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Submitted by Brian on October 18th, 2010 at 12:05 PM

10/16/2010 – Michigan 28, Iowa 38 – 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten


When Michigan needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie and plenty of time on the clock they failed to get it, twice. The second time Michigan cut off Iowa's routes past the sticks, forcing a dumpoff to Adam Robinson. Courtney Avery was there.

imageLast year at this time Avery was in high school. He played quarterback, and basically only quarterback. Plans to have him play his college position were thwarted by an injury. In a presser earlier this year, Rich Rodriguez said in any situation short of the Bohemian Crapsody that is this secondary, the entire freshman defensive back class would redshirt. But File Not Found, man. File Not Found.

Avery did that thing you see above. It doesn't appear that he even touched Robinson, something Crapsody-projected starter Richard Nixon probably could have managed. My immediate thought was watching baseball highlights on Sportscenter during the Dan and Keith glory days. Dan Patrick's signature strikeout call: "the whiff."


And so Michigan football falls into that old incredibly fun debate for the next two weeks before the Penn State game quiets it, one way or the other. Rodriguez proponents point to the shocking lack of talent in the back four and say it's not his fault; Rodriguez opponents point to the same thing and say it's his fault.

They're both sort of right, sort of wrong. Boubacar Cissoko has 99 problems but what to do on a Friday night is no longer one of them. Troy Woolfolk was struck down by Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God. These are cosmically decreed absences from the secondary.

On the other hand, it's hard to look at the addled underclassmen out there with cornerback Nick Sheridan and not wish Rodriguez had sucked a little face to get Donovan Warren or Justin Turner or Vlad Emilien to stick around. Emilien departed the Michigan secondary in an effort to find playing time. Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster.

As he left he said something along the lines of "I'm the best safety on the roster."* He probably isn't, but this is the point at which a desperate Michigan would give it a shot anyway. They did with Kenny Demens and found out that Obi Ezeh is not the best MLB at Michigan; maybe that would have happened with Emilien. Instead there is a walk-on-sized true freshman and air backing up Cam Gordon and Michigan will ride and die with another guy who obviously shouldn't be on the field this year.

This is what Michigan football is these days—trying to figure out which incredibly inexperienced player has the least business being on a Big Ten two deep, let alone field. My vote is for James Rogers, but I get it if you're arguing for any other member of the secondary not named Kovacs. Srsly. Pick one.


cigar-guyOf course, Avery's mistake was as far from an isolated an incident as possible. The reason it's emblematic of the game is that you could have picked a dozen other players if their incident had happened right at the end. Another field goal was blocked, with a bonus: team walks off field still featuring live ball, Iowa returns it a goodly distance. The Taylor Lewan Drive Killing Penalty and its sequels. Two(!) kickoffs sailing out of bounds. Facemask calls. A –4 turnover margin. It's all very grrraaarrgggh. The people on the internet who say "THAT'S COACHING" are saying "THAT'S COACHING."

Maybe it is, but how would anyone know when freshman quarterbacks are waving at Adam Robinson's feet? In one very limited way it would be nice if this was a Tim Brewster situation where galaxy-spanning incompetence met a total lack of a track record and firing the guy was obvious. That's not this. We have very good reasons to expect what is happening to happen but don't know if it's ever going to stop.

*(to someone in the media, but not to the public at large.)


To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up.

Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011.

Crap, I guess that's job talk.

Kenny! After two three-and-outs featuring Kenny Demens at middle linebacker, Obi Ezeh returned to the field to start the third drive. On his first play he was humiliatingly owned  by an Iowa OL, getting pancaked as Robinson whizzed by for his first real gain of the day. I started complaining to everyone in the vicinity about Ezeh's presence as Iowa marched down the field; Demens returned as Iowa neared the redzone. Ezeh's Michigan career is for all intents and purposes over, and Demens is the new king of everything.

How did he do? I don't actually know yet, but if you take out the three Robinson runs (14, 8, 5) when Ezeh was in the game Robinson rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, 4.2 per. That's not terrible and for the most part it was done without Mike Martin, who missed the entire second half and was not effective when he did play in the first.

