The Instrument Is Out Of Alignment

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2015 at 12:11 PM

9/19/2015 – Michigan 28, UNLV 7 – 2-1

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This is our concern, Dude [Patrick Barron]

It didn't take long for Jim Harbaugh to shift from cheerfully and convincingly explaining why Jake Rudock's play was better than it looked against Utah to… not doing that. After UNLV, a couple of post-game questions clearly designed to fill already-written stories about Rudock's grim day with quotes raised Harbaugh's ire. He deflected a couple with boilerplate ("his job is to win football games") and assertions about a swirling wind, but when a third came:

Um, I guess I’m not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be.

I hesitate to side with the Talk About types, but I'm concerned. I'm concerned with both the statistics (123 yards against UNLV, probably half of which came on "smoke" screens) and the overall level of play the statistics crystallize.

We're working with small sample sizes, of course, but that's all we've got to project with. The projections are not ideal.

I am not buying the wind conditions being a problem. I was in that stadium. I have been in it for many games. I once had a life and death fight with a poorly designed poncho. I have seen and endured all kinds of weather, and at no point on Saturday did the wind rise to a level where it felt like a serious factor. It blew a bit; I have seen many quarterbacks deal with that and much worse.

Those quarterbacks include one Jake Rudock. Kinnick Stadium juts out of a vast unbroken expanse of plains extending to the Rocky Mountains. In February I had occasion to drive through virtually the entire state of Iowa during a blizzard; I went at highway speeds because the snow was blown over the roads in an ever-streaming mass, never settling. Only the odd copse of trees huddled around a farmhouse provided enough of a windbreak to allow snow a temporary home, and even that was more refugee shelter than citizenship.

That drive reminded me of a David Foster Wallace essay about his youth tennis career that necessarily focused on one of the overriding concerns outdoor sportsmen have when the nearest bump in the terrain is thousands of miles to the west:

The biggest single factor in Central Illinois' quality of outdoor life is wind. There are more local jokes than I can summon about bent weather vanes and leaning barns, more downstate sobriquets for kinds of wind than there are in Malamut for snow. The wind had a personality, a (poor) temper, and, apparently, agendas. The wind blew autumn leaves into intercalated lines and arcs of force so regular you could photograph them for a textbook on Cramer's Rule and the cross-products of curves in 3-space. It molded winter snow into blinding truncheons that buried stalled cars and required citizens to shovel out not only driveways but the sides of homes; a Central Illinois "blizzard" starts only when the snowfall stops and the wind begins. Most people in Philo didn't comb their hair because why bother.

Of all the things that might explain why Jake Rudock could not hit Drake Johnson on a five-yard swing pass, wind is the least believable.

----------------------------------------

So. Let us calibrate our panic. It is the first year of a new head coach handed a terrible QB situation making do; that head coach has been massively successful anywhere he's laid his head. Macro panic: nil.

Micro panic: measurable. The Big Ten looks like a bunch of goobers plus MSU and OSU and I guess maybe Northwestern is good. A team that has Michigan's salty defense and a steady, boring offense is going to win a healthy number of games. Michigan's offense has been boring; it has only managed to be steady against Oregon State.

The offense Michigan fielded on Saturday loses games Michigan fans are currently filing in the win column. While that's cause for a shrug long term thanks to the state of the QB roster, it does dent Harbaugh's early momentum. Does that matter much? The recent trajectories of high-level coaches and… well… Brady Hoke say not particularly.

But it is nice to win things. I'm busy downgrading my expectations about as fast as I'm downgrading my expectations for the rest of Michigan's schedule, which is fine, I guess. I expect a bumpy ride and then as soon as anything goes smoothly I exclaim THIS IS IT FOREVER, because I am irrational.

We've gone from hoping that we should dump Rudock's career at Iowa from our expectations to hoping it's still valid to add those games in; it probably is. The upside of escaping Greg Davis, where Iowa fans are going nuts about a guy whose completions are five yards downfield or shorter 80% of the time feels gone. We would like to lock in the low-turnover game manager if that is still available.

HIGHLIGHTS

AWARDS

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wear Jourdan Lewis #brand jackets [Patrick Barron]

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Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.

you're the man now, dog

#1 Jourdan Lewis had 4(!) PBUs on the day, and those were mostly as he covered the very legit Devonte Boyd. Playing as well as any Michigan DB since… Leon Hall?

#2 Ty Isaac ripped off the 76-yard touchdown that made things comfortable at halftime. On that play he made a swift cut upfield, broke a tackle, and put on the jets. He looked solid on his other seven runs as well.

