25 years ago, I was a junior at the University of Michigan. I went to the Michigan-Michigan State game that year. I ended up sitting right on the goal line, about 15 rows up. This, of course, was the game where MSU got away with tackling Desmond Howard in the endzone on Michigan's two point conversion attempt. Michigan ended up losing 28-27. I wandered around the stadium and the parking lots and Ann Arbor in a daze, occasionally yelling at random people, "They tackled him in the endzone!" 25 years later, I still don't handle defeats very well, but at least I've stopped yelling at random strangers. This is going to be a little (or a lot) shorter than most weeks, because I really need 2 weeks off.
Burst of Impetus
* The rules of the game have changed over time. I remember when, at least I think I remember, you could have 12 men on the field on defense as long as you got back to 11 before the ball was snapped. Even today, you'll see defenders hurrying off the field trying not to get flagged for having too many men on the field WHEN THE BALL IS SNAPPED. On MSU's 2nd drive, they were facing a 3rd and 5. Michigan was flagged for 12 men on the field and MSU converted without having to run a play. In fact, IIRC, Kody Kieler fell over and came out for an injury before the next play was even run.
* Later on the same drive, MSU was facing a 3rd and 18. The drive was apparently stopped, but the officials called Jabrill Peppers for holding. What I saw was the MSU receiver run into the official, fall down, and then Peppers ran over the Spartan because he fell right in front of Peppers. I'm not sure how that is a holding penalty. A 10 yard penalty on 3rd and 18 should result in a 3rd and 8, except MSU got an automatic 1st down on the play. I don't recall holding giving you an automatic 1st down, I thought that was reserved for personal fouls of the 15 yard variety. These two plays kept the Spartan drive alive, allowing them to keep the ball for 16 plays, drive 70 yards, and take 8:05 off the clock. They didn't score on the drive, but they took the starch out of our offense by keeping them on the sideline for more than half of the 1st quarter. It's hard to get in rhythm on offense when you are stuck on the sideline.
* In the second quarter, Joe Bolden was whistled for a targetting foul for being blocked into the Spartan quarterback. Let's just pretend we didn't notice Conklin's hand grabbing the back of Bolden's jersey. So instead of MSU being assessed a 10 yard holding penalty, they gained 15 yards and didn't have to face a 3rd down. Later in the drive, Royce Jenkins-Stone was held by the back of his jersey, opening up a lane f or LJ Scott to waltz into the endzone.
* Late in the third quarter, with the play still going, Willie Henry jumped on one of his fellow defenders to "finish the play." The refs called a personal foul on Henry. I guess they didn't think it was sportsmanlike for him to land on his teammate. Instead of 4th and 3, MSU had another first down via penalty.
* With Michigan leading by two scores and less than 10 minutes to play, MSU completed a 74 yard pass to their fullback. Michigan fans around the country wondered what we had to do to finish off these guys. It was like a bad horror movie where the villain keeps getting back up for more. At the end of the Terminator movie, Arnold is apparently blown up when a gas tanker explodes, only to emerge from the fireball, minus his flesh, but robotic skeleton fully intact. At the end of T2, the Terminator is frozen solid, shatters, and is disbursed across the factory floor, only to slowly reassemble and continue the attack. Yes, I'm comparing MSU to a heartless, soulless, robotic killer, programmed to do only one thing - terminate Michigan's football lives.
* The last 10 seconds of the game.
The Two Jakes
* Jake Rudock was once again, 2 for 3 on my efficiency metrics, going 15 for 25 (60%, passing, but just barely) with zero turnovers, but missing on the YPA by averaging 6.7 per attempt.
* Early on, someone said my YPA was not sufficiently difficult. I checked the stats this week and saw about 84 QBs average at least 7 YPA. There are 128 FBS teams, give or take, so that doesn't seem like a high bar. However, I want my efficient QB to do this AND this AND this. Of all those QBs, only 60 throw for 60% or more with 7+ YPA and 1 or fewer TOs per game. I'll take that. Either you are efficient or you are not. If ~1/2 of the QBs pass my test, I'd say my WAG at efficiency is close to the mark.
* Rudock clearly needs to hit some deep passes to het his YPA up. I don't want to say bad things about the players after a game like this, but on one of the deep routes, Chesson heads towards the center of the field before breaking it deep. That could be the difference in a completion versus a ball that is 1 yard too long.
* Jake Butt caught one pass for 4 yards and had a tackle. He was also just a couple yards late in tackling the MSU special teams player on the last play of the game.
* Butt would have had another catch, except he was clearly interfered with, only it wasn't called. He also caught a ball off the turf that was originally ruled a catch only to be overruled. The replay official did not overrule the 2nd call. I thought his hands were under the ball, in which case it is OK for the ball to touch the ground as long as the ground doesn't dislodge or move the ball around in his hands. Butt clearly thought he made the catch. I hate the replay system. It may be better than the alternative, but it's not perfect. How can the replay official not overturn the Butt call, but he can see clearly that the Spartan receiver's toe was still touching the ground when he made the catch at the sideline, even though both officials at the scene emphatically ruled it not a catch? You're telling me there's not the slightest chance his toe was maybe a centimeter off the ground by the time he caught the ball?
Root Tree Runners
* After distributing the ball to various and sundry blocky-catchy types in prior weeks, Rudock completed half of his passes to wide receivers (not including the one he caught himself.) After using the backs and tight ends so effectively, this game saw Williams get 2 passes, Butt caught 1, and Smith and Higdon each had one.
* Aside from one 27 yard gain from Houma, De'Veon Smith was the ground game, gaining 46 yards on 19 carries. Not great, but his runs did set up the play action passing game that sort of worked sometimes. I thought they tried to run him outside far too often instead of attacking up the gut of the Spartan defense. It seemed like Smith was most effective (and by that I mean the few times he got 5 or 6 yards) when we were blasting straight up the middle. I could be wrong.
Tacos and Peppers
* Peppers had his best game statistically so far. He caught 2 passes for 35 yards, returned three punts for 48 yards, 3 kickoffs for 81 yards, he had 2 tackles, and he got called for holding for running into a player who had fallen down running into an official.
* Desmond Morgan had 8 tackles. Our leading tackler on the season, Joe Bolden, had 2 tackles before he was thrown out of the game for being held and thrown into the Spartan QB.
* Jourdan Lewis had 7 tackles and 6 BrUps as he was repeatedly targeted since he was guarding State's best receiver. I guess I would call this matchup a draw. I was surprised that Michigan didn't try to mix up the defensive looks more. I thought they might be able to bait Cook into one of those high lob passes and have the safety come over to pick it off. But the safeties were selling out to stop the run game, as we saw on State's 74 yard pass.
* Michigan had 7 TFLs, 3 big sacks, and 10 BrUps, as they continue filling up the rest of the defensive stat sheet. The only thing missing was a turnover. Give State credit, they protected the football.
* Kenny Allen was 3 for 3 on field goals. The problem with settling for field goals is sometimes the other team gets TDs. The spartan kicking game is in such disarray that they didn't even try a FG. Instead, they went 0 for 4 on fourth down. The team on the short side of that stat usually loses. Oh well.
* Net yards per punt was 44 for Michigan and only 23.6 for MSU. That's 2 first downs difference on every exchange of punts (or would that be 4 first downs, 2 when we punt and 2 when they punt?) That explains why even though MSU outgained Michigan 386 to 230, it didn't seem that lopsided to me.
* I'm just going to put up the first down stats here and let you guess what point I'm trying to reinforce.