404 Tackle Not Found

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 2:18 PM ^

I was thinking it was a 0-100 ball, too, until I watched the replays.  The receiver stopped just as Denard threw it.   if he had kept running it would have been much like the Tate to Junior throw, which we all like the results.


October 18th, 2010 at 2:08 PM ^

Gahh.. please.  I heard this a year or two ago about T. Pryor's "arm punts" and that they were deliberately planned by Tressel.

An INT is never a good thing, if it's 1 yard down the field or 50.  The goal is to try to complete the pass, not give it away, that is what punts are for.



October 18th, 2010 at 2:25 PM ^

no one is suggesting Robinson's pass was intended to be picked off, and I doubt even OSU fans were saying that: what they're explaining is that in that situation, if you're unlikely to convert, why not take the chance of getting a long reception? The reward in that situation is high, and the risk (of having the pass intercepted well down field) is not much different than the result when you punt, especially not earlier this season when Hagerup had Special Teams Disorder.

On a regular basis, no, chucking it deep and hoping for the best is not a good plan, not even if you're just having fun out there. Once in a while, if there isn't a good alternative, it's not going to hurt nearly as much as, say, throwing to a covered receiver when you're in the red zone.

With a dilithium QB, it's tempting to say that Robinson should always be running in those situations. Given that he has not been doing that, I'm guessing he's been told not to run. I feel like it would make more sense to have Robinson scramble when no one is open than chuck a 50-yard ball up for grabs, but I trust that RR is keeping Denard in the pocket for a reason.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:25 PM ^

"Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster."

I've suggested this before, and the suggestion was not well recieved.  ( See how I cleverly avoided bitching about being negged, or mentioning points? ;)  )

Seriously, I would assume that RR tried like heck to get Turner and Emelien to stay, short of giving in to playing time demands or such.  I'm sure he realizes how painfully thin the secondary is.   But the failure to keep those guys around hurts, from at the very least a depth consideration.

Those who claim they were backups and "wouldn't have played anyway" are assuming that there would be zero injuries in the secondary during the year.   Not realisitic.

It'll be a season or two for the 2ndary to get to average B10 play.  We'll just have to suffer through until then.

oc michigan fan

October 18th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

Just curious, as fans, do you feel the coaching staff should show you how bad backup options really are? Did you feel you should have seen just how bad Feagan's arm was, or how bad Vlad could have been last year?


There seems to be 2 camps: 1 with, "shut up, the coaches know more than you." And 2, "there's got to be somebody better, put the backups in."


I remember hearing Petros Papadakis a few years back on the radio saying UCLA's staff owed it to the fans to see the 3rd string qb take some snaps, which I found interesting, with him being a former player at USC.

Huntington Wolverine

October 18th, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

Let's not forget the TD given to Iowa that was bobbled and should have been reviewed and overturned.... 1:02 in BTN highlights.

And definitely a whistle on the blocked FG. Shouldn't have been blown but it was.


October 18th, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

I want to start off by saying I generally like Rich Rod.  However, I question the staff's talent recognition sometime, not because they lack intelligence (they know more than me for sure), but because of internal bias.  Perhaps Gerg for seniors over sophomores, or Rich Rod for fast guys over good ballers.  I can understand not starting Hopkins because he is true frosh, but here is a list that seems to be obvious misses:

1.  Sheridan over Threet (I know Sheridan is mad 'fast', but really, really...I guess Rich Rod figured this out pretty soon as well.)

2.  Brown over Minor (Brown is fast, but stiff breezes don't blow Minor over)

3.  Now Ezeh over Demens (still to be determined I suppose, but Ezeh has been doing so bad)


Where does that leave us?  Can we assume that the following are potential misreads too:

1.   Campbell should start with Martin? (Sure Campbell is not the quick guy Rodriguez likes on his D but perhaps he would be more disruptive)

2.  Was Vlad Emilien right?

Is there anything I am missing.  Again, I am not trying to be negative, but sometimes I wonder about this.  Rich Rod does seem to be decent about eventually recognizing that a player is a bad fit.  I mean he is probably going to play Hopkins more and more and he probably forced Gerg to start Demens.  So maybe the problem is just Gerg...


October 18th, 2010 at 2:51 PM ^

It sounds to me like the argument is that GERG is the one with the weakness for picking seniors (Ezeh over Demens). RR is the one with the weakness for picking fast guys (McGuffie/Brown over Minor).

To quote the post itself: "Perhaps Gerg [favors] seniors over sophomores, or Rich Rod [favors] fast guys over good ballers."

So I guess the answer to your first question is: Yes.

The answer to your second is moot. Reading comprehension, FTW!