#3 Channing Stribling picked off a pass, defended another, and was able to stick to the receiver any time he was tested.

Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill probably would have snagged the first-ever punter mention in this section if he hadn't shanked that one. Any member of the front seven—Michigan spread 8 TFLs among 9 players. Jehu Chesson did go grab a rushing touchdown.

YTBNHTGWDGA Standings.

5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV)
2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State), Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV)
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Honorable mention: Picks from Clark and Stribling. Glasgow's thunderous TFL. Blake O'Neill essentially passing the ball down to the 3, and hitting a 59-yarder without a return.

WGIBTUs Past.

Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

The general sentiment was to keep double bird. That was my inclination as well.

This week's worst thing ever.

Jake Rudock matches his 2014 interception total in game three by throwing one that hits a linebacker in both hands. The linebacker deflected it to a defensive back, but that was not bad luck.

Honorable mention: Rudock misses a flare route by yards. Any number of interior rushes that didn't get much. Those two Decker passes towards the end that seriously compromised Michigan's quest to keep UNLV under 200 yards.

PREVIOUS EDBs

Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.

I am sensing an unfortunate theme.

[After THE JUMP: corners making plays, DL emerging, run game woes explained, YIP YIP YIP YIP]

OFFENSE

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When Michigan went outside it was ridiculously easy [Upchurch]

Ground grunts. De'Veon Smith never got going in this game in large part because UNLV was willing to put the world within six yards of the line of scrimmage:

massive box

This was in contrast to Oregon State, which wasn't exactly conservative (both safeties at ten yards generally means one of them is going to be a heavy run defender) but was not exactly aggressive, either.

UNLV also virtually ignored the edges. When Jehu Chesson got a jet sweep he needed one block from Henri Poggi and one from Darboh downfield to score; most of those fullback dives featured unblocked defensive ends crashing down while no one tracked the pitch guy. The swing pass Rudock missed at the start of the second half would have gone for 30 yards and maybe a touchdown, as Drake Johnson was about to be one on one with a free safety. Any outside run on which Michigan targeted correctly was an easy chunk of yards.

Michigan did not explore this with the frequency they probably should have. This game is going to come out negative in RPS because Michigan had a lot of plays blown up by guys they weren't trying to block or didn't have the numbers to. That's irritating in the moment but with Michigan up multiple touchdowns much of the day and playing a team that barely got past midfield you can understand M going into boring, expectation-shedding mode with BYU next up.

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Rudock is not Denard [Upchurch]

Transition issues. The most alarming bit of the day in the passing game was the period in the second half where Rudock started sitting in the pocket forever and then running around because he could not find anyone to throw the ball to. One of those worked out into the world's longest eight-yard scramble; even that felt like a very bad idea Rudock got away with because he was playing UNLV.

The interception clearly sapped Rudock's confidence in what he was seeing, and the results were not pretty. Rudock's not the biggest or strongest or most likely to throw a football through a brick wall; his assets are intelligence and good, quick decisions. Remove the quick decisions and you've got a passing game that looks like Michigan's did on Saturday.

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Great catch necessarily out of bounds [Upchurch]

Wide receiver debates. There's a rift in the Michigan fanbase between folks who are piling it all on Rudock and those who are splitting the blame with the wide receivers. I'm actually more in the former camp, to my surprise. There was one pass in this game that looked bad for Amara Darboh since he turned to the inside before having to spin back outside on a deep ball that eventually fell incomplete.

[@ Right: Barron]

20925664104_425e36e30c_zThat's not great tracking of the ball; it is also a problem with Rudock since Darboh has beaten his guy solidly and expects that he'll get an opportunity to make a relatively easy catch of a ball coming over his right shoulder. Instead he is invited to execute a full Willie Mays basket catch on a ball that is much more difficult than it has to be.

Meanwhile the Harris catch above was in fact a great adjustment to a ball in flight. Unfortunately that ball gave Harris zero chance of staying in bounds. Rudock has consistently given his deep receivers little to no play on the ball. The first Chesson pass against Utah isn't even an exception. Yes, Chesson slowed up a hair. But he had beaten his man so badly that his main concern was running out of room in the endzone; Rudock overthrew a ball that he should have been putting up for a layup.

All this goes back to the major weakness I thought I saw over the summer: Rudock tries to make the perfect throw every time and rarely puts up the kind of pass where his receiver gets a chance to make a play. We've seen a couple that may have been inaccuracy more than anything.

I do think a guy like Funchess would be helping out a lot, but Michigan's situation at WR is not that incredibly dire.

