11/9/2013 – Michigan 13, Nebraska 17 – 6-3, 2-3 Big Ten
The Passion of the Gardner [Bryan Fuller]
I've turned off. This is my default reaction in moments of extreme stress, because when I was a kid I tended to hit things and scream like a banshee and there was counseling and whatnot, counseling that essentially boiled down to "you have to be a human. If you are a rabid badger your whole life it will go poorly for you." Still, it is a daily trial. I've made up a word for people whose incompetence is making me angry, and I think it in trivial situations, like when someone can't get a credit card to swipe or dares to drive the speed limit. Yobs. Yobs everywhere. The way I'm built, I am presented with a stark choice when the bile comes up: on or off.
I am off. The Nebraska game was a fugue state. When Michigan scored the thing with the kicking after that is worth six-ish points—torchclown or something—people around me stood and cheered, as they are wont to do. I sat down and tried to check twitter. The event had no impact on me at all. Turning that emotion on meant turning the rest of them on, and that could not be allowed to happen.
I'm familiar with this after the last half-decade of Michigan football, of course, and even more recently last year's hockey team. I've gotten quite good at sleepwalking through sporting events without being mentally present.
But all men have breaking points. Last year I had one when the hockey team lost to BGSU 5-1, had its first shot of the third period 15 minutes in, and watched an alternate captain get injured on a dirty hit without doing anything. That was banshee time.
Nebraska muffs a punt and Michigan gets it on the Cornhusker 26. They have not picked up one goddamn yard on the ground in weeks. First down: run from under center that Nebraska puts eight in the box in and blitzes. Second down: the same goddamn thing. Too much. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHY DO YOU THINK THAT HAS ANY CHANCE OF WORKING," I yelled at someone who could not hear me. "HAVE YOU WATCHED THIS TEAM PLAY YET?"
I hope he has, because if I have to watch this crap he should too. The evidence suggests otherwise.
It was one thing to get run off the field by what may be the best defense in the country. Michigan's offense sucks this year and when you suck that is the kind of thing that happens. It was complete agony, but everyone with two functioning eyes had already braced for impact.
It is another thing, a different thing, to get run off the field by a collection of country yokels higher on 'shine than Mary Sue Coleman who couldn't spell "run fit" if you spotted them "run fi" and exist in mortal terror that their coach will machine-gun cats at them if—when—they explode into little smithereens that once resembled a run defense.
"But coach, we're already spread across most of a three-state area," the yokels said. "YAHHHH EAT NINE HUNDRED MILE PER HOUR CAT," Bo Pelini said, cranking his catling gun. "Dawwww," the yokels said moments before their faces were obliterated by cats moving so fast air friction had caused them to burst into flame, "we probably shouldn't have given up two hundred yards rushing to Illinois. Or everyone else on the schedule not named Southern Miss or Purdue."
Two hundred yards. By every-damn-body. Nebraska could not stop a nine year old from going eighty yards in their spring game, and as the season progressed it became clear they were trying to. We can't call Nebraska's defense a "unit," since that would imply concerted collective action. So let's go with eleven gas molecules in the cold vacuum of Pelini.
Against eleven gas molecules in the cold vacuum of Pelini, Michigan farted out production worse than that which caused a mini civil war in the Michigan fanbase after Penn State (which at least featured Devin Gardner picking up bushels of yards). It was worse than Michigan's recent debacle against Michigan State, the top defense in the country. Hack out the sacks and snaps that a battered Devin Gardner can't deal with and Michigan ran for 22 yards on 29 attempts. Oh, for the halcyon days when Michigan could pick up one yard per attempt.
After the game, Nebraska informed the world of how this was possible when even Purdue acquired four yards a carry.
"Whatever formation they came out in, we knew what they were going to throw at us." -Randy Gregory
“We knew what they were going to do right before they did it." -Jason Ankrah
The last time Michigan fans heard this, they were duly livid. They'd just watched their team lose to
Texas in the Rose Bowl 38-37 EDIT: USC in the Rose Bowl 28-14. That is one thing. This is another thing, a different thing.
