Containment Field Down! Run For Your Lives!

Submitted by Brian on October 29th, 2012 at 12:27 PM

10/27/2012 – Michigan 9, Nebraska 23 – 5-3, 3-1 Big Ten


Eric Upchurch

Well, it finally happened.

Pundits and opponent fans have been predicting the demise of Denard Robinson ever since he picked up that snap against Western Michigan, but the series of bumps and bruises that frightened Michigan fans every third game had never really cost Michigan anything. In 2010, Tate Forcier came off the bench to lead Michigan to a frenetic victory over Illinois and nearly did the same against Iowa. Last year, Devin Gardner shepherded Michigan through the second half of the Illinois game. When Denard's boo-boos knocked him out for halves instead of plays, Michigan got through just fine.

They were always tempting fate, though, and upped their bet that the football gods' vast malevolence was laser-focused on the Iowa running back situation by moving Devin Gardner to wide receiver in the fall. That seemed like a risk worth taking.

Unfortunately, the containment field is down.


yes, it's true. this man has no elbow.

First it leaked from the Iowa running backs to their offensive line, which suffered two season-ending injuries minutes apart last week. This week, the Big Ten set to murdering football in the morning and afternoon, then this happened to Marcus Lattimore's knee:


artist's conception

By the time Friday night rolled around the ambient malevolence levels in college football were so high that Notre Dame won a marquee matchup to enter the national championship shortlist.

So of course Denard would be knocked out of a potentially fun, definitely important game by falling harmlessly to the turf, thus turning the rest of it into a death-march trudge. AIRBHG is no longer contained. The forces of wheeeee that (mostly) preserved Denard through three years of running at top speed into Manti Te'o have been overrun by the forces of grinding doom football. Now we're all boned. Hail Saban.

And so it came to pass that words never before spoken—words so impossible CFL teams who don't even think it's weird they're all named "Roughriders" cock an eyebrow at their assemblage—came to pass.

Tate Forcier isn't walking through that door.


I don't know, man. I felt ill for most of the second half but it's not like anyone is at fault other than everyone. I mean, if RR doesn't implode or Forcier is a normal person who goes to classes or Michigan doesn't hire Hoke three weeks before signing day, maybe the guy backing up Robinson has a prayer of moving the ball forward. Maybe the wide receiving corps is not so awful that it must include Devin Gardner.

In the aftermath you've got the columns declaring Gardner's move to WR a stupid idea, but I haven't seen anyone reference the column questioning it they wrote before last weekend. It's easy to be a backseat driver after whatever that was. Meanwhile, Gardner is this crappy receiving corps' #2 WR, #1 if you discount Jeremy Gallon's 150-some yards on screens.

Gardner's not good. The alternative is throwing more than four balls in the first half to Jeremy Jackson. They've needed their crappy, crappy receiver who is also a quarterback even if he is dropping a 50-yard pass in most games. Whether Gardner is worth an extra three scores against Nebraska is… debatable. His performances to date suggest he is not.

Michigan was always rolling the dice on Denard's health, and that was the move to make. Didn't work. That's life as a rickety program that's endured two coaching transitions in three years—when you have to go to the bench you get tumbleweeds.

We're now entering the period of time when most program shortcomings can be blamed on Rich Rodriguez's recruiting, which is only a slight transition from the period of time when most program shortcomings could be blamed on Lloyd Carr's recruiting fade and represents very little improvement when the one completely awesome guy at the most important position is removed from the equation. It turns out that Michigan 2012 minus Denard Robinson is pretty much Michigan 2008, and that the only thing saving us from the abyss was Denard staring down a decision to stay or go and not pulling the Mallett.

He stayed, but in the game that probably decided if he would be a champion or not he watched from the sideline because his elbow hit the turf the wrong way. Malevolence is out of control these days.


Eric just posted the photos. You can enjoy them. You will not enjoy One Frame At A Time.  BTN highlights:

Also SD highlights from Michigan's official site and a Nebraska-oriented highlight reel; actual highlights start 3:20 in.


Injury item. So the thing is this:

Boo Boo[1]

Hoover Street Rag

It's the same thing that knocked him out briefly against Illinois. 

"He's got that nerve (injury), he hits it the wrong way (or) gets hit (and it's hard)," Hoke said. "The difference (today) was he didn't come back in. But, he gets better as the game goes on." …

Asked whether or not he was concerned Robinson wouldn't be available next week, Hoke replied "No." He also said the normal rehabilitation process for this type of injury is mainly rest and time.

He'll probably be fine by Tuesday and start against Gophers. Every time his elbow brushes up against the softest kitten in Minnesota the collective intake of breath will be audible. Sounds fun, and by "fun" I mean "paralyzing."

Frank Clark is also expected to be back next week, which is good because Mario Ojemudia limped off the field Saturday and was spotted in a boot today. He's probably sprained his ankle and won't be available. 

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3_thumbBrady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Craig Roh. Beastmode sack, generally unblockable, got a number of those stat things for himself instead of everyone else, as he usually does.

Honorable mention. Quinton Washington, Desmond Morgan, Kenny Demens.

Epic Double Point standings.

3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Drew Dileo (Michigan State), Craig Roh(Nebraska).

