Submitted by Brian on November 24th, 2014 at 12:24 PM

11/22/2014 – Michigan 16, Maryland 23 – 5-6, 3-4 Big Ten


[Eric Upchurch]

A version of this game happened in 2008, when a Michigan team headed for 3-9 had a dismal, rainy home finale against a bad team. That was Northwestern; Michigan blocked a punt for a touchdown but lost anyway. I spent halftime attempting to warm my hands on a pretzel heater.

It was tolerable because of its novelty. That team provided an opportunity for Michigan fans to demonstrate the vast depths they would go to in order to support their team. It wasn't fun, exactly, but it felt like a transitory period, a cost gladly borne for the promise of ass-kicking modern football to come. Merit badges were awarded to the hardy souls who stuck it out.

I don't have to tell you how that worked out.

I know I've referenced that game many times before as we've struggled to deal with Michigan's broken offense over the past couple years, but the similarities to the Maryland game are striking enough to bring it up again. While the weather wasn't nearly as bad, the slate-gray sky was highly familiar. So too the mutual Keystone Kops antics, what with receivers deciding it was that year EA's NCAA Football series decided that the way to balance their broken game was to have WRs drop half the passes they got their hands on.

So you naturally think about that game before and compare your mental state then and mental state now. The only thing I've got at the moment is relief I don't have to do that again. Humorous exclamations about how "we do this for fun!" are so 2008.


Michigan had built up piles of fan goodwill over their 40 year bowl streak; after Schembechler's arrival there were years Michigan wasn't great, but none in which they were actively bad unless their starting quarterback's leg broke. They started tapping that in earnest in 2007, and now it's all gone. I didn't want to go to the Maryland game even a little, but I did. I have a personal streak at stake here. And they fired Dave Brandon.

But there was no silver lining. The depths of my fandom have been tested; there's a bottom there. I'm fed up with ticket prices and the cookie-cutter inanity imposed on a Michigan Stadium experience that used to be unique.


CAKE [Bryan Fuller]

There are bits and scraps of it left. I got bizarrely misty when they did the Blues Brothers cake, because it was a thing that was ours and still existed as what it had been since my youth. I was at Yost for the final game of whatever hockey season it was when the "Can't Turn You Loose" dancing extended from the most humorously overweight guy in the section to everybody. It was a thing that some people decided to do and they keep doing it.

Then that student section sat near-silent for the rest of the game because every space that wasn't filled with actual football was crammed with noise. It was especially jarring since the most interesting football on in the noon window was Manchester United-Arsenal, full of everything but Pitbull being piped in at deafening levels.

That's where we are right now, fighting a losing battle against the spreadsheet people. Jim Hackett may be a nice guy and vast improvement on Brandon, sure. Not much has happened to indicate that he's anything but another spreadsheet person making the columns add up and importing what passes for creativity at other places.

I don't know what's about to happen. I mean, I do: Ohio State is going to punch Michigan's delicates in and Brady Hoke's going to get fired. I don't know what happens after that.

During the last coaching search I used logic and common sense to declare that Michigan would not hire Brady Hoke because he was so transparently unqualified, so I can't do that again. Even if I was so inclined the fact that an interim AD is going to make the most important hire in the department would prevent me. Michigan is determined to do it weird in the ways they shouldn't and do it conventional in all the ways they shouldn't.

But whatever. It's over, and it ended in the way it probably had to: a sodden mess of football about as interesting as a pile of dirty laundry. Hopefully there's something to care about next year.


There is not going to be a UFR. I'll go back and get the relevant parts over the offseason but I am going to have a real Thanksgiving instead of one where I spend the first half of it in a bedroom putting up a post; it was just going to say the same stuff you already know anyway.


This fourth down was on Gardner [Upchurch]

I don't know what I expected dot gif. The same pattern of ludicrous errors part XVIII. Roughing the kicker, a block in the back on a punt return touchdown, dropped passes, penalties, throws nowhere near the target, an inability to deal with tempo or mobile quarterbacks—none of it was surprising. It's not even infuriating anymore. It's just the way it is.