This was the game where Michigan's Cheesecake Factory offense—they do everything terribly, but by God there's a lot of it—hit rock bottom. Michigan couldn't get one damn yard per carry because of many reasons, but #1 was unblocked Nebraska defenders plowing into Gardner and Toussaint in the backfield. Gardner was hit for TFLs on three separate inverted veers on which a Nebraska defender tore through unblocked, because there was no one to block him.
Michigan would go under center and run play action that did not cause a Nebraska player to step forward one single time; Gardner looked downfield and found his receivers bracketed. Once there was only one guy in the pattern, because Al Borges is smart. He was Devin Funchess, and he had three guys surrounding him.
This is comprehensive failure that goes beyond the limited talent at Michigan's disposal after Rich Rodriguez regarded offensive line recruiting as optional in his final two years at Michigan. There are dozens of teams around the country with less to work with than Michigan. Some of them have played Nebraska, and ripped them for 200 yards rushing. Even poor damn Purdue, currently chasing Big Ten futility records, acquired 82 yards on its 20 actual rushes. Purdue is more than four times as good at running the ball against Brownian motion as Michigan is.
In this game the idea that Al Borges was waving flags literally telling the opposition defense what they were running went from highly likely to explicitly certain.
Despite this, in his post game presser Brady Hoke once again sighed "we just didn't execute." That is not an answer. There is nothing to execute when half the time a 'shine-addled yahoo has put his helmet through your neck without being acknowledged by anyone on your team.
"I have to do a better job coaching," which Hoke said seven times in 12 minutes, is also not an answer. It's clear that right now no one in Ann Arbor has any of those. Can we interest you in a tackle for loss?
Nebraska's official site has an embedding-disabled item.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. We will go with… uh… Matt Wile. Yes. It is only right. Wile pounded a 69-yard punt that flipped field position and helped Michigan enter the half down only 10-3 to a clownshow team. He averaged nearly 50 yards an attempt for the game. He also used Zoltan Mesko trademark eye laserz to force Jordan Westerkamp to fumble his last punt. A truly inspiring performance from the most important player on this year's team.
Honorable mention: All of Jibreel Black's tackles were behind the LOS. Cam Gordon finished a sack and forced a fumble that Michigan recovered. Devin Funchess still seems like a good player. James Ross was one of the main guys holding Armstrong to 1.1 YPC and Abdullah under 4 and had a thumping hit to prevent a big play.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU), Matt Wile (Nebraska)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Nebraska muffs a punt, giving Michigan the field position they cannot possibly acquire themselves.
Honorable mention: Funchess scores a torchclown. That one time Toussaint got four yards. Matt Wile pounds a 69-yard punt.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
11/9/2013: Nebraska muffs a punt through no action of Michigan's.
[AFTER THE JUMP: stations of the cross.]
Station six. [Upchurch]
Devin Gardner's ribs are a fine paste. I find it hard to judge the guy anymore. He was not good. He was again under a hellacious assault, suffering seven sacks and getting hit several other times in the backfield on runs. In circumstances like the ones he's enduring game after game most quarterbacks would look just as bad.
I can say that I spent much of the game looking downfield on obvious play action and it really seemed like Gardner's hesitancy was because there was absolutely no one open. Anyone going deep was bracketed and with linebackers in pass mode the whole way underneath stuff from Butt was not opening up. The only success Michigan had that seemed to come from the coordinator were a selection of short passes in the flats on Michigan's torchclown drive. Joe Kerridge sneaks into flat, catches ball, turns it up for first down: rock-paper-scissors plus. Rest of game: NOPE.
The disappointment there is that Gallon was not getting pinged regularly even with Funchess dragging two guys with him. His involvement was minimal in the second half. No idea what's up with that.
Turnovers or that. For a lot of reasons, Gardner's now playing like a scalded dog. It feels like he's afraid to put balls in tight spaces now because the turnover thing has been beaten into his head. The effect of this has been… worse? I think it's worse.
