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.



October 17th, 2011 at 1:47 PM ^

Something SERIOUSLY wrong happened. We'd have to lose to Purudue for that to happen.

I hope Borges works with what he has, not what with he wants to have. If you're right, that's great. But I don't see it. Biggest game of the year and he goes with HIS playbook, not the playbook that reflects his players' abilities.

Oh, and let's try to avoid using words like "poison" when talking about folks who are just thinking out loud. There's some spittle at the corner of your mouth there.


October 17th, 2011 at 2:44 PM ^

again are you dense? you're using a one game sample size against the previous 5 games where he intermixed his system with spread concepts. yes he completely shit the bed against msu, but you're using one bad game to justify your hysteria and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. just re-read what you're saying  you hope borges works with what he has, thats what he has been doing, i honestly doubt that the msu game was the first game you've seen this year. i don't see how you could come to the conclusion that borges isn't using what he has otherwise. 


October 17th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

If you happen to have season tickets with an option to go to the game, I would be more tha  happy to take your tickets to that game off of your hands, since you will clearly not be interested in watching it.  I mean what's the point in watching a CERTAIN loss.

Dude, this was ONE LOSS.  I am as upset as any, and I have been pretty critical of the O-Line, Denard, Borges, our RBs, Lindsey Lohan, our linebackers, Rich Rodriguez, Brandon's stupid uniform stunt, and the overall way that we played, but it is still just one game. 

Based upon that ONE LOSS, you are dreading our opener NEXT YEAR??? 


October 17th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

I have been dreading that game since it was scheduled and I looked at who would be upperclassmen on our roster at that time. It will take a surprising amount of improvement in our defensive linemen, who we haven't seen play yet, to think it will anything but a pummeling at the hands of a team that knows how to play manball and run it down your throat.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:26 PM ^

I think this bye week comes at the best time. It gives us two weeks for coaches to fix problems that were exposed against State. More importantly, it allows us to rest and heal up, which is probably really needed right now.

Ed Shuttlesworth

October 17th, 2011 at 12:27 PM ^

Borges has added a bunch of wrinkles to the offense to play to Denard's strengths -- option plays, seam patterns, triple-optionish type passes.

Those who don't see that are utterly blind at worst, watching through Rod-colored glasses at best.

Pay the Dragon

October 17th, 2011 at 12:27 PM ^

On the 4th and 1 play, the real play action would have been to hand the ball off and then have Denard roll out.  I dont get it, there is not a single play he doesnt have someone accounting for him.  


October 17th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

Borges and Denard both had awful days, no question.  I think that both are in pretty difficult situations, though.  Denard is being asked to run an offense that plays away from his strengths at times.  Borges is forced to modify his typical offense quite a bit because you cannot not try to let Denard be Denard, but it's not Borges's thing to run that kind of offense.  As Urban Meyer pointed out on Saturday (maybe the only valuable thing any of the announcers said all day), Michigan was running a lot of single wing plays, not option plays.  The difference was that they were running right into the teeth of MSU's defense with no Plan B or C. 

Don't get me wrong: I was plenty frustrated on Saturday.  By the end I was just muttering "screen" to myself even though I was alone in the room.  That said, we have to keep in mind that it's going to take more than six or seven games for the Borges-Denard marriage to work.  It may never be particularly smooth. Denard isn't a pro-style QB, and Borges isn't a spread coach.  But the marriage can get a lot better as both learn how to work together. 


October 17th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

I don't think a collapse will happen this year because we have, you know, coaching? Problems seem to go away, seems like the one's that continue are talent based.

Can't blame David Brandon entirely for the uniforms. It's the theme in college football this year. Fact of the matter is that the players want these kind of things, so it's nice to be able to give it to them. However, we did it once this year. That was enough. At some point you have to put your foot down and say "That event went great, uniforms looked cool, we did are part this year, that's enough." David Brandon continues to see everything as a revenue stream. Somewhere in his travels through the corporate world, he forgot was Michigan was about. He returns as athletic director with a twisted and greedy sense of tradition. Okay so maybe I take back the first sentence of this paragraph, David Brandon is entirely to blame for the uniform fiasco, by making them available in the first place. I thought Bill Martin was about the dollars (and he was) but he was clueless about tradition so didn't really go against the grain. David Brandon was kind of a breath of fresh air, but the air isn't so fresh any more.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:41 PM ^

So, 3 years in a row, the MSU game is our first loss. I know, I know. This isn't the last two years. But really, it feels exactly like it to me. I look at our schedule and can easily see us losing to Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and OSU. Fuck me if we do. That would be brutal and might cause me to go into a Basketball/hockey only mode for a couple years. Wake me when its over.

