The Penitent Man

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2009 at 11:55 AM

11/21/2009 – Michigan 10, Ohio State 21 – 5-7, 1-7 Big Ten

 tate-forcier-ohio-state-scramble tate-forcier-ohio-state-interception

Well… that could have gone worse.

Unlike last year, it is possible to construct an alternate universe in which Michigan wins the game. This universe contains 80% fewer crippling Forcier errors; not much else is different. Like last week's admission of crippling ennui after game 11, this is progress of a sort. The sort is still "not very fun progress at all," but it's progress.

Better than the slight competitiveness: now it's over and we don't have to watch the team/roadkill grind its jaw away any more. The focus turns to getting some cornerbacks and other assorted defenders, reviewing what happened, and waiting for what will be a telling 2010.

There should be no more stupid rumors that Rodriguez is getting fired. Bill Martin immediately announced that Rodriguez would be the coach in 2010, which like duh. CRACK REPORTERS then attempted to detect weaselly out words in the Martin statement and got a flat denial. There will be no more stomach-churning on-field events or stupid rumors that Forcier and Robinson are transferring. Maybe that latter is optimistic given the flimsy justifications for transfer rumors to date, but since Forcier and, oddly, Vincent Smith, have clearly denied any transfer intentions recently there's little that could convince them to leave other than Devin Gardner showing up in fall—not even spring—and proving himself God. Which isn't likely to happen.

There will be some sort of NCAA announcement that has a 1% chance of crushing Rodriguez, a 10% chance of actually increasing the heat he is under with the people who decide his fate, and an 89% chance of being either nothing or minor enough that it won't make a difference in a year or two when the wins and losses are likely to make the decision.

And then this two-year period of misery and flailing about will be over. Even if you are a tinfoil hat who wants Rodriguez fired yesterday and thinks the team will be just as bad next year, at least that won't be as bad, because the last half of the season will be talking about the next coach. More likely than that is that a non-freshman, non-walk-on quarterback and 16-19 returning starters and some consistency at defensive coordinator and progress everywhere and roster not operating 14 scholarships short see Michigan get off the mat.

The long dark of the offseason is merciful now and steadily builds to a yes or no answer in 2010. Or, more likely, a "maybe" answer leading to a surely definitive 2011. Either way, this unpleasant limbo existence has ended. Patience is a virtue because it is incredibly frustrating and painful, and we don't have to be patient any more.

BULLETS

  • Big post-game news is that Donovan Warren has tentatively announced his return. There is some wiggle in as long as Warren is going to put his name in for an evaluation, but unless that evaluation comes back more positive than he's been told it will he should return for his senior year. That's obviously huge, and may allow Woolfolk or Justin Turner to slide to safety next year.
  • In other corner news, Adrian Witty is qualified($) and will be on campus in January. Nice to see Michigan stick with the kid, and hopefully he can contribute. He was just a two-star but Michigan liked him a lot.
  • You will not believe this but I will say it anyway: Michigan's corner depth chart might be a little crowded next year. Young, but crowded. Both starters return, Justin Turner will get in on the action, and then you have Witty, Avery, and Talbott coming in with potential/probable commits from Cullen Christian and Tony Grimes coming up. That's suddenly five-deep in scholarship players (Floyd and Teric Jones also exist). Some of those guys will get bumped to safety, surely.
  • Many people are talking about the Ohio State fans who showed up en masse. I didn't think it was much worse than 2007, especially not in my immediate proximity. Two years ago there was this pack of Git-r-dones a few rows behind me that would literally say "ain't nothing wrong with that" after every four yard Wells run; this year there were scattered OSU fans but nothing as concentrated and annoying.

    But it was worse, and this has caused a lot of muttering about season ticket holders who gave up their seats. I don't think that's the case thanks to an excellent diary on the situation:

    …the Athletic Department has been "banking" all of the non-renewed season tickets. With those "banked" seats, the Athletic Department plans to be able to do the aforementioned aisleway widening, handrail additions and (hooray) widened seat-numbering, with a minimum of inconvenience and movement to existing season ticket seat holders.  … In the meantime, it means that the Athletic Department has larger numbers of individual and/or package tickets to sell.

    If you had wanted to conduct an experiment at the time of the OSU game, all you had to do was ask to see the tickets of any of those OSU fans; I have every presumption that in most cases, the tickets held by Buckeye fans would surely have been small and white, not the larger color photo-background tickets that go to season ticket holders.

    This problem will be less and less of an issue in the future, as season-ticket assignments within the bowl get settled after renovations are completed.