Oh, good, two fullbacks. That's just what this offense needs. More fullbacks.
Yes, this was bad and also bad. Touch The Banner noted something I did too:
the final straw for me was in the fourth quarter when Nebraska lined up defensive end Randy Gregory at inside linebacker over right guard Erik Magnuson. Michigan slid the protection left, matching up right tackle Michael Schofield on Gregory. Schofield promptly made about a 3% effort to pick him up, allowing Gregory to have a 6-yard running start on an overmatched Fitzgerald Toussaint. Sack. When your fifth-year right tackle can't handle a slide protection, that's probably all you need to see.
So much of what's screwed up Michigan is not knowing what to do, which forces them into slide protections that expose Toussaint to a guy like Shilique Calhoun and even those aren't getting executed. When even the seniors are airballing because they can't get their assignments down, that falls on the coaches. The line has been mishandled in every way; Michigan is probably better off with Miller still out there, but now he's dead and buried.
Positive Funchess note of the week. Damn if he didn't look fast on that middle screen. That play was pure badass: reach behind you for a one-hand stab and then move far too quickly for a dude your size.
Station eight. [Upchurch]
Ain't nobody can block worth a damn at tailback. Fitzgerald Toussaint may generate lots of sympathy when he runs the ball, but with only nine carries in this one and plenty of pass blocking, the needle is soldily on WHY U NO BLITZ PICKUP. Derrick Green's attempts to do so were just as bad, unfortunately, and teams are now explicitly targeting Michigan tailbacks because there is much profit in it.
No one on this roster can block. Vincent Smith could, because Vincent Smith came out of the womb by depositing his head in the doctor's midsection.
This is part of a larger trend at tailback: with the solitary exception of Chris Perry, every tailback leaves Michigan the exact same player they were when they arrived. Tailback's a place where that is a general trend, but we've all watched OSU backs get better over the years—Wells, Pittman, and now Hyde. Le'Veon Bell, too, and everyone who's ever played for Wisconsin. What is Fred Jackson actually doing other than blasting the press with hyperbole, getting four drinks at the same time, and making questionable scholarship offers? How long can one guy remain at Michigan without improving any particular player he has? Why did Mike Cox have to go to UMass to become of interest to the NFL?
This is why people are panicking about Derrick Green: Michigan running backs do not improve.
Par for the course. They are not great and couldn't prevent Nebraska from driving for the winning score; they held them to under 300 yards and forced a fumble that set Michigan up on the Nebraska 35. The Cornhuskers have been beat up all year but that hasn't prevented them from moving the ball effectively against most of the league; if the offense was anything other than what it is that would have been enough to win the game comfortably. They are a B unit.
Unfortunately, part of that par for the course is being real bad at stopping the option. Most of Abdullah's limited success came on plays where he took a pitch and it seemed like nobody was assigned to the pitch guy at all. This has been a consistent bugaboo for Mattison defenses against Nebraska and Northwestern.
But what the hell was this? Michigan played in the parking lot on Nebraska's WRs on fourth and two.
That is unbelievable. Stribling and Dymonte Thomas missed tackles but Mattison flat out gave Nebraska a first down if they could execute a simple five-yard out. And he did so with Channing Stribling, whose entire raison d'etre is to man up with inside leverage and dare your guy to throw a fade over the top of him. "Challenge accepted," say Penn State and Indiana, yeah yeah, but I'm taking my chances with Stribling phasing out of reality if Armstrong can even hit a sideline fade—50/50 at best—over a five yard out that's there on the snap and is super easy to convert.
Then on the touchdown, Michigan is just about screwed on the snap. They've got six guys against six blockers against an option and their linebackers are shaded away from the tailback.
For one, they've got Charlton and Black at DT. For two, they give Nebraska the option of blocking Ross with a free-releasing tackle as they run one of their favorite plays.
