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: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/092714aaa.html
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.
* 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.