OL things? I don't have much to say about them yet. Pass protection was very good. The run issues came coupled with a number of mashing blocks at the point of attack that got less than you might think because of the sheer number of bodies in the area.

Strobel number roulette. Strobel donned an OL's 50 this week and tucked inside Mason Cole on a number of goofy alignment plays that Michigan did not execute particularly well on.

DEFENSE

Rather decent. In the game preview I predicted that UNLV would not get to 200 yards if their starting quarterback did not play. He played probably 2/3rds of the game and UNLV still barely scraped over that number thanks to a Purdue-Certified Make The Final Score Look Better drive and Jim Harbaugh declining a penalty on a play that ended the first half.

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[Eric Upchurch]

Corners perform. The most notable development on the day was Michigan's corners excelling all around. We expect that from Jourdan Lewis these days but every game he does is another increment on our Bayesian estimations of his ability.

We do not yet expect that from Jeremy Clark and Channing Stribling, so watching them both pick up sweet interceptions and play well in other aspects of the game was encouraging. Stribling undercut a dig route:

Yes, the ball is to the inside; very few interceptions are not aided by the offense failing to execute. The offense wins if everyone is perfect. Taking advantage of opportunities when the offense is not perfect is what defense is about.

Clark got his head around on a go route on which he'd already put the wide receiver just about on the sideline to find the ball in his chest; he caught it on the rebound.

Both guys added other instances of quality play, especially Stribling. Stribling was tested on a few downfield bombs and defended them all. He had a PBU on a crossing route that was late. Clark had a couple opportunities he did pretty well on as well. The one clear problem was a pass interference penalty Clark took on the snap before his interception; at least Clark was savvy enough to take the 15 yard hit after he knew he was in trouble.

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Godin was robbed of a sack by balance and bloody fate [Barron]

Godin coming on. Chris Wormley had a quiet day, leaving Ryan Glasgow and Matt Godin to be the most frequent backfield stormtroopers on the day. Glasgow you kind of expect at this point. My only worry with him is that he'll be unable to hold up against big OL that double him; against average and average-at-best teams he's a rock.

Godin is a pleasant surprise. He started seeing considerable playing time late last year after some injuries and the Clark dismissal opened up snaps. He did decently with them. This year he's improved enough to be a virtual fourth starter on a line featuring three very good players, and he's making an impact. Multiple times in this game he blew opposition OL back; he remains pretty good at slicing past them, especially on stunts.

The same concerns about holding up extend to Godin, but there is a reason the OR persists next to Chris Wormley's name on the depth chart. It has nothing to do with Wormley.

Henry's got to watch his legs. Henry also didn't have a big day, as UNLV tended to run away from him on zone plays and cut him. He was unfortunately susceptible to hitting the ground on those plays and was often responsible for the cutback lanes that saw the Rebels snatch a number of successful runs.

Lawrence Marshall has just escaped the doghouse. He saw time very late. That is a better indicator he's not going to live up to the spring hype just yet than not playing at all. Marshall didn't get snaps in either of Michigan's first two games; maybe that was talent, maybe it was injury, maybe it was suspension. If he's seeing the field late in a blowout he's probably healthy and obviously not suspended; I doubt we see him take on a prominent role this year.

Meanwhile Michigan's getting solid pass rush even without a major contributor at that end spot.

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I know this is a shot of Michigan's offense in the defense section but I'm talking about WR screens (shut your mouth) and we don't have any shots of UNLV screens, which is wonderful. [Upchurch]

We are a team that is bad at blocking and has QB issues and we're going to virtually ignore WR screens. That was UNLV on Saturday. I recall one WR screen, period. I may be omitting one or two; I still love that to bits. Michigan puts their corners in press man a lot, which dissuades screens, and then it seems like the word on Peppers is out. It feels super to go through two games against spread to run teams in which Michigan gave up one chunk of yards on a dumb little edge screen*. They are in fact outgaining opponents on dumb little edge screens.

*[Not counting the tunnel screen that almost went badly against Oregon State; this is about screens that don't involve the offensive line.]

The prior point leads into this one about how modern the D feels. The opener featured a play on which a (probable) scrape exchange was not made on a zone read keeper. That play drew a ton of "argh Michigan never defends the spread" ire on twitter. I thought it too. And then Michigan shut Utah's offense off, for the most part.

They followed that up with a couple of outings against teams trying various tricky tricks that have usually resulted in Michigan falling over and soiling itself; none have worked consistently. Maybe there is an instance here or there in which Michigan does not adjust to motion or gets the bejeezus held out of a critical linebacker, but given how quickly they adapted those feel like missed assignments instead of systemic problems.