But seriously, this game was the one on which to gauge where we are and the results are not good. Now, I expect us to get healthy and fix things over the next two weeks. Come out and put a whooping on Purdue. Then we get another real chance to see where this program is. If we lose at Iowa, the wheels come off and we lose the last three. Beat Iowa and we will have reached my preseason win total with three to go. Beat OSU and its a great season despite the loss to MSU.

Let's hope it really is different this time. I am hurting badly now and need some more Hoke,  I mean hope. And I fully expect TWIS to have a Michigan flavor. This sucks.

Everyone Murders

October 17th, 2011 at 1:04 PM ^

It spoke volumes to me that after Marcus Rush injured Denard, the cameras caught him running over to MSU's sideline and getting high-fived by his teammates.  They were plainly congratulating him for injuring Denard.  (Usually your teammates are somewhate displeased by you taking a 15 yard penalty.  The reaction from teammates, Narduzzi, etc., was more one of "Great job, Marcus - just like we coached you to do!.)

Michigan was outplayed on Saturday.  It pains me to write that, but it's true.  That stated, the cheap shots were absolutely disgusting and the MSU reaction to them was outrageous. 

Section 1

October 17th, 2011 at 12:44 PM ^

Do you really "bet [that] nothing happens" with him?  I want that bet, now.  You name the stakes.

The Big Ten's most visible and adorably-dreadlocked player gets his three-striped helmet twisted exactly 127 degrees in an impossible direction, and gets up rolling his neck to make sure it is still working... It's shown in HD worldwide courtesy of the worldwide web... Urban Meyer (Big Ten Mystery Man) and Chris Spielman (Big Ten Legend) both suggest that Gholston should be out of the game, but he isn't... It's Gholston's third personal foul with an intent to injure, at least all that we can see on video (only two of them get flagged)...  there are the thuggish and/or disingenuous comments after the game by Gholston and his coach (Narduzzi) -- clearly a sort of a mild 'loss of institutional control' deal on the Spartan defense... topped off by what may be a minor incident of Gholston taunting Brady Hoke after the game...

That's the most laughable no-brainer of a scenario for "Suspension" we have seen in the Big Ten since Delany started doing suspensions at Charley Weis' suggestion.  Delaney can't possibly fuck this up.  There are Spartan fans already resigned to a suspension, FerGodsSakes. 

Really, the only edgy thing that Delaney might do is to suspend Marcus Rush, too.  And that is exactly what he should do.  Because while nobody is going to sanction Pat Narduzzi, that (suspending Gholston and Rush together for Wisconsin) is the one thing that could send a message to Narduzzi.

The case against Gholston is a no-brainer (how fitting.).  The case against Marcus Rush is, I think, surprisingly simple.  He deserves a suspension.  He tried to injure Denard Robinson in the course of a flagged personal foul.  He succeeded in injuring Robinson.  Is that worth a one-game suspension?  You betcha.

Which brings me back to the matter of a bet...


October 17th, 2011 at 1:09 PM ^

but somehow it seems like MSU just gets away with this crap all the time. Additionally, I think if we're to suspend players 5 games for selling something that they own, how the heck can we not do something similar that has an acutal intent to hurt someone.

I've been thinking about that all day on Sunday. Trust me I hate OSU (U of M '93 BA Econ) but in my mind the only injury by the OSU players is to the broken ideal of amatuerism. However the MSU players played with an intent to cause injury after the whistle (important difference here) the entire game. And the coaching staff noted this was true. (Narduzzi: "60 minutes of unnecssary roughness." Hell the only thing missing was Dantonio screaming sweep the leg!

