It Was Good While It Lasted

Submitted by Brian on October 20th, 2008 at 12:03 PM

10/18/2008 – Michigan 17, Penn State 46 – 2-5, 1-2 Big Ten

rodriguez-oy-vey 

The reader may have noted a certain fevered quality to Friday's posting, and for good reason: I was sort of fevered. Bestruck by a head cold that wanted to kill my brain, I was in something of a fever dream until Zoltan punted it away with about two minutes left in the first half and Andre Criswell decided that it would be a good idea to pop Derrick Williams.

From there, reality reasserted itself with a thud.

This is not a "well coached team," I guess. It's hard to pick through all the detritus associated with that term—usually it means "loses too much for the accuser's taste"—and pick out a real definition, but suffice it to say well coached teams can return kickoffs past the twenty and don't pick up stupid personal fouls on downed punts. They don't they lead the country in fumbles. By a lot of metrics this not only a talent-deficient team but a discipline-deficient team as well.

And, okay, if you are concerned about that I get it. I think the longer view suggests Rodriguez can assemble a successful football team that does indeed seem "well coached," and by "suggests" I mean "makes it obvious".

There's not a whole lot more to say about unsurprising 30-point losses. We're going to see what the future holds one way or the other. I advocate patience, etc., you know the drill.

BULLETS

  • No offense to a fine young man, but NICK SHERIDAN=DEATH. The decision to start him over Threet, or play him ever while Threet is physically capable of throwing the ball, will go down as the most inexplicable one of the Rodriguez era.
  • Both of Threet's elbows are torn up? WTF? This is like a single player version of the broken thumb plague of 2005.
  • Obviously Brandon Minor was the major buzz coming out of the game, as he ran with power two Sam McGuffie's couldn't muster. And he didn't fumble the ball. The fumbling and the offensive line and the Notre Dame game and Minor's run of just-nagging-enough injuries makes McGuffie's insertion understandable; I think he lost his job, though.
  • When Threet was on the field he was impressive, and you could see that QB off-tackle/sweep thing was something they'd worked on significantly in practice but couldn't use the week before because Threet was busted up.
  • In the first half when Minor was gashing them up the middle I thought to myself "we need to have something that plays off this or they're going to adapt and shut it down"; this happened. I think the difference in future years will be the ability to go to something else when (or, preferably, just before) the opposing defense catches on to the stuff you're running. You can see there's a certain monotony in the offense.
  • Commenter ShockFX is going to find his annoyance at the "Minor should play more" threads be replaced by an an entirely different one genre: "why didn't Minor play more?" Projected rage level: steady.

Comments

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 12:17 PM ^

Suddenly I was no longer in a bar watching the game, but I was at a bank right when a crane was crashing through the ceiling directly onto me.

/can't believe he admitted he watches "Eli Stone."

ThWard

October 20th, 2008 at 12:18 PM ^

Suddenly I was no longer at the bar watching the game, but I was at a bank right before a crane crashed through the ceiling and onto me.

/can't believe he admitted he watches "Eli Stone"

king_kerridge

October 20th, 2008 at 12:29 PM ^

As soon as I saw #8 putting his helmet on and heading on to the field, I turned to my roomate and said...

 "This is the point in the game where we do not get another first down and Penn State covers the spread"

 I would have been right about both until Minor got a garbage time 1st down on our last drive. Any game that Sheridan starts we have no chance of winning.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 12:31 PM ^

But if we (PSU) had a decent middle linebacker (Poz, Connor, etc) Michigan wouldn't have nearly had as much succes as they did. I'll wait to see if the UFR confirms my opinion.

caup

October 20th, 2008 at 12:39 PM ^

we could not beat most D2 schools. He's that bad. He's an NAIA QB at best. He's a walk-on who I imagine must be a practice hero to even be allowed to play at all.  And I disagree with those who assume Feagin is worse than him. I don't assume that anybody they put out there can POSSIBLY be worse than Seheridan until proven otherwise.  And when you're getting killed be 22 points in the 4th quarter, fuck it, prove me wrong.

