Under Construction

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2008 at 11:41 AM

8/30/2008 – Michigan 23, Utah 25 – 0-1

Every rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.

We have seen it in action. It could have gone better. At least we have an incredibly direct metaphor all around us:

under construction

This program is under construction with a completion date around 2010. This is going to be a tough year. If you’re prone to hysterics you should do everyone a favor, watch something else, and annoy everyone on the Project Runway message boards with your all-caps posts. Get over it.

If you’d told me the final score before the game I would have been disappointed but not particularly surprised and wouldn’t have budged much from the preseason prediction. Unfortunately, a raft of unusual events obscured a much grimmer picture, especially in the first half. That was a near-worst case scenario. The offense was as bad as everyone feared; the defense was far worse than anyone expected in the first half. Without the latter unit’s second-half turnaround, I would be halfway to the Yukon and my new life as a gold prospector this morning. As it is, I think a bowl game is unlikely since it will probably require a 7-5 record.

But I’m here and we can talk about the game some. The best part was the warmups, and I mean that only somewhat sarcastically. Seeing the 100-some men in winged helmets go “HOO HOO HOO” whilst pivoting was a weird kind of thrill, as was the Barwis-led Circle of Death. This is not your father’s Michigan football, (TINYFMF) etc.

The second best part was Rodriguez’s inability to cope with the idea his team sucked. I also mean that only somewhat sarcastically. TINYFMF was best displayed on Michigan’s last play of the first half, when Nick Sheridan dropped back on third and long and lofted a ball on an ICBM trajectory. Everyone in the stadium knew it would be intercepted the moment it left his hand.

Lloyd Carr would have called a fullback dive and punted. Michigan would probably have escaped the first half with a manageable five-point deficit, and the defense and special teams excellence in the second half would have been enough to pull it out. The entirety of halftime that “22” for Utah rankled. That touchdown looked completely decisive.

So maybe that was a stupid call. Having your walk-on hurl a ball skyward is asking for it. But I vastly prefer the expectation your player can come through in an important situation to the fear he won’t. That tendency is probably going to hurt this year, when expecting any quarterback to do anything except soil himself is a bad bet, but when Michigan is good they’ll go through each series with a mind to score points; they should blow the doors off opponents who can’t cope. Carr’s formula was a recipe for 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3. Rodriguez will go through more swings based on how much talent he has at his disposal. Eventually, this will be a good thing.

There’s not much more to say: they kind of suck. I don’t know who any of them are. I hope they get better.

  • Boy, did I hate the 4-3 Michigan started out in during the first half. That’s a guarantee of zone coverage or a hideous mismatch between first-time starters at linebacker and slot receivers. For the most part it was the former, which the first-time starters at linebacker were terrible at, and Michigan got shredded on a wide array of routes designed test the weakest part of the Michigan defense. It failed.
  • Do you ever get the feeling people are prepared to criticize in a particular way even if reality conflicts with them? I’ve seen a lot of rabble rabble about “Rodriguez needs to adapt the offense to his players” in the aftermath of a game in which Michigan threw 60% of the time.
  • I bet you could have gotten good odds on “boy, I wish Rodriguez had run more” as a common complaint before the game. That was perhaps the most disturbing development, as it speaks to a total lack of faith in the offensive line.
  • Stevie Brown was victimized repeatedly, giving up the 50-yard pass on third and twenty that led to Utah’s first touchdown. I think he was responsible for the coverage on the score right before the half. He did jump another endzone route and bat the ball to Ezeh.
  • Feagin? I mean… he couldn’t have been worse.
  • The holding and pass interference penalties should be set aside in a description of Utah mistakes, as Michigan forced those errors out of the Utes with a torrent of pressure and wild hopeful downfield jump balls. One of these will serve Michigan in good stead for the rest of the season.
  • This would be the point during a game coached by Carr where I would bemoan the zone-tipping, ineffective 4-3 Shafer came out in for the first half; this is considerably more difficult when you have scarcely less information about the football team than the actual coaches do. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get a grip on whether your defense can handle a spread offense in its base set when you’re going up against that in practice every day. Or how you’re supposed to figure out what you can do on offense when everyone’s a freshman and even the folks who aren’t played in a totally different system.
  • If ever a coaching staff could be forgiven for flailing about with the wrong players, it was Saturday. The halftime adjustments were encouraging.



September 2nd, 2008 at 11:03 AM ^

I rewatched the game yesterday and some things (some of which were already mentioned) stand out.

I believe it was Donovan Warren who let that guy get free for 55 yards, but someone from the middle should have gotten him after the catch.

Threet did not play much better than Sheridan. Really. They were a wash. The fumble was McGuffie's fault as much as Sheridan. Threet had one and only one good throw, for a touchdown, which is the same as Sheridan. Threet cannot run. Sheridan cannot throw long distance. These are things we already knew. And, as said before, there were no running lanes and very little time because of our o-line. Sheridan did not pass as bad as I remembered and Threet missed Minor for a TD but he also missed on the two point conversion when he had an open man if he leads him.

Our linebackers cannot and should not have been covering slot receivers.

