After nearly every game this season, my son would ask me if I took notes on the game for the diary. It's something I started doing early on when I realized this was going to become part of my weekend ritual. But this season I decided I wanted to just watch the games and experience Harbaugh's first season as a fan. You only get one chance to make a first impression in life, and I didn't want to be busy scribbling notes while Jim Harbaugh was making his first impression as Michigan's head football coach. However, after bemoaning the performance of Brock Huard last week but not being able to provide any specific examples, I decided to get the old pen and paper out this week and take a few notes. Next game, I'll revert back to my now annual tradition of rocking back and forth in the fetal position for three plus hours, but we'll worry about that later. For now, I'll just focus on game 11.
Burst of Impetus
* Impetus, as discussed here many times is just another way of saying momentum. In the normal ebb and flow of a game, the momentum can swing back and forth many times. But that's just another way of characterizing the relative success or lack thereof of a series of offensive playcalls. Your team got RPS'd on back to back plays? Well, you lost the momentum. I use this section to try to pinpoint the one or two major plays in a game that change the narrative. Against Indiana, we were controlling the action until they returned a punt for a TD. In this game, the fumbled punt by PSU was important, but I don't think it changed the eventual outcome of the game. Michigan was the better team. How do I know this? Well, there are at least four major impetus-changing events that can happen during a ballgame. First of all, you've got penalties that can kill or extend a drive. Next would be big plays that can swing field position and energize a team and the crowd. Third, special teams can make a play (for example, Chesson winning the Northwestern game on the opening kickoff.) And finally, turnovers take the momentum from one team and give it to the other. Let's look at how these four impetus-influencing factors played out in the first half.
Penalties: Michigan committed seven for 45 yards to PSU's 1 for five. Edge to PSU. (More on this later.)
Big Plays: Michigan completed a 39 yard pass to Jake-who Chesson. Saquon Barkley had a run of 56 yards. Slight edge to PSU.
Special Teams: Michigan was called for a penalty negating a nice return. PSU blocked a Michigan punt. Big edge to PSU.
Turnovers: Rudock threw an INT (although I'm not real upset about that considering it was 3rd and 17.) PSU did not turn the ball over in the first half. Edge to PSU.
So all four of these favored PSU, and yet, the halftime score was 14-10 in favor of Michigan. Sometimes you can get all the breaks and still lose the game because the other team is better. Michigan is a better team than PSU. Michigan is more talented, more experienced, and better coached. Does that make me arrogant to state that? My Dad often stated, "humility is truth," borrowing from St. Vincent dePaul's quote, "Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying." I've never understand exactly what that meant, but to me, it says that to be humble you have to be truthful with yourself, and that means knowing what you are good at as well as what your problem areas are. Football is a great game because it exposes truths about ourselves and the teams we root for. Michigan has a darn good defense and an awakening passing game, and I'm just humble enough to admit that.
Trash Cans Full of Dirt
* I've got to bring this section heading back out from retirement in honor of the defensive line. Six of Michigan's 10 TFLs were made by defensive linemen, with Taco Charlton recording 3 for 18 yards. The defensive line also tallied 4 sacks. Excising sack yardage, PSU was held under 100 yards rushing on the day, finishing with 96 yards on 18 carries. Remember, 56 of those came on one run. Remove that and it's 40 yards on 17 carries. Not quite 27 for 27, but not bad either.
* A week after the two safeties led Michigan with 10 tackles each, the top 5 tacklers were non-safeties. Hill and Wilson each recorded 3 tackles. That's more like it.
The Three Jakes
* Jake Rudock was extra talented in his efficiency, completing 25 of 38 passes (65.8%) for 256 yards (6.7 YPA) with only 1 INT.
* Jake Buttttt caught five passes for 66 yards and a TD while Jake-who Chesson caught 4 passes for 69 yards.
NFL Route Tree Runners
* Early in the season, a couple B1G Network announcers discussed the complex "root trees" that UofM's receivers would have to learn to operate in Harbaugh's system. This week, just-a-guy Bob Windshield noted how Michigan's receivers were running NFL route trees. I suspect they are very similar to college route trees - a down and out is a down and out - but I never played the position. It is clear that the passing game has continued improving over the course of the season.
* Darboh had the biggest game among the receivers with 7 catches for 68 yards and a TD.
* Do I have to report on this?
