The Ledge

Submitted by Meeechigan Dan on September 20th, 2010 at 12:11 PM

We have seen a number of Board posts about how struggling against UMass was a wake up call and therefore not such a bad thing. By the fifth one, it was tiresome. So naturally I decided to elevate the discussion to the diary.

The reason is that several elements have been missed:

1. If UMass were the first game, overreacting to the defensive performance would make sense, but we have two other data points that, while this defense may not have the ability to make you forget the 97 D, they have ability to function adequately. Is Sparty lamenting their D this morning? No. There is obviously a distribution of performances forthcoming from any team, from Appalachian State to Florida in Lloyd's last year for example. If you take our Florida performance that year and install it against ASU, they would still be gathering body parts of walk-on Mountaineers. If you take our ND performance and install it against UMass, we score 60+ points with the extra TOP and win by 40.

2. It has reinforced a meme that Michigan can't play D, which is a very good thing for the Sparty game. My guess is that we give up some points to BG and Indiana, too. Such a young and thin D will have a wider standard deviation in performance with the peak performance coming during high motivation games. Having Sparty thinking Michigan's D is tissue paper will only help, whether it is tissue paper or not. Sparty's D last year, if you read Brian's preview, was tissue paper, and Sparty deviated in a high-motivation game to kick our offenses ass for three quarters.

3. It can't get any worse. Now, many of you may laugh at the implication that Wisconsin and OSU can't outperform UMass on Offense, but they pretty much can't. UMass dominated TOP - which will be the number one anti-Denard potion going forward - and gashed us with 1st down rushing. They employed the perfect beat-Michigan formula, which we allowed due to a deviant performance on D. I would argue our D against top opponents will perform closer to the ND data point than the UMass data point. So even a superior team may only rise to the productivity of UMass on Saturday. In other words, Wisconsin can, I would argue, at best hope to duplicate UMass's result. That would be bad, of course, but then...

4. Open the playbook that was closed for much of the UMass game (except for panic time) and the Wisconsins of the world will be contending with a different offense. All in all, probably a push.

5. Finally, the most commonly made point: it is a good kick in the ass for anyone and everyone who was starting to believe a little too much hype.

Would we feel that much better or know that much more about our team if Michigan won comfortably against a horrid team? I will take the W knowing that they mailed it in and still won...and that they learned a lesson. There's a lot of kids playing meaningful miuntes on D who have no frame of reference like Toledo and Appy State. 



September 20th, 2010 at 12:40 PM ^

I am less disturbed by what happened in the first half than what continued into the second half. Yes, a team can come out sluggish, but you can also wake up. The fact that there are still members of this team that witnessed Appy State should have been enough to put the fear of God into the team coming out of the half. I am not so sure that if UMass would have recovered the onsides kick we could have stopped them. Their offense running out of time might have been the only issue since they were not going deeper than 10 yards on most plays.


September 20th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

and they played down to the level of their opponent on Saturday, and therefore, will be able to raise the intensity in big games. As long as they score more points than the other team, I'm okay (if not thrilled) with it. They definitely looked sluggish and far less ferocious intensity-wise than they did in their first two games. Not having Brandon Herron (and also Mike Jones) left Kevin Leach on the field and Craig Roh at linebacker way too much. I'm hoping his return will give us more options in scheme and a better pass rush with Roh getting to put his hand down more often. That alone could make a pretty significant difference.

Also, it wasn't hard to recognize that the 3 man rush/umbrella coverage late isn't going to be our go-to scheme in big games. The game was firmly in hand until the blocked punt fiasco, and if Gordon hangs onto that pick (another lesson learned, Cam), we probably win by over 20 points. It was certainly ugly, but not as bad as the final score indicated. They were playing to "not give up the big play" for a lot of the game, and by and large they succeeded in that.

They definitely need to be willing to take a risk to get off the field in future situations. I've had just about enough of a 3 man rush on third and medium. The guy who makes the catch gets tackled immediately in the crowded zone, but what good is that if they move the chains? I don't think the defense is broken by any means, and they've proven for stretches that they can be pretty good. There's a lot of learning going on out there. I still expect them to play up to a serviceable level as the season progresses, barring Angry Michigan Hating injuries. 


