, thus his minus, but so far he hasn't been a big problem. Tentatively hoping he'll get through the season well and we get to be pumped up about Michigan's starting corners going into next year. He certainly looks the part athletically.

What about our corners this year?

Floyd stumbling out of a break sucks but it'll happen. I'm more annoyed by the guy is still not coming hard on outside runs on which the receiver is booking for a block along the LOS:

Now, Clark—this is part of ND's Kill Clark gameplan at the beginning of the game—gets blown way down the line and this forces Kovacs to come further inside than is ideal on his contain, because otherwise the RB is going upfield. Okay. That's some yards ceded already.

Floyd is still eight yards downfield when he breaks down to tackle. He should be reading run a lot quicker. At this point I don't think that's in the cards consistently, though he did make a couple good reads late. One was on the 20 yard Wood run, but that wasn't his fault.

Let us all say a prayer of thanks that we can be annoyed about this kind of thing from cornerbacks these days. 

Kill Clark, you say?

Clark was obviously IDed as a weak point by the Irish and they spent most of the first quarter running at him. He got blown up a lot. He ends up even with Campbell in the video above, which is bad. (SCIENCE!) In this one he ends up pancaked:

That's a loss thanks to Ross and Kovacs hitting the hole lickety-split if Clark can just hold the corner; he ends up buried. He took a bunch of minuses for that and then ND went away from it because they weren't getting much more than you see on the play above. Also, Clark started getting some upfield push to rescue his day a little bit.

If that's going to be the cost of running him out there you'd like to see some pass rush from him; Michigan did not in admittedly limited opportunities. He got one kind of good rush on which he persuaded Golson to exit the pocket and drew a hold; other than that he was not much of an impact guy. Youth, etc. He's a guy to keep an eye on as one of the remaining wildcards on the D.

Kickoff thinkin': do you have some?

I've gotten some questions about what I thought about Michigan's kickoff strategy at the beginning and end of the second half. To the answermobile!

At the beginning of the half, Michigan is kicking from the 50 after a PF on Notre Dame. Q: should Michigan onside kick? Probably. You're giving up 15 yards of field position for a shot at a turnover. ND had not aligned in a way to discourage that so your chances are pretty decent. Even if they've been told to watch for the thing, the punishment is slight.

Now I have a Q: what would have happened if Michigan booted it out of bounds? The rule says it's 30 yards from where you kicked, which would be the 20. Which is better than a touchback. mindblown.gif

At the end of the game, Michigan has 3:27 on the clock and two timeouts. ND aligns to prevent an onside, and M kicks it deep. The ball hits at the three and squeezes into the endzone. Q: onside? Probably not. With the rule change you have to commit an Iowa-level boner to not recover onside kicks and you have a pretty good setup to get the ball back. ND ended up throwing a bomb on third and four. I'd rather take my chances on that than try to drive from the ten.

Heroes?

Anyone in the front seven other than Clark (and Bolden was iffy). Also safeties.

Goats?

Stretching: Clark was exploitable on the edge.

What does it mean for the Big Ten season?

Increment your hope meters a good chunk, as getting this kind of play out of the defensive tackles was way above expectation. If they can continue that into league play all of a sudden this defense looks plausible or better, if lacking certain components that would make it truly elite—like a big-time pass rusher.

Meanwhile, the linebackers played well, the safeties played well… I mean, 190 yards of offense before final drive. ND got a couple of chunk runs when Wood was improbably not tackled and a couple of fades were completed; other than that ND got essentially nothing. The line was all but impeccable save for some Clark stuff that only gave up 4, 6, 7 yards a pop. The LBs got to the ball and tackled, and Gordon and Kovacs had one and a half missed tackles between them as they cleaned up.

I'm trying to keep things in check… that performance relative to MSU and Purdue's plus the in-season improvement we saw from a lot of players last year makes it difficult. That game was so far beyond the reasonable best-case scenario that it shifts hopes upward.

Offense? Never heard of it.

Unverified Voracity Knits Ridiculously Fast

Unverified Voracity Knits Ridiculously Fast

Submitted by Brian on September 20th, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Depart posthaste. Go read this Hinton piece on Denard Robinson vs Notre Dame or I swear I will find you and glare at you: 

Give us some of that old time Denard Robinson religion

Aside from certain injuries and Colorado's existence, generally, the most depressing moment of the early season is Alabama's crisp, methodical bludgeoning of Michigan on opening night, a lopsided dominance display that confirmed everything we already knew about the Crimson Tide defense as the taker of souls. In this case, the life force the Tide consumed belonged to the most exciting player in the country, Denard Robinson, who was hounded, hit, picked and demoralized by a cold, calculating, perfectly calibrated machine bent on snuffing out any hint of spontaneity or creativity in its path. Pick your synonym: Blowout, rout, trouncing, debacle, shellacking – it was the opposite of a "classic." Mere mortals were not spared.

Vamanos. Please leave him some comments that are not ND sprotstakes.

Also highly recommended. OSU got gashed by Cal on Saturday; Ross Fulton breaks down the various ways in which that happened. Some of it's schematic, with Cal busting outside of OSU formations without a force player. OSU runs the same under Michigan does and they were also aligning it to field like Michigan has been, so that's something I'll be looking out for in the future.

Some of it is Shazier being Shazier. He was at least partially responsible for both of Cal's long rushing TDs. The second:

Oy, –3 right there. The first one was the guy getting way too aggressive and shoulder-blocking a tailback who popped outside. He makes a lot of plays for both teams.

"How to knit a stadium in 15 days." Wot it says on the tin:

The big house blanket[1]

This has just become the most intriguing blog post in this site's history for my mother. The above is composed of 2670 yards of Andes Bulky wool, 14 of the skeins "hand-dyed in various patterns to simulate the crowd." This woman is deadly with needles.

Oy. A bunch of emails sent back and forth between NCAA folk in the aftermath of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit dropping have just been released. Highlights include UNL chancellor Harvey Pearlman telling the group they're totally boned, a Texas administrator coming off very poorly…

"I view these cases as being the result of the entitlement attitude we've created in our revenue sports," Plonsky wrote. "We now have threatening s-a's -- many of whom, based on grad rates of the '80s and '90s, sucked a whole lot off the college athletics pipe -- and now want to buckle the system at the knees of the expense of today's s-a's."

…and the admission that EA puts the student athletes in the game and only scrubs them right before launch.

The picture painted is of a lawsuit that has the NCAA in a panic because they know they're SOL. Which, good. I'd rather have old athletes people remember get some money than "today's s-a's," by which they mean "athletic department employees."

Police work. BWS is also talking packaged plays by looking at something Michigan ran against Air Force that turned into the usual zone, but featured the fake bubble LAZER on the outside:

Screen Shot 2012-09-19 at 11.28.49 AM[1]

This is interesting to me because it was a standard part of the RR offense. This is different in that it's the inverted veer being run, not inside or outside zone, but the bubble attachment is pure RR. I watched a video of Calvin Magee giving a coaching clinic talk last summer and in it there was an interesting discussion of this very thing. Magee talked about sometimes they called this presnap, but sometimes they "read it out," i.e. allowed the QB to make this read after the snap. There are two ways they did this:

  1. allow QB to abort mesh point entirely and just throw the bubble.
  2. give the QB a post-keep option in the event he gets a guy in his face.

Usually this was #1. In a way this was the ur-packaged play. It's a run, it's got a pass built in. The innovation Oklahoma State and WVU added was going vertical with it after they realized refs aren't throwing illegal man downfield penalties. The bubble is behind the LOS and thus invulnerable to that call.

BTW, when they called stuff presnap the bubble route still got run, but just to demand someone cover it, as you can see the linebacker is doing in this frame. Borges said something about not liking the bubble because they prefer their WRs to block, something that didn't make much sense to me because of plays like this. That LB is not going to be relevant in the run game.

Anyway, this could be any of three different things:

  1. straight called handoff
  2. zone read
  3. zone read w/ attached bubble

Given how wide open that bubble is I don't think they've hooked that up yet, and since they let both the playside and backside ends go, I'm guessing this was a straight handoff.

Rocky's really doing it. If you haven't been paying attention to SDSU coach Rocky Long's assertion that he's just going for it all the time, he actually did it a couple weeks back. Result:

Then, with 4:50 remaining in the fourth quarter and SDSU down 21-12, Katz drove the offense 66 yards to the Washington 8.

Conventional wisdom dictated that if the Aztecs converted a 27-yard field goal and stopped the Huskies on defense, they’d be in prime position to go for the tying touchdown, and potential game-winning extra point.

Instead, once again, the offense stayed on the field. Katz’s attempt to squeeze a touchdown into the end zone for tight end Gavin Escobar fell incomplete, and thousands of Aztec armchair quarterbacks screamed at TVs all over the West Coast, wondering why Long hadn’t just opted for the safer field goal.

They talk to a professor about this. It turns out it was fourth and six. My initial reaction there is that's a tight decision. Fourth and six is not easy and when the defense is packed in near the goal line it's even tougher. You need two scores either way. Let's run over to that Advanced NFL stats calculator, which says…

…kick. An NFL kicker has a 95% shot at that field goal, you convert about a third of the time from that distance, and the expected points are dead even. You're still not in good shape but it's a big difference: kicking is 16% win, going 10%. You'd have to think you have a two-thirds shot at making it to justify going. It's NFL so it is not precise, but the differences aren't large enough to swing that.

Moral of the story: if you need two scores you'd better make sure you get one on your second to last drive. Also maybe the Aztecs don't have a kicker—they were down two scores because they went for two twice and failed.

Turns out not so much. Remember the guy who got beat up by a bunch of MSU hockey players? Turns out he's been charged with various things including "making a false police report." Dialing back mass-violence-against-students jokes.

Etc.: Last year's ND game synced with Ufer. Eamonn Brennan considers this year's edition of Michigan basketball, says if things break right they could be a national title contender(?!), which is optimism on a level I am unprepared for.

Everyone say nothing about injuries in the Pac-12. Oral history of last year's game. A look back on ND games past.

Unverified Voracity Kickstarts Pahokee

Unverified Voracity Kickstarts Pahokee

Submitted by Brian on September 10th, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Hope for Pahokee, the kickstarter. Martavious Odoms's charity for his hometown has set out to kickstart themselves:

They've got 16 days to get to 35k and are 25k short. Hit it up

Also, don't forget the Colt DelVerne fundraiser on the 15th.

Transition costs: steep. Not here, but in Madison, where their new OL coach just got canned two games in. This was no Adam Braithwaite, either:

When UW coach Bret Bielema hired Markuson in the offseason, it was considered to be a coup at the time. Markuson spent the last 14 years coaching offensive lines in the Southeastern Conference at Arkansas and Mississippi. Since 2003, he coached six different players who earned All-America honors.

The Badgers had 35 rushing yards against Oregon State, 70 if you take out sacks.

The new guy is basically Adam Braithwaite. Bart Miller is a quality control coach who graduated from New Mexico in 2007 and hasn't had a full-time assistant job yet. Now he's in deep. Bret Bielema may be less lovable than Brady Hoke.

