Boot On The Other Throat

Boot On The Other Throat

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2011 at 11:11 AM

9/24/2011 – Michigan 28, San Diego State 7 – 4-0

imagebracelets-doylebrunson2005hokesmug

A long, long time ago now a Lloyd-Carr coached Michigan team was struggling through the 2005 season when they met Northwestern. A lot of throws to Tacopants (Jason Avant's 11-foot-tall imaginary friend) on both sides later, Michigan emerged with a 33-17 win and I embarked on one of the first of an endless procession of stat-nerd diatribes about the evils of punting.

You've probably heard it already: punting decisions have not kept pace with the increasingly offensive nature of the game, leaving coaches in a perpetual state of risk- and win-avoidance. Romer paper, Pulaski High, Mathlete chart. Etc.

In this particular Northwestern game, though, Carr went for it on fourth and five from the Northwestern 23, a decision I thought was too aggressive(!). When paired with a number of similarly aggressive calls from earlier that season, it seemed like a sea change for the old man:

In multiple cases he's made tough, correct decisions: going on fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin, pounding it into the line twice against Michigan State, etc. Even when the strategy has backfired, he accepts the downside and persists in a more aggressive posture.

In context, the Penn State gaffe seems more like one last hit of that sweet Bombay Popsicle* snuck in-between rehab sessions than evidence of 1970s thinking taking hold. Lloyd Carr has checked himself in to the Betty Ford Center for Coaches Addicted to Low Variance. I wouldn't expect a flying-colors discharge any time soon, but he's made the first, biggest step.

*[I don't know either.]

That change lasted into the fourth quarter of that year's Ohio State game. Having acquired a two-score lead by converting a fourth and inches around the Michigan 40, Carr reverted to his primitive instincts at the crucial moment. With three minutes left from the Ohio State 40, he called for a wide receiver screen on third and ten. It gained six yards. With a two point lead, three minutes on the clock, no Ohio State timeouts left, and a fourth and four on the Ohio State 34, Carr punted. Ohio State drove for a touchdown; Carr would never again have the opportunity to kill a game against the Buckeyes.

In the moment, Carr choked. Six years on that single decision seems like the best way to explain why a lot Michigan fans found his tenure frustrating despite its high rate of success: the program was perpetually making poor decisions because a combination of fear and arrogance. Something could go wrong if you made a high variance decision, and Michigan could spit on expected value because This Is Michigan. See any game in which Michigan acquired an 18-point lead or the first half of the Orange Bowl for confirmation.

Carr coached like he had a kickass running game and killer defense no matter the facts, which was the difference between being a legend and a being a B+ coach who lost the battle with Tressel authoritatively. Hell, even Tressel blew games when he failed to adjust to the reality that sometimes his defense and special teams were not enough, and he ran roughshod over the Big Ten for nine years.

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

Part of the reason a segment of the Michigan fanbase (including the author) blew up at Hoke's hire is because it seemed to represent a return to that expectation-spurning 1970s decision-making.

Brady Hoke put a lot of those fears to rest by going for—and getting—the win against Notre Dame with eight seconds left. That decision was a no-brainer. If the field goal team had run out onto the field, I would have been livid. That was a test he passed, but it was one with a low bar.

On Saturday, Hoke sent out the punting team with about two and a half minutes left in the first half. It was fourth and two around midfield, and I was mildly peeved. It was not the percentage play, but I've watched a lot of football and it seemed too much to hope that even the rootin'est, tootin'est, eyepatch-wearingest pirate of a head coach would go for it. Needing more than a sneak and up fourteen in the first half, the world punts. My peevishness was directed at football coaches in general, not Hoke in particular.

And then.

And then an angel came down from the sky, and signaled timeout. Great trumpets erupted from the flagpoles, playing a fanfare as a golden staircase descended. Each of the steps was engraved with the names of World Series of Poker winners. Down from the clouds strode Doyle Brunson, clad in a jacket of hundred-dollar bills. And lo, Texas Dolly spaketh unto the people: "check-raise." Brady Hoke sent the offensive line onto the field.

This was a really, really good decision. Even if you don't believe the exact outlines of the Mathlete's calculations, it is not close: average offense versus average defense means the break-even line is around eight yards. This was not an average situation. Michigan had Denard Robinson against a pretty horrible run defense. And that number does not take into account the game situation. If Michigan gets the first down they are almost certainly robbing San Diego State of a possession. Punting gets you thirty, forty yards of field position. Getting the first down puts you in good position to score and is essentially another +1 in turnover margin. You need two yards and you have Denard Robinson.

(caption) Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson breaks away from the San Diego State defense for a big gain in the second quarter. Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, a 9.5-yards-per-carry average. He struggled in the passing game, however, completing just 8 of 17 passes for 93 yards with two interceptions.  *** After jumping out to a 21-0 lead by halftime, courtesy of three rushing touchdowns by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the Wolverines turned the ball over three times in the second half, but held on to beat coach Brady Hoke's former team, the San Diego State Aztecs 28-7 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 24, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

stealing a joke from the internet: the guy on the right looks like he just looked into the Ark of the Covenant. via the News.

One speed option later Michigan was en route to the endzone and had essentially ended the game. Without that massively +EV decision they go into halftime up maybe 14, maybe 11, maybe 7 points. That ugly third quarter becomes the gut-check time most were predicting before the game. Maybe Michigan comes out on top (24-21, say). Maybe not. That didn't happen because when Michigan had its boot on San Diego State's neck, Hoke called Z 22 stomp right.

