Inside the Boxscore - Team 135, Game 6

Submitted by ST3 on October 5th, 2014 at 6:06 PM

     I, for the most part, kept my comments to meaningless snark this past week, as I don't think I'm close enough to the situation to weigh in on Brandon, his handling of the athletic department, or concussion-gate. I do know enough about football; however, to blame the coaching staff for costing Team 135 three victories so far this season.

#1 - A stubborn refusal to embrace modern punting strategy and failure to count players on the punt team leads to a Utah punt return touchdown. Emboldened, Utah rose to the occasion and played significantly better in the second half. It's worth remembering that Michigan outgained Utah 308 yards to 286 yards. That was a winnable game.
#2 - Brady Hoke makes the decision to start Shane Morris over Devin Gardner, and stays with him long after it is obvious that playing Gardner gives the team the best chance to win. After leading Michigan on their lone first half scoring drive, De'Veon Smith gets one carry in the 2nd half.
#3 - Michigan calls for a hurry-up quarterback sneak with 2 minutes and 24 seconds left in the first half. At the time, Rutgers only had one timeout left. Michigan fails to score on the play, but does so on the next play. The additional 20 seconds Michigan could have run off the clock provides Rutgers enough time to score a touchdown instead of a field goal on their next possession. Michigan loses by 2 points.

So that's three very different aspects of the game - special teams strategy, personnel decisions, and clock management. This coaching staff made egregious errors in all three.

Boxscore link:

Play-by-play link:

Burst of Impetus
* I don't know. It was back and forth and for awhile it seemed like neither team wanted to win. The only time we stopped Rutgers on defense was when their receiver would drop a pass. They even failed to block Frank Clark on a blitz up the middle, but he failed to wrap up the QB, allowing the TD at the end of the half. Rutgers called a ridiculous fake punt on 4th and 10 and gave us the ball back in great field position. Michigan went in to score a TD, but called an equally ridiculous hurry up QB sneak to leave Rutgers with enough time to score at the end of the half.

"What kind of throw was that?"
* I think if Gardner had started against Minnesota and played to this level, we would have won. He was 13 for 22 for 178 yards. He distributed the ball to 7 different receivers. The one critical error he made is one he has made throughout his career. Rutgers blitzed, leaving Gardner little time to find an open receiver. He avoided the rush, but instead of tossing the ball forward to Hayes, who could have easily scampered for a first down, Gardner lofted the ball downfield. The Rutgers defender could have called for a fair catch as he waited for it to gently flutter down into his open arms. Funchess was a good 5-10 yards away from the play.

"That doesn't help at all."
* Calling for a hurry-up, when that is exactly what Rutgers wants you to do. When the other team is happy you did something, that's usually a bad sign.

1A and 1B
* Derrick Green re-stated his case for being the feature back, as he carried 12 times for 74 yards. Your lead back averaged 6.2 yards per carry and he got 12 carries. The running game looked better, especially in the fourth quarter. We have got to figure out some way to get our lead running back more carries. Part of that is figuring out how to get the defense off the field. Rutgers was 8 for 16 on third down.
* Michigan rushed for 158 yards to Rutgers' 74. I don't want to hear anymore criticisms of the offensive line, unless they deserve it. They played well enough to win the game. The defensive backs played poorly enough to lose three games. Yes, Rutgers sacked Gardner three times, but we sacked Nova twice. Sacks happen. That's football.
* We only gave up 5 TFLs, while TFL'ing Rutgers 8 times. The story of the game is not our offensive line troubles. It is our defense giving up passing plays of 26, 53, 26, 14, 12, 80, 33, and 16 yards. Those are just the long receptions for eight different Rutgers receivers. It would be one thing to be beaten by Leonte Carroo. I've heard he's pretty good. But Janarion Grant, Tyler Kroft, Desmon Peoples, and Andrew Turzilli? That's just zilli, peoples.

"Another huddle? Really?"
* Well, we scrapped the huddle during portions of the game. The pace was still lacking as we spent long periods looking to the sideline to get the play. The point of skipping the huddle is to prevent the defense from substituting when you have a personnel advantage. Gashing them for 8 yards on a run when their nickel defense is in, and then passing on the next play doesn't accomplish anything. The key to the no-huddle is to get the opponents in a mismatch and then exploit the mismatch.

24 Points
* We scored 24 points. According to Bo, that should be good enough to win. Rutgers only had 74 yards rushing. That should be good enough to win. It's those 402 passing yards that Rutgers gained...
* The announcers were going on and on (well, except for Shaun O'Hara, who never spoke. Do they have someone in the booth checking every 5 minutes or so to see if he's still alive?) about how Friedgen likes to go deep. If the announcers can figure that out in the couple hours they put in preparing for the game, why is it that our defense seemed completely surprised and unprepared for their deep passes? On one long pass, I saw three M defenders covering Carroo (meaning Nova missed someone else glaringly wide open.) On the 80 yard TD, Countess was obviously expecting safety help that wasn't there. (Which is also a symptom of poor coaching.)