This is taking candy from a baby. Clark causes Armstrong to delay not once but twice and then the pitch is forward and there is still nobody to clean up, and while Ross might have been able to get over the top of that tackle, he's still probably running at the back laterally as he lunges for the goal line even if he does.
Make Armstrong throw the ball.
I hope to God Thomas Gordon is injured. I'd heard midweek that Michigan was planning on a revamp in the secondary, for reasons I found bizarre. Yes, they're not great, yes they could have done better on a half-dozen plays. But yanking a senior who's a three-year starter for Josh Furman and/or Courtney Avery—pick one—is a slap in the face to that guy, especially when Furman looks discombobulated the whole game. Afterwards, Hoke muttered something about an ankle and please let that be true, because on its face it looked insane.
I doubt because apparently Gordon was still playing special teams:
After the game, coach Brady Hoke said Gordon — who had two interceptions against Indiana on Oct. 19 — was dealing with an ankle issue and was limited to contributing on special teams.
Who plays a starting safety on special teams when his ankle is injured enough for him to not play, you know, safety? Saving face, there.
Furman gave up a 27 yard third and fifteen conversion on Nebraska's first drive, picked up an obvious PI, got run over on their first touchdown, and was lucky that Tommy Armstrong winged a corner route way past his guy, because he seemed beat. That's about what you would expect given what we've seen from him in spring and in the opener, and voluntarily switching to him seems like a move just to make a move. It didn't cost Michigan anything big in this game, but if they persist I won't be surprised when they do give up something big.
Linebacker make plays sightings. Michigan's linebackers have not been making thunderous plays of valor much this year. Desmond Morgan blew up that Akron sweep and picked off that UConn pass, and that's been about it. I think Ross has been playing pretty well once I go over the tape, but there's been a definite lack of wow experiences.
Not so here. Ross took on a blocker and thumped Armstrong down for six yards when anything other than a great play gives up thirty; he also shot into the backfield a couple times. Bolden even had a nice hit on Abdullah, though there were a couple other instances on which he shot interior gaps on outside runs.
New faces. Michigan gave Josh Furman, Taco Charlton, and Dymonte Thomas their first extended playing time and also had Stribling and Lewis out there plenty. This didn't cause the defense to collapse but usually when those guys were brought into action the results were dodgy. Charlton did take advantage of a stunt to force a sack and Stribling managed to get around a pick route to get a nice PBU.
This was impressive by Stribling. [Bryan Fuller]
Stribling and Thomas both missed tackles on that fourth and two play, as mentioned, and Furman was dodgy when called into action.
Take your timeouts. Michigan's defense faced a first and goal with about three minutes left up 13-10 with three timeouts. They let the clock run after a run on first down, got an incomplete pass on second down, and then gave up a touchdown. That is a frequent blunder and at least this one was not absolutely egregious (like not calling one after a hypothetical second-down run would have been), but it's a blunder.
Then—and I encourage you to sit down and have someone with smelling salts handy as you imbibe this shocking news—Michigan was in the process of blowing their own two-minute drill when their inability to convert prevented them from going whole hog. Gardner's first down completion for six yards to Devin Funchess was not followed by a timeout despite Michigan having three and having no use for a field goal; 20 seconds ran off the clock before Michigan got the next snap off.
Is there a scenario in which your timeout is going to be more useful? Any in-bounds play short of the sticks should be a timeout unless maybe you've only got one left. With three timeouts and 90 seconds, the time is far more valuable.
THIS PHOTO IS CROPPED AND FOCUSED ALL WRONG
They're breeding. The blue tube now has a maize tube buddy/wife/partner/child/ business-associate/guy-who-makes-paint-thinner-hooch-for-you that I will screenshot when I find them in UFR. One of the few pleasures from the game was glancing over to the student section to find the tubes being SO HAPPY and SO TUBULAR and WAVING THEIR WEIRD INFLATABLE ARM THINGS and probably TALKING IN AN ALIEN LANGUAGE ABOUT HOW PREDICTABLE MICHIGAN'S PLAYCALLING WAS. More! More tubes! The entire student section: tubes! Si se puede!
