The Heart Of Saturday Night

Submitted by Brian on October 13th, 2014 at 1:06 PM

10/11/2014 – Michigan 18, Penn State 13 – 3-4, 1-2 Big Ten


Songs designed for da club have one over-arching theme: tonight. Buy another drink, raise it to the sky. The OONTS OONTS commands you. Feel the beat. The beat is inside you. Tonight is going to be a good night, says the worst song ever written. The people around you accept this and so do you. Your sky-drink is empty. You are commanded to buy another. The OONTS OONTS doesn't care if you vote or do your homework or wake up tomorrow with a gremlin jackhammering at your temple. It commands you to see only what is in front of you now.

What is in front of us now is a lady named Victory. She is… well… she's a little ragged. Makeup's smeared; eyes are a little twitchy; you don't want to know the Vegas over/under on how many times she will throw up in the cab. Because she will do that, in the cab. Because there is going to be a cab.

Tonight, we go home with Victory.


Michigan put it all aside. There is no one to credit here; I found out a long time ago that pushing large groups of people in a direction is impossible. To lead is to find yourself at the head of a tidal wave hoping it won't notice your tiny course corrections. The people are the direction.

And except for a third of the student section that was momentarily absent because of malice or apathy—impossible to tell—the people showed up, were as into it as can be expected of people watching two cows rub against each other threateningly, and were happy to win.

After the game a section in the south endzone unfurled a section-wide FIRE BRANDON banner; that was about right. Michigan fans have for the most part held their fire on players, held their fire for the portions of games in which Michigan can win. When things get out of hand or are just intolerably incompetent on the staff's part, they let their feelings be known. They have in fact been as good as an enormous amorphous mass of pissed-off people can be at aiming before firing.

They're still mad, because they should be. This kind of win over this kind of team is just more of the same, and the athletic director's futile gestures towards humanity are the definition of too little, too late. But tonight is tonight and tomorrow can be dealt with later.


Devin Gardner put it all aside. A guy who'd been moved to wide receiver because the coaching staff thought more highly of Russell Bellomy. A guy whose ribs are a fine paste after last year. A guy who got benched for Shane Morris because the coaches had lost faith in him. There is a guy to credit here.


He's going to be a footnote, now, no question. All hopes and dreams of being a towering colossus have fled. He won't have Navarre's redemption story, and unless something deeply bizarre happens he won't have an OSU win. Ten years down the road mention Devin Gardner and most Michigan fans will wince involuntarily and offer sympathy.

This is especially cruel on the heels of his predecessor. Denard was a tragic hero but he got his OSU win, his BCS bowl, and anyone still trying to be disappointed with him after what happened when he left is certifiable. Ask a Michigan fan about him in ten years and it's different. A lot different.

But that's tomorrow, and tonight the guy who's had his leadership questioned since he arrived is going full Novak on his sideline to WIN THIS FUCKING GAME. He limped out on the field because that's just what he does. Probably can't even throw right unless several different areas of his body are telling him to go to the spa immediately. Rod Gilmore's screaming that he shouldn't be in the game because Rod Gilmore is incapable of telling a head from a leg—not that we are at all surprised by this revelation—and Devin Gardner is just like I put my heart in this shit.


Heart only gets you so far. It gets you to a narrow win over a Penn State team starting a broken vacuum and a Teddy Roosevelt biography at guard. We appear to have a vicious all-day hangover scheduled in two weeks. But that's for tomorrow.

Tonight, we are in a cab and squinting and feeling pretty okay, because we've got something to hang on to.




1: Devin Gardner.
2: Dennis Norfleet.
3: Devin Gardner again.

[After THE JUMP: don't start thinking about tomorrow. Oh no we did.]


Okay here we have to downshift into tomorrow mode. Sorry.


[Eric Upchurch]

Your safety was not that helpful. Michigan's touchdown was fortunate. Great play by Funchess to go get that ball, yes, and you may as well punt it up to him even when he's double covered because what else is going to work.

That particular punt should not have worked. Penn State's safety drifted back and tried to catch it in his chest, as if he was fielding a punt. A semi-competent guy at least steps in front to break it up and it looks like if he high-points the ball he's definitely picking it off.

Funchess did make an awesome catch, though, reaching those enormous arms out—possible the safety didn't think he had a play on the ball at all, because many humans would not have. Funchess 2014 == Jacob Trouba 2011-12.