Cripes, Funchess. His lack of GAF has been clear for big chunks of the year—I still go back to that bubble screen that was a likely touchdown if he blocks his guy at all—and it's getting more prominent as we near the end of the year. The dropped passes are epidemic, and they don't even try to use him as a blocker anymore.

It'll be interesting to see if any of this impacts his draft stock. I bet 1) it does and 2) not nearly enough to induce him to return for his senior year. This feels like a situation similar what went down with GRIII, where it might be a good idea for the guy to come back to establish himself an elite talent but the guy is clearly done with college.

The offensive line is kind of okay now. There was a period in the second half where Michigan was blowing the Maryland DTs off the ball on every single play; occasionally Maryland would get Michigan in the backfield with a blitz allowed by the fact that M really didn't want to throw but anything that ended up neutral on the RPS scale was a nice gain for Michigan. Even excluding the fake punt, Michigan went for 5.5 YPC.

That's not unusual for a putrid Maryland D, but Michigan bested MSU, OSU, and pre-Diamont Indiana. They didn't hit Wisconsin numbers or a rampant Syracuse(?), but they looked quite functional. Darrell Funk is going to get run out of town on a rail like the rest of the coaching staff but the improvement this year is real. With literally everybody back next year they could be good-ish.

Mad about carry distribution. I've seen a lot of ANGAR about the carry distribution since Johnson was picking up big chunks. That's one of the few things that I'm not incensed bitchy and eye-rolling about in the aftermath. Hayes picked up 6 YPC on his six carries and while Smith only had 2.8, he was the short yardage/goal-line guy and played much better than Johnson against Northwestern. Overall the run game was highly effective, and only the usual slate of derp and the broken Devin Gardner prevented actual offense from occurring.


this was not tempting apparently [Upchurch]

I will be mad snarky about this. I know Funchess was dropping balls left and right but how on earth do you go an entire game with a 6'5" WR against "5-7" Will Likely and not, like, try to use that fact? Everyone got peeved at one goal line play, and I'm with you. I would like to extend that peevishness past that specific series and apply it to every damn time this inept offense didn't punt the ball to Funchess 40 yards downfield.

When is the last time they tried a plain old bomb down the sideline at Funchess? I know it can't actually be the Notre Dame game but it feels like the Notre Dame game.

Seriously though. How do you rush for 240 yards on 44 carries, plus a 52-yard fake punt, and score 16 points?

Defense. The usual: pretty good against the run, though CJ Brown's QB stuff was highly effective because Michigan still regards that as cheating (or maybe it tends to be effective), highly iffy against the pass especially in the middle of the field, late collapse.

Brown's 6.9 YPA on 24 attempts isn't great, but you have to take the fact that Maryland was down two of its top options at WR and replacement slot Jacquille Veii dropped at least four passes. If Maryland WRs actually caught the ball this could have been significantly uglier.

It's clear that opponents have IDed the slot and TEs running against M LB/S types as a major weakness and targeted it.

The demise. Grimly appropriate that Maryland should get its key play on their go-ahead drive thanks to a fake bubble screen that went over the top. The end came thanks to a concept that's been around since Rodriguez's first year that Michigan could not deal with, nor successfully replicate except once against Miami(NTM). When they tried to imitate successful offenses they did it poorly because they were bad at coaching, and then blamed the concepts.


Inside The Box Score:

Meh Teams
* How do you lose when you outgain your opponent 398 yards to 312 yards? The answer is simple. Not-so-special teams (and turnovers, and failing on fourth down twice.)
* Maryland's fourth FG attempt is not in the boxscore because Jourdan Lewis roughed the kicker. On the very next play, Jourdan Lewis failed to keep contain and Maryland scooted in for a touchdown.
* Michigan's high point on the day, a 52 yard fake punt, was more than offset by a touch in the back penalty that resulted in Michigan losing 70 yards of field position, oh, and a game-deciding touchdown.