The numbers from that Oregon State game are shocking: 1.5 yards a carry for Montee Ball, 4.4 yards a pass, and 206 total yards against a team that was 3-9 last year. The 2011 Beavers were in the triple digits in rushing D and pass efficiency D and gave up 35 points to the Badgers. Nobody turns that around that quickly. I'll have to torrent that thing to see what happened.

Boo 3:30 starts. If we'd had the Air Force game at noon we all could have watched Iowa and Wisconsin implode and Notre Dame nearly do the same. Boo 3:30 starts, boo.

Ticket prices: still approaching breaking point. OSU's game against pretty decent UCF was not a sellout:

Tony Gerdeman@GerdOzone

Time for #OSU to stop raising ticket prices? Last week's game was the first under 105,000 since New Mexico St. in 2009.

Bowl ban, yeah, but add it to the pile.

Lloydballin' it? Michigan punted from the Air Force 34 in the first quarter Saturday, causing a couple people to anticipate a twitter rage coming from yours truly. I guess I'm too prone to rages.

I didn't have a problem with it. If you don't think your kicker can hit it, punting is the move, yes even from the 34. I plugged the situation into Advanced NFL Stats's fourth down combobulator and it spake thusly:

Stat Go4it Punt FG Att
Success Rate: 0.10 - 0.52
EP Success +4.33 0.16 2.4
EP Fail: -1.1 - -1.51
EP Total: -0.56 0.16 0.54
Break-Even: 0.30

The field goal is the best option if you've got an NFL kicker. Michigan doesn't.

So then you've got to think you have a 30% shot at converting to make it a 50-50 shot. Yeah, college defenses are more prone to breakdowns, especially Air Force's, but at worst the punt is a close call you can't get exercised about either way.

The clock butchery at the end of the first half did bug me. As a general rule, any time the clock is running after a play and you have >1 timeouts, use it. As soon as they ruled Roundtree in bounds they should have called their first timeout.

For whatever reason, Michigan's had issues with that sort of thing. Last year's Iowa game was the most frustrating example:

friggin-huddle

Is that a freaking huddle as the ref signals the game clock with 31 seconds on the play clock? Yes.

late-snap

NASCAR? MORE LIKE SLOWCAR ZING

That's Michigan snapping it seventeen seconds later. /head asplode

Hopefully they get it together before that burns them again.

Adorable child. From the comments of the game column:

I was on my couch, not in the stadium (get off my back, I'm 2500 miles away). I was wearing my t-shirt. My two year old son was beside me, cheering gamely for "Deenarr WOB-inson!" as the team stood on the sidelines before kickoff. (SoullessHack, Jr. refers to both #16 and the entire team as Denard Robinson... although any non-Denard player is "the guy.") It was nice. Nice. Not the gut-churning excitement I've felt every other year. But it was nice. I guess.

Then Denard made the MLB miss. I counted three steps straight upfield and said, calmly, "They're not going to get him." SoullessHack, Jr., though, jumped up on the couch and started screaming, "DENARR WOBINSON DENARR WOBINSON! RUNNING! RUN RUN RUN!" When they cut to the cheering crowd, SHJr took his cue began to clap and jump up and down.

"HE DID IT! DENARR WOBINSON RUN SO FAST WIFF DA FOOTBAWL!!"

As long as this is not kicking me for three hours it is adorable. (There were children directly in front of and behind me at the Air Force game. Somehow they both kicked me. A lot.)

Etc.: Sticking this way down here because people are going to yell at me for mentioning him, but this shot from SMQ featuring Rich Rodriguez and his kids after the Wildcats upset Oklahoma State reminded me of of all those Rhett and Rich Rodriguez photos from his M days.

It's never too late to link Stuffing the Passer. It's okay to cheer, ND fans! (It's not. Stop it.) Webb on potential 2013 basketball addition Reggie Cameron. Duke may be in some NCAA hot water. I'm so happy SMQ is back. Here's UCLA-Nebraska recapped by Mr. Hinton.

Reforged In Fire

Reforged In Fire

Submitted by Brian on January 4th, 2012 at 3:51 PM

1/3/2012 – Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT) – 11-2, 6-2 Big Ten

hemingway_sugar_bowl[1]

Michigan got outgained better than two to one and probably squeezed the last bits of magic out of Brady Hoke's rectal horseshoe, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter until the Very Serious bullets that have no time for sentiment, the Very Serious bullets that didn't feel deeply guilty for not including Junior "Junior Megatron" Hemingway amongst the hallowed group of seniors who maybe could have sort of made Michigan itself again… except insofar as "again" is inappropriate to apply to a program that has not exactly made a habit out of winning BCS games doing so. The Very Serious Bullets were not ready to declare war on God for smiting David Molk—OF ALL PEOPLE DAVID MOLK—in the moments before the culmination of his career. And screw that. Screw a Very Serious bullet. Also logic, and reason, and causality, and all the other things that had no bearing on which team walked off the Superdome field happy.

This is what matters: Molk standing on the sideline watching the first offensive series and the feeling in his gut as he watched the last 60 minutes he'd wear the uniform evaporate. Logan Thomas saying something like "damn I'm tired" or "damn you're tired" to Ryan Van Bergen in the second half after yet another play on which a broken Van Bergen harassed—but did not sack—the brobdingnagian Tech quarterback. Mike Martin slicing his way into the backfield to put Tech into another third and long. Hemingway's hands finding the three inches of space needed for a touchdown. Confetti, the right confetti, and ugly shirts, and Chris Fowler talking to Junior Megatron, and people smiling.

What matters is that when Brendan Gibbons was asked what he thought about before the winning kick, he said "brunette girls" because Brady Hoke told him that's what he should think about.

This is not the best Michigan team ever assembled. It's not the most dominant. You know a lot of it was assembled by smoke and mirrors and Jon Falk's super-secret loose-fumble-magnet gloves. You're not eyeing that Alabama game next year and thinking "those rednecks are in for an… education. [YEAAAAAAAA]."

You, cold-eyed realist who gravitates to this place, are going to tell work colleagues who went to universities other than your own that Michigan deserved to win this game in no way whatsoever. And then your shit-eating grin is going to drive them from you.

------------------------------

I haven't watched the NFL in going on a decade now except in somnambulant Thanksgiving not-give-a-craps, but this holiday season happened to coincide with weekends and I was a guest without remote privileges. I caught a few last week. Amongst other exercises in vacuous non-speech, I ended up watching Aaron Rodgers make his publicist very proud after he respectfully dispatched Generic Opponent and then said things about his teammates.

The things he said were not so very different from what we usually get in college—like the game itself, public relations in the NFL is metal refined from NCAA ore—but in college things are rawer, emotions felt instead of managed. The brutal look on Danny Coale's face after his redemption was overturned is evidence enough of that.

image

The stakes in these games come from the stories of the players, and we get a relatively honest look at them over the course of their four years. After what must have been a crushing loss, The Key Play took to the internet not to light up coaching decisions or instant replay or VT's offensive line but to do this:

That team made me proud.

No we didn't win. I'm sure a lot of y'all are pissed about some play calls. I am. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan, especially on short yardage situations. But this wasn't the Orange Bowl last year. We didn't get our balls beat in. We didn't get throttled. We didn't get out-coached. We didn't get out-played. No one punched us in the throat... And that's why it hurts.

I have an ache in my chest right now too painful for words to describe. We came sooooooooo close, but failed. That's a strong word, but it's accurate--we failed. We came to play. We came to fucking play this game.

That comes from Coale, a guy pressed into service as a punter who was asked to make a weighty decision and failed. A guy who was a centimeter away from redeeming himself by staking Virginia Tech to a seven-point lead as tall as Everest who then had his anguish revisited time and again by ESPN as Michigan positioned themselves for the identical field goal Tech had just missed.

VT fans love Danny Coale even if they hate the way his last game played out. He is why they care, even if their memories are bittersweet. God, have we been there. Entire generations of Michigan seniors came and went without beating Ohio State.

For the first time in a long time, we don't have to eulogize. Michigan beat OSU and won a bowl BCS game for the first time since the 1999 season. Martin Van Buren was president of East Rhodesia and logic gates were chiseled onto rocks the last time a group of Michigan seniors went out like this:

3-molk_thumb[1]

MVictors

Or a season ended like this:

image

Yeah, the game was the definition of a "yes, but…" experience. In the cold-eyed light of the offseason it will dampen expectations for next year. So what? Virginia Tech fans are thinking of Danny Coale this morning.

I'm thinking of Martin and Koger and Hemingway and Molk and Van Bergen and how there is no thought of what could have been, no thought of opportunities missed or goals fallen short of. Just that they stayed, and they made a BCS bowl, and they were champions of it. In the end, the seniors of Team 132 got what they came for. Now they will break the last link on the chain and tell those who follow they can make it anew.

NOT VERY SERIOUS BULLETS

Smooth. In the same fashion friend of blog Jerry Hinnen said "yes, thank you, finally" to someone dubbing Oregon's shinybits in the Rose Bowl "Destro helmets," I welcome the comparison of brunette-loving, Scott-Van-Pelt*-.38-Special-comparison-inspiring, suddenly-nails kicker Brendan Gibbons to Keith Stone:

keith_stone_kiki[1]

Psyching himself up for NAILS

112876_la[1]

hangin' w/ Mister Cooper

Well done, unknown Iowa fan who knows iawolve, well done. After a season in which Gibbons has been sarcastically exhorted to put the ball through the uprights in all caps and with question marks, it is only right to break out some H tags in tribute:

GIBBONS: YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS!

Yea, and it came to pass that the season preview gave the kicker spot at least a 3 next year. Now please stop probably deserving false start penalties.

*[SVP is reminiscent of the Dan & Keith ESPN heyday. He is capable of making me enjoy an hour of Sportscenter. Like Gus Johnson and Alton Brown, he is a rare being of pure awesomeness that can exist in a lowest-common-denominator setting. SVP for president.]

Further evidence. Via BWS:

brendowl[1]

Nike shirts: making you glad your school is Adidas even if they did dress the team like the bumblebee girl from "No Rain" this year. If you thought copping a Def Leppard lyric was gauche, you did not see the Fiesta postgame.

NachoVictory[1]

Nike is now run by the immature cheese from Cheez-It commercials.

Stop complaining about being passed over. Mathlete:

For all the K St fans upset about the Sugar Bowl snub, Michigan won this one in honor of you, can't imagine winning 10 games like that

Kansas State did play in the Sugar Bowl. They were wearing Michigan's uniforms.

This is why you're Sparty. LeVeon Bell:

UofM proud that they had 8 home games, didn't play Wisconsin OR Penn St, AND lost to us? Yall can beat a average VA Tech team, be proud then

Sparty being Sparty. Just like this guy wearing green and white in the endzone where Gibbons nailed the winner:

image

I hope you enjoyed the last few years, guys.

VERY SERIOUS BULLETS

ALL RIGHT NOW WE HAVE A TALK. Holy pants the offense. This was the third time this year Michigan's offense was just beyond terrible; they lost the other two but horseshoed themselves the Sugar Bowl.

It was imperative that Michigan establish something VT had to react to, but they never did. Their big tactical innovation for this game was a not-very-spread formation with a TE, a tailback, and Odoms in motion for a jet sweep fake. That worked on the first play of the game when Odoms got the edge and then hardly ever again. I don't understand Michigan's emphasis on running to the perimeter against a defense like VT's that thrives on getting their safeties to tackle in space.

