[SITE NOTE: Due to a confluence of things including a long drive home, four overtimes, thrilling CONCACAF qualifier business, the Tigers, this post, and a desire to stab my eyeballs whenever I look at the tape, UFR is not quite done and will go up tomorrow.]
Fitzgerald Toussaint set a Michigan record for sustained futility on Saturday by running for 27 yards on 27 carries. Since 1949, no other back has gotten as many carries without gaining at least twice as many yards. Posterity demands that someone detail what happened.
A note: blame is apportioned. When things are designated playcall it's because I don't believe it's reasonable to expect Michigan to block player X, either because he's an extra guy in the box or he's tearing towards the line of scrimmage on the snap because he has no fear of a pass. You can adjust your personal indignation levels on this based on how reasonable you thought running into stacked boxes was vis a vis Devin Gardner's 13 YPA and constant turnover threat; I'm just trying to figure out how much of the run splat was preordained by playcalls.
Ready? No. I know you're not. But here we go anyway.
Play: Power O Formation: Tackle over I Form H Yards: -3
Why it didn't work:
Graham Glasgow ignored the NT.
Predictable playcall sees PSU linebackers flow hard with effectively nine in the box.
Jake Butt gets beat badly by a PSU LB in the hole.
Blame: 80% OL, 10% playcall, %10 TE/FB
Play: Zone stretch. Formation: Tackle over I Form big Yards: -3
Why it didn't work:
PSU has straight up nine in the box.
Michigan tries to be clever by running at Williams and Bryant, both of whom get destroyed.
Schofield leaves immediately, so Lewan has no shot at the backside tackle.
Blame: 30% TE/FB, 30% OL, 40% playcall
Play: Power O Formation: Tackle over Ace H Yards: 12
Why it didn't work:
Actually it did work.
It works because Schofield gets nice push, giving Toussaint a crease. Glasgow gets movement on a DT and the eighth guy in the box for PSU tries to get over to the frontside when he should probably stack this up near the LOS.
Blame: Everyone is happy!
Play: Counter Formation: Tackle over trips TE Yards: 1
Why it didn't work:
Seven guys in the box against six blockers; extra guy makes the stop.
PSU WLB doesn't get suckered by the counter, gives Glasgow no shot to block him.
Kalis gets shed, falling to the ground.
Blame: 80% playcall, 20% OL.
[After THE JUMP: just don't click through. I'm sorry I even did this.]
What was the worst thing about the events that took place in Michigan Stadium on Saturday? There are dozens of candidates vying for the crown. A selection:
That moment when Taylor Lewan was down. Almost picked up the very cute small child in front of me and threw it onto the field. Hey, don't judge me. It could have popped on an Akron helmet and stopped Fitzgerald Toussaint for a one-yard loss. It would have been in no danger of anything except padding its stats.
Small children stopping Fitzgerald Toussaint for one-yard losses. Akron's line consists of a six-year-old, ten-year-old, a guy named Bob who they found walking into the game, and an actual scholarship athlete who chose Akron and is therefore so crazy he insists everyone calls him "Pope Licentiousness III." Fitzgerald Toussaint averaged under four yards a carry against them, and about 80% of his first down runs resulted in second and eleven.
That pick-six. Not digging that M starts every game in an 0-7 hole.
All of it. An obvious contender.
The ruination of an entire Saturday of college football. Don't know about you, but that sapped me so much that I could barely remain awake after it and looked at the other games dully before falling asleep just into the second half of Purdue-Notre Dame. I missed the Wisconsin-Arizona State madness as a result. Never has a win felt so much like a loss.
The severe correction in season expectations. Michigan plays Akron straight up; Notre Dame executes a stirring fourth-quarter comeback to top a team that beat Indiana State thanks to a trick kickoff return on the first play of the day. I liked it better when Michigan had solidly defeated a team obviously headed for ten wins because of its overwhelming talent, and was not the equal of one of the worst teams in college football.
The repudiation of the idea that events follow from other events and can be projected with any certainty. Just because something happened before does not mean it is likely to happen again. Devin Gardner can beat Notre Dame nearly singlehandedly and lose to Akron nearly singlehandedly. Michigan can look like the best team in the Big Ten for two weeks and play a dead-even game with a team that has gone 1-11 the past three seasons and hasn't beaten a I-A opponent since November of 2010. At any moment the laws of physics that bind our component molecules together could catastrophically alter themselves, turning us all into rapidly disintegrating collections of atoms that suddenly hate each other. (IE, how you felt in the fourth quarter.)
