Robinson And Guildenstern Are Dead

Submitted by Brian on November 22nd, 2010 at 12:08 PM

11/20/2010 – Michigan 28, Wisconsin 48 – 7-4, 3-4 Big Ten


Detroit News

During my illustrious high school quiz bowl career* I ran across a question about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the Tom Stoppard play about a couple of bit players in Hamlet. It started off "the first 47 words of this play are 'heads,'" at which point someone else rang in and answered. Later I'd find out via the miracle of DVR that the reason the first 47 words of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead are "heads" is because one of the characters flips a coin over and over again. It always comes up heads. Rosencrantz or Guildenstern—it's unclear who is who for the duration—arrives at the conclusion that they are "within un-, sub-, or supernatural forces."

This weekend I'm scanning the message board for threads to terminate with extreme prejudice when I run across something from Mgrowold about the events of Saturday's second half:

Wisconsin then proceeded to run the ball 32 out of 33 times in the second half of today's game.  As I sat in the stadium it occurred to me that if a running play was "heads" and a passing play was "tails" then the Badger's play calling went something like this: heads, heads, tails, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads and then heads.

Wikipedia describes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as an "absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy." This is Greg Robinson rubbing a beaver on Kenny Demens's face in the midst of a game where the Michigan defense gave up 560 yards and Scott Tolzien's only incompletion was a James Rogers interception, his third in two games:

At this point the column writes itself.


Apparently this is not literally true and now I have to put words down.

This is disappointing; you always hope if you really, really nail it in the first couple paragraphs you can watch the words appear as if by magic and then you won't have to seriously think about what happened in a game where Wisconsin punted once for the second consecutive year. Not accurate.

Obviously that was awful. Michigan had no answer to Wisconsin's series of basic "hai guys we're Wisconsin" runs. They went back to the same stupid 3-3-5 with Kenny Demens lined up two inches from his nose tackle's butt that got Michigan obliterated against Penn State. Wisconsin's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern second half was immensely, grindingly depressive but did have a secondary effect: it mostly absolved the improbably young secondary from blame. The front seven/eight aren't universally freshmen and should be able to hold a team under, I don't know, 350 yards of rushing.

I said my bit on the job status of Rodriguez and Robinson already. Michigan put up 28 that would have been 31 if not for a missed 30 yard field goal. That's on par with Wisconsin's worst performances of the year—Michigan State put up 34 but got a punt return touchdown, Iowa put up 30. The defense was the same incoherent mess it's been the whole year. It was more depressing than I expected, but at this point whatever, right?

Saturday reinforced both positions. Our defensive coordinator literally rubs small stuffed animals on people's faces. Denard Robinson broke the I-A record for rushing yards by a quarterback and is the first guy in history to have 1500 rushing yards and 2500 passing yards in the same season. Michigan is the most dichotomous team in at least the last decade of college football, and while I won't be horribly upset if Rodriguez does get the axe I still think the best thing for the next year or two is to see what happens when Denard Robinson is an upperclassman and the defense isn't starting four freshmen and three more sophomores. Michigan did manage to achieve the modest goals set before it, albeit in unimpressive fashion.


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are boyhood friends of Hamlet summoned to a castle undergoing chaos. They've got no idea what's going on, are used as pawns, stumble around cluelessly, and end up hanging by their necks until they are dead. Woefully underprepared and doomed from the start, their deaths are both unfair and unavoidable. The third act is set on the boat they take to England and their deaths; they discover the letter sent with them says to execute Hamlet, then discover the Hamlet's fateful switch.

Much of the last bit is devoted to a discussion of how the pair can be so important as to necessitate their execution. I wonder if that's how Rodriguez felt as he watched the half of his team he delegates to someone else ground into a fine dust, like Jeff Casteel had switched his defense with one that read "execute this man."

*(We were actually pretty good, the Wisconsin/Iowa of Michigan high school quiz bowl at the time. We'd own most teams we played but would consistently lose close games to Salem, CC, DCD, and a Henry Ford Harrison team that had lucked into the National Geography Bee winner. We prided ourselves on not having uniforms, at least.)