We won time of possession! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Time of possession is a garbage stat.

That said, there is a clear narrative of decline in the defensive performance. Nebraska's first eight drives gained a total of 148 yards. Their last four gained 178. It's not easy going out there after a blizzard of three-and-outs. This would be better measured by plays instead of TOP.




  • Rodriguez's horrible recruiting at the skill positions: 40%. If Michigan has a decent deep threat at WR, Gardner is playing QB and Michigan may salvage that game. Instead, RR recruited receivers are… 2011: nobody. 2010: Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, DJ Williamson. 2009: Je'Ron Stokes. The only one of those guys to see the field is Jackson, and he's essentially a skinny tight end. That 2011 class may not be RR's fault, because there were…
  • Unavoidable transition costs: 10%. RR's WR recruiting would look slightly better if Sammy Watkins was included in that group, but once he got fired Watkins was gone.
  • Darryl Stonum's inability to just do what the court tells him to: 10%. Relevant to previous two bullets: we're desperate for a guy who has three catches for Baylor. Baylor's offense is pretty good, but he can't even get on the field.
  • The Process: 20%. Maybe Michigan gets a guy more ready to play if they're not scrambling with three weeks left. Maybe Michigan recruits one dang WR in 2011.
  • Hoke not taking a quarterback last year: 10%. Always take one every year. If Michigan has another freshman around maybe he's better than Bellomy.
  • Hoke inexplicably passing on Devin Lucien: 10%. Lucien has 10 catches as a sophomore for 6-2 UCLA and their #12 offense. He still wanted to commit to Michigan after the transition, and Michigan said no by saying they wanted him to play DB.

There. It has been blamed. Seriously, though, the Lucien thing drives me nuts.

Borges take. It's official, we have the first FIRE BORGES blog post, one made through blood-soaked tears in the third quarter of that game by The Big House Blog. The Daily is also getting testy.

I'm not there. As soon as Denard went out and it became clear that Bellomy was light years away from readiness I was pretty much like whatever. There's not much you can do when you already can't run without your QB and the guy you put in is overwhelmed and throwing moonballs.

Before that happened, Michigan was moving the ball decently and poised to score to go up 10-7. That's okay I guess—but we're also talking about a team that is 90th in the country in run defense, so…

I saw this: after Nebraska got torn up by Hundley and Miller it seemed clear they went back to the drawing board and were going to play it safe. When Michigan put 4 WRs on the field, Nebraska responded with two high safeties and 5.5 guys in the box. Michigan ran the ball and got five, six, seven yards virtually every time. That's stealing.

I mean, when I was learning about the spread some years back I watched the videos Rodriguez put out about his offense. When he talked about making a run/pass decision based on the safeties, his general rule was one deep safety was a run, cover zero was pass. The idea that someone would maintain two high safeties against his offense never even crossed his mind. Nebraska was doing it, and Michigan didn't force Nebraska out of it. I don't get it, man.

The truly crappy thing is it's going to be four or five years before we have any real read on whether Borges is any good. At this point, year three is going to be Michigan rolling with a true freshman QB—probably, anyway—and four new OL starters—probably, anyway—with what's likely to be a horrible WR corps. Anything other than an awful offense next year is a point in Borges's favor. Hurrah transition.

But Auburn? No. 2004 Auburn had the following guys on that team: QB Jason Campbell (first round pick), RB Ronnie Brown (first round pick), RB Cadillac Williams (first round pick), OL Ben Grubbs (first round pick), OL Marcus McNeill (second round pick), Ben Obomanu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 37 catches in 2011), Devin Aromashodu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 26 catches in 2011), and Courtney Taylor (sixth round pick, now in CFL after 2008 multiple sclerosis(!) diagnosis). When you can call anything and have future NFL players on both ends of the exchange that doesn't say much either. 

First Nebraska touchdown: where is that? Nebraska's first touchdown was a route that exploited Michigan's man coverage. An inside receiver ran a little hitch designed to pick the outside guy, the outside guy ran a post to eliminate the safety over the top, and the inside-inside guy used the pick to get open by yards. It didn't really matter if the receiver who ended up targeted was able to get separation naturally; the play got it for him.

Where is that from Michigan? I can't recall a wide open downfield guy that got open strictly by the play design. Gardner's been open some when DBs fall over or suck up on a double move or something; not so much the play bits.

This wasn't actually a problem last year, when Michigan quarterbacks made sport of ignoring the the wide open guys Borges was machining downfield. Is it just Junior Hemingway's absence?




I think they watched film. Congratulations, Nebraska: you are apparently the only Big Ten team to ever watch tape of the Michigan offense and leap on the throwback screen. It's not exactly hard to find, since the first time Michigan goes under center in any game is virtually guaranteed to be the throwback. It's pretty bad when everyone in the room I was watching said "throwback screen" as soon as Michigan lined up in ace.

Q: why is that play consistently run from under center? There doesn't seem to be anything about it that would require it to be.

I'M GONNA DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEBellomy. Well… that wasn't very good. The most disturbing thing was probably one of Bellomy's few completions—a ten yard wheel-ish route run by Kerridge that picked up a first down and took just decades to get where it was going. Accuracy issues and a tendency to scream in horror during plays themselves (@ right by Upchurch) can be fixed with time. The arm strength deficiency probably can't.

