Parachute Check Comment Count

Brian September 20th, 2010 at 11:28 AM

9/17/2010 – Michigan 42, UMass 37 – 3-0 

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Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

Well… at least it wasn't as grim as it looked a with about a minute before halftime, when my head was in my hands and I could feel the cave feces covering my body as I wished for a merciful death. Maybe an albino salamander would crawl down my throat or something. Then the offense did a large number of very fast things and the defense managed to stop the UMass offense like once or twice and then they managed to not quite blow it at the end.

And so here we are. If you ever wanted to know what it would have been like if Michigan had made that field goal at the end of The Horror you have your answer: not at all good but approximately a trillion times better than the alternative. The stanktastic defensive performance was exactly what Michigan fans feared was going to happen after every defensive back within hailing distance of the two deep exploded, except worse. I kind of expected Wisconsin might put up 37 points on a series of long, grinding drives. Not so much a team that launched a stirring comeback to nip William & Mary.

That combined with the pratfall by UConn against Temple and Notre Dame's admittedly delicious overtime punking leaves an uncomfortable taste in the mouth. Last year around this time I was surveying the outlook after Michigan got significantly outgained by Indiana but escaped by the skin of their teeth. The game column was sarcastically titled "The Soaring Majesty!":

Since we didn't [lose], we should all just breathe a sigh of relief, recalibrate expectations back down a little bit, and move on. Michigan's not at a point where any win against any Big Ten team is one to freak out about. The freshmen quarterbacks remain freshmen and it's becoming clear that the defense has about the same raw talent level that last year's offense had. The only thing keeping them from plunging off a deep, dark cliff is the fact that no position on defense is as singularly important as quarterback is on offense.

Michigan didn't win a game against a non-seal opponent the rest of the year. It was this much fun: no fun.

This is the point where I take a finger, insert it into the collar of my shirt, and make an uncomfortable facial expression David Letterman has mastered and is impossible to Google. (What do you type, "Letterman shirt uncomfortable"? "Letterman neck trick"?)Just imagine you're wearing a tie and your boss has called you into his office during a period of right-sizing and you're a big vaudeville buff. It's like that.

It's like that because of the following facts:

  • Jonathan Hernandez had 114 yards on 26 carries with a long of 15.
  • John Griffin had 96 yards on 17 carries with a long of 19.
  • Kyle Havens went 22 of 29 for 222 yards with a long of 19.

That is a complete demolition at the hands of a I-AA team without even blowing it big. UMass got two short fields when Michigan had a punt blocked and Cam Gordon fumbled an interception, but even dropping those out of the equation UMass drives went FG, punt, TD, punt, TD, fumble, punt, TD, INT; both of the short field drives started around the 25 and ended in Michigan's endzone. And at no point did they get a cheap touchdown due to a secondary implosion. They just ground down the field as if Michigan was the I-AA team. Given the level of competition, it's probably the worst defensive performance of the Rodriguez era, and that's saying something. If not for the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game we'd be reaching back to Bump's days to find something worse. The parallels to last year are scary.

I can tell you to look at the yardage and feel better, which still works for me to some extent. Michigan still didn't outgain a BCS opponent until the Purdue game in 2009 and they have a demolition of UConn to their name. I can tell you to look at what Purdue and Indiana and Illinois are doing and count to seven that way and then rely on someone else (MSU? Iowa? Penn State?) getting Denarded for the eighth win that would officially exceed expectations, and that helps too. I can point to Iowa's 2009 season, which started out with a one-point win over Northern Iowa in which the Hawkeyes were outgained and had to block two(!) field goals on consecutive plays to avoid the killer upset. Four games later Iowa survived 24-21 against Arkansas State; they ended the year by whipping Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

All of these things say football is weird and last weekend was probably an aberration and Michigan's defense will be bad but probably not that bad. But it's hard to shake the feeling of deja vu. We jumped out of a plane and went WOOOOOO because everything is fast and fun and now we're trying to ignore the feeling that the parachute might have transferred to West Virginia. Again.

But at least there's Denard, right? Right. The silver lining to all of this is that he's going to have insane stats because Michigan's got no choice. That's the ticket.