The Lloyd Carr example above shows we don't know that Hoke's going to do this consistently, that he'll stick to the non-pejorative MANBALL when the pressure is at its greatest, but so far so good. Even my doubts about Hoke's ability to math up in the waning moments of an Ohio State game are faint. When things go wrong he does not scowl or pout or throw headsets like Rich Rodriguez or Brian Kelly or Bo Pelini. He does not go on tilt. He calmly talks to guys about what in the hell they were thinking.

Hoke continues to leave best-case scenarios in the dust. Saturday night I watched Dennis Erickson punt on fourth and five from the USC 37 and thought "my coach would never do that." Then I watched Erickson chew out the punter who put the ball in the endzone because that's what happens when you punt from the 37 and thought "my coach would never do that."

That felt good. It felt invent-a-time-machine-to-assure-yourself-its-all-going-to-be-okay good. It feels like Michigan has finally learned how to gamble.

+EV Non-Bullets

Boy do I want to play poker with certain people on the internet. Evaluating the decision has popped up on every Michigan message board. It's mostly been met with praise, but man, there are a lot of people who can't estimate and multiply out there. Maybe it's Carr Stockholm syndrome.

Photoset. The SDSU photoset comes via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:

A reminder: anything on the MGoBlog photostream is creative-commons licensed, free to use for non-commercial applications. Attribution to Eric Upchurch, the Observer, and MGoBlog is appreciated.

Mark Huyge is delighted to be here. From the above SDSU photoset.

huyge-1huyge-2huyge-3

It's not quite the Molk death glare. It's more like Shifty-Eyed Dog.

Try to look at Mark Huyge ever again without having that play in your head.

Eric also managed to get a picture of Denard looking sad after a win, which I thought was not possible, and this shot of a fully-padded Van Bergen about to opine on Kant:

ryan-van-bergen-kant

That's a great question. Just as our rationality leads us to a belief in an objective reality, Kant believed there is an objective morality we can locate from the same process. The Categorical Imperative is an absolute, fundamental moral law on par with Minnesota losing to teams from the Dakotas. Things are either right or wrong—there are no gray areas, and context does not apply. You could call him the BJ Daniels of philosophy*.

*[Ten-cent summary of Kantian philosophy cribbed from Three Minute Philosophy, which is terrific. Philosophers wishing to quibble with my paraphrase of a comedic summary are invited to consider the moral consequences of their actions and also jump in a lake. USF fans wishing to WOO BJ DANIELS can skip to the latter.]

And the internet eeeed Countess. When Troy Woolfolk headed to the sidelines, all Michigan fans everywhere winced. When Blake Countess replaced JT Floyd in the third quarter, all Michigan fans everywhere prepared for the deluge.

It never came, and as a result everyone from my uncle to the internet to the newspapers are having little freakouts about Michigan's #4 corner. I am with all of you. The only thing stopping Countess from having a few PBUs or interceptions was Ryan Lindley's inability to throw the ball anywhere near the guys Countess had blanketed but Lindley targeted anyway.

For most of the third quarter I stopped watching the offensive backfield and started watching downfield coverage and while I won't be able to confirm this on the tape I think Countess was doing really well even when people weren't going after him. I'm with the rest of the internet when I suggest that Troy Woolfolk should take the Minnesota game off to recover from his multiple nagging injuries so we can see some more of the freshman.

I thought Avery did well, too. He had a third-down slant completed on him and was the DB victimized on the touchdown but in both cases he was right there tackling/raking at the ball. Is he doing something wrong I'm not perceiving yet? Because I think he's playing better than Woolfolk, who gave up some groan-worthy easy completions. (I don't blame him for allowing Hillman to bounce on one third down conversion because he was clearly held.)

Release the Martin. This week in the I-told-you-so files: Mike Martin is just fine. His good day last week was obscured by EMU never throwing and having quite a bit of success attacking away from him. Against SDSU he was nigh unblockable, bowling a veteran offensive line over backwards multiple times and drawing holding calls left and right. Craig Roh had two big plays and will show up doing little things when I do the UFR; Will Campbell had a couple of line-pushing plays. Hillman's YPC was still over five, so there are issues but I think a big chunk of them are localizable to…

Problems. So… everyone's talking up Jake Ryan, too. I'm with everyone in a general, long-term sense but a little less enthused about his performance on Saturday. One of the results of the first few weeks of UFRing/picture paging is that whenever the opponent tries to get outside I immediately focus on Ryan. Result from last week: three "aaargh Ryan" screams that no one in my section comprehended. He's still giving up the corner way too easy.

Also, there are two caveats to an otherwise encouraging performance from the secondary. One: Lindley and his receivers were flat bad as a group. Drops, bad routes, and bad throws artificially boosted Michigan's efficiency against him. Some of that was caused by pressure. Some of it was just a crappy opponent. Two: I wonder if Michigan's familiarity with the SDSU offense allowed them to beat the Aztecs' favorite routes into Michigan DBs heads.

Still, 5.3 YPA and actual depth at corner. +1 Mallory.

Offensive construction bits. Another week, another confirmation that running Denard is the offense. While I still groan whenever they line up under center, snaps from there were limited. I would really prefer it if they never ran I-form power on first and ten again, though. They've mixed in some inexplicably effective short play action so far; if they can't run that will probably dry up.

