8/30/2014 – Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 1-0
NOBODY TOLD US WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO THAT WAY LAST YEAR [Fuller]
I watched a lot of football on Saturday. I did not watch Magnolia because my then-girlfriend and current wife thought that her coping mechanism for sadness, which is apparently suffusing yourself in it until your fingers look like you've been in a pool of despair for hours, was applicable to humans. I mean:
That's what I did seven years ago. I had to turn it off because Magnolia is a movie that is unrelentingly miserable. I did not need additional resources in this department at that time.
I didn't turn anything off on Saturday. I watched twelve hours of football after getting back from Michigan Stadium. The only mention of Michigan's game before insomniac time was one dismissive sentence from Rece Davis, something about how there will not be "another seminal college football moment" this weekend. They didn't even take the opportunity to put gratuitous Funchess on the screen.
The only difference between this game and Michigan's opening-weekend romp over CMU last year: a nation's hope Michigan would blow it again. Once it became clear this would not be the case, a nation forgot the game happened before it had even ended. This was the best possible outcome.
So 1) hooray for the best possible outcome and 2) don't let that change your opinion about whether this was the dumbest scheduling decision in the history of scheduling decisions. The nation knew this about Michigan before Saturday: lol Appalachian State. This is what they know today: lol Appalachian State. On College Football Final their brief treatment of the game gave more time to 2007 than 2013. We are experiencing the maximum possible upside from this game, which is everyone immediately forgetting about it like Michigan was thumping a MAC opponent.
And thank God for that. Michigan eased out to a 21 point lead, and then it was suddenly 42, and at no point did Appalachian State look anything like a secret powerhouse; at no point did Michigan look so utterly clueless that they might blow their immense physical advantages. At no point did I wish I had a cyanide capsule handy.
The one thing worth noting here is that Michigan does seem prepared to deal with the football reality of 2014. Greg Mattison's defense played in the face of the opposition all game long, featuring nickel and dime packages frequently. They shot a safety into the box on most plays. They've got the personnel they need to deal with the spread. Possibly two at once.
Contrast this to 2007, when Johnny Sears started at cornerback in the Horror, with a patently unprepared Stevie Brown at safety. The linebackers available outside of Shawn Crable were Obi Ezeh, Chris Graham, and John Thompson. Michigan spent the entire day with two safeties twelve yards deep like they were playing Peyton Manning, and were surprised when the numbers didn't work out. Their linebackers were two-down thumpers for whom space is a cold vacuum in which death awaits. They barely had one cornerback, let alone a chorus line of them.
A big chunk of my spread zealotry has been the fact that Michigan has made it look unstoppable from the drop. They validated the entire idea against Northwestern and set their program on fire in the Horror and the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon game that followed. Put a running quarterback in front of them and they will die explosively. It's happened far too often the last 15 years for it to be a coincidence.
My primary worry about Brady Hoke is that he's stuck on a vision of 1990s Michigan in a world that's evolved past that. There was no sign of that Saturday. The defense's radical makeover paired with what was not the cram-the-box cro-magnon ball it certainly could have been against this opponent felt a tiny bit like John Beilein overhauling his program to be a man-defense, ball-screen offense juggernaut.
I'm not looking for a juggernaut this year. This is the punch-the-cow-for-butter year in which any yellow semi-solid will do. I proclaim this semi-solid yellow, and thank God for that.
Now let us immediately forget this game ever happened, like everyone else.
Parkinggod's usual Michigan-centric one:
And if ten minutes isn't enough here are 20:
Also a guy noticed an eerie parallel between Blake Countess's LOS stick and one from Charles Woodson:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Yes, points. We're moving this to a hockey-like three stars system.
Michigan racked up 350 first half yards while holding App St to 60 en route to a 35-0 first half lead, so there are many, many candidates. It says here that Devin Funchess gets #1, because good Lord that is an unstoppable freak show.
#2 is Devin Gardner, who was on point with every throw except one, flashed that athletic ability, and stepped up (up!) in the pocket when suffering edge pressure
#3 is split between Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Michigan started gashing App St when Kalis replaced Joey Burzynski, with big runs repeatedly coming over the right side of the line.
Honorable mention: Basically the entire defense. There were no particular standouts, though.
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Devin Funchess (#1, APP)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
Michigan had gotten a couple of solid 10-20 yard runs from Smith and Green already when Green took the snap on an outside zone and shot downfield untouched by man or beast until 60 yards had elapsed. Runs. We may have them.