 

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 12:40 PM ^

Would somebody injure Nick Sheridan so he can never play in a football game wearing the Maize and Blue. Nick Sheridan wouldn't start for an average flag football team playing up on North Campus. Lets just put an athlete back there if Threet can't go. 

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 12:46 PM ^

I think Threet was extremely limited in throwing the ball downfield that limited the play calling.  In the Illinois game on the first three drives there was alot more mix of run, play action, and straight pass and we have not seen that the past two weeks with an injured Threet.

gmbblue

October 20th, 2008 at 12:49 PM ^


I think Threet was extremely limited in throwing the ball downfield that limited the play calling.  In the Illinois game on the first three drives there was alot more mix of run, play action, and straight pass and we have not seen that the past two weeks with an injured Threet.

Six Zero

October 20th, 2008 at 12:58 PM ^

More so than anything else, a YOUNG TEAM is and always will be an INCONSISTENT team.  We shouldn't be so surprised when the team looks great for one half and horrible for the second.  We shouldn't be shocked when one player seems incapable of error for three games and then sucks it up for the next.  AND we shouldn't be surprised if all signs of practice point to one result and then on gameday it's just not there.

EXPERIENCE BREEDS CONSISTENCY, and we just don't have it.  Don't you think the coaches are just as shocked at some of the things we've seen so far this year?  Look at McGuffie's fumble on the kickoff on Saturday?  Since Notre Dame, when's the last time we saw McGuffie carry the ball so high, so carelessly?

Just tell yourself this:  If players learn from their mistakes, our boys are learning more from the games than any practice will.  We will be a stronger team for it.  It's just not easy to watch winged helmets lose.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 12:51 PM ^

I was at the PSU game and when I saw Threet sprint into the locker room early in the second half a large part of me knew the game was over.  Here are my thoughts on the situation:

 

-- Sheridan is probably the worst QB to ever start a game in the Big Ten.  How it is possible that scholarship players like Feagin and even Cone are worse than him I really don't know.

-- But there is a bigger problem with Sheridan - the opponent has no respect for him.  As soon as he steps on the field the opposing team immediately abandons any real defense and decides to send the house into the backfield.  Either they're going to stuff a running play for a loss or they're going to force Sheridan to make a quick throw that likely ends up returned for a TD.  This is mostly Sheridan's fault for sucking, but even when he makes the right decision he has little chance for success.  (Stonum also dropped his one very good pass that hit him right in the chest for a first down.)

-- Normally when a team puts in its back-up QB they try to call conservative plays to protect him.  Michigan doesn't have the talent around him to help out and thus there is little they can do to make Sheridan competent.  Even with max-protect his WR aren't going to get open enough to give him a chance.  And he can't throw the ball deep enough to take advantage of single coverage.

-- I don't care if Feagin is worse throwing the ball - at least they could use him in running plays.  I don't care that he isn't a long-term QB option, we need QB depth NOW!!  Burn his redshirt.  Who cares if it then takes him two years to convert to our 3rd string safety.

tigersjunkie

October 20th, 2008 at 12:52 PM ^

The first half brought hope. 

Sheridan brought despair.  *The safety was just terrible; a microcosm of how he has played the whole year...let's just give the other team points!

St. McGuffie FUMBLED!!!  I couldn't believe my eyes.

 

Six Zero

October 20th, 2008 at 12:52 PM ^

When Sheridan came into the game he was in the opposite corner of the stadium, down near the goal line in the South endzone of Beaver.  So it wasn't entirely obvious when #8 took to the turf all the way back in our visitor's section.  But when it did, sighs and groans and guffaws just belched out all over the place all around me-- Michigan Men started to voice their disapproval aka fear at the knowledge that Threet was out.  And I remember noticing all the nearby Nittany Lion fans looking over at us, as if to say, "What are they all groaning about??"