That particular throw made me wonder why Michigan recruited the guy at all since it seems like the #1 thing on Borges's radar screen is the ability to laser it in just inside the sideline. Hurrah Process/unavoidable transition costs. Boy, is next year's offense going to be a wow experience or what I tell ya.

Offensive line. I'm not entirely sure how they did since once Bellomy came in it was open season and Michigan settled into a routine that exposed them to the same "eight of them, five of us" problems that Michigan experienced against MSU. Hoke was not impressed.

Ryan got edged. When Michigan gave up some yards it was often on the edge when various Nebraska players broke contain. The most spectacular incident was when Abdullah broke Cam Gordon's ankles…



…but it happened to Ryan a few times. When Nebraska was not bouncing it outside they were getting very little; excellent day from the interior DL and the LBs.

Roh beastmode. Also Roh, who took the opportunity presented by Abudullah being assigned to block him to destroy Martinez in a hilarious beastmode sack. If you've ever wondered why tailbacks always cut block guys on pass protection, that's why.



Where is Rawls? I don't know what happened to Toussaint but at this point I'm not even irritated at Vincent Smith carries because it's not like Toussaint is consistently making yards past what the blocking gets him. Meanwhile, Rawls ends up watching, even when Michigan deep into Bellomy panic time and trying to run from under center.

I'm sure there's a reason they don't trust him yet; whatever it is it must be pretty bad. If you're down to running power from the I-form—and Michigan was—you might as well find out if your backup guy can break some tackles.

Defense: stepping towards elite. Nebraska entered the game averaging 512 yards and 42 points a game, leading the league in rushing yardage, pass efficiency, total yardage, and points per game. Michigan held the Cornhuskers to 326 yards and 23 points. Six of those points were field goal drives of two and five yards in length. Without turnovers, that's 17 points.

Relative to the quality of opponent, that's their best performance of the year by far and a major step away from criticisms that Michigan's defense hasn't actually stopped anyone. If the offense doesn't implode with Denard out those numbers are undoubtedly better, probably under 300 yards for the game for the Huskers.

Not relevant but worth it. This happened after Northwestern's win over Iowa:


Bo Cisek, walk-on DT and new internet legend

It speaks for itself except for the fact that guy's wearing #1.



Michigan + Nebraska == refereeing atrocity. The Roundtree catch that was overturned was one of those plays where it's not clear either way because of the goofy fuzzy catch rule and should be left to stand, and then you've got that terrible terrible late hit call and some terrible terrible pass interference calls both ways. This combination of teams is not good for ref sanity.

Cats! So hey like if you follow me on twitter I'm sort of sorry for retweeting like 30 cats into your timeline except not really. People started sending them to me, so clearly there was a need. Here is another cat if you are not satiated.


Inside The Boxscore:

* As bad as we played, the first downs were close, 20-18 in favor of Nebraska. Of course, 6 of our first downs came from Nebraska penalties.
* Nebraska's 20 1st downs translated to 326 total yards, we managed 188 total yards. At least we were efficient with our first downs. Why get 20 or 30 yards when you only need 10?
* We won the TOP, 31:36  to 28:24. Yippee. We did control the clock early, and I was expecting that to pay off in the fourth quarter when we should have been able to grind down their defense, but then, you know, Denard got hurt.


Edit: I forgot the main silver lining, BELLOMY CAN AUDIBLE!

Yeah, what was with that?

Yeoman scans Massey, comes back with Michigan having a 30% shot at winning the division now. Let's go Spartans.


Blog stuff. Sap's decals hand out nothing to the offense. Nebraska fans are far too enthusiastic about snuffing Bellomy out. TTB. Maize and Go Blue. The M Block considers what happens next year at QB.

Hoover Street Rag:

Duct tape.  It's was held together with duct tape, hope, and rolling dice.  And now the questions will come for the coaching staff, although any questions to Greg Mattison will likely consist of "Why can't you guys score too?"  But we caught a glimpse of a future we will need to face all too soon, a future without Denard Robinson.  That future consisted of three field goals total output on offense.


You watched the second half perhaps with some hope that Spring Game Bellomy would emerge but save for a few late first downs it wasn’t really even close.  I swear I caught Jeremy Gallon staring off into space after the RS freshman was calling a pass play early in the second half and remember thinking, “Gallon knows this ain’t happening…”

1 gallon
That play was the horribly underthrown toss (yes, headed for Gallon!) which was easily picked off by Nebraska. 

Also, Denard's jacket was old school split M style now verboten.


Probably got it off Jon Falk's back.


Stupid malevolence. Stupid offense.

Wait they're still saying this?

Three Bellomy interceptions rushed the defense back onto the field and into quick-change situations. Nebraska started drives in Michigan territory, including one on the four-yard line. There’s a good excuse.

“No,” Kovacs said. “We take pride in that. Our motto is: ‘Spot the ball.’ It doesn’t matter where the ball’s at, just put the ball on the field and we’re going to go play defense and not let them get any yards.”

