Hoke for Tomorrow Wants Some Gravy

Submitted by Lordfoul on November 13th, 2011 at 10:17 AM


“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” 
Albert Einstein


Learn from yesterday...

Common sense tells us that facing a team coming off of a bye week should be a disadvantage.  Give a good coach 2 weeks to prepare for a game and they will have their team refreshed and focused, ready to take advantage of what their next opponent gives them.  Mark Dantonio had the Spartans ready to exploit Michigan's flaws and that preparedness (plus a bit of dirty play) allowed Michigan State to dominate us. Brady Hoke used Michigan's bye week to effectively put the loss to Little Brother in the rearview and had the Wolverines ready to put Purdue away in style.  When Miles faced Saban after each had a bye week the result was one of the most epic battles I have ever seen.  This is what good coaching can do with a bye week advantage.

Ron Zook is a bad coach, this is known.  It is remarkable how bad he is though, when looking at his record after bye weeks.  Over the past 4 seasons (2008-2011) Illinois has had 6(!) bye weeks, with two in both 2009 and 2010.  Their record following these bye weeks?  0-6:


2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24

2009: Lost to OSU 30-0, Lost to Cincinnati 49-36

2010: Lost to OSU 24-13, Lost to Fresno St 25-23

2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!)  31-14


That is epic fail.  Ron Zook should be fired.

It was a very satisfying win for Michigan however.  Yes, the lack of redzone efficiency kept the game interesting for far too long.  This just magnified how much better this defense is than anything we could have reasonably expected.  The zone blitzing destroyed Illinois.  The run defense was smothering.  Even the prevent defense worked almost to perfection, with Illinois needing almost 7 minutes to score when they were down 3 scores with 10 minutes to go.  They kept plays in front of them, tackled in-bounds, and strangled the game.  Giving up the 4th-26 was painful, but by that point it was forgivable.  Greg Mattison has done better than anyone could have expected.


Live for Today…

Several players/coaches should take particular pride in their accomplishments yesterday:

  1. Greg Mattison - Seriously, can we get this guy a raise?  I know he already makes a lot of dough, but he has earned it and then some.  This defense makes such incredible leaps forward with each game... just remarkable.
  2. Fitz Toussaint - Got his swagger back right out of the gate.  Get this guy a tear-away jersey and he would have had 250 yards.  It makes so much more seem possible when a top running back steps forward.
  3. Devin Gardner - Looked much less lost out there.  Clutch TD throw on 3rd and long really put the game away.  Still needs work, but perhaps the future is looking up for DG.
  4. JT Floyd - Beautiful anticipation on the interception that kept Illinois from making a comeback.  Played well against Jenkins, really taking away the Illini's best weapon for most of the game.
  5. Jeremy Gallon - Great job on punt returns.  Really helped Michigan flip the field position in their favor.

Also of note:  Martavious Odoms nice TD grab, Denard Robinson 2 TD runs, RVB 2.5 sacks, Desmond Morgan blowing up fools, Mike Martin is Mike Martin


Hope for Tomorrow

Michigan comes back home to wrap up the season sitting at 8-2.  The rest is gravy. Every Michigan fan should be pretty happy with how the team is progressing.  I have not felt this confident about the future since 2006 at least.  Nebraska will be a tough test in a week, but I think Michigan will be competitive in that contest.  Ohio just lost to Purdue and is a team that Michigan should beat.  It is the biggest rivalry in all of sport though, so anything can happen. Regardless of how the last two games go though, this team has made this fan happy and excited about seasons to come.  It is great to be a Michigan Wolverine.


Go Blue and stay safe!



November 13th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

Did Odoms get a majority of snaps or was I just noticing whenever he happened to be in the game?  It seemed to me like he was in a lot more than in any previous week, and unlike earlier in the year he wasn't just in primarily as a blocker.  Was there just more WR rotation in general this week or has he taken some of Gallon or Roundtree's playing time?

Either way I am glad to see it, this guy has really put in his hours and effort and I want to see him finish his career strong.  Class act.


November 14th, 2011 at 7:45 AM ^

I also thought that he was in the game much more than any other game this season - perhaps Hoke's mantra of not giving anybody a guaranteed spot and playing the people that practice best is the reason for his sudden appearance.  From the way he played on Saturday it's definitely reasonable to think that he earned his playing time.


November 13th, 2011 at 1:08 PM ^

Yes.  Gravy - while wonderful and delicious - is even better when it is unexpected.  If my wife makes a roast with all the fixings, has everything out on the table I'm like, "Yes, this all looks amazing."  But then, almost doing it intentionally, just when it seems like it can't get any better, goes into the kitchen and brings out a huge piping-hot bowl of gravy, well, that's just one of those moments that brings a tear to the eye because it's so phenominal.

