Hoke for Tomorrow Sees the Better Team Lose

Submitted by Lordfoul on September 23rd, 2012 at 9:44 AM


“There is no "I" in team, but there is in win.”
-Michael Jordan
September 22, his 22nd birthday, his final game against the one rival he has owned the torn-out hearts of for 3 years... it must have felt like the stars had aligned.  He came out confident, running the ball with purpose to the sideline for 5 yards (never mind the gimmicky fake reverse).  Then a perfectly thrown pass down the sideline was interfered with (never mind that it wasn't him throwing it).  Run, (incomplete), run... first down. Time to throw it... Dang, punt.  
Oh look what the defense has given us!  Destiny awaits!
Then the rest of the game happened.  I'm sure you all saw it and I don't care to relive it. It went something like this...
Learn from yesterday...
I am not going to be long-winded with this, it is best to forget that game and move on. Bullets then...
  • Michigan was the better team yesterday and if you remove the ridiculous number of turnovers, they kill the Irish.
  • The offensive line looked great all game, giving Denard tons of time and opening up running lanes.  Michigan probably could have ridden the O-line to victory easily. They dominated the much-heralded ND front seven.
  • Borges went gimmicky far too early, IMO.  The Devin Gardner pass was a nice play, but also a harbinger of things to come.  The Vincent Smith HB-pass was far too cute.  Hopefully looking at the film from this game will lead to more confidence and more straight-forward game planning in BIG season.
  • The defense is getting much better up front and controlled the game yesterday. Tackles were spread evenly throughout the team, with the LBs and DTs accounting for a good percentage.  No sacks is disappointing though.
Live for Today…
Several notables:
  • Desmond Morgon and Kenny Demens - They were  everywhere hauling down Irish backs.  Nice to see the veterans (Kovacs too) leading the defense in tackles.
  • Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon - Several key receptions on third down for these two.
  • Elliot Mealer - Looked very good opening holes for the run game.  Props to Schofield as well for superior protection on passing downs.
  • Denard's Feet - Take out the 3 sacks and you get 23 carries for 111 yards, or nearly 5 yards per carry.  
  • Norfleet - Hard running on returns put Michigan in good field position.  Still awaiting the inevitable.
Hope for Tomorrow
The results of this game and a record of 2-2 are not indicative of the abilities of this team, and it would do every Michigan fan good to forget about what has happened and to concentrate instead on what can be accomplished in the BIG.  I rest easier after seeing the O and D-lines gel and play very well.  Denard will bounce back.
The rest of the BIG continues to look shaky, to say the least, and Michigan should be licking their chops against the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and I dare say Michigan St at this point.  Ohio has obvious problems as well, letting UAB run wild on them. Michigan should have distinct talent advantages against Northwestern and Purdue.  
I don't like the matchup on the road against Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers seem like a lesser team somehow than the one Michigan throttled last year in Ann Arbor.
The biggest hope I have going forward lies in the fact that Michigan has Hoke and Mattison, and that I think we are starting to see the defense play as a cohesive unit that should be able to slow down any offense left on the schedule.  
I would still bet on Michigan as the favorite to win the Legends Division and make the BIG championship game.  Who is better?
Sorry Denard. crying



September 23rd, 2012 at 9:53 AM ^

I agree. While we made horrible mistakes, all in all I was encouraged by the game in that we seem to have been making progress in key areas against their fronts. 

I think Nebraska is the only team I am leery of this year. Though OSU at home will be hard, no matter how bad they have looked.



September 23rd, 2012 at 10:36 AM ^

"The offensive line looked great all game, giving Denard tons of time and opening up running lanes.  Michigan probably could have ridden the O-line to victory easily. They dominated the much-heralded ND front seven."

This just isn't even remotely true based on my recollection of the game. Early on in the first quarter it was. But as the game went on, ND started mixing things up a bit with blitzes and Denard was feeling the pressure in the pocket and it's really why he threw most of those pics. 

We started running more effectively late in the game with Fitz, but I wonder if ND was playing more of a prevent package scheme which explains that. 

