The Worst Part Of It

Submitted by Brian on September 16th, 2013 at 12:02 PM

9/14/2013 – Michigan 28, Akron 24 – 3-0

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Bryan Fuller

What was the worst thing about the events that took place in Michigan Stadium on Saturday? There are dozens of candidates vying for the crown. A selection:

That moment when Taylor Lewan was down. Almost picked up the very cute small child in front of me and threw it onto the field. Hey, don't judge me. It could have popped on an Akron helmet and stopped Fitzgerald Toussaint for a one-yard loss. It would have been in no danger of anything except padding its stats.

Small children stopping Fitzgerald Toussaint for one-yard losses. Akron's line consists of a six-year-old, ten-year-old, a guy named Bob who they found walking into the game, and an actual scholarship athlete who chose Akron and is therefore so crazy he insists everyone calls him "Pope Licentiousness III." Fitzgerald Toussaint averaged under four yards a carry against them, and about 80% of his first down runs resulted in second and eleven.

That pick-six. Not digging that M starts every game in an 0-7 hole.

All of it. An obvious contender.

The ruination of an entire Saturday of college football. Don't know about you, but that sapped me so much that I could barely remain awake after it and looked at the other games dully before falling asleep just into the second half of Purdue-Notre Dame. I missed the Wisconsin-Arizona State madness as a result. Never has a win felt so much like a loss.

The severe correction in season expectations. Michigan plays Akron straight up; Notre Dame executes a stirring fourth-quarter comeback to top a team that beat Indiana State thanks to a trick kickoff return on the first play of the day. I liked it better when Michigan had solidly defeated a team obviously headed for ten wins because of its overwhelming talent, and was not the equal of one of the worst teams in college football.

The repudiation of the idea that events follow from other events and can be projected with any certainty. Just because something happened before does not mean it is likely to happen again. Devin Gardner can beat Notre Dame nearly singlehandedly and lose to Akron nearly singlehandedly. Michigan can look like the best team in the Big Ten for two weeks and play a dead-even game with a team that has gone 1-11 the past three seasons and hasn't beaten a I-A opponent since November of 2010. At any moment the laws of physics that bind our component molecules together could catastrophically alter themselves, turning us all into rapidly disintegrating collections of atoms that suddenly hate each other. (IE, how you felt in the fourth quarter.)

My adorable nine-year old niece experiencing her first Michigan game one seat away from me. Sometimes it is nice to take the pressure building inside your head and throw some of it into the atmosphere via colorful expectoration of words. In this manner, you vent dangerous levels of pressure to the atmosphere. When the best you can muster is an under-your-breath "Jesus Christ," your inner control panels look like Chernobyl instead of Fukushima, and you can hear the BEEP BLORP BEEP BLORP as you try not to fall over.

MGoNiece reports that the game was "fun" and "exciting," and not "three hours during which I learned many new words that make my mom cry and that Uncle Brian is possessed by Satan." MGoNiece remains as pure as the driven snow, at all costs.

How familiar it all felt. The first time I thought "this can't be happening" in Michigan Stadium, Michigan was losing to Northwestern. That Northwestern outfit would win en route to their first Rose Bowl in forever, but they walked in overrated pretenders to my 15-year-old self. They were not. Over the course of the game my attitude shifted from  annoyance to disappointment to concern to chest-clenching-panic. Back then I kept thinking "how can this happen?"

Here we are again, following up a Notre Dame win with a severe expectations check that bodes unwell for the season. In 2010, a 42-37 win over UMass was an early indicator that Michigan had the worst defense in the history of the program. This one promises a year of quarterbacks given time to complete PhDs in the pocket and far too many "my bad" blocks.

Now our best hope is that contender a little farther up the page: that causation has failed and we're just coasting along on the universe's sufferance. Michigan will come out against UConn and turn them into gray paste, because that's what the random number generator says next Saturday. That's the ticket.