Michigan has a couple of simple checks (the flappy bird thing they do) they run constantly when offenses try to unbalance them with motion; they will interchange safety and corner when that makes sense. They are a nickel base D.

None of these teams are that good on offense, even Utah, but there are many Michigan teams of the past whose defenses would have massively underperformed expectations when faced with offenses that did not match up with the manball offenses they went up against in practice. DJ Durkin's defenses have not done so yet.

MISCELLANEOUS

YAAARGH. Hell of a shot from Eric:

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[Upchurch]

Hello. The tubes have been replaced by Yips.

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YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP [Patrick Barron]

Some excellent side-eye from the lady on the far left of this picture.

Puntin'. So this is how Blake O'Neill's doing this year.

bryan [1:47 PM] Are we grading O'Neil punts on a scale of Zoolander poses yet?

From La Tigra to Magnum?

ace [1:48 PM] that was definitely a Magnum

(phrasing)

That was after O'Neill blasted a rugby kick 59 yards with no return. That punt was on a line but hit so hard that the returner ended up standing in an incorrect place with insufficient time to correct that error.

Before that, O'Neill had one of his delayed kicks that he dropped at the three yard line for Channing Stribling to fair catch. His shank was really the only thing standing between him and the kind of post game praise we've never seen issued to a punter around these parts.

Returnin'. Michigan went from a series of all-out block attempts against Oregon State to a series of return attempts that didn't go quite as well as Michigan hoped. The spectacular Peppers return was indeed spectacular, but it wasn't particularly assisted by blocking until Peppers had whizzed past three befuddled Rebels.

I'm okay with that. I liked the fact that Michigan was trying something. On these returns they would line up with a few guys off the edge and then make a call to scoot guys around, presumably in an effort to get UNLV gunners releasing directly into guys who suddenly show up where they were not. It's a good idea, and one that demonstrates the effort and creativity Michigan is putting into special teams this year. That and the Aussie punter.

Orin Incandenza game theory changes. I'm going to bug the Mathlete about this, but that punt down to the three made me wonder if a world in which touchbacks don't happen or are at least very rare is one in which punting is the optimal strategy in a lot of situations where the conventional wisdom is to go for it after pointing and laughing at Rod Gilmore. I went from irritated before the delayed punt to shrugging, because sure put them at the three.

Peppers is going to be fun. This is not information.

Dadrock subplot. Oregon State music was split about 50/50 between Special K's usual playlist and Harbaugh's first generation iPod. That split went away, replaced with nothing but WCSX's greatest hits. Even the Kid Rock songs that made it were the Kid Rock songs on which he does his Bob Seger impression.

This was funny and generally diverted me from the fact that there was absolutely no let-up in the music from the Brandon era. That lasted about two and a half quarters, and then I was psychologically beaten down by it. We are still filling every available space with blaring music like Michigan fans are infants that need a rattle in front of their face 99% of the time. But when the crowd responds like this I guess you have to continue:

Hackett talked about toning it down; I haven't seen any evidence of it yet.

HERE

Best And Worst:

Best:  Neapolitan Without Chocolate and You Hate Strawberry or
Worst:  Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Vanilla Extract Mixed with Vanilla Sorbet

One of the most derisive terms you hear on the internet (coined by legendary champion/male stripper Kevin Nash) to describe a professional wrestler is that he’s a “vanilla midget”.  The term has a number of meanings and, in certain contexts, can almost be a backhanded compliment, but in general it refers to a wrestler who is good at “wrestling” but not so good at the “sports entertainment” part of it; it typically means he’s short, bad on the mic, a bit weird/generic looking, etc.  Despite its evocative nature of a particular type of guy, it’s been applied to wrestlers of all stripes, usually in a way to trivialize their real accomplishments and reduce them to a trite tableau of unmet cosmetic expectations.

I noticed during this game how many people became discouraged that UM’s utter dominance of UNLV wasn’t “more” than it was.  Outside of the one Isaac run, this was basically UM spending a half methodically walking up and down the field with minimal resistance from the Rebels, running the same basic plays effectively but without much flair.  Yes, part of that was due to Jake Rudock’s continued inability to consistently throw the ball farther than 10 yards downfield, but UM was going to play this game as close to the vest as possible.  If this was an NES game, UM just went full Tecmo on the playbook.