NON-BULLETS

Pulaski time. This has been kicking around message boards and my head since I was annoyed that Michigan threw the ball on third and six early in the game and then whiffed another field goal: given the situation, should Michigan emulate that Arkansas high school team that never, ever punts? Consider:

  • The offense is pretty awesome, making a successful fourth-down conversion worth more points than it would be if it was still 2008.
  • The defense is pretty terrible, making the loss of field position from an unsuccessful conversion less of an issue than it would be with a defense more likely to stop the opponent. A good defense is more likely to get you the ball back approximately where you booted it from; Michigan's is likely to get you the ball back via kickoff.
  • Will Hagerup spent the ND game shanking balls into the stands and dropped a snap against UMass, getting his punt blocked.
  • The field goal kickers are 1 of 4 and Rodriguez is openly pleading for any student, clueless or not, to try out.

So… yeah. When the Mathlete did a study with his enormous database of plays he concluded that 1) your defense has no impact on the decision (something I disagree with) and 2) that if your offense is good the light is almost always green:

4th-down-good-offense

Maybe some of the Mathlete's assumptions are wrong there (he gives an across-the-board 10% increase in conversion percentage) but even an average offense should be going on fourth and medium anywhere near midfield; Michigan is looking considerably better than average.

I'm hoping Rodriguez starts playing with going on fourth down in mind. If anyone was ever going to test the limits of Romer-ian game theory it would be this Michigan team. It's NCAA '11 time.

Probably no need to get alarmed for next week at least. Bowling Green is 1-2 with losses to Tulsa and Troy with a win coming last week over Marshall. In that game, Marshall's QB chucked four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. MGoUser BGwolverine13 has some information on their season to date. It sounds like the starting quarterback will sit out this week after suffering a concussion, which is doubly bad for BG since their rushing offense is currently 111th nationally at 2.7 YPC.

Is it sad that we're talking about this? Yes.

Yeah, pretty much.

What happened? Michigan's first two opponents went down to defeat over the weekend, too, seriously damaging their value when it comes to projecting the future. You probably know what went down in the MSU-ND game, but UConn losing to Temple 30-16 hurts.

How did that happen? Well, the Huskies did outgain Temple by 34 yards. (WOO!) They went from 16-14 up to 27-16 down via a fumble return touchdown and a four-yard touchdown drive after a big punt return. Zach Frazer appears to be pure awful (4.8 YPA) and their defense grim in all phases. Temple RB Bernard Pierce had 169 yards on 26 carries and his long was just 38; UConn is not good.

Meanwhile, the ND-MSU game was as dead even as you would expect an overtime game to be. Michigan State ended up outgaining ND 477-461, with the final 29 yards for MSU coming on the trick play that's going to make TWIS so fun this afternoon. Notre Dame's defense was thoroughly gashed by land and sea, giving up 203 yards on 43 carries and allowing Kirk Cousins to complete 23 of 33 passes. ND ran Armando Allen just 13 times despite the fact he is very good and was picking up 5.5 yards a crack; Dayne Crist was 32 of 55 for a bunch of yards, one INT, and 4 TDs. The teams had 13 possessions each.

Conclusion? Michigan State is about Michigan's equal and the game will be a shootout nailbiter.

Goals met? On defense obviously none. On special teams obviously none. Jeremy Gallon is on a streak of five straight terrible decisions on difficult punts to field and should either be replaced or given a return buddy who hangs out ten yards in front of him and fields the crappy ones.

On offense, we did see the healthy and productive return of Junior Hemingway. Taylor Lewan got in and was reportedly mauling people, which okay I-AA team but still that's an encouraging sign when your freshman tackle gets in to replace a guy who's played well so far. And Michael Shaw put up some of those yard things that Denard always gets. We did not get to see Cox, Toussaint, or Hopkins, unfortunately. (Toussaint may still be injured. He dressed but was only participating in some drills before the game.)

The one important thing that Michigan seemed to establish is the existence of a Denard deep ball. UMass was playing tight man coverage most of the day and Denard went deep twice to beat it, hitting Kelvin Grady on a deep seam and Stonum on a fly route. Both balls were well thrown. If you add that to the rest of the stuff Denard can do, hoo boy.

A note on the interception: he had Roundtree open for a touchdown but did the same thing he did against ND where he threw the ball on a line, allowing a safety to come underneath it and deflect it to the guy running a step or two behind Roundtree.