Last I said I was rooting for an inexplicable personnel decision here and it looks like that's the case: Demens is considerably better than Ezeh. That's a nice boost for the rest of the season and the next couple years. If Demens was really Ezeh's equivalent or worse we'd be facing down MOTS or freshmen at MLB next year; instead it looks like we'll get the upperclass years of a decent recruit who's already an obvious upgrade.

Ezeh epilogue. I will remember him as that guy from Memento.

Khoury! The most encouraging part of the game was Michigan owning the Iowa DL despite playing most of the day without Molk and a chunk of it without Lewan. Michigan averaged 4.8 YPC on the ground despite not breaking a run longer than 15 yards, gave up just one sack, and saw its quarterbacks go 30/44.

The lack of long runs is a function of the Iowa gameplan, which left six-ish guys in the box most of the day and gave Michigan a numbers advantage, but Michigan took advantage of that against a massively hyped DL. They did it without their starting center. At this point they've established themselves one of the best units in the conference.

Tate! Hell of a relief appearance there, and more indication that keeping Forcier in the program is an important offseason task. Also: pretty sure they ran the midline option for their last touchdown.

Lewan sad face. It's a good thing that late false start was on Schilling; if it was on Lewan blood vessels would have burst all over Michigan Stadium. I don't have to remind you of the three crippling penalties that ended Michigan drives, because you were doing your very best not to unleash a torrent of boos at the kid.

On the upside, I hear that Clayborn did nothing when Lewan was in the game; if that proves true on tape you can ramp your Lewan==Long hype up to maximum.

Turnover damage metric. Tate's last desperate chuck on third and nineteen == 0. Not completing a pass in that situation is almost a turnover anyway.

Robinson's interception == 2. It was third and ten and he didn't have underneath options apparently; in that situation a deep INT is basically a punt. The problem was with how terrible the throw was. When the receiver can't even get over to tackle that's a problem.

Vincent Smith fumble, First Forcier interception == 8. Guh.

Hagerup. At least the punting issues have resolved themselves spectacularly. Hagerup averaged 50.3 yards a kick and yielded no return yards. Net punting is now above average. It's just everything else that's terrible.


Photo I was looking for found at Mets Maize, which focused in on that same moment as the tale of the game. BWS recap is a little down on RR's playcalling with Denard in the game; I just see third and okay turned into third and long by Lewan penalties. With Denard, Michigan is a team on a schedule, like option teams. Getting off that schedule is very bad. I should dig out my old third down code after the year so we can see the big red bits from third and seven out.

Meanwhile, In Rod We Trust kicks off its post like I wanted to:

Something, something, realistic expectations, something, something, glass half-full, something something, more experience needed, something, something, witch hunt commence, something something, life goes on.  Something, something, not 2009.

While it could have ended there, it continues. Meanwhile in the News, John Niyo says "OMG 2009," something only a Penn State win will fix. The Ann Arbor News launches "moxie" to describe Forcier's day.

Michigan Exposures has a pregame gallery. Also game and postgame. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has an MMB photo gallery:


BTN highlights:

Michigan-slanted ones:

Via BitP. Finally, Lloyd Brady is sad:


Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

I hate it when he is sad, and not just because I feel the same way.



October 18th, 2010 at 12:55 PM ^

Pretty sure this was purely a reaction to Molk going down. As soon as he left the game, we immediately started using this formation. RichRod had flashbacks, like I'm sure all of us did, to what happened last year with awful snaps and didn't want to risk that happening again in that situation. I'm not a huge fan of it either which is why I'm glad we went away from it so quickly.

Section 1

October 18th, 2010 at 1:11 PM ^

was absolutely, positively, 100% based on Molk's going out.  If I recall, the first six post-Molk snaps were conventional under-center snaps.  And when they did go to shotgun snaps, Denard bobbled or had trouble with three of them as he got used to Khoury and Khoury settled into the game.