Two plays later, probably less than a minute, Sheridan gets smoked in the endzone and 110,000 PSU fans are secure with the knowledge that their dream season is safe.  It was OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVER.

ahottenstein

October 20th, 2008 at 12:56 PM ^

I drove out to the game and scalped tickets, and ended up sitting directly in front of several relatives of the coaching staff, including the QB coaches cousin and Mike Bawis's brother and his family. From where we were sitting, it was easy to see the commotion on the Michigan sideline as Threet removed his helmet and jogged off the field for a couple minutes, and Sheridan began to warm up. This was, I believe before Penn State kicked the field goal to tie it up. At this point, BEFORE the safety, BEFORE we got the ball, Bawis got his family together and left the game. Rod Smith's cousin stuck it out, but started telling us how good Beaver aparently will be. Sheridan's entrance into the game, not only had those in the know give up on the game, but it seems to completly deflate the team. As was visible to the field, everyone just seemed to take the pedal off, like they knew things were just going to go downhill from there. Penn State was obviously a better team, but we were playing well enough to beat them because we believed we could do it. Threet's exit and possibly more to the point Sheridan's entrance took that belief away from everyone. I feel bad for the kid because I am sure he had no belief he would ever be here, but I honestly think that Feagan be given the #2 spot, if only to leave the team the belief or the hope that ANYTHING positive might happen, right now, hell, when the coaching staff family who drove all the way up from WV LEAVE before anything bad has actually happened, that is about as telling as you can get.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 1:00 PM ^

I am still puzzled about sheridan starting the first game and actually coming into the ND and Miami games.  It took about 2 series of the Utah game to see that he couldn't throw the ball more than 10 yds., a severe handicap for a QB.  what did RR see?  how bad must feagin be?  cone?  why not just line up minor at QB and do direct snaps like the dolphins?

AC1997

October 20th, 2008 at 1:02 PM ^

It is hard to argue that this team is well coached when you look at the box scores.  And after the Toledo game I boycotted all Michigan information for a week.  But then I went to the PSU game, and while I did leave in the 4th quarter before the final blood-letting was finished I had a slightly different perspective.

 

On offense I think the coaching is solid.  Michigan came out and punched PSU in the mouth and dominated in the first half.  If not for Criswell's penalty they were likely going to be up 17-10 at the half at worst.  It wasn't until Threet got hurt that the team fell apart and I think that says more about Sheridan than coaching. 

 

I think the problems with special teams are primarily due to young players that really aren't ready to see the field yet....but we have no choice.  Avery Horn stupidly running out of the endzone after bobbling the kick-off?  That's not coaching, that's an individual mistake.  Criswell shoving a guy with the ball rolling dead?  That's not coaching, that's our 5th string TE making a bone-head play.  Sheridan taking a sack in the endzone?  Stonum dropping a ball that hits him in the chest?  Any play that Stevie Brown makes?  Those seem to be mental mistakes by players who wouldn't normally be playing if our upper-classes had any depth or talent. 

On defense I feel differently now.  I think the coaches are contributing to the failure of the D.  The scheme that puts them in any sort of 3-3-5 or 3-4-4 defense plays to the weakness of the players (LB, S) and keeps the best players off the field (DL).  As a result, you see two outcomes in this situaitons, which are all too frequent - either the QB has all day to find someone open or they find a hole in the zone where a LB or S has failed to make the correct read.  Tackling to some extent is the result of coaching too.  Right now Shafer should realize that what talent he has lies in the DL and CB and needs to play to that strength. 

 

Coaching has been a disappointment compared to expectations, but a large part of that is due to the lack of talent and depth on this team.  Guys like Thompson, Brown, Stewart, and most of the OL have proven that they're not B10 quality performers....yet they're all we have.  At the skill positions we have talent, but it is all young.  In most years guys like Odoms, McGuffie, Stonum, Shaw, and Koger would be played sparingly while the veterans get most of the minutes.  Who are those veterans??

turbo cool

October 20th, 2008 at 1:11 PM ^

brian, with regards to Sheridan being a huge mistake by RR. Most observers who watched the team in spring ball and over the summer thought Sheridan was the better of the two 'legitimate' QB's we had. Apparently Sheridan is a practice squad hero b/c he did enough to impress most more than Threet did. threet is a gamer in every half sorta sense of the word.

