Inside the Boxscore - Team 136, Game 7

Submitted by ST3 on October 18th, 2015 at 12:22 AM

     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.

Baughscore Bits
* I'm just going to put up the first down stats here and let you guess what point I'm trying to reinforce.

  Michigan MSU
First Downs 10 20
Rushing 3 3
Passing 6 13
Penalty 1 4




October 18th, 2015 at 1:44 AM ^

The yardage stats were lopsided due to 2 plays - the successful one to MSU FB; the unsuccessful one to Chesson.  That literally was a 70 yard pitch and catch to Chesson unless some freshman safety had Jeremy Gallon's cloaking device on.  So if both teams get those plays its a wash in yds, if both failed its a wash - instead MSU got theirs and rudock screwed up ours.  Or as you seem to be hinting Chesson didnt run a right route by a step.  I cant believe our wrs 2-3 yrs in the system continue to run wrong routes while rudock is precisely throwing balls 35+ yds down the field when he throws 11 yd passes behind guys (Darboh).

As for 1st downs, MSU got out to huge advantage earrly with that 1298192819 play drive in the 1st that ended in no points.  They had 10 first downs to something like 2 in the first 12 minutes.  That was half their total.

Special teams did make up for a ton in this game - but the irony of that is apparent based on last play.

Also give MSU credit for neutralizing our TEs - I thought that is where we'd make most progress because they are supposed to be multiple and tricky.  Butt is supposed to be an All American type and Jon MF reschke neutralized him along with Darian Harris.  Little Williams, little Poggi, little Hill, little Bunting.  They crushed what is supposed to be a Harbaugh offense advantage.

Agree 100% on the playcalling - 3x they ran Smith WIDE to the short side of the field which is just plain dumb - MSU is fast laterally and Smith is slow and there is 20 (?) yds of space to the side and you cram half our team there and draw half theirs there ... and you do that 3x?  Drevno or Harbaugh issue. 

And I get them not going for 4th down FGs because their kicker sucked.  If that damn blocked punt had gone out of bounds or deflected in any fashion even backwards and out of bounds it would have been up to their suckiest player to win the game. 

Creativity lacked on O.  Outside of Peppers plays. Where was the double fake thing Jake did vs BYU or whomever to get a 20 yd pass? Where was any creativity?  It was strange.  You'd think you game plan 8 plays since August for this game and OSU.  Instead they used it for BYU.

DL also has some blame - Lewis was doing everything he could and our DL until Henry woke up late had very little pressure without blitzes getting to Cook.  That was with Kieler not at 100% going into game and then getting hurt early, Conklin not 100% and All American center out.  Meanwhile McDowell Calhoun tore our OL multiple new holes and Thomas also had some big plays.  So we didnt get the "right to rush 4" and decided not to blitz often even though almost every blitz (the few) we did do led to Cook rushing a play and failing at it.  So either overconfident in DBs to cover all day or overconfident in DL pass rush ability.  Lack of elite speed rusher like Calhoun hurts and no thats not Mario either.  No one in the current system does that role at a high all conf level.

And yes the diff of Dantonio MSU and old MSU is their resiliency - said it at the damn Big 10 C game, the rose bowl, the baylor game, and late in this game.  They fucking stick around no matter how many times you stab them and fight back.  I just used the term zombie in liveblog rather than terminator.  Have to give them credit  - they dont quit.

p.s. looked at that punt return 20x tonight and you could not ask for fates to make it work any better as a MSU fan.  Any 1 part of that play works differently and game is over.  When Blake was hit, where Blake was hit, where ball landed (right in bread basket....not over a players head, not falling to ground), it is amazing - like a movie script you wouldn't believe it. I guess T2 the movie. 

Anyhow all these things would be things to fix in the midst of a victory.  Now they are issues leading to a loss.  That was a battered 1 dimensional offense, with a bunch of OL players limping around, and a D playing 2 freshman safeties and we played at home and could not fucking take advantage of the zombie.




October 18th, 2015 at 11:50 AM ^

If anything, it was UM that showed resiliency.  With an offense that was not working  and a defense that could not put pressure on Cook, they hung around and almost won the game.  I would have said MSU showed resiliency if on that last drive MSU had scored.  Despite Cook passing close to 400 yrds, we were close to winning the game.  MSU won because of their defensive line and Cook and despite their poor special teams.  It had nothing to do with their resilency.


October 18th, 2015 at 6:41 PM ^

Did I say a damn thing about Michigan's resiliency.  It is obviously far better than under Hoke.

But you are saying a team that had to go on the road vs a top 15 opponent, with the "#1 defense" in the country, down 1 of their top 2 OL with both OT hurt, and playing 2 damn freshman for the first time as their safeties with a laughable special teams, was not resilient. 

