Inside the Boxscore - Team 134, Game 3

Submitted by ST3 on September 15th, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    Unlike Bronxblue, I didn't take any notes during the game. My thinking was, hey, we're playing Akron, how much effort do I really need to put into this? Unfortunately, it appears the entire operation - offense, defense, special teams, scout teams, coaching, the students, and the band* - felt the same way. The boxscore will tell you that this game was played Sept. 14, but it sure felt like it was still Friday the 13th.

    Before we wring our hands, gnash our teeth, rend our garments and run around screaming in panic-mode, let's remember what this game was: the classic letdown game. I don't understand the psychology of "playing to the level of your opposition," but I've seen it enough times to know it's real. Michigan played down to Akron's level, and the Zips did their best to seize the opportunity. We were just one play and one yard better than them on this day.

*Before BandoCalrissian gets up in my grill, where was Beyonce?

Burst of Impetus
* There were surprisingly many plays where the momentum changed hands. The 2nd quarter turnover-fest was wrought with impetus changing plays. The key moment in the game to me was late in the 2nd quarter, with Akron driving. Pohl lofted a beautiful pass headed right into the hands of his receiver, only to have a beaten Jourdan Lewis swipe at the receiver's arms moments before the ball arrived. The flags remained in the officials pockets. Akron ended up missing a 45 yard field goal and we went to half up 7-3. Those three points would end up being huge as Akron got down to our 1 on the last play of the game, but needed 4 to tie instead of 3 to win. I think the other big thing about that play is it let Akron know that their WRs could beat our non-Countessian corners 1 on 1, and they would go back to that twice in the 2nd half for huge gains. Akron drives in the first half went for 12, 26, 4, -2, 33, 47, and 0 yards. In the 2nd half, they had drives go for 75, 59, 67, and 71 yards. Pohl was only 5 of 14 for 60 yards at half, but was 20 for 35 for 251 yards in the second half. Clearly, they made adjustments on offense, and I think the biggest were challenging Lewis and Taylor, and getting O'Dorizzi matched up against our linebackers.

Unit Desperately in Need of an Identity
* 23 players showed up in the defensive stats section, but not for the reasons I would have guessed before the game. Five of those were offensive players, due to the turnovers and possible special teams play.
* 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?
* For the folks bemoaning our lack of a pass rush, we did end up with 8 QHs. For as long as I've tracked that, which is not long, that strikes me as a big number. We didn't get any sacks, but what is the right number of sacks to get per game? Is it 2 or 3? So if they get the 2 or 3 sacks, is their job done? Of course not. I'm more worried about the other ~70 plays during the game. I contend that QHs and QB completion percentage are also valuable metrics to look at. 8 QHs and ~50% completion percentage suggest that the line's performance wasn't all bad.
* JR3 was the defensive leader for the game with 10 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass broken up.
* Countess and Wilson each had an INT, making a profit out of Magnus. I bet Stribling would have gotten the third INT if he had been in there instead of Lewis.

Young 98
* Gardner was responsible for all four turnovers. Yes, the INT to Funchess deflected off of his hands, but that throw was into traffic and shouldn't have been made. I was hoping the turnover problem was going to go away with Denard and his inability to see over the line. It's still happening. So at this point, we have to say it's systemic, which gets to coaching. Are the coaches asking Devin to do too much? For example, on the option play, he should have pitched to Toussaint. But how often does Devin practice that play, considering all the under center, shotgun, pistol, read-options, power, zone-blocking, and inverted and extroverted veers he's asked to run? He certainly didn't look comfortable on that play, even though it was the perfect audible and play to run against that defensive formation.
* Gardner was 16 for 30 for 248 yards and 2 TDs passing. His long was 48 yards to Funchess, but that was the result of YAC. As numerous posters have pointed out, we didn't test Akron deep all day. My self-annointed deep threat from game 1, Joe Reynolds, caught one pass for 1 yard.

20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* We ran for 177 yards on 32 attempts, better raw numbers than the ND game, but I thought the performance against ND was better. Why? I'm sure we all remember Barry Sanders. He could make an amazing run, but then be stopped for a 5 yard loss on the next play, trying to make something happen. So, would you rather have a back who goes for 20, 3, and -5 yards (total = 18), or a back who goes for a dependable 4, 4, and 4 yards (total = 12). I'll take the fours, because it keeps drives alive. We only had 10 third downs in this game, and went 3 of 10 on them. Had the line held up better and eliminated all of the negative carries for Toussaint, we could have MANBALLED Akron. Instead, they ran 79 plays to our 62, and never let us get in a rhythm offensively.
* Fitz had 19 carries for 71 yards, and Gardner had 10 for 103. Green, Chesson and TEAM had 1 carry each. I thought we had 5 or 6 RBs on the depth chart.