Best And Worst:

Yes, there have been meager signs (mostly on defense, but also with the offensive line) that this program was playing better, especially given the fact that Indiana has since nearly upset PSU and held tough against OSU on the road, while Northwestern upset Notre Dame and then demolished Purdue to, improbably, set up for next week’s intra-state battle with the Illini as a battle of two teams playing for their bowl-game lives.  They weren’t dominating wins, but if you squinted you could see something faintly resembling progress and improvement, and maybe with a new QB and some healthy running backs next year Michigan might be on its way “back”.

But all along, this team kept displaying the same numerous flaws that absolutely, positively shouldn’t be happening 50 games into a coach’s tenure.  The offense remains painfully predictable, to the point that pointing this out is equally reflexive.  The defense, while certainly the stronger unit during Hoke’s tenure, continues to play at a B+ level, seemingly never figuring out how to handle anything approaching tempo or a mobile QB.  Barring a Biakabutuka-esque performance against OSU, Michigan won’t have a running back break 600 yards total on the season, and for the second year in a row won’t have one even sniff 1,000 yards total.  Hell, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman are going to significantly outrush this team as a whole, and that’s after dropping 292 yards rushing on Maryland in this game.  Devin Gardner went from pre-season All Big-10-ish player to a guy who’ll probably not throw for 10 TDs on the season, and one of the best runs of the year was a 52-yard run by a FB on a fake punt.  Timeouts continue to be called or saved without any regard for reality, and the team long ago ran out of feet to shoot with dumb penalties, incorrect number of players on the field, and turnovers.  Oh my gawd the turnovers, King.


Sap's Decals nails Gardner:

DEVIN GARDNER – To me, New 98 is the LaVell Blanchard of the Michigan Football Team. Great kid. Smart kid. Face of the program for the past few years. Much like Blanchard, Gardner has been caught in the middle of a coaching change during his career. Caught in the middle of a program trying to find its way. Caught in the middle of a university trying to figure out what kind of identity they want their football team to have. Much like we do when looking back on the career of Blanchard, I’m sure we will say much the same for Gardner: “Oh, the Gardner years! Tough kid. Never quit. Never gave up. Sad that his record wasn’t better.”

Maize and Blue Nation:

So, things happened yesterday. A few of them good, some of them meh, and most of them bad. For Michigan, it was yet another in a long line of games everyone would just rather forget.

Brady Hoke knows what's coming. You can just tell. Nothing will happen before the Ohio State game, but its over. This is the end for Hoke at Michigan.

You know it's bad when newspaper folk don't edit out your uhs and ums:

A self-inflicted mess, toward the tail end of a self-inflicted disaster of a season that can't end soon enough, with a head coach who has only gotten worse every year he's been in charge.

Another game that made little sense, and more talk afterward that made even less.

"We just didn't, uh, execute at times when we had opportunities, and, uh, at times we did," Hoke said Saturday night. "We had some mistakes in the kicking game that, uh, obviously hurt us as a football team. Some of those were very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and aggression. At the same point, we've got to be a little smarter.

"If that's the right word for it."

I think Zuniga is a fan of hair metal band Enuff Znuff. Alex Mitropolous-Rundus was in high school band.



November 24th, 2014 at 12:35 PM ^

I'm still sort of amazed at how bad the offense has gotten. Borges drove us nuts but I never would have thought that Nuss would have us hoping to score 17 points a game. I keep waiting for us to score more like this is just some sort of fluke


November 24th, 2014 at 12:39 PM ^

Missing UFRs:

Minnesota: Defense

MSU: Defense

NW: Offense and Defense

Maryland: Offense and Defense

For the sake of completeness and comparison, I do hope they get done, but I can understand the slog it must be watching this team play each game multiple times. 



November 24th, 2014 at 1:33 PM ^

What else ya gonna do all offseason?  [This year we get an extra month of offseason too!]