I don't know what I expected dot gif. Michigan's ground game came up against one of the best rushing defenses in the country and went splat. The only run longer than ten yards was a 25-yard Gardner zone read at the beginning of the second half; Dennis Norfleet's single run for three yards was the most productive output of the night. At least they didn't end up with –48 yards?

I think I'm serious about that. When Michigan faced the best rush defense in the country last year they were over 100 yards worse, sacks inclusive. When you go from completely awful to mediocre at best it kind of looks like this.


[Eric Upchurch]

Darboh rising. Darboh had four catches for 66 yards, which is a big chunk of the total production on the night from everybody. There was one bad drop in there but he also showed off some skills against a decent secondary for the first time.

Gardner was actually pretty good. He was 16/24 with two clear drops from Funchess and Darboh and hit 8.0 YPA despite that; the interception was bad but I think that you've got to put at least some of the blame there on either the play design or the OL because that DE has to be cut to the ground or otherwise dealt with.

Is this really all I have to say? Uh… it appears so. Nature of the game.



[Bryan Fuller]

I will wave the tiny flag. A dominating performance against a team that is hard not to dominate. This is where I'd say something like "I haven't seen an offensive line that bad since…" but of course I have. I haven't seen a line that bad since 2013, and it lived in Ann Arbor.

It's good they comprehensively smashed them; it means that Hackenberg was not able to fire his first read in rhythm time and again. That's progress. How it will last against teams that can have a gameplan other than zero faith in the OL I don't know.

Breaking 'Berg. Did anyone else detect signs of Gardner 2013 syndrome in Christian Hackenberg?  It may not have been easy to see on TV, but Penn State was seemingly in give-up-and-fade mode for much of the second half. Michigan—specifically Jourdan Lewis—played these pretty well; Hackenberg would give up on that route and either go try to find another or bug out because he thought his line was going to crumble.

Neither one of these things went well*. Hackenberg is no Gardner at the beheaded chicken stuff, and he was generally right about his line. So what do you do in that situation? Punt it up to that fade. The back shoulder's there, and if you do get it picked off you've avoided a sack and a 30 yard punt.

*[Except once in the second half when Hackenberg lasered out a corner route for 17 yards, causing some guy behind me to exclaim "HOW CAN HE BE THAT OPEN" at Penn State's first downfield completion in about 30 minutes of game time.]


[Bryan Fuller]

Don't confirmation bias this one. The Penn State touchdown did happen to come against the guy Blake Countess was in coverage on, but it was in no way Countess's fault. Hackenberg had forever for once, Countess was in the guy's pocket, and the throw was the NFL bullet Hack pulls out every once in a while to remind you that it's not his fault.

No DTs? Late on someone noticed that Willie Henry was wearing a cast on his hand, which is probably a result of his sack against Minnesota when his thumb got caught in the QB's helmet. Ryan Glasgow's absence was more mysterious. He's been one of Michigan's best defenders this year and he did play some late (reports that he was getting in during the first half are probably people mistaking Godin for him because the numbers on the jerseys were hard to distinguish). The injury that holds a guy out until sparing snaps in the second half on which he plays well is a weird one indeed.

A wild Gedeon appears. Oddly, Michigan has dropped linebacker rotation to zero after Desmond Morgan's injury. It's odd because Michigan did a reasonable amount of rotation last year with Ben Gedeon and now he's gone. I think the sack he got early may have been his first meaningful snap of the year. And then he went away.


Correlation is causation. Ever since Brady Hoke got super paranoid about injuries, Michigan has suffered more of them than anyone in the country. Chesson and Khalid Hill joined the infinite list of walking wounded, with Hill out for the season. The clear move is to be a open about your injuries as possible, because then you won't have them anymore. #science


WAT U DOIN [Bryan Fuller]

Oh God, the timeouts. You think there's no way to top Brady Hoke taking timeout with three seconds left in the half, sending his punt return team out, and then having to hurry them off when Penn State shockingly goes for the Hail Mary. And then James Franklin takes one

  1. down three points with under two minutes on the clock
  2. with the clock running
  3. with three seconds on the playclock
  4. from his own one
  5. so he can tell his team to take a safety.

And then you find out that it is possible to top giving the opponent a free shot at the endzone.

Actually… did that top the Hoke timeout? The only thing that makes sense there is that Franklin was actually intending to punt on fourth and 31 when that would just about end the game and then either he or someone else on the sideline figured that a safety was their best bet. And I can understand why your game theory competence doesn't extend to that fringe situation.