That's a Rodriguez-era phrase that remains as mysterious today as it was when it was introduced and probably should have gone in the bonfire with GERG's playbooks and stuffed beavers and hair. I guess that's appropriate for the reappearance of the 2008 offense. If someone says "hold the rope" any time soon I'm going to hide under the bed.


Michigan-Nebraska: The Sick Man of Europe

By HoldTheRope on Oct 29, 7:00a

The red balloons floated upward, little harbingers of doom dotting the night sky. I didn't know what to make of it, but it could not have been anything else but that. Or, maybe they were just balloons.

By HoldTheRope on Oct 29, 7:00a



/hides under bed



October 29th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

I don't think the problem is that Bellomy is not capable of running a spread. He's supposedly pretty athletic (or at least not a Henne-esque statue) and capable of running. He's not going to be Denard out there, but he should certainly be capable of running our watered-down iteration of a spread offense. I don't know if it's that he's raw, or what, but I wasn't impressed by his arm strength or decision-making. I hope Devin is the starter next year, because otherwise I'm concerned.

UofM Die Hard …

October 29th, 2012 at 1:22 PM ^

really need to calm the down.  Stop blaiming everyone under the sun.  

Denard got hurt, Bellomy came in, struggled, and we lost.  We all know Denard makes our offense.  Lets just leave it at that and move on.


Defense is legit and we are in good hands, we all knew Nebraska was going to have a few big plays but I was pretty happy with them.  


Take care of business the rest of the way boys


October 29th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

we'll probably be a little better.

Denard will probably be back against a Minnesota team that is really bad. This could be Michigan's best outing of the year rushing the football with whoever's back there (Fitz, Smith or Rawls) since Minnesota stellar run-defense is ranked 10th in the league right now. Offensively, the Gophers are pretty much another Purdue running and passing.

Meanwhile Nebraska will be up in East Lansing playing Paul Sheldon to Michigan State's Annie Wilkes, which ought to be fun.  As Brian previously wrote, MSU is spending the rest of the football season helping Michigan get to the Rose Bowl.  


October 29th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

Be completely honest Michi-fans. Isn't this season playing out exactly as we thought it would with regards to wins and losses?

Look at the ends, and not the means, then throw in the happy things (Funchess - Dileo - Lewan - Roh - LBs) and the not so happy things (the interior OL - Toussaint - lack of passing game), and try and keep a level head.

8-4, given what we can see is a pretty darn flawed team with no depth or breakout talent at certain spots is not that bad of a coaching job.

Most importantly, support the team. We can't do anything about what's going on, and negative energy isn't going to change anything about the season.

And yes, I'm damn excited because Denard is coming to Minneapolis this weekend. It's been too long (4 years) for Michigan to come to Minnesota.


October 29th, 2012 at 3:15 PM ^

The number may be what we thought but the way we have lost is pretty frustrating. Particularly the last two where we gave the ball away 6 straight times against ND and then moving the ball well in the redzone about to take the lead then Denard goes down and we fall flat on our face offensively for the next 2.5 quarters.  Both games the D played well enough to win but we either failed to execute or couldn't get a break or two to go our way.

Plus no one likes losing. Being a fan you always look for the team to pull it out and it hurts when it doesn't happen.


October 29th, 2012 at 6:17 PM ^

I think it's a case of the disconnect between our rational selves and our "WOO MICHIGAN IS GOING TO BE 14-0 WIN IT ALL LETS GO" selves. 

Rational self predicted 8-4. Irrational self predicted 14-0. When irrational self is proven wrong, irrational self becomes further irrational. You just have to keep the rational part there to maintain sanity, lest you fall into the "FIRE BORGES" extremes of irrational fandom.

Adding - I think what you're getting at is that we expected losses based on some regression on boths sides of the ball. It turns out one side - offense - regressed probably way more than expected, while the other - defense - actually surprisingly maintained a high level of play. And what's frustrating about that is that if our O was just a little better Michigan could easily be 7-1 right now. So I get it.

But even if it's the unexpected path, we're still on track towards an expected outcome. I honestly have no idea what this means.


October 29th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

I understand if people do it, but IMO it is too early to look towards next year.

If Denard is able to come back for the rest of the season we may have a decent shot to get in the BTCG. If he doesn't I'll be happy to get back to a bowl.

If it's meant to be it will happen but our team can only control its own games and hope for the best.

I really liked Brian's attribution of the WR problem but still feel it is a little early.

Case in point: Brendan Gibbons who could not hit the broadside of a barn nailing 50 plus yard kicks and game winning kicks.

Basically, that was a horrible second half but let's keep believing and standing by our team since it seems like they haven't given up IMO.


October 29th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

I find it hilarious that everyone ragged on Rich Rod, saying he should've done a fusion cuisine and not focused so much on his offense so that we could've won some games. These same people are now arguing that Borges needs time to get his players in, and it's not his fault that he's crap at running fusion cuisine. How the tables have turned.


October 29th, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^

I think a big difference is the progress of the defense, and the overall record under Hoke. It seems fans are a bit more patient in terms of offense because this team can possibly still win/keep it close with the D, and there doesn't look like there will be many 3-9 and 5-7 seasons.