Things I liked: That screen to Smith. The essence of an RPS+3 is when three offensive linemen have no one to block for 30 yards. And then the much-discussed speed option debuted. I'd gotten a couple insider emails telling me it was part of the offense but thought it would be extremely bad form to publish that, so I'd been waiting. It was quite a debut.

I'm hoping we see Borges add wrinkles at the same rate Rodriguez did. He'll have to to keep the run offense ahead of the wolves. He's off to a good start.

vincent-smith-sdsu

via the Detroit News.

Tailbacks. I'm suddenly happy with Michigan's tailback situation after Vincent Smith made a lot of yards on his own, including the above touchdown where he kept his balance at about the five and managed to drag a safety into the endzone. There was also the zone play where he squeezed through a crack in the line it's possible literally no other D-I back would have fit through.

Toussaint, meanwhile, didn't have the yards Smith did but ran hard on the inside; I still like him best but understand if they're going to split duties between the top two. I feel bad for Shaw—maybe it's time to put him on kickoffs? He's got speed Smith does not.

The Denard question. So they did run a curl-flat. Denard went to the curl way late and threw his first interception. Not sure if that was schemed or just bad execution by the offense. If it's the latter that might be attributable to not running it over the offseason as Borges attempted to install his route packages, route packages that now seem like things Denard just can't do.

A three-point plan in an attempt to get Denard back on track:

  1. Stop throwing on the run.
  2. Provide some easy throws early—all hitch, snag—in an effort to get him calmed down.
  3. Develop some sort of counter-punch to the opponent getting all up in Denard's face on the rollout PA. A shovel pass?

Bending but not breaking. Michigan's giving up a lot of yards but not a lot of points. Frankly, some of this is luck. They are acquiring turnovers at an unsustainable rate. Not unsustainable for a mediocre defense, unsustainable for Michigan 1997. When the well dries up they'll do some more breaking.

The other thing is the secondary. Michigan's newfound ability to make plays on deep balls and Jordan Kovacs being stone-cold reliable (so far /crosses self) have erased cheap touchdowns for the opposition. WMU's touchdown came on a 15-play drive. ND touchdown drives went 7, 10, 7, and 4 plays. San Diego State's took six plays but started from the Michigan 38. The only quick drive Michigan's given up all year was ND's desperation drive, on which Michigan gave up chunks on purpose because of the time situation and then tried an NFL-style defense they weren't ready for and blew it. The longest touchdown other than that was the 16-yard pass Lindley hit in the third quarter.

Opponents have ripped off chunks on occasion, but they have not been handed free touchdowns. Michigan's at least making them earn it. That's a necessary first step on the road away from completely awful.

The next opponent. When Minnesota managed to hang with USC on the first weekend of the season they seemed like they might be more intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Then they lost to Not Even The Good New Mexico and North Dakota State and seemed even less intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Compounding matters: Jerry Kill is again out of commission with his seizure issue.

Drumline? Drumline:

Here

I did not VOAV this week for reasons of being spooked. Boyz In The Pahokee provided the usual bounty if you are jonesing.

ST3 goes Inside the Box Score:

Matt Wile. Wait, let me try that again. MATT WILE!!! Yeah, I think he was properly pumped up to play his Dad's team. Net yards per kickoff were 50 for SDSU and 49.2 for UofM. To be even on kickoffs is a win for us. Net yards per punt were 34.7 for SDSU and 43.5 for Michigan. To gain almost a full first down per punt is huge. Two punts were inside the 20, and two were 50+ yards. #82, Terrance Robinson had 2 ST tackles and did a great job as the gunner on punts.

Wile's just lost his punting job; if that allows him to improve his kickoffs and compete for the field goal job, Michigan's kicking could be one of those strength things by midseason. 

Lordfoul's weekly Hoke for Tomorrow:

Michigan needs Hagerup back.  Maybe Hagerup isn't the only answer.  Wile's kicks are improving it would seem, both on KOs and punts, possibly because his nerves are settling down.  Kickoffs regularly made it to the goal line and only 1 of 4 punts was returned for much while they averaged 49 yards per with a long of only 51(!).

Player participation notes from jtmc33.

Elsewhere

Media, as in files: Brady Hoke pointing at something. Hugs and Ryan Van Bergen's ripped jersey. AnnArbor.com's photo gallery.

MVictors got a few sideline shots, including SDSU's mascot:

1montazuma_thumb[1]

You see that conch shell he's got in his hand? At some point in the first half he was talking into it like it was a cell phone. That is all.

Media, as in blog rabble. BWS hops aboard the Countess bandwagon and points out Denard can't throw.

MGoBlog : The Big Lebowski :: The Hoover Street Rag : The Hunt For Red October:

After the Notre Dame game, I tweeted very simply: "And the singing, Captain?" "Let them sing."  The moment was too good to start worrying about the future.  But at some point, the future arrives and you need to deal with it.  How well prepared you are for that future plays a large role in how well you're able to handle it when the moment arrives.  The non-conference schedule, particularly one played as four games at the start of the season should, theoretically, be a nice combination of challenges and the working out of kinks.  Before the mission starts, you must know the capacity and capabilities of your crew.

Touch the Banner provides the usual breakdown, says we should see "no one" less on the defense. Whoah. MGoFootball highlights the tailbacks, says D is a live.