Mary Sue's weird halftime speech. This was odd and uncomfortable:
Drunken slur or stroke aftermath? Probably neither:
You're spot on, it was feedback. There's about a second delay between when she speaks and when she hears herself from the stadium speakers.
When people fixate on listening to themselves, they tend to slow down their speech because they want to hear the words they just spoke. This ends up slowing down and slurring their speech. It's a common issue in stadiums and even smaller venues like auditoriums. Usually, before speaking, people are told to just keep talking and to not worry about trying to hear themselves, in an effort to avoid this. Clearly, no one told Mary Sue this.
The speakers she hears at commencement are right next to her and do not have this issue.
I can't imagine the PR flack who was dragooned into writing the press release in reaction ever thought he'd have to write these words:
“She, absolutely, had not been drinking alcohol,” University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in a statement. “I want to underscore that point in the strongest possible way.”
"How was your day, honey?"
"Well, I had to tell people the university president wasn't falling-down drunk at halftime of a Michigan football game, and then I had to listen to people scream WHY NOT at me for the next six hours."
"Here's a scotch, honey."
Putting the university president on the field with no preparation makes her look drunk or diseased, and it's done with no thought as to what might happen. That is… entirely in character with this athletic department. Do you know what I saw on the eyesore billboard the city wants turned off when I walked to the stadium? MSU picking off Devin Gardner. If it doesn't contribute to a number in a spreadsheet somewhere, the athletic department don't currr.
I also broke down our first down plays into four groups: negative yardage, zero yards, 1-9 yards, and 10 or more yards. We did have 6 negative plays on first down. There were two sacks and the poor snap in addition to 3 negative rushing plays. There were 3 plays of zero yards, but only one of those was an incomplete pass. 12 times we gained positive yards, but not enough to get a first down. As I was going through the plays, something stuck out to me. Devin Gardner was pretty good on first down. …
Why does any of this matter? A) we should have done better on first down if we had just been an average offense that Nebraska has faced. B) Understanding why we were not gets to the root of the problem with this offense. The new meme is that Borges is an awful playcaller that is setting us up in 2nd and long far too often. On ~1/3 of our first down possessions, we either lost yardarge or gained nothing, leaving us with 2nd and 10 or worse. You might think that 2nd and 10s come from incomplete passes, so we would be better off running on first down to gain something. However, in our case, we had 3 bad passing plays on 1st down and 6 bad rushing plays.
At this point in the season, I’m ready for ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN9mygawdwhydoihavetowatchthisanymore to cut to a more interesting game when UM is on offense and then just update us with a little box score four plays later with the outcome. Basically, NFL Redzone but in reverse. At least with the defense, something interesting could happen, something that highlights thoughtful coaching and semi-efficient execution of a plan. With Al Borges’ cut-rate Old Country Buffet offense, all I get as a fan is a couple of minutes to question my sanity and marvel at a team with a handful of NFL draft picks on the offensive line, a record-setting WR, a physical mismatch at TE/WR, A former top recruit at QB who is immensely athletic, and the #1 RB recruit in the nation failing to gain more than 3 yards a pop against a team that gave up 602 yards to Wyoming and 216 yards to Pur-f’ing-Due. Clark Griswold ain’t got nothing on me after watching this game.
At least he got some jelly.
Aaaaaand this Buzzfeed-worthy headline:
The 3 Most Horrifying Parallels between Michigan Football and the Soviet Space Program
Photos. From Maize and Blue Nation, Courtney Avery has stared deep into the abyss and found it staring back at him.
MVictors also has shots.
Blog stuff. First: if you're the praying type send some Phil Brabbs's way.
At right, the Hoover Street Rag has inverted the Borges-O-Meter, and Tlon has been achieved. Anti-Tlon. If this game ever meets the Notre Dame game they will annihilate each other in a massive explosion. Hot take time:
There are times for rational analysis and there are times for STRONG TAEKS: The only person who has less understanding than Al Borges of what an offensive lineman can and cannot handle is Richie Incognito, no offense. OK then, carrying on.
