Crimes Against Manpanda Comment Count

Brian November 7th, 2011 at 11:24 AM

11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten


Melanie Maxwell/

When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.

You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.

Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.

This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.

Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.


In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.

The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.

I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.

This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:

The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.

I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:


Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.

Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.

There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.

We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.

*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:

ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]


Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.

On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.

Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:

  • Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
  • Losing Rich Rodriguez.
  • Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.

I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]

On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:

In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.

I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.

I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.

The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:

  • Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
  • 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
  • Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.

Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.

I guess no turnovers is a bummer.

The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.

Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.

Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.

If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.

Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.

Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.


Des Moines Register

Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.

Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.

That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez

Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.

Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.

Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:

What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…

Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes.  TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.

I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.

The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.


Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:

I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …

The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.

You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.

But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…

And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.

Bull. I mean:


Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.

So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.

I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.

McNutt. Pimp.


Des Moines Register

Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.

BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.

I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.


I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:

What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”

Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.

Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:

Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)

Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.

I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:

So that happened.  I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome.  I could feel the disappointment coming all week.  Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house.  Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already.  There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that.  No surprise: it did.

Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.

And the Denard slide started a long time ago.


Media. Photo gallery from I enjoyed Kevin Koger's Bruce Lee impression:


Melanie Maxwell/

Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:

My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm.  He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three.   He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated.   Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.

Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels.  Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge.  I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst. 

The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:

i usually don't like complaining about the officiating, it's a part of the game, it is what it is

but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.

the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.

When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.

Doctor Saturday:

There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.

Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.

Various bullets from Maize 'n' Blue Nation, Touch The Banner, and the MZone. Holdin' The Rope has flashbacks:

It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.



November 7th, 2011 at 3:23 PM ^

Play calling and referees where the main ones. Which is my point. And people discissing the 12 seconds left that we had are missing another point IMO: the point is to score, not to be able to have 4 plays in those 12 seconds. What plays give the best chance to score? All things being equal- A Denard run or run/pass option.


November 7th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

A week ago they were 5-3 and not considered a very good football team.  I don't think they are a good football team at all, but check it out: Hawks are now 6-3, bowl eligible and in second place of the Legends division with home game vs. leader MSU and final game at Nebraska.

Of course, in the same universe where Ferentz goes for it on 4th and long in opponent territory, Iowa finds a way to blow their championship dreams to smithereens against lowly Purdue in West Lafayette.





November 7th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

Of course, in the same universe where Ferentz goes for it on 4th and long in opponent territory, Iowa finds a way to blow their championship dreams to smithereens against lowly Purdue in West Lafayette.

You say this as if it isn't exactly what is going to happen. Make no mistake, Iowa is a throughly mediocre team and they probably will lose to Purdue in WL.


November 7th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

Brian's sarcasm, teen-humor, and endless ridicule (MANBALL!!  FOOBAW!!  TOUGHNESS) make this site increasingly easy to avoid, decreasingly informative or enjoyable.  I'll say this: I for one am quite happy neither Hoke, nor Borges, nor Mattison read this website.  It astounds me when folks on here presume to tell seasoned coaches what they "should be" doing.

Bando Calrissian

November 7th, 2011 at 11:58 AM ^

I hammered the LiveBlog with continued exasperation about what we were doing on 2nd downs for the entire game.  You can't keep making yourself have to convert 3rd downs by essentially settling for middling yardage with I-forms and vanilla playcalls on 2nd on every set of downs.  That leaves things with such a ridiculously small margin of error that there's no way to create sustained drives.  

Maybe it's just me, but the total disjointed feel of this offense is driving me crazy.  There's no consistency, no real sense that any given drive could eat up a bunch of clock while marching down the field for a score.  (I know, I know, TOP is a pointless stat.)  And it has everything to do with what how we're setting ourselves up on 2nd downs.


