Learn from yesterday, live for today, Hoke for tomorrow - WMU

Submitted by Lordfoul on September 4th, 2011 at 1:05 AM


“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” 
Albert Einstein


So here we are again at the beginning of a new era in Michigan Football, not nearly far enough removed from the last “beginning of a new era”, and once again I find myself seated in front of the computer trying to sort out my feelings on the matter.  In truth I had planned on not doing these this year.  Most of my impetus for spilling my thoughts here for the past three seasons stemmed from the completely foreign sensation a Rich Rodriguez led Michigan team left me with on fall Saturdays – an out-of-sorts feeling of not really knowing what to expect going forward.  While Bo/Mo/Carr teams had a character that evolved so slowly that year-to-year change was almost undetectable, Rich Rod’s first tilt against Utah flipped my perceptions of Michigan completely and it seemed each successive game of the past three seasons distorted my outlook further.  Michigan football went from being a solid thing I could count on and often take for granted, to a crapshoot of strangeness that forced me to question my unhealthy obsession with Michigan Football each and every week.

I thought Brady Hoke’s hiring would make things easy again and give me that cock-sure attitude back that said “I don’t need to worry about the details; I can just turn on the TV on Saturday and feel assured that Michigan will most probably win.”  My cousin who played DE as a walk on under Hoke assured me that there was no better hire to be had, and that the past would become the future.  Hell, maybe it will eventually, but for now the trials of the past few seasons compel me to question what the future has in store.

Learn from yesterday…

What did the game against Western Michigan teach us, and what is left unclear?

·         Just because your name is Greg doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate a defense.  Seriously, raise your hand if the thought of starting out the season against a very-good, veteran QB didn’t worry you a bit.  After last year I was braced for the worst and Carder was every bit the accurate and composed passer he was advertised to be.  He shredded our secondary at will until Greg Mattison made adjustments and started getting blitzers through.  In truth our defense never truly broke; the longest play allowed was a 24 yard run and the longest reception only netted 20 yards for WMU.  I waited all game for the play that would torch us, but the defense did a good enough job of keeping the play in front of them and got aggressive when it was well suited.  The end result was something bordering on mediocrity, which felt like competency, and is a win for Mattison for sure.  Two defensive touchdowns is a nice start to the season as well.

·         Will the Al Borges offense work?  Not enough data here really, what with Michigan’s offense having only 6 meaningful drives to look at.  The data we have is surely encouraging though.  Michigan’s first drive showed a degree of composure and demonstrated an ability to take control of the game tempo.  The long runs seemed to be set up for success, especially coming practically back-to-back.  We probably would have scored on 4 of 6 drives had the game not been halted, though the other two were 3andouts.  Will it work for Denard?  I am not so sure of this.  The first offensive play from scrimmage looked very familiar indeed.  In fact most of the first drive looked much like last year, right down to the amount of punishment Denard was being exposed to.  If the defense hadn’t spotted Michigan two touchdowns, I wonder if run-hard Denard would have continued to be the go-to play if the score had remained closer.  Denard’s comfort level overall was encouraging though, and he looked much better playing under center than last year.

·         +3 on turnovers will make a fairly evenly matched game into a lopsided one.  This is obviously true and was on full display in this game.  Two of WMU’s three were of the most back-breaking variety imaginable, while the third almost assuredly took points off the board for them.  Even the most conservative estimate would have a 20 point swing from turnovers alone.  We should all keep in mind that this could have easily been a dogfight to the finish.


Live for Today…

Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:

1.     Jordan Kovacs– KOVACS!!!  KOVACS SMASH!!!  KOVACS, KOVACS, KOVACS!!!  (I had my four year old son chanting this with me.  Kovacs is now the first Michigan player he knows by name.)  Seriously, it is insane that this guy came from open tryouts.  He is my favorite player.

2.     Brandon Herron – Talk about johnny-on-the-spot!  The best part though was that neither of those were gimmee TDs.  Herron showed great agility and stamina to stay in bounds and truck 94 yards in that heat and scooping up the fumble instead of falling on it was a heady play as well.