That, and maybe since RR was an offensive minded coach, fans expected his offense to hum, and fans also soon realized that without a ton of points Michigan wasn't going to win many games, so that put a ton of pressure on RR from an offensive standpoint in terms of criticism. 

If the D didn't didn't look the way the D looks and Hoke didn't have an 11-2 season, and thus build confidence in the fanbase, I think the O would be under more scrutiny.

I don't really see any tables turning. Just more overall positives under Hoke than there were under RR thus far, and with positives comes patience.




October 29th, 2012 at 1:46 PM ^

Yeah, I agree with you that the biggest thing keeping Borges off the hot seat is that 11-2 season last year and beating OSU (and MSU this year). There are enough big wins that, while fans are perturbed, no one is actively sharpening pitchforks. There's probably also something to the point that a lot of people seem to like Hoke as a person, whereas a lot of fans seemed to take umbrage with RR himself, rather than the DC (I mean, I know we all hated GERG, but I doubt people would've been satisfied with just GERG getting fired).

I think after next year we might see Borges gone, though, since we're going to be in a world of hurt offensively. The defense is stellar, but this game showed me the future without Denard, and I'm frightened.


October 29th, 2012 at 2:48 PM ^

The difference is that Borges is trying to adapt. He may be doing a poor job of it because he's not a spread guru, but he's trying. And when his attempts to force too much of his perferred scheme on Denard have failed, he's backed off. Finally, and most importantly, he and Hoke worked hard to keep Denard here.

RR let Mallet go without a fight and said, "[email protected]*# you pro-style guys, there's a new sheriff in town, and he runs the spread!". There's a big difference between that and a guy who never claimed to be good at running the spread, trying and failing. I'll give the latter guy more of a pass.


October 29th, 2012 at 5:40 PM ^

Just when you think we have beaten this absurb meme to death X1000 some collosal idiot decides to crawl out of his hole and expose it to the light of day again.

for the 1001st time:  RR did not let Mallet go without a fight.  There has been countless references to numerous phone calls & attempted contact by RR.  Mallet always wanted Arkansas, finally found his window, & bolted.  He was also a drugged/drunk asshole pre-maddona almost universally irritated if not hated by his teammates & coaches.

& not that it matters much anymore, but RR was HIRED TO RUN THE SPREAD!  It was & is his claim to fame, maybe you should send Bill martin a naughty christmas card if youre still sore about it.

I've also seen NO reference to Hoke and or Borges ever CONVINCING Denard to stay at Michigan.  He fell in love with the school, the program & his teammates during RR's tenure, and RR uged him to stay after being fired.  I think Hoke is full of class and probably made Denards decision easier, but I'd like to see some of your proof of that "hard work" they put in.

Rehashing lies from 6 years ago? you are the definition of flamebait.


October 29th, 2012 at 8:34 PM ^

I like it when people call me a colossal idiot while simultaneously making my point. Up vote for you. So you say RR was hired to run the spread, came in and did exactly that with no apology? Gee, sounds a lot like what I just said. I guess that makes us both colossal idiots.

Borges was brought in to run a pro-style offense, and has still tried to adapt to Denard and his reward is to be apportioned blame weekly by idiots like you despite delivering you all a BCS bowl win and a victory over Ohio and Sparty, instead of a 3 win season. So yeah, criticizing RR while cutting Borges some slack on the evaluation period is defensible if you have half a brain.


October 29th, 2012 at 9:12 PM ^

When you have 1 returning starter, there's no need to try to run a hybrid. You're only going to hinder yourself in the future.

When you return almost your entire offense (last year), and everybody except 2 OL and a WR (this year), you don't have them run an entirely foreign offense right away. You try to adapt to them as best you can.

Forcing 1 player to learn a new system (and in Schilling's case the OL had been Zone Blocking for a few years) is smart. Forcing 10-11 players to learn a new system is beyond idiotic


October 29th, 2012 at 5:53 PM ^

Jabberwock said it pretty well, but I'll add in my two cents.

In 2008 we returned 1 Offensive Starter, Guard Steven Schillling. One. Returning. Starter.

And I don't remember exactly, but we also had like 12 total upperclassmen on Offense. That's it, and that's including like 3-4 walkon guys. For comparison's sake this year we have 17 scholarship upperclassmen, who knows how many we have with Walkons. There wasn't a huge contigent of "pro-style guys" that RR just said "screw you" to.

Posts like this make me want to tear my hair out, the stupidity is just so overwhelming

turd ferguson

October 29th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

I liked this write-up.

In no way is this a "told you so" post, but I've been critical of the Gardner position switch, and I want to think/write a little more about the decision to move him.  My broader concern is that this coaching staff is playing much too loose with the quarterback position. 

Football teams are made and broken by quarterbacks.  If you look at the NFL over the past 10-20 years, there are basically two paths to success:

1.  Get a great quarterback (Brady, Manning, etc.), don't really worry about the rest of the roster, profit.
2.  Get great guys at the other 21 starting positions, throw some guy in there at QB, and see what happens (Minnesota with Tarvaris Jackson, some versions of the Baltimore Ravens, etc.).

