10/25/2014 – Michigan 11, Michigan State 35 – 3-5, 1-3 Big Ten
Mark Dantonio is a crazy mofo. This is his great power: he can be offended at anything, forever. Mark Dantonio free-solos Mount Outrage every year. Michigan tried their damndest to not give him anything he could latch onto this time around, repeating the same praise over and over again until even the perpetually bored media noticed that this week's pablum was even more insipid than the usual business.
Then they put a thing in a field.
Fueling Dantonio's never-ending rage at the concept of Michigan is unwise but probably irrelevant. If hate moved spaceships Dantonio would be scowling at little green men circling Alpha Centauri instead of East Lansing. Dantonio is still pissed off at something Mike Hart said seven years ago; a dumb stunt with a railroad spike is a power mushroom when you're already big and skrong.
On the other hand, apologizing after is a pretty good summation of where both programs are. Michigan got the pounding everyone expected and then said "sorry for spoiling for field sir" as they slinked back home. Scott Farkus threw a snowball in our face and we apologized to him for being in the way.
Putting a thing in a field and then woofing about it isn't poor sportsmanship. We should know what poor sportsmanship is: punchin' people. Trying to hurt people. This series has seen plenty of that of late, on both sides. No one apologized after.
Apparently the standard for self-abasement has plummeted, though. So we get another statement. The latest in a never-ending series of PR gaffes. The chance anyone brings the spike thing up after the first round of LOL Michigan articles is zero, unless Michigan brings it up again. They of course do because Michigan refuses to learn Don Canham's first maxim—don't make a one-day story into a two-day story.
Thus more public emasculation for Brady Hoke. Dave Brandon seems to be deliberately trying to make his football coach look like the nation's most clueless goober. By the Maryland game he'll be wearing a beanie and a KICK ME sign. The crowning glory will be an Ohio Stadium weeping piteously at his imminent departure; Hoke will be dressed in nothing but a barrel and suspenders. The press conference afterwards will take place over a dunk tank.
I dunno man, I know this is some feelingsball right here but I can't help but think this is a big part of the problem. Hoke's response to the bullies asking him why he keeps hitting himself is "it's all in the statement." The team responds like their head coach. The man refuses to defend himself, either from his incompetent athletic director or his rivals laughing at him. The team gets plowed by the hint of adversity. Fight is almost totally absent.
When someone gets mad at your spike stunt, the correct answer is F--- YO COUCH. That is Dantonio's answer to everything. Would you like some baklava, Mark? F--- YO COUCH.
Michigan likes to talk about being a Big Boy. Before last year's Ohio State game Brandon said Michigan is "going back to hard-nosed, big-boy football." Whenever a journalist asks Hoke about the internet hordes clamoring for his head he says "it's a big-boy business."
You know who doesn't talk about being a big boy? Big boys*. People who talk about being a Big Boy wear short pants and ask their moms for a quarter so they can buy candy. Big boys don't look at yet another plate of crap and eat it with a sigh of disgust. At some point, big boys stand up for their dignity.
I don't see anything like that. I see the same mealy-mouthed coachspeak week after week, the same covering for his inept boss. Of course Dave Brandon's watching film with him.
Maybe that makes him a "great guy," as per the last possible defense of Hoke. I don't see it. He may be a nice guy; "great" at least requires you to have as much backbone as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
*[Except Big Boi, who is contractually obligated to say his name several times per minute as per the Rappist Identification Act Of 1985.]
[After THE JUMP: not much, honestly.]
So, this is flying over Spartan stadium. pic.twitter.com/KZlouM7McI
— Eric Upchurch (@EUpchurchPhoto) October 25, 2014
There's not much point to talking about other stuff. It's pointless to talk about the performance of player X and how not good it is relative to expectations. This team is going nowhere and doing nothing and the only thing that'll fix it is a new year with new coaches.
THE END. When it's all over, this is the one sentence summation of the Hoke era:
"I think I was aware that something happened, but I'm not fully aware."