Only if Connor Cook completed that last 4th down would they be resilient?  Apparently you didnt have your sphinter tight like every fan on that last Spartan drive.  Because they didnt show resiliency.

They've shown it repeatedly the past few years.  MSU has not lost a damn conf game since UM 2012.  They've won bowl games down 20, they came back from a deficit vs Stanford in CA - a place every Big 10 team struggles, and beat OSU in a game MSU "had no chance in" for a conf championship. 

The constant denial is hilarious.  It's a damn good team and program and resilient as hell nowadays.  You used to punch Sparty in the mouth and fell immediately.  It hasnt been like that and that goes to the top.

WNY in Savannah

October 18th, 2015 at 9:52 PM ^

You make a point here that was bothering me for most of the game.  During the week before the game, the blog had led me to believe that MSU's offensive line was horrible, walking wounded, or both.  Opponents were making Cook run for his life.  Michigan's d-line had destroyed 5 straight opponents.  And yet, yesterday, Cook almost never looked like he was "running for his life".  He just kept flipping passes to Burbridge over and over.  If anyone else got open (which happened on 2 TD's), he flipped it right to them.  He put pass after pass right on the money.  Rudock cannot do that with any consistency and not at all downfield.  Michigan's d-line came up big at the end, but for most of the game I was appalled at how well MSU's o-line was able to hold up.  Of course, maybe "hold" is the operative word there, but still.  Michigan's defense did enough, it seemed to me.  But Michigan's offense looked bad to me for the most part.  We could not exploit MSU's weaknesses to any degree.

And still, Michigan had the win.  HAD IT.  I tend to take a "big picture"/historical view, but this one really, really hurt.

[email protected]

October 18th, 2015 at 3:12 AM ^

1. Defensive holding is an automatic first down regardless of down and distance.

2. Henry actually did a superfy snuka spalsh onto the pile after the whistle was blown.  Most of the time thats a oersonal foul

3.The only reason  u of m was in that game was because of msu's horrible special teams  All scoring drives except for one started inside the msu 50.

4. How convenient you forget the third and goal where msu stood up houma and a ref pulled an msu player off the pile while his forward momentum was stopped and still upon review you were given a a TD

5. It was a flukey MSU win no doubt but the refs were no where near the reason you lost.



October 18th, 2015 at 5:36 AM ^

I've always thought the way coaches choose to end games on 4th down with a lead needs to be rethought. Firing the ball backwards toward your own endzone 15 to 20 yards, against a heavy rush and putting it in the hands of one your most unathletic players overflows with risk. It's what you see every team do in that situation but maybe this will cause a change now. Like how teams guard the inbounder on last second plays after Duke Kentucky in 1992. Michigan didn't lose because of officiating yesterday. That's lame.  It is a roster loaded with average to good players who are being coached up magnificently. But this will be Jim's worst team at Michigan going forward. Outside of Butt, a couple o-lineman, the d line (which has no elite pass rusher), Peppers, and maybe Lewis and the punter, none of these guys start for a top flight program. That's like 2/3 of your team that isn't where it needs to be or will be talent wise. Michigan lost to a team with better personnel yesterday to a coach going on a decade building things up. It stung but there is no shame in that. As the gaping roster issues get fixed with recruiting, results will follow.


October 18th, 2015 at 7:24 AM ^

It is a tough loss but we've seen miraculous wins:

Denard to Jeremy Gallon

Wangler to Carter

Henne to Manningham

We're bound to have a few miraculous losses.

and it is hardly alone in recent football:

Alabama tries for a very long field goal against Auburn - kick ends up short and Auburn returns it for a TD.

There is still a lot of games left. This is a good team and a good bunch of kids. They fought to the end. The defense held MSU running game to 50 some yards.

MSU and OSU both have losable games on the rest of their schedule. Most of the pundits and fans predicted at the start of the season a 7-5 or 8-4 record (even on the posts here), so stay positive.

Go Blue!


October 18th, 2015 at 8:37 AM ^

Michigan fans understand it takes a little time and some recruiting classes to build something sustainable. I don't think it's anybody's vision to have a passing game that can't exploit a defense like we encountered yesterday or to play "close" games.  Yesterday was an extremely painful growing pain where horrid luck happened. That's what the ending was. Rotten luck. Nothing more. But the direction this is going is exciting on the whole.


October 18th, 2015 at 12:28 PM ^

ESPN is saying they had MSU with a 0.2% chance of winning when it was 4th down with 10 seconds left. That's a 1 in 500 chance. MSU had four hypothetical ways to win and they eliminated one to try to improve the odds of another. These are the ways:

*Block punt return for TD, or block punt and get ball back for FG

*Punt return for TD - they didn't have anyone back to return so this is 0%

*Long hail Mary after successful punt - not sure there would have been time left because if we get the punt off, it just rolls around until we down it, which we would do after the clock expired, or wait for the offcial to blow it dead

*Stop us going for it on fourth down and then hit a regular Hail Mary.

