Lizard Brain Tornado Apocalypse Derp Derp Derp

Submitted by Brian on October 17th, 2011 at 11:49 AM

10/15/2011 – Michigan 14, Michigan State 28 – 10/15/2011, 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten


right via Melanie Maxwell/

RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Brian Cook's brain channeling Mike Valenti, 3:07 PM 10/15/2011


The now rapidly developing lizard brain theory of college football coaching states that there is a certain level of pressure above which rationality goes out the window and coaches revert to who they really are. It came to me in a horrible epiphany when Lloyd Carr punted in the 2005 Ohio State game less than a quarter after going for it on his side of the field. Coaches panic, go to their binkies, and then try to convince you otherwise in the post-game.

Different coaches have different levels. Ron Zook reverts to the lizard brain on the opening kickoff of every game. Kirk Ferentz makes it about five minutes in. We don't know about Tressel because he constructed his team such that the lizard brain was right. Les Miles exists on an entirely different axis with taffy on one end and victory on the other. He is the only one who escapes. The lizard brain is unavoidable.

Al Borges's lizard brain kicked in after Vincent Smith ran for two yards on Michigan's first offensive play of the second half. First and ten after that:

  1. Robinson sacked for –9 yards
  2. Smith rush for two yards
  3. Gardner incomplete
  4. Robinson incomplete
  5. Offsides MSU
  6. Gardner rush for four yards
  7. Robinson rush for –1 yard
  8. Robinson slant complete for 34 yard touchdown
  9. Robinson sacked
  10. Robinson rush for –1 yard
  11. Robinson INT

While this doesn't paint a pretty picture for the run game, either, after halftime Michigan passed on 60% of its first downs, got one completion on a short route that turned into a big gain when Roundtree broke a tackle, and did nothing else.

For the game Michigan tried to pass at least 41 times*, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt and giving up a defensive touchdown.

Sorry. Sorry.

Michigan tried to run the ball 26 times and averaged… oh, Jesus… 5.2 yards per carry. Fitzgerald Toussaint got two carries, Denard twelve.

I just realized this is what it's like to be Walter Sobchak.


MARK IT 2.8.
(This is not a threat against anyone's person. Do I look like Will Gholston?)

So, yeah. There is no way to put this without getting an email from some guy concerned about his eleven year old without resorting to Bloom County methods. That was the dumbest goddamned $%&*^-*$#*ing #&!$brained dip*&%$ mother*(%$ing horse_+$# goat-&^%t &%$*y-infested $%^&stick playcalling I have ever &*$ing seen in my life. I see you, Valenti. I get it now. I get it.








Okay, okay… sorry. Sorry. I'm vented.

What we have to deal with now is the cold certainty that the honeymoon is over and our football coaches are football coaches, like they always are, and we cannot assume that everything will be honeydew and game theory from now on. Hoke punted on fourth and short-ish from inside the opponent 40. Borges did that above.

That's okay, really. Given the crapfest we endured on offense I almost can't blame Hoke for the punts. And in many other situations I prefer an offensive coordinator who wants to throw when he's in trouble to one who wants to go into a shell. The Morris/upperclass Gardner offense won't put the Ferrari in neutral until the second half. Recruit like they're recruiting and coach like it seems they can and eventually we'll get to a nice place to be.

In the near term, though, those happy thoughts over the first few weeks about Borges adjusting to Denard evaporated in a flurry of sacks after which you look at the receivers and there are three guys thirty yards downfield with no one between them and the carnage. You can fake it against defenses that can't play, but when it comes down to it the combination of Borges and Denard makes everyone wonder that bad old question about whether he should really play QB. IE: the worst-case scenario from the offseason.

A certain genre of Michigan fan will say this was always who Denard was, but last year he completed 58% of his passes for 9.3 YPA and a 12-9 TD:INT ratio in the Big Ten. Whatever his limitations were they seemed a lot less limiting last year, when Michigan stressed the defense to the edges and exploited the ruthless equation of the spread: a running quarterback means someone's open if you can just find him.

I don't blame Borges for that. You can't up and be someone else at the drop of a hat. If we are again pointing the finger of blame it's aiming at Rich Rodriguez for not deserving a fourth year. I do blame Borges for throwing almost two-thirds of the time when that should be inverted. The incoherent grab-bagginess of the offense is a natural effect of hiring a pro-style guy with a spread offense. Running Denard twelve times in a trash tornado is not.