Meanwhile literally every coach in the country has been on a team when they run the first-half playclock down to three and taken timeout so they can run a Hail Mary. It's close, at least. /waves tiniest of all flags

We won a puntwar. There were only four second-half plays of consequence: the Hackenberg interception, the Norfleet catch, and two shanked Penn State punts. Chris Gulla had back-to-back 26 and 29 yard punts into the sideline, giving Michigan the multiple cracks at drives starting in Penn State territory they needed to get the ball in field goal range.

It's 1950, you decide like it's 1950. After the Hackenberg interception, Michigan rolled Bellomy onto the field to go run-run-yikes-field goal and I was fine with that. I would have been fine with run-run-run-field goal, because when your teams are combining for 250 fewer yards than Baylor got against TCU your decision matrix should tilt towards fear.

1950 decisions weren't wrong in 1950, and this was a 1950 game. Which brings us to James Franklin's insane fake punt that put a guy in motion (HI PAY ATTENTION TO ME) on fourth and eleven. On the Michigan 37 the opposition is going to be looking for a fake, too. You have two options there: go or punt. They're not good options, but move that Hackenberg interception up 17-30 yards and Michigan has to punt it back after going three and out with Bellomy on the field.

Punting was in fact winning, and once we stepped through the time portal there was nothing conservative enough to draw ire from me.

Band. Best show since half of 'em became the Titanic and half an iceberg and they sunk the Titanic.

So hooray for that.

Uniformz. Not that you're surprised by this take but bleah. Number legibility issues (hard to distinguish between 6, 8, and 9), the racing stripes thing made them look like bicyclists wearing reflective tape, and all blue isn't as good as the maize and blue contrast.

They looked worse than Michigan's standard uniforms. Everything does, yes. This is why I'm generally opposed to uniformz.

Reflol. It's not often that both teams assume a call is going to be overturned before it actually comes down, but the Penn State offense and Michigan defense were waiting at the previous line of scrimmage for a good minute before the refs indicated that the "fumble return touchdown" Jourdan Lewis snagged was the world's most obvious incompletion.

For the rest of the game, any ball on the ground was pounced on; I'm surprised no one leap on the ball after the ref spotted it.

Can you imagine what would have happened in State College if that had not been overturned? By now they'd be trying to burn the cows because everything else is ash. I only root for hilarious injustices like that against Penn State.

HILARIOUS INJUSTICE. There were a bevy of competing screenshots in the aftermath of the offsides call on Penn State's recovered onside kick, one of which barely had one Penn State guy's helmet on the 20 yard line:


any part of you intersecting the plane of the ball is offsides

That's close, so it's perfect: a 50/50 call that is unlikely to change the outcome of the game that makes Penn State fans collapse into a frothing lather, made by the Witvoet crew. And then Witvoet took two seconds off the clock, because f--- you that's why.



Best And Worst:

I don't need to go into the gory details about Gardner's time at UM; you've heard these stories numerous times before, "hot takes" about his failings and odes to his greatness are legion in these parts:  He's a winner except when he's throwing crippling INTs or struggling to hold onto the ball under intense pressure, or a maddeningly inconsistent QB who never learned how to play the position due to a revolving-door of disinterested/ill-equipped offensive coaches and whose success typically comes from being a better athlete than the guys chasing him and/or a healthy bit of luck sprinkled with defensive incompetence.  He's off-the-charts when it comes to feelingsball and playing hurt, but through 7 games this year he's throwing more INTs (8) than TDs (6), and his team is 3-4 with one semi-competent win.  He's everything you want in a QB but with just enough rough edges and blemishes that you can't enjoy it.  He can wear whatever hat you want, can both prove and invalidate any argument, and at all times fit into a narrative without being attached to it.  Heck, against Miami I called him "Chaotic Neutral", and even now I'm not sure if that should be considered a compliment or a condemnation; it's probably just a statement of fact.

Inside The Box Score:

Allow me to share my "cool story bro" story. Back when I was a student at UofM, I gave a paper at the Materials Research Society Meeting in Boston. This meeting had somewhere around 30 parallel sessions going on at the same time (hence, the word parallel.) Some of the more popular topics, like silicon, were granted the larger meeting rooms. Folks like myself who were studying compound semiconductors (like indium phosphide) got to speak in a closet in front of 15-20 people.