Existentialist, Absurdist, Tragicomic Non-Bullets

Jeremy Gallon special teams error limit: determined. It is ten billion. I'm obviously on the tolerant side of the scale when it comes to coaching errors (outside of obvious game theory errors, about which I have an Al Qaeda level of zealotry) but JESUS GOD RICH RODRIGUEZ WHY DID YOU LET JEREMY GALLON RETURN KICKS AND PUNTS FOR TEN GAMES.

On the bright side, Michigan's kick returns finally seemed like a net positive aside from the Gallon fumble. Which aaaaargh. The strange thing about those returns was that Wisconsin seemed to be putting them exactly where they wanted—right along one sideline—and still gave up big returns seemingly every time.

A note on how meaningless the NCAA's official kick return stats are: in one game Michigan went from a horrendous debacle to essentially average. They're 67th now. I'll ping Brian Fremeau for his fancy stats at the end of the year to see what the actual damage was in the kick return game.

Small move towards Pulaski. Hey: surprise onside kick that absolutely should have worked but for two Michigan players whiffing on opportunities to recover. Since Wisconsin was going to score anyway, the only tactical error was not doing this two additional times. Also, the last one was not a surprise but it was beautifully executed by the kicker. Maybe that's what they've been practicing all year.

If Roy Roundtree drops a sure first down the next pass will be batted skyward and intercepted 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Fact. Please stop doing this, Roy.

First half struggles. The offense didn't score in the first half due to a confluence of events. Event the second: field goal kicker durrr combined with coaching durrrr about the field goal kicker durrrrr. Event the first and many other bits: Robinson couldn't throw straight. Wisconsin shoved guys up to the LOS and dared Michigan to throw deep. Michigan threw deep. Robinson missed guys by yards and yards, including an open Vincent Smith on that third and six that eventually led to field goal durrrr.

In the second half Robinson hit a series of bombs, forced Wisconsin to back off, and Michigan went TD, TD, TD, fate induced post-Roundtree INT, TD. Again, the design of the offense is excellent and while Robinson's lack of accuracy is now an established issue this level of performance with two seniors on the field is remarkable.

God, this was awful. I hate to embed this and inflict it on the public at large, but this was awwwwwful:

I'm actually a fan of Old Hat Creative's work with Michigan's hype videos but Notre Dame fans would laugh at this treacly debacle. Athletic department: I will write sentimental stuff with 10% of the schmaltz for free. I will pay you if this is the alternative. Guh.

Things that were good. A fond farewell to drum major David Hines Jr., whose backbend will remain legendary, and various other band seniors. The MMB bounced back from a year in which they forced Carl Grapentine to say "the clown who laughs outside as he cries inside" and deployed a series of accessible halftime shows that did not involve various operas of the 19th century. The Wizard of Oz halftime was good, Lady Gaga translates to marching band in a shockingly effective fashion, and the hockey band just played the old Hockey Night in Canada theme. Thumbs up.

Bret Bielema: still a huge jerk. This isn't a surprise from a guy who saw one of his special teams scrubs attempt to injure Steve Breaston and then pretended it didn't even happen, but Bret Bielema said his team sent "a message" by chop-blocking one of Michigan's linemen on that first-half drive that didn't end in a touchdown. You know, that one.


Michigan Exposures with a bunch of pictures, including the random F-15E wandering around the stadium before kickoff, a panoramic shot, and:

I should start regularly linking Mike DeSimone's comprehensive picture galleries, which collect everything shot on a game-by-game basis and act as a crutch here.

I made this facial expression at the exact same time!

Joe Stapleton says he feels sorry for Rodriguez. On RR's postgame mini-rant about the exceptional youth in the secondary:

It's an excuse and reality. As much as I would like to say it, the biggest problem with the defense isn't the abjectly awful coaching of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (Though it certainly doesn't help — as gaudy as Wisconsin's offensive numbers were, they could have been a lot worse if the Badgers would've taken advantage of the WIDE-open middle of the field through the air). It's the youth in the secondary.

