Western Michigan game wrap (with pics!)

Submitted by SFBayAreaBlue on September 6th, 2011 at 10:02 AM

[Ed: bump in case anyone doesn't know to read these yet.]

So, we're almost 3 quarters into the Brady Hoke era, and what have we learned?  Not a hell of a whole of a lot. Western was a cupcake, and we provided the vanilla frosting, the vanilla defense, and the vanilla offense.  There's plenty to criticize and the few good things all come with cupcake's caveats.  Next week will be the real barometer of our progress .

Somewhere in the back of my self-important mind, I worry that breaking down our offensive and defensive systems might give a very tiny advantage to our opponents.  So this year I'm going to do less system stuff and focus on individual plays and players when it comes to our team.  I'll save system analysis for scouting reports of other teams. 

But first, I just have to say:


You sir, have an awesome mustache.

Let's start with the bad:

Their first drive was cause for concern.  Just getting aligned was a problem on many plays.  


I'm pretty sure this isn't how you're supposed to defend a 3rd and 1. 

And on this next play, the confusion is so thick, you can cut it with a knife.  You could roll it into a batter and make... hmmmm... I'm hungry...

Despite being in a shotgun look, this is clearly a run formation.  What's the giveaway?  


How about the covered slot "receiver" making this an unbalanced line.  We've got 3 guys defending air, and the DB's are so far back, they're practically giftwrapping a 10 yard run.  


The QB meshes with the fullback to give an option look, and he wisely hands it off since our linebacker is way out of position.  


The ball carrier cuts back to the GAPING HOLE.  Meanwhile, our contain guy is so concerned with both the QB and pitchman, neither of whom have the ball, that he can't make a play on the FB. 

But I'm encouraged by the fact that we got it figured out before the drive was even over.


Here we are against the same exact formation and play a few downs later.  That's a quick adjustment, or maybe it's just that nobody f'd up this time.   Notice that the DB's are in a position to support against the run and we clog up the middle to stop the FB for practically no gain.  

Carvin Johnson was misaligned on the next play, but Avery did a good job to make a solid tackle and delay the TD. But as a whole, the defense looked like most of them have had 3 or 4 different coordinators in the last 4 years. 

I'm also concerned about the size of our front seven, and when we go against the likes of MSU, Neb, OSU, and god willing - Wiscy, well.... let's just hope things get better. 

[Ed.: more after the jump.]

Putting the 'special' into special teams

Our special teams are still not great.  At least we HELD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.  I'm not counting the missed extra point because that was due to a high snap.  Yes the kicker has a low trajectory, but that and the snap are things that can be corrected fairly easily.  

I'm more concerned by our kickoff coverage.  First of all, our guy doesn't have the strongest of legs, and then we were not maintaining lane discipline.   And then T-wolf got hurt.  Gah....

See how it only takes one or two guys to screw up, and boom, you've got a 45 yard return. 




Good things:

  • RB

Fitz looks serviceable as a starting RB.  He's got decent acceleration coming out of his cuts.  Shaw has a bit more raw speed.  But I can see why Hoke and Co. chose Fitz.  He's a good north-south runner with a nose for the hole.  He kinda bobs his upper body and spring steps/slides to the opening.  His style is a little reminiscent of Emmit Smith (SEE I CAN HYPEBOLE TOO, MR. JACKSON) in that he's not really explosive or dynamic, but he gets to the hole and takes what's available.  Of course Emmit had a lot more power and legstrength than Fitz does.  

Shaw has slightly happier feet, but isn't really as elusive as he thinks he is.  Vincent is by far the shftiest, as we've seen from years before, but he didn't get loose this game.   

On the twin long runing plays, we got good blocks, especially from the umpire.








  • Denard

For being in a completely new system, he looks pretty relaxed and comfortable out there.  Light years beyond his freshmen year.  He had some inaccurate passes, and his throwing stance looks a little wide.  But he seemed to be reading the defense well, making checks and run audibles at the line.  On the pass to Grady over the middle, it looked like he came off his primary reciever to find the open target.  Good stuff.  

  • On D:  

Herron got the glory, but we really should praise the guy beating the double team to bat the ball into the air.  





And then he got up and hussled all the way to the endzone providing a little interference.



"Nice work, son."


The DB's looked better from last year.  No, that's not a compliment.  But they seemed to be in the same area code as the receivers most of the time.  We played a lot of soft zone, 2-deep, bend but don't break stuff, but we mixed up a bit too.  Avery looks a little stiff in the hips yet.  