Meanwhile, Michigan receivers got zero separation all night, allowing VT to tee off on the run with impunity. Michigan needs an athleticism upgrade there.

It's apparent Borges wants to put guys in the box instead of spreading them out, forcing the opponent to respect the horizontal aspects of the defense, and then making you tackle and fill one on one; maybe that will work against a VT when Shane Morris is throwing to LaQuon Treadwell. It did not here.

Robinson likely shares some responsibility but it's hard to tell since the Sugar Bowl shorted replays for more commercials. I did notice a late third down and medium on which Robinson tried to fit it in a nonexistent window to Koger when Gallon was breaking open underneath. But mostly it just seemed like there was never anything there. It's one thing if the opponent is beating a block. Against VT it seemed like there was always an unblocked guy fitting the run and no one was ever open. Hard to move the ball like that.

Interior DL FTW. We in the M blogosphere may have been excessively optimistic about the offense but man did we peg the other side of that matchup: VT's crappy interior line pass protected well but could not get RVB or Martin blocked to save their lives. Wilson got hacked down at the line time and again, got some yardage outside when Michigan's run support on the edges was missing. Logan Thomas was not pressured much and picked Michigan's secondary apart with lethal accuracy.

This is kind of why I am worried about next year: taking away Martin and Van Bergen is going to be huge, and the rest of the defense is short of guys who seem like certainties to be players at their level next year. I've got Ryan and Kovacs and then…

Mattison's going to earn his money next year if Michigan treads water defensively despite returning eight starters.

Holy Van Bergen. Not only did RVB play every snap, and play well, he was injured early in the game and ended up like this:

"My foot just feels like rubber,” Van Bergen said after the game. “I couldn’t plant on it or anything like that.

“It actually went down, like parallel to my chin when I was in a pile. The next time I was trying to plant, I was trying to overcompensate for it, and I put it the other way and got chopped, so my toe was coming up to like the top of my ankle.”

Can we retroactively make him a captain? I'm serious. If the Bentley doesn't list RVB as a captain I might have to hack their site so it does.

Richt'd… right? Hoke game theory bits were a mixed bag. By decision:

  • Fake FG near end of first half. Yes, it was a called fake. The problem was that a big chunk of the team didn't get the call, including Dileo's intended receiver, thus resulting in the Yakety Sex that was the deflected long-snapper reception. Hoke's verging on the territory where all go/kick situations on which there's a reasonable debate seemingly decided in favor of the kick will be expected to be fakes, thus depressing the EV of faking. At this point he's going to have to kick some dumb field goals if he's going to get that back.
  • FG at end of first half. I was okay with it. A fair chunk of the reason it's a good idea to go for it on fourth down in those situations is the crappy negative-value field position it leaves your opponent in if you fail. When the half is ending that's not a factor, and given the way that half played out I was not super confident Michigan would punch the ball in from the two.
  • Sending out the punt safe team on the fake punt. Obvious move given the situation and one that paid off when Coale pulled a Zoltan-vs-MSU miscalculation on the rugby option. If you're going to go there you should put it in the hands of your huge QB, not rely on a converted WR to make a high-pressure decision he's never made in a game before. This bullet is more about Beamer than Hoke.
  • Not calling TO in an effort to get the ball back at the end of regulation. Also okay with that. Immediate TO sees you get around 35 seconds when the ball is kicked off; given Michigan's offense to that point in the game and season-long crap kickoff returns that did not seem like it had much value. Calling TO has a slight chance of flipping the opposing coach's thinking towards going for it, or at least it might if this wasn't Frank Beamer.
  • Richt-ing it in OT. It wasn't a full-on Richt. Richt idiotically threw away two downs to attempt a 42 yard field goal with a kicker who had been 6 of 16(!!!) from 40+ that range this year. Hoke/Borges at least shaved a meaningful five yards* off the attempt and went with a guy who was at that point 11/15 on the season. Given the way Michigan's offense had been moving the ball (not at all with plenty of OH SHI— near-INTs), the equation is significantly different than when you've got Aaron Murray. While I was a little annoyed they didn't flip it out to the WR and his massive cushion, I wasn't livid at the thought process.

    Still, man… let Denard run the ball with the extra blocker in a spread formation and instructions to keep both hands on the ball. Upside is greater there.

The theme here is when your offense can't pick up two yards to save its life, old-timey decisions are correct. When the game is going to end with a score worthy of 1950, playing 1950s-era football is the move.

*[The Mathlete's preview post contains an apropos FG success graph showing a whopping 15% difference in success rate between a 42 yard field goal (around 55%) and a 37-yarder (around 70%) for an average D-I kicker, which I'd say Gibbons is. Same difference for a bad one, FWIW. It's only when you've got a Kaeding or the like that playing as conservatively as Richt did makes even the slightest amount of sense.]

The not quite catch. Someone on the twitters put it best:

RT @johnegolf: @HS_BHGP no catch, but great catch.

Here it is:

It's incomplete because the tip of the ball hits the ground and it shifts in his arms when it happens. The ball has the potential to slide through his upper arms when it impacts the ground; ground aids catch; not a catch.

VT fans and players are pissed off and I can understand why. Again, they should remove the uncertainty here and say the ball hitting the ground equals no catch until you have made the proverbial "football move." That is a bright line rule that removes the controversy from plays like this and the 49% Hemingway touchdown against Iowa and the 48% Coale TD above. If it swings the game a bit towards defense that may not be a terrible idea these days.

More on the fake FG. I thought surely the refs had missed an illegal man downfield, but it does appear that when the pass is thrown Michigan linemen are within three yards of the LOS:

Whatever the screwup was it looked like VT had that well covered. Hoke's going to have to shelve the fakes for a while.

Countess. Hoo boy was that a rough ride for him. I hope you caught that first bubble screen of the second half—after Countess let his guy get to the sideline Mallory lit him up. He got burned on a double move that Thomas overthrew, generally could not match up with the extremely talented Jarrett Boykin*, and was a problem on both outside Wilson runs and a variety of 7-8 yard bubble screens.

*[Another way in which Beamer handed this game to M was continuing to run the ball when your QB is completing 70% of his passes for almost 8 YPA. M loses if Beamer pulls the Carroll and tells his OC to call no runs in the second half.]

Bubble screens. Ain't saying nothin'.

MEDIA

Woolfolk took a short video in the locker room and posted it to the twitter:

It's not 90 degrees off, it's artistic.

Some pregame shots from MVictors as well. AnnArbor.com has a photo gallery.

HERE

Comment of the week from beenplumb:

Go back to last year and tell us that our defense and kicker would win us a BCS bowl and try not to get punched in the face for lying.

Diarists are too hungover to chip in just yet. Seth did excellent work on the no catch in OT, but that's on the front page so you probably know about it already.

ELSEWHERE

Players. Ryan tweets some photos from the field. Roh with the dudes I promised to name my firstborn after*:

AiUrIM_CEAAvgsD[1]

*[negotiations pending.]

Roundtree and… uh… I don't know.

Screen Shot 2012-01-04 at 12.45.36 AM[1]

This is a disturbing moment. Who is that dude?

Blog substances, local. BWS bullets:

Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen, and perhaps more importantly, the Virginia Tech offensive line, were as advertised. The interior of that offensive line is dysfunctional. Martin and Van Bergen were three yards into the backfield on basically every running play. The only reason they can pass block is that they keep retreating into Logan Thomas, at least long enough for him to zip a pass to one of his many wide receivers. I have no idea how a team with an offensive line that bad can win 11 games.

Braves and Birds:

In a way, this is how the 2011 season had to end for Michigan.  At the end of the Rich Rodriguez era, Michigan was a great offfense and then a smoking heap of wreckage.  The defense was unconscionably bad.  The special teams were barely above that level, most notably because the Wolverines could not kick a field goal.  Michigan did dumb things like not knowing that a blocked field goal is a live ball.  The turnover rate was terrible.  This year was a palate cleanser in every way.  In the end, Michigan won a game despite the offense being completely stymied.  The Wolverines won by being good on defense, very good on special teams, and smart enough to avoid the mistakes that killed their otherwise superior opponent. 

Brief bit from HSR. Maize and Go Blue recap. TTB bullets.

Blog substances, national. EDSBS:

It was a complete mess in so many ways, and in so many different ways than the other BCS games thus far. the numbers were appalling in their own unique way: Michigan had 184 yards of total offense, got doubled up by VT in terms of total production, had 12 first downs to Virginia Tech's 22, and still ended up covered in maize and blue confetti watching Junior Hemingway losing his shit gloriously when Chris Fowler asked him about the long path to getting here. This is not a very good Michigan team, but they are a very good Michigan team.

That should make sense if you've watched this team dodge bullets and narrowly avoid putting the car in the ditch on so many occasions this year, or come back against Notre Dame, or hold on despite doing almost everything they could to lose a late lead to Ohio State, or in this game scratch, claw, and somehow hold a more productive Hokies team in check until the final and inevitable kicking mistakes. This team was more fun than any other team Brady Hoke will ever have because they were not supposed to have eleven wins, and could not conceivably have piled them up like this. This team is the pound dog that saved your family from the fire. They are the college car that would not die no matter what you put in its gas tank. They are the party that came out of nowhere on a Tuesday night, and resulted in no hangovers.

Easily one of our favorite teams of 2011, and not just because we like calling Brady Hoke "Ol' Pizzafarts."

Bill Connolly breaks down the numbers:

4: Tackles for loss by Michigan's Jake Ryan. Michigan's defense played the bend-don't-break routine to perfection. They allowed five yards per play and seven trips inside their 40, but they forced five field goals and a turnover on downs at their four. Part of the reason for the success was that Ryan (must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time ... must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time ... must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time...) was always around to make a big play. Ryan, Jordan Kovacs and Desmond Morgan combined for 22.5 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, and Michigan as a whole severely limited Tech's big plays. Just force them to keep inching down the field and eventually force a fourth down.

Hinton:

All of that sentimental bunk about Brady Hoke returning Michigan to its meat-eating essence or whatever, well, it actually worked out that way. It worked out far beyond the expectations of the most observant pilgrims of Oosterbaanian lore. No one in August was going out on a limb for a 7-6 outfit with no defense transitioning to a new coaching staff. As collapse-prone as the Wolverines were after fast starts under Rodriguez, no one was going out on a limb for them in early November, after losses at Michigan State and Iowa seemed to leave them back at square one. Since then, Michigan is 4-0 with wins over Nebraska, Ohio State and now Virginia Tech and abides in a state of Bo-like balance. Those who stayed fended off a fourth quarter Hokie rally to complete the circle.

I enjoyed this comment after the post:

 

This game proved that there is no pride or character in the big ten. When the only way you can win a game is by cheating and you are proud of it . I guess no one should surprised by the level of scandal in the conference. the attitude of the only real harm in disgusting behavior is being held accountable and the ends always justify the means is as base as it gets. to be beaten on the field as thoroughly as Michigan was on the field and be proud of a win that was a gift from whomever controlled that officiating crew is banal. That kid caught the ball everyone who has seen the replay from the angles available knows it including the replay officials and all of the Michigan coaching staff. ESPN made the staement that the only thing that matters is the final score. They and their Mid east Ohio valley values may be the real problem here.

