Why does everything have to be so hard?

Submitted by Ron Utah on September 15th, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Sorry for this

It was an unseasonably warm late November day in St. Louis, the kind of day that happnes once or twice or three times each winter there but would never grace Ann Arbor.  My buddy's apartment complex had an outdoor pool that was still open, and he invited me over for a swim.  

It was 2010, and we had just watched the Michigan vs Ohio State game a few days before.  Even on this perfect day, standing in perfectly warm water looking around at beautiful, barely-bikini clad co-eds with perfect bodies we couldn't be completely happy.

I broke the silence first: "Rich Rodriguez has to go."  My buddy bristled.  His face transitioned from relaxed to tense almost instantly.  We had both been RR supporters since his arrival on campus, but his expression told me that he knew I was right.  "We'll never have an offense like this again," he responded.  I nodded, then gave the obvious counterpoint we both already knew: "But hopefully we'll never have a defense like this again, either."

Here's the thing: though Ohio State had pummeled us by a score of 37-7, the game wasn't nearly that one-sided.  We had piled-up 351 total yards of offense and had opened the game with two long drives: one that ended with a turnover on downs--since by that point in the season we didn't trust our kicker to even attempt a 45-yard field goal--and one that ended in a lost fumble at the Ohio State nine-yard line.  Terrelle Pryor had to scramble about 50 yards on one thrid down to keep their first TD drive alive, then thread a perfect pass between two defenders that might have picked it off had it been just inches different in either direction for the score.  And even though the Michigan offense chugged along a bit more, the defense completely fell apart and it was 24-7 by halftime.  Game over.  Season over.  RR era over.

This is Michigan

Since I am an unreasonably passionate fan, I started doing research on who would eventually replace RR right away.  While Dave Brandon said he was going to follow a "process" before deciding what to do, it was pretty clear that Rodriguez was on his way out the door.  Even a victory in the Who-Gives-A-Fuck bowl wouldn't save the man who had coached Michigan's most fun offense and least effective defense.  As it happened, the bowl game made the decision even easier.

Among the publicized possibilities for the position--Miles, Harbaugh, Fitzgerald, Hoke, etc.--I quickly found myself in the Brady Hoke camp.  He had taken Ball State to an undefeated regular season.  He had turned around SDSU in two years on the job.  He seemed genuine, likeable, and he clearly loved Michigan.  Don't get me wrong--I was hardly sold on Brady Hoke as the savior of our once-proud program, but he seemed like the best option.

But then he said all the right things at that first press conference, fergodsakes.  My optimism took over.  We were back.

Pure joy

In a lot of ways, that 2011 season was very un-Michigan-like.  Things seemed easier than they should have been. The loss at Michigan State was maddening, but the trash tornado and brazenly unnecessary roughness of Staee made it feel a bit invalid.  The Iowa game was VERY Michigan-like: an unexplainable gameplan with an even harder to understand performance that would give the Hawkeye faithful renewed faith in their consistently inconsistent head coach.  But other than those two aberrations, the bounces all seemed to go our way, we broke the streak against Ohio State (now just "Ohio"), and we won a BCS bowl game to which we maybe should not have been invited and in which we certainly didn't outplay our opponent.  Michigan never wins games like that, much less has seasons like that.

The 2012 schedule seemed foolishly challenging, and an 8-5 result with a close bowl game that we perhpas did deserve to win with our shiny new starting QB who seemed more than capable of both passing and running (Devin Gardner) gave us great hope.  2011 had proven Hoke's coaching chops in our minds, and even with doubts about Al Borges, 2013 looked oh-so-promising.

QB Oh Noes

Rather than talk about the Season of Infinite Pain--which is still all-too-fresh in our minds--I'd rather bring-up this happy memory.  The great thing about RR's offense isn't that it always works--it didn't.  No, the truly beautiful thing about a well-run spread outfit is how easy it looks when it's clicking.  Watching Denard take two steps toward the line of scrimmage before flicking a wobbly duck to a W I D E open Roy Roundtree never-ever-ever got old.  It made defenses look inept and Rodriguez look like a genius.  When it worked.