Durham Blue

October 18th, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

But we desperately need Shaw back and healthy to keep teams from keying on Denard on the read option handoff.  Fitz Toussaint, where are you?  Please get well, like, soon.  Hopkins looks like he'll be good but I understand RR's hesitance in giving a true freshman the majority of the carries.  Plus, I believe Hopkins fumbled earlier in the year and it seems RR's tolerance for true freshman RB fumbles is extremely low.  On the other hand, from this point forward, if I had a choice of running V. Smith or Hopkins between the tackles or on 3rd and short, I would give the nod to Hopkins without even a second thought.


October 18th, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

Nice synopsis of the complex feelings I think most M fans have about this program right now. We so badly want a scapegoat for the obvious shortcomings we see every week, yet it's impossible to confidently and correctly identify it at the current time. Just incredibly frustrating.

These next 3 weeks are so important to the direction of the program.


October 18th, 2010 at 12:54 PM ^

The battle between the emotional and rational sides of me is getting pretty nasty.

I want to believe that the season turned the corner in the second half of Saturday's game.  Last year's team would have folded the tents and gone home at halftime.  That they came back and turned it into a close game bodes well for their character.

Penn State is not completely hapless.  They've got the tools that if everything clicks they could tear us up.  We need to jump on them early and keep things from clicking.


October 18th, 2010 at 12:47 PM ^

watch the BTN highlights and tell me if at 5:25 during the blocked field goal you hear a whistle.  i am certain i hear this and heard it during the game as well.  could it have been an inadvertant ref whistle that caused the OL to make like Lot's wife?


October 18th, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

...and I can hear it in the video as well.  I was trying to tell the idiot fan in front of me that our guys stopped because they heard the whistle.  He was again trying to fire RRod because of the players not playing after the (now apparent) whistle.

Didn't really affect the game, but definitely a mistake by an official.


October 18th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

I figured Avery was a 3-start CB recruit.  What a mess.

But hey, ultimately, poor recruiting and rampant attrition is on the coaches.


October 18th, 2010 at 12:54 PM ^

Michigan is averaging 491 yards of offense in Big 10 play this year. A year ago, the team averaged 346 yards in Big 10 play. Michigan has zero problem moving the football in Big 10 play. Big difference from the last two years. We hoped we could move the ball. Now, we know.

We're still turning it over and struggling in the red zone in Big 10 play, paying the price for a third year in a row with a new starting QB, but the dividends for that move are pretty clear and positive otherwise. We have the best QB depth chart in the Big 10. Far cry from 2008. Big improvement from 2009.

Defensively, we've seen true, overmatched freshmen miss key tackles on third downs each of the last two weeks. Make those sticks--hell make half of those sticks-and maybe we're talking about an average enough effort on D to win those contests. Or split them. Or at least give the O a chance to win either in the end with one last drive

We're improving. It's coming. We're closer to competing with and beating the top tier of the Big 10 than it seems. For a variety of reasons that we fans cant control, we found outselves starting from program scratch in 2008. The meteor that's cratered the secondary since then sucks and is holding us back, making ours a slower progress than anybody wanted to deal with. We all wanted this to be a one-year fix, but that's just not how things are done when you're rebuilding. We almost have to have the step of 3-5/4-4 in the league before moving forward. As much as we all want to jump from 1-7 to 7-1, rebuilding is not done in one fell swoop.

That said, this team is ready and will deliver a winning record in the final five games. We're not a top tier Big 10 team yet. But, we're the best of the rest from what I've seen. That's a nice step to make after a 1-7 season.

Be frustrated with the youthful mistakes. How could you not? But dont give up ship. This is a very fun team to root for. They will pay back your loyalties down the stretch.

See you somewhere in Florida on New Year's Day.