Media, as in local newspaper. John Niyo on the defense, which is extant. Chengelis on the fact the team is not vintage. San Diego State had big pictures of their former coaches as signals. The Daily on RVB's Hillman chase:

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen caught Hillman from behind inside the 10-yard line and knocked the ball loose for the second fumble.

Try reading it this way: a 288-pound defensive tackle caught the nation’s second-leading rusher from behind in the open field — 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage.

Van Bergen got a block from fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mike Martin, but most of his help came from practice.

“But when it comes down to it, we have the most explosive player in the country in our backfield,” Van Bergen said. “We get to play against (junior quarterback) Denard (Robinson), so we’ve learned how to take angles at guys who have speed.

“I took off on my horse just thinking, ‘I’ve almost caught Denard before, maybe I can catch this guy.’ ”

AnnArbor.com writes similarly. The San Diego perspective:

“They were very emotional after the game, depressed, disappointed, upset, however you want to say,” said Long, whose team dropped to 3-1 after Saturday’s 28-7 defeat. “It was a very emotional locker room after the game and not in a good sense.”

They probably would have done a “poor job” of answering questions, Long said, so he kept them behind closed doors. “It’s my job to protect them,” Long said Sunday. “This is not pro football.” …

"The defense got shocked by the speed of especially one guy (Robinson),” Long said. “They got shocked by the strength they had up front and the speed of quarterback early in the game.”

Nesbitt on Denard's twitter adventure. Meinke points out Michigan's massive uptick in red zone efficiency:

• Offensively, Michigan is 13-for-13 on red-zone opportunities. It is one of 13 teams in the country to have scored on every trip inside the 20-yard line this year.

• Even better? The Wolverines have scored touchdowns on 12 of those 13 trips. That 92-percent touchdown rate trails only Texas Tech nationally.

One of the main arguments made in favor of Shotgun Forever is that red zone efficiency is not a stat that shows much repeatable skill year to year and that the huge chunks of yards Michigan picked up without, you know, scoring in 2010 would turn into points if you just left the damn thing alone (and got a kicker). The early returns are excellent.

National takes. Smart Football:

- Michigan 28, San Diego State 7. Brady Hoke’s new team faced his old team, and I’m still not sure, despite their 4-0 record, that we know anything about this Michigan football team. The defense seems to be improving under DC Greg Mattison, but they’ve been using so much movement and motion to cover up their talent weaknesses it’s unclear how the defense will fare against a polished opponent. And while the offense has found a better rhythm running a Rich Rodriguez-lite Denard Robinson attack — including Denard’s long TD run on the speed option — his passing line was abysmal: 8 of 17 for 93 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. He’s obviously uncomfortable in the new offense. He looked like a more polished and comfortable passer last year. I chalk some of this up to the fact that the very techniques he’s using are new, but he’s going to have to improve for UM to have success. That said, given Michigan’s favorable schedule — no Wisconsin and the easy part of the Big 10 schedule up next — we may not learn anything about Michigan until the last three weeks of the season, when they play Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.

No one else bothered. A couple weeks after puntosauring himself into a loss against Iowa State, BHGP documents Kirk Ferentz opening Iowa's game against ULM in a shotgun spread, demonstrating the Carr thing above perfectly.

The Poseidon Adventure Begins

The Poseidon Adventure Begins

Submitted by Brian on September 5th, 2011 at 10:55 AM

9/3/2011 – Michigan 34, Western Michigan 10 – 0.75-0

image

Melanie Maxwell / AnnArbor.com

Q: What is awesome about the above photograph?

A: Brady Hoke's Joe Paterno impression. Look, ma, no headset.

On a day that lacked much in the way of emotional import—Brock Mealer did not touch the banner, Denard Robinson did not introduce himself by plunging from the heavens, mostly I felt hot or wet—the thing to do was read too much into the future of Michigan football based on little. We're going on even less than the rest of college football is after their opening-weekend bludgeonings since Mother Nature and inflexible regulation prevented a full game from being played. Things are fuzzy.

They'll remain that way for most of the season. Hell, they'll remain that way until Michigan's OL/DL depth chart crisis passes in two to three years. But I got the things I wanted the most, the things I spent large sections of the offseason hoping for, arguing would be true, or declaring to be the only sane thing a sane person could do.

Those were:

BRADY HOKE IS NOT RICH RODRIGUEZ IN RE: COORDINATOR MEDDLING

Rodriguez's problem was never his selection of defensive coordinators, it was his refusal to trust them to do their jobs. The thing about Hoke is this: he does. At SDSU he hired Rocky Long to run a 3-3-5; Rocky Long ran a 3-3-5, and it was pretty good, and now he's the head coach. He hired Al Borges to run a passing-oriented West Coast offense; Borges ran a passing-oriented West Coast offense that wasn't quite as good as Michigan's in FEI's eyes but was still top 20. If he "gets" anything it's that he's a former defensive lineman with a narrowly defined set of assets that does not include being a genius of any variety—he's never been a coordinator. So he's hired two guys with very long, very successful resumes to do that stuff for him.

PRO STYLE IS INSANE STYLE

Switching to an actual pro-style offense would be doing exactly what Michigan did last year when it installed the 3-3-5 despite the total unsuitability of its personnel for the scheme.