And maybe that's why it was destined to leave Ann Arbor: Michigan isn't allowed to have it easy.  I'm not sure if this is God's decree, but U-M is not graced with swimming pool days in late November or football seasons where everything goes our way.  Even 1997 seemed impossibly hard, overcome only by the superheroics of Charles Woodson and friends.

This just happened

And maybe that's why I was so furious on Saturday.  It shouldn't be hard against Miami (NTM), should it?  I mean, it shouldn't be hard against any team whose football prowess is so pathetic that a paranthetical clarification is required.  Not for Michigan.  And yet, here I am, four years into the Hoke era, with my optimism completely erased and thinking to myself, "I will have to reassess my loyalty to this coaching staff at the end of the season."

But this is as it's always been.  And looking at the numbers, I wonder if my frustration is somewhat without merit: through three games, we are 25th in the country on yds/play on offense and 10th in the nation on yds/play on defense.  Sure, we've played two cupcakes, but so has everyone else in the top 25 (actually, Nebraska has played three).  The offense seems to make sense, and the fake-bubble TD was reminiscent of the ease of QB OH NOES!  Of course, even on that play, the throw was a bit off and the catch was bobbled.  Still, a calm, rational thinker would look at our team and say, "You know what, this team actually could be really good before the season is over."

But this is as it's always been.  The Lloyd Carr era brought a National Championship, but was consistently frought with losses that should not have been.  Nine or ten wins felt like an unbreakable ceiling.  Even the orgasmic streak of victories over Cooper's Buckeyes was shattered by a Youngstown State coach.

So why does a game against NTM have to feel like a Herculean effort?  Why does a very respectable loss to an underrated (by me, at least) Notre Dame team have be a 31-0 result?  Why can't it just feel easy, or even easier than impossible when we take the field?  Why can't I feel even slightly confident about a game in East Lansing or Columbus?

I don't have answers to these questions, so I will do what a Michigan fan does: I will watch every game, often in agony, and wait for the end of the season to decide if there is any optimism left in me, or if it's time to have another talk with my buddy in the pool.  Why?  Because this is Michigan, fergodsakes.


The FannMan

September 15th, 2014 at 12:55 PM ^

Saturday was not hard.  We won 34 to 10.  We had back-ups in at the end.  It was how it was supposed to be.

Sure, there were five or six minutes where a wide reciever fumbled to kill a scoring drive, a ball got tipped and picked off, and the other guys ran a successful high on-sides kick that we had covered but dropped.  I won't pretend that I was happy going through it.  But, the reality is that the team gathered itself, put up 24 unanswered points and let the 2s and 3s get some run. 

Oh, and our best player on offense was out for the game. 

Only a Michigan fan could react to a TD by commenting that, "the throw was a bit off and the catch was bobbled."

Sorry to break it to ya, but life is hard and nothing is perfect.  


September 15th, 2014 at 6:07 PM ^

What if Butt had not picked off that interception that Miami rightfully should have had. Fergodskaes it was right in the defender's hands and then Butt made a spectacular play. It didn't quite save the game to the level that Desmond Morgan did last year with that supremely awesome pick but if Miami gets the ball around the 30 or 40 yard line and we don't tack on that touchdown that Butt did that game may have become Akron 2. Thank goodness it didn't become Akron 2. It was closer than some people let on even though yes those fluke plays were a huge part.

They're still part of the game and still had me nervous until about the 6:00 minute mark in the third quarter.


September 19th, 2014 at 12:21 PM ^

Since the interruption in the space/time continuum makes null and avoid the hypothetical follow up to a play, I'll pan on that aspect. BUT, anyone watching that game knows that Michigan was, as golfers put it, "grinding around the course." That shouldn't happen - not to teams with bigger goals than beating vastly out-talented/sized/hapless teams on a epic losing streak at home. Style points do matter in college football  as they are assessment for future development.


September 15th, 2014 at 7:42 PM ^

I'm not a Debbie downer but that was NTM and we're f'n Michigan. I have spoken OP's exact sentiment so much and with the exact same exempted that it's scary. I know what he means, 100%. I've felt this way for a long time but the early 2000s really upped the "FOOTBALL IS NOT F'N HARD!!!1!" level. It seems as if most Saturdays find us being out coached, schemed and our opponents getting more out of their guys than us. Even the wins are often a case of having better talent, not necessarily scheme or prep. Finally, I'm sick of seeing MAC teams and low end power 5 teams with S&C programs that crush ours. Our bb program seems to have a better S&C program than UM FB does. It's not hard......for anyone but us apparently.