That position is just wildly important, and I don't get why we'd sacrifice depth in 2012 and development for 2013 for the possibility that Gardner might be marginally better than some less athletic guys who have practiced at the position for the past several years.  On top of that, I still think (like Brian, apparently) that not taking a QB in the 2012 class was a major, major mistake, especially coming off of a year in which we only took Bellomy.

True, there was little reason to believe that Gardner would be a great QB, but he doesn't need to be a great QB to contribute significantly to the 2012 and 2013 (and maybe 2014) teams beyond the alternatives.  Plus, he still had a lot of development time in front of him.

I find the QB situation frustrating.  Hoke and company are building a powerhouse through their recent recruiting efforts, but I think they're leaving us with potentially a terrifying Achilles' heel at QB. 


October 29th, 2012 at 1:47 PM ^

They're being diplomatic about it, but my theory is that Gardner just hasn't been progressing as a QB.  At all.  As raw as he is as a receiver, I'm thinking he was a wreck at QB.

We have a very very small sample size for actual gameplay, but the few times Gardner had to make a decision, he picked disaster.

As for why they didn't recruit a QB, I think they've been consistent about their recruiting goals from Day One, including a very measured balance between today's needs and tomorrow's team.  This was a gamble I'll bet they were willing to take, and happened to lose.  There is no viable replacment for Denard Robinson AT ALL, and Hoke's Dream Team is one that wins with minimum 46 players, not one.  Plus, I think they've been very honest with the players about their roles, to the point of losing recruits for their brutal honesty.  What are they gonna tell the kid, "Denard's our QB today and Shane's our QB tomorrow, so your best chance of seeing the field is watching Denard get hurt"?  The only type of QB who'll say yes to that deal is a walk-on who isn't going to be any better than Bellomy is now.

That's my main criticism of the spread option, actually.  Schematically it works great on paper and on the field, but only by making (for a conservative guy like me, anyway) unreasonable risks at inherently thin positions.  The whole point of the inverted veer is to take pressure off Denard, but the flip side is that when Denard does go down the mesh point is just a formality.  High-risk, high-reward means when everything's clicking you're the best offense in the country, but it only takes a key injury or two for the house of cards to collapse.  That's why it's only implemented in bits and chunks in the NFL.


October 29th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

Devin Gardner was brought into virtually every game last year to play QB.  Some times Denard moved to WR and some times he left the field entirely.  To then go, "Yeah, he probably just sucks now and the coaches know it." makes what happened last year look batshit crazy.

If Gardner is hurt as some have speculated or if Russell Bellomy looks like a much different player in practice and this was just his trial by fire, then the decision might make sense.  But a Bellomy > Gardner argument looks pretty foolish at this point.


October 29th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

Brian, your comments about the 2013 offense finally hit home and I would like to take this time to put in my 1-year notice as a moderator.  I'm going to have to hand in my moderator credentials the day before the first game next year.  I don't think I'm going to be able to mentally or physically handle the apocolypse wasteland that will be the Board next year . . .


October 29th, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

I frequently get TR-ed (personally, I think it's rather childish and silly, but whatever) for being harsh on Borges, so I'll be fair for a day and state for a record most likely people don't care about, but for what it's worth:

This loss is NOT on Borges.

I'm not impressed with the guy, but this clearly ain't on him.  Were there a few things he could've done better?  Sure, nobody's perfect.  But there is a huge difference between imperfection and fault.  It's not like Borges was unduly negligent; this was a case of priorities and bad luck.

First, no OC likes to see a starter get injured.  I do believe Mattison does a better job preparing the subs than Borges, it's a non-factor here.  An injury to a guy like Denard WILL result in a drop-off.  It'd be like our D losing Kovacs and Jake Ryan on the same play.  Second, there isn't a whole lot Borges can do in the way of "mid-game adjustments".  Bellomy was overwhelmed as it is (though I wish they'd drop the BS about how they have confidence in him and he'll be fine).  While I feel Denard is underutilized from a spread scheme perspective, the offense is nevertheless designed around him.  Without Denard, there is no "option" in this option offense.  If it's a run, the D couldn't care less about a keeper.  If it's a pass, there's no run threat.  The receiving corps is depleted and our run blocking isn't that good, so without Denard doing silly things, the defense can drastically reduce their keys.  I have no idea how many snaps Bellomy had prior to his untimely entrance, but my guess is they were mostly developmental, not schematic.  And Denard had plenty of fundamental issues to work out as it is.  If he spent any hours prepping Bellomy at the expense of Denard, we've just have two strings worth of inept offense.

I recall one (apocryphal) conversation the Colts had when discussing a potential injury to Peyton Manning; namely, the OC wasn't giving the backup QB any snaps at all.  His response?  "If #18 goes down we're f---ed, and we don't practice f---ed."


October 29th, 2012 at 1:33 PM ^

Hold the rope while I step onto this wobbly chair and slide it over my hea.................

Naw.  It's not that bad.  But it does suck.  We had a golden opportunity to set our place at the B1GCG dinner table but it slipped through our fingers (literally, considering how our receivers performed Saturday night).

You want to know how good our coaches really are?  Watch this Saturday's game vs. Minnesota.  I don't think getting blindsided in the middle of the biggest game for us in 6 years is indicative of our coaches ability.  That's a tough task no matter who we had as a backup.  But this weekend?  Now we're going to find out what they/we're made of, if Denard can't go.

