Crimes Against Manpanda

Submitted by Brian on November 7th, 2011 at 11:24 AM

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

devin-gardner-fumble-iowa

Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

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:

denard-robinson-is-a-sad-panda

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.]

Bullets

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.

dr09[1]

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.

ap08[1]

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:

Roundtreelastplayiowa[1]

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.

dr19[1]

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.

Here

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.

Elsewhere

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

kevin-koger-ninja

Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

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.

Comments

Mitch Cumstein

November 7th, 2011 at 12:14 PM ^

"Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke."

 

I'm not sure losing two games to MSU and Iowa is full on proof of a 2nd half collapse.  And besides that, it almost reads like you're rooting for it.

AAB

November 7th, 2011 at 12:19 PM ^

he's not rooting for it, he's just annoyed by the difference in media coverage between the two coaches.  Time to let it go?  Probably, but I'm stil lthere with him.  Pettiness can be cathartic.  

Mitch Cumstein

November 7th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

This is what I don't get, hes upset with the difference in media coverage of the two coaches so he wants Hoke to be treated worse to make it "fair"?  If anything I would think he'd be happy that our new coach isn't facing the same blatant negative bias from the media that our last coach did.  That would make sense to me, not wanting to destroy any positivity surrounding the new staff, even if it might be an overplayed meme.

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 12:33 PM ^

but its just a reaction to the fact that people/media were hailing a victory over Purdue as proof of our newfound "toughness", acting as if that is somehow part of what won the game....so now that we have lost to Iowa,  are we not tough anymore? Did Hoke, Mattison and Borges lapse in their toughness drills this week? Did Hoke not hold his weekly mandatory toughness meeting? Clearly, we were tough last week, but now not so tough...I don't understand, because RR teams were not tough and that is why they lost, but now Hoke's team is tough and our results are the same :(.

AAB

November 7th, 2011 at 12:44 PM ^

the stupidest thing people say about Michigan is that there's something to "get" about it.  That it's unique and different from any other great college football program in the country, and that things have to be done a certain way at Michigan to live up to its traditions.  It's not just stupid because it's wrong (though it is very wrong and very stupid for that reason).  It's stupid because, of all the stupid things people say about Michigan football, it's the one that does the most damage to the program.  One of the reasons Rodriguez wasn't well-received when he arrived in Ann Arbor is that he didn't have the look, sound, or background of what idiots think a "Michigan Man" (which isn't a thing) has to have.  

The problem with the coverage of Brady Hoke is that it attempts to attribute his successes (which have been real so far) to idiotic, Michigan Man bullshit, rather than "hired an awesome defensive coordinator" and "seems to be a really great recruiter."  The coverage of Brady Hoke is perpetuating the worst, more corrosive, most destructive thing about Michigan football. 

That's a problem.  

BlueVoix

November 7th, 2011 at 12:19 PM ^

Let's take a look back at the 2010 Iowa post-game post.

 

To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up. Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011. Crap, I guess that's job talk.

Somehow, that game was acceptable, but an 8 point loss away in a notoriously difficult stadium with some serious ref issues gets us the mgoblog equivalent of Crime and Punishment. Seems a bit of an overreaction, no? Caveats apply, we no can lose to OSU or Illinois, offense has problems, etc, but man, this was just a bad game with a lot of mistakes.

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

Because this was supposed to be the prove it year. Last year, I felt like we were building to something. 

This year, with the state of the Big Ten, with 20 starters back, with Mattison, we should be taking charge of that something. 

Instead, because our coaches insist on messing with the best part of last year's team to the detriment of our results, we are in exactly the same spot as last year. 

I refuse to believe that Borges will not turn things around. We will win our last 3 games and go to a BCS bowl. But as of this moment, our offense is the reason we are not 9-0. 

dcmaizeandblue

November 7th, 2011 at 12:52 PM ^

It would have been a prove it year for Rodriguez.  I can't remember one preview that said Hoke had to have a prove it year in his first year here.  Did you really expect completely different coaches to come in and run the same offense?