Inside The Box Score:

The Two Jakes
* I thought I was going to have to rename this section The One Jake. Rudock finally threw a ball to Butt in the second half. Jake B. ended up with two catches for 14 yards. If they are saving him for BYU and the bigger B1G games, I understand.
* In the now weekly battle between Jake Rudock and ST3-defined efficient QB play, Rudock was 14 for 22 (64%, check,) with only one interception (check,) but he only averaged 5.6 yards per attempt. Ugh.

WHAT ARE THOSE?
* The WHAT ARE THOSE? award goes to the BTN cameramen. Those people running around on the field in stylishly matching outfits are football players. It's generally a good idea to keep your electronic moving picture taking box pointed at those players, especially the one that has the ball in his hands. But don't get too close lest the rest feel left out.

I have availed myself of the camerawork and can report that it was real bad. At least when the camera guy is trying to express his avant-garde truth it was generally followed by a replay that indicated what the hell happened. This does not help people watching live but should prevent me from ragequitting UFR.

ELSEWHERE

Sap's decals:

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION – Channing Stribling’s interception on UNLV’s first drive set the tone for the Michigan Defense. If the opponent wants to take the football to start the game, Durkin’s D has to let them know that they will not be able to move the ball and that’s what #8 did. The INT was emotionally charging for Michigan and emotionally deflating for UNLV.

Hoover Street Rag goes on a Killers kick. Maize and Blue Nation:

But there were a lot of things to be satisfied happy about. The offensive line did what they were supposed to do to an outmanned front...holes were made and QB's were protected. UNLV got only 2 TFL's and no sacks. Ty Isaac ran the ball better and more effectively then he ever has in the Michigan uniform. The defense played outstanding as usual. Special teams were solid and Michigan's punter Blake O'neill booted 4 of his 5 aussie-style punts inside the 20. All in all, it was a business as usual type of game...which is something you haven't really been able to say around Ann Arbor that much recently.

MLive grades. Marcus Ray on Rudock. The BTN's intro was actually good, if nothing else was. Jourdan Lewis is good. Touch The Banner. Recruit reacts. Maize and Brew.

Comments

westwardwolverine

September 21st, 2015 at 1:30 PM ^

Uh, yeah. He did. 

If he throws one pick instead of three (two of which were his fault), we win the game. 

If he had the ability to complete a downfield pass, that would help loosen things up for the running game. 

Also, for the above guy saying "HE HAD SO MANY YARDS AGAINST UTAH, HE WAS THE OFFENSE, WHERE WOULD BE WITHOUT HIM" well no shit. When a QB throws the ball 43 times, he's going to have quite a few yards. Its inevitable. Problem is, Rudock didn't throw for THAT many yards and he missed quite a few big throws on top of his picks.

Yeah, Deveon Smith didn't have a great game, but the line gave Rudock pretty good pass protection and he couldn't take advantage of it. 

mGrowOld

September 21st, 2015 at 12:50 PM ^

Two years ago we were sweating out the final plays against teams like UNLV to barely hang on for the win and last year we lost them outright.  This year we won a game that was never in doubt and because our QB played relatively poorly vs our expectations suddenly we're worried and resetting our expectations for the year?  Not me.   I had us at 9-3 and nothing I've seen so far has changed that.

So if less than awesome QB has us changing our annual win forecast what should we expect from OSU now?  Because their alleged embarrassment of riches at QB at the start of the year just looked like an embarrassment this past week and didnt show much against Hawaii either.  Should we put them down for three or four losses now?

Common people - cheer the fuck up.

LostOnNorth

September 21st, 2015 at 12:58 PM ^

Yup. And for the record, NC winning cardale jones got benched for throwing 2 picks against northern illinois and heisman candidate JT barret didn't look a whole lot better. Michigan State also gave up 3 touchdowns to air force and USC got clobbered by Stanford. Everyone needs to calm the fuck down. As harbaugh said, the W is all that matters

westwardwolverine

September 21st, 2015 at 1:34 PM ^

I think the disappointment stems from the feeling that we are going to waste a very good, possibly great defense as well as some weapons on offense (Darboh and Butt, maybe Harris) and special teams (O'Neill, Peppers) in a down year for the Big Ten because rather than getting the game manager we thought we were getting, so far we have Devin Gardner minus the athletic ability. 

And given what we've seen from the conference, that's disappointing. A game manager who doesn't turn the ball over and we are challenging for the division and possibly the conference. Instead....well, we have what we have. 

westwardwolverine

September 21st, 2015 at 3:10 PM ^

You mean the #1 team that just beat Northern Illinois 20-13 that we get to play at home? 

You mean the #2 team that has looked incredibly sloppy on special teams and is dealing with injury issues and has taken a step back on defense that we get to play at home? 