3.     Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Shaw – Big runs by these two led to the touchdown that finally blew the game wide open.  If the damned commentator had been right, and the first of the two runs had indeed been Shaw, there wouldn’t have been need of a second because Shaw == Fast.  Fitz still looks somewhat slow, but manballed two TDs in from close which is admirable.

4.     Kevin Koger – Koger only had one grab but it had two receptions and one was a doozy.  Stretched out and snagging the ball with his fingertips, he still managed to put a hurting on the safety that hit him with a full head of steam.  Gets up like no prob, first down converted.  Nails.

5.     Denard Robinson – No particular statistics are amazing, but he seems to have handled the transition pretty well and had several encouraging plays.  Of note: the pull-down-and-scramble move for 12 yards and a first down just prior to Michigan’s third TD.  Also the long pass completed on the money (I think at least, TV commentator be damned) to Hemingway.  Denard probably doesn’t need to be listed here as he is always awesome and steadfastly refuses to bask in his own glow (making him even more awesome of course).

Also of note was the play of Jeremy Gallon, Jake Ryan, Mike Martin, Courtney Avery, and Kenny Demens.  Oh, and Woolfolk before his injury – here's to a speed recovery.


Hope for Tomorrow

Next week brings a matchup with a Notre Dame team that just choked on its season opener, losing to a South Florida team that it exactly doubled in total yardage in South Bend.  The Irish seem to have settled back on the QB that led them to 4 straight victories to end last season, Tommy Rees.  They also have Michael Floyd.  After watching Carder to White shred us yesterday, it is safe to say that Rees/Floyd is going to be bad news indeed.

Then again, Rees did throw two picks, so maybe karma will continue to be on Michigan’s side and we will score multiple defensive touchdowns, and Denard will gain 500+ yards of offense again, and all will be just swell.  In reality though, ND is good and will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing and the game is in our house and we may even be favored despite not outplaying a MAC school by all that much.  Add it up and history dictates a heart-wrenching loss.  I continue to be braced for the worst.


PS - I realize that the quantity and quality of the posting on MGoBlog has increased by leaps and bounds the past three years, and that my posts tend to be more emo/rah-rah than actually, you know, useful.  So if the obvious consensus is that my posts are no longer a welcome addition to the blog, then by all means let me know so that I can ride off into the sunset and trouble you all no more.


Desmonlon Edwoodson

September 4th, 2011 at 1:24 AM ^

If you liked Brady Hoke before the game, you probably like Brady Hoke after.  If you're a self-aborbed pedantic douchebag, you'll probably find every reason under the sun to rip on Hoke and Brandon.  I guess that isn't that much like an electoral debate.  Nevermind.


September 4th, 2011 at 1:44 AM ^

It was a great start, but it is still a small sample.  The offense looked pretty boring and was starting to wear down WMU when the game was stopped. It's always great when Michigan squashes a tomato can.  Make no mistake about it, to an upper-level B1G team, any MAC team should be a tomato can.  

The bad part is that a tomato can held its own against Michigan for awhile.  The good part is that, as many of us hoped for, Michigan eventually overpowered WMU without having to reveal a lot out of the playbook.  

The sample gets larger next week, but we really don't know shit about ND.  I only expected them to lose one game this year, and definitely not to USF, even though USF is my "adopted home team" now.  The question remains: is ND as shitty as they looked or did they just have a really, really bad game.  

Whether MIchigan wins or loses next week, the sample is still too small because ND is now an unknown quantity.  We should have a decent idea after the MSU game, and a better one after week 10.  

Ultimately, though, I agree with John U Bacon, who got it from Bo: a coach needs five years to fully install his system and personnel before you know how good of a job he will do.  If something great happens before then, it's a bonus, but all we can do is make semi-educated guesses at this point.


September 4th, 2011 at 10:39 AM ^

500+ total yards.... 5 turnovers... a few in the redzone, and lost by 3?  ND isn't a National contender, and may not even be BCS bound, however they are still a good team, as evidenced by how well they moved the football.  They're dangerous, but beatable. 

Red is Blue

September 4th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

Whether MIchigan wins or loses next week, the sample is still too small because ND is now an unknown quantity.  We should have a decent idea after the MSU game, and a better one after week 10.


