Inside the Boxscore - Team 135, Game 5

Submitted by ST3 on September 28th, 2014 at 12:40 AM

     Michigan started the season with some wins and a few bad losses. Up next was their old rival, the Minnesota Gophers. Leading up to the game, the head coach was dealing with some legitimately injured players. "There was also a bunch of guys who were hurt - a little bruised and banged up, but not injured, where practicing can make it worse." There were other issues the head coach was dealing with, so he made some changes to the starting lineup. That Michigan team "couldn't do anything in the first half against the Gophers, and returned to the locker room down 9-7." One of the players looked the coach straight in the eye and said, "Coach, I'm going to play." As the story goes, the players "left that locker room jacked!" That team went out there and just ripped the Gophers. That team scored 28 points, shut down the Gophers and won 35-9. That was Bo Schembechler's first Michigan Team. The contrast to Brady Hoke's fourth Michigan team can't be more stark.*

     If you look in the boxscore, you'll notice that it doesn't explicity state what the objective of the game is. It's understood by all, one would think, that the goal is to score more points than the opposition. Indeed, the first section of the boxscore is the "Scoring Summary." The boxscore also lists players names and their contributions to the game. One would think that if one wanted to score more of these "points" than the other squad, one might want to play their best players. I'm left scratching my head wondering what Brady Hoke was trying to do in this game. In Schembechler's account of his first game against Minnesota, he admits this:

Let me tell you the God's honest truth: Even if we got beat up there in Minnesota, I would still have felt better about taking the squad I took than I would have if we'd won that game with a bunch of guys who hadn't practiced all week, guys who let their teammates down, guys who didn't take my word seriously.

     So it's obvious Schembechler had a larger goal in mind; it was a "lose the battle but win the war" mentality. Oh to be a fly on the wall in Schembechler Hall so that I might understand what Brady Hoke was trying to prove with this stunt. He sat a 5th year quarterback with significant playing experience, a player so distinguished, with so much ability, talent, and skills that he was given the honor of wearing the Tom Harmon Legends jersey, for a 2nd year quarterback with one start under his belt in college. I thought maybe, just maybe, Gardner was injured. That's the only way this makes sense to me, if the objective was to win the football game. However, when Russell Bellomy couldn't find his helmet to sub in for a play, the truth was revealed. Gardner was not injured, for if he was, Bellomy would have practiced all week and would have the slightest clue where his helmet was. No, Gardner was sat to teach some sort of lesson. I suppose it may have been about ball control, but then, why replace him with someone who has shown even less competency in this area than Gardner? Was this lesson really so much more important than giving the Team the best opportunity to win? To even explore this line of thinking casts aspersions on Gardner, and I would rather not go there. So why, Coach Hoke, why did you find it necessary to start Morris, and then further compound your error by letting him return to the huddle to start the second half? If, in fact, the object of the game is to win the game?

* first paragraph obviously borrowed heavily from Bo's lasting lessons. I think I'm going to stop doing this as Bo shouldn't be associated with whatever Brady is trying to do.

Boxscore link:

Play-by-play link:

Burst of Impetus
* Toward the end of the first half, Michigan punted to Minnesota and actually had something good happen as we were able to down the ball at the 1 yard line. Minnesota had 2 minutes and 17 seconds to drive the length of the field or at least get in field goal range. Not likely, right, 'cause they are Minnesota. Ha ha, what a joke of a team, right? They only completed one pass last week. I mean, their coach looks like a gopher. Ha ha, right? So Minnesota ran for a yard. Then they ran for four more, and Michigan called time-out, leaving Minnesota 1 minute and 31 seconds left. Everyone will tell you that was the right call, and it was; however, the defense has to make a play. On the next play, Mitch Leidner passed to Lincoln Plsek for 21 yards and all of a sudden, Minnesota had the momentum. They never gave it up. The next thing they took was our gameplan, and then our composure, and then our spirit, and then our health. And finally, they took our jug.
* Imagine the boos if Brady had let the clock run out on that 3rd and 5 play. Let's consider the alternative. Let's just say the defense made a stop, or the much derided Mitch Leidner floated a pass and Minnesota had to punt. We'd get the ball back with a minute left at midfield with no timeouts and a QB making his first start in the Big House. A QB who had shown nothing so far, having thrown for 41 yards on 10 attempts for a 4.1 YPA average. I read this blog a lot. I mean, A LOT. I've learned that 4.1 YPA is not very good. So is that a situation that instills any confidence in you? I'm afraid the correct call in this very strange situation would have been to let Minnesota run the clock out and go into half at 7-7. The next correct call would have been to thank Shane for his efforts, but to let Gardner start the 2nd half.