Facilitating the Comfort Level
* I used to cover the officials in this diary. I stopped doing that because they have a tough job to do and don't need some crazy internet conspiracist to cast aspersions on their character. That said, I was a little curious to see who worked this game. Unfortunately, Dave Brandon placed a Geico ad over the officials' names. They were a little difficult to resolve, but I think this is what it says:

Referee: Tony Soprano
Umpire: Chris Moltisanti
Linesman: Silvio Dante
Line Judge: Paulie Gualtieri
Back Judge: Bobby Baccalieri
Side Judge: Vito Spatafore
Field Judge: Phil Leotardo
Alternate: Vince McMahon*

I don't want to suggest that the umpires were paid off by the mob, but during the Rutgers University commercial, they highlighted their efforts in plastics recycling, AKA, waste management.

*I threw that last one in there for BronxBlue. I gotta say, I'm a little surprised he didn't have a "Worst: the Piscataway Screwjob" section.



October 5th, 2014 at 6:55 PM ^

It's remarkable that you two continue to post these every week, I commend your resolve. I find myself feeling silly just watching the games each week much less putting forth a bunch of effort to write well-written summaries and opinion pieces

One small quibble: I think the no huddle and look to the sideline, even if it slows things down, is better than the super slow huddle and get to the like with five seconds on the play clock. That way you see the defense's alignment and coordinators c(and Devin) can change the play pre-snap accordingly

snarling wolverine

October 5th, 2014 at 7:16 PM ^

The additional 20 seconds Michigan could have run off the clock provides Rutgers enough time to score a touchdown instead of a field goal on their next possession.

Eh, I think Rutgers would have found a way to score in any event. They'd have just called different plays.  Mattison's defenses can't hack it against the two-minute drill - that's pretty well-established.


October 5th, 2014 at 8:13 PM ^

It doesn't strike me as big a sin.  Notwithstanding the discovery that we could run against them, managing the clock is completely secondary to actually scoring a freaking touchdown.  It's been so long, I kind of forgot what it was like.  So, doing something clever that typically works isn't something I'm going to complain about b/c it gives a team an extra 20 seconds.

Trying to disagree w/o being disagreeable.


October 5th, 2014 at 10:53 PM ^

Agreed. Running a hurried QB sneak in a short-yardage situation is an actual, common play. New England runs it all the time (and in fact just ran it an hour ago against the Bengals at the goal line) -- you try and catch the defense when they're not set and sneak/push your way in.

With UM's paucity of points these past games, their entire focus was (and should have been) on whatever plays they thought would score 6 pts. If it bled clock as well, bonus. BTW, for the next play, they DID bleed clock, running the Smith play with less than 10 secs on the game clock.

The score at the end of the half by Rutgers is on the UM defense, not Brady Hoke's clock mgmt. He's got enough evidence of not knowing what he is doing without coming up with something that I don't think has real merit.


October 5th, 2014 at 11:54 PM ^

In the second half, I knew each time Rutgers lined up a cluster of three receivers that our secondary would get flummoxed, and screw it up, and they did.  The only surprise was why Friedgen didn't do it more.  When he did it, I thought to myself, our guys are not trained well enough in the basics to play this right.  What is wrong with the defensive coaching where Friedgen could predict they are not well trained.

I dumped the Dope

October 6th, 2014 at 5:02 AM ^

Frank Clark needs to make that play or at least leap 10 feet tall to block the passing attempt.  I can live with him getting some form of body contact or at least forcing the qb to completely abandon his view downfield since a large guy has his hands up blazing a path unblocked.

The "quick score before half" is a continuing frustration with the Defense.  I think almost every single team, save for maybe App St has done this.  I havent diagnosed exactly why yet but coupled with our losing the coin toss almost every game and thus the opposing team then gets the ball back right after half, is a big momentum shift.

I was pleased with the way the offense responded to penalties (obviously, want them eliminated) but just trying to get "half of it back" on 2nd down and then cleaning up on 3rd down got us back in the game...previously these would have been drive killers.

Hagerup has lost some of his magic.  I have yet to see him boom a spiraling punt that drives the return guy back, not going to speculate why.  He does have a decent pooch-style kicking end-over-end but we could use some a long one every once in awhile.  Allen, judging from practice side-by-sides doesn't have quite the leg as Hagerup...

I have yet to see a replay of the 3rd down Darboh play, the stadium wouldn't show it on video replay and ESPN only would show the blocked kick.  Hoping it will be in a UFR or on BTN.

I question the 57(?) yard FG attempt a little bit.  Wile probably has the leg but the probability seems low on aim.  Obviously 4th & 9 isn't a desirable situation for passing but I'm thinking Funchess somehow.  Or the trips left and run Gardner right similar to the red zone play where he scored.  There was some luck involved there breaking a tackle.  A sure 9 yards is hard to get tho.

Hoping Peppers can return.  We need his services.


October 6th, 2014 at 11:42 AM ^

UM secondary was smoked, big plays were given up mulitple times, the defense had a hard time getting off the field on 3rd downs, the D line couldn't get pressure on Nova. The dude played pitch and catch pretty much all game to wide open receivers. That was a rough defensive performance to watch. I fear what Hackenberg can do with some time.


October 6th, 2014 at 6:34 PM ^

Is terrible. I think we have been so God awful the last few years we believe we are adequate because we had a couple of good runs. Too many TFLs. Absolutely very little push up the middle and generally very inconsistent play.

Truthfully the 2 nd TD was a gift from Rutgers. Yes.. Improvement in the 4th quarter gives the O-line a D.