Some say, without thinking, that this is Rodriguez's fault. He should've recruited more (and better) defensive backs. Here's the thing: he had defensive backs. They all just kinda ... left. That, or they got injured.

I'm at the point where losing Vlad Emilien, no matter how not good he may have been, is a strike against you, but by in large most of the departures were ordained like a post-Roundtree drop INT. Wojo's column is along the same lines as this one. runs a poll of their own about RR's job security; the ones run around here earlier in the year by The White Tiger are more extensive but MGoBlog actively discourages people from the militant wing of the fanbase from participating so the numbers at are probably more representative. They've got 3300 votes in with 41% saying boot him, 22% saying "one more year," and 33% saying "I support him." A very strange 2% of people took the time to vote "I don't care." That's a majority saying keep him but it's vastly short of the 81% who voted "keep him" at 7-5 in the poll around these parts. (Michigan had yet to play Illinois and Purdue when that poll was deployed.)

Across various blogs the reaction seems to be mostly "not surprised." Touch The Banner:

This is a game that I expected Michigan to lose.  Almost everyone did.  That's not to say that I wasn't frustrated by some of the things that the coaches and players did - and the offensive production in the first half was somewhat embarrassing - but ultimately, this outcome is what most educated observers foresaw.

TTB does say the constant use of Vinopal as a blitzer was stupid, which yeah. Burgeoning Wolverine Star:

Wisconsin is that good. It's not surprising, then, that Michigan struggled so mightily against an oversized, veteran unit that is unquestionably the best outfit in the Big Ten. That doesn't make Michigan's complete inability to stop the run or their general defensive incompetence any less disappointing, but it does mitigate it somewhat.

Mets Maize:

My prediction--Wisconsin 45-28--and similar ones around the blogosphere was closer than the Vegas spread (-4.5 Wisconsin). We knew we were outmatched, plain and simple. Too many things had to go our way and JJ Watt's self-tip and pick was not one of them. The disparity between Wisconsin's physicality and Michigan's, uhhh, collection of 18-year-old biceps was worlds apart. I'm sort of glad the game flew by.

The Hoover Street Rag busts out Jefferson's inaugural address in a plea for people who think one side or the other of the Rodriguez debate is full of idiots. MGoFootball peruses the board for choice bits.


Yard Dog

November 22nd, 2010 at 12:14 PM ^

one Mr. Danny Hope as eternal coaching douchebags.  I think I have to now put Bielema in the lead, as he will last longer at Wisky than Hope will at Purdue, and I'm looking for a real long term hate affair.  Looks like I have my wish.


November 22nd, 2010 at 12:15 PM ^

I never thought I would see an assessment of late 1990s Michigan high school quiz bowl as a footnote anywhere on football blog, but there it was, and it was spot on.

Hated losing to CC.  I was pretty darn good in an era where you could be pretty darn good without any real effort, and I hated losing to those guys.


November 24th, 2010 at 9:05 AM ^

This is just so late it isn't even funny (and no one will ever see it), and this picture demonstrates ably the principle, "Don't send a cameraphone to do a camera's job in a bad lighting situation," but I found one of the old 'jerseys' in my closet at my parents' house:

Go Shamrocks!

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 22nd, 2010 at 12:18 PM ^

Are we ever going to stop getting giddy with yards and points put up when a team that can toy with us at will has unamiguously proven their dominance?

Just as with Iowa and Little Bro before them (and likely Facha U next week), Wisconsin didn't give two sh!ts how many yards and points we put up.  (And please note that in the short period when they did, we didn't put up very many.)    Our offense leads the nation by leaps and bounds in hollow yards, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Please stop with the offense's high national rankings.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

That elegant and lethal offence that put up a goose egg in the first half? That elegant and lethal offence with around 10 turnovers in the last 3 games. Sure they put up a lot of numbers and thats great. We all love to watch Denard and this offence when he is on. But forgive us if we all aren't woo hoo are offence amazing in another loss.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:13 PM ^

Forgive me for not being angry that an offense that relies so heavily on sophomores is committing turnovers.  At this point, I care way more about whether the offense is moving the ball (which it is) and whether we have wide open receivers and runningbacks streaking all over the field (which we, like, always do). 