 

but on a side note, threet is only a freshmen QB. he's not doing that bad with what he has to work with in his 1st season as a collegiate QB. and yes, we would've been totally screwed had he not transferred here.

AC1997

October 20th, 2008 at 1:12 PM ^

I went to the game and as soon as I saw Threet run to the locker room and not immediately come back out I knew we were toast.  PSU had just tied the game and now Sheridan was in the game......time to head for the exits.

I believe he is likely the worst QB to start a game in the B10.  Certainly for Michigan, but I doubt there is one worse in the last ten years.  Maybe one of those UCLA 4th stringers was worse.  But that's the comparison you're looking at.

Besides his obvious lack of talent, Sheridan has another problem.  The D has no respect for him or the offense when he comes into the game.  They abandon any real plan and just send the house at him.  EIther they stuff a running play or force him to rush a throw that likely wasn't going to be accurate or strong-armed even if he had time to set his feet.  He literally has no chance back there. (Though his best pass hit Stonum in the numbers for a first down and was dropped.)

Normally you try to protect your back-up QB with safe calls.  But that doesn't work with Sheridan because Michigan doesn't have the talent around him to do that.  Even with max-protect his WR can't get open wide or quickly enough to give him much of a chance.  On top of that, he neither has the time or the arm to try to take advantage of man coverage deep....and I'm not sure which WR is capable of running a good deep route anyway! 

I don't understand why Feagin is on the bench.  At least they could use running plays with him!  Who cares if you burn his redshirt - he'll never play QB after this year anyway!  Are they worried that playing him at QB will delay his progress toward becoming our 5th string safety??  Hell, even Cone has to be as good as Sheridan.....okay, maybe not.

I think the real loss for this team was Jason Forcier transferring.  Bass was a freak accident.  Mallet was a tool that probably would have left anyway.  But Forcier is the perfect QB for a transition year like this.  He's not great, he's slightly mobile, he knows the players and program, and he can hold down the fort.  On top of that, it isn't like transferring was going to help him get to the NFL anyway.  Having him as #1, Threet as #2, and whoever else at #3 would have been perfect.  Oh well.....

betserMfan

October 20th, 2008 at 8:38 PM ^

Huh?  The kid's dad is from Michigan and has been a M fan his whole life.  He sees this as an opportunity to come in and play right away.  How well he does, only time will tell.......but I don't think this kid is going anywhere else.  Unless you know something I don't....

mth822

October 20th, 2008 at 1:20 PM ^


I always like to watch football with a few woman. Because woman see a whole other aspect of Football than men do. Cats and Dogs kind of thing. The few woman that I've either been to games with or watched games with are all Michigan grads. I am not though. But they all seem to say the same things when they see Michigan's coach on the sideline. "Why does he look so angry and self absorbed? Is this all about him? I mean cmon they obviously need nurturing or something." To which the guys in the room will say something like,"It's football honey and he's pissed cuz we suck." Over and over there seems to be some disconnect emotionally with woman that I've watched these games with. And to some extent I can see it now. When I read the the New York Times article about the West Virginia/Pitt game of last year. Rich was quoted as saying it was,"A nightmare." Look at the above picture of Rich on this blog. It's as if he wants to just make it all go away. The thing is, that is not coaching, if it is what is happening to him internally. Meaning, if it becomes a nightmare when things dont go your way, then you'll fade quick and hard. And that may be the long term thread of Rich and his teams. When it's good, look the hell out. When it's bad, well, like rich said,'It's a nightmare." But, the nightmare does stop when we are aware that we can do the little things and infuse the light that is there to the growing darkness. Maybe that's what my woman friends see. The little things are a huge reveal. The devil is in the details of every down from scrimmage. I believe in Rich and this team and the staff. But I also think this season has seen some emotional tantrums being thrown by many people involved with Michigan football. Week to week we/they need to keep getting better. 

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 1:35 PM ^

I’ll take the easy joke. You should probably watch football with more men.