However, given that... the hyporcrisy that is the Big 10 and the NCAA will probably just sweep this under the rug. Look at all of the local media, is there anyone locally who is writing about this?

Section 1

October 17th, 2011 at 1:28 PM ^

Forget about the Gholston/Lewan punchup.  I'm almost sorry that happened, because we do know that stuff like that happens (although it really does look pretty awful for Gholston.)  But anyway, let's leave that one out.  That is, if Gholston's defense was, "I was provoked."

Based only on the helmet-twist, a play which was flagged for a personal foul, Gholston is in more trouble than Reckman was, or Mouton was.  Now add to that the really brutal attempt to injure Lewan (I suspect that the Michigan coaches might speak to the Conference about that one, since it was not flagged).

The Conference has to be cognizant of its own precedents.  Mouton.  Reckman.  Both were minor, next to Gholston's crime spree.  Neither Reckman nor Mouton, which got quite a bit of internet buzz, are getting anything like the media play that Ghoslton is now.

So unlike Brian, I am willing to bet a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g that Gholston draws a suspension.  And I think it will put State in a real bind, if Rush gets suspended too.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

What do you do against a good defensive team when you haven't been able to establish a good running game against average defenses (except for Denard), and the D is stopping Denard from running, and DR has trouble throwing with no pressure on calm days and he is under big pressure during a tornado?

UM is not built to come back against good teams when they know we have to pass (unless we can win all the jump balls, ala ND).

MSU has shown the blue print to beat us (actually, in 2010) and will be followed by others as it was last year.  Maybe we can expect a win against Purdue, but Iowa & Illinois are 50/50 and Nebraska & Ohio are unlikely.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

When Brian tweeted that his faith had been shaken, I though "Good god Brian, chill out.  It's one game."  However, after seething for a few days and pondering all that occurred, I understand his comment.  I don't necessarily agree with it, but with road games against Iowa and Illinois, along with OSU and their stingy D, the proof will be in the playcalling pudding.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

 if you can coffin-corner a punt you probably shouldn't be punting.

Didn't all of Hagerup's coffin-corner punts go out of bounds on the fly? It's not like he was pooch-punting them and getting them to roll dead inbounds or getting them to hit in the corner and then go out of bounds. I don't understand how those Hagerup punts support the statement quoted above.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

I think Brian is saying if you are close enough to attempt the "coffin corner" you should be going for it on 4th down instead of punting.  

His is purely a statement on game theory given field position - anywhere over the 50 and you should be going for it on 4th down.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

I'll go point by point on Brian's post.

Agree, Agree, Agree, Agree, Agree, Agree, Strongly Agree, Agree, Agree,  Agree,  Agree, Agree, Agree, Agree.

I'll add 3 points.

1. Meyer, Brian, Spielman, Me, anyone with a brain kept saying run Denard on 1st down and get some positive yardage.   Brian said Denard had 12 carries. Not sure if that counted scrambles or not but not running Denard on designed runs in that wind was idiotic.

2. What did Devin do to earn calls to start from around the fanosphere?   Was it not knowing what 4th down means, not knowing where the line of scrimmage is or missing wide open guys waving their hands at him.   I don't blame Devin the coaches put him in terrible spots, but he was terrible and to think of taking Denard out is nuts.

3. Denard needs a new progression......

1. Check for WR option 1

2. If Open throw

3. If not GTFO.

Watching Denard get sacked or attempting to throw while attacking the LOS is going to drive me insane.  RUN!


October 17th, 2011 at 1:03 PM ^

To me, it doesn't seem like they coaches are giving him a chance to make a small play through the air. I don't see checkdowns within 20 yards or people to shovel the ball to. The difference in our passing game, I think, comes from the lack of short, quick throws that we had last season. Those plays allow our receivers to get open on deep balls, and to get Denard a feel for throwing a solid ball.


October 17th, 2011 at 12:43 PM ^

I know lots of people are screaming for them to run a screen but given the way the day was going, it would likely have been blown up since they seemed to know what they were going to do before they did.

And that snap count thing is frustrating, hand goes down, ball snapped, a little change up might help.