DON'T FRIGGIN TOUCH ANYTHING OR I'LL CUT YOU

denard-shotgundenard-shotgundenard-shotgun

MOAR SHOTGUN PLZ

Check, check, good enough. Michigan was 70% shotgun.

The offseason was spent exploring the a disconnect between Brady Hoke's words and his teams' actions. The fear was that This being Michigan, for God's sake, would change his attitude from "whatever works" to "the expectation is for the position." That latter was the infamous Carr-era slogan that symbolized a stubborn adherence to out-executing the opposition. It led to things like a thousand Mike Hart zone stretches where he made four yards only after dodging guys in the backfield. I really, really did not want to go back to the days when Michigan's running plays could be described as "left" or "right."

Brady Hoke's words said the first play Saturday would be power; Brady Hoke's team ran the QB stretch that was amongst the most frequent playcalls a year ago. As the game progressed it was clear there had been quite a few modifications. It was also clear that there was enough of the Denard offense in there to go to it when Michigan needs to.

This would have been obvious to all if Denard hadn't chucked a QB Oh Noes well behind Drew Dileo on Michigan's final touchdown drive. If that's accurate Dileo scores on a play eerily similar to those of last year and everyone except Craig James is talking about how different the offense isn't.

That's good right now, and better down the road. It's been a long time since Michigan fans could say their head coach hired the best people for the job and let them get on with it.

Non-Bullets Not About Football

Brady Hoke knew this would happen. On the way back to the locker room his team speared themselves some dinner.

hoke-trident

Increment the Grimsrud meter. Last year when Michigan decided that terrorists were likely to explode the stadium with sealed, clear bottles of water, everyone complained until David Brandon rolled his eyes and offered the plebes a freebie for the opener because it was hot.

On Saturday it was ninety degrees and you could buy a not-even-cold bottle of water for four bucks, get a complimentary three-ounce dixie cup, or hit up the Absopure stations. At least until they ran out:

Connor Dean, a Michigan student working at one of the Absopure Hydration stations at the stadium, said his station had exhausted nearly its entire 450-gallon supply of water by halftime.

Dean said a hydration station would typically go through about 225 gallons of water for an entire game. “This is crazy for a normal game,” Dean said.

The athletic department got lucky as hell that the skies opened up shortly afterwards. Even as it was the number of people conking out because of the heat overwhelmed Huron Valley Ambulance:

With temperatures on the field reportedly reaching 120 degrees, the heat overwhelmed fans at Michigan Stadium. Huron Valley Ambulance says the high number of heat-related cases it handled caused it to call for backup from the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

HVA officials said a count of the number of fans who've been treated for heat-related concerns would not be available until later Saturday, and they were too busy to provide even an estimate.

"It's extremely busy at Michigan Stadium,'' said Terry Pappas, communications supervisor for HVA. "We have multiple heat-related incidents and the Ann Arbor Fire Department is helping.''

If it's really about safety, the Absopure stations should be handing out 25-ounce bottles of water that cost ten cents instead of providing little cups you have to wait for and can't get back to your seats effectively.  The athletic department's horseshit doublespeak about safety and convenience increased those issues so they could hawk some extra bottles of water. They're using 9/11 as cover. That's appalling.

Apparently posting We Are ND was the right idea for the wrong reasons. We have officially Freekbass'd ourselves, as the Dog Groomers' song was played three times to amaze and delight people who would rather hear these guys…

the-dog-groomers

we are… DOG GROOMERS
we will… SHAVE YOUR DOG'S HAIR INTO A PLEASING SHAPE
also we have a band!

…than the Michigan Marching Band.

We're worse. While they've got a rapping hobbit, We Are ND was an internet-only phenomenon quickly clarified as a student project. It aired once at some banquet or something. We're playing music from The Best of Hot Topic in the stadium. This is the inevitable result when middle-aged middle-managers from Middle America try to be cool: massive failure.

What was so bad about a guy in the band beating out a steady rhythm as the crowd chants "Let's Go Blue"? Why does "This is Michigan, for God's sake" apply to running power off-tackle but not keeping the stadium atmosphere intact? Is there someone in the athletic department who really wishes he was running a regional arena in Charlotte, NC, with an ECHL team and regular WWE visits? Why does the guy on the left still look like an accountant? Who is the guy on the right kidding? Is the bald guy in the middle just photobombing this shot? I fear these questions are unanswerable.

In the spirit of ND Nation banning "Michigan sucks" posts, I will end taunting ND about We Are ND until piped in music is excised from the stadium. We are We Are ND 

Meanwhile, our band is metal. Western's band said "screw this" and showed up in white T-shirts and shorts so they wouldn't die. Ten of them still had to be treated for heat issues. Michigan's band roared out of the tunnel in full dark-blue regalia; while we don't have casualty numbers for them the mere fact that none of them died before completing the anthem is metal. One firehorse for the band.

image

Analogy to mandatory minimum sentencing goes here. The NCAA's CYA guideline about lightning strikes was the reason Michigan couldn't finish (or all but finish) yesterday's game. The sun had already come out by the time the teams finished getting off the field for the first delay, and that was the reason there was more than a few minutes left on the clock when the seriously dangerous storm rolled in.

Anyone looking at the weather radar could tell you that by the time they delayed the game it was perfectly safe, but lawsuit avoidance rules everything around me, and thus we get a silly abbreviated game that makes the value proposition of a 70 dollar ticket to watch Western Michigan play even dodgier. Boo.

