The Sea Wants To Take Me

Submitted by Brian on November 16th, 2009 at 11:14 AM

11/14/2009 – Michigan 24, Wisconsin 45 – 5-6, 1-6 Big Ten

henri-the-otter-of-ennuHenri says post away

Well, I finally broke: I've checked out emotionally. This happened last year, too, and the game columns from the on were pleas for something else to do and grim, brief recaps of the latest indignity. It's progress of a sort that it took eleven games for the team to TKO any interest in what might happen the rest of this year, but it's not a fun sort of progress.

A serious thematic analysis of the Wisconsin game is pointless. Michigan's defense is exactly as horrifying as it's been all year. Everyone wants to fight each other in the liveblog. When the MGoPosse assembled to record this week's podcast, Paul said "at least we didn't muff a punt" and I responded "they didn't punt." (It turns out they did punt once in the first half, and Junior Hemingway misjudged a short one, almost fumbling it.)

Today I'll go on the radio and say the exact same things I've been saying all season to people who say the exact same things they've been saying all season. Here I could either repeat the assertion that firing Rodriguez after two years is idiotic or the description of what this season turned into in the third quarter of the Illinois game. Nothing has changed, and there's nothing to say when the team is turning in uncompetitive loss after uncompetitive loss.

There is an increased chance that sometime today I will read or hear something that cause my entire body to crumple and my head to thump audibly on the desk. So I guess that's different. Not different: for the second straight year the Ohio State week is only welcome because after it there won't be this unpleasant thing that happens every Saturday. The Notre Dame game seems like another decade.

BULLETS

  • Surprised that Mouton and Ezeh got the whole game after their backups played at least as well as they did against Purdue. I guess there were huge busts by both Fitzgerald and Leach, but… um… right.
  • Seriously: after Wisconsin completed their sixth or seventh big gain over the middle because Ezeh and Mouton were hugely out of position on zone drops, I was begging for the backups. No dice. The prospect of starting these guys next year is not fun.
  • I'm betting the adjustment Wisconsin made to their running game was to start doubling defensive linemen for real and leaving the linebackers to their own devices, or down-blocking them on their slants and getting outside where the linebackers are on their own. Michigan was shooting into the backfield a ton early.
  • Poor Brandon Graham: if Michigan would just cover anyone for two seconds he would have an incredible number of sacks this year. It wasn't Graham who had the most frustrating non-sack on Saturday, though. Stevie Brown came free up the middle on a third and five in the third quarter and Tolzien nailed a wide open tight end for a first down. That turned into the drive Wisconsin used to go up three scores, salting the game away.
  • Vincent Smith is now your tentative leader for the starting tailback job next year, though that title figures to be a ceremonial one in a sea of options. I know Shaw's had the occasional nagging injury but I think he's just beat him out, fair and square. My favorite play from Smith was the screen he took past three or four defenders in the first half. He was one desperate hand-wave by a Wisconsin safety away from a touchdown a long run that looks like it should be touchdown but disappointingly ends short of it. He's got skills. There was one out that was incomplete that anyone else on the team would have caught by virtue of being bigger than a marmot, though.
  • Brandon Smith seemed pretty mediocre on the edge. I know he didn't make any of the huge, obvious mistakes that Mike Williams did, but Wisconsin isn't the sort of team that puts you in the backfield unblocked to make a huge, obvious mistake. I bet a lot of the outside running Wisconsin did will be on Smith somehow.
  • I did think Wisconsin was the grabbiest line Michigan's played against all year. Wisconsin's first drive saw Graham held twice on long completions, and while they got a number of calls later they just love getting their hands outside the shoulder pads. Default disclaimer whenever officiating as mentioned: would not have changed outcome of the game, would merely have led to more second-and-twenty conversions. Maybe I should thank the refs for mitigating the damage I would have done to my forehead and the sidewalk if I watched another guy wide open over the middle.

Comments

Erik_in_Dayton

November 16th, 2009 at 11:28 AM ^

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't checked out by the end of the game too. I kept thinking of the Simpsons episode where Homer shows up at events as Krusty the Klown and at one point beats a Hamburglar-esque character in front of a bunch of children so badly that one of them pleads, pathetically and while crying, for Homer to stop because "He's already dead!"