I, for one, am thinking I won't have to wait until after week 10 to know whether Michigan wins or losses next week.  I expect, I'll know whether the outcome right after next weeks game. 



Ultimately, though, I agree with John U Bacon, who got it from Bo: a coach needs five years to fully install his system and personnel before you know how good of a job he will do. If something great happens before then, it's a bonus, but all we can do is make semi-educated guesses at this point.





Doesn't necessarily make the point invalid, but starting with M in '97, much more often then not, the NC has been won by coaches with less than 5 yrs.


September 4th, 2011 at 8:55 AM ^

It was a good start, but it was WMU.  I still have that uneasy feeling that started showing up after Penn State last year.

I guess we will know more after ND, but Denard, after the first series or two, was really kept under wraps and was really a pure passer except for the one time he took off when no one was open, which was fine with me.  No need to get him banged up more than necessary in an early season game whose outcome wasn't in doubt.

What is also obvious is that we are still several years away from having the D that Hoke remembers, although Mattison showed more yesterday than I remember seeing over the last three years.

Lordfoul, I liked your synopsis - good read.


September 4th, 2011 at 10:03 AM ^

There were a couple things I noticed during the game.

1) He seemed really reluctant to run. I'm guessing the coaching stuff really instilled this in the offseason but you wonder if there are going to be a few missed opportunities bc he sits in the pocket too long? I'll chalk this up to small sample size and make a final decision on it later.

2) I saw a completed pass where I swear I saw Denard throw the pass to his 3rd!!! read. Could have just been confusion on my part but I thought I saw him transition through a few recievers. Hopefully the UFR confirms this and it continues.

3) Denard still seems to struggle on the deep balls. I know, again: small sample size, but on the one throw down the field to Hemingway his mechanics broke down and he seemed to go back to his 'throw it up to the gods' mechanics from last year that resulted in a few INTS.

4) Hopefully we can keep up the running game. The backs looked great. Shaw and Fitz seem to really benefit from being healthy. Shaw impressed me on the one run right down near the endzone, from maybe the 10? He got the ball on a sweep? and ran towards the sideline, but the only reason he picked up yards was because he made some moves and showed some really impressive balance. Once again - hope these guys can stay healthy and it can be built upon.


September 4th, 2011 at 10:54 AM ^

I agree. There were multiple times where he seemed comfortable checking-off many places and finally choosing a suitable option. Also, he managed to do this with complete breakdowns in the protection around him which shows great poise and comfort with his fresh pocket position.


September 4th, 2011 at 11:00 AM ^

I thought Denard did well with his 2 deep throws. Yes, the one to Hemmingway was a bit of a "just toss it to him and let him make a play on it" ball, but keep in mind that A) he had single coverage and therefore this isn't a terrible decision, B) Hemmingway specializes in these kinds of catches, and C) the rain was *really* coming down at that point. His other deep throw (to Koger) showed good arch, and looked to me to be right on the money, but Koger had slown down his route and the ball went too far.

Blue in Seattle

September 4th, 2011 at 2:46 PM ^

the throw to Koger was over thrown because Denard was probably thinking Hemingway or Roundtree.  Also the safe throw is to over throw it a little when no one is deep and the receiver is beating his man.  I didn't even realize it was Koger until he tried to sprint to catch up to the ball.

After reading a good amount of comments on several threads, I'm thinking most people are experssing their pre-conceived notions more than their true experience of what happened.  Yes they describe events, but in a way that supports their previously held position.  Take a look at the Pop-Evil thread to see the clearest example of what really happened.  Since I wasn't there, I still don't know from reading nearly opposite accounts of the same event.

Of course, this human psychological effect is also why my spouse (an attorney) says that with today's technology in gathering evidence, the "eye witness" is now considered a relatively unrealiable piece of evidence.

Today, I saw a team that had a slow start on defense, but eventually got things together and started to control the outcome.  I saw an offense efficiently execute 2 of 3 drives into the end zone, and then some how watched as gigantic holes opened up from a shotgun formation zone blocking attack, with running backs galloping 40+ yards because somehow the LB's just evaporated, and on Shaw's run this included both safeties as well.  Speed be damned, as the cliche goes, "that was a hole so big my Grandma could have made a touchdown!"