Neither looks like one of the two best teams in the country. 

lunchboxthegoat

September 21st, 2015 at 5:20 PM ^

The entire field this year is shaky. The only team with a better W so far this year than MSU is  Ole Miss and I can' t imagine anyone trusts them more. This will be an exciting season as it is going to be fascinating to watch this all shake out. I'm willing to bet there are 0 P5 undefeated teams going into the playoffs. 

Gulogulo37

September 21st, 2015 at 9:44 PM ^

Disappointment!? What did you predict for this year? Were you one of those guys claiming an undefeated season but actually seriously about it? Really, I'm curious what your prediction was before the season started.

And what do you mean "waste"? This team looks like it'll finish the regular season 8-4 or 9-3. You're calling Harbaugh's first season after the debacle of Hoke's tenure a waste because what? We aren't getting into the playoffs? Every team has weaknesses. Every team could claim the season was wasted if they have ridiculous expectations and just wish player X didn't get injured, the secondary was better, the O-line was more experienced, etc.

I'm happy we have a team that, although unlikely to win vs. State, looks like it at least won't get pounded into the ground and absolutely embarassed like it continually has the last few years.

funkywolve

September 21st, 2015 at 11:57 PM ^

People are acting like this is the 4th year of Hoke.  We're games into the Harbaugh era.  While Hoke didn't leave the cupboard bare, Harbaugh isn't going to turn water into wine over night.  While OSU and UNLV aren't good, UM was just about in total control of the games.  3 games into the Harbaugh tenure and his playing calling is being questioned, his status as a QB guru questioned, his decision making about which QB should start is being questioned - this place is comedy.

Badkitty

September 21st, 2015 at 4:30 PM ^

When are the freaking pitchforks and torches going to come out for Harbaugh because some people have unrealistic expectations for a rebuilding year???? As long as the team looks like it is improving and the coaching staff seems like they're in command of the situation, which you cannot say it was during the last regime, I'm satisfied. Yeah, it'd be great if we were 3-0 and we blew everybody away. But I never believed we were so much better talent wise because "we are Michigan fergodsakes" and that a coaching change would flip a switch and magically make us into NC contenders. Our WR situation wasn't as dire as WE thought, our OL is not a sieve, the RB seem OK, defense is pretty solid, kicking is pretty good. We just have issues with probably the hardest position in the game. Could anyone say anything positive about those things I listed last year?

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

kingsyzd614

September 21st, 2015 at 12:53 PM ^

I have seen in a very long time, and I remember watching the UM v Delaware game on streaming internet 4 or 5 years ago.  I almost turned it off, but eventually just muted it after my ears had been bludeoned enough by the static charging through my speakers every 5 seconds.  And I actually found the replays to be just as frustrating sometimes as the live camera view.  Hey FOX, we are ready for a deal.

FanNamedOzzy

September 21st, 2015 at 12:54 PM ^

That punt return was absolutely electric. After watching it many times, it seems like he might have been able to break one if he ran towards the middle of the field after his cut at the 33 yard line. It looks like there was quite a big crease and a blocker or two to help him there. He'll break one eventually.

dragonchild

September 21st, 2015 at 12:55 PM ^

Yes, the ball is to the inside; very few interceptions are not aided by the offense failing to execute. The offense wins if everyone is perfect. Taking advantage of opportunities when the offense is not perfect is what defense is about.

As a defender I ain't got the talent but I got the 'tude.  Which makes for some pretty pathetic rec league play, OK, but my point is, them's fightin' words here.  If the offense is perfect the defense didn't do its job.  The offense strives for perfection and execution; it's our job to prevent that from happening.  There's a reason I don't play sports like golf or tennis where you can be as perfect as you want because no one's all up in your face.  It's a good day for me when my man is shaking his head and stamping his feet in frustration.

StephenRKass

September 21st, 2015 at 12:55 PM ^

I still think Rudock improves a lot, and that the fans are too down I'm him. I won't defend his play thus far. The "swirling wind" excuse is ridiculous. But I do think the receivers and Rudock are still getting on the same page. Undoubtedly, he response to the UNLV game makes both Harbaugh and Rudock mad, seething quietly. I'm betting we see a significant jump in Rudock's play against BYU. Oh, and I definitely don't think that Rudock loses games for Michigan.