November 7th, 2011 at 11:59 AM ^

Bryan, Borges isn't doing what needs to be done. That is use the talents that Denard has and quit treating him like he is Chad Freakin Henne, or John Mother Fing Navarre.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:04 PM ^

is over.  I feel the same creeping sensation now when we run PA on 2nd down that I had in the early 2000s about DeBord calling a screen pass on every 3rd and long - and given all the press coverage of what Hoke said he would do with Denard, I find myself wishing that someone other than Denard was throwing the ball all the time.  Every time he heaves the ball downfield my thought is "oh shit it's going to be picked off."  You know it's bad when you're relieved to see an incompletion.  


November 7th, 2011 at 12:05 PM ^

For me it is almost getting painful to watch this Michigan offense. I was very excited to see what this offese was going to do with a junoir Denard and a lot of the pieces in place maybe besides Running Back run RichRods Spread offense. Knowing we can't go back in the past I just do not know why the Coaching staff doesn't work with what they have around them. When they finaly went to a No-Huddle look they started driving the ball and having no trouble with the Iowa defense. I understand that Hoke and Borges would like to get to a MANBALL offense, but why not try and use the pieces you have around to win now?

I also hate when they bring DG in the game. Not that I hate DG, but 2-Qb system seldom works and I am a big believer that takes rythm away from the offense. If you want to roll with DG (It wouldn't be my first choice) then roll with him and pt denard at running back or slot, but if you want to roll with Denard which I assume they want. THEN ROLL WITH DENARD!






November 7th, 2011 at 12:11 PM ^

Its pretty amazing, the dramatic shift between the offense and defense.  Last year, the offense carried all the weight (not enough, some people argue).  This year, its the defense that is keeping Michigan in games, or at least the games against opponents that have good defenses.  And you're right - the aspects of the offense that seem to really work are the formations and playcalls that focus on the spread attack.  Why not feature them prominently?


November 7th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

it's worse than this. When you only halfway up you're neither up nor down. Denard is completely frozen by the need to stand in the pocket. 

Whoever noted they were ready to go back to nine-win seasons the other day: you can never go home again. The B1G is going to be a lot harder to get to nine wins in, especially in a landscape full of mobile QBs. 

The new guys are full of integrity, the D is on its way to awesome, and Borges is no idiot. But a betwixt and between Denard is no Denard at all. I'm sad. 

P.S. I don't want to live in a world where Spielman is right. 

Other Andrew

November 7th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

I keep thinking about the 2007 team whose offense did just enough to get through the Big Ten season alive before unveiling a spread out attack for the bowl game against Florida. Obviously the various injuries may have made that impossible earlier in the year, but at some point during between the OSU game and the bowl, the coaches realized it would work. Will Borges take a look at this game and realize anything? Will Hoke? How much more do we have to see?

Maybe my comparision is not perfectly direct, but the concept is still a worthwhile one.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

Someone, if you will, clearly explain how bubble screens, hitches, slants, i.e., passes 10 yards or shorter, will "back the safeties off the LOS."  People call for a short passing game.  How does that incline the opposing DC to back his safeties off the LOS?  If it would NOT back the safeties off the LOS, what, besides 4-5 yard gains, would be the advantage?  (I'm increasingly suspicious of the "get in a rhythm" claim, which often sounds like superstition.  Can someone quantify "getting in a rhythm" to prove the validity of the claim?)


November 7th, 2011 at 12:35 PM ^

well if you have trips and the bubble is an option the defense has to bring at least 3 defenders to that side of the field and safeties are probably going to be a part of that equation...