Tom Fornelli has a format that demands he put words after the bullet HOW MICHIGAN WON. He begins "This is not an easy question to answer."

Mainstream folks. Staples spends most of his article on the "yes, BUT…" aspects. Wojo:

This was beyond weird, and exhausting to decipher. The Hokies controlled play, and had an apparent 20-yard touchdown pass in overtime overruled by replay. That gave the Wolverines their shot, and they took a BCS bowl victory and improbable 11-2 record with it.

Notes from AnnArbor.com include a discussion of the in-game punting switch. Hagerup needs to get it together. Florek column in the Daily. Nesbitt on Gibbons. Meinke column.

Get Behind Me

Get Behind Me

Submitted by Brian on November 28th, 2011 at 11:18 AM

11/26/2011 – Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 – 10-2, 6-2 Big Ten

(caption) Michigan wide receiver Martavious Odoms runs to greet the fans after the victory.   *** Michigan finally beat Ohio State 40-34 at Michigan Stadium after seven losses in a row to the Buckeyes, giving head coach Brady Hoke a victory over OSU in his first season as head coach at Michigan. The victory improves Michigan's record to 10-2.  *** Michigan (9-2) tries to avenge seven losses in a row to Ohio State when they host the Buckeyes (6-5) at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor in the annual rivalry game.   Photos taken on Friday, November 25, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )6411558277_069d0304ba_z[1]6411561033_297a6cb378_z[1]

Odoms via the Detroit News. Koger/Fitzgerald and Denard via Eric Upchurch.

ryan-van-bergen-post-osu

AnnArbor.com 

Slightly more than a week ago, people better-prepared than I commemorated the fifth anniversary of Bo's death. I remember where I was, sitting in the room I was renting in a house that would be foreclosed on as Tom Orr, a Buckeye fan whose wife still worked for the TV station Bo did a show for, emailed me the things I didn't want to hear.

I had a thing I'd mostly written the night before about that year's Game, the one I did and still call Football Armageddon. It was an overdramatic thing based on a Sufjan Stevens song about the apocalypse. I wasn't sure about it. As I read it, panicked because I had to say something and what would I say, two things occurred to me. One, that the overdramatic thing was now on point. Two, that the part I hadn't written the night before about my father burning into coal—because it was impossible to—now sat there, obvious.

Ryan Van Bergen was in high school. He'd committed to Lloyd Carr months before. He was going to Michigan, fergodsakes. David Molk had ten thousand zits on his face. He was going to Michigan, too. Neither had the slightest idea.

--------------------------

Four years and two coaches later, the two of them sat in a room. They decided. What they decided was: that was not happening again. They decided they would stay. They loved Michigan, and they weren't going out in a disjointed mess. Their new coach reinstated an old tradition and they became captains unlike any in 40 years. They found their own way. There was no one save Brandon Graham to learn from, and there's only so much Brandon Graham can do.

I'm not really sure how or why but Denard Robinson stayed, too. It's possible Molk threatened to kill him.

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Heiko

In these decisions, in these moments, in these actually-kind-of-idiotic thought processes that led all of these players to stay here for a second or third coach, in a place that too easily booed them when they failed to live up to the expectations set for them, Michigan became Michigan again.

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Dispatch

What is Michigan but a succession of players who chose the winged helmet and spent their four or five years in it trying to perform to the level previous players had? And how difficult would that be when your predecessors had either not lived up to that standard or abandoned you? Who was Ryan Van Bergen supposed to look up to?

By the time everyone else came back, Molk and Van Bergen and Martin and Koger and Woolfolk and the rest of the roster had already decided. Amongst themselves, for themselves.

-------------------

This program needed that to pay off. It needed to stop feeling sorry for itself, being at war with itself, sabotaging itself, stop hopping on the radio to trash this that and the other, stop needing to be trashed on the radio for this that and the other. It needed to finally bury Bo, and move past the strife caused by his absence. Only one thing could do that: beating Ohio.

They did, and now there are legacies.

That picture is David Molk to me. Hugging his quarterback and killing a press conference. Sealing a blitzing linebacker on a second-half stretch. Piloting one of the best rushing attacks in Michigan history.

That picture is Ryan Van Bergen to me. Destroying that Indiana drive after botching the call on the line; leaving OSU with his winged helmet thrust as far in the air as his 6'6" frame would take it.

Amongst the tackiness, that was real. That's what I waited for. One story of redemption from someone who did nothing wrong. I've sneered at the "Michigan Man" concept ever since it became a cudgel to use against the wrong head coach. The idea there was anything particularly special or deathlessly loyal or kind or mature about the program's alumni was ridiculous after the way the last three years played out. But no more.

seniors-jug_thumb[1]

These are Michigan Men; this is their season.

-----------------------------

After the game I loitered at my family's tailgate until the champagne was gone and then walked home. These days I make the walk to and from the game by myself. The people I used to walk with aren't around anymore.

At first this seemed lonely. I remember walking down Packard behind a father and his kid after The Horror. An elderly guy who kind of seemed stoned came out onto his elaborately flowered lawn and asked "they didn't really lose, did they?" The father nodded ruefully; the elderly guy shook his head. I remember getting body-checked into a car after last year's State game. I remember shivering the whole way after Northwestern '08.

On Saturday the sky was slate, the gunmetal November sky that goes with head coaches in shirtsleeves and sleet and the grim reconciliation with the elements via which the Big Ten footprint acknowledges both winter and mortality. Being outside, in Michigan, in late November, is usually a defiant variety of stupidity—a last taste of being outdoors before December closes in and the world becomes a thing briefly tolerated between heated areas. In the Midwest, football is to winter what spit from a condemned man is to a firing squad.

Saturday was also warm, warmer than any Ohio State game in memory. As I walked, alone, past the lurid green turf the field hockey team plays on I watched fathers play with sons. A tailgate across the tracks provided play-by-play as I passed by: a speed option the kid playing quarterback turned into a trick play by going out for a pass after he pitched. He was open; he dropped it; I filed it (CA, 3, RPS +1). The tailgate burst into sympathetic "awwws."

I kind of lost it passing behind the bleachers, just then. I came out the other side, and looked back, and saw two #16s and a #1 running around, catching and throwing, four-foot-five at best. Mottled clouds passed overhead. Two shades of gray were pushed by wind. It seemed to me like the closer, darker ones were giving way to the lighter background.

It felt like spring.

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AP

Media

Photoset from Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:

This is a great shot you might see in next year's season preview:

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I think that's Brandon Moore sticking up from the crowd. Eric also got a great shot of the Avery PBU/INT. Ace took some sideline shots with his phone as well.

Other photo galleries are availabe from AnnArbor.com, the official site, Maize and Blue Nation (pregame, postgame). Mike DeSimone's epic picture DB is super-sized this week.

Molk brought his trident:

Molk Chains[1]

 MVictors assembles shots of Brady Hoke's pet viking and the grenade, also pregame.

WE MUST EAT

Pregame hype video:

Give it to Old Hat Creative. Two consecutive years these have been great. Aaand JBrons provides a panorama:

osu-2011-panorama

Bullets

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointBRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. 14/17 for 10 YPA, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 170 rushing yards at 6.5 YPC and two more touchdowns… uh… yeah. It was Denard Robinson's day. If he'd played like that week-in, week-out he's in New York and Andrew Luck is asking for his autograph. Alas, it was not to be.

Robinson didn't eat up passing yards with screens or long busted coverages, either. His long on the day was the 28-yarder to Dileo that CJ Barnett jumped. That's a disaster if it's even a little bit off; Denard made an NFL throw into Dileo's outstretched hands. The post TD to Hemingway was a 20-yard dart and the Odoms touchdown was thrown into space so tight I'm not even sure you could call it a "window." It was more like a keyhole.

Hypothesis: do you think Borges did something to Denard's throwing motion? That might explain his progression from inept in the nonconference schedule to decent, if limited, in the Big Ten to assassin against OSU. If Denard can extend that performance across a season… holy pants. The scrambles and draws have opened up for him the past couple weeks because his passing has been enough of a threat to demand attention.

Honorable mentions: Brady Hoke (for reasons discussed below), Al Borges, Fitzgerald Toussaint.

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.

3: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Ohio State)
2: Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU),  Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).

Future annoying conversations may be (unsuccessfully) pre-empted by "Ohio State 2011." On the podcast last week we talked about Hoke's natural aggression and how there would be a point in the future when it does not work out, thus spawning a week of extremely annoying conversations. This game is an uzi in the math camp's arsenal.

Hoke went for it on fourth and one on the OSU 40 in the first quarter. Hopkins got it easily and Michigan punched in a touchdown. Ohio State punted on fourth and four from the Michigan 36; Michigan moved the ball to midfield before the disastrous Hagerup non-punt set Ohio State up with the same field position they'd have had if they'd picked up the first down. Later, Fickell kicked on fourth and goal from the Michigan four down six.

I punched all these decisions into Advanced NFL Stat's fourth down calculator; it spat out that Hoke was right and Fickell wrong with a total margin of 3.2 expected points and a total shift in win percentage of 7%*. And their assumptions are based on NFL models where four yards to go is an automatic passing down; taking the game situation into account (it's spread mad college and both quarterbacks are unstoppable on the ground) it seems like much, if not all, of Michigan's final margin of victory came from the decisions the head coaches made.

How much more of a travesty is the Toussaint overturn if it puts Michigan in fourth and goal from the 25 down four? Orders of magnitude. How confident are you that Michigan wins that game without the offense ripping down the field in the fourth quarter? Not at all. Michigan does not win this game without…

*[I know you can't just add WP differences up like that but the differences are small enough that it shouldn't matter.]

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Eric Upchurch

Controlled aggression. How would you characterize the first year of the Hoke era if given only two words? I don't think you could do better than sniping a couple Hoke used to describe Denard's game:

"Denard went out there as a quarterback of Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates. He couldn't do it by himself and no one ever does, but I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game."

Controlled aggression. From Mattison's okie blitzes that get an unblocked guy while dropping seven to Borges going for points in the fourth quarter Saturday to Hoke's decisions to go for it on fourth down to Hoke's ability to not strangle Hagerup (better man than all of us), "controlled aggression" is the story of Michigan's 2011… and its future.

I could not have been more wrong about Hoke. He's not the milquetoast win-by-not-losing sort. He's not even average. He has a gut feel that is on par with every RPG minimaxing engineer out there. Forged by the fires of MAC defenses, Hoke has learned to push when he should and pull back when he should. I would not want to play poker against him.

I know Hoke talks about toughness and physicalness even if the latter isn't really a word, and that's fine and important. It's half of the equation. The other half is putting your guys in position to take advantage of that. Hoke does that. MANBALL: pretty much not pejorative anymore.

Speaking of the Toussaint overturn. So the overturn at the end had the stadium baying for blood. Mike Pereira on that:

Why they even considered overturning this as a touchdown, I’ll never know. There were two definitive replays that the booth had to look at, and in my opinion, one showed that the ball might have been a foot short and the other one looked more like it was a clear touchdown.

This decision seemed to be based on the first angle only. Even that, to me, was not conclusive, because when the video was stopped it was not clear whether the knee was down.