My adorable nine-year old niece experiencing her first Michigan game one seat away from me. Sometimes it is nice to take the pressure building inside your head and throw some of it into the atmosphere via colorful expectoration of words. In this manner, you vent dangerous levels of pressure to the atmosphere. When the best you can muster is an under-your-breath "Jesus Christ," your inner control panels look like Chernobyl instead of Fukushima, and you can hear the BEEP BLORP BEEP BLORP as you try not to fall over.
MGoNiece reports that the game was "fun" and "exciting," and not "three hours during which I learned many new words that make my mom cry and that Uncle Brian is possessed by Satan." MGoNiece remains as pure as the driven snow, at all costs.
How familiar it all felt. The first time I thought "this can't be happening" in Michigan Stadium, Michigan was losing to Northwestern. That Northwestern outfit would win en route to their first Rose Bowl in forever, but they walked in overrated pretenders to my 15-year-old self. They were not. Over the course of the game my attitude shifted from annoyance to disappointment to concern to chest-clenching-panic. Back then I kept thinking "how can this happen?"
Here we are again, following up a Notre Dame win with a severe expectations check that bodes unwell for the season. In 2010, a 42-37 win over UMass was an early indicator that Michigan had the worst defense in the history of the program. This one promises a year of quarterbacks given time to complete PhDs in the pocket and far too many "my bad" blocks.
Now our best hope is that contender a little farther up the page: that causation has failed and we're just coasting along on the universe's sufferance. Michigan will come out against UConn and turn them into gray paste, because that's what the random number generator says next Saturday. That's the ticket.
I don't think "how can this happen" anymore. Not after 10-7 over Utah or 24-21 over SDSU or that Ball State game or The Horror or Toledo. I think "not again." I thought I was done thinking "not again" for a while. Apparently not. I'll be over here, trying to keep all my molecules from fleeing into space.
This is Akron's perspective:
At 1:40 you can see that the pick intended for Gallon is just a horrible read; with the corner sinking the crossing route to Funchess is the obvious throw. The deciding play from the first row of the student section.
He's going to have to start putting some good things that happen to the other team if he can only get up to seven minutes by including Akron not executing the snap correctly.
[After THE JUMP: a first-ever for Epic Double Point, and a lot of complaining.]
Hi. We're putting the site back online after putting in further checks that we hope should shut off intrusions. Now only God (root) can modify the js and css files that were the attack vector; we've done some other things for lickety-split notification, changed passwords, done all that.
As always, only time will tell. Sorry for any trouble caused or withdrawal symptoms experienced. Warning: we are keeping a close eye on things and if we see a recurrence we will take the site down again.
Bracket here, FWIW. Second round opponent preview tomorrow afternoon in the event of the win.
Record. 21-15-2, 17-9-2 WCHA. The Mavericks' debut season in the WCHA was a successful one. A very successful one: the finished third and their +35 goal differential was second only to North Dakota's terrifying +50.
Their performance outside of the conference was not so good. They swept an early-season tournament against Clarkson and RIT and split with Michigan (hey, that's us!) but were swept themselves by eh Quinnipiac and somehow managed to lose to UAH at home. That one seems like a slight fluke since shots were 59-19 UNO.
Also not so good has been recent performance. UNO split its last three series of the regular season and was swept out of the playoffs by Bemidji in the first round; they've lost four of their last five.
Previous meetings. Michigan and UNO split a lopsided pair at Yost earlier in the year. UNO took the Friday game, leaping out to a 4-0 lead before a couple of consolation goals with less than ten minutes left made the final score respectable. The next night it was Michigan leaping out to the 4-0 lead; they fished that game 6-1. Michigan had ten more shots Friday; they were essentially even on Saturday.
I remember having a conversation with Guy Who Would Be JBug If I Was Bill Simmons to the effect of "I thought Saturday's game was exactly like Friday's but both nights the bounces went entirely one team's way" that we both agreed on. This one will be tight. Or it won't, I guess.