Enough. The whole team is why we are in this position.  The defense has missed plays just like the offense.  The special teams still need work.  Overall I'm still over the moon about the improvement in this team and the defense in particular.

msoccer10

November 7th, 2011 at 1:04 PM ^

I think the defense has improved tremendously. The offense clearly has regressed. Special teams have traded crappy field goal kicking for crappy kick coverage. Call it a push.

If we end 7-5 or 8-4, will you still be over the moon? I think the sad part is that we, meaining Michigan, fucked up our program so badly over the last 6 years that we ruined our seniors entire careers. That was accomplished by everyone involved with the program.

This year would have been better, imhe, without a coaching change. But our future looks very bright. If we keep recruiting at our current level, we are going to be challenging for Big Ten titles within 4 years. But I think we haven't improved any more than should be expected when  you have 20 returning starters. In fact, we probably are worse overall when you think about what we had returning. Of course, this is just my opinion.

dcmaizeandblue

November 7th, 2011 at 1:17 PM ^

Where did you see this defense improving to this degree without a coaching change?  There wasn't one person that optimisitc.

If we beat OSU I will absolutley be over the moon no matter what else happens.  I told myself at the beginning of this year that if the defense was able to hold people under 30 points consistently I would take the rest in stride.  Much the same I wanted to see the offense score over 35 in 2009 to be happy.

Our last coaching staff was about offense but the defense was deplorable.  This coaching staff is about defense and I'm not ready to put our offense in the deplorable category.

msoccer10

November 7th, 2011 at 3:07 PM ^

This defensive is obviously WAY better than anything Rodriguez ever put together. But I think  even with Gerg we would be have kept teams under 30 consistently just by being a year older and returning 10 starters. I was in the minority but I did think this even before the season. And just to be clear, I think Mattison is doing a better job than Gerg was capable of.

I totally agree that if we beat OSU, this is very successful year. I also feel Hoke has this program pointed in the right direction for the long term.

But I said to my wife right after the game that I thought Iowa was the first game we would have won under Rodriguez that we lost under Hoke. And until we beat OSU or win 2 more games, I don't think we can say for sure that this team is much better than it was last year or that Hoke is doing a better job than Rodrigues would have done. (I mean for this  year only)

I keep going back to it. We returned 20 starters and are playing against a bunch of teams that lost more than we did. We should be a lot better. The scores look better a little better but the end result is the same. It makes me feel like the benefit of getting a better defense is offset equally with the costs of a transition leading us to a team that is no better than and probably worse than what we would have had if Rodriguez had stayed.

OysterMonkey

November 7th, 2011 at 1:41 PM ^

Even if it doesn't feel like it after Saturday.

Last year UM mostly beat bad teams close and got blown out by the better part of the schedule. This year UM has 6 more or less comfortable wins, one golden poop, one loss that was in play until a 4th qtr pick 6 pushed the lead to 14, and one loss where the team was knocking on the door for a potential tie as time expired.

Yes, the offense is not as good. But the defense is very much better than it would have been under the last regime. I doubt UM beats ND with last year's coaching staff, and probably not NW either.

Drew Sharp

November 7th, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

We have been competitive in every game.  We have never lost control of any game.  need I remind you of last years games against PSU, MSU, and OSU?  Those teams pulled away when they figured out they were better.  Even if we do lose two, or even all thre games, we need to see how we perform in those games, and how competitive we are before declaring that we suffered a "second half collapse".  A collapse, to me, requires being completely outclassed, dominated, and crushed on the scoreboard.  Until we get hammered, I remain fully confident about our ability to beat anybody on our schedule.  

msoccer10

November 7th, 2011 at 3:24 PM ^

I'm just saying we don't know if a collapse is coming just because we seem better than last year. I am not confident we will be able to beat anybody remaining on our schedule.