Agreed on the Vincent Smith comment, although when that worked last year everyone was stoked about the dude who got 3 different kinds of TDs in a game. He can't throw that ball though, not with big guys in his face like that. He had no idea where it was even going. He has to be more accountable than that. Same goes for Denard all game. I hope this can be used as a teaching tool for B10 season upcoming.


September 23rd, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

I agree with this, I thought that our protection was not good, especially later in the game and they almost always had a free man in Denard's face.  I remember one PA play where the linebacker just ran straight into Denard.  

I thought Denard could have moved in the pocket a bit better as well, one of the sacks was because Schofield pushed the rusher outside and denard kind of moved back instead of moving further up in the pocket.  I think he needs to learn to throw it away rather than force the issue if the run isn't there.

What did we learn?  I think we re-emphasized that we are not playing at an elite level at this point, but we are, in a sense, better than we thought we were simply on how well the defense played.

Also I learned I really hate a lot of football fans.  Denard has the worst game of his career and suddenly he's the worst QB of all time (from UM fans).  Also f the whistle fans, they should be thrown out, it's ridiculously disrespectful to the game.

snarling wolverine

September 23rd, 2012 at 6:48 PM ^

We started running more effectively late in the game with Fitz, but I wonder if ND was playing more of a prevent package scheme which explains that.

I agree that we struggled up front for much of the first half, but we ran the ball well the entire second half. Our first drive of the half (which ended in Denard's fumble) was almost entirely ground-based. We changed our blocking/protection assignments at the half, apparently.


September 23rd, 2012 at 11:24 AM ^

I feel like we were definitely due for some karma against ND.  It was very obvious that at least at the time we played ND last year, the better team lost as well.


September 23rd, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

They really did set up the vincent smith pass. The first posession they ran the same play, toss left to Fitz.  It went for a loss.  Then they try in with Vince to the right, and Manti Te'o read it all the way, rushed Vince, and he tried a jump throw.  I don't disagree with the call, I just wish Vince threw it away when it wasn't there.  A field goal would have been nice.


September 23rd, 2012 at 11:59 AM ^

It looked to me like Dileo was breaking open to the outside and any pass thrown that way was likely to be a TD, and at worst an incompletion.  The problem was Te'o being right in the face of Smith too quickly.  Pretty good call by Borges and a great play by Te'o.


September 23rd, 2012 at 11:59 AM ^

Was that after the Bama loss a MNC was pretty much out of the question so now Hoke and Co. are experimenting to see what works best in their remaining non-conference games to prepare for conference games (the only problem with that is I don't think we needed to experiment with Vincent Smith throwing the ball...esp a jump ball to our slot receiver.  We should already know how that will turn out).

I pray Borges scraps his west coast aspirations for this year and puts the team in the best position to win like he did as the season went along last year.  Run Denard out of the shotgun, Run the zone read...even a bubble screen once in a while - If ND's secondary was suspect and they proved they can catch why not throw short and test their tackling abilities?.  Zone read pop passes over the middle to the slot/TE?  If you're going for west coast, where are the naked bootlegs?  Getting Denard in space with the option to pass or throw on the edges.

I believe the coaches are smart enough to remember what put them in the best position to win last year.  I pray we see more of that in conference.  If not we're going to struggle offensively.  I know ND is anything but a throwaway game but from seeing the play-calling I hope it was a case of them still trying to figure out exactly what they have to work with rather than 'this is what we need to do to win games'.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:30 PM ^

Nice write up. I was surprisingly calm last night because despite the loss, I actually feel pretty good about our chances at a BIG championship. Our defense stopped them cold for the most part, allowing less production than MSU's heralded defense despite being put in tough situations time and time again. The offense seemed a lot more balanced and was decently efficient at moving the ball against a proven front seven. I think the days of teams just stacking the box on us may finally in the past. Denard looked awful at times, but I gotta hope the sheer number of mistakes in this one game were an anomaly (please, good), and possibly karma. If he's able to limit those we should be in good shape. The rest of the teams we play look awful, so that helps.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:45 PM ^

tell my girls: "sometimes the better teams do not win.  It is statistically impossible for the best team to win every game, every time." 

Now, having said that; Denard sucked passing.  I hang a little bit of responsibility on Borgas.  Denard had a very bad day: fight with girlfriend, poor report card, slipped when whipping his ass: I dont know.  However, Borgas tried to force things to happen and Denard was not responding.  It is Borgas' responsibility to make the adjustment.