V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Gallon was one of the few bright spots, catching 6 balls for 66 yards.
* Funchess and Butt each caught two passes, but I suspect their UFR blocking numbers aren't going to be great. Folks think that our edge blocking is good because of Lewan and Schofield, but Akron attacked the edge with their defense because without Williams, we are left with two-undersized TEs who haven't mastered the finer points of blocking just yet.
* Dileo was held without a catch. WHY, BORGES, WHY?!?

* Graham Glasgow got a tackle, by falling on a guy who recovered Gardner's fumble. It's usually not a good sign to see O-linemen getting in the boxscore.

My boxscore has a Butt Cheek in it
* In addition to Jake Butt's two catches, Akron's Bryce Cheek had two tackles. Did anyone get a photo of the two of them standing side-by-side?

Norf and Souf
* Norfleet caught two passes for 20 yards. He only had one kick return for 15 yards and no punt returns. It's almost like Akron scouted us, or something. Imagine that. Meanwhile we had no clue what to do with D'Orazio and kept treating him like a tight end instead of a slot receiver. But why bother scouting Akron, AMIRITE? So you don't almost end up one play away from the Horror II. Like I said, I think it was a total team letdown, including the coaches, scouts, and scout team. If I can suggest an MGoQuestion for this week's press conferences, it would be, did they bother to scout Akron? and is that what Brady meant by the coaches not doing enough last week?

Meh Teams
* Our special teams have not been special so far. We gave up more than a first down on every exchange of punts. That's bad.
* Gibbons missed his only attempted FG, but he was due to miss one. I just wish I didn't have that gut feeling that he was going to miss. It's just how the day went.
* The silver lining to the special teams cloud was that the kickoff teams were ~6 yards per kick better than Akrons.

I'm an international umpire
* They saved our bacon, as I pointed out in the impetus section. The pass interference they called on Butt's defender at the end of the game wasn't nearly as bad as Lewis' hacking across the arms of the Akron receiver.
* Akron's fans should be furious at the refs, but that raises an interesting question. Does Akron have any fans? And if so, why? Whenever the conversation starts about the smaller schools trying to compete with the football factories, Akron is brought up as an example of a school that should de-emphasize football. And yet, they almost beat us.
* Penalties were even at 5 apiece. The penalties on us seemed to wipe out bigger gains and were more consequential, but we deserved them.

Fig Things
* The attendance was 107,120. That's not a sell-out, but to be fair, when I was a student, that would have set the record for the largest crowd in Michigan history. The stadium has grown, meanwhile, the population of the state has decreased. We may have reached the limit on what the market will accept.
* Michigan came into the game with three impressive streaks going - Hoke's home winning streak, Gibbons FG accuracy streak, and the Team's redzone efficiency streak. We left the game with only one streak, but it's the most important one.

* Since our staff apparently didn't bother to scout Akron, I did a little research on them. They play in InfoCision stadium, which sounds like a novel surgery technique.
* In their last game, James Madison tallied 12 more first downs than Akron. They also sacked Akron 4 times, but had 0 QBH's.
* The attendance at their last home game was 19,653. So apparently, they do have fans, but I have to ask again, why?
* Akron's helmets have images of zippers running along the top. I thought "Zipperhead" was this guy:

A black-and-white film poster featuring a man's face and the word "Eraserhead"
but apparently, he's Eraserhead, and there is no "Zipperhead," except that's a slang term our GI's called Koreans during the Korean war, so let's just forget I brought this up. I've always been terrorified of Eraserhead, but I've never seen the movie. A question for the MGoCommunity, is that worth watching?

I had a great anecdote planned for this diary, comparing Dad to Forest Gump, but I'll save that for when we are in a better mood. Instead, I'll just leave you with one his sayings, "On any given Saturday, any given team can beat any other team." And that's why we play the games...





September 15th, 2013 at 7:28 PM ^

I agree with the premise that quarterback hurries/hits and completion percentage are valuable for showing some degree of pressure, but the big advantage of a sack is that it means you've forced negative yardage against the offense and, hopefully, really planted the QB.  It costs them a down and some yardage, while hits don't necessarily mean the pass wasn't completed or something positive didn't occur. 