In the meantime:  Go team from East Lansing.


October 29th, 2012 at 1:41 PM ^

Looking at UM's 2012 schedule, I did not see 11-1 or 10-2.

I thought 9-3 or 8-4 would have been both reasonable and a pretty "good deal" for Michigan after the butt-hair win vs. ND and bad losses to Iowa in trash tornado a year earlier.

Nebraska was a vulnerable team and Michigan had a chance to win that game.  

Right now 8-4 seems likely (assuming loss to Ohio on the road). That's disappointing during a weak Big Ten season, but it is what it is.

Frankly, Michigan hitting 9-3 on average is pretty much what I expect from Hoke & Co. over the longer term in the Big Ten.  Or pretty much the same result we all witnessed from Carr & Co.



October 29th, 2012 at 2:00 PM ^

Who does better than 9-3 on average, over an extended time? Only four teams managed to win more than 100 games in the '00s, including bowl games: Boise, Texas, Oklahoma and OSU. In the '90s it was Marshall, Florida, Nebraska and Florida State. In the '80s it was just Nebraska and BYU.

9-3 on average makes you an elite program. 10-2 on average would make you the best in the country.


October 31st, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

The standard of the 90's is a reasonable expectation. A handful of Big Ten Championships, 3-1 in BCS games, 2-1 in Rose Bowls, 75% winning percentage overall, two Heisman Trophy winners, a winning record against all of our rivals, and one dream season in which everything fell into place. If Hoke can duplicate that (and I'm confident that he can), I'll be happy. We're not going to contend for the national championship every single season like some of these SEC programs.


October 29th, 2012 at 1:44 PM ^

Why was Russ running the zone read?  Who is afraid of Russ running?

Where is Rawls?  Our line has issues holding blocks, my guess is Rawls running style fits better with this line.

Why on 3rd and 7 on Neb 15 do we run a speed option with Russ?  I know I am not an OC for a big time school, but does one not need speed to run this play?


The jury is still out on Russ imo, I cannot judge him on his inability to run the spread, he can't run it.

Naked Bootlegger

October 29th, 2012 at 1:52 PM ^

I can't believe the Debbie Downer Syndrome today.   Almost every comment has completely ignored the fact that Brian included a completely non-fabricated picture of a WALK-ON NORTHWESTERN DT WEARING #1 WIELDING A BLUE PLASTIC RETRACTABLE LIGHT SABER TO CELEBRATE A VICTORY OVER IOWA.   This picture should replace adorable kitten pictures from this point forward to lift our collective spirits.   Because it's adorable and all that. 



October 29th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

Flashback to 1984 and life after Steve Smith:

Harbaugh goes down against MSU with a broken arm when he dives to recover a fumble.  Enter Reiner and Zurbrugg.  Ugh.  Two guys with no experience and I'm sure everyone remembers their names.  Season goes down in flames. Bo's worst at 6-6.

So, bad things can happen when you are thin at QB and we are thin at QB for several reasons.

The other challenges have been pointed out:

1)  You run the plays you practice and that plan was built around a guy with a unique skill set.  Also, RS freshman aren't exactly well versed in the back half of the playbook to begin with.

2)  Devin hasn't practiced at QB and probably still has a shoulder problem from the ND game.  Not the most viable option, either.

As for TOP, Michigan may have won the battle, but it was lopsided.  Michigan had the ball for about 20 mins. in the first half and 10 mins. in the second half.  As the fourth quarter wore on and the defense stayed on the field, I was not surprised to see Nebraska starting to run the ball and score points.  They guys had to be tired.  Shades of the 2008 season when the defense kept the team in a lot of games during the first half, but was worn out during the second half.

As for next year's offense, it will be very different and built around a different set of QB skills.  Let's hope the QBs have enough skills to make it work.



October 29th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

As one of the board's stronger RR critics, I don't think it's proper to drop any blame on Rich for Saturday.  In fact, it's kinda crazy.  We play with the team we've got, right?  Hoke is the head coach and he's responsible for what happened.  I still love Hoke, but his decision to put Devin at WR is a terrible one (despite the way this board has joyfully drooled over it).

Devin should be and should have been the backup.  I say that now and said it way back then (which might not have been heard above all the "Devin's number might change" threads).  The board has been giddy over Bellomy at QB and Devin at WR, but I'd argue that the board couldn't have been more wrong.  Have we ever seen Bellomy throw a pass that could break through a single sheet of paper?  Nope.  He also looks lost (normal for a youngin'), but the "Devin is no good" nonsense doesn't take into account the fact that he can throw a football and operate with some confidence.  We need that.  Time for WR's to step up and Bellomy to take a clipboard.


October 29th, 2012 at 2:02 PM ^

It isn't like Gardner guarantees victory, just a likely better result.

Saturday's loss is 100% Denard getting hurt.  That is shitty luck and frustrating to have it happen in what could turn out to be such an important game, but it did.