Preseason, I figured 9-3 or 8-4 with a loss to Nebraska the only certainty. I think that is still the most likely scenario. What has me bummed out is our defense is playing so well and the Big Ten looks so weak that if Denard and the offense hadn't regressed so badly, we would be looking good for the Legends title. But the offense regressed as badly as I thought it would and losing out and ending up with the same damn record as we had last year is a distinct possibility.

lager86

November 7th, 2011 at 3:48 PM ^

Not sure if Brian is trying to be sarcastic or what, but the info about Denard's "collapse" is accurate.  the fact is, the "great" RichRod offense, proved to blow against every decent defense in the Big 10.  Spin this stuff however you want, but after offensive explosions against turd defenses like IU, UMass, etc, we got eaten alive by MSU, Penn State, Iowa and tOSU.  That's a fact.  Late rallies and Forcier magic after games were out of hand just added meaningless stats.  Denard doesn't scramble, so i don't understand why there are 100's of posts about how Borges ruined him.  Denard isn't accurate when his feet aren't set.  Thus rolling him out where the field is cut in half isn't a great option.  He is what he is.  A fast runner with a decent arm who creates mismatches because defenses worry about his running.  In fact, he actullay looked pretty damn good in the pocket on that last drive.  One bad throw.

if folks can't see a dramatic improvement on defense, they are blind.  last year we gave up about 40 points a game to freakin IU, UMass and a PSU team led by Pat McGroin.  We absolutely sucked on the defensive side of the ball every year under RR.  it was embarrassing.

wolverine1987

November 7th, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

On almost every factual level. And literally EVERYONE on this board is talking about how much the defense has improved. Your post just goes to show that there is always another view out there, not matter what the facts say. And yours is wrong.

The offense was very good last year--that is the fact. By any measure. The good offense was destroyed by a horrific defense the likes of whom few have ever seen, and by turnovers. With an average defense we would have been 9-3 and RR would still be here. I'm glad that Hoke is our coach, but your meme is the typical talk radio caller meme. And it's wrong.

BlueVoix

November 7th, 2011 at 1:02 PM ^

Right, because the coaches want to make the offense worse.  And no, we're not in the same position as last year.  Notice any shootouts?  Notice any blowouts?  The very definition of "getting down early in the game" has changed.

This team is under construction.  There will be growing pains.  But the outlook is a lot more positive nine games into 2011 than nine games into 2010.

M-Wolverine

November 7th, 2011 at 1:14 PM ^

"losing the same games as last year" is that last year the wins were close, and the losses were drubbings. Now the wins, other than Notre Dame, aren't that close, and the losses are closer.  It's not ideal, and it's not where Michigan Football needs to be.  But it's more where it needs to be going.   Everyone wants to say if we had last year's offense, because we'd be scoring 30-whatever points is forgetting that with that defense we'd have been giving up 40-whatever points.  But a number of people want to live in a magical world where the offense improves on last year, and the defense still makes the same remarkable improvements they've made this year.  And how 3 straight years of defensive decline and 2 failed coordinators convince anyone that was going to happen mystifies me.

If our offense is ranked 100-something in year three, and looks worse than it does this year (when, it's really not ranked that badly), I bet we'll be making another coaching change.  I'll wait to call the experiment/season/career over till we get there.

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 2:42 PM ^

you are one of those people who convinced yourself that things could never get better in order to condemn someone out of a job after three seasons. Even as the win total slowly rose, even as the offense overcame the defense's shortcomings, you still said "It will never get better! It can never work! He doesn't understand how pure Michigan Football is! He's not a Michigan Man! This is no one's fault except one man! Fire Rich Rodriguez! *whispers* I miss you Lloyd....so, so much". 

Here's the thing: That's fine. We got a great replacement who has done well so far. Luckily, he was able to throw a big salary at Greg Mattison, who also happened to have a grandchild in the state that he wanted to be closer with in the coming years. 

But the defense bottomed out last year. Every possible thing that could have went wrong, went wrong. Sure, GERG was terrible. That's on him and Rodriguez But to act like we wouldn't have at least improved somewhat on the 108th defense in the country, as we got back 8 starters, Woolfolk and were no longer starting wide receivers and Vinopal in the secondary, well, that's that overbearing hatred for the ex-coach - please don't hit me with that hilarious bit about you liking him again...that was honestly too much - who isn't LC comes into play. And that's even if we just kept the same defensive staff. Maybe we hire DC X and he does the same thing Mattison does. 

But it didn't happen like that and I, for one, am glad we have the stability on defense in Hoke/Mattison. I don't want to see the last three years ever happen again. But what is happening right now, this year, in a Big Ten that is prime for anyone to rise up and take it? We're blowing our chance....because of the offense. 