And, from a selfish perspective, I care whether the team is entertaining as hell to watch.  Which it is. 


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:21 PM ^

I guess I am on the side of the fence that says awsome yard tottals but how about some points to go with them. I am not angry with the offense. I just think you cant hang the  D for this Wisconson loss when the 0 hung them out to dry in the first half.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:23 PM ^

This is the third year in a row where we have horrible turnover margins. Do you project a stop to this trend sometime? Next year I suppose, just like we have all said (including myself) every year of the RR era.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

I project next year, when the entire offense will be experienced upperclassmen.  We've started a first-year starter three years in a row.  I don't know how anyone can reasonably expect that not to have a major affect on turnover margins.  

I also project us to start running at expectation when it comes to fumbles at some point. 


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

is damn right.

The youth the first year gave way to even younger players in year two. Now we have sophomores on offense and freshman on defense. Next year it will be juniors on offense and sophomores on defense. Both will improve and everyone will be happier next year.

And I didn't know if the turnover trend would get better, but my predictions have been pretty good. 6-6 first year (ok, I was off, but I was way more pessimistic than most entering the year), 5-7 second year, 7-5 third year (changed from 9-3 after Turner, Emelien left and Woolfolk got hurt). Next year we will be at least 9-3 if Rodriguez stays.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:37 PM ^

Threet, Foricer and Robinson brought with them zero/near zero experience before they started each of the last three seasons. 

It isn't a huge logical leap that first-year starting QBs tend to turn the ball over much more than experienced starters. Just look at Iowa, Wisconsin and MSU and how Stanzi, Tolzien and Cousins have improved in the turnover era.

This isn't rocket science.

OSUMC Wolverine

November 22nd, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

I actually am very impressed with our offenses ability to pull off big plays against prevent defenses.  The whole point of prevent is to keep everything in front of you and not allow the big plays and we do it over and over.  My only issue is that we dont try more long balls early in the games to loosen things up before we are down because we have faced 8+ in the box the whole first half.  We run a fairly conservative game plan on offense until the game is getting out of reach for fear of the game getting out of reach due to offensive errors.  Thats great if you have a defense that can at least hold their own against shaky opponents but we do not have that luxury this year.  Every game we have a chance to win has to be a rat race and we have been unwilling to run until its too late.  I dont expect any conservative play calling this week on O or D.  Robinson probably sees the TUOOS game as his only chance at retaining his job and RR has to realize that sitting on a single digit lead or deficit against TUOOS at home will not suffice.  The gloves will be off the offense from the get go.

That 'elegant and lethal' offenSe is the only reason we are not 3-8 right now...woo hoo.


November 22nd, 2010 at 2:20 PM ^

I am not saying our offenSe is horrible. My problem is with the people who wave our offensive yardage numbers like a flag of victory then want to hang the defense. When you don't score in the first half or have 5 turnovers in a game with our defense against a good team you might as well go home. Our defense stopped Wisc on there first drive . What happens if our O goes down and scores? Yards are great but if you don't score they don't mean crap.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:52 PM ^

We all love watching the offense click. Everyone does. But I'd say it's more like "sometimes lethal" or "potentially lethal." It's lethal against weak teams; it's lethal when we're down 24-3. It consistently put us in holes against quality teams.

But it should get to lethal. Hopefully. If our o doesn't get to that point, we're hosed.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:02 PM ^

that all of those points and yards are garbage stats put up against a defense that is either complacent in a blowout or at that point is using a "prevent defense" scheme.