November 7th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

The blame falls to the coaching staff for one way or another not putting Denard in a position to succeed. He is an undersized but athletic QB. Having him run fivestep drops in the pocket and not expecting to see a handful of balls batted down or tipped is ridiculous. That's not his game. Denard is Denard when we get him outside the pocket and force the defense to think. Keeping him inside the tackles you transform him from a dual threat that tortures defenses to a mediocre (at best) quarterback who has poor accuracy down the field. It's not Denard's fault he is undersized for pocket passing. It's the coachign staff's fault for forcing the issue.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:11 PM ^

This is someting that I cannot not understand why try and make Denard something he is not? I just never understood this with coaches in general. It happened with Mike Vick also when Jim Mora Jr. I believe wanted to turn him into a pocket quarterback. If they want a pocket quarterback they might as well roll with DG.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:14 PM ^

Except he has better accuracy inside the pocket than outside. Getting him out of the pocket shrinks the field and forces him to be more accurate, which is not his strong point right now. Roll outs are not the answer, spread the field is. But Denard needs to start hitting receivers and not overthrowing them.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 7th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

Denard's gimmicky skill set has been discerned and exposed by people whose job description is to do that very thing. 

He would have been teh awesome in around 2005, when the spread hadn't become a vanilla, baseish offense that coaches down to NAIA have ready familiarity with and the zone read was still a vogueish play. 

Pace Brian's reading, Denard wasn't redefining a new genre; he was the last gasp of the ancien regime.

In 2011, you can't hide a QB who can't throw well.   Making it worse is the inexplicable fact that Denard poses no threat whatever to run out of a pass play.   For Denard, like almost no other QB I can remember, if it's a pass play, he's passing; if it's a run play, he's running.

Making it doubly worse is that it appears that his dilithium tank is leaking -- he doesn't have the burst he did in the first half of last year.  The reason could be the pounding he's taken and could be something else.  What it manifestly isn't is some kind of order not to run from Don Borges, or generalized "discomfort" with the offense.  Denard is choosing the sophisticated option of trying to make a successful pass over the cruder option of scrambling.  He's perfectly comfortable standing in and trying to make a pass (if he weren't, he'd bail all the time).  He just isn't very good at it.


los barcos

November 7th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

"Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it."

Jesus, this is as reactionary as the MGoBoard – one loss and now we’ve collapsed again?  Tell me, what is a guaranteed loss remaining on our schedule?  A ron zook Illinois team who lost to purdue?  A Nebraska team who just lost to northwestern at home?    Or an osu team who eeked out the perennial powerhouse that is Indiana, also at home, who will bring a freshmen quarterback to the big house? 

before iowa lost to Minnesota I thought this was going to be the hardest of our remaining four games because of kinnick stadium and the fact that very few big ten teams have played well on the road. Iowa losing to Minnesota made this game that much tougher because iowa was playing for their big10 lives – we were going to get their best kamikaze impression, as we saw when ferentz went all river boat gambler on us. 

There were a lot of factors working against us on Saturday – some of which were external and some of which were internal (the offense) – but to say we’re on a sinking boat like the last two years after one game is so fickle I would expect it from randommgoblog user who types in CAPS and argues for DEVIN GARDNERRER!)@!)###! 

I still think there are at least two wins left on the schedule and 9-3 to me does not equal “second half collapse”.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:26 PM ^

Except that offense was stopped in hostile environments against tough teams as well.  Teams have bad games, it happens.  Had Fitz not been knocked out or had we gotten one of the three missed PI calls at critical times (ending in fumble, pick, and game over), the offense probably puts up another 10 points.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

When you looked ahead, did you really think the game against Iowa on the road was going to be more difficult than playing Illinois on the road?  If so, I have to disagree entirely with that assessment (respectfully).  Illinois is clearly a stronger team.  Most importantly, they have a stronger defense and Michigan has thus far struggled to move the ball against strong defenses.  I just don't see them winning this game, no matter how badly I want to be wrong.

los barcos

November 7th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

I never was on the illini bandwagon.  They’ve beaten Arizona state at home and…that’s about it.  I watched them scrape by western, and if I remember correctly, had to have some furious rally to stave off northwestern.  (and of course, lost to purdue).  Their offense looked worse than ours against psu and osu, and memorial stadium to me isn’t as intimidating as kinnick.  Then there is always the ron zook factor.  So yes, I thought we had a better chance against Illinois then against iowa.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

The point that RandomMGoBlog User and Brian are trying to make is that the offense hasn't proven it can consistently perform against a decent-to-good defense, and 3 of the top 5 defenses Michigan plays are the last 3 games. IIRC Illinois is the worst defense on the schedule but it's on the road (where both of Michigan's losses have come), while Nebraska and OSU are at home but with much better defenses.