On a different topic, was happy to see both Stribling and Clark do well. The secondary may be better than what many expected.

wahooverine

September 21st, 2015 at 1:43 PM ^

Maybe in terms of physical maturity. But we're not talking about a o-lineman or WR who's physical maturity plays a large role in on field effectiveness.  Rudock can improve with additional playing/practice in this new offense, with additional coaching from Harbaugh/Fisch and with macro-improvement from the offense in general (WR's, line, H backs, TE's getting better at their jobs and the coaches making tweaks).

4godkingandwol…

September 21st, 2015 at 2:37 PM ^

... some of the problems are not "getting familiar with offense" category.  The Drake Johnson miss, the Butt miss in the endzone, the numerous poor deep balls, the throwing to covered receivers have little to do with being in a new system.  

I'm hoping to see improvement with the hesitance, the checking down to quickly, etc... but I've just accepted that the upside is a lot lower than best case.  Still better than previous years... but not great.  I've adjusted from 8-4 expectation to 7-5.  

ChiBlueBoy

September 21st, 2015 at 12:59 PM ^

The highlights included FOUR Special Teams plays. TWO by the punter. I have to think that improvement in ST could account for at least one more victory this year. Hell, having 11 on the field at all times could be worth a win.

MI Expat NY

September 21st, 2015 at 1:01 PM ^

While I agree that the high end expectations for Rudock are probably not going to happen (an epiphany under Harbaugh that leads to him being a mid-round or higher NFL draft pick), I still think there's a good chance he plays really well in a couple games and we win where real teams dare Rudock to beat them.  

In the end, Rudock is still a guy who has only been in a system for about 7 weeks, with a team full of guys that have only been in the system for about 10-12 weeks.  Everyone is constantly improving as they learn and get more comfortable in the system.  Hopefully, for Rudock individually, the switch is flipped in the next three weeks or so.  

funkywolve

September 21st, 2015 at 3:50 PM ^

Well, not sure how many people had their high end expectations for Rudock as a mid round or higher NFL draft pick.  I know I didn't.  I thought the scouting report was game manager, low turnovers and who isn't that good with the deep ball.  

I wasn't even really expecting all big ten honors for the guy (unless it was something like honorable mention).

MI Expat NY

September 21st, 2015 at 5:34 PM ^

Maybe I shouldn't have described that as high end expectations but absolute ceiling.  We knew he didn't have a prototypical first round arm, but there was a resonable argument that when allowed to wing it last year at Iowa he showed the ability to be very accurate down the field and have success.  Basically that it was just the Iowa offense holding him down, and with a better system he could be pretty damn good.  

I think we know now that he has his own flaws and it wasn't just a Greg Davis problem.  That being said, I do think he will get more comfortable in the system and I do expect him to have a game where we need him to go beyond being a game manager and go win us a game, and he will do it.  

El Jeffe

September 21st, 2015 at 1:04 PM ^

Attention Michigan fans: Rudock is mediocre. Not good, not bad, but somewhere in the middle. He makes some really nice throws (see 5:15 in the highlights) and some really shitty throws. That is who he is. I still think he will get better as the year goes on but he will never be Chad Henne nor even John Navarre. This is the situation. Beep boop.

Kewaga.

September 21st, 2015 at 1:06 PM ^

Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.

5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State) 
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV) 
2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State), Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV) 
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)

 

 

I love this guys!!!

Please keep this up all year.

 

Cheers

BornInA2

September 21st, 2015 at 1:11 PM ^

"De'Veon Smith never got going in this game in large part because UNLV was willing to put the world within six yards of the line of scrimmage"

THIS is what happens when your frigging QB can't throw an accurate pass longer than four yards. And it's nothing new: This is the defense we've been fed since Denard's second year: Bottle him up (and the running game) and dare him to toss wounded ducks downfield.

I don't know what's going on with Rudock, but it's going to become increasing huge as the high water of lousy opponents recedes this season.

Gulogulo37

September 21st, 2015 at 9:49 PM ^

"it's going to become increasing huge as the high water of lousy opponents recedes this season."

Meh. Outside of BYU, OSU, and MSU, our schedule barely looks tougher than Oregon State. Northwestern, Minny, and Penn State are probably the toughest and have very good defenses but are abysmal on offense.

Nobody Likes a…

September 21st, 2015 at 1:12 PM ^

I always worry more when Brian gets more wistful and prosaic in his prose. There is a direct correlation in my mind between his level of loquaciousness and an impending heart breaking loss. He is our resident MidWest Faulkner of Football misery

dragonchild

September 21st, 2015 at 1:46 PM ^

It's a cliche to not look past your current opponent but Harbaugh plays my kind of SunTzuball.  It's the PLAYERS who need to focus on today's game and the coach's job to think about the rest of the schedule.  He played a few cards early (the Chesson run) but once Isaac got that long TD I told myself "he's done playing tricks unless UNLV makes it interesting".  And sure enough, with a 3 TD lead and UNLV's offense going nowhere, Michigan's offense played a glorified scrimmage for much of the second half.