Honorable mention: They threw a screen to Norfleet! Any of the variously unstoppable Funchess touchdowns. Hellacious Stiffarm wins by a nose over LOL I'm Tall. Tacosack, hopefully the awesome thumping cousin of Tacopants.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. That one time Devin Gardner threw way behind a blitheringly open Devin Funchess to prevent him from going 14/14.
Honorable mention: That one drive where the Mountaineers drove the ball on the ground against the second team.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
[After the JUMP: Funchess! Holes! Teddy KGB!]
this is not going to go well for you [Eric Upchurch]
this has not gone well for you [Upchurch]
I'll allow it. You know how I feel about players changing numbers after they've established themselves in one. I'll make an exception for Michigan putting the #1 on Funchess. It is just so damned beautiful to see that out there again, doing things that humans should not be allowed to do. Each TD featured a different part of his skillset:
- ROUTES: Dileo-like double move shakes the safety.
- POWER: Thunderous stiffarm deposits defensive back into turf for the YAC necessary to score.
- HUGENESS: Towers over two defensive backs to bring in contested ball.
He was also one persistent trailer away from turning another of his leaps over a defender trying to take him low into a lol-worthy touchdown.
He's got to do it against a real opponent, of course. But just looking at the guy makes you think he's going to enter the AC/Braylon pantheon.
Kalis suddenly solid? [Fuller]
Hooray line? I have to tell you that my cursory re-watch of Michigan's big runs highlighted in the package above makes me think that we didn't learn much about the OL. When the opponent's line slants and no linebackers show up to fill behind the slant, you're going to have a gaping hole. Ditto when the end decides to go inside when he appears to be the force player. It seemed like App State blew a lot of run fits.
At least Michigan took advantage. Early struggles seemed to be a combination of two things: Derrick Green missing his cuts and going down more easily than it seems he should and Kyle Kalis's absence. Once he came in things started moving on the ground.
I wonder what was going on in practice to suggest that Burzynski was a better option than Dawson or Bosch. I hope it's a mess of missed assignments they can clean up. Other possibilities are alarming.
Hooray Cole? He coped. The sack he allowed may have been a dual error there as it was a stunt and neither he nor Magnuson switched. It was perhaps telling that Michigan mostly went over the right side for their runs; if he can be a decent pass blocker and left on the back side of runs all year that'll be a win.
SPACE, BITCHES [Upchurch]
The tailback debate. I was just telling the person next to me that I didn't think much of Green's ability to make anything for himself when he ripped off the most impressive carry of his Michigan career, a rip down the sideline featuring a couple of quick cuts that put him into the secondary. He still had an acre of space.
After game one the jury's still out. It seems like most people prefer Smith and I'm with them. He feels difficult to tackle in a way that Green isn't; Green is faster. Since flat-out speed is about eighth on the list of important tailback attributes, I'm not too worried about either being tracked down from behind. Michigan had this guy Mike Hart and they made it work.
Chesson/Darboh. Neither got a ton of action in a game where Michigan didn't throw much; they looked good in the limited opportunities they were provided. Both had hitch-and-run plays where they broke the first tackle and grabbed a bunch of YAC; Darboh's was particularly nice as he worked his way back to a ball that was late, preventing the corner from making a play on the ball and putting himself in a position to break an arm tackle from him.
Chesson also absolutely lit up a guy on a punt. He is our skinniest destroyer.
Waiting for Butt. Michigan continued splitting their tight ends wide with frequency. At the moment it's a bit comical with AJ Williams or Heitzman out there, and only a bit less so with Khalid Hill split. Jake Butt, on the other hand… that's a guy you can provide difficult decisions with.
I'm shocked this worked. [Upchurch]
Nussmeier game 1. Disclaimers about strength of competition, etc.
I was extremely happy that Michigan's first drive was mostly a three-wide shotgun affair that saw Michigan throw a couple of wide receiver screens that picked up big chunks of easy yards en route to a touchdown. That came without running the ball much and looks like a blueprint Michigan might have to revert to later this year if (when) the offensive line finds itself badly overmatched.
Michigan was progressively less pass-happy as the game went along and turned into an opportunity to get practice time against a live opponent. They were less spread-ish as well. It did feel like there were a lot more 3 and 4 WR snaps, although on some of those one or two of the WRs were in fact tight ends. At Alabama Nussmeier was flexible in formation while still running a lot of the same stuff, and it felt like that as Michigan popped from the shotgun to the pistol to under center.