The FannMan

September 16th, 2014 at 9:14 PM ^

I re-read your post to see if there was some point that I had missed.  I am sorry, but it still reads as a self-indulgent diatribe about how “hard” it is to be a Michigan fan that was posted after a 34 to 10 win.  You actually complained that a touchdown wasn’t pretty enough!  I still read your post to be an expression of disappointment over not getting the string of undefeated seasons full of blow out wins to which you somehow feel entitled.  My point is that, unless you have Nick Saban as a coach, that is not how it works in today’s game.

Look at those who took up your defense.  A comment that worries about how close the game would have been if stuff that didn’t happen had happened, and a guy who is just venting something about “scheme” and unnamed S&C programs that crush ours.

I concede that the picture you embedded was clever.  Did you do that or did you just embed something that someone else made?

EDIT - I read your comment below about wanting the feeling as a fan that you had as part of teams that you felt could only win.  Perhaps it is different being a part of the team as a player/coach as opposed to being a fan?  I was around for the Bo/Mo/Lloyd teams.  Save for one year, there was always a day or four when something went wrong and we lost.  In those days, it was often to one of the "Little 8" who were just not good at all, scholarship limits being what they were back then.  That is the hard part of life as a fan - your team sometimes looses and you need to deal with it.  That is especially true in todays game where there is far more parity.  There is no right to a feeling that your team will do nothing but win.


September 15th, 2014 at 1:22 PM ^

Let us collect more data points.

It's possible we are in the dim early stages of an inflection to an upward trend line.

The Miami game did not clearly indicate that.  We hoped that it would, but it did not.  Nor did it confirm a downward trend.  It confirmed very little.

So we gather more data.  And we anxiously wait to see how the trend line plots.


September 15th, 2014 at 6:10 PM ^

This I agree with although we are about to get a whole lot more information.

Win handily against Utah: I may get wildly optimisitc given the schedule.

Win narrowly against Utah: Will need many more data points and will probabl need the State game as a huge data point in either direction. That is likely the most important game this season and I'm not even in Michigan.

Lose narrowly: I won't be mad. Utah is probably a good team. We'll need more data points.

Lose like against Notre Dame: Full on panic.


September 16th, 2014 at 3:57 PM ^

There's a lot of not-good football teams ahead on our schedule. Utah should be a pretty good barometer of how the non-MSU/OSU games will go, on the surface they appear to be AT LEAST as good as a middling B1G team, if not better. If this game is narrow on either side of the ball expect a stressful season. If we win handily then we should expect wins against everyone but MSU and OSU and, even against them, there's hope.

If we get blown out then you can hang up your football jersey and dig out your basketball jersey.


September 15th, 2014 at 1:29 PM ^

It was hard in the Borges era because of the poor OL performance and because Borges philosophies have a tight margin for error.

It was hard in the Lloyd era because Michigan played down to opponents. They would doggedly run into stacked fronts until it was absolutely necessary to pass. Then, when behind, the QBs would set school passing records. Not infrequently in losses.

Football is actually pretty hard. It's easy to forget that the top programs in the country at any given time have some pretty hard moments of their own. Even the mighty Saban Alabama dynasty has some pretty tough games and some dark moments. Remember Saban's stunned rambling into his headset after the Davis return last year?

In truth, it never gets easy. But it will look easier if the OL starts delivering on its recruiting promise.


September 16th, 2014 at 9:57 AM ^

No matter who the coach is, there is going to be complaining unless the team is 12-0, and that rarely happens for anybody.  Being older, when I was at Michigan as an undergrad, Bump Elliott was the coach, and those were not happy days.  Then Bo came along, and people still complained because they thought he had lost a game that should have been won.  Then Moeller (there for too short of a time to get much in the way of recrimination) and Carr.  I still remember Carr being criticized (and it was certainly my main complaint) for sitting on leads until they weren't leads any more.