Lloyd-ballin' it note. Hated the third and one iso to Vincent Smith, though not getting it wasn't Smith's fault since there was an unblocked guy tearing in from the edge. But the whole advantage of having a running quarterback is that you get that extra blocker, which seems most useful on third and one. Michigan should have a version of Gator Heavy where Koger, Webb, and whichever RB they think is the best blocker line up to the same side of the formation and they just Tebow their way forward.

ELSEWHERE

Michigan Exposures has photo galleries from the pregame and game. You are also implored to check out UMGoBlog's gallery. MVictors catches Scooter Vaughn in a moment of extreme Scooterdom.

Mas mealer:

The Hoover Street Rag tries to maintain calm:

Now, all of the said, consider, if you will, where a Michigan fan might be standing right now.  Since September 1, 2007, you have seen your team play 40 games.  In that time span as of this weekend, you have seen your team win as many games as they have lost.  Twenty Saturdays up, twenty Saturdays down.  Twenty times happy, twenty times sad.  You have seen hope crushed in the waking moments of a new rising sun.  You have seen hope's corpse taken out back and burned repeatedly.  You've seen redemption come from unlikely sources.  You've seen a cold night in Champaign.  You've seen a darn near miracle in Orlando.  You've seen a comeback like nothing you've seen before in Ann Arbor.  You've seen another quarterback in orange and blue leave flame trails behind him like a time-traveling DeLorean.  You've seen a walk-on save the Jug.  You've seen a freshman led an unlikely comeback in a shootout.  You've seen all hope die on four chances from the one.  You've seen an invasion of red into the Big House.  You've seen a sophomore do things we only thought that other teams did to Michigan.  You've seen 20 wins and 20 losses. 
So maybe this is why Saturday's performance doesn't bother me.  It was a win.  The gap between "survives upset bid" or "gets a scare from an FCS school" and losing is a chasm visible from space.  We've been on the other side of that chasm, or perhaps more accurately at the bottom of it. 
Maize & Go Blue also says remain calm. Remain, maintain, calm. Britain stands alone.
 

"We were terrible on defense," Roh said. "We just didn't look like we were prepared to play and we didn't make adjustments during the game.

"I promise you'll not see another game like that from us again."

From Roh's lips to Tebow's ears.

Comments

Jebus

September 20th, 2010 at 11:41 AM ^

But I am shopping for knives.

Seriously, on a positive note- the offense didn't quit, ever.  This is a young, terribly wafer thin team on defense, that just beat a rival on the road.  And, we didn't lose this one.  You and I both know there are recent U-M teams that would have, under Carr as well.

Are we remotely average on defense?  Probably not.  Are we as bad as we were on Saturday?  Also, probably not.

Punting is not winning.  Always go for it.  Also, field goals?  Not our thing.

Blue2000

September 20th, 2010 at 11:43 AM ^

All of these things say football is weird and last weekend was probably an aberration and Michigan's defense will be bad but probably not that bad. But it's hard to shake the feeling of deja vu.

 

Don't worry.  It can't happen two season in a row, right?  RIGHT?!?

Wado

September 20th, 2010 at 11:46 AM ^

Dileo wasn't the holder, maybe we'll start to see him as a returner?  Now that I've mentioned it, who was our holder?

Be sure to read that whole mvictors to the bottom for the part on Threet.

zlionsfan

September 20th, 2010 at 2:27 PM ^

last year's Purdue team started out with an unimpressive win over Toledo, shoveled several piles of crap around after an impressively close loss at Oregon (note: the single difference in the game was Masoli; apparently Purdue's DC was not aware that the QB is allowed to run the ball, so keep that in mind), somehow managed to beat Ohio State (HA HA HA) and then the rest of the season was meh, although obviously Michigan would have been more than happy to have the meh win in Ann Arbor.

This year's team has started out perhaps even less impressively than last season: a loss to 1-2 Notre Dame, a 10-point win over a I-AA team, and an 11-point win over a bad MAC team in which the Boilers scored two quick touchdowns and then basically mailed in the rest of the game.

At QB, instead ot the guy who was about as impressive as Curtis Painter, they have the guy who couldn't beat out Jacory Harris. They've lost their best RB for the season and their best WR for the season. Their LBs seem slow to react on most plays, and the secondary seems to be playing "bend as far as you possibly can but don't break except oops".