    … And, for people in Columbus, the Michigan game is the biggest day of the year.  They smelled blood in the water this year, and many of them made the effort, got the tickets, and came north.  Do not for a moment think that ticket brokers missed an opportunity to purchase a package of tickets that included Eastern and Delaware State, simply to get ahold of OSU tickets, and sell them in Columbus.  Those tickets, the package tickets, are quite likely part of the "bank" of tickets that the Athletic Department is holding only until 2010 or 2011, for the completion of the stadium renovations.

    This is definitely what happened: brokers snapped up the publicly available tickets and when game time rolled around the double-digit favorites are naturally more inclined to pay the premium to get into the stadium. There were some traitorous bastards who need to be hung by their figgins, but most of it was just Michigan fans not buying available tickets. Which means everyone complaining about how the stadium looked on TV has scarlet and gray on their hands.

  • Vincent Smith is your tentative 2010 starter after averaging 4 YPC on eight carries to Michael Shaw's 1 on 7. Smith also had three catches and Michigan's only touchdown on a sweet juke after Forcier scrambled himself into and out of trouble and threw back across his body…

  • …which was awesome but it's pretty easy to draw a straight line from that to Forcier's endzone interception, which was a slow-motion "nooooooooooooooo" moment if I've ever experienced one. The instant Forcier looked to the left side of the field I felt a disturbance in the force, and my main concern was that the guy not score a defensive touchdown.

  • Forcier in toto: is it crazy for me to suggest that I thought that was sort of an encouraging game? Five turnovers are horrendous and he made some terrible throws into coverage but he also made a number of outstanding plays; if he has the usual leap from freshman to sophomore and cuts down on the errors there's so much playmaking potential there that he could be crazy outstanding. There is also the possibility that he never calms down and he just makes killer mistakes, but most guys get a lot better as they age, especially folks who played crappy high school ball, as Forcier did.

  • Why the hell doesn't Michigan have That God Damned Counter Draw in its arsenal? Michigan is now a shotgun team that uses a metric ton of rolling pockets and in my experience TGDCD is 80% touchdown, 20% fail. Ohio State didn't even mean to call it and they scored on it.

  • Anyone talking about "class" re: Mike Shaw's pre-game run-in with some Ohio State player should probably look on his own rhetoric about how hating Michigan because some crazy dead bastard hated Michigan is part of his soul, man, and consider the logical twists and turns taken to arrive at the conclusion that bumping into mortal enemy and then woofing represents a character flaw.

  • Every time Terrelle Pryor morphed from arm-punter into terrifying tank on the edge, I thought to myself "Jim Tressel is an idiot." He isn't. He is self-evidently a fantastic football coach. He has gotten six straight wins over Michigan—though it's not like Michigan's made it hard the last three tries. But virtually every criticism leveled at Tressel about his neolithic Pryor offense is true. OSU's scoring offense is the zone read, and Tressel didn't even bother hauling it out except on like two drives, one of which was the quick first-half touchdown. The risky scoring offense is running your tank of a QB on the edge, and instead Tressel spent large chunks of the game in the I neutralizing Pryor's legs. What a waste.

Elsewhere

MVictors was on the field and got some shots, including one of Brandon Graham walking for senior day. Senior day side note: much better logistically this year than before, with the seniors walking under the banner. Previously they had them along one endzone, which was weird.

Mike DeSimone has pictures from the day. Maize n Blue Nation has flyover video.

Comments

Ziff72

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:09 PM ^

It is odd, but I too believe Forcier had a great game other than the...well...you know the game killers. The fumble and the end zone across the body nooooooooooo!!! were my 2 only big problems. The one on the Denard bomb was fucking interference and the Matthews one was a bad read and a great play by Coleman. Freshmen. We need support for this team and let it play out. They will be great.

kvnryn

November 23rd, 2009 at 2:08 PM ^

Even though it resulted in an INT, that play still had some value. IIRC, the next time they split Denard out wide, Tate ended up scrambling up the middle for 10-15 yards because the middle of the field was wide open (the implication being, of course, that the secondary had to drop back deeper than normal to respect the deep ball to Denard.)

STW P. Brabbs

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:20 PM ^

That's a play in which interference is sometimes called, but incorrectly IME. The DB was behind Denard, and the ball was underthrown, so when Denard tried to come back for the ball he ran into said DB. Like I said - sometimes a flag is thrown for this because of all the contact, but the defender should have a right to that position.