 

Seriously, I was very impressed with RR when I watched the Pitt/WVU post game presser. He didn’t offer excuses. He didn’t throw anyone under the bus. He didn’t flip out. He wasn’t rude or mean to anyone. He didn’t rage embarrassingly but he showed some real emotion (not a knock on Carr but when asked how disappointed he was after the 2006 OSU game he said, “just about as disappointed as you can imagine anyone being.” Clearly it was true but I didn’t get any real emotion from him. He was just saying some words.) RR used the word nightmare because he had to use some word to describe what happened and that was a perfect word. It wasn’t a demonstration that he wanted to open his eyes and make it all go away.

 

Similarly, I wonder how RR can remain so even keeled these days. I even mentioned to my wife that this is killing me so I can’t imagine how he stays up beat. She mentioned he’d probably been through this before. Yeah, there’s a picture of him rubbing his face. Jebus, the man has got to be frustrated. I hardly think that is a sign of him being a bad coach.

 

I also submit we have no evidence he is not ‘nurturing’ the team. Gawd, writing that just makes my skin crawl. I see abundant circumstantial evidence that he is doing just that.

 

 

imafreak1

October 20th, 2008 at 1:37 PM ^

You should probably watch football with more men.

 

Seriously, I was very impressed with RR when I watched the Pitt/WVU post game presser. He didn’t offer excuses. He didn’t throw anyone under the bus. He didn’t flip out. He wasn’t rude or mean to anyone. He didn’t rage embarrassingly but he showed some real emotion (not a knock on Carr but when asked how disappointed he was after the 2006 OSU game he said, “just about as disappointed as you can imagine anyone being.” Clearly it was true but I didn’t get any real emotion from him. He was just saying some words.) RR used the word nightmare because he had to use some word to describe what happened and that was a perfect word. It wasn’t a demonstration that he wanted to open his eyes and make it all go away.

 

Similarly, I wonder how RR can remain so even keeled these days. I even mentioned to my wife that this is killing me so I can’t imagine how he keeps up beat. She mentioned he’d probably been through this before. Yeah, there’s a picture of him rubbing his face. Jebus, the man has got to be frustrated. I hardly think that is a sign of him being a bad coach.

 

I also submit we have no evidence he is not ‘nurturing’ the team. Gawd, writing that just makes my skin crawl. I see abundant circumstantial evidence that he is doing just that.

mth822

October 20th, 2008 at 1:56 PM ^

You know what, you could be exactly right. I do hope you are correct. There's a slight translation issue with the little things though here. We can bang on the big stuff all day. Issues like attrition and execution. But the mental game prep, the fumbles and what not, those all start internally and bleed out. The cut is internal, the losses are external. The inner translation is the roots of the nightmare. The real joke this year is the mental flops, not the physical ones. And those will be always be viewed as coaching errors. Leadership errors. I think watching football with a diverse crowd is better. And the thing is, with the Pitt loss, and I'll stop here with this comparison because they had a great year, but the thing is with the loss, it came because Pat White was hurt! By and large he got hurt or was hurt going into the game. And then, like this game, it became a nightmare! So, my hope, going forwards, is that NEXT year with BEAVER , FORCIER, and THREET. That you will have 3 options should one go down! Because, they are screwed when the top guy goes down. Screwed.

 

matty blue

October 20th, 2008 at 2:52 PM ^

i can see a case for fumbling being a mental / discipline problem.

 "kevin grady, we've shown you how to protect the football, if you fumble again you will be pulling splinters out of your ass for the rest of your time here."

mth822

October 20th, 2008 at 6:48 PM ^

Matty it's tough to argue against someone who says fumbling is all physical. How do I prove fumbling is mental? Even though, without a brain, he wouldnt even know what a football is or even how to run or what a jersey was. What I see with Brandon, is a tendency to run, without knowing, or seemingly without understanding, that he is carrying a football. He let's it hang out and tries to anticipate when, where and how he thinks he'll be hit. Since you cannot predict those things, usually, he's been fumbling. To me, fumbling is in the mind, or starts there. Everything starts there. But to a coach like Gsimmons, fumbling is physical. And I understand his viewpoint. But if you have two players of equal physical skill and one fumbles way more, the answer from my gut is this. Its not translating from the running backs mind to his body. There are things in sports you can't coach, like talent and instinct. Some people have knacks for not fumbling(Mike Hart, Marcus Allen) and some do(Brandon Minor).