Here's the best thing: it did not feel stubborn. (It would have been hard for it to feel particularly so against this pliable opponent, yes.) Michigan has a couple of clear strengths at WR and QB and came out of the gate using them. They regularly reminded the opponent that playing well off in fear of Devin Funchess is asking someone to tackle Dennis Norfleet in space. They looked like they would delight in asking defenses tough questions about what they're going to prioritize.
The one complaint. Michigan ran a third and twelve draw that went nowhere when they were ripping Appalachian State up in the air. If you're thinking about going for it after picking up eight, okay. In that scenario all options worse than "toss it up to Funchess and see what happens" should be discarded.
Tempo was improved. It's still not great; there were a couple times I wanted them to get out of the huddle faster that could have been problematic against better teams, but that tends to happen to anyone running normal tempo. In general Michigan was giving Gardner 10-15 seconds before the snap to survey the defense, ID the mike, etc.
We were told these people would play. After an offseason of guys telling you Drake Johnson was in the running for the top RB spot, he did not make an appearance until the deepest of garbage time. He wasn't even the third-down back, and only got his carries after Hayes did. No idea what the deal was with the persistent claims he was really seriously in the running, but if he was he would have gotten at least one meaningful carry.
In a similar boat: Freddy Canteen, who only got second-unit snaps. It is not usually a surprise when a true freshman is relegated to the end of a blowout; in Canteen's case he was supposed to be in the rotation. He may make it in as we go along here; things seem grimmer for Johnson.
They ran all three things. Michigan got long runs off inside zone, power, and outside zone. I'm guessing the main reason this was possible was the quality of opponent; going forward it'll be interesting to see the frequency of the three main ways you run the ball and their effectiveness.
If you run power or outside zone four times a game it's a constraint and you can get away with not being very good at it because the defense is trying to defend something else. So it might look like those plays are more effective when they're the equivalent of a reverse that goes a long way.
Now what? Michigan's best returning offensive lineman is back from a one-game suspension. So: where does Graham Glasgow fit? Michigan's coaches are really talking like Jack Miller is a guy they WANT TO BELIEVE*…
Q. Now that you've analyzed the video from the 52-14 win over Appalachian State, what do you know now that you did not realize walking off the field after the game?
A. I thought Jack Miller, I liked his whole preparation going in there. You look at the tape and he was pretty solid for us. There were plays that he had that he probably didn't want to have, but from the standpoint of we had some explosive plays in the rushing game and those are huge.
…in. Will that keep Glasgow out of the lineup? Bounce him to right guard? I have no idea. The answer is likely to make itself clear over the next few weeks; that does not help for Notre Dame.
*[This is apparently a new, exclusive MGoBlue feature in which the most sycophantic man in the world asks Brady Hoke if he can shine his shoes over and over again. Meet the king of the softballs:
Q. The Wolverines played with plenty of excitement and energy. You called a timeout with1:08 remaining in the second half after an Appalachian State second-down play deep in their territory. That sent the message that you weren't satisfied with the big lead and wanted to score again, and the team played with that same kind of urgency.
That is not a question. That is a sponge bath. Can we make Rovell a generic noun? I need it for this guy.]
LEMONWATCH. Ain't eatin' a lemon. 1) Morgan was listed as a co-starter on the depth chart, 2) Morgan was announced as a starter in the stadium (Michigan announced 12 on D), 3) Morgan had more tackles than anyone else on the defense, and 4) it really seemed like he got more playing time than Ryan and maybe Bolden. Yeah, he wasn't out there for the first snap, but in no way has Bolden "supplanted" Morgan.
I know you want me to eat a lemon, but in your heart you know my Morgan advocacy was correct and that I should not eat a lemon. Or you're a jerko who just wants me to eat a lemon, ACE.
About that rows of teeth thing. After the opener I suggested that Michigan was about to have a never-ending conveyor belt of serrated edges. This looked rather optimistic by the time Michigan was playing Jibreel Black at nose tackle. This year, though… this year they really do. The rotation was so frequent and universal that it was difficult to tell when Michigan called off the dogs. Now I figure it was when they put in Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray at linebacker. At the time I was wondering what exactly constituted the second string.
This is a very good thing. Heck, even safety saw a reasonable amount of rotation with Dymonte Thomas entering early and playing reasonably well as a strong safety. I thought Clark had a good game himself, so once Hill comes back even that seemingly weak spot might have a full two deep of options.
very aggryessive [Fuller]
Kid's got alligator blood. Michigan promised aggression over the offseason and provided it Saturday. Michigan played in each and every wide receiver's face, to the point where the only screen they bothered to attempt ended in a TFL as an unblocked Blake Countess charged down the wideout from five yards away. They generally dropped a safety into the box to make up the numbers, playing the man free coverage they'd practiced through the offseason.
