Can a team "hit the wall"?

Submitted by Kevin Holtsberry on November 21st, 2009 at 3:54 PM
When rookie football players struggle late in the NFL season they call it hitting the wall. Physically and mentally they run out of energy and start making mistakes or even get hurt.

The announcers were talking about Tate Forcier hitting the wall this year late in the season. And I was wondering whether a whole team could hit the wall.

What has bothered me the most about this team this second half of the season is their complete inability to take advantage of opportunities and their tendency to collapse at the most inopportune times.

Obviously in the first four games (but also Michigan State and Iowa) it felt like they could still make plays when they needed to; like they were going to keep fighting until the end. I can take the losses of MSU and Iowa, like the wins against Indiana and ND, because it felt like we played hard and were in it right until the end.

But in this slide is just didn't feel that way. Whenever the defense played well the offense struggled. If the offense made a big play the defense immediately gave up one.

Today was just another example.  Tate just inexplicably fumbles and gives Ohio State 7.  We can't make a short FG.  The defense plays well but the offense goes three and out. When we do move the ball Tate throws a pick in the endzone. The score may have been close but I never felt we were going to win this game - maybe that is my lack of faith - because we gave OSU the perfect set up: protect a lead and wait for Michigan to make a mistake.  It worked.

Maybe it is because there are so many young players - Forcier is still a freshman after all - but it just feels like this team picks the worst possible time to make critical mistakes.

Ohio State is a good defense, and they played conservatively on offense, but five turnovers?!?! Three with the game hanging by a thread.

I don't know if it is inexperience, mental and physical exhaustion, or trying to do too much.  But this team found ways to lose rather than finding ways to win and it wasn't always clear that it was due to lack of talent.

One thing I will be looking for next year is a sense that those who return will play smarter and within the system.  I am not sure I can take another year of massive turnovers and the overall lack of poise and discipline.

P.S. For the record I am totally against firing RichRod.  I think continuity is a must right now.  We need as many returning players as we can get plus as many recruits as is possible.  This team needs to continuing building not start over again.

I don't blame this inability to find ways to win games during conference play primarily on the coaches - the players were in a position to make plays but didn't.  But I do think next year this team has to show composure and discipline or I will begin to wonder about coaching.

Comments

Thatguy2525

November 21st, 2009 at 4:06 PM ^

Was it me or did the play calling seem really inconsistent? Why was Tate throwing the ball when he threw the pick in the endzone? We had just run successful running plays. I know we needed to get in the zone, but we were getting almost 5 yards when V. Smith would run inside. IDK, it just seemed like there was no purpose in the play calling. Setting up the pass with play action after running plays were scarce. I don't agree with some of the plays, but we need to keep RichRod for at least another year to see if he can get it turned around. Bowl game next year along with an tOSU win at tOSU will help too!

elhead

November 21st, 2009 at 5:48 PM ^

That was Tate's choice to make in that play. He thought he could nail it and he didn't. Didn't look like he had much room to run, but that's kind of secondary.

People wanted a change, and we're getting it. We had plenty of kids - Tate included - responsible for making things happen. The experience they gain from all this is going to pay off in spades next year and beyond.

Muttley

November 21st, 2009 at 6:49 PM ^

Comes out to a 2.6 average.

Tate threw for 226 yards on 38 attempts (5.9 average).

But for the turnovers, I thought the offense played well against the best defense in the B10.

As to nitpicking the play calling, that's BS. RichRod & GERG had the team motivated and prepared to compete today, and anything other than praise for the coaching effort today is misguided, IMO.

MGOARMY

November 21st, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

What hurt the most is that our D only allowed 14 points. I never thought in my wildest dreams they would play that well. I am so sick to my stomach that we lost in that fashion. Spotting osu a td after our D makes a quick stop. The turnovers in the redzone are gut wrenching. If we don't spot them a td, make our fg, and settle for fg's on the two redzone turnovers we win this game. I can't believe how awfull TP is as a passer, if he was semi decent this would have been real ugly. Damn do I love B.G.

KSmooth

November 21st, 2009 at 4:46 PM ^

Probably, but...

I feel awful for Tate Forcier right now. He made some great passes but the mistakes have to weigh heavily on his mind right now. Denard Robinson is a nifty runner but RR has virtually no confidence in his passing right now.

One of these two guys is going to have to step up and play QB next year if U of M is going to have a decent season and make a bowl. Let's hope Tate regains his confidence, or Denard figures out how to make reads and throw accurate passes.

KSmooth

The Claw

November 21st, 2009 at 5:05 PM ^

That's what I was going to say. With Tate having such a bad day, if RR had any confidence in DR, he would have been in the game. But passing is what moved the ball today, so he stayed with the Force and got nipped.