So here we are, with football coaches instead of magical fairies who can do anything. That sucks. The honeymoon over, life re-asserts itself.

*[I'm not sure how many QB carries were scrambles. I counted the 8-yard Gallon scramble as a pass.]

Non-Bullets of I Wish They Were Real Bullets

Hurray clowniformz! So much for a one-time thing. It's as if they knew they would need to both play and look like Yakety Sax:

That's the third time this year we've had a uniform stunt, this one the ugliest and stupidest of them all*. It's like Dave Brandon took in the majesty that is the Spartan Stadium game experience and said "someday this will be mine." Chengelis's headline on the subject

Spartans, Wolverines compete with fashion statements, too

…is even more evidence that Dave Brandon Gets It less than anyone has ever not Gotten It before.

I had a wow experience. Did you? Everyone looking forward to the analwowing in Dallas next year when we take our freshman defensive tackles and paper-thin offensive line into a game we are absolutely not prepared for? CEOs are psychopaths.

[Bonus: last time we did this was 1976, the very heart of the era when people lost their minds about fashion. We lost then, too.]

*[No, that guy on every message board who could spin Denard Robinson's arm being torn off by William Gholston as a positive for the program, they did not look good. A sane political system would prevent you from voting. You suck. I'm sure you've got a comment all lined up to complain about the complaining. Bring it, I've got an itchy trigger finger today.]

Obligatory personal foul section. Yeah, it was ugly. The truly sad thing was that band of morons getting away with 120 yards in penalties without losing. If we had a sane offensive plan and/or a plan to deal with snap jumping those personal fouls are only 10% enraging—the intent to injure bits—and 90% hilarious Sparty being Sparty. That's where we are as a program right now: we can play the stupidest 85 people ever assembled on one football team and still lose by two touchdowns.

Gholston should obviously be suspended at least two games for the helmet rip—as bad an intent-to-injure play as the Reynolds-Sorgi incident—and the punch, which has been established by the great Jonas Mouton Suspension Fiasco as a one-gamer. There was also a less obvious judo chop that forced Lewan out of the game for a few plays. I bet nothing happens, because that's the way life goes.

This is the second consecutive year a player has been knocked out late after the game is decided by a dirty hit. Look at Dantonio's jaw… you are feeling very sleepy… you cannot put together incidents to see a pattern forming… so much… fake… bible… Spock.

I guess targeting other football players is progress relative to beating up mechanical engineers en masse.

Edge destruction. Early candidates for big negative days in the defense UFR: Roh and Ryan, who were targeted by the MSU offensive coaching staff to good effect. MSU's first TD drive was a series of easy outside runs as those two got destroyed. They improved a bit as the day went on but were clearly a weak spot targeted effectively.

Woolfolk also got pulled after a series or two; he's obviously hurt. Avery was the nickel corner since MSU doesn't spread to run much.

Man, Baker. It kills me whenever I see a really good running back go against Michigan because the mind immediately plugs that guy into rotation at the RB spot post-Minor and groans. Baker is one of those guys, a leg-churning tackle-breaker who would turn a lot of Michigan's two yard runs into five or six or more.

Penetration. They had it. Michigan didn't. Why not?

One part: It's clear all these late-developing passing routes are exposing the Mark Huyge we saw trying and failing to block for Tate Forcier as a sophomore. After a year of being covered up by the spread 'n' shred he's back to allowing sacks on a three man rush.

But the interior line? I saw Molk ole guys. Molk! How is this year four of MSU using a simple parlor trick of slanting under at the snap without two different coaching staffs being able to do anything about it?

Old school punting. Positive of a sort: When asked to coffin-corner punts Will Hagerup does a pretty good job. Haven't seen that in 15 years—you know it's old school when Sap is referencing Harry Kipke when handing out helmet stickers.

Why "of a sort": if you can coffin-corner a punt you probably shouldn't be punting.

The Minnesota plays. Doesn't seem too smart to have run a zillion new things against Minnesota now, does it? Michigan brought out the sprint counter once and it got stuffed—would MSU have been prepared for it if they hadn't seen it against Minnesota? Since Michigan isn't running the QB stretch that motion was a tipoff the counter was coming and an expected counter is a dead counter.


Inside the Box Score points out a huge swing play:

The refs did miss one backwards pass from Cousins, who clearly let go of the ball on state’s 37 and hit his receiver’s hands on the 36. The explanation was really lame, something along the lines of Michigan didn’t recover the football right away. The way I saw it, the ball hit the ground and the Michigan defender bent down and picked it up. What am I missing?