I don't think "how can this happen" anymore. Not after 10-7 over Utah or 24-21 over SDSU or that Ball State game or The Horror or Toledo. I think "not again." I thought I was done thinking "not again" for a while. Apparently not. I'll be over here, trying to keep all my molecules from fleeing into space.

Highlights

BEWARE

This is Akron's perspective:

At 1:40 you can see that the pick intended for Gallon is just a horrible read; with the corner sinking the crossing route to Funchess is the obvious throw. The deciding play from the first row of the student section.

Parkinggod:

He's going to have to start putting some good things that happen to the other team if he can only get up to seven minutes by including Akron not executing the snap correctly.

[After THE JUMP: a first-ever for Epic Double Point, and a lot of complaining.]

Awards

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3_thumb_thumb[2]Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Is not awarded.

Mournful Hoke Double Point points at you and wishes for you to think about what you've done. Did you turn the ball over a lot? Write "Go Blue" over Spartan Stadium? Play to the east side of Michigan Stadium? Refuse to sacrifice a small child to the Michigan Stadium field? Wear the wrong hat? Predict 62-0 pregame in a dismissive game preview? You should feel bad. Don't do that again.

Epic Double Point Standings.

1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. I guess we have to go with the last play of the game, as Thomas Gordon did jump inside the WR's route, forcing Akron's QB to try to throw a looper to the back of the endzone.

Live it looked dangerous and possibly interference, but when you see it on the video it's Gordon jumping the route and the Akron WR desperately trying to get open, tripping over either himself or Gordon's feet.

This looked like an option route for Akron with the receiver automatically releasing to the back of the endzone if the route gets jumped; Gordon took away the easy throw and made them execute the much more difficult one as the QB got leveled.

Honorable mention: Jehu Chesson is gently escorted to the endzone by Akron defenders; Devin Gardner doesn't turn the ball over that one time.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.

8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.

Offense

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A MOMENT TO REMEMBER (that the people running Michigan's social media are not permitted to deviate from the plan no matter how dumb the plan becomes)

Well WTF. How are you supposed to figure out anything if Devin Gardner is going to do that against Notre Dame and that against Akron? I guess the performances aren't that different statistically. Gardner approached 10 YPA, as per usual, and ran for over 100 yards on just ten carries. He still picks up yards at an incredible rate. But four turnovers almost entirely his fault speak for themselves. Gardner's bad decision rate has been relatively low for a new starter; in this one he looked freshly hatched.

The turnovers:

  1. Michigan runs speed option to the boundary, Gardner should pitch, Gardner tries to fake a Zip linebacker, ends up fumbling. Pitch is a large gain, possibly a touchdown.
  2. Gardner throws to a Gallon in-out-in goal line slant, ball is undercut, intercepted; had Funchess on easy high-low read on the corner.
  3. 20-yard pass momentarily complete to Jake Butt before Butt is blown up by a safety; ball pops up and is picked off.
  4. Toussaint is undercut on a screen pass and it's returned for a touchdown.

1 and 2 are very bad and on Gardner; 3 was not included on the BTN highlight reel but I remember it as a good play by that safety more than anything else, and it was less damaging as Michigan only had a few seconds left in the first half. 4… I actually don't know how much I blame Gardner for that. It's a screen, and he's not really looking at Toussaint until the last second so that he doesn't give it away. Akron blitzes a linebacker, he reads it and makes a great play. I think that's more on Miller, who went to momentarily double a DT and never touched the blitzer. Even a brush there knocks him off enough so that he can't intercept.

Well WTF II. Gardner was put in bad positions he often rescued Michigan from by the offensive line and Fitz Toussaint, who collectively saw Michigan's tailback running game acquire 74 yards on 20 carries. That's under four yards a pop. That is terrrrrrrible against Akron. Michigan did pop Toussaint free for a number of ten to twenty yard runs; when they weren't doing that they were getting Toussaint buried in the backfield by multiple dudes.