Pereira also tackles the Odoms catch/recatch that got Michigan down to the six, saying it was the right call. Myself, I'm not sure why they reviewed it or why it took so long. I do wonder how you align this logic with the Junior Hemingway 49% touchdown against Iowa:

The fact the ball hit the ground does not make the pass incomplete. It becomes a question of maintaining possession. Odoms’ hands remained on the ball, and though the ball moved a bit, he did not lose possession. In order to reverse this ruling, I think you have to see the ball come out of his hands after it hit the ground.

I think ball hitting ground should be no catch unless you've already made the proverbial football move. That's clear. What we've got now is ambiguous.

And, then after the game, the fans just like, start banging their hands together. Michigan's grenade celebration caught the ire of Zach Boren:

"I lost so much respect for michigan after they won [and] threw the ball in the air acting like it was a grenade.

This is a great rivalry, and to take it to that level of disrespect is just so uncalled for. Act like you have won before [and] treat this rivalry like it should be treated."

Their family would never participate in anything so crass as celebrating amongst their teammates. They are a respectful bunch.

boren-douche

A stoic group of respectful people, those Borens.

[HT on the bolded zinger to MichFan1997.]

To get the bags of urine thrown at you you have to be in Columbus, though. Atmosphere skeptics will not be cowed, but this is high praise from a guy who would know:

The OSU-Michigan game today was the closest thing to a big soccer game I've ever been to. Kept thinking of USA-Mexico in Mexico.

Carey has been to USA-Mexico in Mexico, which… whoah. That is a hell of a comparison to make.

Weekly Borgeswatch. Beat up or not, that was an Ohio State defense that entered the game 16th in total defense and 12th in FEI*. Michigan rolled them. Eliminate the Hagerup disaster, a sack, and the kneeldown and Michigan averaged 6.4 YPC. Denard hit 9.8 YPA. They should have scored 44. They won that game with a functional turnover margin of –2—the Hagerup disaster is a 60-yard loss of field position and the Avery INT was superfluous—and their defense giving up 34. That's fantastic.

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Borges's last three weeks have been superlative. It's still frustrating that a couple of poor gameplans cost Michigan against MSU and Iowa but Borges corrected course and lit up defenses ranging from excellent to okay the last three weeks of the season. Before the season I predicted that Michigan's YPC would drop by a yard; with the bowl game to go it's only down about a quarter of that. Passing efficiency has dropped (23rd to 39th) but YPA is actually up a couple tenths of a yard. The interceptions are the major issue, and a decent chunk of those featured wide open receivers the QBs ignored.

Some regression was expected even if Rodriguez stuck around, so the net transition cost on offense kind of seems like… zero. Fumbles have been a huge factor (last year: 29, 14 lost; this year: 17, 6 lost) and I don't think there's a whole lot of coaching in that, but at this point there's no denying Borges has kept the offense humming.

Imagine how good they could have been with bubble screens!  [kidding! srs.]

*[Although… I'm getting suspicious of that metric when it has Rutgers #1 in defense and Miami(!!!) #2 in offense. Miami hasn't gone over 20 points since beating Duke; they lost to FSU 23-19 and to BC 24-17. They beat USF 6-3 and are 73rd in total offense, 64th in scoring. There is no combination of circumstances that could make them the #2 offense in the country. FEI is failing sanity tests this year.]

BCS hootenanny. Michigan actually fell a slot in the BCS standings this week thanks to Wisconsin turning Penn State into paste. They're 16th; they need to creep up two spots* to be eligible for hypothetical Sugar Bowl against Houston. One of those is a given since the Big Ten title game loser will fall behind them. The next is likely as long as Georgia loses the SEC title game.

If Georgia doesn't things get dicey. Then you're hoping for Iowa State to beat KSU or Oklahoma State to annihilate Oklahoma to the point where disgusted voters drop them immensely. With KSU a 12 point favorite and Oklahoma State a 3.5 point favorite, neither of those things seem particularly likely. Baylor is also a threat to jump Michigan if they beat Texas—if it's close the computers will likely side with the Big 12 team. Baylor's favored by around 3. MFan_in_Ohio has a complete rooting guide.

The only scenario in which Michigan feels entirely safe is Georgia and Baylor both losing. Anything else and it's going to come down to the margins. Not getting the BCS game would be disappointing, but mostly from a program prestige point of view. The likely opponent would be better in the Citrus: Arkansas, Georgia, or South Carolina. Also, New Orleans vs Orlando is a blowout.

*[Pay no attention to the ESPN expert behind the curtain. He asserts Michigan just needs to be in the top 18 to be eligible. This is wrong:

If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings,

Otherwise it's top 14.]

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Eric Upchurch

Fitzkrieg* III. If Brady Hoke gets It, Fitzgerald Toussaint has It. Fitz is averaging 5.8 YPC this year and that's with a majority of his carries coming against Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State. That is tied for the 14th best YPC in a single season (100 carries minimum) since 1949 and the second-best since Biakabutuka's 1995 campaign. (Denard's 2010 beats him out at an incredible 6.6 YPC. Tyrone Wheatley's 1992 season stands alone as the best in Michigan history. Wheatley picked up 1357 yards on 185 carries—eleven more than Toussaint had this year. He averaged 7.3 YPC. Holy pants.)

Player Att Yds YPC TD Year
Tyrone Wheatley 185 1357 7.3 13 1992
Rob Lytle 221 1469 6.6 14 1976
Denard Robinson 256 1702 6.6 14 2010
Steve Smith 103 667 6.5 10 1983
Tony Boles 131 839 6.4 9 1989
Jon Vaughn 216 1364 6.3 9 1990
Tshimanga Biakabutuka 126 783 6.2 7 1994
Billy Taylor 141 864 6.1 7 1969
Gordon Bell 174 1048 6 11 1974
Jamie Morris 282 1703 6 14 1987
Tshimanga Biakabutuka 303 1818 6 12 1995
Jesse Johnson 107 634 5.9 6 1991
Harlan Huckleby 155 912 5.9 11 1976
Chuck Heater 114 666 5.8 6 1973
Leroy Hoard 130 752 5.8 11 1988
Fitzgerald Toussaint 174 1011 5.8 9 2011
Butch Woolfolk 253 1459 5.8 6 1981
Russell Davis 105 596 5.7 5 1976
Carl Ward 112 639 5.7 2 1965
Rob Lytle 140 802 5.7 2 1974

[active players bolded. also players from the last 15 years.]

Adjust that for schedule strength, and… well, Toussaint is pretty good, especially when Denard Robinson is taking a lot of attention for himself. If Michigan can find a tight end (possible) and adequately replace Huyge (likely) and Molk (er…), an Al Borges with a year of experience dealing with these guys could put up some silly numbers.

Have to keep that line healthy, though.

*[Now spelled right and everything!]

I'm just sayin'. Fitz did bust a long one on I-Form power late, but it didn't exactly go as planned:

That cuts behind something that's supposed to be a downblock. Usually that's doom, though not when you've blasted the DT five yards downfield.

With Denard and Toussaint propelling Michigan to its best running game since the Big Ten was only vaguely competitive, can we assert that running quarterbacks do work in the Big Ten and that the spread is a pretty good system for running the ball? After all was said and done, Michigan beat OSU—put up more points on OSU than they ever had—by running a shotgun centered offense that tore it up with the inverted veer. Kudos to Borges for adjusting; I hope we don't say "that was interesting" and go back to statues for the next decade.

I say recruit 'em all and let Borges sort 'em out. Mobile QBs who don't pan out can turn into Marvin McNutt; I don't think M should turn down Shane Morris but if there's a Devin or a Denard around… man, this stuff really works.

Everyone's spent the last year comparing this offense to RR's last one, and saying there's no dropoff. That's true. Now let's compare it to the Carr offenses featuring oodles of NFL draft picks. Hmmm.

Facepalmin': THE REVERSAL. Facepalm guy after the OSU game:

Face Palm Guy[1]

That's goddamn right.

Epic photobomb. Via the internets, here's Josh Garnett, Jake Long, and Eric Magnuson* plus a Heisman-level photobomber:

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The wife saw this picture and said "why does Jake Long look strange" and I said "because he's next to people approximately his size."

*[Hockey fans will appreciate that I almost called him "Kevin." #hardcore]

Where are the safeties? So the disturbing thing about the game was Braxton Miller trashing the secondary. It could have been a lot worse than it was, but Miller's accuracy rating is still in the 50s so he overthrew a bunch of dudes.

No one was exempt: Floyd, Countess, Woolfolk, and Gordon each got burned (Kovacs was mostly used in the box and did not have an opportunity.) Some of that is Michigan showing a consistent one-high and Bollman exploiting that with receivers that, for the first time all year, seemed way more athletic than Michigan's secondary. Other parts were just inexplicable, like whoever the free safety was on the first touchdown sucking up on a covered Posey instead of covering the deep guy. I'll have to check the tape; I'm kind of concerned this is an '06 situation where whoops we have this huge throbbing vulnerability.

Floyd getting suckered on a double move on OSU's last drive was the worst. Have to stay over the top then and make Miller execute his way down the field.

Special K's magnum opus. Piping in "Build Me Up Buttercup" during Ohio State's final drive. Well done, you flatulent twit. Eleven Warriors:

"Sweet Caroline"? "Don’t Stop Believin’"?   Nice traditions you’ve got there.  I didnt think anything could make the car keys thing less embarrassing. I stand corrected.

Chris Grovich of BSD:

Note how lame the Big House is with Journey blaring? That's you, Penn State gameday experience. A million times over.

Apparently Hunter Lochmann openly admits he's courting casual "families of four from Grand Rapids." Court casual fans and you get casual fans. Michigan's athletic department has no understanding of how to build long-term loyalty. The concept does not occur to them.

Here

I would like to point you to Those Who Stayed, the post-Minnesota game column, again.

Inside the Box Score:

The play of the game, or at least one of them, is not recorded in the boxscore in a meaningful way. After Hagerup’s failed 4th down conversion, osu took over at our 31. They got down to our 5 yard line, and had 1st and goal. A couple strong defensive efforts lead to 3rd down.

On the next play, according to Chris Spielman (we were never shown this,) osu tried their TD pass to Stoneburner play, the one that got him TDs on ~ half his receptions this year. Only this time, Kovacs stayed with Stoneburner, and forced Miller to keep it. Jibreel Black (Jibreel Black? Yes, Jibreel Black) kept outside leverage, wrapped up Miller and forced the FG.

At the other end of the field, we did the same thing, only their 3rd string strong safety, Storm Klein, bit on the playfake leaving Koger wide open for the TD. (It may not have been Storm Klein, but for the purposes of this narrative, I’m going with Storm Klein.)

It was Zach Domicone, and it only serves him right for being such a tool on special teams. More than once I saw him attempt to goad Michigan players into personal foul penalties, but no sale.

I am also tweaked for the option fumble when they finally ran it with Odoms in motion, which fair enough. Denard got instant pressure which made the pitch a difficult one and the corner was wide open. Hopefully they get that straightened out eventually. Also we totally need to add the Braxton Miller speed option-whoops-seeya play.

Hoke for Tomorrow:

Fitz Toussaint - Denard is light-years more effective with a true home-run threat in the backfield with him.  The read option becomes almost impossible to stop if read correctly.  Only having 2 negative yards against Ohio in 20 carries is remarkable.  It is a crime that the zebras took your TD away, go get 3 next year.

