9/20/2014 – Michigan 10, Utah 26 – 2-2
[GIF via Ace]
We have a grainy screenshot that symbolizes the demise of the Carr era. It's a zone stretch against Ohio State on which every Buckeye has slashed through the Michigan line.
Michigan would trundle to fewer than 100 yards of total offense. Chad Henne's shoulder was separated and he was still the best available option because the only other was a freshman version of Ryan Mallett who fumbled 20% of the under-center snaps he took and got in screaming matches on the sideline. That's because the quarterbacks recruited after Chad Henne were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
By the time that Ohio State game rolled around Michigan had desperately talked Alex Mitchell out of retirement so they could start him. In that context that shot is barely surprising. And then Carr went out and beat Tim Tebow, because nobody got off the mat like Lloyd Carr.
We have just received the grainy screenshot that will symbolize the demise of the Hoke era.
As you've no doubt screamed into a pillow about already, there are ten men on the field as Utah returns a punt for a touchdown. I'm not sure that even matters since two of them are within 30 yards of the guy when he catches the ball.
This site has been complaining about the punting since Hoke's hire, and it has cost Michigan dearly in two losses—Ace Sanders also returned a punt for a touchdown in South Carolina's last-gasp Outback win—and seen Michigan dawdle at the bottom of punt return yards ceded the last two years.
Worse than the yards given up has been Brady Hoke's approach when challenged about it. Never has he given a justification that's even remotely plausible. Once he said he wasn't comfortable with it. At the time I said this was a crappy answer, and it remains a crappy answer:
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
When pressed a couple weeks ago he said "I don't want to talk about it."
As we get more data about Brady Hoke's tenure that seems less like an isolated crappy answer than the whole damn thing. Anybody with a spreadsheet and an ability to tell up from down could have put compelling evidence of the spread punt's efficacy in front of Hoke's face. Maybe they did.
It wouldn't have mattered. Brady Hoke isn't defending it, so you can't argue back. "We don't do it because we don't do it" is an unassailable position. It is not a rationale.
So it goes. Michigan has settled into a pattern of doing nonsense things, from everything on offense last year to the punting to their continuing, shocking inability to go faster than a waddle. That stat from last week about how Michigan was faster than only Army amongst D-I teams is astounding. Michigan had spent an entire half down three scores, and their tempo was still nationally worst. These things all come from the head coach.
When Michigan goes down by ten, it's over. Lloyd Carr isn't walking through that door. You want to talk leadership and toughness? Leadership turns a mob into an army. And Michigan is no army.
The worst thing is I don't really feel that bad. My main problem at the moment is the fact that I have to write this column, and then somehow eight more, and analyze a team that is unlikely to go anywhere and talk about a coach who is 95% dead man walking. I bet you can't wait for "Yup, Almost Certainly Still Fired: Episode VI". Here is the otter.
HENRI THE OTTER OF ENNUI: this does not break the record for earliest appearance
I fired off some hot takes in the stands, as did large numbers of the people around me, but once I was out of the stadium it was like "okay, now I can go do something else."
I even watched football after! A Michigan loss is supposed to be a weekend-ruining event that makes the idea of watching more football an impossibility. Now it's not a big deal, possibly because I don't recognize whatever Michigan is doing as football. I cannot be reminded of Michigan when turning on Clemson-FSU because Clemson and FSU aren't playing sludgefart.
I know this isn't an aging and maturing thing because 1) obviously and 2) I almost died just a few months ago when Kentucky hit that three-pointer. There's just nothing there to care about. So you show up, and you shrug, and you get annoyed, and then you go home. Sometimes you get wet. Meh.
It was appropriate that Hoke's downfall came amidst a biblical deluge. The Hoke era started with one against Western Michigan. The game was over when the lightning came, but I stayed. A bunch of students did, too, roaring and chanting. When the game was over the stadium was still half-full.
There was no thought of that Saturday. Everyone except the players' parents, Utah fans, and the clinically insane cleared out as soon as the stoppage was announced. Maybe half of them had already exited before the lightning hit.
When Michigan returned to play in front of the obligated and deranged, it looked like the future had finally been created.
Take the cosmic hint.