Our D looked better in the second half partly because Utah passed less.

With so many inexperienced players that had to play, I think it was a big mistake starting Mcguffie and Shaw over Brown and Minor. Maybe there was some injury issue, but McGuffie blew up two plays early by not know what he was doing.

RR should not have called for a bomb on third and long before the half down by five in our own territory with as bad as our offense and defense was playing.

The score if deceptive. If it weren't for Utah mistakes and Moundros, we lose by 23. Our only drive got us a field goal. Other than that, we go two fumbles and a blocked punt and even with the great field position that gave us, we needed two pass interference calls to get near the goal line and score.

I am sticking with my prediction of 6-6.

Ellipses Man

September 2nd, 2008 at 11:49 AM ^

  1. Threet missed Minor? You mean the over the middle pass of about 20 yards? Was that Threet or Nick? If Minor is a foot taller or the ball is thrown a foot shorter it's 6 points.
  2. I do not think RR likes Threets personality. I for one was confused by the sort of hyperness I saw out of the young man. He is like 20-21 though. He does a lot of arm movements when he does good or bad. You can almost see RR looking at him and thinking,"Chill the f out dude!" I think that is why they went with Nick. Just my opinion. But I am starting to wonder that.
  3. I think almost ALL of the passes for yards were YAC stats. The first TD was Mike Shaw sprinting for almost all 8 of the yards that pass was. Minus the Chad Henne looking 33 yard pass to JR it was'nt much. Not all of the yards were YAC but a lot were.
  4. Once again, if they cannot run you will see them dig for the pass. This is the big question this week. What if we cannot run again? And if so what then? If it was me.......Ellipses Man coaching.........I would not throw to a spot or wait until a route was through. I'd pop pass or sit down half way through a route(zone passing). A lot of comeback routes, or deep jumpballs like the Mathews throw. Anything to keep the passing game in the soft light and avoid the close ups so to speak. If you go back and watch the game you'll see they kept it simple for the stupid young QB's. The qb's were however waiting at times for the routes to finish. Or they were throwing knowing it's a 7 yard slant or post. If they set it up, the corner will play soft and they can dink away. Then it's hitch and go time. I hope Nick gets a shot and another TD this week.
  5. Grady or Moundrous can run the ball as well I think. Where's the big guy Helmuth?? Put him on the line.... dudes like 280 and can move laterally!~

Ellipses Man

September 2nd, 2008 at 4:41 PM ^

lol...no it's just he(steve) is so animated. When he squibbed the duck or it slipped out of his hands on that crucial 3rd or 4th down, he put both his hands on his head/helmet. When he threw the td he was overly animated and arms in the air and what not. And that whole quiet the crowd down routine near the end All of those are not needed. And if you do them, look cool as hell doing em. When you do something good everyone can see it, and when you do something bad everyone will see that too. Showing your reaction as a QB is not needed unless it can show your team spirit or pump up the crowd. Calm, cool, confidant beats overly emotional. I was reading another michigan blog and it said something like,'Obviously RR had not intended to play Threet what so ever otherwise he would have put him in the 2nd quarter." And I agree. I was wondering earlier why he did not start Threet. There is the whole better week of practice thing. But the question as to why was on my mind. During warmups they looked equal. But when I saw Sheridan composed I began to wonder if Threet was talented but not composed to the levels the coaching staffs desires. The phrase,'Coaches son," was used alot to describe Nick which I took for savvy or composed. RR is a professional and I am guessing he started the better of the two(if you believe there is a difference, I do not) He may have to start Threet saturday but I am guessing, he started Nick out of a hunch that he was less emotional and more composed.


September 2nd, 2008 at 4:44 PM ^

My hunch is that he started Nick Sheridan because he played football better than Threet in practice, and played well enough he warranted a full half before getting hooked.

But then again, I didn't get a degree in long-distance mind reading and psychology from the University of Bill Simmons, so I might be wrong. 

Ellipses Man

September 2nd, 2008 at 4:53 PM ^

yeah I do not know either. sometimes crazy people play better in crazy situations. or practice players play better when they know its just practice. theres a lot to be said about who plays well in game situations. I've seen it in golf where the minute the actual tourney starts some people can't put it together or they fall apart. Same with the Wonderlic test. Joey Harrington I think Aced it. I think I also read Favre and maybe Marino failed it horribly. It is sort of a straw argument but it takes an emotionally detached person to play QB. Or someone completely OCD. Or they are just to stupid or unaware to see huge DE and 108000 people around them. Sometimes a lil crazy, at the QB position, is a good thing. But its not good in the theoritical world of practices.


September 2nd, 2008 at 6:42 PM ^

E-Man -- Please read your post before hitting save.  To assume that RR played one QB over another due to arm motions that did not involve a football is foolish. 

Regardless of the access we have had, it has been superficial.  RR & Co. saw what the QBs have been doing and played who they felt would perform the best.  They have also said that they intended on playing both QBs.  It sorta make sense that one get the first half and the other get the second.  That way both guys knew when they were going to play and didn't have to fear the Spurrier random hook after any single play.