As Archie Bunker used to say, those were the days.  And they are still here, with a new coach getting the criticism.  At least with Coach Hoke, he seems like a great father figure for the kids.  He seems to really care about them (and they all graduate), and the seem to really care about him.  I hope we keep him unless it seems uncontrovertible that he cannot get the job done.


September 16th, 2014 at 12:22 PM ^

Stephen, I think your last sentence is key. I may be biased, as a fat man, but there is not a more beautiful or easy-looking play than a run that is blocked as it's drawn up. The truth of the matter is that such a play is very hard to accomplish both physically and schematically.

It's hard to have 5-6 blockers all do the right thing on a given play, the defense is there to make it hard. And it is hard for each individual blocker to move a man who doesn't want to be moved. But, Goodness, is it a thing of beauty.

I always encourage people to watch Biakabutuka's game v. Ohio to see what I mean. He ran through huge holes on almost every play. I've never seen a team so thoroughly destroy another on the ground. It wasn't easy. But it looks that way on the film.

There are other ways to make it look easy, and they may be easier than physically manhandling the defense. But if this Michigan program is ever going to be in the making it look easy business, it will have to be ala 1995 v. OSU. That's the way Hoke seems to want it.


September 15th, 2014 at 1:53 PM ^

Great job OP. And god those awful OSU jerseys. Yuck.

And I am in a similar boat as you. But a wildly different one as well. The Notre Dame game definitely changed me somehow. I just don't know how. Just like how I can't understand the Notre Dame game. But that is a different topic.

I am kind of reverting back to my younger fan days outlook. Where I will take a win over anyone, anywhere, and anyway, and just be happy with it. So what if we are supposed to beat Utah this week, or at Rutgers, or vs. PSU under the lights. If it is a last second field goal or Manngingham over the middle. And of course if it is a blow out. I will be happy. I will see Muppets and (sorry Dave Brandon) fireworks.

A loss will probably suck. But I am not going to care. There will be a game next week until the season is over and there isn't a game next week. Hoke will stay or go. The fan base will have optimism or dread. But I am just going to be entertained by what is here and now. Be a good little sheeple fan, and take the season one week at at time.

Who knows. Maybe we will even win this weekend.



September 15th, 2014 at 10:58 PM ^

Yes, these are bruises from fighting... I am enlightened.

I am trying so hard to get to that point where I can just enjoy the games. I live and die it seems with Michigan Football. I may finally understand soap operas. Win, lose, smiling, or crying... Oh how I love it!


September 15th, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

It is very strange days.  I was like you quite optimistic post 2012.  I could explain away all the losses - Alabama was LOL, we were not ready.  Nebraska was the injury.  We lost to better ND and OSU teams.  And the SC game could have gone either way.  I can accept all those, we didnt look horrific in any loss outside of Bama.  We looked decent in wins.

Then 2013 happened.  The lack of progress within the season really killed me.  MSU looked like complete dog sh** to open 2013 on offense.  By the end of the year - while not a well oiled machine - they looked quite good. A QB who was 3rd string became an NFL prospect.  A RB who was not even a RB the year before had a string of 8 100+ yard games.  WRs who could not catch balls suddenly caught mostly everything.  And there was that defense which I yearned for and was consistent and darn awesome all year.  Why can't we make those kind of finds or have those sort of things?

Meanwhile OSU was in the midst of a 24-0 run before finally being exposed late in the year.  But if not for sanctions the 2012 NC game would have been ND v OSU.  While MSU goes to the Rose Bowl and finishes #3 the next year.

All this while we are lost in the wilderness.  Losing to a PSU team and not looking "much" better than one supposedly handcuffed with immense sanctions and no depth.  Coming in 8th place in a horrible conference... not an average conference...not a good conference... a horrible one.

So our trip to the wilderness combined with ALL of our peers having great years sometime in the last 24 months is really freaking frustrated.  Combined with all 3 of them having staffs they are "content" with for the next half decade if not more.  While we struggle to figure out what we have.

Very frustrated the thought of winning at MSU in year 4 of a regime seems like a LOL concept.  Not a 40/60 propositon, not a 50/50 but a WTF are you thinking concept.