When Can We Fire This Guy Section
There is still a small (very small) chance that Michigan pulls its collective head from its collective rear and gets to 9-3, at which point a transition is probably not happening. Anything short of that and it's goodbye. Hoke is at the point where you extend or fire him and you can't extend a guy who went 8-4 in the worst Big Ten ever, presumably went 0-3 against major rivals, had at least two humiliating blowouts starring coaching incompetence.
But please don't bring up a midseason canning. Those are reserved for severe breakdowns of authority. Most importantly, firing Hoke now erases any chance there's a new athletic director by the time Michigan embarks on a coaching search.
John Beilein Being Good At Coaching Points Of The Week.
#1 Jourdan Lewis had an outstanding game, chasing things down that other people screwed up and hunting Utah wide receivers like they were weakened alpacas.
#2 Willie Henry scored Michigan's only touchdown and was part of a forceful Michigan defensive line.
#3 Devin Funchess powered through an obvious injury to bring in a number of spectacular catches and would have had an even more impactful game if Gardner was not having one of the worst games of his career.
Honorable mention: Ryan Glasgow, Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer.
Epic Double Point Standings.
7: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND, #3 UT)
5: Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA, #1 UT)
4: Willie Henry(#2 ND, #2 UT)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Trey Burke Against Kansas Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN
mr henry this is an internet meme it's not my fault please don't destroy me [Fuller]
For all the good it did. ESPN briefly gave Michigan 12 points they were so astounded, which should be the FAT GUY TD rule.
Honorable mention: Nope!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
Utah: Willie Henry FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Miami takes back a punt 66 yards after Michigan obliges with a line drive punt and two gunners. Oh, and they only put ten guys on the field.
Honorable mention: Interceptions. Fumbles. Hellacious rain. Everything.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
Utah: lol ask Brady about punt formations again
[After the JUMP: woo! naw just kiddin'.]
Thing you'll remember not very fondly about the Hoke Era #1: Quarterback handling. Denard Robinson regressed. Devin Gardner appears to be regressing. Their random guess at a quarterback their first year turned out to be a bad idea, and then they skipped a quarterback the next year. Shane Morris is still just a sophomore but early returns are alarming, and he's not a redshirt freshman because of the baffling decision to not take a QB the year before him.
The most important position on the field was fobbed off to a guy with a negative track record, who proceeded to do what his track record always said he would.
Thing you'll remember not very fondly about the Hoke Era #2: "trying" to come back into a game by huddling with ten minutes left. Michigan literally huddled with ten minutes left down 16 points, twice in a row. On plays where they did not huddle, Morris was still snapping the ball with 8 or 10 seconds on the playclock. Tempo has always been a disaster under Hoke, and always will be. This goes well beyond run of the mill dinosaur ball into Ferentz-level clock atrocity.
But they can sneak it now. Wave your tiny flags.
Thing you'll remember not very fondly about the Hoke Era #3: the f-ing punting. But I already addressed that and this is the offense section.
Thing you'll remember not very fondly about the Hoke Era #4: allergy to sense. Michigan kept checking whether Denard Robinson was a pro-style quarterback, found out the answer was still GOD NO WHY EVEN ASK THIS, and then resumed grudgingly deploying him on the ground for ludicrous efficiency. Presented with even the vaguest semblance of a pro-style guy they have just about completely excised the idea of a quarterback run. When they have Devin Gardner.
juuuuuust a bit outside [Fuller]
No defense this time. Gardner was terrible. This throw to Funchess got criticized because he was "triple covered" but the play was there to be made; Funchess caught a ball way behind him only to see a defensive back a couple yards out of position rake it out. That was typical. Gardner missed, and kept missing, and continued to miss.
Sometimes he made bad decisions, like on the interception that sealed his benching. Mostly was just missing his guys. I know that some folks on twitter and Spielman took shots at Funchess on the slant interception that he tried to grab with one hand, but even if you think his effort there was substandard the fact remains that a slant was well outside of the comfortable catching radius of the biggest wide receiver in the country. A slant. That is a simple throw to put on the guy's numbers and it was botched.
Ace and Nick Baumgardner have both suggested that he was so short and wobbly with his throws that they wouldn't be surprised if Gardner was hurt in some way. I'll have to take a look myself. In the absence of evidence that will not be forthcoming the obvious conclusion is that Gardner just sucked. I don't know man. You expect people to progress, and they certainly do on the defensive line. Other places not so much. The Peter Principle is real.