With no one around the ball except Wolverines if that's correctly called that is a potentially game-changing defensive score. This isn't a bad offsides penalty or uncalled false start, it's a touchdown being wiped off the board because the refs blew it dead too early. Very frustrating. I thought they were supposed to let it go if it was too close to be sure about now.

Also there is this:

Our leading tacklers were Gordon, Kovacs, Roh, and Countess, with 8, 6, 6, and 6, respectively. Do you notice what’s missing? Linebackers. Demens was the leading tackler among the linebackers with 5. I noticed this week that Touch the Banner was high on Demens for last week’s performance against NU, but Brian was critical of him in the UFRs. I think this game was the tie-breaker. I don’t think our LBs were productive enough. Baker gashed us all day long. His longest run was only 25 yards, yet he gained 167 yards on 26 carries. State was consistently able to pound the football against us.

How many times did MSU linebackers shoot out to the sideline on plays that looked like they were going to work and hold them down to a few yards, and how many times did Michigan linebackers do that? That's not always on the linebackers—could be on the M OL not getting out or DL not taking on doubles effectively—but given what we saw against Northwestern I'm betting some of the big chunk plays from Baker see linebacker minuses aplenty.

Hoke for Tomorrow is briefer. I would like to interject about this amongst the things learned:

That strong winds + Kirk Cousins > strong winds + Denard Robinson.

Cousins averaged 5 YPA and threw a backwards pass that should have been a disaster. Drops had a lot to do with it but it's possible the wind messed with both WR and QB, which is even more reason that throwing 41 times in the trash tornado was inexplicably dumb.


Media, as in stuff. The official site valiantly found highlight-type-substances in the wreckage:

There are also postgame interviews if you'd like to watch everyone on Michigan's team refusing to answer questions about the personal fouls. Mike DeSimone collects pictures from across the world.

Blogs. Come on, Braves and Birds picture comparison. Come on. The Hoover Street Rag does something long and complicated that I don't understand. Parody of a bad NBC hour-long drama? Mathlete says Michigan underperformed expectations by 28 points, his worst number of the season for all of I-A. Various bullets from MVictors. Touch the Banner also has them.

BWS says something about little brother, which no offense whenever I hear the word "brother" in relation to Michigan State now my eyes glaze over. Holdin' the Rope recaps. MZone as well.

National variety from Doctor Saturday:

On seven trips into MSU territory after the opening possession, Michigan punted on five and turned it over on downs on a sixth.

Series by series, punt by punt, the sense of progress over the first half of the season dissolved into a disheveled mess. The running game stalled. The two-quarterback shuffle failed to gin up any semblance of a steady passing game, or a big play with Robinson lined up as a wide receiver. The pass protection broke down. In almost every aspect, it was Michigan's worst nightmare: At the exact point on the calendar that optimistic starts began to give way to collapse each of the last two years, the Wolverines  looked like a team on the verge of collapse.

Newspapers. Michigan fell to 17th/18th in the polls. I did not find anything else of a newspapery variety that is open in my tabs.


coastal blue

October 17th, 2011 at 12:53 PM ^

With our personnel, I think most people would want Rodriguez running the offense. They would just want him to stay far, far away from the defense. 

The dirty little secret is this: This game was the cost of doing business, by deciding for a full scale switch from the head coach - who didn't earn himself a 4th year based on results, everyone settle down -  on down, rather than just going after the massive problem that was the defensive coordinator and staff. Now, in the long term it was probably the right decision, but in the short term, we have set ourselves up for frustration. 

A little comparison between last year and this year. 

Michigan's average starting field position this year was their 36 yard line. Last year, it was the 27. 

This year, Michigan started 7 drives at their own 35 yard-line or better including three in MSU territory. They scored one touchdown on those drives. Last year, Michigan started 3 drives at their own 35 or better, including one in MSU territory. They scored two touchdowns on those drives. 

Michigan racked up 377 yards on fewer drives and scored 17 points while playing with one of the country's worst defensive and special teams units. The offense was put in no position to succeed and had zero help in last year's game. This game demonstrates the flaw in the argument that "the offense NEVER works against good defenses". You're wrong and you're not arguing the proper point: with a first year starter at quarterback, a redshirt freshmen at LT and no defense or special teams to complement it, the offense is bound to look worse than it could become under second year starters and much improved defense and special teams. 