"What kind of throw was that?"
* Shane finished 7 for 19 for 49 yards with one interception. I guess that's about what you'd expect from a QB that entered the game 7 for 20. Yet Coach Hoke thought Morris gave the team the best opportunity to win, or something else, whatever that might be.

"I thought he was good."
* One thing that my son's teacher is trying to teach him is to use descriptive language when he writes. Saying, "I thought he was good," is somewhat vague. At this point, I don't know if Gardner is still good, (I know he is not "legendary") but I can say that he is better than Morris right now. Gardner was only 3 for 6 and had some dangerous looking throws, but he did average 6.5 YPA, and that at least isn't bad.

"That doesn't help at all."
* De'Veon Smith led Michigan with 57 yards rushing on 9 carries and had a touchdown. He carried once in the second half for 2 yards. The whole point of toughness-manball-toughness is that you wear down your opposition and make hay in the 2nd half. Giving your one back who showed anything in the first half only one second half carry, "doesn't help at all."
* Derrick Green had 4 first half carries for 10 yards. He was given two 2nd half carries and lost 2 yards. Everybody say it with me, "that doesn't help at all."
* Michigan received the kick to start the second half. We were hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and began the drive at the 12.5 yard line (half way to the goal from the 25.) The boxscore shows 2 penalties for 23 yards, so it appears they round up. I've always wondered about that.
* So the big halftime adjustment was to give the ball to Green, the guy who wasn't gaining yards in the first half, and then throw to Darboh, the guy who wasn't getting open in the first half. Hurray for haltime adjustments.
* One of Michigan's few experienced offensive linemen, Erik Magnuson, didn't play. I didn't hear why.
* Net punting yardage was pretty even at 38.2 for Minnesota and 39.2 for Michigan. So even though I'm tempted to complain about the punting strategy, I'll let that one slide this week.

"I could run better than that. He just stops."
* See above.
* Minnesota did have 6 TFLs. I noticed on at least two of them, the play design asks the offensive tackle to downblock a guy 1.5 gaps away from him. I don't see how this is supposed to work.

* Another quote from Bo's lasting lessons:

We took every opponent seriously, and even if we were heavy favorites-and we usually were-our goal was to get better every game.

Does that sound like a Brady Hoke-coached team? How are we taking the Gophers seriously if we think we can win with our backup quarterback and his one career start?

"Another huddle? Really?"
* The blog has complained about the offense and special teams, but generally feels satisfied with the defense. There's a common refrain that goes, well, they played well for awhile but just wore down as the offense couldn't get anything going. The defense was on the field for 70 plays. That's not that many more than normal, thanks to the slow tempo. The defense was actually stout when Ryan Glasgow was in the game. Whenever he came out, Cobb gashed us.

24 Points
* The defense gave up 23 of the 30 points. Only 10 points were scored on drives that covered more than 40 yards, so I'll concede that the offense and special teams put the defense in some pretty tough situations. But on the flip side, the defense didn't force any turnovers and didn't put our offense in very good positions either.
* The defense gave up 20 first downs and 5.3 yards per play to Minnesota. Michigan was held to 12 first downs (three coming via Minnesota penalty) and 3.2 yards per play. At least the boxscore and the final score make sense this week.
* In a game where Minnesota's lead running back, David Cobb, carried the ball 32 times, Jake Ryan recorded 5 tackles. Read that again. Let it sink in. If, oh I don't know, someone like Chris Spielman was playing linebacker and the opponent's running back had 32 carries, I'd expect Spielman to make 15-20 tackles. I guess what I'm saying is we really missed Desmond Morgan in this game.
* Let's give some credit to Minnesota's line for identifying Michigan's defensive leader and taking him out of the game. Their line played like Epping Campions.
* Will Hagerup made a tackle. I guess under the circumstances that's better than not making a tackle.

"What is facilitating the comfort level?"
* Hurray, I finally have a section heading for inane announcer comments.
* Jineene Edwards (?) asked this of Jerry Kill before halftime. His answer was direct and to the point, "He is gettin' comfortable." So gettin' comfortable facilitates the comfort level. A ha, I'll have to remember that for our next game.
* Shane Morris is from Hazel Park, Michigan, not Minnesota, as Mike Patrick incorrectly stated. This only matters to me since ST1 moved from Pennsylvania to Hazel Park many years ago because of Grandma's hazel eyes. At least that's what he used to tell us. And it's for that reason that I'm a Michigan fan instead of say, the Pitt Panthers, or - shudders - Penn State.
* I thought Ed Cunningham did a fine job. Mike Patrick was horrible, unless you think it's acceptable to mix up Berkley Edwards (5' 9", 190 lbs) with Blutarsky Wolitarsky (6' 3", 226 lbs.)
* Ryan Glasgow, JourDON Lewis, and RayMONE Taylor facilitate my comfort level. (Those last two are thanks to Mike Patrick.) Starting Shane Morris does not facilitate my comfort level. Looking at Brady Hoke on the sidelines does not bring me any comfort.