Does Michigan have 2 more wins on that schedule? IME they have to prove they can do more than what they've shown against MSU, Iowa, and Notre Dame. Right now, 8-4 seems to be a safer pick (PLEASE let it come against Ohio State).

los barcos

November 7th, 2011 at 12:37 PM ^

But we haven’t collapsed yet.  That’s the point I was making.  We have one very winnable game IME at Illinois, and two games at home against flawed opponents.  to say that the “avoiding a second half collapse” meme is “isn't looking so hot” after one game that came down to the final 2 seconds on the road in a hostile environment is completely jumping the gun and totally reactionary.  

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 7th, 2011 at 1:23 PM ^

Not only didn't the offense consistenly perform against good defenses last year, but Forcier helped put up yards, and he's gone.

Iowa 2010:  17-26, 239 yards

Illinois 2010:  12-19, 114 yards.

The guy who put up the big second-half numbers against Iowa (that in part made the 2010 offense look better than it really was) was Tate Forcier.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:23 PM ^

If we win another game, this will never have actually been said.*^

(*"usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway")

(^Even though I've been wanting to write this for 10 months.)

 The longer it goes on, the more apparent it's been that nothing has changed, just that the "innovators" have flipped flopped again with the "traditionalists", giving each other the same arguments, just on opposite sides of the coin now. Yawn.

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 12:29 PM ^

I think Brian's reaction is just a sarcastic reaction to everyone claiming that things were "different" because of idiotic reasons like the coaching staff instilling "toughness" in our team because we won our first game after MSU this year...when in reality it was just because the team we played after MSU this year was worse than the ones we played the last two years. 


November 7th, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

That's the way I read it. He was sarcastically commenting on the meme from last week where many people acted like beating Purdue was proof that we weren't going to collapse post MSU.

So far, we have two data points and they correspond exactly with what happened the previous two years. It doesn't guarantee that history will repeat itself, but all too soon proclimations while this clearly flawed team struggles on offense is silly.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^

Except we should be undefeated with the performance of the defense. It is unacceptable for this offensive personnel to regress like it has. You returned most of everything, we are pretty healthy, and we can't put up 20 on a shitty Iowa defense who hasn't stopped anything. This isn't about the Iowa game. This is about taking a Heisman contender who should be greatly improved this year and making him Taylor Martinez. This is about taking the most explosive offense we have ever had and turning it into a Tressel coached OSU with Terrell Pryor. That is exactly what it is. You have taken a team of players with distinguishable skills and made the bulk of their offense things they aren't good at. There is a laundry list of players who were so good last year and now aren't factors. The whole Oline should be dominating. Through scheme we have taken that away. Denard is obvious. We are trying to turn roundtree into Jason Avant when that's not what he is. We are plowing Vincent Smith and Fitz into an unblocked front from the I. None of that works with the guys we have. 

MSU is a great defense so I will even give on that performance but there is absolutely no reason we should have hung 30 points on Iowa. None.

I defended RichRod forever because he switched right to his system. The difference is he didn't have Denard Robinson. He didn't have a great line and an all conference receiver. He was doomed offensively no matter what. Hoke and Borges were not. This should be the best offense in the Big Ten. Denard should be a Heisman contender if not a favorite and we should be undefeated while clobbering people. I still think we will win 9 games but in this conference, this year, with the massive defensive improvement,  it should be 12 or 13. 




coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

Denard Robinson is terrible and defenses have him completely figured out.

Do you want to know how I know this? Because as a first year starter, his numbers...get this....WERENT AS GOOD AGAINST THE BETTER TEAMS!!!

So now I will jump to this conclusion!