I'm not sure what I expected to see yesterday, but I think my expectation was higher than 13 points and -21 yards rushing. When a team plays this bad, it's more than just coaching, it's a combination of many things. As boos rained down multiple times yesterday afternoon in Michigan Stadium, it dawned on me that about 10,000 Michigan-Ohio State tickets were just sold to Buckeye fans on Stubhub. It's going to be 2009 all over again.
Tickets for this game were available for 25 bucks in some not-horrible places and even sideline seats 40 rows up were going for under face, in a game Michigan was favored by a touchdown. I fully expect to be surrounded by people whose wedding photos have stickers of Calvin peeing on a Block M on them. It's going to be a wow experience.
Meanwhile, this team has me flatlining; the closest I get to something real is a cringe as Devin Gardner takes yet another sack or Fitzgerald Toussaintcollapses under an avalanche of defenders. Other than that, my viewing of Michigan football since the Akron and UConn games has consisted of resigned nodding with the occasional secretive fist pump when Devin Funchess or Jeremy Gallon catch a pass.
Devin Gardner is being ruined by his offensive line
Some within the Michigan community truly believe that Devin Gardner has made strides in terms of ball security and pocket presence. Even if Gardner has made strides, who would truly be able to tell? He was sacked seven times for the second game in a row; he's so beat up that his ability to exit the pocket and make plays with his legs has been severely dampened. This all goes back to the inside of Michigan's offensive line, which can be exploited with simple stunts and blitzes.
When the offense took the field with a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter there was a stunning sound from the crowd: nothing. Crickets. Nervous mumbling at best. This muffled din was delivered by the crowd that unleashed the loudest Bronx Cheer ever recorded after the team’s initial first down, and the same crowd that screamed like schoolgirls when a blindside Husker defender was closing in on 98 during the third quarter touchdown drive.
LIL FELLER – It was the first game in the big house for this guy and he took a 50-yard Wile line-drive kick off the grill during warm-ups (left). And we’re not talking a glancing blow here.
That said, check out the physicality and toughness (right) as he quickly recovered and got down to the business of enjoying a lollipop and Michigan football.
At least he was prepared for what was to come.
THIS IS WHAT IT'S COME TO
Im going to call for an outside the box pick for OC next season: Mark Mangino. He is a Broyles Award winning OC and his Kansas teams usually had good O. Hes desperate enough to get back into coaching since he is a te coach with ysu so money should not be an issue. And its been 4 years since the issue so that shouldnt be as bad.
I DON'T THINK THAT INSANE
Newspaper stuff. MLive would like you to meet the men who run the scoreboard. I would like to know why they can't get the down and distance up within 20 seconds of the previous play ending.
Devin Gardner would like you to shove it if you are an idiot with an inexplicable platform at ESPN:
"Whoever questions our toughness, they can shove it," Gardner said shortly after Michigan's 17-13 loss to Nebraska at home Saturday. …
"I look in those guys' eyes in the huddle and they’re tough guys and they’re going out and fighting for me," Gardner said. "I don’t care what any of you or whoever says that, says."
This isn't just about the players, or that young offensive line, or the beleaguered Devin Gardner. This is about the coaching staff that can't figure out how to fix it. And I'm sorry, just waiting for young players to get older is not an acceptable answer.
Michigan's offense was brutalized again Saturday in a 17-13 loss to Nebraska. In his third season, Hoke had never lost a game in Michigan Stadium, and the Wolverines had their chances to extend the streak. But when they got the ball, they literally looked like a team that had no idea what to do with it.
"How about that defense?" Pelini said. "They stood up time after time – I think they had three short fields in the second half and one short field to end the first half – (facing) a lot of situations that could have changed that football game.
"Guys rose to the occasion. And we talked all week about that -- no matter the odds, or where we are playing, we are going to play as a team and pick each other up."