On other hand, I think there are actual legit long term concerns about how the offense is being run and how teams are being allowed to defend us (the two safety thing Brian talked about which happens because we don't attack the perimeter).  The two issues shouldn't get conflated, but there are actual valid reasons to be concerned that hopefully get fixed in over the next few weeks because that will likely be the difference between going to the Rose Bowl or watching Urban Meyer begin another streak of OSU dominance in the rivalry.


October 29th, 2012 at 2:18 PM ^

Yeah, if Denard didn't get hurt we would've won.  Totally agree.  I just think that when you've got a mobile QB, you know the injury risk is high and you need a confident (purposeful word choice) QB.  Hoke took a gamble by moving Devin to WR and we lost the game as a result.  Devin might not be great (yet), but no way does Neb press him the way they did Bellomy.  We certainly have issues on offense, and the coaches are going to need to figure it out quickly.  


October 29th, 2012 at 2:21 PM ^

I'm right there with you on the Devin > Bellomy thing.  And we've seen him make a positive contribution in games in the past (Illinois last year he led an important TD drive after Denard went out).  I'm really curious what was seen to make the staff so confident that Bellomy would be an adequate option, especially after the Devin Gardner lovefest we saw last year (when he came into just about every game even when Denard was healthy).


October 29th, 2012 at 2:33 PM ^

Gardner's move to WR was a gamble necessitated by Stonum's inability to stay out of trouble. Until now, it looked like it was paying off mildly, but the chickens came home to roost on Saturday. I agree with you that it's kind of a stretch to blame Rodriguez' WR recruiting for the lack of playmakers, since he recruited a bunch of slot ninjas who were ideal fits for his offense (and Stonum was a Carr recruit, so any character issues with him that could have been identified during recruiting are not on RR).

However, I don't think Hoke can be blamed for Gardner's WR switch. I know it's cliche, but I can see how Hoke might have thought it was a good idea at the time. After Hemingway's departure and Stonum's meltdown, we needed someone who had the size and speed to step into the deep threat role. Bellomy seemed to be doing well at practice (at least judging by his spring game performances), and I don't know if the coaches had any way of knowing that he would struggle so mightily in a real game. So I'm not sure hindsight gives us much to be critical of in this case. 

Watching Lloyd's teams was maddening at times because of his misplaced conservatism and risk aversion. Hoke was a breath of fresh air because he seems willing to take calculated risks that Carr would never have taken. But the thing about gambling is that sometimes, you lose. It sucks when it happens, but it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't have gambled. 


October 29th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

Letting Gardner play at wide receiver is one thing.  Getting so few reps at QB that you're never going to be comfortable putting him in a game in exchange for 2 catches a contest (what he's contributing, which isn't much less than Hemngway did last year as our leading receiver since we run so much) is a slightly different story.

After Roh made that sack to push NU out of field goal range we were down 7 with plenty of time left.  Bellomy had quarterbacked 6 drives that by my rough count had netted ONE yard of total offense.  At that point the staff either decided, Bellomy is about to turn this around, Gardner is so unprepared that we wouldn't even be able to move the ball a yard, or they know something we don't and Gardner is hurt as some have speculated.

Bellomy stayed in the game and immediately threw a wobbly interception that pretty much ended things.


October 29th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

The problem with that is that QB and WR (or any skill position, for that matter) aren't really positions that you can moonlight at. If Gardner had split his time equally between the two, he wouldn't have been able to play either effectively. I suspect that of the three possibilities you mentioned, the second is the most likely. The staff went all in with Gardner at WR to the extent that he could no longer play QB effectively, and it blew up in their faces in this game.  

The good news is that I think the staff will most likely move Gardner back to QB during the offseason, and he'll probably be the presumptive favorite to win the starting job. Our receiving corps, on the other hand, is a different matter. Fingers crossed for Devin Funchess to continue emerging as an elite talent and for LaQuon Treadwell to make the right decision and be able to contribute immediately. 

coastal blue

October 29th, 2012 at 4:18 PM ^

Here's what people are losing sight of: What is effective?

Bellomy is a full time quarterback. Was his play Saturday effective? No.

So the question is, could Devin Gardner have contributed at a higher level than Bellomy? I think there is a high probability that he could have and very little chance he would have done worse. 

Its not like Gardner is a HS QB who was recruited to play WR. He was recruited here to be a QB. He's been taking snaps for 2.5 years now. I highly doubt he would have been worse than Bellomy. 

Maybe we waste a timeout or take a couple delay of games...but whatever would have happened with Gardner playing QB would have been better than what we saw from Bellomy. 

My big curiosity: What if Bellomy had gotten hurt? 


October 29th, 2012 at 5:26 PM ^

is that there's an enormous information gap between the coaching staff, which has access to trainers' reports and the players themselves and sees every rep taken in every practice, and the fans, who get to see 100 or so plays once a week in the fall. When something doesn't seem to make sense there's a choice between (1) assuming that the coaches aren't sane or (2) taking a guess that the answer might lie somewhere in that inaccessible information.

Maybe Gardner's shoulder injury makes it impossible for him to play QB? Maybe his performance in the practice reps he gets has been so poor that the coaches assess the probabilities here differently from you?

The injury seems a likely explanation to me but of course I don't actually know. It's the leap from "I don't know what's going on" to "the coaches must be idiots" that's insupportable.