That said, I hope people who are lucky enough to go to the game this Saturday are loud. What have you got to lose?

arn29

November 16th, 2009 at 11:28 AM ^

I don't think I've ever, in my life thrown my hands up the air and screamed "WHAT THE FUCK" more times than this year with this defense. It's so difficult this year more than last because it's painfully obvious how much better we would be if we had a competent defense. I just hope it gets better and this is the "gets worse before it gets better" part.

st barth

November 16th, 2009 at 11:28 AM ^

i didn't see the wisconsin game and all...but i still think we beat o state this week. my prediction 34-10 with brandon graham destroying t pryor on a wicked hit. go blue!

Arizona Blue

November 16th, 2009 at 11:55 AM ^

Does your prediction involve an army of unicorn mounted warrior angeles descending onto the field and unleashing a volley of flaming arrows at the vest? because that would explain the insanity and utter fact less prediction you just unleashed onto the world. the realist in me has accepted that a 42-24 loss may be in order and may be a noble way to end the season. Michigan football has become William Wallace in the last scene of brave heart, stretched out on the chopping block, mutilated, and screaming for freedom. After this game, freedom from pain we shall have.

wile_e8

November 16th, 2009 at 12:37 PM ^

Does your prediction involve an army of unicorn mounted warrior angeles descending onto the field and unleashing a volley of flaming arrows at the vest?

He thinks we're bringing back the bear cavalry

st barth

November 16th, 2009 at 1:33 PM ^

you kids can dream about unicorns & bear cavalries all you want.

i'm basing my prediction on a few facts: we're playing a home game (last for our seniors) with urgency on our side since our season rides with this game. o state doesn't really have much to play for since they are already headed to rose bowl. i don't think tressel takes any risks in the game (does he even attempt a pass?) and once we get ahead things will snowball a bit...and voila 34-10, hail to the victors!

in the meantime, keep puffing your peace pipe & dreaming of unicorns, bears, ms paint topless mermaids or whatever the hell it is that you see when you close your eyelids.

msoccer10

November 16th, 2009 at 2:36 PM ^

But for us to win, we would have to play our best game of the year and make zero mistakes. Then, OSU has to make a couple themselves. It could happen, and if it does, it will radically change the season, but I wouldn't count on it. I will watch and cheer my ass off but I am trying not to think of how awesome a win would be because my heart can't take the disappointment.

Arizona Blue

November 16th, 2009 at 3:06 PM ^

seriously give me whatever narcotic you have possession of. I am not kidding. I just want a little. your prediction lacks one essential assumption that I believe you have blocked out of your mind due to blind fantastical emotion associated with U of M football. tOSU is a much better football team than we are. Everything you just stated assumes that we wont get man handled on the line of scrimmage and we will be able to contain T-Pryor's scrambles. Every thing I have seen this year, thus far, has indicated that we will get pushed around like the fat kid in 3rd grade. If brian hoyer's glorious moves can break our lb's ankles may god have mercy on the souls of OBI, Jonas, and Stevie when T-pryor hits the field.

st barth

November 16th, 2009 at 5:14 PM ^

but i do remember the 2004 game featuring a 9-1 M squad that had already clinched a visit to the Rose Bowl regardless of the result against o state. we went into columbus that year and were taken down 37-21 by a struggling 6-4 buckeye team led by the still very unproven (but full of moxie) troy smith and a freshman ted ginn.

we were a really good team that year featuring Henne, Hart, Braylon, etc and later lost an epic Rose Bowl to vince young texas team by 38-37 score. i'm pretty sure that we were the "better" team that year in the M/osu rivalry but we still lost.

this will be a rivalry game where the records are thrown out and i feel that all the intangibles are lining up in M's favor. maybe my score prediction of 34-10 is a bit optimistic but it's also based on my prediction that BG breaks tp in half early in the game. o state is nothing without tp.

only five days to go & i can't wait.

mgoBrad

November 16th, 2009 at 11:30 AM ^

"Brandon Smith seemed pretty mediocre on the edge"

True, although it needs to be mentioned that "mediocre on the edge" > "blindingly horrible oh God why." sigh.

matty blue

November 16th, 2009 at 11:33 AM ^

i'm looking forward to seeing more of him...also, brandon smith seemed okay to me. nothing made my eyes bleed, anyway.

i'm just hoping that we stay within a touchdown for 60 minutes. don't know if i can take another blowout to those douchebags.