I used to think any slouch could coach this team to 9 wins a year... the one thing I have taken away from the past 7 years from watching us and Tennessee (and maybe I should have learned this from ND's 15 years in the wilderness) is even blue bloods with all the buffer they have built in need well above average coaching. 

Stuff like not adjusting the defense ONE iota the entire ND game and then the DC coming out after the game and saying "that's on me, I should have adjusted" is killing me.  You are paid a million bucks - you have 40 years in the business - you decide to think about that sort of thing AFTER the game? It is TOO LATE then.  Same for the follies at the end of the first half of the NTM game. 

Maybe some miracle happens and for the first time since (when?) this team builds a load of momentum DURING the year and finishes out GREAT instead of with a wimper.  (even the 2011 season ended in a WTF we won? game)  Maybe we go into MSU and look like a team that can actually compete.  Maybe we bury a OSU team that has a horrible OL and confused QB. Maybe maybe maybe.   But as a man of probability and evidence hard to believe in these maybes.  Hope I am wrong.


September 16th, 2014 at 10:32 AM ^

I agree and think there is a cumulative affect.  So the RR years were miserable but I thought it would get better with RR.  I was not thrilled but OK with Hoke.  We had a massive dose of luck in 2011 and I hoped the years of getting pantsed several times a year was over.  Then 2013 happened.  I don't have the patience to suck anymore, I had the patience for three years of RR but that is all gone.  I generally support coaches and do not want to see Hoke gone but I just cannot put up with many more 2008-2010, 2013 years.  

It's also easier to support the likable "going for 4th down Hoke" and not the "punt from the 37 we don't talk about injuries" paranoid Hoke.  I am hopeful but impatient at the same time.  I am getting tired of sucking.  

I also used to be a Lions fan but they managed to beat that out of me during the Millen years.  I no longer follow the Lions win or lose.


September 15th, 2014 at 5:33 PM ^

"Stuff like not adjusting the defense ONE iota the entire ND game"

That is not accurate though, we did adjust after halftime. We played more zone instead of just man, according to Hoke and Mattison.

The quote you are talking about seems like he would rather have thought of a better contingency plan before the game instead of just changing things during the game. You can still be disappointed in that, and definitely in the amount of time it took to make that change, but to say that we didn't change the defense at all is not really true.


September 15th, 2014 at 9:14 PM ^

then the DC coming out after the game and saying "that's on me, I should have adjusted" is killing me.  You are paid a million bucks - you have 40 years in the business - you decide to think about that sort of thing AFTER the game?

1) It took him maybe 1/2-1 quarter too long to make the adjustment. We came out in the second half and held them to 10 points despite spotting them the ball with a short field over and over and over again.

2) People give coaches shit for not owning up to their mistakes a lot here (mostly Hoke and Borges). Here's Mattison being very open about his mistakes and apparently that upsets you too.


September 16th, 2014 at 2:18 AM ^

Teams tend to relax when they are up 28-0.  Do you think ND was gung ho and as sharp in the 4th when the UM defense "looked great"?  In the first 3 quarters UM's defense was run over as if it was not there - that's when he game was decided.  From the 3 minute mark of the 3rd quarter until the end of the game the defense finally stopped ND but again you mentally relax when you are up 4 TDs and the opponents offense cannot do a darn thing.

snarling wolverine

September 15th, 2014 at 3:18 PM ^

Speaking of the "We'll never have an offense like this again" part, to me the best offense we ever had was what we ran in the 2008 Capital bowl against Florida.  I loved that offense - a passing spread that also made ample use of Hart out of the backfield - but we only got it for one game. 

The RichRod offense is okay, but it seems destined to get his QB physically destroyed every season.  



September 15th, 2014 at 6:20 PM ^

There is a sample size argument but ND has seemed to have legit offensive success with the passing spread. Many years I think it was the defense that was their problem. Then 2012 their defense took a step forward and boom they were good enough to get to the championship game and get stomped by Bama.

Edit: I also was giddy during that game.


September 15th, 2014 at 3:55 PM ^

I am old and I think Michigan has more often has underachieved or been upset more than they have pulled the upset.  Other than OSU in 1969 and through the Cooper years what were the big Michigan upsets when they deat a favored team?  Or is is just that I remember the negatives?  I remember a few times getting beatened by Minnesota, Iowa and others when we were highly favored.  Maybe it's just that historically we have been good so being upset happens more frequently that upsetting other teams.  Can someone rattle off some of our big upset wins outside of OSU?