mth822

October 20th, 2008 at 6:53 PM ^

I think the translation, the overall translation has been poor though. Where you begin to blame a coach and where you blame the players has always been(and always will be) a tough argument. When I say translation I mean the inexperienced players are REALLY showing their inexperience and the experienced at times show us a regression. It's the latter of the two that is the benchmark for the first though coach. And at times we've seen the ill feeling spread to our upper class men. And as you know when a team gets down, they all seem to get down. But whose fault is it? Who knows who cares right! The only thing here is this whole public opinion thing. They need someone to point their aggression at. Thats why I dont understand you coaches! Because I couldn't take all the parents and media types second guessing my wardrobe and play calling!

TitleIX

October 20th, 2008 at 10:32 PM ^

Er, mth882...you need to watch with different girls. This girl yells and screams and is pissed just like the rest of you guys. Not sure if I'm reading your comment correctly, but I think you may be suggesting that RichRod is a girl because he is emotional????

Not so fast.

Football is all about passion, strategy, intensity, and the ability to finish. Something women require in their men too. ;-)

Jim Harbaugh S…

October 20th, 2008 at 1:30 PM ^

it has been proven that sheridan cannot do anything productive - if threet can't go why not give feagin a shot -

sparty struggled with pryor running around - maybe feagin can give this team a lift.

k bizzle

October 20th, 2008 at 2:04 PM ^

I also thought the same until I started to think a little more. This season is pretty much a done deal and RR knows that he must make a huge turnaround come next year. Why waste a year on a freshmen who is not ready to be the QB as it seems the coaches feel? If anything should happen to Beaver or Forcier he will need somebody to be able to get it going and I think he is hoping with a year practicing and learning he will be able to be a backup QB and learn the offense as a slot WR.

 I would more than like to see Feagin out there, but do you really think a freshmen QB who the coaches seem to not think is ready be pushed out there?

k bizzle

October 20th, 2008 at 2:04 PM ^

I also thought the same until I started to think a little more. This season is pretty much a done deal and RR knows that he must make a huge turnaround come next year. Why waste a year on a freshmen who is not ready to be the QB as it seems the coaches feel? If anything should happen to Beaver or Forcier he will need somebody to be able to get it going and I think he is hoping with a year practicing and learning he will be able to be a backup QB and learn the offense as a slot WR.

 I would more than like to see Feagin out there, but do you really think a freshmen QB who the coaches seem to not think is ready be pushed out there?

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 20th, 2008 at 1:32 PM ^

I keep reading in RR's press conferences about how well things are going in practice and that he is surprised that this isn't showing up during the game. I wonder if this is a reflection on our D. If our offense is able to do well against our D, perhaps our D ain't that good.

Kolesar40

October 20th, 2008 at 1:41 PM ^

After the Toledo game I was bitching about rushing 3 guys and was told it was because we were being spread out. I argued that dropping 8 makes sense if you are going to take away the quick hitch, which we didnt. Saturday we were not being spread out all of the time and still CHOSE to rush 3. Our biggest, and only strength on defense is our DL and take one of those guys out of the mix so that Trent can let Norwood run an 11 yard turn around route on 3rd and 10 over and over again makes no sense. We have the softest, timid corners in the league. I would rather rush 5 or six and at least get beat being aggressive. The result is the same, so at least give our guys a shot to get to the QB. Unless RRod is making the call, I dont understand what Shafer is doing. it was said all of last week, but I will say it again - give Cissoko a shot. He is aggressive, he will hit, and he will cover. For every nice shot Thompson dealt on Saturday, he missed 3 tackles. When was the last time we had a sack?

 I can deal with Off being as bad as they are due to circumstances, but our defense is absolutely horrible. Threet could have played the whole game, and we still lose by 3 scores. Our defense showed no signs of stopping PSU. OL was serviceable, and Minor was a beast.

Saw that Butler was moved to DE, and also heard Holtz lost it on the set. Keep the faith, and keep the rage.