Not the answer. Shane Morris came in and looked like a true sophomore who missed his senior year of high school and spent his freshman year getting anti-coaching. He is not the answer right now; he's going to have to be next year but one of the reasons we have been downplaying the idea that Morris would replace Gardner is that he is even more turnover-prone. He's your only backup QB who's even vaguely viable this year. Good planning.
Offensive line: a step back. This game felt a lot different than the Notre Dame game, where holes were there to be had. In this one it seemed like there was a winged helmet chasing a Ute back to the backs or QB, and that when Michigan was getting pounded at the line it was because there wasn't anything there.
WELP. They had one bad drive to start the second half and were otherwise somewhere between great and very good, again holding an opponent under 300 yards only to end up on the wrong side of a blowout.
You could argue that the defensive performance in the Notre Dame game was deceptive because the game got out of hand by halftime; that is not an argument you can apply here. The defense gave up a net 12 points, and three of those came on a 14-yard drive. That is an outstanding performance.
Hello Mr. Lewis. Jourdan Lewis had a breakout game, tracking down the Utah screen that was the large bulk of their first-half production and single-handedly saving four points. He was over the top of all attempted fade routes even though he was going up against a couple of good wideouts, and he had a couple of pass breakups. It was a statement outing. He should be a starter until that proves to be a mirage, if in fact it ever does.
Glasgow jammin' things up real good [Fuller]
Ryan Glasgow's probably just good. Utah returned their lead back, QB, and three OL from a high-quality rushing offense that averaged 5 yards an attempt last year; Michigan held them to 3.3 even after you remove sacks. This is a team effort of course but it all starts with the nose tackle and there is a reason Glasgow is fending off all challengers.
Safety issues. Michigan's sole touchdown ceded came on a mesh route on which no one was particularly close to Utah's best receiver. That felt like a safety issue with the corners bailing deep, and Michigan was down to Jeremy Clark and Dymonte Thomas at that point—the only scholarship safeties on the roster. Thomas has supposedly been erratic in practice and I wonder if forcing him into action was the cause of some of those problems.
But yes also factor that in to the defensive performance: Michigan is down their best safety while giving up 12 net points.
Ross reclaims his job. Have to wonder what the coaching staff saw in Royce Jenkins-Stone that caused them to make a switch at the SAM spot; RJS blew a couple plays against Miami in his first extended playing time and Ross made a couple against Utah.
They were a little fortunate. Michigan got RPSed hard on the above wheel route that featured Mario Ojemudia making a valiant but futile attempt to cover a 30-yard wheel route. The ball would zip through the receivers' hands. That'll happen.
SIDE NOTE: check the attendance in the upper section above. There's another three sections to the left of your picture that were similarly empty.
Worst-est: This is Michigan Football
For Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke, this is the perfect embodiment of football. No, not the losses, but that's secondary. To both of them, this brand of Michigan football is a perverse homage to a bygone era in football when men were men and you won because of grit and heart and having institutional advantages over smaller programs due to years of recruiting tactics, demographics, and inertia. It's stupid punting formations, always huddling without any sense of urgency, the 100k attendance record, and wringing every last possible dollar out of a fanbase that for decades was all too happy to do so if you stroked its ego and won 8 or more games a year. The Michigan that we all see on the field isn't what most of us want, but it's what the hive mind in Schembechler Hall thinks is good for business in Ann Arbor, and so nobody with the power to change it wants to right the boat. And that's a f'ing tragedy, because the lights are going out and Jack ain't coming to put UM on a door until the rescue party arrives.
Michigan isn't what it was, and "what it was" was never how a certain subset of the fanbase, including apparently this administration, remembers it. I know it is blasphemy to question the "fabled" history of UM football, but since the 1940s Michigan has been the definition of a high-level "plugger", the type of team that won games by showing up and beating the teams they should and losing to the teams they should by following a simple script. And yet as the game kept changing, Michigan remained its anachronistic self, buffered somewhat by this conference's stupidity-sealed bubble that talks about competing nationally while the University of Kentucky out-recruits everyone not named Michigan, OSU, or Nebraska and hiring every mediocre MAC coach with a pulse while the rest of college football laughs and points.