Also, I too remember when 107,000 would have been pretty full.  I do think part of the problem filling the stadium is that, well, Akron is kind of a crap opponent to shell out what I can only imagine is hundreds of dollars for tickets, parking, souvenir Kraft cheese drink cups, and Dave Brandon's post-UTL service charges to sit in a seat that was once sat in by the largest crowd in college football history.

Great stuff, as usual.


September 16th, 2013 at 1:19 AM ^

The west coast offense in particular demands a great deal of timing and difficult post-snap reads.  I thought Devin looked out-of-sync all day on Saturday and he has struggled throughout his career at making throws on time.  Devin is a smart guy and I am sure he can handle a lot mentally, but maybe he's just not getting enough repetitions on a few base plays to really master them?  If so, simplifying the offense may well be a good strategy for improving overall execution and cutting down on the bad mistakes.  

I also think Borges should scrap the speed option and anything else that requires the QB pitch the ball while on-the-run.  If you don't practice those pitches regularly, you will turn the ball over on those plays more often than not.  


September 15th, 2013 at 8:32 PM ^

Great read. Devin should get benched with another performance like that. Hoke needs to make a point. And also, Hoke needs to get a god damn headset when his defensive staff is failing him and to tell Borges stop obsessing about a passing game and run the damn ball out of the god damn I with two TEs AND a fullback. They are Akron, we are Michigan. Size vs. size, we win. (I know it's a little naive to say that, but 80% of the time it works)

Devin can only learn so much, it seems like Borges is just dumping too many complicated schemes that he's learned from his long career on him. When you try to do too many things, you won't do anything well. Devin might rebound the next couple weeks, but until Borges puts a solid offensive gameplan against a good team (win not required) he will be a target of criticism. South Carolina in the Outback Bowl was the best we've seen thus far, and that left a lot to be desired.


September 16th, 2013 at 1:46 PM ^

and maybe to hubris. If the offensive coaching staff assumed that this game would be a blow-out, and game-planned to use it like an extended practice, then Devin running plays outside his comfort zone is probably exactly what we should have expected. You only get better at things if you work on them, right?

Also, it's easy to say "Devin should be benched with another performance like that." But it's not realistic. Be honest: at this point, even a struggling Devin Gardner is still a better option than a not-yet-ready Shane Morris or an under-arm-strengthed Brian Cleary. After all, Gardner still had 100+ yards on the ground, and it turned out we needed every one of them.


September 15th, 2013 at 9:17 PM ^

Akron ended up missing a 45 yard field goal and we went to half up 7-3.

Bowden really gave Michigan a gift there. He was going to go for it on 4th & 1 (which he should have done, IMO). He changed his mind, but sent out the FG unit too late, and got a delay of game. The FG clanked off the left upright, so it probably would have been good from five yards closer.

Norfleet caught two passes for 20 yards. He only had one kick return for 15 yards and no punt returns. It's almost like Akron scouted us, or something. Imagine that. 

I can't call that scouting, as Michigan hasn't had a good punt return unit since Braylon Edwards graduated. Norfleet seems hesitant to catch the ball, which is understandable given his performance in the first two games, but I am not sure what he's contributing in that spot. (They did send Dileo out there at least once.)

snarling wolverine

September 15th, 2013 at 9:25 PM ^

I don't understand the psychology of "playing to the level of your opposition," but I've seen it enough times to know it's real

I think it's pretty easy to understand actually. Before a big game, everyone's focused that week in practice. Everyone knows the importance and will make the extra effort to get ready. And on game day, everyone understands the gameplan and knows their assignments. Maybe they don't all play their best, but it's not because they aren't prepared.

But before a cupcake game, not everyone is focused in practice. If you're a player, maybe all that extra effort you put in for the big game left you a little tired and you don't really feel like busting your butt to study up everything on an opponent that seems so bad. And then you go into the game, and - oh crap - you realize you don't remember that thing Coach was telling you about their blocking scheme.  And then you make a bunch of dumb mistakes because you're doing what was in last week's gameplan and this opponent is different.  When this kind of thing happens to a bunch of guys in the lineup, then you have a recipe for a sloppy, closer-than-it-should-be game.

Being "flat" isn't necessarily so much about the game itself, but about how hard (or not hard) you get ready for it beforehand.



September 15th, 2013 at 9:32 PM ^

Eraserhead is one of my all-time favorite movies.  However, you have to be somewhat twisted, overly interested in overly-artistic films or overly interested in watching said films while under some sort of psychadelic influence.  If this is not you, you might want to pass.

Football game?  I choose not to comment.


September 15th, 2013 at 11:12 PM ^

Why the mentioning of the PI call before Michigan's last TD like it was a even a minor turing point in the game that Akron fans ought to consider to be some sort of poor call?  (This also came up in Bowden's presser like it home cookin' from the refs that might have cost them the game.)

I mean, it's certainly worth talking about, but it occured on first down and didn't negate an INT or anything "major."  Michigan was within field goal range (so at a minimum a tie was a strong possibility). The offense seemed focused and was moving the ball really well on that drive and while it led to a score on the next play, if anything the PI set up a situation that got Akron the ball back with quite a bit of time left. I much rather the ref had let it go and we spent another minute or two using more clock and/or forcing Akron to finish up it's timeouts. And, yes, I'm very confident the team still puts a TD in without the PI.  



September 16th, 2013 at 11:05 AM ^

to allow more contact and hand play by receivers and dbs in situations involving contested throws. I did think Michigan should have been flagged for PI on that call. But that was a deep post route with no over the top help, and Michigan switched Lewis from corner coverage in the third after he got beat to Taylor, who is the regular starter and a veteran, and he got beat worse than Lewis did, late. His guy ran right on by. That should never happen. 

So, two things, Akron went to school off the non-call by running a number of deep middle pass routes in the second half, which accounts for the adjustment referenced. They felt that their tall rangy receivers could beat Michigan's secondary either on the fly or by jump ball. And what's more, I never saw the reaction of the Akorn sideline to the early non-PI call, which, if they argued strenously, would have planted the seed for the next call. 

Again, early in a game, officials are trying to adjust to the speed of the competition just like the players. So, sometimes they let things go, because they'd rather give the benefit of the doubt than making a call.

Just saying this is an observation based on watching a multitude of games, and understanding the mindset of an official. Angle is the other issue on that call. 

Akron decided it could go deep because Michigan really wasn't blitzing or forcing the kind of pressure that prevented their qb from making plays when he had to escape the pocket. Beyond that they picked on Bolden, Lewis and then Taylor. And it wasn't so much the defenders as the matchups presented by the defense. 

And those guys weren't the only guys getting beat over the middle, largely because of the failure of the lbs to get deeper drops. Akron ran the ball enough with Chisolm and had enough success with his runs, to keep Michigan guessing. And to that extent, the Zips were more balanced and more in rhythm in running their gameplan. Michigan never really shut them down or took away anything. They just kept bending before making the Alamo stand at game's end. 


September 15th, 2013 at 11:23 PM ^

While perhaps the hurries were important the breakdowns were more.  The biggest play on Akron's last drive was the pass down to the 11 yard line.  Pohl was rolling to his right with the entire Michigan d-line buried in a pile.  While I don' t discount your stats, I really didn't see much pressure all day.


September 16th, 2013 at 1:27 AM ^

The entire line getting dumped into that pile is my lasting image of that game.  I won't be surprised if a still from that play winds up like the famous shot of our DB running the wrong way in coverage against Penn State, or the one with all four of Ohio State's defensive linemen bearing down on Henne immediately after a snap in the 2007 game.

I have confidence in Hoke & Mattison and I think they will get this fixed, but the Heininger Certainty Principle is definitely being tested right now.


September 16th, 2013 at 10:28 AM ^

This may be borne out in UFR, but it seemed the second half defensive line rotation was similar to the ND game.  I remember scanning the bodies after a few of those run plays and it appeared we had Wormley/Black as our DTs.  And with Heitzman not providing much in the way of pass rush (however, is anybody?) I didn't see him as much as Mario and Clark, even Taco got some run.  As I said, I don't have the playing time stats to back this but that was the sub rotation I observed.

MMB 82

September 16th, 2013 at 11:25 AM ^

How did Countess and Wilson make money out of Magnus? Perhaps a prophet would be able to predict if/when the NCAA allows athletes to be paid.

btw- I saw Eraserhead on campus many years ago while "under the influence." Not a good idea.....

Jeff Fa Fah Pillon

September 17th, 2013 at 7:46 AM ^

What's the deal with Norfleet not catching the damn ball on punts?  Even a fair catch will save us plenty of yards.  All afternoon, and through the first 3 games, I've watched every punt go bouncing down the field, resulting in 15plus yards lost on every change of possession.  All I ask is that he wave his freakin' arm and catch the ball where it falls.  His job is to catch the ball, isn't it?!