Thats all I really have to say.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:15 PM ^

We shouldn't blame our turnover problems on having a new qb. We have the same number of interceptions as our opponents. The real difference is that we've fumbled 10 times while our opponents have fumbled 3. Of those, we've lost 5 and they've lost 2, which accounts for the entire discrepancy in our turnover margin.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

going to piggyback on this to post just one of the positives I saw on Saturday: we ran three different types of offense.  To wit: Spread option run-centric with Denard, I-formation run/PA Pass with Denard and Tate, Spread pass attack with Tate.  Ran them all very well.  That too, is coaching

Fuzzy Dunlop

October 18th, 2010 at 2:34 PM ^

Michigan is averaging 491 yards of offense in Big 10 play this year. A year ago, the team averaged 346 yards in Big 10 play. Michigan has zero problem moving the football in Big 10 play. Big difference from the last two years. We hoped we could move the ball. Now, we know.

That's a bit misleading, and based on a very small sample size.  We had 377 yards against MSU, which was better than last year, but not by too much.  Against Iowa, we had only 204 yards in the first 2 1/2 quarters with our starting QB in.  We put up 296 yards in the last 1 1/2 quarters, with our backup QB, whom Iowa wasn't prepared for.  (Numbers are slightly off - I give Tate credit for all yards on his first drive even though Denard started the drive, just because I'm not sure what the actual split should be -- feel free to add 20 or so yards for Denard and subtract same from Tate).

So in the first two Big 10 games Denard has put up some yards, but not the ridiculous amount we were hoping for (and somewhat expecting).  And he's had problems finishing drives and completing third and longs as his passing yips have reappeared somewhat.

I still believe Denard is an amazing talent and these things are fixable, but I'd like to see him put up more than 17 points against a decent Big 10 defense before I say that our offensive concerns are a thing of the past. 


October 18th, 2010 at 4:03 PM ^

Well the offense gained more than 200 yards more this year against IU and Iowa. And, saw a 50-percent increase in production against MSU.

That's 491 yards a game this year as opposed 314 a year ago against the same competition.

Sample size? I am comparing an 8-game set a year ago, to the 3 we have in the books now. That's almost half the slate. Shove your small sample size in a sack

I dont see how these numbers are misleading or not evidence of significant progress being made. When you consider 9-10 starters back and the depth behind it, there is plenty of room to grow to. Like I said in my original comment, we're paying the price for going with another first time starter as far red zone perfomance. Iron that out, and nobody in the league is stopping this offense. Nobody has really stopped yet this year, but for our own mistakes.

The fact is this offense has become a force moving the ball.

Fuzzy Dunlop

October 18th, 2010 at 4:21 PM ^

Would you believe I actually forgot to include Indiana as a Big 10 team?  In my defense, I'm probably not the first.

I think my point stands about Iowa.  28 points and 500 yards is great.  the performance before Denard got hurt -- 7 points and 216 yards in 2.5 quarters -- is not terrible, but not what we were expecting from this offense.  Great performances in the next three games will cure all concerns, but until we actually do it I don't think its unreasonable to be concerned about our regular offense's ability to put up points against non-IU Big 10 defenses.

I don't disagree that we should be able to iron out the red zone issues.  I'd just like to see it actually happen before we treat it as a given.          

Yard Dog

October 18th, 2010 at 12:55 PM ^

a killer on that drive, but you know what, I like the fact that the kid plays with a nasty streak.  Clayborn is a top ten NFL pick, and Lewan fought him all day (when he was in the game, of course).  The PF did not cost us the game, so I'm OK with it.  I worry about other teams trying to bait him, but I'll take my chances with an OT with a touch of nasty in him. 

And please, please, please, let us see more of Hopkins in the backfield.  The kid has size, speed, and good lean heading into the line on short yardage.  His upside seems to be huge to me.  Vincent Smith plays his ass off, and I've never seen a RB that small stick his head in so effectively when picking up blitzes, but Hopkins can deliver tough yards against good defenses and give Smith more of a blow. 


October 18th, 2010 at 12:58 PM ^

I couldn't help but laugh every time they focused on Clayborne leaving the field and taking a knee, huffing and puffing.  It just goes to show you how much better conditioned Martin and the rest of the D-Line are compared to Iowa's lineman.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:00 PM ^

I watched Tate Forcier storm this team back on Saturday, from certain death.  I saw a quarterback throwing darts, running for every yard he could muster, diving, scratching, reviving the crowd, bringing the receivers to life.  The kid almost pulled out that utter disaster on sheer will, and several lazers to Darryl Stonum.  I came from that game saying "there is no way we keep that kid on the bench!"