Dangermen. The Mavs get goals from everywhere. A whopping eight players hit double digit goals this year and the spectacularly-named Johnny Searfoss just missed with nine, giving UNO three almost utterly balanced scoring lines. The guy to look out for slightly more than the others is senior Matt Ambroz (17-17-34).
UNO has a couple of D with a ton of assists but no one like Michigan's goal machine defensemen.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Sophomore John Faulker has played in every game this year with mediocre results. His .908 save percentage is slightly below average nationally; Michigan has a big edge in net with Shawn Hunwick's .921.
UNO's D doesn't have any stars outside of guy who gets all the power play assists; Bryce Aneloski is the only NHL draftee and that's as a seventh rounder on his third trip through. What you will see is plenty of overage guys—Aneloski, for example, is a 21-year-old sophomore. UNO has a grand total of two teenagers, one a backup goalie, and five 24-year-olds.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
PP For / G
PP Ag / G
Both teams are slightly more likely to suffer a penalty kill than acquire a power play, but UNO is slightly more so. UNO's power play is mediocre at 17.6%, probably because they have a lot of pretty good offensive players but no lights-out stars. Michigan's kill is slightly better than average at 82.4%. The flipside is similar—both the UNO kill and Michigan PP are slightly above average.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Goalie Hyde, please. The last month has been a little bit of a rollercoaster for Michigan's goaltending. Shawn Hunwick was extremely shaky against WMU, then awesome against NMU. The team had a bye, then he had a virtual bye against BGSU. At the Joe he was extremely shaky against WMU again, then stole the game against ND, Montoya-vs-Maine style. I think we're more likely to get Dr. Hyde, but if things start going badly they might keep going badly.
Goodbye midget scoring line. I'm not super happy about Michigan abandoning the Sparks-Treais-Anchor setup on the third line but after looking at UNO's scoring it's clear this is not a team that has a third line that's just trying to keep the puck out of its own net. The results:
This week, Winnett stayed put, joining senior center Matt Rust and junior right wing Luke Glendening, while Vaughan is now on the third line with sophomore center Kevin Lynch and sophomore right wing A.J. Treais (previously at center).
This setup leaves sophomore Jeff Rohrkemper as the fourth-line center with sophomore Lindsay Sparks and freshmen Luke Moffatt and Derek DeBlois fighting for two wing positions.
The nominally top line—defined as whichever one Hagelin's on—remains Brown-Hagelin-Caporusso. Also I am not trying to hear that Vaughn and Treais are on the third line. That's #2, yo.
That setup on the fourth line means we can kiss it goodbye, IME. Not exactly what I wanted but anything that results in moar Hagelin increases your chances.
Pray like hell. This is actually left over from the CCHA finals last year when Michigan was staring down a juggernaut Miami team with a 19-year tourney streak on the line. It is the best advice for a one-and-done hockey tournament, so here it stays.
Blais has garnered UNO's second trip to the NCAA tournament, and as one of my friends put it to my bluntly, "I am loathe to bet against Blais in a tournament setting." He has a point. Blais resume includes 5 30+ win seasons at North Dakota and two national championships for the Fighting [NICKNAME] and he lead the USA Hockey World Junior team to the gold medal in Saskatoon in 2009-2010. He is a coach who gets the most out of his talent and whose team will play hard every shift.
Faulkner was a microcosm of Nebraska-Omaha's inconsistency. He was 6-6-0 against tournament teams, splitting series against Michigan, North Dakota, CC, North Dakota again, DU, and Minnesota-Duluth. He gave up 35 goals in those 12 games. Minnesota-State, Michigan Tech, and Alabama-Huntsville were the only series all season where he gave up 2-or-fewer goals in both games. He had shutouts against North Dakota and Colorado College, but gave up 6 and 5 goals in the other game of the weekend. He's very capable of being great, and he's very capable of being chased. We saw both ends of the spectrum earlier in the year. Friday night, he stopped 34 of 36 shots. The next night, he lasted just over 23 minutes before getting the hook.
I think the ideal NCAA tournament preview would chronicle what each team ate for breakfast the morning of their game, since that would seem to be a lot more important than any sort of statistics accrued over the course of the season. Brad Schlossman posted the statistic last night that in the past four years, #1 seeds are just 9-7 against #4 seeds in the first round of the tournament. Some may that call that exciting, but it's almost random to the point of being meaningless.
I've got a pretty good way to address this in a mailbag coming up.