Argh. So last year I'd get to my seat and tweet personnel stuff I noticed in warmups. This year I did the same and just got a bunch of replies that can be summarized as "duh." This is because the U announced suspensions/unavailability an hour before the game. Next time it would be nice if M could do that earlier or not at all. kthxbye.

Non-Bullets About Football

Depth chart/practice rumor updates. The offense was as expected. Brandon Moore got some time as the second TE, which is good.

On defense, Frank Clark had gotten hyped up this fall but it was Brennen Beyer who got a ton of time as a rush end. His main contribution was opening a few cutback lanes for Western. Also infrequently seen: Brink and Heininger. I'm guessing that's an artifact of playing a passing spread… but we'll see a passing spread next week. I'm hoping the massive substitutions were because of the weather and that RVB/Martin/Roh will get way more time against ND. Herron was a surprise starter at WLB and Avery started opposite Woolfolk.

I received a bunch of tweets predicting Carvin Johnson would not score well in UFR, and then he was replaced by Marvin Robinson. Will be interesting to see if that works out.

So weird in so many ways. The game would have been short even if it was long, if you know what I mean. There were all of two drives in the first quarter and Brandon Herron robbed Michigan's offense of two opportunities. As a result the offense only had five and a half drives to work with. They scored 3.5 touchdowns and went three and out twice.

Short term prognosis: grimmer? Less grim? We'll have to see what the UFR looks like but Western went up and down the field against Michigan in a manner reminiscent of everyone against last year's D… and scored ten points. Michigan forced two turnovers with QB pressure and held the best quarterback in the state to 5.9 YPA.

Hack out the Kovacs sacks and WMU averaged 4.9 YPC, which is not good when you're playing a MAC team with two fresh JUCO transfer backups at guard. Also hoping that's a result of the heavy rotation.

The offense had those three and outs, and because of the weird nature of the game that was enough for their output to seem somewhat worrying. They did give the impression they were about to blow the doors off when the game got called, having just blown down the field in three plays and moved the ball into the Western half of the field when the game was called.

Pressure existed. When Mattison figured out rushing four wasn't getting home he turned things around by blitzing like mad. One series late in the first half saw him go cover zero three straight times. On each play a Michigan player would tear up the middle unblocked, forcing Carder to chuck it off his back foot. JT Floyd made a play on the first; the second two were hypothetically open but Carder couldn't get it right because he was busy eating someone's facemask.

Hurray lack of GERG.

Running backs. Toussaint's getting good reviews everywhere and it'll be no different here. To me his most exciting moment was an eight-yard run late when he was cutting behind the backside tackle. He momentarily looked like he'd head inside of Lewan, sucking the linebacker inside, then burst back behind him to pick up good yardage. That was a "whoah, he can do that?" moment reminiscent of his high school film.

My only complaint is that on his long run he tried to truck the safety instead of angling away from him and probably cost himself 10 more yards. That mentality is helpful when he's running up the middle, maybe.

Kovacs preview 2012 preview. There is a 100% chance this is one of the images used for Kovacs next year:

jordan-kovacs-murders

Via David Guralink @ the News. Also here is Alex Carderp and Taylor Lewan making nice with his second most hated enemy: referees.

Things I miss. A couple tactical decisions that seem suboptimal:

  • The spread punt. I thought it was remarkably effective at holding down return yardage because it gave you six gunners instead of two. When Michigan punted, if the returner got past the first two guys he had 15 yards before the next wave showed up. The only disadvantage is the near-impossibility of faking from it.
  • No huddle offense. I liked the concept of tempo as something you were capable of shifting on a regular basis, and it seemed like a good idea to remove the burden of calling audibles from the quarterback.

This is not an endorsement of Rich Rodriguez. Hoke uber alles.

COUCHDATE! Alex Carder, pictured above, just turned the ball over three times and averaged a terrible 5.9 YPA—more than a yard less than the national average—against last year's #108 defense. What do you think this means, Graham Couch?

This weekend — considering the performances of Carder, Denard Robinson and Kirk Cousins — in everyone's eyes, it should be a viable argument, even if not a certain one.

… Even though I truly believe Carder is the best college QB in the state, this column was an interesting social experiment alone, though it wasn't intended to be. … the argument against Carder by so many who had barely heard of him — and the manner in which they argued — was absurd.

It was an interesting social experiment: can a beat writer actually get criticized for being an embarrassing homer by a fan of the team he's covering? Survey says:

As a Western alum living 2k miles away, I really wish the Broncos had a better beat writer.

Sorry GC but I hate your style and you come off as a whiny, rambling, non-objective homer. I can appreciate the passion you have for defending our boys but just put the shovel down because you're digging a deeper hole for yourself. Just stick to the facts and give us information about our teams. You lose all credibility and professionalism as soon as you try to sell the reader your opinions.

Circle gets the square. /gameshow'd

Elsewhere

Slideshows from AnnArbor.com, MNB Nation, MNB Nation again, and the Detroit News. "Michigan Rewind" for WMU.

AnnArbor.com surveys the changes at the golf course and find people are happier this year but still a little peeved that there had to be any changes at all.

MVictors and John Kryk find previous times when Michigan games have ended before full time. They're mostly from the days when you could accidentally play a 23-minute third quarter before anyone noticed. Greg also explores whether or not Brandon Herron's interception return TD was the longest in Michigan history or if Tom Harmon has him beat.