Michigan did not entirely ditch zone coverage. They dropped into it frequently from okie sets on passing downs, and they'll have to change things up enough to keep people from running pick routes on them with impunity. The change was nonetheless obvious.
And so far, so good. IIRC no wide receiver got over the top on any of ASU's attempted deep routes. At worst there was a guy in trail position ready to SHORYUKEN; often the corner was running even or ahead. Channing Stribling probably had the best coverage of the day on a go route where the wide receiver ended up out of bounds with Stribling between him and the ball. (And we all expected it to somehow become a catch, yes. But it didn't!)
Part of the press. Michigan ran a number of dime coverages, first with Delonte Hollowell as an extra nickel and then by folding Countess inside after Peppers got dinged.
Speaking of Hollowell, he may be a little guy but he will light you up if given the opportunity. It says something that he was getting playing time even before Peppers went out, and furthers Michigan's immense corner depth.
PLEASE OGRE HURT 'EM [Upchurch]
Hello Mr. Henry. So far so good for Willie Henry busting out. Henry didn't register a bucket of stats. He did bowl opponents over in a flash several times. This one was a QB hurry that forced an incompletion. ASU's OL is experienced and undersized, for what that's worth. Jury still out, etc. etc.
Taco Charlton also got in the act with a bull rush that got him an impressive sack…
…and Wormley tore through the line to crush the QB five yards in the backfield on a play that didn't end up counting because ASU called timeout.
It wasn't quite obliterating. It would have been nice for Frank Clark to rip around the corner for DOOM more often; two sacks isn't exactly dominant.
When you're out there with Poggi and Strobel you are down the list. [Fuller]
Wither Pipkins? Ondre Pipkins got the same kind of playing time Drake Johnson did: sparse and mostly towards the end of the game. I know they're trying to be careful with him. It seems like if he's playing at all he might as well be playing earlier, because when he was in there he was an OL-flinging force. My worry about Pipkins is fluttering slightly above 'minor' at the moment.
The Ryan issue. I don't want to make any definitive proclamations without looking at the tape, but everyone seems to think Jake Ryan didn't have a good day in his first start at MLB. I am in tentative agreement. It was telling that he got pulled for Morgan after the first two drives and then seemed to get less playing time than either he or Bolden.
It was always going to be difficult for Ryan to make that adjustment when his previous responsibilities as far as run fits went were "don't let the ball outside of you"; MLB is a different animal entirely.
If Ryan isn't actually good at MLB they should look at making him an end in various situations. He's done well there before in nickel packages and Michigan is going to barely play Ross or Jenkins-Stone against spread teams. They have plenty of LB depth and will rotate those ends with some frequency.
REDSHIRTWATCH. Stop the presses: I am mostly happy here. The only freshmen to see the field were Bryan Mone, Freddy Canteen, and Jabrill Peppers. All of those guys figure to be real contributors this year.
I was disappointed in a couple of sophomores who played: I would rather have year five of Shane Morris than whatever value there is in throwing passes against a defense worse than the one you go up against in practice every day. And since Kyle Bosch is at best your #7 lineman once Glasgow returns, it is unwise to blow a potential redshirt on a highly-touted OL prospect by playing him for one snap at the end of a blowout.
Wait Funchess is on special teams? He blocked for Gedeon on the punt block touchdown and everyone was like WHAAAAAA? Well… remember Marquise Walker?
Walker was deployed as a punt block specialist in 2001 and got to four over the course of the season. Funchess's combination of height, arm length, speed, and leaping ability could provide a similar ability. And unlike covering kickoffs, the impact there justifies the minor injury risk.
Funchess didn't actually rush punts in this game, so they may be waiting to spring that in a more important game. If they don't, then it's weird.
STADIUMWATCH. While they managed to not play "Build Me Up, Buttercup," Special K did play "Black And Yellow" as Michigan prepared to play a team wearing… black and yellow. Well done.
I may have forgotten the extent to which the music had taken over everything, but wow. I had to shout to be heard to people two seats down from me. I can't even imagine what it's like in the north endzone. I got stuck next to the scoreboard the one time I went down to Illinois and it was thoroughly miserable.
Maybe that's just what it's like now? Other people were actually saying it was nice that the piped in music was toned down. It did not feel like that to me.
SIMMS MCELFRESH. It's even better when you've never seen it spelled and in your head it's "Mackelfresh." Prediction: has rap war with Macklemore. Nice catch, too.