Tangentially, that play also made me miss the days of ginormous (and sometimes fast) Michigan receivers. Arrington, Terrell, Walker, Avant, and Edwards all break that play up. Hell, Braylon might have even come down with it, but it's not exactly fair to complain that Michigan doesn't have a Biletnikoff winner every year.

brianshall

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:10 PM ^

...we still would not have won this game. The team is still bottom half of the Big 10. Which sucks. And makes me angry. And makes me question Rodriguez and makes me question all the glorious 'peanut butter jelly wif a baseball bat' proclamations Brian made upon RR's hiring.

...and yet, in same alternate universe, Brian remains priestly, our Obi-Wan, encouraging fealty, patience, effort, belief.

I will try.

That's right, I fucking said I will try, don't give me your bad Yoda quotes.

griesecheeks

November 23rd, 2009 at 7:03 PM ^

in an alternate universe, we have a great chance at winning that game... of course, Olesnavage can make a 25 yard fg in that universe.

You can't tell me that if somehow Tate's NOOOOOOOOOO ball slips through the hands of the defender into Jr's hands for a TD, the game isn't totally changed.

anyway, no sense in crying over spilt milk. it didn't happen.

also, WOOOOOOOOO for a receiver cracking 30 receptions. i thought it wasn't going to happen. woooo roundtree.

los barcos

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:11 PM ^

maybe it was the drunkeness, but i thought he played great as well. up until some point in the 4th quarter, we were 9 yards away from turning the game into an upset. it was freshmen forcier vs. goliath, and i thought he held up well.

his last pick too wasnt as egregious as it looked on tv. he had (mathews, i believe) wide open right behind the osu player. if he floats that ball, its a first down. forcier makes that play 9 times out of 10.

oh well.

ShockFX

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:19 PM ^

Live, I figured that Forcier just had one of those Stanzi moments where he thought the OSU guy was on his team. The lob that needed to be was the cross field line drive picked in the end zone. A lob over that guy to Hemingway in the back of the endzone would have been a probably TD.

STW P. Brabbs

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:23 PM ^

Maybe I was projecting, but that last pick looked like the most tentative throw I've ever seen Tate make.

My theory is that the coaches knew he was not emotionally ready to be on the field at that point, and he looked terrified to let go of the ball on that play.

ShockFX

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:18 PM ^

So, between Vincent Smith, Omameh, and Odoms, are people comfortable with RichRod's recruiting ability to pick up sleepers yet? Not that 3* are inherently better than 4*, but that RR and his staff are able to find talent that's overlooked. They play moneyball, and now they are doing it with much better resources.

RR = If Billy Beane was on the Red Sox. Theo Epstein (and Bill James) won 2 World Series in Boston after rebuilding the team. Just give it time here.

STW P. Brabbs

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:53 PM ^

I don't want to rip the kid, but I think people are being too optimistic about Vincent Smith.

He's not Mike Hart. There's a difference between being willing to throw yourself at defenders and actually pushing the pile or falling forward for extra yards. Vincent Smith has, at times, gone down with arm tackles that would hardly have slowed Hart down (especially since he wasn't going very fast in the first place.) Smith can sometimes knife through traffic to fall forward, but if he hits someone larger than a DB head on, he's hitting the turf exactly where the contact occurs. Whereas Mike Hart was one of the most dependable short yardage backs I've seen at Michigan, putting Smith in at 4 & 1 would be foolish. Also, like Hart, Smith has excellent quickness (the latter perhaps slightly better than the former) but he lacks breakaway speed and will score few long touchdowns.

It isn't his fault, and his agility and quickness will be an asset to the team for years. But he weighs 165 pounds (if that) and sometimes physics just wins. This doesn't even consider the likelihood that Smith can survive as season as the primary back. He weighs 25 pounds less than Hart did, and we all know Hart's injury history.

Additionally, to me, 'playing moneyball with better resources' doesn't exactly make sense vis a vis college recruiting. The argument - though perhaps you disagree with the premise - is that Michigan shouldn't need to play moneyball because of said resources, and to the extent that it does we need to diversify the moneyball portfolio (i.e., in this specific instance, recruit a couple of midget RB sleepers in addition to some Minorian mooses). As far as I can tell, Rodriguez has recruited at least 6 slashing, light-in-the-ass RBs (McGuffie, Teric Jones, Jeremy Gallon, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Shaw, and Smith) and only one with size (Stephen Hopkins.) I'm worried that there isn't an every-down, all-purpose back in the whole bunch, though I have some hope that Shaw might turn into a less powerful but faster Chris Perry. Someone convince me that RB isn't actually a reason for concern next year.

ShockFX

November 23rd, 2009 at 2:01 PM ^

Fitz is 5'10, 185 in HS. Measurement wise, I think Fitz is a carbon copy of Slaton. Shaw is 6'1" I think, now sure what he weighs. RR did keep Cox in the fold. Austin White is 6'1" I think too.