And that is why "innovators" are frustrated. Because, unlike say the defense in 2010 or the offense in 2008, we have all the pieces for an offense that should be peforming much better against the 72nd ranked defense in the country and it is not happening. But "traditionalists" such as yourself are okay with it: because you live in the past and think things like "well in 2008 with Rodriguez we were 3-9, so why are there complaints when we are 7-2 in the first Hoke year...HYPOCRITES! Now I'll yawn because I'm so above all of this petty squabbling" while failing to understand that in this first Hoke year we should be 8-1 and a could be 9-0, in contention for a B1G title! Isn't that what we all want? While in 2008 we should have been 4-8...see what I'm saying? 

 

dcmaizeandblue

November 7th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

All the talent on that 2008 team was on the defense they didn't perform.  We thought the defense bottomed out in 2009 and would improve in 2010 with a bunch of people coming back.  It just didn't happen.  The offense did not overcome the D's shortcomings in any regard.

Stop pretending that everyone that disagrees with your ludicrously long posts was so against RR from the start.  You're pretending like our losses this year have been blowouts like last year which just isn't the case.

Again look at all the season previews from people who know much more about football than either of us and tell me where the predictions for a Big Ten title were.  Just because you got your hopes up AGAIN doesn't mean we were suddenly supposed to set the world on fire this year.

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 4:55 PM ^

you are wrong.

It overcame them 7 different times. So "in any regard" makes no sense, but given your posting history, that is to be expected. 

In 2010...who the fuck came back? Woolfolk? Warren? Or was it basically Kovacs? Let me know man. Please. 

And in no way have I pretended that. You are incredibly misguided and lack any ability to understand the words in front of you if you believe this. If anything that is the brunt of my frustration: We are no longer giving up massive points on defense and are blowing our opportunities to win games because our offense is incapable of taking advantage of that improvement. 

I'm sorry, have you even watched any football this year? Have you seen any team that we play that looks like the team they were supposed to be in the previews? No. 

My hopes weren't unrealistic and they have altered as the season went on. It's unfortunate you don't believe in your team. 

You are wrong on every account and did not understand anything from any of my posts. 

M-Wolverine

November 7th, 2011 at 4:46 PM ^

(happy anniversary, btw) qualifies you to comment on what I've always posted. And if the tenure is from mid-November to last year to now, and you're expecting to see nothing but rose petals thrown in Rich's path...well...

But I wasn't even talking Rich...like you always accuse me of doing. Just talking about the state of the team. If anyone has a one track mind, you might want to look in the mirror. Do you post ANYTHING that isn't a defense of Rich? Even a funny cat pic?

The team could have gotten better. Sure. Anything is possible. But it was a team that was a lot closer to losing 3-4 more games than it was to winning 3-4 more games. So that's a concern. The defense continually got worse over 3 years.  Could it have gotten better? Sure. Because it's almost a mathematical impossibility to go anywhere but up when you're at the bottom.  And all this would have to be overcame in an environment where every day the staff, players and recruits had to go through the "hot seat" stuff; basically the post OSU game thing...but for 11 MONTHS, not one.  If things really get turned around, the defense makes the same near miraculous improvement (which wasn't happening with that staff...if they clean house, I guess maybe the third time's the charm, but there was nothing to believe Rich would make a change, and if he did, fire all his buddies under the new person he was bringing in), and nothing else goes wrong, and we win 10 games, sure, it could be righted. But I'm not sure even another modest improvement to 8 or 9 wins (which may be where this team is at, talent-wise, and isn't a sure thing considering trying to flip close wins and blowout losses), no more anything worse, changes the negative perception/environment with the same staff. And if you have to fire the guy after year 4, and give up ANOTHER recruiting class....you've really done some long term harm to the program after the last 6 years. 