Fuzzy Dunlop

October 18th, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

1.  You're referring to statements by different posters and accusing them of being "conveniently inconsistent." 

2.  The "consistent" gripe that the above posters have is concern about Rodriguez's talent identification.  They don't have a consistent explanation for why he might leave a greater talent on the bench, but that doesn't undermine the underlying concern.


October 18th, 2010 at 2:56 PM ^

I wrote that with Gerg he might be attached to Seniors and for Rich Rod he might be fixated on speed over ballers.  The statement might not be correct, but that is open for discussion.  Don't speculate on whether I am a bitter fan or not, considering that I almost always defend Rich Rod and one of the few people that post positive things right after losses.  I was actually encouraged by our play against MSU and Iowa seeing that it was mostly inexperience rather than being pushed around.

Fuzzy Dunlop

October 18th, 2010 at 4:46 PM ^

But Hart got the starting position pretty quickly.  It didn't take until halfway through the year for Carr to realize he was our best back.  Same with Biakabutuka -- he started the season behind Ed "Two Yards and a Cloud of Dust" Davis, but that changed by game two.

Rodriguez went with McGuffie for quite a while before Minor got his chance, and Ezeh -- well, we know he's been playing for a long, long time.


October 18th, 2010 at 6:04 PM ^

expecting to win every game means always trying to have the best 11 on the field.  Until we get to that point, long term and short term goals will be in conflict.  It's very unlikely that any coach is going to put the worse of two players on the field unless there is some other gain to be had.  In Ezeh's case, I think it's that leadership matters.  That and the fact that Mike Jones went down.


October 18th, 2010 at 2:50 PM ^

and he's been committed and put in his work.  I remember having a conversation with a walk-on lineman and bringing up as gently as I could that maybe Obi isn't the best at certain things and his mind looked genuinely blown.  If it's at all the case that RR has had buy in problems, promoting guys who do it the right way is worth it in the long run.


October 18th, 2010 at 2:50 PM ^

Did you watch Campbell stand straight up and get blown back on the blocked field goal? That's why he's not starting. If you want the anchor of the interior of your DL getting stood up and blown out of the hole more power to you but I think he's right where he should be currently. Hopefully he figures out he needs to stay lower soon but it's not looking good thus far...


October 18th, 2010 at 2:07 PM ^

watching the field goal get blocked and the field goal unit just walking off the field oblivious to the fact that the ball was still live and not noticing until the crowd started yelling was one of the most disheartening things I have ever seen. The team and the coaches know the kicking game isn't our strength and we've had kicks blocked before, you would have thought the coaches would have went over what happens when a kick is blocked and lands behind the LOS. =(


October 18th, 2010 at 2:26 PM ^

I'm actually legitimately excited about Hagerup, for what it's worth. That kid was kicking bombs out there. Lost in the hubub of whatever we were doing on that we'repuntingjustkiddingokwe'repunting sequence (which infuriated me to no end... it's not a good fake when you have a punter under center and an OL in the backfield...but I digress) is that he nailed a punt on the 1 there. He also had an absolute bomb earlier. The kid's going to be/is good.

I want some defensive recruits to be excited about so badly right now.  I think we all do.


October 18th, 2010 at 11:39 PM ^

IIRC, the coaches mentioned early in camp that Hagerup was in the running to handle kicking off. Can he possibly be worse than what we have now? Two OOB's in the 4th quarter was IMHE the most inexcusable sin of the 4th quarter. Give big Will (yes that big Wiil) the chance!

Blue boy johnson

October 18th, 2010 at 3:06 PM ^

It's not coaching, it's inexperience. Put a bunch of 9th graders in calculus and the majority of them just won't grasp it. Let them start with algebra and build up to calc over 3 or 4 years and you gots yourself a mathematician.


October 18th, 2010 at 3:11 PM ^

In fact, we do.

If he's back in 2011, doubtful, Michigan will do no better than 5th, and possibly as bad as 9th. In year 4.

These 'asking for more patience' posts are no longer helpful to the program.

As always, Go blue!


October 18th, 2010 at 7:11 PM ^

Do you think Michigan is looking at that female kicker from Akron? She's perfect on the season, has great accuracy, and is better than any of our current options. Why can't Michigan be the first D-1 school to recruit a female football player? I'll take a competent woman kicker over what we have any day.


October 19th, 2010 at 12:23 AM ^

ONce again, thank you for posting the link to my blog.  Although I didn't feel like my pictures were the greatest this time.  I need to get one of those lens shade things I think.    And I hope people that visit there because of this site poke around at some of the non-football stuff.


Thank you.


October 21st, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

...screamed TAAAACKLE so loudly that I nearly busted 3 veins in my head and lost my voice for much of the week.  This precise moment.  In a related event, my wife took it upon herself to disassociate herself and our children from me by telling everyone who would listen, "He's not with us.  Never met him."  Overreaction?  I don't know.  It seemed appropriate at the time.