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think Al Borges mostly ran from the Shotgun, and more often passed from under center.  I mean I think I remember seeing Denard play action fake and then stand in a pocket for quite a while checking down until he threw.  Except a couple times where he didn't have anyone open, and he proceded to juke out the entire WMU defense like it was a 3rd rate Kung Fu movie, despensing with each bad guy one at a time.

All in all, I agree with Denard, it was kind of boring because the Defense kept hogging the spotlight by both shutting down WMU and scoring the points.  I mean come on Greg, the Michigan Defense is about 3 plays then punt, and let's watch Denard.  Not 7 plays, then perform a Battle of LIttle Big Horn impression, with Wolverines replacing the Indians, then pick up the fumble and score, just so you can do it all again.  Jeez, these coaches are horrible!



September 4th, 2011 at 4:48 PM ^

I had basically the same take you did.  Too bad the game was called before we could gain anymore insight on the offense.  It seemed like the offense was starting to really get rolling, but another quarter to find out would have been nice (although I totally understand the decision, I just wanted more football).

I thought the blitzing was effective (duh), but I'm curious if we could have gotten any 3 plays and punts without bringing the pressure?  Looking forward to ND.


September 4th, 2011 at 10:07 AM ^

I think my disappointment of the day was the lack of pressure from a 4 man front. I expected Craig Roh to eat OTs from a school like WMU and he was no where to be seen, causing Mattison to show some of the ammo that I'm sure he wanted to wait to unveil under the lights. I look forward to reading Brian's play by play breakdown later this week to see how the DL rates out but from my live watch Craig was MIA (come on Brian you only have 3 Qtrs this should be done already :).

That said Hoke and Mattison have talked about having bullets in the gun and some of those Blitz packages and fake blitz packages were amazing and just great coaching. I found the most humorous thing that could be said on the day is "same old MI," only for a different reason. I thought man ball was supposed to keep the Def off the field. Well not if the Def is part of your balanced offense. Good problem to have.

Final thought is about starters on Special Teams. I don't have a solution on this because of depth, but Special teams is the most likely time of the game to have injuries and with our lack of depth at some positions and the practice time this takes starters away from in game planning I'm not a fan.

Good start to a season. Can't wait to eat Irish for dinner next weekend. Go Blue!

Charlie Chunk

September 4th, 2011 at 10:44 AM ^

I learned that our coaches can adjust before it's too late.  We weren't getting enough pressure on the quarterback with our four man front, but they changed the direction of the game with the blitz packages.  I'm not sure I remember seeing that kind of pressure last season.

Good for us!  Go Blue!


September 4th, 2011 at 7:22 PM ^

Post your shopping list, Lordfoul.  If it's as well thought out and as well written as your blog entry I will enjoy reading it...

Now.  Will we ever see a kick off through the endzone?  Please?


September 4th, 2011 at 11:20 PM ^

I love Michigan football so much that I forgot that we find out the gender of our unborn child on Thursday when talking about how I haven't felt as excited about a day as I do about Saturday. My wife was not pleased. Not pleased at all.

That said, I am feeling a little unsure about how to feel. I love the love for the new regime and a return to Michigan football, but part of me missed the feeling of excitement at watching the spread option uptempo offense. I know, I know, the last three years sucked. However, I loved watching the offense (even when they went three-and-out and threw the defense back on the field after no rest period). Watching Oregon after didn't help - the spread attack is so intensely exciting, even when it gets shut down and exposed. Don't get me wrong, I loved the 8 minute drive, the ball control. I just missed the feel that Rodriguez's uptempo offense brought. I don't miss him running the program into the ground, I just missed his offensive scheme.

Instead of nagging me for the numerous reasons, I was hoping you might have mercy. I bared my thoughts in hopes of feeling better.


September 5th, 2011 at 12:35 AM ^

DL got pushed around a lot in the first half by WMU OL, not very promising for future B1G games with bigger and quicker OL. Hopefully the DL will improve.

Kick coverage teams need to work harder.

2nd half defense played tighter coverage and blitzes got the necessary pressure on the QB.

Nice to see running game clicking in the 2nd half.

Keys to beating ND will be pressure on QB and scoring a lot of points.  I think good kick coverage practice will help as well!