I mean, you can't really think there's any way in that kind of pressure cooker we're pulling down a top 5 recruiting class, do you? And THAT'S the future of the program. Talent. That'll bring the wins, not systems. And sadly, though we're improving and aging, 20 returning starters doesn't mean a lot if they're not really good. We have one outstanding talent, who might be out of position, but can work there.  And our next biggest talent might be his back-up. We're undersized/slow/both/suspended at receiver, have maybe 3 outstanding players on BOTH lines, maybe one real running back, a couple of future servicable LBers, and our best secondary players are a former walk on and a freshman.  What does that get you?  A middle of the road, old school Michigan State type level team.  You don't win Big Ten Championships like that. Lloyd's I wanted to retire a year earlier recruiting slipped and had some bad luck, and hot innovator Rich didn't improve it.  Give me Borges and a top 5, top ten, top 7, top 12 recruiting class, than Lloyd or Rich with 9, 12, 20, 15. I'll worry if we can't keep commitments because we lose a game.

And really, when you basically say "lucky we could get a defensive coordinator", it doesn't really make you sound sincere when you say "we got a great replacement".  Kinda sounds like a pre-emptive defense of "I don't hate the guy, BUUUUTTTT...."  I mean, anyone who's been around long enough knows I liked the Rich hire. Loved we got a guy who was a running spread guy. Thought he made some PR errors, but that wasn't going to do him in on the field.  Thought we made some strategic errors for 2008, and that really put him behind the 8 ball. Really wondered if we were going to be able to right the ship after Illinois 2009, but certainly thought he deserved a 3rd make or break year.  Knew he was in big trouble after MSU in 2010 (lose 3 years in a row to MSU, you're in trouble). And after the PSU debacle, knew he probably needed to beat OSU to stick around.  After getting waxed our last two games, I was still torn, because I don't like Michigan having to admit failure, and yeah, maybe a bowl win and some momentum and we can turn things around and get the new wave Michigan we all heard about.  But the bowl pretty much sealed the deal.  There would be no good off season for Michigan. And while it's not a moment of glory, and a sad day for the Program, it seemed like the odds really weren't in the favor of things turning around.  And it wasn't fair to Rich to put him and his family through all that for possible meager chance of turnaround.  So I don't really need to hear from someone who was probably one of those talk radio mouth-breathers calling to "Fire Lloyd" after every loss and used trashing everything that came before to prop up Rich's failures till the whole world realized they were wrong but them to tell me how I felt about Rich.

This team is about where it should be. If they win two more games, they'll probably be at the 9 wins you would have lauded Rich for this year. I think of ND, MSU, and Iowa, people would easily have picked us to lose 2 of the 3 before the season began. And even in the holy bible for Rich apologists, Bacon thinks that if they just get a break against Utah, they most likely get to 6 wins and keep the bowl streak alive and it's a whole different world.  He might not be right...but that maybe we could have beaten Toledo but no one else in 2008 is hogwash. I was being kind giving a positive spin to the two groups names. I wasn't saying that either side was acting in an non-hypocritical manner. Just that it's all been done before. The same stuff that people were roasted for by Brian as being "un-supportive when nothing you say is going to change", as well as others, is the same thing that was the critics "critical reasoning" of the program's problems.  The difference being that the same arguments are being made in the 1st year as year 3 of the previous regime; and that those that were are all "this sucks" in year 1 before were just fringe unrealistic people, and those that are doing it now are mainstream leaders.   So yeah, I'm like "whatever".  Because eventually you're going to have to get over it. Because barring something tragic, it's not going to change more than 2 years.  You may have wanted something different, but it didn't work out the way you believed it would.  You were wrong to everyone that mattered, and posting online won't change that.  It may make for spirited discussion, but you're going to have to deal with it.  Or don't.   But you're crying isn't going to change anything.  Wins and losses will. Just like before.

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 5:01 PM ^

Because you already said you haven't been talking about Rodriguez, when in one of your posts about "traditionalists" and "innovators" is you talking about the different factions in the Rodriguez era and now you're claiming "oh that's not what I'm talking about". At least stand by your obsession man. 

Edit: And please: What else are you possibly talking about with your 3 years of defensive decline and 2 failed coordinators comments? You are talking about the situation being completely hopeless under Rodriguez. Come on. It's obvious.
 

Your whole point is you think people are being hypocritical by complaining about the current team after being too lenient with the past teams while failing to identify the differences between the times. I'm sorry you can't get past that. 