September 15th, 2014 at 9:55 PM ^

1984 - #1 Miami YTM

2008 - Wisconsin (#5?)

Beyond that I cannot think of many true upsets outside the Cooper Dealies.   UM was typically higher ranked than anybody they played through much of my lifetime so upset chances were rare.  Since 2007 it seems UM typically gets throttled by higher ranked teams. 

Before that I could only remember two true bloodbaths:  Tennessee Citrus Bowl and the 91 FSU game. 

So, we're used to getting our teeth bashed in on the regular now.  No fun.

Space Coyote

September 15th, 2014 at 10:15 PM ^

2013 - #14 ND vs #17 Michigan

2011 - #17 Nebraska vs #20

2010 - @#22 ND vs NR

2009 - #18 ND vs NR

2008 - #9 Wisconsin vs NR

2007 - #10 PSU vs NR

2007 - #9 Florida vs NR (neutral)

2006 - @#2 ND vs #11

2005 - @#11 MSU vs NR

2005 - #8 PSU vs NR (PSU's only loss that year)

2005 - #21 Northwestern vs #25

2004 saw Michigan win two games ranked a spot or two below opponent.

2003 - @#17 Minn vs #20

2003 -  #10 Purdue vs #13

2003 - @#9 MSU vs #11

2003 - #4 OSU vs #5

Before then you have Washington (2002), @OSU (2000), @PSU (1999), Alabama (2000), PSU (1998), Wisconsin (1998). Arkansas (1999), @Colorado (1996), @OSU (1996), OSU (1995).

That gets us through the Carr years. Note that it's fairly difficult to get a lot of upsets when Michigan was rated every week between the end of 1998 and 2005, undefeated and never an underdog in 1997. There just weren't many times when they were underdogs, but when they were, they pulled upsets a fair amount of times (>1 a year)


You Only Live Twice

September 15th, 2014 at 3:59 PM ^

Sometimes I don't know what it takes to make people happy.  When did we stop just enjoying the game, and especially, a win? 

Last year I remember comments along the lines of, for example:  the team needs to improve on "bubble screens" (cute name... I had to research to figure out what the heck it was) so against Miami, they did just that, and it worked.  It worked!  Then you hear, "Forget these bubble screens why are they not driving down the field!"

It was a beautiful day in Ann Arbor Saturday.. in addition to a football game (and a WIN) we got a mini-airshow, (multiple flyovers) an eagle that thrilled the crowd with its graceful glide along the stands, seemingly almost in time with the music, and one of the better halftime shows I've seen in recent years, including "1812 Overture."  

There are a lot of things to feel bad about, I don't get how the Miami game is one of them.



September 16th, 2014 at 4:21 PM ^

In the grand scheme of things you're right: it's really not all that bad and we have less to complain about than a lot of programs but it's not what we're used to and we demand better. Think we're the only ones? Take a stroll through some Texas Longhorns boards, namely the comments sections, and let me know what you see. Fan-bases that have traditionally known success and then lose that success tend to not react as well as those that don't. Remember in the 90's when MSU fans' only retort was "yeah? well wait until basketball season." That's not good enough for us.

And on a related note to the fans, it probably wouldn't be so bad if MSU and OSU fans weren't so damn insufferable.

Cranky Dave

September 15th, 2014 at 4:13 PM ^

Since the mid-70s when I started watching UM football, it never seemed that Michigan had a truly dominant season.  One where there was no doubt that the Wolverines were the best team in the country and beat people up.  Sure, '97 happened but Nebraska fans also think they won the MNC that year.... In the 16 seasons since it's been pretty ok to awful and only three meaningful bowl wins (1999, 2002 &2011) .  

While I continue to watch as many games and get just as pissed off at losses and wear my UM gear I haven't had any real hope of a dominant team since I was about 12.  Partially because I'm a pessimist by nature and partially because the program hasn't given me any reason to expect dominance.  Like '97 any future national championship will be a very welcome surprise.    