I have no idea why this happened yet. I try not to get down on particular OL before a thorough review. A Space Coyote tweet from the game emphasized that for me: live I thought a particular stretch play was a WTF moment from Miller; SC pointed out that Akron lined up two DTs in the A gaps, so he couldn't help on both.

I can say it's bad. Michigan doesn't appear to do anything well. They can't block the stretch or inside zone or power with any consistency, and don't seem to check into the right run when a defense overplays. Their best play right now is iso.

Try it again. Toussaint was not covered leaking out of the backfield all day. Very frustrating that they went to him once early in the second quarter and not again.

Hey: Chesson. Chesson is apparently such a nice guy that opposing defenses prefer to shove him towards the touchdown he deserves than tackle him. We should use this in our favor, throwing him more balls.

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Upchurch

Throw it to Dileo—play Dileo. Problematic moments late when Funchess went out and Michigan went with a one-handed Jordan Paskorz in his first meaningful snaps instead of Drew Dileo. If Paksorz isn't playing at all when AJ Williams is out, he's probably not as good as Dileo. You can cover for the fact that Dileo isn't a tight end by forcing someone to check him on run plays by threatening—yes—bubble screens. This site's enduring obsession with that play has never been about the few (or several) yards you grab with it but the fact that it turns a slot receiver into a guaranteed block if they actually cover it.

Instead, Michigan tries to execute blocks with tight ends. This is not going as well as you'd hope. Run plays get blown up by single points of failure, and Michigan is not consistent at all on the OL right now. Fewer points of failure == more successful runs, as long as you've got a guy like Gardner who can balance out the numbers with his legs. This is clearly not Borges's philosophy, and it gets frustrating when Michigan can't run for four yards a carry against Akron.

Defense

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Grady Brooks'd [Upchurch]

Nope. Three games into the season and Frank Clark has zero sacks, one TFL that Greg Mattison generated for him, and four QB hurries on which two were free runs, one was Clark jumping over a running back cut, and the last was actually a block beaten. This is not due to a lack of opportunity. Opponents have attempted 130 passes already; he's been out there for probably two-thirds of them. And he seems to vacate running lanes with frequency.

While he had a decent* game against Notre Dame, I mean "decent" exactly. +4 for a DE, which is what he got in the UFR, is not very far above Mendoza-line performance, especially when the pass rush gets –2 overall and would have been much worse if Mattison didn't load up at the end of the game. He was adequate, maybe. That's a far cry from the massive preseason hype.

When Jake Ryan gets back, it's Clark's playing time that's under the most threat. Brennen Beyer has been Michigan's most dynamic pass rusher so far and he can play WDE.

Meanwhile, the rest of the defensive line. Black occasionally does something good, and Heitzman is an okay plugger. They've gotten little production from the nose tackles, because they don't play their nose tackles. Any organic pass rush was from Beyer, and that huge completion near the end of the game came about because three of the four DL ended up on the ground as Akron's QB rolled out into infinite space.

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Guy not on his face: Beyer

Cumong, man.

(While we're talking about the DL: Tom Strobel was not on the dress list. FWIW.)

Play a nose tackle please. Part of the problem on the defensive line is that Michigan's not playing their best player, Quinton Washington. He's probably still hurt somewhat and Michigan's trying to get him healthy; fine. But what is the deal with Ondre Pipkins getting sparing time as Glasgow and Wormley eat up the bulk of the defensive tackle snaps not given to Jibreel Black?

If the idea is to get more pass rush out of that spot, it's not happening, and those two backup three-techs (actually, Wormley is a backup SDE) are getting consistently gashed by doubles. Pipkins has played much better than either in his limited time so far this year and is the only interior lineman to actually get some pass rush up the middle, as he bulled a guy back into Tommy Rees against ND. Pipkins has exactly as much experience as either guy getting PT over him and has played better, so what the hell is going on there?