Does nobody share this sentiment?  I feel as though I was watching a different game.  A priority to keep him on the team in the off-season?  What about a priority to get him on the field right now.  I know Denard can do some things that Tate cannot, but my god man, play em both if you have to.  We have one of the best QBs in the conference on the bench right now. Why?  And why is nobody else asking?


October 18th, 2010 at 1:04 PM ^

I am with you 100%.  Watching the two QBs, Tate is more game ready to play a quality defense.  I am not trying to take a thing away from Denard.  He has a ton of ability, and has the potential to be a real game changer.  And he kicked ass against UConn, ND, BG  and Indiana.  But, in his only two outings against a solid defense, he came up way short.  And that should be expected - kid is playing in his first meaningful snaps as a QB this season (last season he didn't even know the playbook).

But, as of right now, Denard has a his limitations.  Tate, as of now, is a far more complete QB.  How can you have a player like Tate and waste his talent riding the pine.  Same goes for Denard.  RR has got to find a way to use both of these guys. 


October 18th, 2010 at 1:12 PM ^

Remember that Tate was making most of those plays against a defense protecting a 2 or 3 TD lead. Don't get me wrong, he played great but he also threw a bad pick in the 3rd Qtr on a very ill advised throw.

The struggles the last couple of games have most certainly shortened the leash for Denard but I think the ceiling for the offense is still higher with him in the game IF he can get back to the way he played earlier in the year. Obviously the competition is much better but ne needs to be more accurate on the easy throws that he has been the last two weeks. He seems so much more hesitant and is just not trusting what he sees. I know he was 13-18 but many of his short throws were inaccurate either low or high that killed the play, even though complete.

I wouldn't mind seeing them both play but I doubt RR will do that.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:27 PM ^

They were protecting a lead but didn't look to be in a prevent at any point.  Remember on the long TD we got behind the corner and safety, and on the Hemingway catch the corner was pretty much left alone (ball in the air a long time allowed the safety to get over late).  That doesn't happen against prevent D's.  Also more difficult to thow in many ways when the D doesn't have to respect the run

Doesn't matter b/c they beat us.  But we did get w/in 7 late, with a real chance to get the ball back.  IA didn't give us that.  We fought our way back into that game

South Bend Wolverine

October 18th, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

I'll be glad to help.  Tate's success comes from the fact that he is a very creative, and somewhat wild, player.  The Tate approach is to scramble about & try to make something happen.  Denard, by contrast, plays within the system.  He executes the play as it was drawn up - largely because he has the physical ability to do so.

I think Tate's a great player, and I'm very glad he's on our team to fill in when Denard goes down.  However, Denard is the future of this program.  He has the physical tools to run the RR spread in a way that Tate simply does not.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:42 PM ^

seen enough of Denard Robinson to declare him the future of the program.  He had two impressive games to begin the season, he was ineffective against Big Ten opponents last year and has thrown four interceptions in two games against his first two Big Ten opponents this year.  He is very fast, he is charismatic, he is simply put, super-cool.  But I have to question his exclusive use as "the starter" this year.  Not only do I hope to see Tate against Penn State, but I think that we must see him if Michigan is going to get a win.


October 18th, 2010 at 3:39 PM ^

that Denard threw in the six quarters before that?  Tate was basically the only reason we were in the Iowa game. 

Answer me this:  When did you decide that Tate was not good enough to start.  Was it during his very good freshman year or after?  Was it during Denard's game against UConn?  Did that UConn game tell you enough about Denard as a QB to believe that he is the best QB on this team? 

Tate played as the starter in the spring game, correct?  He appeared to be the starter almost until the season began.  Denard broke loose against UConn, who sucks, and then made one very long run against Notre Dame.  He is now a legend that fans cannot dare suggest may not be ready to be starting QB yet?  He sure doesn't look ready to me.


October 18th, 2010 at 3:51 PM ^

Tate was not the starter in the spring game.  By then he'd already been passed and everyone who followed the program expected Denard to start.