September 20th, 2010 at 9:03 PM ^

I wouldn't get my hopes up that they'll move away from the three-man rush. It's the trend even in the NFL, and with Michigan's lack of talent for man coverage it may be the least bad option.

That said, I'll be very interested when the UFR comes out to see the RPS number on defense. UMass had an excellent offensive game plan. A couple of Michigan players said they were surprised by some unexpected looks in the UMass scheme. I really hope the GERG game plan was intentionally vanilla. It was too easy for UMass at times. On one of their rushing TDs Michigan appeared to slant the line left and the RB skated through a huge hole going the opposite direction. That's RPS.

El Jeffe

September 20th, 2010 at 12:56 PM ^

Meeechigan Dan, I like the cut of your jib. Using the concept of variance to think of this game is right on the money, I think. Let's play a what if game that results from variance as well. What if Cam hadn't fumbled (an extremely high variance event) and we had gone down and scored to go up 49-24. What if Will hadn't DROPPED A FUCKING PUNT SNAP, which is so high variance that I have never seen it happen. Which I guess makes it low variance, but still. Let's say he had punted 35 yards and made UMass go more the length of the field than they did. Let's say they didn't score and we stayed up 42-30. Would we feel better about this game? Hell yes.


September 20th, 2010 at 1:06 PM ^

For instance, what if UMass recovers the onside kick at the end? What if Michigan doesn't recover Gallon's fumbled punt return? The high-variance plays weren't solely in UMass's favor.

Of course, the Irish are wondering what if Dayne Crist had played the entire game vs. Michigan, and what if the Back Judge had called delay-of-game on the Spartans' final FG attempt?

You can go on like that forever.

Admittedly, there were two freak plays late in the game that allowed UMass to score with a short field. But UMass also had multiple drives where they went the length of the field, gashing Michigan's defense with medium-length plays, and not the long bombs where just one guy was out of position.


September 20th, 2010 at 1:34 PM ^

The OP was talking about "freak" occurances.  You counter with the unlikely "what if" UMass recovered an onside kick.  You might as well say, what if denard handed the ball to the opposing team.  Maybe the "high varience" plays were not "solely" in UMass' favor, but they were clearly in their favor.


Michigan was sleep walking out there for a while.  The long UMass drives were just taking advantage of the lack of effort by the D.  The repeated mental errors were kept to small gains by athleticism.  That mindset, coupled with some bad bounces, and the game was closer than expected. 


Teaching moment?

El Jeffe

September 20th, 2010 at 2:10 PM ^

All true. My point was simply that if you are freaked out by a 42-37 win but would not have been by a 49-24 win, then you need to realize that the ball sometimes bounces in really funny ways and makes games look closer than they really are. If your main concern was giving up yards to a very well-coached UMass team who is practicing just as much as we are and trying just as hard as we are, then you will be very disappointed in some B10 games.


September 20th, 2010 at 12:57 PM ^

You refer to the D's performance against ND.  What about the fact that ND did not have their starting QB for much of the first half?  I think that help our D greatly.

Meeechigan Dan

September 20th, 2010 at 1:27 PM ^

We held Crist nicely for most of the second half. Without a lol TE bomb of 95 yards, he is more than controlled. These things bother me anyway. If Crist hadn't been hurt, perhaps that mid-first-half malaise our offense experienced doesn't happen either. Not saying that their chances wouldn't have been better, but it's no lock they win.

Six Zero

September 20th, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

It's worth questioning the playing time of one Cameron Gordon, say, one month down the road.  It's hard not to expect to see Carvin re-take the starting spot once he's cleared by the trainers, and then there's some decision-making that'll have to take place.

Do we go with the true freshman that was good enough to earn the spot at the start of the season, OR do we go with the Redshirt that has made some glaring mistakes but has also gotten some legitimate playing time??  Hard to make a decision there, but assuming that #13 is good to go by Oct 9, I just feel that Gordon hasn't done enough to play coach's hand.  Thoughts?


September 20th, 2010 at 1:48 PM ^

Bowling Green will be a nice tune up/focus on execution game before the start of the BigTen portion of our schedule. We will go up big and have a chance to get young guys some much needed experience that they have not been able to get yet. All our injured guys on D like M. Jones, C. Johnson and the rest will be back by MSU (at the very latest). The D will learn (probably sick of Barwis Beach by the end of this week) and they will play better. The MSU game will still be a shootout IMO, but our D will make enough plays to help us win.