There is narrative about the point that doesn't work with a blockquote but is worth clicking through for. Also more Hagerup hilarity.

Chunkums:

Hokeheartrip[1]

[escape pauses gifs]

And MichiganMan2424's cool story bro about meeting Fitzgerald Toussaint's mom on his way home from the game spawns other cool stories on the board.

Elsewhere

Media, as in unwashed blog masses. Hoke pointing from Hoke Points and the AP:

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MGoVideo provides a Hoke Nyan Cat:

We need one of these with a Denard head and football body, I think.

Yost references Joseph Campbell:

Michigan fans had hoped for an easy victory over Ohio State.  A blowout.  A cake walk.  But that's not how good stories are told.  Even ones written not on the page, but between the lines of a college gridiron.  For after 7* consecutive losses, the task was too important.  After three years staring into the football abyss, the final push toward the mountain top demanded it be the hardest.

The hero's journey must never be easy.

For future reference, reasonable Joseph Campbell reference == autolink.

Sap's decals. TWB bullets. MVictors bullets plus cookie photo. Maize and Go Blue recap. TTB bullets. MZone autopsy. Holding the Rope gets the word "gyre" in there, one-upping Maize and Blue Nation's "whirlwind." Smiling Kovacs hug leads The Michigan Fanatic. BWS column.

The HSR is all in my head with their theme:

If you're a Michigander, you know that winter is miserable.  As much as the first snow fall of the season might be entertaining and even maybe a little bit pretty, while snow days may be a nice respite from the daily grind, the reality is that it's cold, dark, wet, and miserable.  You stay inside, you may get seasonal affective disorder, and you wait for spring.  You may be so desperate for any sign of spring, you seize false hope, only to see the snow return with a vengeance, the darkness fall.  No matter what the calendar says, the end of winter is a feeling and you know it when it happens.

Forever Saturday leads with the Van Bergen photo above:

I was briefly concerned yesterday that I would wake up at some point and realize that it was all just a dream and Michigan had in fact not beaten Ohio State for the first time since shortly after I graduated high school. It's Sunday now. It's really over.

The words: I do not have them. I just keep telling people "Michigan beat Ohio State!" and making weird sounds that apparently are some combination of exhilaration and relief. That's all I can do after that.

The national view comes from Jacobi:

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges.

Also:

LOSER: Michigan's classless fans
Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!
We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?

Yes. Exactly. Boren butthurt tweets == Tears of Unfathomable Sadness. So sweet.

And Hinton:

In the context of the entire season, though, it was an exclamation point on a legitimate return to form. Unlike 2007 and 2008, the Wolverines didn't endure an embarrassing flop against a major underdog. Unlike 2009 and 2010, they didn't blow their fast start with a depressing November fade against the meat of the Big Ten slate. They were never blown out, and after their dramatic comeback to beat Notre Dame in September, none of their subsequent wins were close. Last week's evisceration of Nebraska was Michigan's best game in five years, a complete win over a real opponent, and the first unmistakable line of demarcation between Brady Hoke's first team and Rich Rodriguez's last.

Media, soon to expire variety. Dispatch, you disappoint but do not surprise:

Dispatch New[1]

You tools should have the MANBALLS to reverse your cute little counter, but since you don't have the resources to find out anything about OSU's compliance, or lack thereof, it's not a surprise you don't. You suck.

Wojo:

It probably was tougher and crazier than they expected, but when the Wolverines finally beat the Buckeyes 40-34 Saturday and the fans swarmed the field, one thing was clear: It's back on, mercifully and manically.

Reset the clock. Reset the rivalry. After seven straight losses and 2,926 days, Michigan ended the agony against Ohio State and took another big step back to national relevance.

Niyo:

Michigan had just ended an eight-year drought — it was 2,926 days, to be exact, as coach Brady Hoke's sign not-so-subtly reminded his players inside Schembechler Hall — by beating archrival Ohio State. And Michigan's senior class had just ended a perfect home season the way few, if any, of them could've imagined.

So as the students came streaming onto the field to celebrate in Michigan Stadium, and the Wolverines started running off it to do the same in their locker room, a trio of defensive linemen — Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger — lingered just a bit longer.

#niyogetsit

Mienke assembles facts about Denard Robinson's day:

Robinson's five touchdowns are the most by a Michigan player in one game against Ohio State.

Robinson is the first Michigan player in the modern era to score at least two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns in back-to-back games, and is the first Big Ten quarterback to accomplish the feat since Iowa's Brad Branks in 2002. He had two of each against Nebraska.

More at the link.

The Daily's Tim Rohan:

Those who stay will redeem themselves.

Ryan Van Bergen stayed.

While his teammates mobbed Courtney Avery, whose interception for the Michigan football team sealed the 40-34 win over Ohio State on Saturday, Van Bergen slowly walked to the sideline, his hands on his head.

He flipped off his helmet, collapsed on the blue bench and wept.

The crowd’s roar was deafening as Jake Ryan pulled Van Bergen close, whispering in his ear. Then Craig Roh did the same. They told Van Bergen how much his leadership meant, how much of an impact he had on them.

I don't think "redeem" is the right word but goddamn. Nesbitt on Koger. Wetzel on the rivalry's restoration.

This Is Michigan; This Isn't Michigan

This Is Michigan; This Isn't Michigan

Submitted by Brian on November 21st, 2011 at 11:27 AM

11/19/2011 – Michigan 45, Nebraska 17 – 9-2, 5-2 Big Ten

6369740057_ef96bdd470_b[1]

Eric Upchurch

In the aftermath of Saturday's flamethrower job, everyone from the coaches down to emailers is saying that felt like Michigan, usually with emphasis. Picking one at random:

Great game Saturday - I think it was at least partially Nebraska-fueled, but man that FELT like Michigan.

Quick, it's any game from 1998 to 2007 against a spread offense or mobile quarterback. How do you feel? Good? Bad? Have you stopped reading this column to shiver in a corner at the idea of Carlyle Holiday? Troy Smith? Donovan McNabb? Armanti Horror Edwards?

Yes, you have. For the Ohio State fans who persist in reading this column because it's willing to send Michigan fans into catatonic seizures, Michigan fans felt pretty damn bad about going up against mobile quarterbacks during the Carr era. They also felt this during the Rodriguez era but it was a lot harder to parse out a specific mobile-quarterback-related fear when Indiana's putting up more than 30 every year.

Quick! It's any game in which Michigan has an 18 point lead against a mid-level Big Ten team from 1998 to 2007. Nevermind. You're still having a seizure.

Quick! It's a team with Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, Steve Hutchinson, Mo Williams, and Jeff Backus. How many yards per carry do they average?

No, seriously. I'm asking this one. How many yards per carry did the Orange-Bowl-winning, Tom-Brady-featuring, three-NFL-OL-including-a-hall-of-fame-guard-deploying 1999 Michigan Wolverines average?

3.2.

Seriously. Michigan finished 79th in rushing offense, 24th in passing offense, and ran more than they passed. Tom Brady—Tom Brady!—averaged 7.2 YPA. In the Orange Bowl they fell behind 14-0 because they kept running their awful run offense at Alabama's #2 run defense. They'd finish with 23 carries for 27 yards.

Quick! Fourth and four from the Ohio State 34 up two with three minutes left. What does Brady Hoke do?

--------------------------------------------

I was wrong. I was mad when Michigan hired Brady Hoke because I though it was a capitulation, that it was Michigan returning to the things that made it such a frustrating team to root for once Lloyd Carr stopped having the best defense in the universe.

Carr coached his team like they had an awesome run offense and an awesome defense no matter the facts on the ground, which led to the most frustrating stat anyone's ever compiled. From Vijay Ramanujan's article in your copy of HTTV 2007:

Michigan's fourth quarter woes from 2000 to 2005 … have been the thing holding it back from truly elite status the last several years. Alarmingly, Michigan entered 18 games over that period of time with a lead smaller than 10 points and went 8-10 in those games. They were under .500 when entering the fourth with a small lead! When tied or facing a similarly small deficit, Michigan was 6-1. In all games in which Michigan trailed by any margin they were 8-8.

That is the kind of thing that gets you pawing at the air in your sleep, moaning "no… not again." It's incontrovertible evidence of terrible game management. Hiring Hoke felt like returning to that, like returning to debates about "scoring offenses" and looking at every mobile quarterback on the schedule like it was a loss waiting to happen.

This is not the case. It turns out as I was sitting in the stands burning up inside as Rocky Harvey scatbacked Illinois to victory or Michigan punted itself into oblivion against OSU, Brady Hoke was standing on a sideline burning up inside, whether it was at Michigan Stadium or somewhere in the MAC. Hoke does not want to lead by 17. He wants to lead by 21, dammit. If anything, the playcalling this year has been too aggressive what with the constant unleashing of the dragon.

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Al Borges wears a t-shirt with this on it every Casual Friday

That made me mad in the immediate aftermath, but what happens when you put a Michigan program together and… like… use it? What happens when you're Lloyd Carr without the crippling fear of something going wrong? What happens when you go from weak-tight to loose-aggressive?

----------------------------

For one, you leave the desiccated corpses of Nebraska strewn around you as you leave the field. Afterwards, Bo Pelini sits in his locker room shaking like Don Cheadle in "Hotel Rwanda." When you win games, you win games comfortably. No one gets nervous in the fourth quarter of San Diego State. The offense is pretty much the offense; when its horns get pulled in it's because you're on your own four up 21 and that's the move. Sometimes you do the audacious thing in the important game, not the tomato can before the important game. Mobile quarterbacks don't automatically rack up a billion yards. And when the right move doesn't work out and someone asks you about it, you say "that's how it's going to be."

So when people say this "feels like Michigan," I agree and disagree. In the immediate post-hire column featuring Will Smith robots I said "to me, getting back to being Michigan means going 9-3 and losing to Jim Tressel." Since 1993, Michigan has lost at least three games every year save '97, '99 and '06; since Jim Tressel's arrival Michigan has beaten Ohio State once.

If this feels like getting back to Michigan, it's the Michigan of your dreams, the Michigan you left back in Peoria when you shipped to Saigon. You've got one good picture of her and she's that pretty every day in an ugly place.

"This Is Michigan" is about the idea, not the reality—at least not a reality from the last 20 years. So far. Days like Saturday inch us closer to the picture in our heads.

Media

There were enough videos to warrant a VOAV, which was posted yesterday. This from Boyz in the Pahokee is worth a repost, though:

Via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer, our Nebraska photoset:

As always, the above photos are Creative Commons licensed.

AnnArbor.com's photoset can be found here. I'm just saying?

image

I'm just sayin'.

Maize and Blue Nation also has photos. MVictors grabs the obligatory Bri'onte Dunn shot.

Bullets

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via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer 

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointBRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm tempted to hand this to Lavonte David for 17 tackles, 14 of them solo, 2 of them Y U SO FAST ankle-grabs on a Denard Robinson one step from engaging turbo. But he plays for Nebraska and we only talk about players who play for Michigan.

If we can't give it to David, it's again Fitzgerald Toussaint's to have and hold. He's got his own bullet below explaining why. Runners up: Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Kovacs.

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.

2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU),  Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).