This year, our defense help Michigan State to these numbers: 21 points and 333 yards of offense. If the defense averaged those numbers for a season they woud have ended up with these rankings for 2010: 27/28th best scoring defense and 26th best total defense.  The defense, in comparison to last year, is better than everyone could have expected and did their part - given expectations - to allow Michigan to win this past Saturday. 

So reality is this: Because Rodriguez was defensively incapable, he lost his job. In turn, Hoke was hired and he brought in Mattison, a guy who has proven - along with having a more experienced secondary - to be one of the best hires in college football. He also brought in Borges, who isn't the proper fit for our offensive talent. It's not his fault and as has been stated, won't be a problem in 2 years time. But this year, we're going to have to suffer through another flawed season, which to me is incredibly frustrating given that a spot in the Big Ten title game is there for the taking. 

El Jeffe

October 17th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

God I love you so hard.

Yes, yes, yes. Coaching transitions are not cost-free, or usually even cost-neutral. The upgrade in Mattison (and hoo boy what an upgrade) in this particular game did not compensate for the downgrade in having Borges try to run a hybrid offense where one of the strains is not something he has a lot of experienc with, with personnel that he would mostly not choose if it were up to him.

That is not a knock on Borges. He will kick ass in three years. But this year, there will be costs to the transition.

This is also not a knock on Hoke or even Brandon. But if anyone was hoping we'd get out of this transition unscathed, well, we just got scathed.

The funny thing is, a number of commentators predicted a 5-7 year, and most of us on the Board, I think, thought that 8-4 or 9-3 was realistic. So what has changed?

My answer is that Michigan fans work with Sparty fans and it sucks when the team you don't root for wins because then you have to listen to the other people. Although I went to Michigan, I am not from Michigan and I don't live in Michigan. This loss is a lot less difficult for me to take than true Michiganders, I bet.

MI Expat NY

October 17th, 2011 at 2:44 PM ^

I will say that most of the 8-4/9-3 predictions were not taking into account just how bad the Big Ten is this year.  After the win against ND and seeing just what Nebraska and Ohio State had, in my mind, I bumped that target up to 10-2.  Still possible to do that (or better), we'll just have to see how the team responds and if Borges can get a better handle on spread concepts.


October 17th, 2011 at 3:07 PM ^

The biggest problem with losing to Sparty is coming to work on Monday.  I'm thrilled that we have won six games and that we've much better than we were last year, but having to listen to MSU alum's (or even Buckeyes as the case may be) harping about how Michigan is <insert all sort of obnoxious BRAH rebukes> pisses me off.

Anyway ... in time the ship will right itself and we'll start dominating both of these rivalry games like we should, but listening to Thug Nasty and its disciples is maddening if nothing else.

blue in dc

October 17th, 2011 at 5:05 PM ^

I'm not sure that just comparing the offensive numbers like you did is entirely fair. Last year the game was in our house and we didn't have 30+ mile an hour winds. Further, I think MSU's defense very well be better this year. Attributing all of the difference in production to Borgess isn't totally fair.

His Dudeness

October 17th, 2011 at 12:09 PM ^

Agreed. Borges had an awful day.

After the game I wasn't even mad because every year there is a game that you just want to blame the refs or thuggery or something that teamed up with us playing like shit, but you just know it will seem like whiney so you just shrug and eat your anger into the depths of you soul. For ever more.


October 17th, 2011 at 2:02 PM ^

The psychology of the brain during a football game would be very interesting to study.  I was excited during the first drive, quickly became worried in the next quarter or so, worry developed into extreme angar in the second half, and then resignation set in.  Today, I feel as though a loss was coming (did anyone really think they would go undefeated this season?) and am just bummed that it was to a undisciplined Sparty team.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:15 PM ^

I don't know. I just felt like this was a really discouraging game just from the fact that it felt like the talent gap is still pretty huge between these teams.  And if our DL anchored by Martin and RVB isn't generating pressure against THIS OL, how are we going to do next year with a less experienced group with no DT.  I fully believe that with coaching (Mattison continues to be amazing is the one positive I took from this game) and our now excellent recruiting we'll get there, but man it just feels like we're another 2 years away from that point. 