September 20th, 2010 at 2:09 PM ^

1.UConn and ND aren't exactly gleaming examples of this defense being good.  UConn appears to be pretty awful, but still moved the ball on this D.  ND, had some high variance turnovers (not really forced) and played much of the game with their version of Nick Sheridan.  We can dismiss UMass as an outlier...but actually it wasn't much of one.

2. I'm not sure MSU's thoughts about the quality of the D really matter.  Its not like they're going to take the game lightly.  Are you saying they'll dramatically alter their strategy, and as a result they'll perform below their potential?

3. It can't get worse?  Kyle Rudolph, Tony Maeki, and Juice Williams all say it can get far worse. UMass was successful despite a lack of big plays.  You can point to TOP, but I'll hand that over every time if it means a few punts (which UMass had.)

4. Opening up the playbook is good, but it also means higher-risk plays that can result in turnovers.  Michigan's been very luck in TO margin so far.

5.  No argument - no bad long-term ramifications from a close loss for the team's attitude.

I don't agree with your conclusion, just the argument isn't especially 'elevating'.


September 20th, 2010 at 11:01 PM ^

I would consider two of our three INTs against ND to be forced.  Mouton's was a great defensive play - he read run, then recovered to jump in front of a briefly open receiver.  Kovacs's INT came after one of his teammates deflected a pass (thrown by Crist).  Only Floyd's was really a gift.

North Star

September 20th, 2010 at 2:23 PM ^

The underappreciated factor is that the team had a mental let down after a big road win - a bunch of 18-21 year old kids showed up flat mentally - and that is really hard to turn around once the game starts - yes, our D is not very good, but they're better than Saturday's performance and with any luck, good enough to win 8 games.


September 20th, 2010 at 2:46 PM ^

our D is showing some really bad tendencies which are being picked up in fhe film room by the opposition and exploited on the field. Is it a lack of options that's keeping Michigan from making on-the-fly changes during the game?


September 20th, 2010 at 2:50 PM ^

...suddenly the UConn offense of whom I read so much through all of August is apparently peanuts (remember their gargantuan monster lineup of super huge road grading linemen?) and the ND game is dismissed because Dayne Crist got hurt...

I see the point you're making. You know, every once in a while when I'm hitting the draw well I just pull it a bit and end up in the rough. 


September 20th, 2010 at 3:34 PM ^

I was considering starting a new thread on this, but I tend to agree that we need to just move on from this rather disappointing outing by our D.

HOWEVA, did anyone else notice that there was an EGREGIOUS amount of holding by UMass's offensive line? I watched the replay on the BTN and there were a number of instances when Roh, RVB, and/or Martin had guys pushing them in the back and grabbing the back of their jerseys after they had beaten their guys. In a couple of these instances, the inability of Roh to get to the QB because of the hold resulted in some rather big plays downfield.

I know holding takes place on every play, but did anyone else think that the no-calls were absurd? Am I just on too much caffeine?

EDIT: on too much caffeine


September 20th, 2010 at 8:35 PM ^

Looking at the positives going forward:

1) If we play up to our capability we should have no problems with BGSU and Indiana putting us at 5-0.

2) Our three game stretch of MSU, PSU, and Iowa will test us much more then the first 5 games.  With the Denard factor I am expecting 1 or maybe 2 wins out of three

3) The Illini and Purdue should also be wins by virtue of us being an overall better football team and we owe both of them beat downs for the past couple seasons.  Going into the last two games on the schedule we should be at 8-2, or 9-1 and no worse then 7-3.

4) Wisconsin and OSU are the toughest match ups on the schedule.  We know exactly how Wisconsin is going to play us, it's just whether or not we can stop them.  RR is getting better each year against OSU and should give them another run for their money.  The best thing about having Denard is that ther is no game that is un-winnable.  My heart tells me we can beat Wisconsin but that it will be another year until TUOS goes down. 

5) We're going to a bowl game, and a good, warm weather one at that.  With a season like this we're going to pull in a lot of big time recruits i.e.(Dee Hart, Charles Jackson, Dallas Crawford, Anthony Zettel, and others that will latch on later) Next year the defense is going to be legit and going forward 2011 looks like a year that we will have a chance to BCS it! 


Keep the faith.  All in for Michigan, GO BLUE!