Inside The Box Score relates things a nine year old said during the game:
"That doesn't help at all."
* Referring to Nussmeier's decision to run the ball on 2nd and 22. The play gained zero yards. BRING BACK BORGES! (/ducks for cover.)
"Another huddle? Really?"
* Seriously, my son actually said that. I don't think he reads MGoBlog, and I hadn't said anything about tempo or huddling. So if a 9-year old can watch Utah succeeding with pace, watch Michigan plodding along, and gets exasperated at the huddling, why can't Brady figure this out?
jhackney has a column as well:
Tonight, The Utes brought a thorough spiritual cleansing to Ann Arbor in unusual style.
Instead of arid air or peep stones, They brought a torrential downpour that cleaned out the already depopulated Big House and a long moment of clarity for Michigan, its coaches, and fans. Shortly after Hoke and Mattison got done arguing over who executed getting off the field least, the team was in the locker room for over an hour to sit there and realized that they were down 16 points to a vastly mediocre team.
Need a pick-me-up?
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 22, 2014
HSR on the Mandate of Heaven:
I think it's very hard to see positives in a loss when you're soaking wet. It's even harder when you misplace your keys for 45 minutes in the Liberty Square parking structure*. But, at some point, when in the cold and the wet, you realize that the team you love is in a treadmill of despair and ineptitude, and what's worse, you don't see a way out.
The graphic above is a simplified version of the dynastic cycle as understood in ancient China. When you teach World History, you become very familiar with imperial decline. Football empires are not that different. You change a few words in that graphic, and well, it's very clear that it can apply to college football programs as well.
Devin Funchess – There is an old Canadian Hockey saying about getting or giving a “Hotel Dieu Pass” to or from one of your teammates. That means your inaccurate pass caused one of your teammates to get laid out and lit up, to the point where they have to be taken off on a stretcher and taken to the local hospital. (Hotel Dieu is a common Canadian Hospital name.)
What that pass did, aside from Funchess taking a wicked shot, was jack up Utah even more. When you get a freebie to lay out one of the stars from the other team, you have just incited the feeding-frenzy to begin. So while it was just one incomplete pass, it was MUCH more than that. It was Utah’s cue to come after Michigan for more. I commend Funchess for staying in the game and making two huge catches after that hit. Devin Gardner, you owe Funchess a dinner, and an apology.
Compare and contrast Nebraska enthusiasm to Michigan.
— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) September 21, 2014
Kickoff at Michigan:
Those are not students above the concourse, those are the ex-student tickets that Brandon is trying to sell for any price.
The saddest thing on Saturday wasn’t anything that happened on the field. It was the Michigan sideline. I didn’t mind Hoke and Mattison going at it. I was glad to see them both fired up. But the players on the sideline all looked like they just wanted to go home. They looked like they’d quit. Then the rain came and 100,000-ish quit. In the end, some say the band played their full postgame show in an empty stadium, but nobody knows for sure.
It wasn’t that long ago that the chance of getting struck by lightning while watching Michigan football seemed, well, fair enough. Lately, it isn’t worth the risk.
Are injuries a problem? I feel like injuries are a problem. I know every team goes through injuries, but it seems that Michigan's star player(s) get hurt every year. Devin Funchess got hurt in the second game and was still limping around in this one with an ankle injury that may linger for a while. Starting tight end Jake Butt is playing less than the ideal number of snaps because of his ACL recovery. Jabrill Peppers got hurt in week one, missed the Notre Dame game, and seemed to disappear for a stretch this game. Starting cornerback Raymon Taylor got hurt against the Fighting Irish and has yet to return. Both guys who were presumed to start at safety - Jarrod Wilson and Delano Hill - have missed extended time due to injuries. "Starting" linebacker Desmond Morgan has missed the last couple games, too. I would not say that the Wolverines have been devastated by injuries, but they aren't at full speed, either.
There stood Brady Hoke, his arms folded and nearly 10 yards away from defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. They both looked away as if they were high school students who wanted nothing to do with each other.
The Michigan head coach had pulled Mattison back before he yelled, “get off the f-----g field” and the pair argued with each other.
He called it a “discussion,” but that’s probably not what having dinner looks like.
Numbers: Michigan now 4-8 in last 12 games, outscored by 50 points in first half of 8 losses