2013 Wrap: Bowl aftermath

Submitted by Ron Utah on December 30th, 2013 at 3:09 PM

My favorite album of all-time...sadly fitting for the 2013 football season

I'm taking a brief break from grading the position groups to comment vent about the Copper Bowl and the program in general.  Brian's post today was alarmingly similar to my feelings (usually he is far more emo than I am) about the game and the program in general.

What Brady Hoke and his supporters (myself included) has always been able to hang his hat on is that his teams play hard.  They don't always play well, but they do play hard.  Always.

Until now.

The Copper Bowl was not just a failure to play defense (we allowed 6.56 yds/play and let KSU covert 7 of 11 third downs) or score TDs despite a surprisingly efficient first-half offense (finished the game at 4.92 yds/play...but only had 53 plays), but it was a failure to show-up.

This sums-up our 2013 season

After spending the entire season trying really hard and not getting good results due to a variety of factors (youth, play-calling, missed assignments, etc) the team was in too much pain to try to crack another coconut.  Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison's defense--for the first time--simply didn't appear to have the will to put up another fight.

Those who believe the guillotine would be too kind of a punishment for Al Borges after this season might not want to admit it, but the offensive gameplan was pretty effective. Shane Morris has an unbelievable arm and can make throws that no Michigan QB since Drew Henson could even think about, but his decision-making isn't there yet, as evidenced by what happened late when he was asked to read the whole field and make throws into 8-man coverages.  Borges understood this and designed a screen game that let shane make throws but avoided forcing him to pick which guy to throw to.  We moved the ball and even tried a fade to Funchess in the endzone...but couldn't score a TD.  The offense appeared to be giving effort for at least a few drives, but couldn't get it done.  Then they gave-up too: we didn't even hurry when we were down 24-6 with 8:06 remaining.

For the first time in Brady Hoke's tenure, the team simply didn't appear to try.  This is sad, alarming, and needs to be addressed.  Obviously, Greg Mattison did not become a bad coach between the Ohio game and this debacle.  And Hoke did not lose his powers of motivation.  But what is clear is that if you give your full effort over-and-over and get nothing but pain, at some point, your body might just say, "not today."

I am someone who believes in looking at the whole picture.  The 2013 season's failures are not on the shoulders of just one person (or even two or three) in my estimation; rather a confluence of many unfortunate factors fused into a nuclear disaster.  And while there are many reasons for the meltdown, there must be some accountability for what happened in that bowl game.

All that said, if we put together a 10-win season in 2014 and win one of the MSU/OSU games (or both) we will be right back in the hunt as a B1G contender, and the positive momentum could push closer to our goal or returning to national prominence.  On the other hand, if we slog to an eight-win (or worse) total in 2014, we risk becoming solidified as a second-tier team...until we re-build again.

Make no mistake about it: that bowl game showing has very real consequences.  For the first time, a Brady Hoke team didn't even show-up.  And that means 2014 just became even more important to the future of this program and the job-security of everyone on the staff.



December 30th, 2013 at 3:34 PM ^

I understand that guys are going to mail it in sometimes when you go to a disappointing bowl, but Hoke simply does not have the track record, IMO, to warrant writing off what we saw on Saturday night.


December 30th, 2013 at 3:47 PM ^

who DID and DIDN'T show up to play. It's one thing to have a drop or miss a hole to fill. A mental mistake doesn't qualify as not coming to play.

But watching film closely and over and over again should give at least guys like Hoke and Mattison a glimpse on whether guys showed the effort throughout. 

Last time I saw a non-RR team give up was 2nd half vs. Oregon. To Lloyd's credit, that team did win 8 straight after that.

I can look back at MSU game and remember after Taylor's interception, we still had a shot to make it a 1-score game. The EFFORT was there, even with a hopeless offense on a crappy day.

If there's ONE play that pissed me off the most it was when it was 21-6 and we had 4th-and-3 near midfield with about 1 minute to go in the half. It was obvious that we would have troubles scoring - why not go for it?

That's when I realized Brady had given up any realistic chance to win and was content to go on his next recruiting trip than coaching in a non-NY day bowl.