September 15th, 2014 at 4:43 PM ^

You know I was just thinking yesterday how all the 50/50 bounces have gone against us this year. That's not nearly enough to account for the ND debacle, but I sure get the feeling that we're snake bitten.

  • ND punt is muffed and recovered by ND. For all the spread punt grumbling, Chesson was right there and went for the tackle instead.
  • Gardner fumble literally bounced right into an ND player's hands.
  • Darboh fumble recovered by Miami, and not only that isn't even really a fumble but not enough video evidence to overturn call on field.
  • Gardner's Miami INT tipped at the line AND goes right between Chesson's hands AND there's a Miami player 10 yards downfield directly in line with it.
  • Miami onside kick goes right through Shallman's hands as he's running into the guy that should have been fielding it. Miami recovers.
  • Miami RB makes an ill advised stretch for the 1st down and fumbles, Miami recovers.

Six, essentially 50/50 plays, that all go against us. Hopefully we can get some regression to the mean this Saturday against a tough team. Brady Hoke's due for some golden poop.

Sten Carlson

September 15th, 2014 at 5:17 PM ^

Nice diary Ron.

I will say that I was one of the guys who really supported RR, and felt like the roster issues that he inherited were very difficult (at best) and the much of the ire people felt towards him would have been mitigated if they actually accepted the fact that the cupboard was totally bare.  Further, I felt that being Michigna's first coach from the "outside" since 1969 was never going to be easy, and it was made all the more difficult by utter ineptitude that the 2008 team displayed.

As someone aptly pointed out above: football is NOT easy.  Whatsmore, winning football with consitency -- despite all the inherent turnover -- is even MORE difficult.  Frankly, Michigan fans were spoiled rotten by the 38 years of realtively consistent winning football.  I know that I sound a bit like a broken record (what the hell is a "record" anyway, I've forgotten) but consisten winning football is nearly completely dependant up the pipeline coming into the program and then the consistency of the message that the players receive. 

I think this is something that many fans, especially the mosty disgruntled ones, overlook.  Currently Michigan has players, like Gardner who started under RR's system, then switched to Borges' system, changed positions, and now is, once again, having to lean a new system under Nuss.  Gardner's career is a microcosom of the instablility and near continual change that Michigan has gone through since 2008 -- 38 years of calm, consitency, followed by 7 years of near perpetual change.

IMO, to reopen and reestablish a solid and productive "pipeline" is something that takes 4-6 years.  I know there are going to people that freak out about this number, and think that I am "giving the coaching staff a free pass," or "accepting mediocrity," but nothing could be farther from the truth.  College football has changed, we now have a playoff system, and all a team has to do to have a shot at playing in the NC Game is to be in the top 4 by the end of the season.  Tall order, I know, and I know there are lots of pissed fans on here that want to scream, "but we have no shot at being in the top 4 ... " and the like.

I realize that it feels that we have a long way to go right now.  But, I firmly believe that if Michigan is ever going to be consistently winning the Big10 (something that we will almost certainly have to do to be in the top 4) it will only be able to do so if it reestablishes its pipeline.  If one accepts that a broken pipeline takes 4-6 years to full rebuild (you're free to disagree, of course) then we're not even 2/3 of the way there yet.  The length of time that it takes is directly proportional to the how stopped up the pipeline was, and for how long it remained broken. 

From my estimation (which involved poring over recruiting class numbers and details, along with rosters) Michigan pipeline began to show some serious "clogging" in 2005.  So for 4 years the clog festered (remember Tressle putting a "lock box on Ohio recruiting?" and guys like Ted Ginn Sr. making the statements about development of players under Carr?) and then Michigan handed the program over to RR.  Unfortunately, the unclogging procress -- which should have begun in 2008 -- really didn't start in full until 2012 due to the truncated 2011 RR/Hoke class of that year.  So, by my estimating (FWIW), that means Michigan's pipeline should be full repared in 2016, and it could drag out until 2018 -- although, with the high level of recruiting Hoke & Co. are doing, I don't think so.

I know many of you will freak out about my theory and its dates.  But, to me, Michigan although Hoke is in his 4th year as HC of Michigan, the rebuilding of the pipeline (which is what is causing the problems, IMO) is only its 3rd year, with it's 4th year being the 2014 recruiting class.