Punts do get blocked. 39 teams have already blocked at least one punt this year. My cursory review of the blocked punts stats show the average is about 1 in 200. puts the Hail Mary success rate at between 5 an 10%. They have to stop us first on 4th down to set up that attempt. I'm giving us 25% chance of converting on 4th down because we were going to run Smith and they knew that. So the Hail Mary option is a 1-2% chance, or 1 in 100 to 1 in 50. The punt appears to be the right call, but if they have all 11 at the line, we need to bring in the ends. They had 3 free rushers to the punter on the outside. That can't make him comfortable.

Indiana Blue

October 18th, 2015 at 8:25 AM ^

How about Michigan was 5 for 5 in the redzone (2 TD - 3 FG) and MSU was 1 for 1.  

The yardage stats aren't nearly as indicative as how the game was played.  Michigan won the field position battle, so they had 4 more red zone opportunities than MSU.  But who the fuck cares.

Go Blue!

True Blue In Ohio

October 18th, 2015 at 9:41 AM ^

Referees took this game from Michigan.  I will only make two points.  Not flagging Jake Rudock getting clubbed in the head when he caught the batted pass and blowing up the long snapper on the last play (its been called on us vs. the *uckeyes). 


PS-Don't neg me till you watch those two plays again.

You Only Live Twice

October 18th, 2015 at 9:43 AM ^

and Nate correct, blaming the officials misses the point.  

Issues to fix, yes, was it down to one play, of course not.  You cannot blame the kid who kept us in the game, for losing the game.  

What outrages me over the Zebra situation is that I can't recall attending a game where the officiating actually overshadowed the football.  

There are exciting developments in this program, I don't know if the pain of this crapfest yesterday will ever wear off but it doesn't prevent me from looking forward to the rest of the season.

Thanks for such an early postgame analysis ST3.


October 18th, 2015 at 9:58 AM ^

If you win more plays over the course of a game, the officiating becomes far less important. Better talent gets  to 2nd and 5 rather than 2nd and 9 or 10 for example.  It exploits a secondary like we saw yesterday. Michigan isn't there yet on the personnel front. To be able to lead the whole game against a team that had that level of quarterback and defensive line is definite progress.   I wouldn't trade Michigan's future for any program in the country. Not one. We have probably the best football coach in America, in his prime and he's hungry as heck to turn us into a power.  Yesterday is just another year of pain listening to dufus State fans. That's really all it was in the big picture.


October 18th, 2015 at 4:27 PM ^

I'd agree with everything in this **except** the bolden penalty.  Michigan lost one of its "better talents" becuase of a suspect call that was shown to be aboslutely ludicrous upon review.  And yet it was somehow upheld.  

It certainly wasn't the *deciding* factor, but it's crazy to say it didn't impact the game. 


October 18th, 2015 at 10:07 AM ^

Meh. It wasn't a record breaking game for statistics but UM did what they had to do to hold the lead the entire way. I'm not going to dwell playcalling, refs, penalties, etc. The bottom line is the game was there for the taking but it slipped away on an extremely rare play.

Swayze Howell Sheen

October 18th, 2015 at 11:10 AM ^

you had the strength to write this.

that said, i liked it. all of that stuff was crap.

the one call that went michigan's way was the Houma TD. Seems like it should have been 4th and 1. Would have been fun to see the next play.



October 18th, 2015 at 11:14 AM ^

Much appreciation.

I, too, mentioned the Desmond trip to my youngest brother (who was born in 1990) as more painful. This one completely sucks, too. My 8 year old son was crying for a while after the game and it's hard to put into context for him. Life deals you hard lessons sometimes and you learn, fight through and get better every day. This team will.


October 18th, 2015 at 3:17 PM ^

Agreed on defensive scheme regarding Lewis vs Burbridge. It's just too easy to win enough plays when you know exactly what the defense is going to do (particularly when you have elite offensive talent like State does). Cook was on target the vast majority of the time but Lewis made some great plays to minimize the damage. But at the end of the day, when that was their only consistent way of moving the ball, you have to do more to stop them.


October 18th, 2015 at 4:41 PM ^

Targeting call was frustrating. It seems to me that 99% of non-MSU humans would say that was a terrible call. Really hope the NCAA addresses that rule after the season (if not before).


October 18th, 2015 at 5:56 PM ^

Thanks for the ITB. And thanks to team 136 for their great effort in this game.

I'm still in shock.

I'll bet the players will feel a bit better after they get back to work on the practice field. Work, work, work is the best way to move on from such a bizarre and stunning ending to an otherwise thrilling game.