PEPPERS. Did not do much before the injury (he is fine, says everybody) but that one punt return opportunity he got was the best three yard return ever. It looked like he was going to bust out about three different times.
Helmet update. The thing apparently called a "helmet bumper" now sports a block M instead of "MICHIGAN":
I like it.
* 26 players recorded defensive statistics, so pretty much everyone Brian wrote about in the season preview.
* I'm not really going out on a limb here by thinking the heroes of the defensive UFR are going to be Willie Henry Jr. and Jourdan Lewis. Each player only had 3 tackles, but Henry was such a disruptive presence on the line, and Lewis was running step-for-step with whoever he was matched up against.
Best: The defense
On one hand you’d hope a defense comprised almost exclusively of top-rated players and/or experienced returning starters wouldn’t struggle shutting down a mediocre offense, but on the other it was extremely gratifying to watch UM give up one long-ish run to start the game and then basically close the door on Appalachian State until the contest was very much decided. The box score only shows 2 sacks and 2 more TFLs, but the line was constantly pressuring App St.’s QB and bottling up their running backs in that first half.
The secondary wasn’t tested much, but even with some meaningless drives in the 2nd half that helped to inflate the numbers it held App. St. to about 50% completion percentage and under 4 ypa. It looked like a “vintage” Michigan defense, and the logical maturation of the unit that held up pretty well last year until they played OSU. They really do have 3-4 corners who could be starters on most teams in the conference, and Thomas getting some serious run in the 2nd half was nice to see even though it seemed like the defense was in a bit of a shell.
You call that a convoy? Now THIS is a convoy. [K. Kuhne / MVictors]
Blog folk. MVictors photos.
Yesterday did nothing to erase the past. Michigan evened the all-time series, but beyond that, 9/1/07 is never going to go away. What yesterday can do for Michigan is start them down a path where the discussion is about what Michigan is doing, and not what Michigan has done.
GREG MATTISON – The defense just seemed and looked ready to me, today. Believe me I get it – this was Appalachian State 2014, not the 2007 version of the Mountaineers – but the defense was not lost out there. Maybe it has something to do with the talent on the field (both sides), but it looked the Michigan Defense was well-coached and well-prepared. Blitzes were effective. Players didn’t look lost. There was no confusion as to what play was going to be called, where everyone should be lined up and who was covering who. That’s coaching and Mattison deserves credit for having his team ready – more than I can say for the 2007 UM defense against Appy State.
Magnus has carefully calibrated his awards post for maximum chance of MGoLinkage:
Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Dennis Norfleet.
Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Desmond Morgan.
What a terrible performance by the D in the second half
As bad as the first half was good. Took a lot of joy out of this for me.
This from Maize and Blue Nation is pretty freaking cool:
Looks like Adidas was making our jerseys back then too.
We heard about it all offseason, we saw a little bit of it in the scrimmage a couple weeks ago...and then we saw it all over the field on Saturday. Maybe the best unit out there all day was the defensive backs who only gave up 127 pass yards, 69 of which came in garbage time in the 4th quarter. While not tallied as actual pass break ups, multiple Michigan defenders...such as Jeremy Clark, had some big hits on receivers that kept them from coming down with the ball and the catch. This is a direct result of having corners and nickels lining up in press coverage instead of a soft zone. That physicalness is exactly what Mattison said he wanted.
Through 3 quarters, Michigan only gave up 7 points, 155 total yards (97 rush, 58 pass), 8 first downs and ASU was only 1-11 on 3rd down. Granted its only Appy State, but thats how its supposed to go against a team like that.
Newspaper folk. Daily gets an F for pulling out the word "redeem." NOPE. Also they have an entire column on how this is "finally time to heal." I'm just like… okay you were 11 when this happened. I am not going to throw a sock at your head. Wojo did it too. I think every paper had to do this by law or something.
Gardner on Nussmeier:
"He got the most excited when I (made) a run check," Gardner laughed after Michigan's convincing 52-14 win over Appalachian State on Saturday. "He was screaming at me, and I was like 'what, did I do it wrong?'
I agree, sir.
“I’m not really a normal wide receiver -- 6-4 or 6-5, 236 -- that’s what I was today,” Funchess said. “I feel like no one can match up with that size.”
Michigan got a rather full house (except in the luxury boxes, which looked about 10% full)… but I wonder how many of those tickets they flat gave away. Churches, schools, and charitable organizations were flush with free tickets. Michigan is a 5.5 point underdog against ND.