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Wilson has been solid. [Fuller]

Countess at nickel… uh. Akron hit two long fly routes and was close to another couple as they worked on Raymon Taylor and Jourdan Lewis. I get the idea behind having a multipurpose weapon at the nickel spot, but Countess isn't really that—he mistimes his blitzes consistently—and by tucking him inside you're taking your best cover corner away from the most vulnerable area of the field.

Meanwhile, the nickel corner was a different guy for the third straight game. First Stribling, then Hollowell, then Lewis. That doesn't seem good, especially when Lewis is getting beat over the top and barely recovering. I wonder if we'll see Courtney Avery return to his ancestral home as a boring no-blitz nickel when he's ready to come back; it seems like they need a corner more than they need a safety at the moment.

Bend but don't break has a different feel. It was one thing to play soft against Notre Dame, which has a senior quarterback and some excellent receivers and has bombed both of their opponents not named Michigan with big plays. It's entirely another to do so against Akron. Michigan stayed in a basic two deep shell the vast majority of the day; when they did not they frequently tipped their blitzes, saw Akron check, and did not check in response.

That last bit is frustrating. I bet that Michigan doesn't have much of a check game because in practice they're going up against an offense that gets out of the huddle with 15 seconds left and does not have time to totally reset after the defense reveals intentions. They seem ill-prepared to go up against no-huddle offenses that will check to the sideline.

I wasn't expecting to feel that this defense had a massive athleticism deficit three games into the season. It's hard not to see Taylor get beat by yards by an Akron WR and not come to that conclusion.

Miscellaneous

Special teams: ugh. Brendan Gibbons misses for the first time in 17 attempts from 45. Okay. He gets a pass. Matt Wile shanking two punts of 21 and 22 yards after shanking one against Notre Dame: not so much. May be time to try out Kenny Allen. Don't get me started on the punt formation. Setting up in the modern spread punt only to go back to dinosaur punt is setting practice time on fire just to piss people off.

Meanwhile, Akron had a half-roll rugby kicker who averaged 42.6 yards net and made it near impossible to return his punts. Akron.

I could use some restoration of Hokefaith. Here you go:

General admission can't fix the fact we're playing Akron at noon. It actually makes it look worse. FWIW, I'm in an old-blues section of the stadium and it was decidedly roomy.

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I was annoyed more by the game than the student attendance. Plenty of non-students were in the same boat—they're just more spread out. MVictors points out that the announced attendance was under capacity. I heard that Michigan was dumping free tickets on anyone vaguely connected with the athletic department this week, which is no surprise after everyone got that mailing in their inbox trying to sell tickets to groups in blocks of 10+.

I heard the band! Please never do it again. The band played to the East for the first time, which meant I could hear them loud and clear. This was enjoyable. Unfortunately, they can clearly never do this again.

I appreciate the effort, though.

Here

We have the pressers from Hoke and the players, photosets from Eric Upchurch and Bryan Fuller, and Ace's recap*. Regular Diarists bronxblue and ST3 persevere as well. Best And Worst:

Worst:  It’s a Win? (as said in the voice of Ron Burgundy)

Yeah, I’m not going to be one of those people who says it would have been a better “learning experience” if they had lost; I’m a results-based grader so a win is always better than a loss.  That said, this is up there with narrowly beating Indiana and Illinois under RR and a turrible 10-7 win against 5-6 Utah in 2002 (a game I attended and apparently blocked from my memory until now).  And unlike those games where you could at least point to one element of the performance being a positive, it isn’t really hyperbole or “ESPN talking head”-ole to say UM was beat in all three phases of the game.

Inside The Boxscore:

* I get it that the D-Line doesn't normally get involved in a lot of tackles, and Akron was throwing the ball quite a bit, but they still ran the ball 30 times. Our D-Line was led by a reserve, Ojemudia, with 4 tackles. The starters ended up like this: Clark 2 assists, QWash 0, Heitzman 0, Black 0. Did they even play? [ED: Qwash barely did, FWIW.]