Denard will bounce back.  We were the best team on the field last night.  Now, bring on Purdue.

Decatur Jack

September 23rd, 2012 at 5:25 PM ^

Denard had a great game against OSU last year. The passing game plan is not the problem. The problem is Denard needs to make better decisions. The OC doesn't decide who he throws the ball to.

I love Denard and think he can be really good as a passer. He just needs to settle down.


September 23rd, 2012 at 1:24 PM ^

along the same lines as i was thinking. Watching denard run under center was so painful. I kept thinking the whole time that this was Iowa 2011 redux, its just a shame that borges would rather experiment than win the game.


September 23rd, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

This is not a "Borges is a bad coordinator" post. I actually think he is a very good offensive planner. I do think Gorgeous had a bad day calling a game yesterday. I know Borges didn't throw the interceptions, but he was calling the plays which has a role in how much pressure a QB faces. 2 of Denard's interceptions were a direct result of designed roll outs running straight into pressure. It was pretty clear early on ND was not going to allow that by bringing pressure from the outside, either from CB's, LB's, or having the DE's loop around to the outside. Borges did adjust to open the second half calling more running plays up the middle and counter plays which ran away from the pressure. The part that bothered me more than anything was the execution in the red zone. There is no need to get cute early like he did. Test how well yours are going to match up with theirs. Worst case scenario you come away with an easy field goal attempt. Instead we left at least 6 points on the field. I think you see a very different game going into half time down 10-6 instead of 10-0.


September 23rd, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

Can we get a GIF of Norfleet stalking the goal line pre-kickoff? My wife characterized the look on his face as "caged lion". Can't wait for that guy to break one.


September 23rd, 2012 at 3:48 PM ^

i totally agree with you, the d did look good and so did the o line. Borges really just needs to let denard run more and not make him stay in the pocket and this is a different game.

Smash Lampjaw

September 23rd, 2012 at 3:57 PM ^

that Kelly followed the MSU/Alabama script pretty faithfully. It may have only seemed that we had good pass protection because they "built the fence" around Denard and wanted him to pass from the pocket. When they needed to, and especially in the red zone, they dialed up the pressure almost at will. I kept mumbling, "just run Denard," and I hope, with less confidence than I had before, that Al has a better answer when MSU comes to town. Maybe there isn't one.

I was surrounded by ND fans at the game, and from start to finish they were very welcoming and neighborly. They respect Michigan as a school and as a football opponent, and seem to want the series to continue as much as I do. I don't know if it showed on NBC, but at the end of the game, while some ND players bolted to the student section, many strolled to the tunnel in small groups in conversation with the Michigan players. Long may the rivalry continue.

Lousy traffic management in South Bend, though.


September 23rd, 2012 at 4:48 PM ^

"Norfleet - Hard running on returns put Michigan in good field position.  Still awaiting the inevitable."

An interesting point about  Dennis Norfleet is that he's 3rd in the Big Ten in average yards per return right now and 41st nationally. Granted, he's four games into his college career, but that's still a good performance to date. There was one return last night where I think he may have even reached V2 and began his takeoff roll for an extra three or four yards. Yeah, he's taking one all the way rather soon at this rate - he's been only a block or so away from doing it a couple time already. 


September 24th, 2012 at 9:52 AM ^

I agree that Michigan should be favored in their division, but the better team won on Saturday.  Michigan was outplayed and outcoached.  Sometimes, you have to give the other guy credit.  ND's performance the last two games has them looking a lot more like a 10-2 team than a 7-5 team.  

If there's one place where many fellow Michigan fans have huge blind spots, it's that the other team has just as much right to win as the Wolverines do.  In a rivalry game, nobody wins every year.  Michigan played terrible, but you have to give a lot of credit to the ND coaching staff for their game plan on defense.  They knew where the ball was going to go when Denard was under pressure.  

Luckily, the Big Ten still consists of twelve flawed teams.  The team with the least flaws so far isn't eligible to go to a bowl game.  If there's anything to take from the ND game, it's that the defense is capable of playing some very good ball.  

I like Michigan's chances in the Big Ten.