They do have an excellent kicker, so there is that. If the NCAA scraps the current overtime format sometime between now and November and decrees that ties shall be broken by alternating field goal attempts, then yes, Purdue has a chance. Aside from that, I would expect them to be completely Denarded.

Greg McMurtry

September 20th, 2010 at 12:20 PM ^

get some depth on the defense will help.  I'm not celebrating a kid's injury in any way, but UM needs a big lead early to get the younger guys a bit of playing time in this upcoming game.  It's unfortunate that the UMASS game was so close, which just makes this game that much more important in terms of coming out focused and playing to win.

jrobs7777

September 20th, 2010 at 11:53 AM ^

I'm in Philadelphia, so slightly skewed (to the positive) view of Temple.  But even so, it is unfair to say UConn is not good because they lost to Temple.  UConn may not be very good, but Temple is an okay team and this game had a lot of intangible factors (Big East envy, revenge, etc.).  Temple is well coached and motivated.  There is a good chance they'll go undefeated in the MAC.  Truth is, we'll know a lot more about Temple, the Big East and the Big 10 after this week when Temple visits Penn St.  For the first time in forever, there are actually people who think Temple could spring the upset.

briangoblue

September 20th, 2010 at 11:53 AM ^

Craig Rohbow? I like the accountability, and I hope he can get guys motivated and angry, because they looked like how I feel when you hit that snooze button an extra 3 or 4 times and then rush to get ready when you realize you're gonna be late.

ShakersFromDaUP

September 20th, 2010 at 12:01 PM ^

It's seeming more and more obvious to go for every 4th and less than ten when close to midfield and to only kick field goals when inside the 20 and 4th and more than ten.  So yeah, we should go for it on 4th down a lot.

dakotapalm

September 20th, 2010 at 12:13 PM ^

I just consulted Sagarin's ratings and he finds good news and bad:

Notre Dame is ranked 51st- Michigan's best win.

UConn is (bad and) ranked 83rd- Michigan's worst win.

Guess where UMass is? Inbetween at  72. (and that is with their previous games' SOS dragging them down)

Yes, Michigan's defense is bad, but this was a far cry from  Baby Seal U. It is very easy to misunderstand how good the top FCS teams truly are. Teams like UMass, Furman and JMU are not getting lucky when they hang with the FBS team that they play. These are good teams who win regularly and expect to win when the enter a game. Indiana and Purdue are probably worse teams than UMass, JMU, etc.

Michigan's defense is bad, and probably had a bad game. We knew this would be the case once Troy was injured. Let's remember what we already knew.

rascalofearth

September 20th, 2010 at 1:06 PM ^

first of all thank you Ann Arbor, Ashley's and the U of M fans.....we had a ball bringing you halloween a little early.  you are one classy group and midwest hospitality was on full display.

here's how we view the result....the check cleared, no one got badly hurt and our confidence continues to grow.   and we sold some tickets for the rumble in foxboro with UNH.

on the bus over to the stadium from the umass hotel some of your fans asked what we were going to do.  as i posted last week.... we are going to run the ball, run the ball and then run the ball some more. 

that, is as you are all keenly now aware, is because we have an O line worthy of any football program.  what was shocking was how few times your defense got into our backfield and how we converted a full HALF of our third downs on the way to racking up a throat killing 26 UMASS FIRST DOWNs !

a questionable call, a better bounce (hell any kind of a bounce) and a tighter grip on the ball and Michigan would have needed a few more big plays.  not saying you would have not gotten them because as i stated our DBs were both young and not up to Big Ten quality. 

also our tackling was not as UMASS tough as it needs to be to win the Colonial Conf let alone the Championship.  and clearly short of suiting up someone from the woman's soccer team sitting in row 85 section 9 during the game we need a kicker who desn't make containing the opposition on their side of the 50 the objective of each kick off.

btw, when won in 1998 we were an eleven seed.  someday I hope you all join in on the fun of watching your football team move through the brackets to a real NCAA championship game.

 

thanks for the memories!

caup

September 20th, 2010 at 2:40 PM ^

The one where your WR never established himself back in bounds before catching the tipped ball?  He dove from OB, caught the ball, and landed in bounds.  Apparently the refs didn't realize that's against the rules, tipped ball or not.  The receiver MUST re-establish himself back in bounds, which means getting his feet back in BEFORE catching the ball.