At this conference, I overheard talk that Shuji Nakamura was giving an invited talk. He is one of the three fellows who just won the Nobel Prize. So I wandered over to that session's conference room. It was a little larger than a closet, but the interest was extraordinary for a compound semiconductor talk. I'm talking standing room only at a technical conference. This guy was already a rock star.

This was over 20 years ago, when gallium arsenide was still regarded as the technology of the future ("...and always will be" is how that joke finished up.) Now, everyone's phone has a GaAs power amp and gallium nitride based blue LEDs are ubiquitous. At that time, no one thought a blue LED was possible because the defect density in gallium nitride materials was extreme, and defects cause non-radiative recombination, etc. So halfway through the talk, Nakamura pulled out an array of green LEDs (the pre-cursor to today's blue LEDs) and powered them up.

The brightness was more intense than anyone thought possible. The audience was shocked, awed, and amazed. He explained how they were motivated to generate all LED traffic signals, and the green LED was the only thing missing. I had a feeling I was witnessing the future. And now, more than 20 years later, Nakamura has rightly earned his Nobel Prize. I was a witness to this due to my attending the University of Michigan. Damn right, I'm proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.

What, you didn't expect to hear a story about LEDs?


I'm late today so I'll round it up later.


Chris S

October 13th, 2014 at 1:14 PM ^

I did not think it was possible to spell "OONTS." I'm impressed.

Great write-up as usual. I look forward to these every week. Very entertaining to read.


October 13th, 2014 at 1:22 PM ^

Great write-up as usual. I've always liked watching cows rub together threateningly. We don't mind that it's late, as long as it's because you're getting ready to break the Dave Brandon firing story in a few minutes.  *please be true, please be true*


October 13th, 2014 at 1:25 PM ^

but I liked the uniforms, and had no problems differentiating any numbers when they weren't obstructed. I thought the shiny blue looked pretty good on TV. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


October 13th, 2014 at 1:26 PM ^

Nothing would have made me happier than for the Lewis return to stand plus the refs add some dumb sideline interference call against PSU to boot.

Norfleet will always be underused at Michigan, but his dancing on the field will be legend.


October 13th, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

like they try to use him, and sometimes I like the looks of what they design for him, but it never seems to pan out to anything more than 10 yards or so when it "works."  For as fast as he is he does seem to lack some explosiveness that can turn a good play into a great one.  He is fast and has all the moves but he is not "slippery" like Breaston was.


October 13th, 2014 at 1:51 PM ^

I agree about the slipperyness issue, as he seems more "quick" than fast, and doesn't have that blazing speed that can get you between two tacklers before they are ready.  But the playcalls for him seem so predictable at this point (sweep, maybe short inside pass) that teams are getting to them before they have a chance.  He's not as dependable (or big) as Dileo was last year and that obviously limits his functionality, but a little safety valve in the middle of the field on certain plays would be great.  It seems like they try that for a play or two and then get away from it, and I guess that is just the nature of the offense.



October 13th, 2014 at 1:29 PM ^

Oh yeah?  I just got done putting like 3 dozen LED bulbs all over my house.  They're something-something thousand K and are DIMMABLE!  D-I-M-M-A-B-L-E

Eat that.


October 13th, 2014 at 1:30 PM ^

That offsides is so technically correct (the camera angle makes him look less offsides than he really is) and so never, ever called except apparently in high-profile situations where the refs are being extra picky.  It's like holding.  Watch any regular kickoff and you can find someone offsides by about that much.

Indiana Blue

October 13th, 2014 at 1:43 PM ^

the onside kick is specifically identified to have the scrictest definition of the rules applied. The 20 yard line is actually a plane, and no one on the kicking team can break the plane prior to the ball being kicked. 

This is rarely called on a normal kickoff because the kicking team is typically running 40 - 60 yards to make a play, not 10-12 yards.

Good call.  We win.  Go Blue!



October 13th, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

FWIW I had lunch today with my insurance agent who also insures the Head Coach for Ohio's #1 ranked Division I football team the Hudson Explorers.  Ben Gedeon is from that team and I lived in Hudson for over 20 years and actually coached his older brother in youth football way back in the day.