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 1:16 PM ^

dude...you are going to make my head explode.

I didn't say they want to make the offense worse or that they want to lose. I said they aren't utitlizing the weapons they have correctly. Why is this? Probably because coaches are stubborn and like to believe that their way is the best way, no matter what. 

And you are completely missing the point. The time for Michigan to have a great season is/was THIS YEAR. Everything has fallen that way except for one thing: Our OC doesn't fit our personnel and it has cost us twice in two very winnable games. 

And you're right about the outlook through 9 games: It is more positive this year but once again, why is that? For one, last year we took on two 11+ win teams in the final two weeks. This year, we take on two flawed teams in Nebraska and OSU and both are at home. We also take on a sliding Illinois team. 

What you don't seem to get is this: When we were starting tons of freshmen (and not ready-made talents like Countess) and wide receivers in last year's secondary and had an incompetent DC, I knew things were going to be difficult and losing was something you just had to accept. But with everyone a year older and with Mattison, that part is gone. Our defense can keep us in and even win us games. But now, the one part that had continuously gotten better under Rich Rodriguez each year, suddenly looks stagnant against even mediocre defenses like Iowa and that is even more frustrating than losing in a blowout when you know going in you are overmatched. 

 

BlueVoix

November 7th, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

The time for Michigan to have a great season was this year...in a vacuum.  You can play the what if game with Rodriguez landing a DC as good as Mattison, but it didn't happen.  Even if we are supposed to have a great season, college football is weird and bad things happen.  Wisconsin is a pretty prime example of that.  

Our OC isn't ideal for the personnel, but somehow has managed to win seven games.  It may have cost us twice, but you have to give Borges credit for the wins as well.

The last paragraph is non-sensical.  Countess is "ready-made" but guys like Cullen Christian, Justin Turner, Vlad Emilien are not because...?  And it's better to know we're going to get blown out than be in games?

coastal blue

November 7th, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

please, just read and try and understand:

Our 7 wins this year are no different than our 7 wins last year, other than we've beaten teams by a higher margin because our defense has been much better. We did not win these games because of Al Borges. We won these games because of Greg Mattison and the improvment that comes with players over time. We would have won those games if RR was the HC and had Mattison (I know this is impossible, I am just saying, winning these games isn't some great accomplishment by the offense).

The games we lost, our defense gave us an opportunity to win, mainly because they weren't the Robinson - hired by Rodriguez - led units of last year. They were vastly improved. But we lost because our offense was unable to move the ball against either MSU or Iowa. And it is frustrating because Hoke and Mattison and their staff have done such an incredible job turning around the defense, that we would lose because our biggest strength under the previous coach is now looking like our weakness. And here is the thing: Iowa isn't even a great defense. They are ranked 72nd in the country. Yet we managed 16 points and fewer yards against them than just about everyone on their schedule. So I do have big problems with a staff that would allow something that was an obvious strength coming into the season, deteriorate to this point, because it has ruined our chances at a B1G title. I also believe they have it in themselves to fix the problems and I don't think it will matter in a few years once Borges gets his guys in his system. 

As for the last paragraph: Countess, from his playing time, just seems like a natural. I'm probably wrong and it has everything to do with Mattison, but I could see him thriving under anyone.  Just my opinion. And while I hate getting blown out, its far more excruciating seeing your team lose a game it should win - Iowa - than going into a game against 2010 Wisconsin knowing you are completely overmatched. 

wolverine1987

November 7th, 2011 at 5:07 PM ^

was much better the last two years including 2009 when we played them there.  Our offense was better then than now. And if you want to play the "if" game, it took the last drive to even sniff 300 yard of offense. Iowa is demonstrably worse this year. Our offense put up 500 yards on them last year. Our offense has regressed despiute returning everyone. that's a pretty good reason to "bitch"--when you lose.

msoccer10

November 7th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

We didn't have any blowouts last year until the second to last regular season game. Last year we lost to MSU by 17. This year? 14. Last year we lost to Iowa by 10. This year? 8. That hardly seems like massive improvement, especially considering we returned 20 starters.