Oh well.  I don't think officiating helped either team.

And I hope to God your team really is as good as you think it is.

Maize n Blue Balls

September 20th, 2010 at 4:07 PM ^

Thanks for the post, Rascal.

I love it when opposing fans come on here and post worthwhile reads.  Yours is one of them.  Thanks for the info and the kudos.  Obviously Michigan has a lot of work to do if they expect to survive the Big Ten, but your team played well and you should be proud.  I'll be rooting for UMass for the foreseeable future.

sharkhunter

September 20th, 2010 at 10:48 PM ^

didn't one of the announcers say that the Oline had 3 of GERG's former Syracuse players and the average weight was 310+?  If so, I feel a little better about our D performing subpar, not a lot better, just a smidgen.  Umass had some good RBs and their line did its goob. 

Greg McMurtry

September 20th, 2010 at 12:15 PM ^

I would give Gallon one more game, the BGSU game, to show that he can adequately handle punts.  If not, I would be content with playing the conservative game and putting anyone back there that can simply field the ball intelligently.  Similar to when Greg Mathews was returning punts the past few years.  He was no Desmond Howard back there, but he didn't muff punts or make bad decisions.  As for punting the ball, it looks like Hagerup has a few jitters that I think will go away with more playing time.  Finally, the kickoffs rarely even reach the goal line and the field goal kicking is poor as well.  Hopefully someone can step it up in these areas.  I'm not sure what the problem is, but it needs to get better.

STW P. Brabbs

September 20th, 2010 at 12:21 PM ^

Rarely even reach the goal line?  I'm not sure Gibbons has put one inside the ten yet.  Which is the most maddening thing about him so far - you get a highly touted kicker with a highly touted leg who's as fucking big as Gibbons, and he can't even get any power on his kickoffs?  It's one thing when Garret Stumpus Rivas can't knock it into the end zone, but what the hell is going on with Gibbons?

Also, on Broekhuizen - it looked to me like it was a bad snap on his FG try - maybe the holder righted it in time, but would have been enough to throw his timing off.  I'd like to see him get another chance against BGSU. 

Durham Blue

September 20th, 2010 at 9:33 PM ^

Not only are Gibbons' kickoffs short but many of them against UMass were line drives, not allowing the coverage unit to organize and get downfield.  It seemed UMass started on their 35- or 40-yard line on every possession after a kickoff.

houstongolfnut

September 20th, 2010 at 12:15 PM ^

No doubt that the defense was horredous and special teams sucked.  The biggest thing is that we still won.

Looking at some of the other close games this week (Wisconsin barely edging Arizona State) I wouldn't write off the Big Ten season.

Our defense probably couldn't play worse, but that doesn't mean they won't play better the rest of the year.

M-Wolverine

September 20th, 2010 at 12:16 PM ^

Isn't like those in the old cartoons where you pull the ripcord and out comes tires and tools and junk up to and including the kitchen sink, but no chute.
<br>
<br>I said elsewhere the similarities to last year worry me if U-Conn is Western, overhyped first opponent, ND is ND, last second win, and U-Mass is EMU, crap team giving us problems for too long. Beating BG silly won't make me feel a lot better, as it's just moving baby seal up on the schedule. Taking it to Indiana on the road would though.
<br>
<br>I'm not sure 7-5 with loses to MSU and OSU going 3-5 in the Big Ten is the way Rich wants to finish if he doesn't want to be, you know, finished. (I would suggest beating MSU is a REALLY good idea).
<br>
<br>And while I'm not "all in" on giving up on punting (beyond leaving us in too bad a position, I see spots of strength there once we can get the nerves under control), I'm all for never kicking a FG again. If you're doing it, you're close enough to not leave yourself in bad position. Most aren't on 4th and 18, but 4th and 6 or something that could be made...especially if you knew you were going for it and made your 3rd down call different. The only thing is if you have made you kicker the waterboy, and find yourself down 2, 30 yards away, with 1 second left in the game...then what? Hail Mary or cold kicker you've shown you have no faith in?

dakotapalm

September 20th, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

First, that "moving up Baby Seal on the schedule" is a scary thought. I hadn't heard it put that way. But watching MSU on Saturday gave me confidence that Michigan will beat them. In a night game on the road, ND had chance after chance and let it slip away. We have them at home. (+3 for homefield, right, JamieMac?)