Also LSAClassof2000 has a look at the league three weeks in if you want to feel better. Actually, not feel better.

*[I was advocating for this guy to be the face of the PANIC and RUN AROUND SCREAMING shirt:

panic

Instead it's me. Merph.]

Elsewhere

Blog types. Concentrate on something brighter: last night's Breaking Bad. Walter White finally figured out he can roll a barrel!

Oh hurray we made Shamepaint.

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Don't click through unless cartoon genitalia are your bag, man.

Hail.

11. Michigan.

DOMINATED AKRON IN A

terrifying, ramshackle, and completely unanticipated

28-24 VICTORY.

At least we're not Wisconsin.

Maize and Go Blue wins Best Headline:

Glazed and confused: Michigan 28 – Akron 24

Magnus gets the important thing:

A hundred years from now, nobody will remember this day.

Since they won, nobody will remember it as soon as Michigan shows itself to be a contender in the division.

Maize and Blue Nation photos; also MVictors. HSR suggests we never speak of the shortcut again. Maize and Blue Nation says things. Hurrah they threw it to Chesson. Holding the Rope:

The rationalizing calculus was "yes no yes no no yes NO *flatlining resignation.*

Newspaper types. Images from Melanie Maxwell:

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I envy you without context.

I thought this was supposed to be over now that Denard was gone?

Devin Gardner giveth, and Devin Gardner taketh away

The redshirt junior quarterback had 83 percent of Michigan’s total yards on Saturday, continuing his role as the backbone of the offense. He’s immensely talented and athletic — the Wolverines’ offense would look a lot different (read: worse) without him.

If most outlets won't tell you how mad Taylor Lewan actually was, the Daily will:

2. The offensive line isn’t quite there

Fifth-year senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan was furious after the game, to the point where he told reporters, “You all don’t even know. You all just write shit down.”

Some of us almost keel over in terror, as well. I bet the skywriter who wrote Go Blue over Spartan Stadium was the same guy who was doing it over the stadium… probably freelancing. Don't do that again, dude.

Baumgardner on stuff and things. Zach Helfand notes that the brain meld was even off:

Gardner even seemed out of sync with his favorite target, fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon. The two usually seem to share a brain. But at the start of the half, after another incompletion on third down, the pair gestured to each other while running off the field. Somewhere in the play, there was a miscommunication.

Gallon thrust his hand and turned, signaling his route. Gardner did the same, miming his read. The pair discussed as they ran off the field. In all, Gardner threw four incompletions intended for Gallon.

Comments

Chris of Dange…

September 16th, 2013 at 12:13 PM ^

Officially, my excuse is that I'm trying to keep my utterly one-sided highlight reels under 8:00 so as not to draw the wrath of ZEFR.

In reality, you're right.  I didn't have all that much to work with.

robpollard

September 16th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

Seemed like he should be getting some reps (not that he could have necesarily done a much better job avoiding Akron's frequent trips into our backfield).

I'm not understanding our subsitution patterns at all (e.g., the Dileo example; the D-line). People must not be performing in practice or something else going on.

MGoUberBlue

September 16th, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

The Sun set in the west Saturday evening and rose in the east Sunday morning.

Our team was 3 - 0 at both times.

We came back with 4:05 left in the game and scored in 1:15 (probably way too soon, but we cannot take away those 30- and 20-yard runs.

Then the defense made the really really big play when they had to.

So I would still say, Go Blue!

Needs

September 16th, 2013 at 12:28 PM ^

Definitely the moment that Lewan went down. I didn't have much belief in that ordered universe thing though.

Wasn't the int just before the half to Funchess? (Fun chess, thx auto correct).

SI_Grad

September 16th, 2013 at 12:28 PM ^

The only joy I got from the Michigan victory was from the sadness from Sparty fans at the MSU game.   My group sat between a 70 year old man yelling at the top of his lungs about how fantastic Akron is and a group of frat boys crowing about how MSU could beat Akron.  