If Nebraska and OSU blow us out and we get blown out in the bowl game, what then? Trade Penn State for Northwestern and we are probably sitting at 6-3 and in an identical position to last year. I love Michigan and am really hoping we improve on offense enough to win some of our remaining games, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to lose them all.

Now, I am  not saying we should have kept Rodriguez. I am also not saying there is anything wrong with Borges or Hoke. There was always going to be consequences to another transition. I think the outlook for seasons beyond 2011 are more positive, but for the rest of 2011 we are in an identical position except this year we get our last two games at home. Hope that's enough to make the difference this year.

 

BlueVoix

November 7th, 2011 at 1:37 PM ^

You can't really compare the MSU game last year to this year.  Michigan was one play from tying the game up in the 4th quarter this year.  Last year, the game was over midway through the 3rd.  If you want to say 14 = 17, I'm not going to say you're wrong, but the way they got there is different.  For Iowa, road vs. home.  And again, different ways of getting there.

If your scenario plays out, I think everyone will be disappointed.  But what can you do?  You have the number one (or three or five or whatever) recruiting class coming in and a brilliant defensive coordinator.  There is the potential for Denard to have a real "lights on" moment over the offseason.  The guy works hard; why not?

We could lose them all.  We could win them all.  I'm just glad it's a question right now, not an expectation.

jackw8542

November 7th, 2011 at 3:28 PM ^

Last year, Denard threw 2 picks in the MSU game when we were in the red zone and he had open receivers.  That would have made last year much more competitive.  RR never had anything other than a freshman QB (or 1st year QB), whereas this year everything appears to be in place on offense, including a Toussaint who is healthy, for the most part.

On Saturday, the O looked awful until Borges went to what the O looked like under RR, but he waited far too long to do it.

There are a couple of plays that worked well last year that we see rarely, if at all, this year:  the bubble screen and the play from the shotgun where DR takes three steps towards the line and then, having sucked in the defense, hits a receiver on a slant.  It is beyond me why Borges does not look at what worked last year and work it into the game plan.  He has the exact same players on offense this year, so he knows they can still do it.  That failure is on him.

Needs

November 7th, 2011 at 1:47 PM ^

In each of our losses last year, we were down at least 21 points at some point during the game and never had the ball on offense with a chance to tie in the 4th quarter. Perhaps you wouldn't call the losses against MSU, Iowa, and PSU blowouts, but they were not close either. 

M-Wolverine

November 7th, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

Notre Dame, Penn State, Northwestern, Eastern Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan State, Florida.

All teams that lost to the team that lost to Appalachian State.  Not sure that transivity ever works.  Minnesota's a better team with their QB and coach, and discarded weekly "watch posts" aside, not the worst team of all time. Just a bad team that pulled off a great day. They almost pulled off a greater upset against a much better MSU team on the ROAD.  I mean, if they hung on, we could be the team that lost to the two Big Ten teams that lost to Minnesota...

James Howlett

November 7th, 2011 at 12:20 PM ^

He came to Iowa as a drop-back style QB with better than average athleticism. So, following Erik Campbell around probably would not result in some "hidden gem" WR recruits.

Iowa develops players well. They don't look through a crystal ball with a copy of Phil Steele's mag on their laps.

Kilgore Trout

November 7th, 2011 at 12:20 PM ^

1.  With four straight blitzes up the middle on the last sequence, I think a rollout to the right with Hemingway running a circle route (think Mathews vs ND '09 or Hemingway vs Illinois '10) would have been a great call.  If the inside WR runs a slant, the corner on the outside has to choose between Denard and Hemingway, he can't cover both.

2.  I am beginning to get frustrated with the coaching staff.  The offensive play calling seemed like aimless screwing around until they got down 15.  I disagree that they were playing 500 after that though.  Both long drives in the fourth quarter featured a lot of smart, quick, short passes that were very effective.  It's pretty clear that this sort of offense is what this team is best suited for.  I guess I risk the big cocked eybrows, but I feel the same way I felt about Rodriguez in '08.  A coach's job is to put their players in the best position to win, and neither of them did that.  It's not fair to your players to play for the future.  Rodriguez gets more of a pass because he had less talent and didn't show brief glimpses of the ability to run another offense, but it's still the same thing to me.