Shooting Blue returns with a long gameday review. Pop Evil "could only be worse" if the lead singer clubbed seals while Godwinning himself. Maize and Go Blue hit up Oklahoma this weekend and returns with a trip report.

Column type things: Wojo references the "numbingly familiar" defense. Get Rid of the Seaward is enjoy its first Michigan season in a while with normal LDH levels, which means cancer remission. Denard on Toussaint. Maize And Go Blue recaps the game. Holdin' the Rope:

As the rain fell and Brady Hoke patrolled the field as if he'd been around for a while already, as if it was undeniably his field and his program and not one that had just been handed to him only 8 months ago, it was hard not to come away with certain vague feelings of goodness, that something that was more good than bad had just transpired, a feeling of warmth that may or may not be ephemeral. The Era of Good Feelings continues. James Monroe's got nothing on Brady Hoke.

Aaaaaand the Hoover Street Rag "writes under the influence of muscle relaxers and pain killers."

More bullets can be found at TTB

Apparently it doesn't matter who coaches the special teams, whether it's an offensive or defensive guy, etc.  Some Michigan fans hated that defensive backs coach Tony Gibson was in charge of special teams because he was one of only four defensive coaches under Rodriguez.  Now an offensive guy (tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno) is coaching special teams, and they're still bad.  Kick returner Kelvin Grady doesn't look like anything special and made a bad decision to leave the endzone.  Brendan Gibbons had a low extra point attempt blocked.  Western Michigan averaged 31 yards per kickoff return and consistently had excellent field position.

and The Wolverine Blog.

And if you're looking for a few bullets on Michigan State, A Beautiful Day For Football provides. Sounds like that OL is going to be a problem. Also Minnesota and Northwestern had meaningful outings—Heiko will debut a weekly thing covering opponents tomorrow.

Dear Diary Recommends Plenty of Dark Side

Dear Diary Recommends Plenty of Dark Side

Submitted by Seth on August 9th, 2011 at 8:01 AM

Fatcamp darksideflamlips

Dear Diary,

So about that image above. First you should know I've been looking for an excuse to associate Ohio State with Cartman ever since Brian made him Steve Spurrier in 2005. And that makes us…*

I'm so off the point, which is to introduce a ✔++ diary by TSS where he calculated the Body Mass Index of the entire Big Ten (plus some Catholic school I would argue is Butters). Really it doesn't say much other than who's got the biggest team of big guys in the Big Ten, but since this is the man-meat conference after all that's relevant.

This Diary of the Week has a lot going on in the subplots and that's what I love about it. For example which positions are packed into one body type and which have a huge variance in player size?

Position

Your answers are receiver and … dammit TSS: "DL"? That's probably a whole bunch of redshirted freshmen who haven't gotten their T's and E's yet.

As a user noted in the comments BMI is about telling bloggers they need more exercise, and probably not so valuable when you're talking about Barwicized athletes who spend entire semesters working on adding muscle mass. As to usefulness of weight watching in general, if a slimmer, older, more athletic Will Campbell looks like this…

campbell_william1

…again in 2011 and 2012 because of a weight regimen I am all for it. As a blogger I still feel like we have no way of measuring more than 18-year-old body < 21-year-old body, but this is a new and noble attempt to do that and I applaud.

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*If you've been paying attention at all to South Park and Big Ten football you will have realized by now that as much as we'd like to be straight-man Stan, we are Kyle. As in balancing academics with still being one of the cool kids, embarrassed by our East Coast heritage, wondering what happened to the days when little bro was a prop for "kick the baby," and overly prone to bouts of crushing ennui when Cartman fakes out the principle with fake contrition and is rewarded with his $10 million. Wikipedia on Kyle:

Kyle often displays the highest moral standard of all the boys and is usually depicted as the most intelligent. When describing Kyle, Stone states that both he and the character are "reactionary", and susceptible to irritability and impatience. In some instances, Kyle is the only child in his class to not initially indulge in a fad or fall victim to a ploy. This has resulted in both his eagerness to fit in, and his resentment and frustration.

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We Don't Need No Education

In other must-read diaries recently, here's one from IncrediblyBLUE, from when he played for Hoke at Ball State. Astoundingly, in this entire story not once is Hoke described as pointing at something---he makes his staff point at things for him:

"To help you guys remember this, I made these numbers.” Coach Hoke then holds up two pieces of paper with a very large ‘1’ and ‘2’ printed on each piece respectively. “So guys,” he bellows, “Remember….Academics…#1,” he says, while holding up the sign that says ‘2.’ Aaron Wellman stands next to him pointing to the sign. Coach Hoke then switches to the #1 sign and continues, “Athletics….Number 2!”  This time Wellman is using a two fingered point at the sign that says #1. Everyone in tJamie Sabau/Getty Imageshe room is laughing and nodding their head. Coach Hoke then puts back up the sign that says #2 and says again, “So, academics here,” and switching signs back to the #1, “Football here.  Does everyone understand that?”

A few posters got a little nervous at non-quotes making light of "voluntary" practices – and I admit I got a little squeamish too – but I assure you there's nothing in there for a local columnist with a grudge to invent a scandal out of. The next story promises "4AM sandbag carries at the stadium in sub-zero temperatures." Well shit.

Denard-Back or Dual-Threet?

So here's what I've been working on lots.