Because his stats this year are similar to his stats against the best teams on the schedule last year....LAST YEAR, OVER THE SECOND HALF, WAS AS GOOD AS HE COULD POSSIBLY BE NOW AND FOREVER!

And also, I am going to be sure to get in my shot at RichRod and defend the new regime at all costs by saying that since this insane comparison shows that the numbers are the same, its NOT at all because of the coaching change, but because every team has figured out exactly how to stop Denard Robinson. Yes, that is right, even if RR were still coaching the offense, or Borges had adapted his offense to Denard, Denard's numbers would still be EXACTLY the same because he could not possibly improve with more practice and repitition.  He is so limited that even EMU, SDSU, WMU and the like would figure him out in RR's offense this year! It has NOTHING to do with a young quarterback coming up against better players last year or a coaching change this year. NOTHING AT ALL.

Then, even though my comparison is absolutely terrible, people will agree with me for no reason at all. 


November 7th, 2011 at 12:12 PM ^

I think I loathe the "Deuce" package more than anything in the world right now. It's obviously not working, and you have to run it quite a bit in games for it to be used effectively and deceptively. But it sucks and just takes the offense out of any semblance of rhythm IMO.

Going for two early is almost a lose-lose IMO. If you go for it and miss it, you'd got to conjure up two more scoring drives in a limited amount of time. If you go for it and get it, great. But if you just kick the extra point, keep it an 8 point game, you're still only down one possession and only have to come up with one defensive stop. You score a TD late, but the 2 pt conversion all of the sudden becomes the end-all-be-all. I can't complain about a coach's decision either way.

As for Borges-Denard - I think we need to be going shotgun spread more often. But at the same time, if Denard can't hit the broad side of the barn and simply refuses to implement basic fundamentals consistently, it doesn't matter what formation we're in. He locks on the deep route on almost every pass play it seems. He refuses check down throws and for some reason, is incapable of scrambling on a pass play. He seems to only run on plays where he's told to run. It ruins the fun of having a dual threat QB.


November 7th, 2011 at 1:22 PM ^

you probably won't make it, but if you go for 2 on the second score, you probably will make it.

I am with Brian on this one.  Before they even scored, I was saying that you have to go for 2.  As Brian pointed out, if you make it great.  The hard part is over.  If you don't make it, you have more time left to do something about it.


November 7th, 2011 at 3:26 PM ^

That's true, but it is dependent on how much time is left when you score your initial TD. There was a little less than 8 minutes left in the game. If we miss the 2 point conversion, you need two more scores, but there's no guarantee you get the ball back twice. Especially with an offense like Iowa's that was doing a great job running the ball. Stopping them twice in the last 8 minutes and getting in position to get another TD and FG is a huge task. It's all about risk/reward for me. The reward isn't quite big enough for the risk IMO. I'm sure the Mathlete will have some sort of statistical analysis to disprove but it's JMHO.

True Blue in CO

November 7th, 2011 at 12:12 PM ^

start running the numbers based on the year, seeing what has worked, and go with it regardless of what we would ideally like to do. I was disappointed with our energy for this game and think the coaches need to get these kids reenergized. No more time for putzing around with the offense. Let it loose and let Denard do what he does well. More time to change and adapt in the Spring.


November 7th, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

It didn't take long for me to realize that it was going to be a long day.  We looked uninspired on the first defensive series and equally so on the first offensive series.  They didn't look like a team out to prove that they wouldn't fold in the second half of the season.  They let an easy one get away.


November 7th, 2011 at 12:13 PM ^

Last year Denard did not "torture defenses" in the passing game.  He never scrambled.  Last year, like this year, he did not "feel pressure" and subsequently bolt.  Has anyone ever seen Denard throw away a pass?  I don't think I have.  He still too often forces things, instead of scrambling or throwing away a pass.  Many keep referring to last year as some major improvement, from which UM has regressed.  The only difference is that Denard, iin the running game, had more burst, decisiveness, and better vision.  How does one pin the regression in burst, vision, and decisiveness on the coaches?