A UFR focused on returning players would be quite useful, even after the season is over.

The alternatives based on history are far less useful:

  • Make shit up about returning players based on insider buzz (like Jerald Robinson - breakout playmaker, Dymonte Thomas - starting nickelback,  and Julius Peppers - where's he gonna start?, Shane Morris - starter?)
  • Make shit up about who will be a good CC even though trackrecord (logic and common sense) shows that we don't know shit about shit
  • Criticize GR3 even though he's the best 4-man Michigan has had since probably Chris Webber (though freshman Mo Taylor was damn good, he became a black hole his soph year)


November 24th, 2014 at 1:57 PM ^

I do think, for example, that last years UFRs were instructive in regard to people like Morris, Beyer, Lewis, Henry, Ross, etc.

From what I recall those UFRs provided some insights that weren't necessarily obvious from boxscores or fitting of the narrative coming out of the games.

Like most fans, I'm watching the ball and not noticing every OL block and CB coverage, so I appreciate the thorough analytical analysis.

If Brian is punting on looking at gametape his analysis becomes a lot closer to the feelingsball stuff the rest of us produce. In other words his status as fan Godfather is diluted.


November 24th, 2014 at 12:49 PM ^

I've moved on to so indifferent.  It's like my fandom with the lions when I was younger.  All that saddness with seeming them fail all the time and let me down...eventually I just stopped caring.  And I still don't care about the Lions.  My UM fandom is stronger than my Lions was considering I have actual tangible ties to UM, but man, it's getting to the point where I just don't care.  I'm starting to doubt if UM can provide a rewarding experience to me anymore.


November 24th, 2014 at 1:10 PM ^

Exact same situation here.  I used to live and die Lions as a kid in the 80s, and thru the 90s - just as much as Michigan.  But Matt Millen beat that out of me by year 4 of his regime and I have never truly gone back.  I still watch the games but I go into nearly every game expecting a loss or a LOL Lions.  I dont get excited during the starts of 6-3 last year and 7-2 this year because... Lions.  I don't get upset for more than 30 seconds whereas I'd be in a funk for a day 10-20 years ago.

Unfortunately I am seeing all the same patterns here with Michigan - you change the coach, you change the players, you change that, you change this - its the same result.   And I go into the games expecting the same LOL antics.  And they are happy to provide them.  The only difference relative to the Lions is my "upset" level still lasts for more than 30 seconds.  But more in an exasperated sense than a disappointed sense.  It is difficult to be disappointed when your expectation is now Loser-ville.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 24th, 2014 at 2:35 PM ^

up until a few short years ago I lived and breathed UM football. Even through the RR era I used to suffer great bouts of depression each time UM lossed a game. There wasn't anything that could drag me out of the abyss i'd find myself in after a UM loss except for my team to win. As you can imagine, that meant I was stuck there for extended periods for some of those years.

I lost something when RR was let go. Not because he was let go because by the end I was feeling like it was probably for the best, but because of the way he was treated and subsequently let go. I regained some of that with the 11-2 season with a BCS win but with each pasing game since the pain diminished. 

NOw, three years later I find myself simply turing off the TV following the games and just thinking "Whatever". What's another loss? They used to be such infrequent occurances that they hurt but like so many other things, the more you're exposed to something the more desensitized you become. It sucks that I'm desensitized to losing, but there you go. 

I'll end by saying the silver liniing is we're hopefully about to embark on a new chapter of UM football with a great new staff, so the eternal optimist in me is looking forward with anticipation from this point on. 

03 Blue 07

November 24th, 2014 at 6:02 PM ^

Man, I wish this weren't the case, but reading your comment I was thinking "yep, pretty much" to myself the whole time. It seems like our feelings (mine and  yours) and the evolution/devolution of our emotional attachment over the past few years are in lockstep. Also of note, I didn't admit to myself just how negative an impact Michigan football had on me during the RR years. (I, like you, was an unabashed supporter and was, and still am, ashamed by the way he was treated by certain sections of our fan and alumni bases).