Ironically, during lunch today I was asked did I know why Ben wasnt getting any playing time this year. He knew I'm a Michigan alum and knows that I used to have some connections inside the foootball program.   My agent had beers last week with Ron Wright (Hudson's HC) and, according to my agent, Ben had expressed frustration at the lack of meaningful PT this year, especially after playing quite a bit last year as a Freshman.

One of the very GOOD things Hoke did early on was open back up the Northern Ohio recruiting pipleline we depended on so heavily for many, many years.  Gedeon & Dymonte Thomas were both very highly ranked kids from this area that turned down OSU to play at Michigan and struggle for some reason this year to see the field.  It would royally suck if that pipeline gets shut back down again like it was during Tressell's time as the OSU HC.

Blue Bunny Friday

October 13th, 2014 at 1:57 PM ^

He wasn't practicing at QB and getting on the field at WR. Bellomy was getting the backup QB reps. Gardner was practicing as a WR from what I know. That's really a lot different. Hoke and Co. have been unable to recognize talent at QB (Morris over DG v. Minnesota). Anti-hoke is the right rhetoric.


October 13th, 2014 at 2:19 PM ^

Given the practice/school limitations the coaching staff knew that Gardner could only prep for 1 position: WR or QB.

Given the state of the roster, and a desire to win,  was the best use of an athlete like Gardner (a) back up QB who only starts if the 1st string QB can't or (b) WR who's starting every game?

They went with B. Up until Nebraska, they went 5-2.  Robinson gets hurt in the Nebraska game, and they have to play Bellomy, and they lose.

They switch to Gardner as QB the next game and go 3-2 (including the bowl game).

The fanbase is criticising this decision knowing what happened.  But the coaching staff didn't know how the season would play out when they made the decision. Hoke is being criticized heavily right now for being a "dinosaur" and not being aggressive enough with his decisions (see field goal v. go for it on 4th down in the Rutger's game); how about giving some credit where credit's due wrt to the Gardner as WR decision? After all, even if may have cost UM 1 win, Hoke still lead the team to a better record than RR saw at UM in his 3 years.      







Blue Bunny Friday

October 13th, 2014 at 2:48 PM ^

Fine. Putting DG out there on game day is different than total conversion to WR. Thinking that RB is just going to work goes against the staff's ability to evaluate QBs. This staff hasn't figured out any part of an offense in 4 years, and it won't change.

Hoke hasn't really been critisized as a 'puntosaur'. The criticism comes from deciscions that seem like he's just given up.

Where the state of the roster and desire to win right now is on Hoke. "Worse" is the word that comes to mind. 


October 13th, 2014 at 4:07 PM ^

Hoke had a better record with Rich Rod's players than Rich Rod had with Lloyd Carr's. As Rich Rod started getting his players into his system, the record improved year after year. As Brady Hoke started getting his players into his system, the record got worse year after year. How hard is this to understand?


October 13th, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

RR's third year record is better than it looks. Several of the wins (ND, Illinois, Indiana just off the top of my head) were close, down to the wire things. The losses were not. We were never in a situation where we had the ball with a chance to tie the game in the 4th quarter in any of the games we lost. By the end of the year, the team had clearly quit on him. His stay was pretty much untenable by the end of that year.

matty blue

October 13th, 2014 at 1:59 PM ^

yes, denard was the QB...a somewhat injury-prone QB. 

there was absolutely no doubt that he would get knocked out at some point during that season, but the staff said, that's okay, we'll go with russell bellomy when that happens.


October 13th, 2014 at 2:15 PM ^

and with apologies to Bellomy, I don't really think anybody thought he was going to be as bad as he was when he got in there during that season.  There was even a small Bellomy bandwagon forming that Spring.  There was nobody who was up in arms when that move was made, especially when Gardner looked pretty damn good at receiver.

Space Coyote

October 13th, 2014 at 2:21 PM ^

But left the spring game looking like the more capable QB. I wrote like 5 diaries detailing every pass game from that spring, and while Bellomy was almost certainly a "game manager" type, that wasn't a bad thing for a guy that was intended for limited snaps in the short periods of time Denard had typically gone down. He certainly looked like he understood the offense better and had a better feel in the spring.

My feeling is that the real game situation is a bit too much for Bellomy at this point, though some things (like Hull happening to jump a tunnel screen) were just bad luck (he also had receivers drop like 4 passes against Nebraska). He isn't a terrible athlete either and is capable of running as a QB, and it's not like when Michigan picked him up they stole him from a D3 school, they stole him from Purdue like they always do when they want.