...and i hope we can play better offensively than we did in 2007. that was a miserable one...

Yinka Double Dare

November 16th, 2009 at 11:52 AM ^

I, for one, welcome another vertically-challenged (in height, not downfield-vertical) running back who makes something out of nothing by juking unblocked guys in the backfield, who rarely goes down on first contact, and who always seems to fall forward. May he also have Mr. Hart's ability to HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL as well.

STW P. Brabbs

November 16th, 2009 at 1:08 PM ^

But he's not as strong as Hart was. He's tough as nails, but I've seen quite a few times where he fails to fall forward. Not his fault; dude weighs 165 pounds, and at some point physics just takes over.

He might be a touch quicker than Hart, but I don't think he's a good option as an every down back. Maybe Shaw will develop into that, and Smith can be used as he should be - a change of pace. I'm also somewhat irrationally excited about Stephen Hopkins.

alex

November 16th, 2009 at 11:34 AM ^

"And I know it's over - still I cling
I don't know where else I can go
Over and over and over and over
Over and over.
I know it's over
And it never really began
But in my heart it was so real."

We'll always have the Notre Dame game.

UMaD

November 16th, 2009 at 11:35 AM ^

its a good year right? 6 wins. A bowl. Defeats over ND and OSU.

I realize theres a one in 5 or 10 chance or whatever, but this offense is good enough to where there IS a chance.

So, in a game that defines our season's success or failure...I'm not checking out.

J. Lichty

November 16th, 2009 at 11:36 AM ^

now just looking for self-confirming signs of hope for the future. Tate looked better than he has in a while, and Smith was very solid. Omammeh's play is encouraging as well.

Ulitmately, this is really coming down to the linebackers having no clue on how to contain a play, plug a hole, and apart from Stevie Brown on at least one play, drop into coverage.

I know that things will get better, and I am now at peace with the present because of that. We will get killed, murdered and stolen from next weekend, but it will not be like this forever.

wolverienstra

November 16th, 2009 at 11:39 AM ^

by accepting the fact that, this season, we are in essence fielding a JV team (+ 1 or 2 Varsity guys) on each side of the ball. So, Brian, don't check out emotionally; simply readjust your mindset: Michigan has no Varsity football team this year; it's the JV team only. Go ahead -- say it: WE ARE A JV TEAM.

And the JV is putting up a good battle against these much tougher Varsity teams, but no JV team is likely to beat a good Varsity Big 10 squad. Any win is like the intervention of the hand (or foot) of God in a Monty Python film. You can expect it to appear once, but for the remainder, it's "Run awaaaaaaay!"

All we can hope for is the hand (or foot) of God to make a cameo again this weekend. Amen.

Meeechigan Dan

November 16th, 2009 at 11:39 AM ^

Whatever. Had enough.

Mouton sucks. Ezeh sucks. Smith sucks. Williams sucks. Fitzgerald sucks. At some point, the carpenter has to stop blaming his tools. The reality is that RR made the second bad DC hire in two years. It will be his undoing.

Blue2000

November 16th, 2009 at 12:00 PM ^

A 4th DC in 4 years would be the answer?

The implied logic behind this question is silly. I'm not saying Robinson needs to be fired (although I wouldn't be all that upset if he was), but if he's not a very good coach, then keeping him around for the sake of continuity is just stupid. I don't profess to have nearly enough football knowledge to know whether he's deficient as a coach or just shackled by the poor talent on the team, but if it's the former, the argument for keeping him makes no sense whatsoever. We should should maintain the same crappy coaching simply because it's the crappy coaching the players know?

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 16th, 2009 at 5:17 PM ^

Trent plays serious time for the best young D in football. With him and Warren you had two shut-down caliber CBs, a deep, experienced and talented d-line, and an imperfect but more-than-serviceable MLB. That alone was enough to shape a good defense, yet the '08 defense was awful. Everybody blamed it on Shafer, but in retrospect it wasn't his fault. The '08 defense was more of a meaningful leading indicator than everyone, including I, wanted to admit.

Blue2000

November 16th, 2009 at 12:12 PM ^

That might be true. My only point that is that if there is a serious coaching deficiency, keeping the coach simply for the sake of keeping him is nonsensical.