I realize that's completely absurd- to let something like your alma mater's football team have such an impact on your general mood- but, well, it happened, and my emotional withdrawal from allowing wins and losses to impact me so severely was and is a defense mechanism. As an adult, being depressed all the damn time about a football program (which you don't and never did suit up for)  is an untenable situation and is ridiculous when you think about it rationally. So now, I don't get as upset, because I've built up these layers of numbness to the whole situation, which is incredibly sad to me.This is why I don't begrudge Brian (as some do around here) when he expresses similar sentiments; I not only understand them, I share them with respect to this program and how much one chooses to let the program's fates affect one's happiness.  


Yostbound and Down

November 24th, 2014 at 12:47 PM ^

I don't understand Funchess' deal. He's clearly the top wideout on the team (heck, number one offensive player period, with the jersey to boot) and thus gets the lion's share of targets from Gardner. The guy had several drops or balls that are catchable that he exerted the bare minimum of effort towards. This has been a pattern for several weeks. Honestly it's insulting to GRIII to compare him to Funchess because even though he might take some plays off, at least he'd contribute elsewhere and was always good for a highlight or two per game. Funchess doesn't run routes well, can't gain separation, and can't catch the ball reliably...or more likely he doesn't give a shit about any of these, and for whatever reason that is, it's a stupid and selfish one.

I respect the general tone of "don't criticize the players" and am on board with that...I still have to try to defend Gardner to my friends who think he's the worst quarterback in history. Gardner isn't a good qb, but he sure looks like a good teammate most of the time and from all accounts is a great representative of the program off the field. Funchess didn't display these tendencies last year at all. I don't know if he hates Nussmeier, can't deal with being the primary option, or what. Good riddance to him, I hope he goes to the draft and gets his money...I'm tired of seeing him on the field in that jersey.

EDIT: and Brian, have a good Thanksgiving. Thanks for the work you do with all of the site and particular UFRs but I don't blame you at all for not wanting to break down the shitstorm.

Yostbound and Down

November 24th, 2014 at 1:14 PM ^

I'd be fully prepared to recant this position if he goes out to do that.

It's just I've seen nothing this year that would give me any shred of hope that he could go do that. Caviat to rant above: obviously the offense has more issues besides Funchess, but you'd hope your best offensive player could help to offset that and not exacerbate the problem. His drops and lack of effort have killed drives.


November 24th, 2014 at 1:14 PM ^

If you took away the mock draft and just looked at Funchess play he looks like a 7th rounder that you take a chance on due to his height.

Funchess cannot break away from lowly Rutgers, Maryland type CBs with his speed.  How the hell is he going to break away from NFL CBs?  He is tall.  So what.  Kris Durham was tall and he was a journeyman WR.  He does not have plus hands.  His effort worries me - a guy is self motivated or he is not.  He doesnt like to go over the middle.  He gets alligator arms.  He was moved from TE partly because he refused to learn to block.  Which hurts the teams running game.   So he doesnt want to do the dirty work of the position. 

And yes I agree about the GR3 - its a disservice to GR3 to compare him to Funchess.  GR3 would fade in and out of games but when he got the ball I never saw lack of effort on his part.  I see lack of effort in Funchess and that's the heartbreaking part.   Honestly I dont want that attitude infecting the players of 2015 so happy trails to the NFL Devin.


November 24th, 2014 at 1:38 PM ^

GR3 disappointed people beccause of his name and recruiting rankings and the glorification of Zack Novak. He was really really good and there's still a small chance he ends up being the best NBA player out of all the Beilein guys to date (though my money is on McGary).

Taking cheap shot insults at GR3 has become a nasty habit on this blog (well, just Brian really).