Second, if Michigan has the ball on the 30 with one play left, that is a 47 yarder; not too many teams have a reliable kicker from that point anyhow. If the ball is on the twenty or closer, a regular play (pass play) has a decent chance.... argh, this is just a doomsday scenario, anyway. Can't... think... about ... it....

bronxblue

September 20th, 2010 at 12:36 PM ^

I was actually impressed with the road win at ND - yeah, the ghosts of ND are not as strong as they once were, but that is a tough place to win, especially for a young team.  Also, UMass is a better team than last year's EMU squad (0-12, and on a 15-game losing streak).  I agree with the sentiment, but this year's slate certainly looks more "real" than last year's.

bryemye

September 20th, 2010 at 12:22 PM ^

Not sure I see a reason for us to go for field goals more than your average HS football team at this point. Our kickers suck.

Can Hagerup kick a ball off a tee? We know he has a good leg. Maybe he can fix our kickoff woes (I know I'm such a genius and RR has already thought of this surely, I'm just curious I guess since it seems like a strong leg should be a strong leg).

los barcos

September 20th, 2010 at 12:24 PM ^

during the uconn game i got to the stadium incredibly early and watched hagerup and gibbons warm up.  hagerup was absolutely booming them - he looked like zoltan jr.  gibbons, on the other hand, was obviously struggling, even during warm ups.

 

the point is, i think punting we will be fine as the year goes on. hagerup has the leg, he just has the jitters.  field goals, though, wont be getting better this year with the kickers we have. 

bluebyyou

September 20th, 2010 at 1:15 PM ^

Valid point that  was brought up yesterday on the Board - Haggerup at halftime was kicking 65+ yards with incredible hang time.  He needs to settle down, as I suspect he will, but when he does, he will have us in good shape for several years, at least as far as punting goes.

What was also interesting was watching the QB's warm up pre-game.  I was thinking that Gardner threw the best long ball of the three, but Denard sure had a couple of nice long throws during the game.

Sure wish they sold boos in the stadium, at least this past game.  I never enjoyed myself less afterr a win than I did this last Saturday.  You could almost script when UMass would throw and we couldn't stop them.  Couldn't stop them on the run either, so I guess, what's the point.

Frustrating to say the least.

wolverine1987

September 20th, 2010 at 12:25 PM ^

In contrast to many on both the "OMG it's over" side this weekend, and many of those who criticized them ("shut up, it was a hangover game, it's fine." It is not fine-yet-but there is hope that it can be. We just don't know yet.

steelymax

September 20th, 2010 at 12:27 PM ^

I can't begin to explain how freaking happy I'd be if this team never punted. It'd be the complete antithesis of "Lloyd-ball" and officially obliterate the old regime's ultra-conservative play-calling that jumped the shark the second App State stepped into the Big House.

mgoblue0970

September 20th, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

Which is why I don't understand all the calls for RR's head on a platter.

Did we really want Les Miles?

Do we really want to see a repeat of:

1st down, run Mike Hart left into the line.

2nd down, run Mike Hart left into the line.

3rd down, TE screen.

4th down, punt.

I agree, if Michigan is on the other side of the 50, it should be TD or nothing.  You just never know with this offense.

bronxblue

September 20th, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

I think this Letterman face says enough:

I agree that this was an aberration, but the defense is probably not going to make massive improvements this year outside of the usual growth by young players with experience.  That means lots of Denard, lots of yards, and a whole bunch of 42-37 games.  I do think GERG and co. will make some adjustments, maybe blitzing more or putting more guys on the line to get some pressure on the QB.  Hernandez really impressed me as a RB (there were at least 3 times I can remember where the defense had him stopped and he just made a good move to get some yardage).  I still think 8-4 is the ceiling for this team, but who knows - teams get hurt as the year goes on, and even Wiscy does not look that scary considering the number of guys they might lose after the past week.  Iowa did not look particularly good against Arizona, and UM has a better offense.  Who knows.  But yeah, this type of game reminds you how far this team still has to go to be a national player.