The stadium PA enjoyed updating the score of the game...but never announced the final score.  

Way to go Sparty...worried more about Ann Arbor than what was going on infront of you in the first and second quarters.  

The FannMan

September 16th, 2013 at 3:41 PM ^

Some dude did skywrite "GO BLUE" over their stadium.  This was as close to instant karma as I ever want to deal with again.  

Their team was in the process of crushin a tomato can and we were in the process of almost getting crushed by one.

We have done this with OSU and ND, paricularly before the huge score board.

I will forgive Little Brother for this one.

gwkrlghl

September 16th, 2013 at 12:29 PM ^

If the college football random number generator holds true, everyone will be predicting a close game or an upset this Saturday and then we'll beat UConn 70-0 because college football makes sense like that man

GoBlueInNYC

September 16th, 2013 at 3:59 PM ^

I'm actually really looking forward to the UFR this week. Not because I want to revisit the game, but because I'm really curious to see what exactly was going on. My impression was kind of an all encompassing, "everyone is just playing really bad..." I'm hoping for a bit more elucidation than, "yeesh."

matty blue

September 16th, 2013 at 12:31 PM ^

...win or lose, is the distinct lack of X and O pseudo-analysis.  it sucked and we stunk up the joint, but hey, lookit that - it's over and there's another game this week.

mgobaran

September 16th, 2013 at 2:31 PM ^

Or do you really enjoy the non-X's & O's analysis? This post doesn't really have a place for it. The X's and O's come in the form of picture pages, UFR's, the new What were they thinking section, some of the Diaries do a good job of this, and probably countless other blogs in which you can find that type of analysis. 

I know I enjoy Brian's writing style, and value his opinion on things outside the X's and O's. It is really a place for Brian to vent about a game. Whether win or lose. It is pretty much the collective voice of the Blog that is conveyed on paper. It is a post written two days after the game, in which he watched live at the Big House. I doubt there is that much time to study every play and walk away with some sort of analysis that wouldn't be just jumping to conclusions. 

Be patient. The X's & O's come later buddy.

los barcos

September 16th, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

I think the biggest letdown so far this season has been the defensive play.  We knew the interior o-line was going to be…a work in progress…but the defense was supposed to be great, trending towards elite.  Instead, it seems as if we’ve regressed to an average unit without any true playmakers.  As Brian mentioned, it’s one thing to play bend-but-don’t-break defense against Notre Dame, but seeing Akron bleed their way down the field with short hitches and quick throws was very distressing.   Is everything revolving around protecting the safeties, or is there another reason why we’re 10 yards off Akron receivers and/or not bringing a blitz? 

I still think Akron was more a fluke than the start of a pattern, mainly because of what we were able to do to Notre Dame, who I think is a pretty good team despite their game against Purdue (after all, they probably were in let-down mode as well).  I still believe in the Henninger principle theory and think the defense can still improve; however, the running game (namely the offensive line) remains a huge concern.  Nothing yesterday changes the fact that I still think we’re undefeated going into November…

robpollard

September 16th, 2013 at 12:49 PM ^

I wouldn't say we'd play an above average offense (for the country; not the B1G) until Nebraska comes to town in November. And they're not a lock for being that good, so perhaps not until we play Northwestern.

Perhaps Indiana has a good offense - they havene't played anyone yet, so it's hard to tell. But it's not like we have to prep for what you would see, on most weekends, in the PAC-12. So maybe that will help?

MidnightBlue

September 16th, 2013 at 12:44 PM ^

"thank you thomas gordon" ??, you say, Brian?    Why?  He got beat on that last play... it was BRENNEN BEYER who busted through and hit the arm of Pohl on the follow thru... Pohl was going left with the ball and BEYER deflected it, ironically, to the big WR that just burned Gordon... we caught a break.