With the above context, I don't think RR is only going after small RBs. He's tried to recruit some larger ones like Gainer and Jefferson. Remember, Minor wasn't running anyone over his first 2 years, and Grady had that nasty tendency to run someone over when he could have just run past them for many more yards. Remember that play last year where Grady ran RIGHT INTO THE OL instead of the wide open hole next to it on 3rd and 1? Minor also had horrible vision his first 2 years.

Let's give these RBs a chance to play with a rebuilt Oline and non-freshman QB before we judge them too much. Also, Smith's YPC against OSU may have been the highest by an RB against them this year.

As for moneyball, I think you have the premise slightly wrong. Moneyball was about identifying undervalued skills in the marketplace and then using those players/skills to win. Mike Hart, for example, was undervalued due to his speed and size, but IIRC Michigan was much higher on him than a higher rated instate RB.

STW P. Brabbs

November 23rd, 2009 at 2:29 PM ^

I think that was the basic premise I was operating under re: Moneyball - my contention was that Michigan is not necessarily analogous to a mid-market baseball team. M's resources are still in the upper echelon (though perhaps not as high as they have been in recent history.) My worry is that Rodriguez is going after the same undervalued skills time and again - quickness and speed, at the expense of ideal size. Obviously, big dudes who run right into the asses of lineman are not ideal, and sometimes big RBs don't pan out either - but that's not the point. Different situations call for different skill sets, and I'm worried that the gene pool of our RBs is at a bit of a bottleneck currently.

You're right about Slaton, sure - but I think it's a bit premature to suggest that any of the guys currently on the roster have that kind of ability. Saying 'little and undervalued RBs are a good idea because Steve Slaton' sounds similar to 'recruiting rankings don't matter because Pat White.' (Also, Runaway Beer Truck was an important aspect to the WFVU offense.) Of course, that's not to say that Rodriguez should cease recruiting any backs with less than ideal size - just that he should do a better job of complementing fast buggers with big ones.

I figured there were probably a couple of bigger backs that we recruited and that got away, so that's a good point. Still, results-based analysis, etc.

michiganfanforlife

November 23rd, 2009 at 4:55 PM ^

Minor and Brown were hurt all day and twice on tuesday. How many games did they show up for 100% in their careers? Think back to all the senior RB's in the last 20 years and give me a list of five guys who were hurt more. I think the encouraging thing about our backs is that we have about 5 ninjas available that will by default be heathier than either of our best options this year. Could anyone be as injury prone as these two guys?

One note on the coaching from the game. Let me first say that I hate Ohio State with passion, and it pains me to give any compliments to anyone stupid enough to be associated with the evil empire. The playcalling for the OSU offense was really, really good. When UM dials up an all out blitz, they screen. When they key on the motion to the zone read, they run a counter draw. They not only kept TP from throwing too much, they had us guessing all day.

Our defense was AWESOME on saturday. Think about it. They only gave up 14 points all day. This was the best game of the entire year for that side of the ball (DSU does not count). Nine times out of ten, RR offenses will score much more than two TD's against anybody. As bad as this year was, this was a good showing for that side of the ball and makes me more optimistic about our staff/scheme.

ShockFX

November 23rd, 2009 at 5:32 PM ^

http://mgoblog.com/content/penitent-man#comment-292650
Tressel wanted OUT of the screen actually, just didn't get the timeout. Therefore, it was a good play call, bad execution apparently.

As for the counter draw, I think someone said that was an accident, miscommunication and the RB just took off on a counter? I might have read that wrong somewhere though.

caup

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:18 PM ^

1. Tate's arm looked pretty weak. His passes floated. He underthrew Denard, etc, etc. Is it the shoulder?

2. Why the EFF did GERG call an all-out blitz on 3rd and goal from the 12? %$#@! That's just dumb. Defend the goal line and accept a FG. That would've kept it a 1-score game.

ShockFX

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:23 PM ^

1. Possibly. He went down hard early in the game and had to warm up on the sideline, grimacing with each throw. This might also explain a couple passes he needed to float but they came out flat.

2. I really liked that call. Honestly, did you figure Tressel would call anything but a run or ZRO on that play? It only worked because of the exact type of screen it was, right over the middle. That's where you just have to tip your cap to the other team.

tbliggins

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:56 PM ^

It was a perfect playcall by Tressell, but not a surprising one. GERG has shown a tendency to blitz in the redzone, which Tressell I am sure has scouted. The worst part is that in Pryor had already thrown a pick in the 2nd half, so the chances of Tressell calling something other than a screen or QB draw were extremely small. So the all-out blitz played right into Tressell's conservative nature.

rdlwolverine

November 23rd, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

Tressel tried to call a timeout when he saw the blitz was coming, but neither officials nor his team saw it.