Deceptive or dumb. Your two options. Yes, you can pick both.
On yelling at specific players. Or rather: on yelling at me about not thinking Devin Gardner was… this Devin Gardner.
Sorry, I guess? We'd seen enough from Gardner in trying circumstances to suggest that he was probably pretty good in a situation where the people around him were competent. Instead: nope.
Still, focusing your bile on him is beside the point. He threw a bunch of passes that his receivers dropped; he ate sacks when both of his tackles provided minimal obstruction to Michigan State players; the run defense was painfully eviscerated from the second drive. Gardner is no more disappointing than the WRs who can't catch, the RBs who can't find the hole, the OL who can't block, the defense that can't disguise coverages, the coverage that is a neon invitation to 20 yards on any returnable punt.
The only difference is that Gardner touches the ball on every offensive snap, so his shortcomings are more frequently exposed. In terms of underperforming expectations he has a ton of company. So don't bother. Maybe if he'd been coached since Hoke arrived he'd be better. Same goes for the rest of the team.
On "class." Arguments about whether Michigan State is too mean to us don't interest me. For one, Dantonio did us a favor by punching in that last touchdown. Once Michigan was clearly going to lose it's in the sane Michigan fan's interest to have them lose by a million so that there can be no question about what needs to happen after the season.
If there weren't persistent claims by connected people that Hoke wasn't completely done yet I wouldn't feel this way. There are, so I do. Hoke 2015 can't happen.
If you want to complain about something, complain about yet another cheap shot delivered in the waning moments of a game:
Willie Henry took the brunt of a Michigan State OL to the side of his knee, just like Denard took late hits and Mike Martin took a dirty chop block long after things had been decided. As per usual, Michigan shrugged at it.
Quittin' part VIII. Michigan's wave of the white flag was especially laughable in this game, as it was a fourth and three—fourth and three!—down 25 with nine minutes left. They of course went for two after scoring their meaningless touchdown at the end of the game, and then onside kicked, because it is important to give the impression you are trying without actually trying.
Coaching malpractice part infinity. Michigan took all its timeouts to halftime when they could have had about 90 seconds to try and get some points. I retweeted a guy saying this on twitter and got a lot of responses along the lines of "lol this team couldn't go 75 yards in 90 seconds"; while that may be the case if you truly believe that Michigan shouldn't even try there's no point in even playing the second half.
Which I guess there wasn't. That's still no way to operate a football team.
What now? If not for our current situation with the athletic director Hoke wouldn't be the coach today. Unfortunately, the hopefully imminent firing of said AD means he is a powerless figurehead incapable of axing the head coach without 1) making it look like he's try to save his own ass and 2) putting the University in a bind about whether they will let the current AD run a coaching search or just do nothing for however long it takes to find the next guy. So the move is to just sit tight until that decision is made.
Yeah, a decision should have already been made but these things take time, people continually say. Buyouts have to be negotiated, supporters placated, etc.
The good news is that it doesn't matter much. The only school currently hunting is Kansas. The only peer school likely to be hunting this year is Florida. (Seriously: the only other power 5 school with any history that might fire its coach is financially-strapped Miami. I'm not worried about competing with UNC or UVA.) Michigan may have gotten unlucky with the relative paucity of candidates this year but they are fortunate that there aren't a lot of major jobs likely to come open.
The timing issues are not bad. If Michigan does end up installing an AD in December or early January, that would be right around the time Harbaugh and Mullen hypothetically become available. Harbaugh may have the 49ers in the playoffs, and Mullen would almost certainly see a Mississippi State Cofopoff appearance through.
The recruiting class tops out at 16 and if Michigan does lock down a sexy coach they are likely to have 8-10 solid prospects still in it. A late switch is much less disastrous than it was when Hoke was hired—they could have gone to 25 in that class, only got 20, and had significant numbers of washouts thanks to Rodriguez's death spiral and the late cram-job by Hoke.
I know it would be satisfying to axe Hoke immediately. It does not make sense to do so. Michigan will be in limbo until the AD situation is resolved.
Is there any hope we could be okay next year? Yeah, there's some hope. The team will get a ton older, what with the small recruiting class and even smaller group of exiting seniors. Michigan returns literally everyone on offense save Gardner and probably Funchess. They lose both starting ends, Ryan, Taylor, and Hollowell on defense but they should get Desmond Morgan back—at this point playing him would be nuts.
In that event your D looks like:
- Charlton/Glasgow/Henry/Ojemudia—three juniors and a senior, plus some quality depth. Pass rush questionable.
- Ross/Bolden/Morgan—all seniors, probably pretty good.
- Peppers/Lewis/Countess/Wilson/Clark—safety needs some work but that looks pretty good.
The main problems are the same ones Michigan has this year: quarterback and OL. The OL returns literally everyone so they should get better (he said for the millionth consecutive time despite being wrong all 999,999 previous times); QB is… a problem. Michigan should look to pick off a grad transfer and have a four-way battle between Morris, Speight, Malzone, and New Guy; it's not likely to be an inspiring setup, and that'll put a hard ceiling on their ability to compete with MSU/OSU.
But the personnel looks like it could be an 8-4 team easy.
Worst: So Close
This is Michigan's gameplan in a single gif. They had halfway-decent field position on a couple of drives, and moved the ball in fits and spurts. But every time they had the hint of momentum, they'd go for an ill-fated flea-flicker, or fail to execute a simple bubble screen, or just run the damn ball on 2nd-and-9 for 1 yard and waste any opportunity to keep the game close. It was infuriating, it was depressing, it was par the course for the year.
Last week, Brian included a photo of the Michigan Football 2014 Team Goals in an Unverified Voracity post. Let's see how the team did this weekend:
4th Quarter? Yes, but just barely.
Kicking Game? I have no idea how they judge this, but Wile made his FG and Sparty missed theirs. So, yes?
Time of Poss.? No.
Let's look at that last goal in the context of this game. In the third quarter, Michigan won the time of possession battle, 10:08 to 4:52. If that's one of the top five goals for the team, that must mean we did well in the third quarter, right? Let's check the drive chart in the play by play. Hmmm... State had one drive that consumed 0 plays, 0 yards, and 0:00 time of possession and resulted in 7 points. Of course, that's the pick six. State had another drive that consumed 1 play, 70 yards, and a whole 11 seconds. That drive also ended in a touchdown. 14 points in 11 seconds.
Ron Utah says goodbye to a great man, which I obviously disagree with but hey you might not.
A guy has bought 2000 FIRE BRANDON shirts for the Indiana game. This person is not me, even if it gets mentioned on the message board.
Man I cannot read a Hoke quote anymore without immediately thinking of six different varieties of shade to throw at it.
"We have 11 guys out there, they have 11 guys out there," Hoke said. "We're trying to compete. They're trying to compete. That's what athletics is and that's what competition is, so no, not (surprised) in one bit."
Sometimes you have 11 guys out there.
Michigan State fans on Hoke:
They want to show their appreciation for Hoke any way they can. Late in the fourth quarter, freshman Amari Ellsworth yelled toward Hoke, offering to bake him cookies.
“I’d give him a hug if I could,” Ellsworth said. “He hates us, but he still needs a hug sometimes.”
The scene and the moment just made sense.
After his 11th loss in the past 12 months, Brady Hoke sat at a table inside Spartan Stadium squinting to make out the faces of the people standing in front of him.
"These lights are killing me," Hoke said in between questions after a 35-11 loss at Michigan State.
You can say that again.
"Well, you want to win more," Hoke said, after Michigan's most-lopsided loss in the series since 1967. "So is that frustrating? Yeah, you want to win more."
And no, he said, he didn't hear the "Keep Brady!" chants from the partisan Michigan State crowd, or see the 13 shirtless fans spelling it out — last name included — in the front row of the student section.