September 28th, 2014 at 9:31 AM ^

Thanks for providing objective evidence to back up what I saw at the game.

1. De"Veon Smith had great sucess running the ball - so agree with your exasperated question as to why in the second half when the game was still winnable did he not get more touches and chances.

2. The running game had some success but then it seems to be abandonned. Look at the Gophers, Their running back Cobb was stopped many times with little or no gain but the Gophers didn't abandon their running game - sure some of the later yards were to chew up the clock but they didn't panic during the period between down 7-0 to being up 13-7.

4. Devin Gardner and Shane Morris had to be kept out of 2nd and 10 and 3rd and long situations - times they would be vulnerable to pressure and pressure related mistakes but that seemed to happen nonetheless.

5. A shorter field definitely makes a difference - watching the two teams trade punts during the first half and into the 3rd quarter makes this point - easier to score if you have to only run 4-5 plays for a "scoring drive" as opposed to a 12 play drive.

Thanks again and argghh... I just have to see this all of the way through ....


September 28th, 2014 at 10:08 AM ^

Fewest Penalties Per Game 3
Kickoff Return Defense  61
Kickoff Returns  90
Net Punting  115
Turnover Margin  125
   Turnovers Gained  122
      Passes Intercepted  99
      Fumbles Recovered  117
   Turnovers Lost  124
      Passes Had Intercepted  119
      Fumbles Lost  100



September 28th, 2014 at 11:29 AM ^

As usual, a good write-up.

I was amazed that the team went away from running with Smith, especially since it seemed like the one competent element of the offense.  The blocking still seems goofy, but at the same time that could very well be what the play calls for.  

The lack of any downfield passing threat was very troubling, especially given how little Funchess was able to provide as the game progressed.  Pass blocking didn't help, but it felt like an offense afraid to throw down the field, and that wasn't going to help anyone given how Minnesota was crowding the box.


September 28th, 2014 at 12:39 PM ^

It seems worth noting in the QB section that with Gardner getting benched, Michigan has now gone 11 years without having a senior QB start the entire season since Navarre did it in 2003. Henne was hurt much of his senior year, then Tate happened and didn't even get to his, well, sophomore season I guees, then Denard also had an injury plagued senior season. So unless Bellomy starts every game next year it'll be another couple seasons before someone can do it.


September 28th, 2014 at 12:49 PM ^

A lot of the observations you have and am not sure how the media doesn't ask about them.  I know dumber stuff happened, but not running Smith, the clock management decisions like calling a timeout before Minnesota spiked the ball or not going for 4th/10 with 4 minutes left down two scores.  They should ask if we would consider hiring someone intelligent to just sit and tell Hoke what to do when game decisions are to be made because it's at the point where someone with marginal football knowledge would do better. 


September 28th, 2014 at 2:22 PM ^

I didn't mind Michigan starting Shane. Initially after the Utah game, I thought it was the only thing to do as Devin Gardner looked so beat down it just didn't make sense for him to play anymore. As the week went on, realizing that sports are crazy and we hadn't lost in the Big Ten, I leaned back the other way, hoping Gardner would play, because regardless of how he looked against Utah, he's still better than Shane right now. 

Still, I understand that they were looking for something (anything) from the QB position. It just didn't happen. I don't think it makes much difference if DG plays yesterday. 


September 28th, 2014 at 2:44 PM ^

The comments on this thread concerning Smith and RunPlays are correct I believe.  The RB-TD run was likely 33-ZONE to LT.  ZONE= zone-blocking.


LT happens to M-Cole.  I too had thought the Mch-O had Found Something to LT, but in the end it never really got there for one reason or another.


The Old Schembechler School, in part, always sought to find a RunPlay that works, whether IN-Game or Game-To-Game, and to use it as Marker so to speak.  A kind-of Sustained Probing Action, by which to Monitor D-Call Sequences.


And-- For A Brief Moment-- I thought I saw this from the Mch-O.


In then end--  the O-call Sequencing is linked to the-OC.  And the OC is Nussmeier  . . .