Gravy on, Blue!


November 13th, 2011 at 10:55 AM ^

I don't think Galllon is a very good punt returner.  More often than not, he doesn't field the ball in the air.   That frequently results in negative yardage (based on where the ball could have been fielded) and the missed opportunity to return the punt for positive yardage.  Is this coaching or the returner? Would anyone else like to see Dileo be given a try?

turd ferguson

November 13th, 2011 at 5:48 PM ^

You're missing MinWhisky's point.  He's arguing that Gallon is letting the ball bounce first, which generally will make punts longer and negate some of the 11 yards he's getting per return.

I haven't noticed that (Gallon consistently letting the ball bounce), but if it's true, that's an interesting point.


November 13th, 2011 at 8:12 PM ^

Wth where they're at, and where we're at, and where the games at...losing to OSU will be a huge disappointment.

Beat Ohio State, regardless of the Nebraska outcome, and this season feels like real progress and expectations exceeded.  No more late season Big10 collapses.  No more domination by rivals.

Lose to Ohio State, and it's back to a late season swoon and an unpleasant December - back to hoping things get better next season.

That game, THE game, is the season.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:27 AM ^

I need some help in hostile territory! I moved (back) to the WORST STATE EVER in 2006--- it is unpleasant living here under these circumstances!

My 5 year old son has not been alive for a victory in THE GAME. In fact, after the game in 2006, someone put a tsou shirt on my son while he was in the church nursery & then displayed it on the powerpoint screen during the service. I was thinking to myself, "who is that hideous child in that disgusting shirt?" Imagine my shock when the caption read, "Dad, yesterday I learned to spell OH-IO!"

Imagine the outrage!

Vengeance must come...


November 13th, 2011 at 10:57 AM ^

I agree with what you said.  This team has a lot of upside and will continue to get better.

However, " I have not felt this confident about the future since 2006 at least."?  I hope you meant January 2006, because the "future" past 2006 was the worst stretch of michigan football in about 50 years.  If you would have omitted that line, there would have been no confusion and my mind would not have reeled at the thought.

Keep up the good work though.  I really like these posts.


November 13th, 2011 at 11:09 AM ^

I think the biggest thing for DG was that he actually saw play in two entire drives.  He was very green coming in during the MSU and Purdue games, but he performed well once he settled in.  He will be a good QB here


November 13th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

If Michigan can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball it is a victory.  I know that may seem like a 'well, duh!', but if our Oline creates holes for Fitz and he and Shaw or Smith are patient and wait for those, we will score many.  If the Dline can reign in Burkhead and keep Martinez hemmed in and force him to throw before he wants to, it will be a glorious day in the Big House.


November 13th, 2011 at 12:06 PM ^

The defence really hasn't had a bad game all year. even against MSU and Iowa they played well enough to with the game, and the offence misques are what lost us the game.

The FannMan

November 13th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

This is exactly the correct perspective.  Except for a few outliers, everyone predicted Michigan at 7 or 8 wins in August.  (I thought 7.)  They have hit that mark and looked good doing it.  They are playing defense.  Defense, bitches, defense.  This season is a success even if they lose the last two games.  It is all gravy from here.  

If this teams serves gravy on Saturday the next two weeks,  we need to carry Hoke, Borgess and Mattison around the streets in celebration.  (There will have to be a lot of us - those are some big fellas.)

Maize and Blue…

November 13th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

because 7 wins with almost everyone coming back would have been an epic failure in my eyes.  I expected 9 wins and still do.  If the team only gets one more please let it be Ohio.  I would much rather put an end to that streak then beat Nebraska though I suspect we can beat both. 

Getting to drop Wisky, Penn St., and IU and pick up Minny, Nebraska, and Northwestern was a great trade off.


November 13th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

The problem with your expectations for 2011 is that most of the 5 losses last year were not close games.  Even with some improvement, we might not have seen a significant change in our record   If the defense was only marginally better, I could easily expect another 7-5 season. 


November 13th, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

True, but you also have to factor in how much worse Michigan's schedule has become. For example, Michigan played 3 teams that finished their season 11-1 last year, and right now there only seems to be two teams on Michigan's schedule that have a chance to finish with double-digit wins (four teams if you disregard Michigan's wins over Notre Dame and SDSU, though Notre Dame still plays Stanford and SDSU still plays Boise State, so it's unlikely they win out anyway).

The FannMan

November 13th, 2011 at 3:47 PM ^

I don't base my expectations on last year's schedule.  I simply looked at our 2011 schedule in August and projected Ws and Ls given the transition and personnel.  I didn't get too invovled in analysis - just how well we could handle the teams we played.  I thought we would loose to either ND or SDSU  then loose at MSU (they are pretty good and on the road), at Iowa (at Iowa is always a problem), Nebraska and OSU.  