Fitzkreig continues. 138 yards on 29 carries and three monster games in the last four. The exception was a 16-carry, 58-yard performance against Iowa when many of his attempts were run from under center.

As a result, I saw Toussaint compared to the following tailbacks over the weekend: Mike Hart (this was me but not just me), Tim Biakabutuka, and Chris Perry. Except fast! I went with Hart because the way Toussaint dodges guys in a phonebooth is reminiscent of #20 and his cuts in narrow areas are what makes the zone game work. Toussaint doesn't have Hart's pile-pushing power but he compensates with Except Fast! He's also been very secure with the ball. (Knock on wood.) I don't recall any fumbles from him this year; that's pretty good for 143 carries.

It took longer than everyone wanted, but I declare him broken out. He needs 191 yards against OSU and in the bowl to crack 1000 for the season; I bet he gets that and enters next year in the conversation for best back in the league. I'll have to go back and check how Northwestern held him to 25 yards on 14 carries. That's nuts.

Weekly Borgeswatch. It's to the point where the scattered –1 yard power plays from the I don't even bother me anymore. They're like old friends reminding me of the spread's superiority for this personnel and how our offensive coordinator has also come to this conclusion, albeit grudgingly.

I thought this was another strong game from Borges. He debuted a pro set that saw Michigan bust a couple of big gains; the flare screen got blown up the second time he went to it but it was effective overall. Outside of that he largely let the offense do what it was recruited to do: run zone from the gun. It worked to the tune of 238 yards.

While the averages for Denard (4.4 YPC) and Fitz(4.8) aren't electric a lot of that is due to Michigan's struggles near the goal line. Those two had eight carries from within the Nebraska seven on which they gained 7 yards total; carries outside of goal-to-go situations averaged 5.3 between the two main weapons. Without Lavonte David who knows what they would have been.

Unfortunately, goal to go is kind of important. Those struggles combine with last week's goal line stand by Illinois* to create the closest thing to a worry possible coming off a 45-17 win. Michigan got lucky on a dubious pass interference call and had to resort to a fake field goal to punch in short touchdowns; on both short yardage TDs Michigan had to bounce to the sideline. Going up the middle was futile.

I wonder why Michigan has never tried to replicate** the virtually unstoppable Gator Heavy package that was Florida's go-to short yardage package during the Tebow era. This was a complaint I had during the RR years, too. I like the idea of giving the D seven gaps to defend and providing Denard two lead blockers that can attack any of them, plus a tailback.

*[I guess you could toss in Iowa's successful goal line stand but that was executed in adverse conditions.]

**[Michigan did briefly feature a double H-back set in 2009 that was kind of like Gator Heavy but they never used the full-on heavy. They always had two WRs.]

odoms-touchdown-nebraska

via Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

Weekly Denardwatch. There were a couple of scary throws I'll have to see on replay to determine whether they were bad ideas or fit in narrow windows—guessing the former—but 61% completions and 10 YPA are pretty good. Yeah, a big chunk of those was a chuck-and-pray to Roundtree but at least that wasn't into double coverage. The safety couldn't get over in time. Roundtree also had a step on Dennard… it wasn't in the same class some of the ND armpunts were. Meanwhile, the Odoms touchdown gets an "I be like dang."

I thought the INT was fluky; some people on the twitters disagreed. I'm not saying the batted ball was fluky, but the dude knocking it to himself and catching it… eh… doesn't happen so often. That's more on the playcall than Denard. Asking a short guy to float it over a tall guy has resulted in two interceptions this year that I'm not sure Denard can do much about other than be six inches taller or eat the ball on a screen that seems open.

There was progress.

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Upchurch

The above was part of that. When Denard pulled up to throw to a short dude streaking across the endzone my Michigan rolodex flipped to the first interception he threw against MSU last year, where he had the exact same route open and chucked it well behind his guy.

I'm guessing Denard's DSR is in the mid-60s range he seems to have established as his Big Ten baseline. That's a step up from the days when he was struggling to complete anything against the Eastern Michigans of the world. Transition costs here seem mostly paid. Now it's about getting him that extra increment.

The rumors are not true. Do not listen to Heiko: I had nothing to do with the lack of power in Michigan Stadium. I did not make a commando raid Friday night after seeing the image of Pop Evil in the stadium and Do What Had To Be Done. I have an alibi—I was at the hockey game—and if I had done it I would have taken out the north scoreboard, where Special K's speakers are.

Way to go, whoever you are. Excellent work by random student who I assume is an engineer to start counting down the playclock after M took a false start penalty near the goal line in the first. Note that Hoke stepped forth to take blame for the penalty:

"That's on me," he said. "I should have called timeout. For me to not do that, that's bad coaching."

Straightforward dude.

Second Zookian clock management incident. Coaches are always too conservative with their last timeout and this tendency bit Michigan after they ran a couple times at the end of the first half. After Robinson biffed by trying to get to the sideline instead of reading the block Toussaint had made on the closest defender, the clock burned 30 seconds before the third down snap.

I know you want to have that timeout for a field goal attempt but in a situation like this you know the clock is going to run and you're not sure that will be the case down the road. A spike is a quality option with five seconds left; not so much with 48.

This is a nit. I'm going to name my firstborn "Hoke Gametheory."

Helmet to ball. Yes, people who keep telling me about fumbles, the last few have been Michigan's doing. Not so much the ones where people just drop the ball. Terrence Robinson may have just earned a fifth year—it looks like Michigan will have room for him even if they take 28.

Fluck. Michigan's still recovering an inordinate number of the fumbles caused. No, this is not coachable.

I don't always talk about game theory*, but when I do I prefer it to be about going up 17 or 21. Last week I was totally cool with Michigan running a QB draw with Gardner on third and goal from the ten to go up 17; I was similarly cool with the field goal team running out for a chip shot on the fourth and one.

It's a similar situation: up 14 about halfway through the third quarter against a team that's struggling to move the ball. Getting that third score is all but game over. That said, Hoke made it clear in the postgame presser that they had scouted that particular situation and got the look they wanted:

Can you talk about picking the spot to fake the field goal? “We had put it in. It’s the one Penn State used against us in ’95? I think it was ’95 up there. [We] wanted it on the right hash, [and] they gave us the look that we wanted. Even if we had kicked the field goal, Drew Dileo -- having him as a holder, he’s such a smart football kid. He did a tremendous job with it. You got it, you might as well use it.”

Until he runs a fake field goal against the same team he ran a famous fake field goal the year previous—and takes a timeout before doing so—it's all good.

Less than a season into the Hoke regime it's clear his natural inclination is to be aggressive in close situations. That should pay off down the road—it hasn't so much this year because when Michigan wins they win by a lot.

*[LIES!]

BCS watch. Saturday night's events all but guarantee Michigan a spot if they take care of business on Saturday. They're now ahead of the Big 12 runner-up, which will either be a three-loss Oklahoma or an Oklahoma State team coming off back-to-back losses, one of them to Iowa State. Pecking order:

  1. Houston (auto)
  2. Alabama
  3. Stanford
  4. Michigan
  5. Big 12 runner up
  6. ACC runner up

You can flip Stanford and Michigan if you like. There are no scenarios that see a 10-2 Michigan left out; even if the SEC can put a third team in because of an all SEC West title game, Michigan is an easy pick over a 10-2 Arkansas. To be safe you're rooting for Okie State in Bedlam.

Now, about getting to 10-2…

[UPDATE: a reader informs me that this is misunderstanding of the way three teams get into the BCS from a single conference. #1 and #2 have to not win the conference, so LSU would have to lose to Georgia and Alabama and LSU would still have to be 1-2. That is… not impossible, actually.]

Here

Inside the Box Score has cat photos and commentary:

In the first half, with us up 10-7, Denard threw an INT on a screen pass. I’m starting to think he’s too short to throw middle screens. Anyway, the defense responded with a Kovacs TFL, a Van Bergen pass deflection, and Demens and Martin tackling a WR on a screen for minimal yardage. It wasn’t quite the three-play sequence that bursted impetus against Illinois, but it reminded me of that. Neb had to settle for a 51 yard FG. Our defense basically said, we’ve got our O’s back.

Word.

The announcers thought Kovacs was acting a little when injured to slow down Neb’s hurry up offense. For the record, he stayed out for the duration of that series, so I don’t think he was faking. Screw you Urban Paschman for suggesting such a thing.

Are we really at the point where a team that has two injuries in a game gets accused of slowing the game down on purpose? This wasn't the Michigan State defense's fainting couch act against Iowa.

When I think of NU, I think of Northwestern. Since they have B1G seniority over Nebraska, they should get the NU acronym. That leaves either UNL or Neb for Nebraska.

Blog policy is to bestow "NU" on the winner of the NU-NU game. When not in possession of "NU," Northwestern shall be "NW" and Nebraska "UNL." It is my hope this eventually spawns a rivalry trophy: large block N and U letters that the winning team paints their colors after a victory.

Hoke For Tomorrow on various people who had good days:

Denard Robinson - The best game in a long time for our leader and best.  Denard looked completely in control of the offense.  He was patient, waiting for plays to develop before zinging a TD pass to Gallon or cutting behind his blockers for a TD on the ground.  Best of all, Denard finally hit a receiver perfectly on an endzone bomb.  He made some more questionable reads on the read option, but overall it was a great performance.

If you hit up Blue Seoul's OSU/Nebraska scouting report the Cornhuskers' long touchdown probably looked familiar:

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So there you go: the coaches don't read the blog.

Elsewhere

Unwashed blog masses. Maize and Go Blue has a newspapery recap. Schadenfreude can be had at Corn Nation's game thread and post-game thread. TTB runs down the recruiting visitors. MNBN has a wrap up. BWS talks about Rich Rodriguez. I only talk about coaches who coach for Michigan. M&GB gives thanks. So does the HSR. MGoFootball bullets.

MZone autopsy:

Want a little more perspective?  In its 13 games last year, Michigan gave up 458 points.  Through 11 this season, they've surrendered 172.  In other words, to equal the punchline that was 2010, Michigan would have to give up 144 points -- in EACH of its remaining two games (OSU and the bowl).

I am annoyed that this is followed by a reference to the scoring offense as if the defense doesn't have anything to do with putting said offense in a position to succeed. The offense has dropped off a bit, and criticisms leveled at Borges after MSU and Iowa are still valid. 

Meanwhile, Touch The Banner officially enters haterz territory:

Obligatory discussion of J.T. Floyd.  Nebraska's one huge play was a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Kinnie, who torched Floyd so badly that all Floyd could do was grab onto Kinnie and hope for a pass interference flag.  Prior to that play, Kinnie had 19 catches for 192 yards and 0 touchdowns on the season.

This is true. Also true: that was the first 50 yard play Michigan has given up all season and the first time Floyd has been burned deep on a pass, complete or not, all year. Even Woodson got burned by Boston that one time. JT Floyd is a good corner.

In the the wider view, Adam Jacobi declares Michigan's trenches a "winner" and Nebraska special teams a "not winner." His quick hits:

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan's bid for an at-large BCS bid is still alive as the Wolverines begin preparation for Ohio State. We're told that's a rivalry. What Michigan proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the defense is legit. Nebraska managed just 11 first downs and 254 total yards on the day, and while that's partly a function of the turnovers, it's also a function of Michigan's performance; the Wolverines forced 10 4th downs on 13 opportunities.