Ron Utah

December 30th, 2013 at 4:22 PM ^

One of the big issues is that guys who are team leaders--guys who will be vital to any hope for success in 2014--mailed it in.  Countess and Taylor both looked lethargic and often had poor body posture at the snap.  Same for Wilson.  The D-Line, from Clark to Beyer, was going through the motions and had one of its worst outings of the season.  The LBs were better, but not by much.

On offense, the effort looked better for awhile, but never looked like a Michigan team.  I did not see a sense of urgency.


December 30th, 2013 at 8:24 PM ^

Some article I read suggested Brady Hoke's only words in the locker room was something to the effect of "Get dressed ... there's nothing more to talk about." 

I'd like to think -- hope? -- that if true, that brevity is a sign that Hoke understands that his team didn't give its all.  And I'd like to think -- hope? -- that Hoke has reached a point where he knows it's time to get tough.

Sometimes a manager can go too far to the "Mr. Nice Guy" side of things.  Sometimes it's necessary to express in no uncertain terms that Mr. Nice Guy goes away when people take advantage of it.

I'm reminded of the quote from the movie "Patton" -- In about fifteen minutes, we're going to start turning these boys into fanatics - razors. They'll lose their fear of the Germans. I only hope to God they never lose their fear of me.

snarling wolverine

December 30th, 2013 at 9:04 PM ^

To be fair, I thought the offense showed up.  It was outmanned, but it gave a decent enough showing.  The D did not show up though, and that's certainly disturbing when we needed them to keep us in the game.


December 30th, 2013 at 9:50 PM ^

was that, once again, once the pre-scripted 10 to 15 plays ran out (after the first two drives), the offense was out of effectiveness and creativity once again. Some of this is KSU figuring out Shane, but I think there's a deeper problem. The drive chart someone put somewhere shows this really nicely. While I'm not necessarily calling for Borges's head, I think this is a big flaw that we've seen happen multiple times and definitely needs correcting.

Ron Utah

December 31st, 2013 at 1:41 PM ^

I'm not sure what play Borges can run when his O-line can't block.

Don't get me wrong--it's partly his fault that the O-line can't block.  But he kept running the plays that might work when your O-line can't block, and KSU figured it out.

Not sure what he could have done in this one, other than teach better all year so that we can execute something.

I dumped the Dope

December 31st, 2013 at 10:09 PM ^

I think that people believe that Hoke's demeanor is what you get in the pressers.  Meh, blah, etc.  I really think its 100 miles the opposite.  I think he knows there is Nothing Good that can ever come from giving the media anything to quote about.  I believe he learned that from Schembechler himself.  I've lip-read Hoke saying WTF and various things similar to that at certain points in the game (on TV) mostly when he was looking toward Mattison.  I think the fire inside him gets larger with every one of these fails.  He just refuses to show it in the media and for 99.5% of the time on the sidelines.  However I think there would be a different story if we were allowed inside of Schembechler Hall or the fieldhouses.  What happened in the game is somewhat similar to what seems to happen in an away game.  We get run over.

G. Gulo of the Dale

January 6th, 2014 at 12:16 PM ^

I think the conclusion you draw is far more likely than the hegemonic opinion that Hoke is soft on the players, has little fire, etc.  This latter opinion only gets traction because it's based on the supposed "evidence" of Hoke's "public demeanor."  I think Hoke knows how to control himself and is very mindful of not embarassing the university, making controversial statements, etc.  

In his introduction three years ago he balked at being called a "players' coach" because of its implications.  I take him at his word that he doesn't want to be a playerers' coach, if it means being soft on the players.  You can love your players and be demanding.  I would hope that anyone who coached Michigan would exhibit both qualities.   


January 1st, 2014 at 12:13 PM ^

Bo Schembechler was a demanding hard ass.  Unlike Hoke, I don't ever recall hearing that Bo was a "player's coach".  Bo had the fire and never lost that emotion.  He was volatile and unabashed about it.  I don't think it's something you can turn off and on.   I don't see those same qualities with Hoke.  I hear him being called a nice guy and I think that's probably correct, but you know how those guys finish.


January 2nd, 2014 at 1:26 PM ^

I've heard this alluded to before as well. Hoke came in preaching to create a tough, physical style of play. 2011 was ok, a little less in 2012 and 2013 was worse yet. Hoke can recruit which means players like him and they believe in what he is selling. I wonder if maybe he is coddling the group too much and not pushing them hard enough?