Kovacs had the big day on blitzes, but we know about his speed problems.  I've said it before, but if I could take his brain and heart and put it into a body like donovan warren's or jonas mouton's, dude would be all-american, easily.  

Mattision looks to be the real deal. GERG was always good at adjusting to things, but I feel like he kinda failed at anticipating what was going to be thrown at our D.  Gregg, oth, seems to be doing more dictating to the offense with his system and then anticipating the adjustments they make.  Without getting too specific, he would give one look, that might seem a bit odd or risky, and then later that same series would have a companion call for it designed to get a free rusher or put a defender in the passing lane.

Herron needs to improve his pass defense, a lot of times he's running to get into position where his back is to the QB. He's got  to get his head around to see the ball and swat it down.  

Kovacs knocked one down on a similar play. He got right into the hot read passing lane on a fake blitz.  It's kinda like a zone blitz philosophy, except Kovacs was blitzing so much, that dropping him instead of the d-linemen was the surprise.  Funny. 



  • We got a phantom pass interference.  Just putting that out there for when rival fans say that we never admit when we get favorable calls.  A spade is a spade.  Just remember this in the future when I point out bullshit that goes against us. 
  • The stadium looks great with the luxury boxes and scoreboards, very classy.   It's a bit disappointing that they don't have the game stats up all the time. It might be nice if they added an old fashioned scoreboard part above or next to the video boards.  
  • Will we ever have cheerleader uniforms that are flattering?  We must lead the country in uniform disparity between our football team and the sideline girls.  

They've been Bejazzled.


At least the new unis are better than the soccer mom outfits from a few years ago. What was wrong with this

Also, rain. rain



September 5th, 2011 at 7:50 PM ^

Yes the kicker has a low trajectory, but that [...] can be corrected fairly easily.

He had that same issue all last season, and as much as I think RichRod should be burnt in effigy, I'm pretty sure if it was an easy fix, he would've done it by game 3 of last year.


September 5th, 2011 at 7:58 PM ^

Excellent breakdown. I want to more know about the defensive aspect of the game so I can make these sort of 'advanced' observations. Not having really played the sport works against me.


September 6th, 2011 at 1:40 PM ^

He had that strange "run from the other side of the field and cover your zone" responsibility. It was taken advantage of and seemed to be a bit too fancy or overthought. Yes, it was disguised, but that didn't matter because he simply had to run too far before dropping into coverage.

Bando Calrissian

September 5th, 2011 at 10:18 PM ^

I've always wondered who exactly the mustached gent is.  He's been on the sidelines for at least ten years (though I'm not 100% sure he was around during the RR era), in the past always wearing a replica jersey with no number (though it now looks like he's upgraded to the official polo), just generally hanging around high fiving people.  Not to mention that tremendous 'stache.

Anybody have the info?


September 6th, 2011 at 7:37 AM ^

Excellent post.  Stuff like this is what separates MGoBlog from anything else on the interwebs.  Thanks for you effort.  I'd like to learn how you rip a picture from a broadcast and insert it in a post.


September 6th, 2011 at 10:17 AM ^

It's more like he shot through the gap, but his bull rush on the first man he hit was good enough to pop him back, and the reach block by the slanting linemen never really got to him. Still good stuff.  Hitting two linemen, batting the ball, knocking down the QB, and then running 95 yards was a good amount of work on one play.  


September 6th, 2011 at 10:29 AM ^

One small caveat about Friday's game against Notre Dame.  It should give us another data point, but not an important guage of our progress.  We will get a much better progress guage after we've reached the middle of our conference schedule and played some of the upper-echelon teams.  

Please continue your posts.  Really enjoy the insight you provide. 


September 6th, 2011 at 10:36 AM ^

Don't recall the phantom PA (the only one I remember was when Koger had his jersey pulled when the ball was in the air), but I thought JT Floyd got away with a lot in the endzone on the series that ended with the missed FG. 

Now I can rip on the officials too!


September 6th, 2011 at 10:42 AM ^

Great analysis I was screaming the sane thing at the tv watching the game, "Why the fuck can't we get lined up correctly!" The good thing is I didn't see nearly all the missed tackles I've been seeing the past three years so that's a positive. That being said, the D has along way to go. Notre Dame will be better than Western Michigan regardless of what happened against South Florida.


September 6th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

and concludes we'll have an easy time is fooling themselves. ND turned the ball over 5 times and USF had no turnovers, and it's very hard for a great team to beat a mediocre team when they turn the ball over that often.