Yeah, Denard threw four picks in six quarters.  He also rushed for 191 yards over that stretch against two excellent defenses, or nearly as much as Tate did all of last season.  And even with the picks, he completed 30 of 47 attempts against MSU and Iowa for 311 yards.  He simply makes us tougher to defend than any other QB we have.   


October 18th, 2010 at 12:58 PM ^

Great pic of the "whiff."  We HAD 'em on that play.  Just let all the air right out of the balloon.

I figured no more than 6 wins pre-season.  I still think they'll win more than that...if the offense plays with 1 or less TO per game.


October 18th, 2010 at 2:35 PM ^

we lost contain.  On the Brandstatter highlights at the 0:32 mark, Mouton gets sucked inside; Kovacs takes on the block of the fullback and JT Floyd makes the tackle 10 yards downfield.  Then on the TD, Demens is chasing Koulianos and Rodgers lets him get outside (0:44) of him and doesn't make the tackle.  Again at 2:22, Mouton doesn't get outside and Robinson gets outside; Demens actually sheds his blocker but can't chase him down from behind.  I noticed this when I was at the game, but it's really clear on the highlights.  So frustrating.

Edit: I probably should have referenced this thread.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

When Denard hangs out in the pocket too long, just let him take off.  Unless it's 3rd and 15+, he should be able to get it.  And unless we're inside our own 30, even if he doesn't quite get the first, we should go for it anyway. 

Denard is not a great passer, but a good one.  He is, however, a great thrower.  If he's in the pocket for a full 3-count and he still has the ball in his hands, he should run.  The odds of himi completing those passes has been low, but the odds of him picking up 1st down yardage with his feet is much higher.  Also, odds of INT go down drastically when you don't throw the ball. 

The Claw

October 18th, 2010 at 1:13 PM ^

I was sitting in the far endzone during this play.  I saw Brian gave it an 8, as in a very bad play.  But i thought it was more on the recievers.  Or it could have been my perspective.

I saw Tate scrambling and throw it down the field where 2 UM recievers could have caught the ball.  The footbal doctrine says if your QB is scrambling, you as a reciever come back to the QB and ball.  Well I saw our 2 guys just standing there waiting for the ball to get to them when CB Micah Hyde actually went to the football and intercepted it.  I couldn't tell if the ball would have gotten to them, but from my vantage point, it would have.  If just one of them would have came back to the ball, he could have at least batted it down or even caught it.  Very annoying, especially since Hyde is from my High School.  Hated to see him make a crucial play against the Wolverines. 

Anyone see this play the same way as me?


October 18th, 2010 at 1:23 PM ^

"Let's get to 7 or 8 wins, then call it a year"

Assuming we get to 7 or 8 wins in the next 3 games that will leave us with 4 remaining games. Hey, let's win some (or all) of those then we can call it a redemption.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

For the second week in a row, we have a FG blocked and #74 Ferrara is laying on his back being stampeded by the D-lineman.  I don't understand why (a) he is in the game to begin with, or (b) why RR keeps blaming the kicker for these blocks.


October 18th, 2010 at 10:30 PM ^

The way it looks to me is that Will Campbell got blown off the ball and his man blocked the kick.

About 3 Iowa defenders blow into John Ferrara and knock him backwards, but how many people is he supposed to be able to block?  And if the ultimate job is to prevent a blocked kick, and Ferrara's man (men?) didn't block it...then why blame Ferrara?


October 18th, 2010 at 1:25 PM ^

 Thanks for pointing that out.  On every post game analysis I saw, they made a special point to talk about what a bad decision that was.  It was 3rd down, he threw a punt up for grabs on a 50-50 ball, and his receiver stopped running.  If receiver keeps running, return yards = 0.  That is not a bad decision to me.

It doesn't take the Mathlete to tell me that throwing repeated jump ball interceptions 40 yards downfield on 3nd long is probably better than a) draw plays for 5 yards, or b) throwing the ball oob.  My QBs would have 10 int/year on throws like that...and hopefully 2-3 completions.