Edited to add - Meech Dan makes a fair point. It's difficult to believe that Michigan somehow managed to collectively recruit a bunch of players so fundamentally incapable of executing assignments in any capacity whatsoever. I think the reality is that there is plenty of blame to go around to both the players and the coaches.

hypomodern

November 16th, 2009 at 12:28 PM ^

Note that the positions GERG coaches (Brown, Roh) are not a problem. Brown is easily the best LB we have, and Roh's only problem is that he's too small yet to take on a double-team from serious opponents. I love the way both of those kids play. The defense is straight up uncompetitive at two spots, so if you want to blame a coach, blame the coaches of those positions.

I haven't seen anything that makes me think we're schematically or tactically bad. We have confidence issues, which is obvious considering how often these kids have been blown out. We also have epic fail issues at S and LB. No defense that lacks confidence and skills over the middle will stop anyone with any consistency. I don't get how the DC can do much about these problems in 11 months by himself. I think we need two new coaches, LB and S. Let's quit shuffling the overall plan and start shuffling the pieces that are broken.

At this point I'm amazed we get full half out of them before the cracks show up.

STW P. Brabbs

November 16th, 2009 at 1:17 PM ^

There's not necessarily glaring problems in the overall scheme (see: English, Ron) or in overall man-management and communication (see: Shafer, Scott). There is a lack of talent up the middle of the field, there is the regression of Mouton and Ezeh, and there is the frustrating inability of our DBs to turn around and make a play on the ball when they are in position to do so.

I think the most sensible thing for Rod to do will be to fire Hopson and and least take some responsibility away from Gibson though there doesn't appear to be any hope for the latter, considering the lengthy personal relationship between Rodriguez and Gibson.) Robinson simply hasn't shown enough one way or another to warrant either confidence or firing, so it's simply not worth it to make another hire and have to install another scheme.

Quite frankly, I think the continued presence of Gibson puts a cap on how good our defense will ever be, but if we have a good overall scheme, good athletes, and good coaching for the front seven, we should be alright.

bouje

November 16th, 2009 at 11:41 AM ^

No matter how bad that the team is I always love football Saturdays. I love going to Ann Arbor, I love seeing the stadium filled to capacity, I love playing beer pong, I love everything about football Saturdays... except the losing.

No matter how terrible the team is doing every new Saturday comes a new hope, a new irrational sense of "we can do this" and I'll never give up that hope.

caup

November 16th, 2009 at 11:41 AM ^

They are clueless and there is no progress. If any, they've regressed. So Hopson really needs to go, right? The guy hasn't done shit in recruiting, and his group of LBs are not freshmen and they are not walk-ons. He must be fired. Something has to be done there.

wishitwas97

November 16th, 2009 at 11:45 AM ^

the coaches rated Fitzgerald Toussaint as the best back in '09 class. Toussaint is injured and is in competition for PT.

Don't count out Mike Shaw for the starting job. He is the most explosive back on the roster. Just need to stay healthy(hmmmm, sounds familiar with Carlos Brown).

Vincent Smith would be a good change of pace back rather than a featured back IMO.

STW P. Brabbs

November 16th, 2009 at 1:20 PM ^

I'd forgotten about him when I was trying to decide who would be the ideal every-down back next year.

I'm still convinced that Smith is too small to be effective as the go-to guy, though he certainly will make important contributions. Toussaint, Shaw, and Cox should make for a strong backfield next year.

brianshall

November 16th, 2009 at 11:48 AM ^

The guy who said 2010 will be RR's last year?

Brian for saying if we don't win 8 next year (does anyone think that's gonna happen) RR will/should be fired in 2010?

Me for saying nothing more than I was angry after the game (which actually happened)?

The people who note that the great Jim Harbaugh, a great Michigan QB, who led the team to its evolution to a pro style system is winning at Stanford?

Those who knock Lloyd though all of us would kill if RR had Lloy'ds worst year?

Perhaps the people who wish we had Les Miles? Or, those who say Les fooled around with Moeller's wife?

The team has played for shit. The defense has *not* improved. There will be a third DC in 2010, if not sooner. But you all want to cry and lash out against those who suggest (big) changes. Seems like the perfect metaphor for this team. Michigan fans are a reflection of the team. RIght now, seems like everyone's acting like a bunch of pussies.