It's a tracker for the 4-star and higher quarterbacks recruited from 2002 to 2010 based on a question posed in some thread a few weeks ago when both erstwhile 2009 commits Beaver and Newsome popped up in transfer news. There are two tabs, one for drop-backs and another for dual-threats. Feel free to browse through and edit – it's easy to see how far I got.

The point of this exercise is to test the hypothesis that going back to a Pro-Style offense has a (clear?) benefit in greater predictability from recruiting high-profile players at the offense's most important position. If we take as a given that Michigan's Michiganness will net Michigan the highest rated X-type of quarterback, high predictability means those guys will end up the best QBs of their classes in college performance. If there's higher variability, as is hypothesized for dual-threat QBs, the ability to nab the top guys is less of an advantage. The hypothesis goes if you have fewer traits to focus on (poise, accuracy, decision-making, arm) it's easier to rate, and you're less likely to have one essential trait end up a game-changing weakness.

I'm not far enough along on the drop-backs to make anything like a conclusion or even see a pattern yet so you can be my helpers. After all what's Dear Diary all about if not profiting from other peoples' labor collaborating the efforts of MGoCitizenry!

Scoreboard!

BasiWh

Thanks dahblue for the great shotz.

Etc. from a Long Offseason

I bumped this by m1jjb00 up from the boards and it only got 3 likes. I mean he left out Harry Newman from the core circle of awesome (just 'cause it's not called the Heisman doesn't mean it wasn't a walk-away Heisman), but otherwise his comparison of alumni worthiness for a Michigan Ring of Honor is so worth a look.

THE_KNOWLEDGE is holding tryouts for a General Disarray to his Professor Chaos. All you have to do is correctly predict the outcome of Michigan's 2011 games, plus the bowl games OSU will be banned from. Note: I'm not copyediting TK posts because his formatting is part of the shtick, and how can I judge what they do with commas in the 23rd century?

I bitched at a Gopher working for DetNews (who hasn't written me back – Henning tell him how it's done, man!) about why we don't need a mascot.

And Hoke Saves Lives made a hype movie that's almost as long as a Wisconsin drive, and like things to cheer about last year itself is half-Illinois:

The soundtrack doesn't do it for me. However if you turn off the YouTube volume, then hit play on the Flaming Lips' cover of Dark Side of the Moon right on the 3-second mark, it totally lines up! Run, rabbit, run!

Greg Mattison Is Michigan's Defensive Coordinator

Greg Mattison Is Michigan's Defensive Coordinator

Submitted by Brian on January 18th, 2011 at 6:53 PM

greg mattison

our coordinators have the exact same hair. no nonsense hair.
no one will ever say their hair is the best part of them.

This seemed like a far-fetched rumor when it started buzzing but lo, it is true:

Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is expected to go the University of Michigan as their new defensive coordinator, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

No deal has been formally reached, though.

He would likely be replaced in Baltimore by secondary coach Chuck Pagano.

UPDATE: Mattison has taken the job and Pagano has replaced him.

I“We’re excited for our defense and for Chuck, and we’re happy for Greg Mattison,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I will talk more about it tomorrow when we formally announced Chuck as our new coordinator in a press conference.”

Mattison is the best possible hire of all rumored names, a veteran with a history of excellent defenses in both college and the NFL. He coordinated Michigan's stout '95 and '96 defenses and can probably take some credit for the national championship-winning '97 edition. After leaving Michigan, Mattison was Notre Dame's DC for a few seasons, then moved on to be co-DC at Florida with Charlie Strong. He's been with the Ravens the last three years.

This isn't exactly hiring Gus Malzahn—Chizik was a great DC himself before becoming a head coach—but it's the closest possible thing, an indication that Michigan is no longer skimping on assistant salaries. When the above-linked article finishes "Mattison has been successful with the Ravens, so this is a bit of a surprise," you know you're dropping some coin.

Hope meter: incremented.

Also, there's an official release on much of the rest of the staff:

Hoke Announces Seven Staff Appointments

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke announced today (Tuesday, Jan. 18) the hiring of seven staff members to his Wolverine coaching and support staff. Hoke named six of the nine assistant coaching positions and the appointment of his strength and conditioning coach.

Six members of the San Diego State staff joined Hoke in Ann Arbor. Al Borges will coordinate the offense and work with the quarterbacks, Dan Ferrigno will coordinate the special teams and coach the tight ends, Darrell Funk will coach the offensive line, Jeff Hecklinski mentors the wide receivers and Mark Smith has been appointed linebackers coach. Aaron Wellman also joined the Wolverines’ staff as the strength and conditioning coach.

Hoke rehired long time Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson to the same position on the staff. Jackson will begin his 20th season as a member of the Wolverine coaching staff in 2011.

All but Ferrigno were already known, and Ferrigno was suspected. Borges is listed as QB/OC so that probably means Loeffler won't return—and that's how Michigan can afford an esoteric TE/ST coach.

Michigan still has two open assistant slots and holes at DB, DL, and QB. Since Hoke and Mattison both have extensive experience as DL coaches it's not 100% that QB is the spot that goes unfilled but it's probable. Bringing in another offensive coach would mean the staff had five offensive assistants and just two on D.

BONUS: Michigan's also hiring Hoke's director of operations, so this will probably be the first and last time you think about this name: Bob Lopez. May he be a thousand times more obscure than Draper and Labadie.