Frankly, the Coaching staff handled the whole thing well.  Outside of getting Henne back for a fifth year, what else are they supposed to do with freshmen QBs (effectively in Sheridan's case) and an OL as green as a new banana?  

All of this reading the emotional tea leaves is mindless drivel.  The real question is why do I read it and get pissed at the authors?!?!

Ellipses Man

September 2nd, 2008 at 7:36 PM ^

I am not saying it was because of arm flailing. The arm motions cued me in to his emotions. Unless when you say arm flailing you are referring to the actual passes thrown themselves by our two qb's. Sorry for the humor or lack there of. But what I am referring to I have seen in other blogs as well. First on

  • * Apparantly the quarterback race wasn’t really close- Rodriguez said both guys might play but he didn’t want to put Threet in there or he would have in the second quarter. I’m not going to trash Sheridan but will offer that two of his first half passes (one was picked) were the worst I think I’ve ever seen in this stadium. I’m guessing those watching on TV might not grasp how really awful some of these passes were.
  • http://mvictors.com/
  • I did not feel or think, like the author of this above,  that Threet was going to see the field either. Or was meant to. The question you should ask yourself before you hit save is why then did,"Sheridan start the second half?" I am not trying not trying to make that hoity toity trump card either. I know why. Because it was unfair to send the poor bastard off the field knowing you made that playcall for him. It was the fumble which forced RR's hand. I still believe in Nick Sheridan.
  • Second when I call Threet somewhat flighty, I a saying he's highstrung. And I can bet that is why he did not play. I don't need you to tell me that either. When you know as a staff you have no line and two quarterbacks whose skill sets negate each others out... you default in the construct of your gameplan to one thing........who do you feel as a staff is the more put together of the two QB's? That is the only logical choice as to why one plays and one does not when they are neck and neck. When asked,"Are their skill sets the same and where are they in competition or who is better as of today coach Nick or Steve?"  RR replied,"EQUAL." Because after that game I can't see one or the other being THAT much better in a few weeks of practice and spring ball to differentiate himself. I can see preference and a coaching staff making a call they feel is right. So I am in agreeance with the analogy of calling Threet or likening him to Lenny the Bunnycrusher as well. Check the website varsityblue for something more along the lines of what I was TRYING to say The quote is below .
  •  http://www.varsityblue.blogspot.com/
  • Stephen Threet is Lennie from Of Mice and Men: I'm not calling Threet mildly mentally disabled. From everything I have heard he is an exceptionally intelligent, nice guy, but bear with me here. Lennie was fairly lovable. George always talked about leaving him on his own, but never could bear to abandon the adorable lurch. Something about Lennie kept George around. Lennie was also fairly effective at his various jobs, but didn't have the higher level subtleties down. Seems fairly accurate right? Now, there's an obvious difference in scale, but Lennie accidentally choked a women to death and his best friend ended up killing him, while Threet accidentally overthrew some passes and ended up losing the game (Note: he is not solely responsible for losing the game, but he did not win, so therefore...)
  • dex

    September 2nd, 2008 at 8:15 PM ^

    Honestly, I have no personal issue with you. But I've read that four times and I'm still not clear on what you are trying to say. You need to proofread or something, because I think you maybe possibly could have some good ideas buried in your manifestos somewhere but it's impossible to decipher.


    September 3rd, 2008 at 9:51 AM ^

    E-Man -- that is a pile of the most incoherent crap I have ever attempted to read. 

    Here is what we know aabout the QB competition.  The coaching staff has indicated they are effectively equal, both will get snaps, and Sheridan was choosen to start against Utah.  Everything beyond that is wild ass speculation by the fan base.  

    Frankly, calling a guy who was at the top of his high school class "Lenny" is f---ing insulting to him and his high school classmates.  To suspect that RR & Co are choosing a QB for reasons other than they believe that particular QB is the mostly likely to produce a win, is insulting to the coaching staff. 

    Right now we have two VERY inexperienced QBs.  And inexperienced QBs have historically been wildly inconsistent.  Iimagine that until one guy finds some consistency, we will see both QBs.


    September 3rd, 2008 at 10:08 AM ^

    1.  "I am not saying it was because of arm flailing. The arm motions cued me
    in to his emotions."

    You have no idea what he is saying or how he communicates with his teammates.  To assume anything about his emotions from his arm motions is baseless.  Under your theory, Chad Henne was either Hawaiian or a surfer given that his thumb-and-pinky audible motion was the "hang loose" hand gesture.  (I don't know of many surfers from eastern PA.)

    2.  "Apparantly the quarterback race wasn’t really close- Rodriguez
    said both guys might play but he didn’t want to put Threet in there or
    he would have in the second quarter."

    How do you knw what RR's QB rotation practice is?  Did you meet him for lunch?  Just because Carr platooned Brady and Henson for quarters 1 and 2 does not imply that RR would do the same.  It is very likely that he intended on splitting the game and giving each guy a half.  How do I know that??  I don't.  Its baseless speculation.  But to imply that the coach intended on not playing Threet because of giving each a half, even though the coach said he would play both is without merit.