Hinton:

And it was, if not exactly the kind of vintage "This is Michigan" mashing Brady Hoke invoked throughout the offseason, at least as close as this particular team has come to its own platonic ideal. Denard Robinson took every significant snap at quarterback, carried 23 times, looked sharp as a passer and accounted for four touchdowns. Tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint went over 100 yards on the ground for the third time in the last four games, adding a pair of scores of his own. The offense as a whole held the ball for almost 42 minutes. The defense held Nebraska to a season-low in total yards and matched a season low in points. The 'Huskers didn't convert a third down until the end of the third quarter.

In a matchup of apparent equals, the only aspect of the game Nebraska "won" — or came close to winning — was average yards per punt. And that doesn't include the punt Michigan blocked.

Media, conventional. My man Nick Baumgardner on the lopsided time of possession:

One of the residual effects of Michigan's stellar defensive day was a lopsided time of possession battle.

The Wolverines held the ball for 41:13 while Nebraska had possession for just 18:47.

"Residual effects." My man.

Jerry Palm has placed us back in his BCS predictions in an odd place:

Sugar Bowl

Jan. 3
New Orleans, La.
SEC vs. at-large
8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: With both SEC teams in the championship game, the Sugar Bowl will need a replacement and Michigan will be very attractive. It ends up taking an undefeated Houston over the Big East champion.


Palm has the LSU-Bama rematch as the title game, which opens up a weird slot for M. I'd rather play a running team than Case Keenum. BONUS WEIRDNESS: Palm puts Penn State in the Hawaii Bowl in place of someone else who can't fill a commitment. No idea why he thinks the #3-5 Big Ten team isn't locked into an actual Big Ten bowl. SIDE NOTE: Adding Nebraska makes the Big Ten's bowl matchups far more palatable.

Rothstein says the special teams were… wait for it… special. Robinson had no idea he'd tied Brady's record for touchdown passes, but instead of "WAT" he said "excuse me?"

Wojo column:

This wasn't the final piece of evidence, but it certainly was the most compelling. What happened Saturday in Michigan Stadium is what used to happen. A big, physical foe rolled into town and ran smack into a wall of pads. The Wolverines' 45-17 rout of the Cornhuskers was their best game of the year, by far, and the loudest statement of the Brady Hoke era, by far.

As the final minutes ticked away, the crowd began an old-new chant. "Beat Ohio!" cascaded from the student section, in homage to Hoke, whose personal homage to the rivalry is to refer to the Buckeyes simply as "Ohio."

Beat Ohio? Uh, that's a good idea. After seven straight losses in the rivalry, Michigan (9-2) has a great chance to do it, with Ohio State (6-5) in complete disarray.

I quote him because he's the only columnist in a 500 mile radius who doesn't compulsively hit enter after each mark of punctuation. Also he had cake.

Andy Staples:

The defensive improvement is perhaps the most shocking element of Michigan's renaissance. The Wolverines did not sign a bunch of five-star freshmen who raised the talent level. They have succeeded largely with the same players who finished 2010 ranked 110th in the nation in total defense (450.8 yards per game) and 108th in the nation in scoring defense (35.2 points per game). We knew coordinator Greg Mattison could coach, but we didn't know he could work miracles. Through 11 games, the 2011 Wolverines have allowed 312.6 yards per game and 15.6 points per game. "Fundamentally and technically, they're playing what they're coached to do, and they're playing together," Hoke said of his defense. "It's been fun to watch."

The Nebraska view is essentially "why are you punching yourself in the face?" A lot.

Unverified Voracity Steals Pelini's Soul

Unverified Voracity Steals Pelini's Soul

Submitted by Brian on November 15th, 2011 at 12:14 PM

This is very important. Fitz Tous is a much weirder name than Gerald Saint.

An image. This was on the internet, but not widely enough. Undoubtedly from this year's Big Ten Media Days, the family portrait:

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I'm just posting this for Pelini.

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WHAT ABOUT MY SOUL

Where have you been all my life. I can't believe this guy has been doing this for three years and no one has found him before MGoVideo stumbled across him this weekend:

A check of his account reveals he's done this exact same thing dozens of times over the past three years for things as insignificant as victories over Hillsdale. There is no corresponding "BOO" for losses, unfortunately.

NoPa. Whoever wins the league this year won't have to pick up their trophy with tongs:

Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's name has been removed from the Big Ten's football championship trophy, league commissioner Jim Delany said Monday.

“We believe that it would be inappropriate to keep Joe Paterno’s name on the trophy at this time,” Delany said. “The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial. We believe that it’s important to keep the focus on the players and the teams that will be competing in the inaugural championship game.”

They're going with just "Stagg." Now all we have to do is tie the division names into a horrible crime and we're set nomenclature-wise. Paterno is kind of a leader and legend all wrapped into one, isn't he?

Legal argh. Marvin Robinson's concussion turns out to be one that causes bad decisions:

Robinson, 20, was arraigned last week on a charge of second degree home invasion and released on a promise to appear. He is accused of breaking into a locked dorm room at 10 p.m. Sept. 29 and stealing the game.

After getting some time early in the year Robinson mysteriously disappeared; now we know why. There's a lot of speculation about this being the end of MRob by mysterious insiders; I find that odd. Unless he's had previous incidents this seems like a first strike type event. Previous Michigan players in the same level of trouble have been able to return after doing penance.

Defensive linemen hang out and call whatever. Rapturous Mattison praise is justified but apparently some of that should be redirected to one Ryan Van Bergen:

"(They) gave me some freedom to call some stunts up front that coaches wouldn’t typically do, but they trust that I’m smart enough to make the right calls," Van Bergen said. "We didn’t actually get the green light, we just started doing it. Take a risk. Why not?

"It worked the first two or three times, and the coaches were just like, ‘Call ‘em when you feel like calling ‘em.’"

Remember a couple years ago when Indiana ripped off an 85-yard touchdown because RVB missed a check? That doesn't so much happen anymore. Seniors.  I like them. We should try to have more of them. You, Desmond Morgan: be a senior with four years of eligibility starting now.

A note on Denard fumbly bits. While it's frustrating to endure a game in which Denard fumbles turn two drives in field goal range to dust, the team's overall trend is still highly positive:

FUMBLES LOST

Year: 2011 Thru: 11/12/11
Rank Name Fumbles Lost
1 Wisconsin 2
2 Purdue 3
3 Michigan 5
4 Minnesota 6
4 Ohio St. 6
4 Northwestern 6
7 Nebraska 7
7 Indiana 7
7 Iowa 7
7 Michigan St. 7
11 Penn St. 10
12 Illinois 13

The noise you hear is Rich Rodriguez screaming "oh, of course this happens the year after I get fired." Denard coughed it up twice against Illinois and had the elaborate-sack-escape fumble against Iowa; the other two lost fumbles were from Smith and Hopkins against SDSU. Robinson's had 330 events this year; losing three fumbles on them isn't that bad.

Last year Michigan lost 14(!) as a team. The improvement here has been significant enough to more than combat the increase in interceptions.

Complicated bits. Smart Football's Grantland work seems specifically targeted at things we've been discussing about Michigan's offensive transition. There a post about how Jim Harbaugh has dumped sight reading from the 49ers offense and thereby aided them in their transformation from chumps to 7-1. At first they were like this:

image

And then they would change to this when they got a blitz:

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But now they're like this:

image

They always have hot routes built into the play. Michigan has gone the other direction. Unfortunately you're thinking of Vincent Smith not running a slant against Michigan State right now, but I can't do anything about that. Chris Brown's take on this adaptation:

It's my personal view, but I think NFL teams rely too much on sight adjustments. There are two reasons for this: First, these plays were far more straightforward a decade or two ago than they are now, and second, coaches who spend nearly all their waking hours thinking about football tend to forget that it's not how many X's and O's they know but what they can teach their players. To the first point, sight adjustments are old — at least 50 years old, if not more. But they arose before zone blitzes became popular. Against a blitz with man-to-man coverage in the secondary, sight adjustments made perfect sense. They were extensions of backyard football — throw a quick one to the fast guy and let him run with the ball before the blitz overwhelms the offensive line.

Now it's not so simple. With the rise of the zone blitz, the fact that three defenders might rush from one side tells the offense almost nothing about where the coverage will be. This is why, when zone blitzes first became prominent, you saw quarterbacks throwing awful passes directly to defenders who weren't even close to receivers. This is not to say that sight adjustments are impossible in today's environment, but they require an almost telepathic relationship between quarterback, receiver, and even the offensive line.

Borges and Hoke have been grumbling about wide receivers being hidden issues in the passing game for chunks of the year and I think this is what they're talking about. In the spring game Gardner missed Gallon three times when Gallon pulled up short and Gardner threw long or vice versa; the Smith interception happened; Denard has often been under pressure without anywhere to go with the ball because everyone's 30 yards downfield. That seems nuts so my assumption is when that happens it's because the receivers have not read the play correctly.

While this should get better next year when Gallon, Roundtree, and Stonum all have a year of experience under their belts I'm a little leery of Michigan using sight reads extensively—and they seem like an all-or-nothing proposition like being a triple option or Air Raid team. You're either 100% committed to it or you suck. I'll figure out more about this over the offseason—I've signed up for some clinics featuring Michigan's coordinators that will hopefully shed some light on what Michigan's trying to do.

BONUS relevance: Brown also breaks down one of Oregon's long runs against Stanford with a focus on the alignment of the line and how Oregon forces you to respect the bubble. I'll probably tackle that in greater detail in a picture pages.

Yost attendance problem mitigation. If you have tickets, need tickets, need a rideshare, or require any other thing that will get you to Yost there is a Children of Yost facebook page that can help you with these matters. I don't think their services extend to calling you up at 7:15 and screaming "PUT DOWN THE MW3 AND LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW," unfortunately.

More Trouba. Via NHL.com:

"He has offense skills and he really does defend well," Gregory said. "You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well. He loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he's not disappointing early on this year, either."…

"He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up the ice with the puck and with good speed," he said. "He's very confident, has great agility, is strong physically and is always alert. He's done a good job in 1-on-1 situations against opposing forwards and contained his man very well."

(HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)

This week in going for it. Advanced NFL Stats has a go-or-not 4th down calculator, but I think it's broken. When I punch in the situation from the weekend, it says 100% of 92 is 93. As a result it says M should have kicked.

I think it means the decision to go was correct since it says you have a 70% chance of success and your WP goes from 92 to 93 if you get it right. Expected points are massively in favor of going, FWIW: 4.5 to 2.4.

The mid 90s summed up. Midnight Maize brings us this shirt, which should be the student T this year and for all time:

crazy shirt[1]

That is wicked off the hook but inexplicably managed to escape its ebay auction unsold.

Etc.: Toussaint interviewed by TIM DOYLE OMG. Says "I'm just a big fan of fashion." Toussaint, not Doyle. Dreaded Judgment gets on the "third down == awesome" bandwagon. MGoFootball Illinois bullets arrived too late for yesterday's game post.

Iowa fans think Michigan State got fainting disease last Saturday, which I point out mostly to marvel at the idea anyone would have to slow the Hawkeyes' tempo down. I guess they were down a billion.