We are one game a head largely because we went 80 yards in 28 seconds against ND.  Other than that, my prediction is pretty much on track.  Now, Nebraska and OSU may not be as good as I thought they would be.  Heaven knows our D is better than I thought it would be.  However, OSU will be back at full strength and Nebraska will be hyped up to be at the Big House.  I think we can win either or both.  However, I wont call this year a failure if they loose both.


November 13th, 2011 at 4:22 PM ^

I think 8 wins were expected for this team this year. With all the returning starters on offense and looking at the schedule knowing the Big Ten was going to be down, 8 wins was a reasonably benchmark. I agree in that I wasn't sure if the 8th win would come against Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, Nebraska or Ohio but I thought we should  be good enough to win one of these. The defense is better, although Illinois' offense is just plain terrible. Our offense is struggling. I hope we can find a way to exceed the benchmark by beating Nebraska and Ohio. If Hoke and Co. can find a way to win one of those two,, I will say they exceeded expectations in the first year of this coaching transition.


November 13th, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

Denard just needs to work on ball security. I know that's a big deal, but the threat of his running opens everything else up.

I watched some Nebraska games this year, and everything Martinez throws is on a straight line. He never puts air under the ball. I hope our LBs are filling those passing lanes and get a pick or two.

Devin looked a lot better yesterday, but he's still pretty raw.

Braxton is a good open field runner, but if you can keep him in the pocket, he can't throw or make a decision in time. After watching the Purdue-Ohio game yesterday, I can see how MSU got 9 sacks against ohio. We've got to bring pressure AND keep him in the pocket. Will be interesting to see how he responds with Martin and Van Bergen riding him like a donkey.


November 13th, 2011 at 4:45 PM ^

Dan Herron led OSU to 33 points. Miller was 7 for 12 for 89 yards passing, and had 19 carries for 99 yards. Nice stats, but it was Herron and OSU's O-line who won that game. Two buckeye TDs came on a blocked punt and a hail mary where the defender just lost the osu WR. I didn't watch much of the osu-wis game. The OSU-MSU game and OSU-PU games are fresher in my mind, and Miller looked like a frosh in both.  Miller also had trouble beating out Bauserman for the job earlier this year. Have you seen Bauserman throw?

Devin's touch on the TD to Odoms is something I haven't seen Miller do yet. Devin hasn't gotten a chance to show what he's capable of by running a few series in a row. All this one-play-and-out stuff isn't helpful to showcasing his abilities. As of today, if I had to win a game, I'd take Devin over Braxton.

Of course, I'm an incredible M homer, but you knew that already.


November 13th, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

I was glad to see the comment about Fitz having the potential for 250 yards with a tear-away jersey.  Players getting tackled by their shirts has been happening all season.  It may not be a huge thing, but it is annoying to see the Michigan player run past someone where a tackle would normally be unlikely, only to see him pulled down from behind by the shirt.


November 13th, 2011 at 2:02 PM ^

I think that completion was residue from the GERG era. It's akin to the taint on Saidin. Mattison is cleansing the taint, but it's a tough job. (Any Wheel of Time fans out there?)

The FannMan

November 13th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

I thought is was defensive indifference.  We were trading yards for time.  It made more sense to give up 30 yards than risk a ball going over our heads.  It looked like we covered the deep wideouts and left the cross open, but little YAC.  It took them a couple of minutes after that to score.  By that point, it really didn't matter.  Given the score, I have no problem.  Had we been up 14 or less, I think you would have seen a different defense.


November 13th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

"Ron Zook, therefore Ron Zook" - Illinois' program has been around for a century now and should know better.

Anyhow, I tend to agree with the "gravy" statement when this is framed within what our average expectations might have been back in August. I remember saying that my expectation was something in the neighborhood of 8-4 anyway, but if you had asked me based just on the schedule then if I thought we would be 8-2 right now, with two winnable games left, I probably would have doubted that. 

Are Nebraska and OSU individually going to be gravy individually? By no means, but based on our performance to date, 10-2 is at least less of a fantasy than it might have been  before the season. Will we get there? Eh, let's beat Nebraska first. 


November 14th, 2011 at 12:53 AM ^

It is interesting that despite all that has happened the "fire Ron Zook" movement isn't that strong. To his credit he does have victories over every Big Ten team except for Nebraska. But despite having had individual stars on both offense and defense he hasn't been able to lead Illinois to the next tier. But evidently it is good enough for Illinois.

This was a great game for the defense and the most complete.

The past 3 years were tough on the kids, and this year's success even it ends up at 8-4 shows that the effort was there - they just needed better coaching.