If that's what happened is true, that's a valid point.  But I don't think that's completely accurate.  The Michigan offense put the defenses of Iowa and Wisconsin and PSU on their heels in those second halves and had them legitimately concerned.

His post does have some merit, though. Gotta score in the first half, when the battle is joined. See: Illinois game.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

I agree that it was troubling to be down that much in the first half, but Wiscy was not in a "prevent:" when UM scored on 4 of the first 5 possessions in the second half.  When the team on the other side of the ball scored 67 points in a game and showed an ability to score against basically everybody on the schedule, you don't just pack it in at halftime and say "let them get going a bit, I'm sure if it gets close we can stop them." 


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:23 PM ^

Prevent is 2 safeties deep, keep everything in front of you, tackle and drag out the clock.
<br>Was there a safety helping w/ Stonum in the 2nd half? No. Just like the 1st. Man coverage with no help, Stonum made plays at will. That's not a prevent. Ditto the pass plays for Tate against Iowa. Could be complacency, but doubt it.
<br>I'm concerned why we stall in the first half, but it seems more related to us. We play tight early. But guys were open, blocks were being made. If Denard hits the wide open steaks in the first half, a different game. He will next year and the year after


November 22nd, 2010 at 12:57 PM ^

Already disproved this in another thread.

We outgained Michigan State and Iowa in the 1st half, put up about 200 yds against Penn State in a half where I think we had 3 or 4 total drives.

Yes, the offense stalled against Wisconsin and put up the majority of their yards and points in the 2nd half, but throughout much of the 2nd half, a defensive stop would've legitimately made it a game.

Please stop with the factually inaccurate meme that the offense puts up hollow points and yards since, you know, it's incorrect.


November 22nd, 2010 at 2:32 PM ^


Our offense leads the nation by leaps and bounds in hollow yards, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Right, because Lloyd Carr NEVER EVER fielded an offense who underperformed and didn't get 40 points per game against everyone.

You can sound all poetic and such, but our offense put up 28 (should have been 31, damnit) against a pretty good and experienced Wisco defense. You're targeting the wrong part of the team, man, because that should be more than enough to AT LEAST give you a shot at winning the game in the 4th quarter. .


November 22nd, 2010 at 12:18 PM ^

While I liked the video initially, I come back to the same issue I had with the video when it first played: "The place where Yost built his empire"

No, that would be Ferry Field.  While I am happy to give the Old Man a great deal of leeway on things like this, that was just wrong.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 22nd, 2010 at 12:20 PM ^

This comes from one of his biggest 2005-07 fans: 

Coach Rod's JOB was having a 2010 defense that didn't start a bunch of freshmen and the undertalented.  He was hired to prevent that from happening.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

really? because I don't ever remember that being on the requirements list when he was hired.  Everyone was really excited about the offensive potential when he was hired and last time I checked the offense is pretty darn good.

I critcize RR for not recruiting the secondary and linebacker positions harder in the '09 class but the attrition has abiliterated any depth we (used to) have at those positions.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

The 2006 and 2007 recruiting classes, particularly on the defensive side, were not good.  Pretty bad, actually.  We don't get to sign free agents, we're stuck with who we've got on the roster.  It was foreordained when Rod was hired that we would have a bad defense this year.

God bless 'em, they're playing their hearts out - but this year's seniors as a group just aren't very good, and no amount of coaching was going to make them better.  The freshmen and sophomores are Rod's responsibility, but they're not exeperienced enough yet to be good.

It's not making excuses, it's just plain facts.  The sky is going to remain blue no matter how much you want it to be pink. 

I expect substantial improvement next year.  If we remain this bad, then there will be something seriously wrong.


November 22nd, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

atrocious was the narrator's voice. He sucked massive donkey dong. What he was reading would have been much more bearable if he wasn't trying to sound like Barwis lite.


November 22nd, 2010 at 12:20 PM ^

on them, repeatedly, in fact, and yeah--I think GERG is a goner. The stench is so bad that it doesn't even matter whether any of it is his fault anymore. Nice deployment of the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern thing, btw.