See Toledo Blade article quoted below http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091122/COLUMNIST08/…

"Late in the third quarter, after Michigan had closed to 14-10, OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor drove his team close to 80 yards with one perfect zone read after another in the spread option. On third-and-goal from the UM 12, though, the coaches called for a little swing pass to Boom Herron. But Michigan's defense showed blitz from the direction the pass was to travel, plus the play clock was getting tight.

So Tressel darted well onto the field trying to signal for a timeout. The sideline official didn't see him, the referee didn't see him, and OSU's players didn't see him. It turned into sort of a goofy screen pass, one with no blockers, but Herron still took it to the end zone.

“I saw the blitz coming, and I thought, ‘Man, this isn't going to work.' But I waited for the blitz and just lofted it way high over those guys, and Boom made a great catch,” Pryor said. “Well, I'm guessing he did. I mean, I didn't see it.”

wile_e8

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:52 PM ^

2. I really liked that call. Honestly, did you figure Tressel would call anything but a run or ZRO on that play? It only worked because of the exact type of screen it was, right over the middle. That's where you just have to tip your cap to the other team.

I still don't get why that was a good call. It was 3rd and 12, any gain short of 10 yards forces a FG and keeps it a one-possession game. A high risk, high reward all-out blitz stops what you figure Tressel would call in its tracks, but it leaves you vulnerable to what was called. A vanilla defense that gives up a five-yard gain on a run is just as effective in that situation as stopping them cold with a blitz, and it isn't an auto-TD if they call a screen.

colin

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:07 PM ^

"I really liked that call."

We seem to get burned a lot more than we make productive use out of those 3rd and long all out blitzes. But the biggest issue is what would be gained by a relative success there. It increased slightly the odds of an actual turnover, but there was no non-TO gain and it came with considerable risk added.

wvBYUblue

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:31 PM ^

Actually, looked like they had the RB covered, our player (LB or DL) had a hand on him. Then when he saw that his d-line was going gangbusters after Pryor, he thought the sack was imminent and let the RB float behind him.

If that player (don't remember which) keeps that RB in front of him like he was probably supposed to, he knocks down that floaty piece of crap pass that Pryor serves up and they go to the FG.

Assignment football - You have the RB, don't let him behind you.

mattbern

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:37 PM ^

It was a really frustrating call and I wont call it the right one, but i also cant flat ut call it the wrong one either. i think we were just straight up BOOM ROCK PAPER SCISSIOR'D. Any play except for a screen and i think we would have stopped them. Screen was called and it sucked.

mi_vandal

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:55 PM ^

I agree that it was a (-1 RPS) but disagree that only a screen would have beaten that blitz call. I replayed it a couple times on the ol' Tivo Saturday, and Michigan blitzed 8 (!). OSU had four receivers going downfield (not including the RB on the screen) so it would have only taken the most obvious of reads by Pryor to find an open man.

I couldn't believe that GERG sent 8. You want to blitz six there? Fine, I agree. But boy, sending 8 is just asking for trouble.

zlionsfan

November 23rd, 2009 at 7:49 PM ^

it's not like the opposing head coach is known for taking wild-ass gambles on offense. Ever.

I'd rather have seen the show-8-send-4 on that play, or even 3. Play conservatively, give up a short completion, force a FG.

Of course, I say this having years of experience as a DC in NCAA and Madden, and none of that with the current Michigan team. Maybe GERG was concerned that dropping into normal coverage, we'd still give up a first down or touchdown. Maybe he was hoping to see helpmehelpme from Pryor.

It just sucked to lose RPS-style. Well, and to lose period, even if it was expected.

STW P. Brabbs

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:43 PM ^

That the GERG call was a bad one - what kind of play would Tressel love to call more than a screen there? With a QB like Pryor, I'd rather force him to try to read a defense and make a throw than simplify the process by sending the whole goddamn house.

oakapple

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:19 PM ^

With Minor and Brown gone, he does appear to be the best returning back. I do worry about the lack of a bruising every-down back who can hit between the tackles, and I worry about Smith's durability over a 12-game season.

pjmasi

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:08 PM ^

This one still doesn't top about 10 years ago when a couple of A-10 Thunderbolts rolled overhead. Just as loud, but they're slower so it took about twice as long to fly over, and the best part was that it wasn't announced ahead of time. Scared the pants off of so many people that they've ALWAYS done an official warning announcement since.