November 24th, 2014 at 1:54 PM ^

is almost apples to oranges.  GRIII moved from his more natural 3 spot to the 4 for the betterment of the team.  The football coaches moved Funchess from TE to WR to better take advantage of his skills and lack of skills (blocking).

I could buy the GRIII to Funchess comparison if the coaches had done he opposite with Funchess - moved him from WR to TE.  However, they purposely tried to put him in a position to maximize his skills and minimize his weaknesses and he still looks like he's not giving 100%.


November 24th, 2014 at 2:23 PM ^

Yeah, that's a totally cheap shot that GR3 does not deserve.

While it's certainly far down the list of the many reasons this coaching staff won't be back, giving Funchess the #87 and then the #1—neither of which he had proved he deserved in the slightest—makes me wonder if it's symptomatic of a problem with Hoke: giving players recognition or praise when they haven't come close to truly meriting it.

True Blue Grit

November 24th, 2014 at 1:11 PM ^

getting handled by much smaller DB's.  But, yeah, Funchess might be the best example of the malaise that's afflicting the team.  I've said this in another thread, but he looks like he's been coddled rather than someone getting in his face and challenging him.  His lack of effort probably goes back to his attitude which by extension must be piss-poor.  So instead of the coaches benching him or somehow disciplining him (which we have no evidence they did), they try to motivate him by giving him the #1 Jersey.  I think almost everyone on this board can agree that he hadn't earned that honor at all based on his on-field effort.  So, a last-ditch motivational ploy by the coaches is the only explanation I can think of.  I'm no coach, but I can tell a player who needs an ass-kicking when I see one.  I doubt Bo, or Mo, or Lloyd, or even RR would have tolerated this lack of effort.    

So, right now his pro prospects are bleak except maybe as a later round pick.  His better choice would be come back next year, get a better attitude, and build back his draft stock.  If he can't change his attitude, I certainly hope he doesn't come back.  There are plenty of other good receivers on this team who probably deserve the playing time more than he does.  

Yostbound and Down

November 24th, 2014 at 1:24 PM ^

I think he will be higher than a late round pick (say 3rd-4th round) just because of his athleticism and the results he produced from last year. I wouldn't be surprised to see an NFL team just chalk up his malaise to how bad the coaching staff/offense is. Agreed with everything else. Can you imagine someone like Braylon (closest comp to Funchess in terms of potential ability/athleticism) just lollygagging around out there like this? Lloyd would have tore him a new one.

Shop Smart Sho…

November 24th, 2014 at 1:28 PM ^

"Can you imagine someone like Braylon (closest comp to Funchess in terms of potential ability/athleticism) just lollygagging around out there like this? Lloyd would have tore him a new one."

Uhmm, I think you're forgetting large stretches of games where Braylon just didn't catch balls.  And that he lived in Carr's doghouse.


November 24th, 2014 at 1:31 PM ^

I have been waiting for several games or am still holding out hope that at the end of the season we'll hear that he's been injured. Someting that's minor enough to keep him still on the field and contending for the top position, but nagging enough that he can't get separation or make excellent plays. I don't know...  This just seems all too weird that someone with so much talent can't consistently make a play or even look like he's making a full effort.

Yostbound and Down

November 24th, 2014 at 1:41 PM ^

That's fair...I suppose a bad groin injury or something could go pretty much unnoticed from watching on TV. I doubt that's what it is though since we can't see much of a limp and he still looks like the most imposing athlete out there until the ball gets snapped. 

It was probably a mistake to think Funchess could be a massive deep threat, it's not like he has Calvin Johnson-type speed, he's more of just a massive target...maybe shift him back inside off of a corner, I don't know.

Yostbound and Down

November 24th, 2014 at 2:23 PM ^

Do you happen to know which game that was in, and what type of injury? Against Notre Dame? I can't remember.

Aside from a high ankle sprain or an actual fracture I'm not sure I've heard of an injury affecting someone like that all year...maybe plantar fasciitis, who knows. And you would think you'd see some visual evidence of him favoring or compensating for an injury.