* De'Veon Smith carried 13 times for 39 yards. His total was held down by not being able to break a run longer than 8 yards. It should be noted that PSU's formidable front 7 was only able to accumulate TFLs for 5 yards of non-sack plays. This prevented them from putting us in long down-and-distance situations. Of course, we compensated for that by committing numerous penalties, some real and some imaginary.
* Jabril Peppers is now 2nd on the actual depth chart at tailback, carrying 5 times for 19 yards. Are we sure we can't clone him?
* While playing defense, Peppers interfered with a PSU receiver using his facemask. Huard's commentary claimed it was normal hand fighting. That's the first time I've seen hand fighting between a WR's hand and a defender's facemask. Peppers had half of Michigan's 6 BrUps.
* Of Sione Houma's 4 runs and 1 reception, 4 either gave Michigan a first down or TD.
* There were 30 special teams plays out of 152 total, for 19.7%. Both teams punted 6 times. Both teams kicked off 5 times. That's what happens when both teams score 4 times. As Ace pointed out, we scored TDs and they kicked FGs.
* Net yards per punt were fairly even at 31.3 and 32.7 yards, but Michigan picked up an average of a first down on every kickoff. Our net yards per kickoff was 44.2 yards to their 34.2 yard. A big 55 yard return late in the game by Jourdan Lewis helped seal the victory.
* PSU accumulated 6 first downs via penalty. That's one more than OSU gained against MSU's defense all game. As a humble person, I can admit that MSU's defense is playing very well right now. So well that I don't think Saquon Barkley and Christian Hackenberg have a chance to score a single point.
* Michigan scored a touchdown in every quarter.
* Late in the game, Brock Huard admitted to being "hyper-critical" of Christian Hackenberg. He spent the rest of the game discussing Hackenberg's NFL chances. Apparently, his idea of being hyper-critical is pointing out one time that Hackenberg should throw the ball away instead of taking a sack. I just don't understand the love affair with Hackenberg. He looks the part - tall, apple-cheeked, All-American boy - but in my opinion, he's just a below average college quarterback. He does hold the ball too long, he's not "extra talented in his accuracy" (BTW, Brock Huard, what the heck does that even mean?) and he sometimes gives the appearance of a spoiled child who isn't getting his way. That's not exactly a great leadership quality. And to top it off, he pulled off the first, "no mas," moment since Leonard-Duran. I do hope he proves me wrong, starting next week.
* Ron Snodgrass was the referee. I think he's been sniffin' some grass. He correctly identified a targetting hit against Anthony Zettel, only to be overruled by the replay official. Since it's apparent that the officials have no idea what a targetting foul is anymore, I have to conclude it's a 50/50 call. Michigan's coin has come up heads (no pun intended) about 8 times in a row now. The probability of that occurring randomly is 1 in 256. I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but I think this targetting thing is just a matter of incompetence.
* Quick aside, I heard a conspiracy theory stating that Ronda Rousey lost on purpose because she is leaving MMA for a while to do a movie or another side project and they don't want to be without their champion for an extended period. The fellow espousing this theory is a pro wrestler and says this happens all the time in WWE. The difference is, WWE is staged entertainment. Besides, if Rousey really wanted to lose on purpose, why did she let herself get smashed in the face 30 some times before getting knocked out?
* Michigan was flagged 13 times for 117 yards to PSU's 3 for 30. Yeah. Sure. Uh-huh. Ezekiel Elliott was asked about PSU's gameplan. He said he couldn't understand why PSU went away from the one play that was working for them in the first half - the-hard-count-to-get-them-to-jump-offsides play.
* I've written numerous times that all I want from the officials is some consistency. So if they are not going to throw a flag when Joe Bolden is flagrantly held and waves his arm around trying to get their attention, they shouldn't throw a flag when PSU's center waves his arm around trying to get a holding penalty on Michigan's nose tackle. The fact that these two plays happened on the same drive is further maddening.
* When Darboh was correctly flagged for stepping out of bounds and coming back in, the side judge didn't throw his hat down to indicate Darboh going out of bounds, nor did he throw a flag. It was clear the other official had to explain the rule to him. It's high time we started paying officials as full time employees and required them to know the rules and interpret them correctly. Snodgrass from accounting and his crew aren't getting the job done. Instead of throwing more and more money at coaches salaries and facilities upgrades, how about the NCAA actually take a concrete step to improve the quality of the game by hiring and training full-time officials?