With Woolfolk less than 100% again, Floyd is going to have a monster day unless our DL can generate consistent, meaningful pressure on its own.



September 6th, 2011 at 11:53 AM ^

One thing about the turnovers though... I think their miscues may play in UMs favor in that the concentration this week at ND practice may be on “holding onto the ball” drills, as I’m sure it would be for every other team that did what they had during the game. But if it distracts them enough that they spend just a little less time preparing for the UM offense, then all the better. 

Wolverine 73

September 6th, 2011 at 11:00 AM ^

Two things stood out, I thought:  The defense adjusted to what WMU was doing, and effectively shut them down after the first couple of series.  The offense showed that the coaches could blend what worked in the past with what they want to do with this team going forward.  Yeah, there were rough edges, but both of those things suggest long term promise for the coaches and the team.


September 6th, 2011 at 11:18 AM ^

As a former member of the Michigan Dance Team, I have to clarify your pictures above. The first *bedazzled* uniform belongs to that of the MDT, while the soccer mom outfit belongs to the Michigan Cheerleaders.

I agree about the flattery level of the uniforms, but there is not much the team can do. We get a small amount of money from Club Sports and zero dollars from the UofM Athletic Department so all uniforms are purchased by the girls. Secondly, the team already fields complaints about the outfits being too skimpy and other ugly epithets about the character of the girls wearing those uniforms from wealthy and influential alumni. MDT used to wear crop tops, about 10 years ago, but the girls were callled too fat to wear them, so they have been more conservative ever since. We walk a fine line between virgin and madonna, unfortunately...

slago1205 suggested starting a petition downthread...I second that.


September 6th, 2011 at 11:54 AM ^

We definitely appreciate your point of view.  I've always thought cheerleaders and dance team members were in a no-win situation.  Wear skimpy outfits and you get jeers or at least feel uncomfortable.  Wear comfortable outfits and you get jeers on the other side of the coin.  Just keep doing what you do and tell those old alumni (like me) to go f-ck themselves!



September 6th, 2011 at 12:02 PM ^

the Trojan cheerleaders and their bare midriffs. Being that it's LA and not the conservative upper midwest, I can't imagine there's much complaining.

But I agree in general with your proposition about telling old alumni (like me as well) to go fuck themselves.

Except when it comes to Pop Evil and "throwback" unis, of course.


September 6th, 2011 at 1:53 PM ^

To your last point, of course.  Agreed on both of those injustices.  Although, I must say that every quotation I've read had Michigan players excited about the throwbacks this weekend.  I guess that kind of takes the wind out of my anti-throwback sails (not like anyone was listening to me anyway).



September 6th, 2011 at 8:28 PM ^

All sarcasm aside, I appreciate the feedback and it's nice to know some fans do think about us. We are definitely shooting for the kind of recognition that the Trojan Song Girls get, but it's hard to please everyone. You want people to enjoy the show (both the dancing and HAWTness), but you also don't want the Athletic Dept. kicking you off the field because some fans don't like that there's a slit in your skit (the HORROR!!, not THAT The Horror). Ultimately we just want to be an integral part of a positive game experience and if someone, ANYONE, noticed the bedazzling, that's gotta mean something, right?!


September 6th, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

Hey girl
how ya doin
my name is Georgie
last name Jensen
I was wondering
if I could take you out
show you a good time
invite you to my house
here is my number
girl you can call me
and don't forget it babe
the name is Georgie


((i say this to all the girls i've seen post online.  all three of them.))
(((i mean it this time.)))


September 6th, 2011 at 11:28 AM ^

I liked what I saw.  I didn't LOVE it, but I think that where they are as a program, the changes, the coaching philosophy, I think that they are on track for a good season.  Or as the pilot in me would say, they're "on glide path."  They did what they needed to do and showed promise, although I think they still have a lot of work to do, as it sounds like all the interviews I saw and read are indicating. 

I liked how they were able to move the ball on the ground and didn't have to resort to the pass a lot, and when they did pass, they were effective.  I really liked the pass that connected right before the final stoppage of play that put Michigan well into WMU territory.  The O-line got good protection, pushed the opposing D-line back and I saw some good glimpses of Power Football that UM has missed over the last three years. 


September 6th, 2011 at 11:47 AM ^

I still love that Denard always seems to outrun our RBs when they break a long run downfield.  Its like the is racing them to see who wins.  Look at Denard in this first frame that BlueSeoul included for the RB discussion: