At the start of the game, BTN reminded us that Brady Hoke's career record at the University of Michigan as head coach was 31-18. That means that Saturday's game against Maryland was his fiftieth game as coach. 50 is a nice round number. It makes it easy for us to compute winning percentages. 32 wins puts you at 64%. 31 wins puts you at 62%. Both are above average. Neither is very impressive, especially considering the advantages that come from coaching at the University of Michigan - budget, staffing, scheduling, facilities, recruiting, tradition, one of the better home field advantages, and an ability to attract competent assistant coaches. Considering all those advantages, 62% is failing. A monotonically downward trajectory is failing, but you all know that.
No, I mention the 50 games because on a selfish, personal note (and yeah, I know that's redundant) I have to mention that this is my fiftieth Inside the Boxscore Diary. I haven't counted them all, or done a very good job archiving them on the Blog, but I don't remember missing one - unlike a certain proprietor who sometimes feels that UFRs are optional. Believe me, they are not optional to the faithful west coast reader, who refreshes MGoBlog every few minutes on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, counting on that informative, insightful content to get him through the lunch hour. I do understand skipping the occasional UFR, because as I have learned over the past four years, and this year moreso than the rest, this team can be very hard to write about. I only write one diary a week during football season. I can't imagine having to write about this team, or better put, this coaching staff, on a daily basis. But take heart, dear readers, for we have surely witnessed the penultimate game in Brady Hoke's Michigan coaching career. Normally, the word "penultimate" sounds way cooler than it's actual meaning - the second to last - but in this case, the meaning matches the feeling.
Apparently, I've watched a lot of television, so much so, that I picked up the nickname, "TV Child" somewhere along the way. There's a hallowed tradition among television programs that when a series reaches a milestone event - the 100th episode or the 200th episode - the writers are allowed to take a break and instead of putting out new content, they assemble a "best of" or a highlights episode. Welcome to my personal "best of" edition of Inside the Boxscore.
Boxscore Link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/112214aaa.html
Play-by-Play Link: http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/mich/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/2014-…
Burst of Impetus
* Bursted impetus is more like it. There can only be one play here, the punt return for a touchdown that wasn't. I'm conditioned by years of watching football to check the screen for that little yellow "FLAG" indicator they place under the score when there is a penalty. So when Norfleet broke through the initial line of defenders, and then burst past the last man making it to the endzone, I didn't celebrate. I paused a second. I watched him get mobbed by his teammates. I exhaled, and then I celebrated. I paused the screen, rewound it, and called my wife downstairs because even though she doesn't care much for football, she likes seeing those types of plays. And then we watched it again and still there was no penalty. And then it appeared. My heart sunk, but I told myself that maybe it was just an excess celebration penalty. I think we'd all understand that. But no, they called a Michigan player for a block in the back penalty that surely looked much more like a touch in the back that didn't change the defender's impetus in the slightest. In a game where the refs seemingly let a lot slide (like Maryland lining up offsides and holding and hitting Funchess' elbow moments before the football arrived on fourth down) in an attempt to limit the eye carnage and shorten the game, they threw a flag and wiped out the one brief moment of joy we had all day. I'm tempted to say all season, but I don't want to be accused of hyperbole.
* It was senior day. Speaking of my wife, I had to explain to her that it was the senior's last home football game, and not just another futile attempt to fill the stadium. Everyone over 65 gets in free! Thankfully, we're not there yet. Hats off to the seniors, who did get to experience the Sugar Bowl victory. Things better turn around or this year's juniors will have a lousy senior day next season.
* Thank you to BTN's Eric Collins who got into the spirit of my clips show (how'd he know I was going to do this?) by recycling his "Malachi Crunch" comment.
* Joe Bolden and Jake Ryan led Michigan in tackles with 14 apiece. Ryan contributed 1 QH. While it's nice seeing your starting linebackers lead the team in tackles instead of your safeties, 14 is a lot of tackles and speaks to Michigan's inability to get Maryland off the field, particularly in the 4th quarter.
Trash Cans Full of Dirt
* This section was a season 1 staple featuring Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Matt Godin and Taco Charlton each had one of Michigan's two sacks on the day.
* Michigan's rush defense had been playing better of late, but reverted to mid-season, David Cobb runs right over you for 182 yards, level of performance, only this time, we got gashed by C. J. Brown, a fellow who was leading Maryland with something just over 300 yards on the season coming into game 11. I just don't know anymore.
* Devin Gardner was our 2nd leading rusher on the day with 82 yards on 14 carries. He also ran for Michigan's only TD on the day. His running will be needed next week if we hope to score and avoid being totally embarrassed. Ohio State is not going to be happy after the egg they laid against Indiana. Perhaps they were looking ahead to next week's game. Perhaps Michigan is looking ahead to the end of the season after next week's game. How else to explain our fourth quarter?
* Gardner was 13 for 24 passing with numerous drops and poorly thrown balls, and the requisite interception.
* Michigan averaged 6.5 yards per rushing attempt and 4.4 yards per passing attempt. I understand that passing is supposed to be more of a boom-or-bust type situation. You either get a big play down the field, or the ball falls incomplete. The reason why one passes the ball and deals with the drive-hindering incomplete passes, is that usually, on average, you gain more passing than you do rushing. When I was a kid, I learned that a 0.300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 RBIs are marks to strive for. I'm still new to the advanced stats in football, but 7 yards per attempt seems like a number you should shoot for when passing. 4.4 yards per attempt, from a fifth year senior quarterback? That brings us back to the, "is Gardner broken" discussion. He certainly ran the ball better, but he still didn't throw the ball downfield. The coaching staff will allow him to throw the long out to the sideline for a few yards, but they won't call plays to throw the ball down the center of the field. One poster has posited a belief that Gardner was hurt during the Notre Dame game. I tend to believe this because I watched him play QB last year and the year before. I don't remember his flutter balls from this season showing up last season. I don't remember him being wildly inaccurate and having major timing issues last season. The YPA stat backs this up. So he is either hurt or the coaching staff is so afraid of him throwing interceptions down the middle of the field where there are more defenders and this is more likely to occur, that they have abandoned a major feature of their beloved MANBALL philosophy. MANBALL works best when you are averaging 6.5 yards per rushing attempt like we were yesterday, so you suck in the safeties and then play action pass over their heads. That's what made Anthony Carter famous. That's what earned Braylon Edwards the #1 jersey. Michigan has thrown one deep ball all year (hyperbole alert, but not by much) - the TD to Funchess against Penn State, and even that fell in front of the safety. Have we thrown a ball over a safeties head all season? I can't remember one. And that's how you get held to 16 points against a middling Maryland team while averaging 6.5 yards per attempt rushing.
* There was a time when Michigan could run the ball effectively. In Fitzgerald Toussaint's sophomore year, he ran for more than 1000 yards. Then he got hurt, and then last year happened. This season started off slow, but the running game appears to be effective, if not exactly filthy.
* In the game of musical chairs that is our backfield, it was Drake Johnson's turn again, as he ran for 94 yards on 14 carries. Justice Hayes was also quite effective gaining 6 yards per carry. Last week's star runner, De'Veon Smith, was the only one held under 5.9 yards per carry.
San Diego 49ers
* I noted very early in the third quarter when BTN showed Funchess had 30 yards receiving on 5 catches. He finished the game with 30 yards receiving on 5 catches.
* Funchess looks as out of place on the field as would a San Diego 49er. Is he a small tight end or a large wide receiver? I don't know. I do know that dominant, #1 wearing wide receivers should be averaging over 6 yards per completion. He sits in short underneath zones and catches passes you would throw to a tight end, but too often lets a smaller DB knock the ball away. He doesn't box out the defender like a big tight end would and he doesn't stretch the field like a fast wide receiver would.
* Jake Butt caught four passes for 28 yards. He had a long of 17, meaning his other three catches went for 11 yards. Running the ball at 6.5 yards an attempt makes more sense than that.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet is listed once under the "All Returns" section of the boxscore. They did not get him involved in the running or passing game. I suppose that's because he's just getting back from injury, but it would have been nice to have another play maker available on offense.
* Norfleet returned two punts for 17 yards, three kickoffs for 74 yards, and basically won the game for us until a ref decided that that was the one play all game that needed to be called by the book.
* How do you lose when you outgain your opponent 398 yards to 312 yards? The answer is simple. Not-so-special teams (and turnovers, and failing on fourth down twice.)
* Maryland's fourth FG attempt is not in the boxscore because Jourdan Lewis roughed the kicker. On the very next play, Jourdan Lewis failed to keep contain and Maryland scooted in for a touchdown.
* Michigan's high point on the day, a 52 yard fake punt, was more than offset by a touch in the back penalty that resulted in Michigan losing 70 yards of field position, oh, and a game-deciding touchdown.
I'm an International Umpire / Big John R. Studd Referee Section
* Yeah, I never did find a good section heading for this, but I've covered these guys enough for one game.
* No hexadecimal uniforms in the boxscore, yet again. Brady Hoke gets criticized for lacking organizational skills, but I tell you this, he figured out how to give out numbers so that the boxscore didn't need to revert to hexadecimal numbers. So there's that.
* Actually, I didn't get into the M00N meme, and I'm glad that Michigan scored early to save us from the M00M meme, but Maryland countered with a FG, setting up a potential M3M3 meme, or would that be a M33M meme? See, when writers try to add things to the clips show they usually fail in spectacular fashion. Like on Seinfeld, for 99 episodes it's a TV show about four people living in New York, but for some reason during the highlights show, Jerry's allowed to break the fourth wall and talk directly to the viewer. Let's just move on.
* Maryland's second leading tacklers were Nixon and Goree.
Hey, you know the rule, no politics.
It's Brian's bolded alter-ego. Thanks for stopping by our special highlights diary. Yes, I know the rules, but it's Maryland, and that's practically the nation's capitol. Can't we make an exception this one time?
OK, I'll just post this snarky photo instead:
I hope you had as much fun traveling down memory lane as I have. But you know what the problem with the TV highlights show is? There's nothing new. That feeling that we've been here, done that, leaves us feeling disappointed that we wasted our time watching something we've already seen. After this, the penultimate game of the Brady Hoke era, I can't think of a more fitting epitaph.