October 17th, 2011 at 12:19 PM ^

My friends and I were watching the game, wondering for the whole time when they would start throwing screens.  It's pretty elementary football logic that when they are blitzing and rushing really hard, you use misdirection using a quick screen to the running back.  They have done this in past games with success but I don't remember seeing it for the whole game.  This could have meant huge gains, but at the least would have kept the rush honest.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

My exact thoughts also. As you said, whenever defenses bring a blitz (which MSU did often), you throw a screen right behind where they're coming. Not only the lack of screens, but also where were quick slants or even quick timing passes? One of our two td's came on a quick slant to Roundtree. It just seemed like almost every throw was a long developing route and Denard was either patting the ball waiting for them to get open or him getting thrown to the ground. Just very frustrating.

Section 1

October 17th, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^


Last night, I posted that they were doing one of those TiVo-speed replays of the game on BTN.  Since I had been at the game and hadn't seen a lot of replays apart from the ones that will be in evidence in Chicago this afternoon, I wanted to watch.  And almost everybody said they couldn't stand it.

The uniforms didn't bother me.  A lot of things we were doing on the field didn't bother me.  The Sparty personal fouls were much worse than what I could appreciate from the nosebleed deck of Spartan Stadium (although the extent of Dantonio's on-the-field-of-play hysterics, working the refs, was not shown on tv), and, uh, yeah, Borges sucked.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

I called Dave Brandon's office and left a message registering my disgust with the gimmicky uniforms.  Ridiculous to sink to MSU's level.  If other people feel strongly about it, they should do so as well.  It may not change anything, but it's worth a shot.   

The number is:  734-764-9416

Feat of Clay

October 17th, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

Let me put myself in DB's shoes. 

Our marquee team has just had a frustrating loss, the first under our new coaching staff, I'm having numerous reassuring conversations with boosters and donors who are derping with panic, I've just scheduled a difficult conversation with the B1G about the Gholston thuggery, and then I get a phone call from me, Jane Nobody, saying "I don't like the uniforms."

I could see this being an issue that I would ring in on, if asked, at the end of the season.  It does not give me an itchy dialing finger this week.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:22 PM ^

Borges definitely had a less-than-stellar day besides that first drive.  He needs to establish more short and intermediate routes for defenses that are blitzing the bejeezus out of us like MSU did.  And fergodsakes don't abandon the running game so damn early next time!


October 17th, 2011 at 12:23 PM ^

But it really wasn't. There are a lot of weapons on the U of M team, and the defense showed that it can play, despite the weaknesses on the edges. No, this was a failure of planning and coaching. I think the lizard brain theory absolutely nails it. Midway through the first quarter I thought "Borges is coaching scared. Why? They can beat this team."

But the game plan just didn't reflect a lot of confidence. Not in the player per se; in fact Borges was asking Robinson to do "very hard things" because that's what he hopes he will do. But a lack of confidence in playing with a football team designed to play a very different kind of offense.

What saddens me above all else is that if this is what Borges reverts to when the real heat comes on, basically this year will be another five loss season. The coaches will scrap any fusion cuisine and basically try to install the pro-style offense, and to hell with the personnel. If so, Robinson will be relegated to QB2 by the time they play Iowa and we're looking at 7-5. 

The future eats the present. Denard, we hardly knew ye.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:34 PM ^

Denard is a freshman in some ways, as this is his first year in the system.  Borges has said repeatedly that QBs tend to have huge growth spurts between their first and second years in his offense.  I think that there's reason to think that Borges will improve too as he learns how to run a Denard-centric offense.  Remember that it's new for him to have a player like Denard. 


October 18th, 2011 at 2:15 AM ^

Yes, Borges is *vastly* more qualified to call the plays than anyone on this board. But that does not mean--not even close--that he doesn't make mistakes that a well-informed and relatively knowledgeable fan can recognize and note the error. This is true for most specialists--experts are not always right and novices are not always incapable of figuring that out.


October 17th, 2011 at 1:23 PM ^

whast going to change? are you dense? do you think the coaching staff isn't going to look at the film and scale back the passing attack? borges called a horrible game but he's been doing this for years and knows what to do. he'll make his adjustments and they'll get passed down to denard. i realize minnesota is horrible but look att he passing that game all short and intermediate throws that d-rob can make most of the time.  more emphasis on the run game and short passing is what will happen, they will adjust. people like you, who make these proclamations after one loss are like a poison to the fanbase. it's one game against what might have been the best team on the schedule. every game from here on out is winnable. come back with your chicken little act if we're 6-5 going into the osu game.