I like it.  What ground my gears about Borges is that he had the talent to scheme up 40-point games against viable defenses but he never deployed them when Michigan needed them; he did it when his new toy was ready.  So we run up blowouts against CMU (zone stretch) and Minnesota (tackle over) but even with a goddamn bye week does nothing new and gets everything stopped by Michigan State.

Butt figures to be used heavily against BYU, MSU and OSU so what sort of work did he need against UNLV?  It's not so much an injury risk or playbook poker -- though both are factors -- as obviously Butt is the one receiver Rudock's comfortable throwing to so there's little to improve on.  Might as well have Rudock try out that swing pass to Johnson in a game situation (obviously it still needs work).  Only reason to throw to Butt in this game was to run up the score and there was absolutely no need.

StephenRKass

September 21st, 2015 at 4:51 PM ^

Wish I could upvote you more. Harbaugh has established a track record of pulling out surprises when they are needed. I'm thinking, for instance, of Stanford beating USC in their first year. Harbaugh isn't unique in this:  IIRC, Bo did the same thing vs. Ohio State in '69. I will never forget how Borges wasted some wrinkles in games where they weren't needed. I would much, much, much rather Rudock look ugly because he is using games to get timing down, and save the big plays and the wrinkles for when Michigan really needs them. There would be nothing more pleasing then seeing Harbaugh and Michigan really open up the playbook and completely blindside Michigan State. If Michigan can get a couple or three touchdown lead vs. State, it completely changes the playcalling the the complexion of that game. It actually allows Michigan to reserve yet more wrinkles for Ohio State.

tolmichfan

September 21st, 2015 at 1:18 PM ^

Brian, on the swing pass to drake, I think some of the blame goes on drake. From my vantage point it looked as if he came out of the backfield flat ( not sure how to describe it ). If u watch smiths TD he runs straight to the sideline then curls upfield. Yes rudock should have adjusted his throw, but he probably expected drake to be where he threw the ball.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

markusr2007

September 21st, 2015 at 1:37 PM ^

Michigan's defense is for real, and will probably keep the Wolverines in games this year against superior competition. 

Rudock has played below expectations this fall.

Right now he's deadlocked with Cardale Jones in passing rating, so there's that:

After playing Utah, Oregon St and UNLV, Michigan's QB situation is very bad. I don't know how you overcome it, except to become more boring and to stop throwing interceptions. Only Purdue's Austin Appleby has thrown more INT's than Rudock after 3 games.

Michigan is not a BIG10 contender. They're a lot like Northwestern. Both have throat-choking defenses, but anemic offenses and the not good kind of dangerous at QB. Look at NU's Thorsen below.  The inconsistent QB play will cost Michigan some big football games this fall.

Still, as bad as things are, and as bad as they are likely to get (I think Rudock's confidence is shaken), matters could be a helluva lot worse:

The next team coming to Ann Arbor, BYU, is already ranked 16th in turnover margin with +7 INTs and +1 fumble recovery. They have committed zero fumbles and only 1 INT in three games with a backup QB Tanner Mangum.

 

MGoClimb

September 21st, 2015 at 1:20 PM ^

Not time to panic, on a micro and certainly not a macro level.

Rudock will improve. His level of play so far I don't believe is indicative of what we're going to see from him the rest of the season. The long throws will take time, but I would not be surprised to see an improvement in the intermediate passes against BYU.

go16blue

September 21st, 2015 at 1:24 PM ^

On the swing pass, I thought live that was on Drake Johnson. If my memory serves, it was not close to Rudock's first read, and he let go of the ball very quickly, throwing it to where Johnson should have been. I'd imagine that's what he was coached to do on those passes. Drake on the other hand saw nothing but green field ahead of him and started jogging forward, abandoning his route. Thus the ball thrown behind him.

My $.02 anyway. I have yet to see it on film.

Njia

September 21st, 2015 at 1:24 PM ^

Do we get trigger warnings with those?

Anyway, the BYU game really makes me nervous. I think our chances of winning and losing fall on Rudock's shoulders. He can't keep missing the easy throws (and even the ones he's made look like he needs a better pair of glasses). Opposing defenses obviously know that because not even UNLV was ready to believe that he could beat them with his arm - witness ALL ELEVEN men in the box! When was the last time anyone can remember a team doing that?