If TF and DR don't drastically improve next year, I see DG taking over next year as a freshman. That is, if he doesn't bolt for Florida, who are after him hard now...

jmblue

November 22nd, 2009 at 2:01 PM ^

Here's the thing though: for most of the game, Tate wasn't having a bad day. Through three quarters, he'd completed about two-thirds of his passes, and while he had two interceptions at that point, both were more good plays by the DBs than anything else.

Tate happened to have a poor fourth quarter, capped by the two bad INTs. That's colored our impression of his overall game. I don't think anyone was calling for him to be benched prior to the fourth quarter. In fact, a lot of people around me groaned every time Denard came in in the first three quarters.

Kevin Holtsberry

November 21st, 2009 at 6:34 PM ^

Having Michigan fans write and debate what happened and what they think it means is too much?

If this is to be a true community where fans interact - in addition to reading Brian's unique perspective - then people will have to deal with comments, diaries, and board posts.

I don't think it has descended into site destroying chaos and anger today.

Zone Left

November 21st, 2009 at 6:03 PM ^

There is no way anyone but Forcier starts next year barring injury. DG is a talented Freshman that needs seasoning--like Forcier and DRob needed this year.

Best case scenario is a strong year from Tate next year and DG starting next year because he is just too damn good to keep off of the field (a la Terrelle Pryor minus the turtling and running OOB just before first downs

jmblue

November 22nd, 2009 at 2:04 PM ^

No, I think the best-case scenario is Tate being a four-year starter. Continuity at QB is big. When you start a new QB, there are always going to be associated growing pains (especially when that QB is young). Starting Gardner in 2011 probably turns that into something of a rebuilding year.

uminks

November 21st, 2009 at 6:05 PM ^

I wouldn't throw Gardner in during his freshman season. I would let him learn the offensive system as a red shirt Freshman. Let Tate and D.Rob battle it out next year and groom your potential star QB to take over after 2012 or as early as 2011 if he has the talent to beat out Tate or D.Rob as a red shirt sophomore than so be it!

This team will improve over the next couple of years as RR builds depth and the underclassmen gain experience.

bronxblue

November 21st, 2009 at 6:22 PM ^

If I'm Tate, I take this game and bury it inside me for the offseason. I study the playbook and game film, I hit the weight room, and I show up next year ready to take over. For as bad a game as he had, the still completed about 60% of his throws for over 225 yards against a really good defense, while being chased out of the pocket and with no running game. He made some bad throws, but he also had some bad luck - Robinson not getting a PI call/DB drop on that one INT; Mathews not fighting for the ball more as the safety game sprinting across the field on another. He made some freshman mistakes, but he also took a team with quite a few freshman and inexperienced players and a porous defense and led them to a 5-7 record. He seems confident, and I doubt one bad game will kill this self-reliance.

bronxblue

November 21st, 2009 at 6:57 PM ^

To be fair, I don't think the team hit a wall the past few weeks - they just hit two of the best 3 teams in the Big 10. They pull that win out at Purdue, and this team is 6-6 and we are all feeling good about ourselves. The team has made strides this year, and next year the depth should be better and, hopefully, that translates to more wins.

uferfan1

November 22nd, 2009 at 12:15 AM ^

I am enthused about my Michigan. Thank you to each and every cotton-pickin maize and blue heart playing it out for us every week. You did not shirk your manhood and responsibility as some did. Those who stay will be champions,and when this team is lifting the trophy very soon please come back you graduating seniors, you were part of the transition which will take Michigan to the top. Michigan is and will always be the best damn university, we have the History. Thank you for your hard work, next year we get 9-10-or 11

raleighwood

November 22nd, 2009 at 12:30 AM ^

I don't know about hitting a wall. I thought that Michigan (as a team) played a pretty good game. The defense limited OSU to 14 points. This was probably the best game of the season for the defensive side of the ball.

The offense was pretty effective too (aside from the four picks and a fumble). A player or two may have "hit the wall" but I don't think that the team in general looked worn down today.

oakapple

November 22nd, 2009 at 10:19 AM ^

Forcier didn't "just inexplicably fumble." Ball security was a problem for him all season long. Obviously he chose the worst possible place to do it, but it was not out of character.

Freshman QBs tend to be uneven. Last week at Wisconsin, Forcier had arguably his best game since Notre Dame, albeit in defeat. He was also pretty good vs. Purdue two weeks ago. The TV announcers mentioned that trainers were looking at his shoulder. I don't think he has been physically 100% since the Indiana game.

As for the rest of the team, the defense actually broke through a wall. If anyone had told you that it would hold the Ohio State offense to 14 points, you would have felt pretty good about Michigan's chances.