Patience my Maize and Blue brethren, we'll be rewarded.

Bring it on guys, I welcome the debate.  But, if you come at me with "you're nuts" and "gimme a break" I am not going to respond.


September 15th, 2014 at 5:38 PM ^

I'm with you for the most part ... time is needed to (a) get some seasoning under the current team, and (b) build the pipeline.

That said, I think the Hoke might benefit greatly from seeking and taking advice from some seasoned coaching veterans about big program head coaching.  My sense is Hoke could be pretty good at this if he lets go of some of his smaller-program approaches to things.

One such thing is position coaches.  Do we have the best the Michigan budget can buy?  I know he has a special relationship with Wellman, Funk, and perhaps some others.  They may be perfectly good coaches for Ball State or SDSU.  But maybe not the level of Michigan.

Another is an over-reliance on seniors as leaders.  Leaders are who they happen to be.  Seniors or juniors or even freshmen if they step up.

The book "Smart Football" by Chris Brown speaks of Urban Meyer having several seasoned coaches as professional mentors.  I wonder if Hoke has anything like that?  Or is he in slightly over his head and in need of some good coaching of his own?

Michigan doesn't feel like a big-time program headed by the firm grip of a big-time coach.  Not saying Hoke can't be that guy.  Just not sure if he's struggling right now and could use some help getting there.


September 15th, 2014 at 6:52 PM ^

Let me start with saying I have more respect for you now that you have said you were an RR supporter. I have no patience for "Michigan Men" that wanted to get rid of RR so we could get back to some good old fashioned Manball, results of the games be damned.

Now I'm going to look at Stanford's recruiting history (per Rivals) to see how long it should take for the pipeline to be full for an elite coach to succeed.


2002: 54

2003: 25

2004: 149

2005: 41

2006: 54

2007: 51

2008: 50

2009: 20

2010: 26

I'll stop there since that's when Harbough left at the end of 2010. His average class rank was 37 for those last four classes and yet I believe he won the Rose Bowl around there. I agree it can take some time for the results to show on the field but by Year 4 I'd expect us to be competitive in every game and by Year 5 to be dominating at least by this data.

Admittedly this is one coach although with the level of classes we've brought in I'd expect us to start hitting our stride right about now assuming Hoke is an elite coach. Another caveat is that Michigan recruits may get a bump since they are getting recruited by and are committing to a top program, historically.



September 15th, 2014 at 7:52 PM ^

MSU generally recruits in the 25-40 range.  Wisconsin the 25-40 range.  Stanford (past 7-8 years) the same.

To put in perspective Oregon's and Michigan's classes over the last 7-8 years when I looked at it last summer are interchangeable over that period.  One is the second most winningest program over the past 6 years.  The other is Michigan.

There is no excuse for recruiting OTHER than the 2010 class was historically bad and imploded parts of the team i.e. OL.  That sounds like a huge caveat but again if you have 6 out of 7 great classes you should be fine.

Another way to put in perspective, Connor Cook Shalique Calhoun and Trae Waynes are all being mocked to leave a year early as early entries in the 2015 NFL draft.  All 3 are now being mocked to go anywhere from early 1st to mid 2nd round.  All 3 could come back for next year. 

Those were 3 of the bottom 5 rated recruits of that particular MSU class.

Development matters. Period.  We lag there. Period.   Want to throw Kansas State's recruiting rankings in there?

Texas has likewise wasted much of the post Vince Young era, with top 5-10 ranked classes.  Notre Dame pissed away a lot of top 5-15 ranked classes under Weiss (the coach I see most like Hoke in relation of recruiting v results).

Recruiting and pipeline is not an excuse IMO.  Budget is not an excuse.  Youth is somewhat of an excuse on offense but young teams GET BETTER as the season goes by - which is why last year's team ... a young one... should have looked a lot better in November then September.  It didn't.  Contrast to Beilein's teams of the past 4 years.

There are no more excuses.  Sharp progress needs to be made by November.

Sten Carlson

September 15th, 2014 at 8:26 PM ^

I agree that development is the key, but IMO, development is directly related to stability/continuity. 

Gardner, as I detailed, is a perfect example.  He started under RR's spread, moved to Borges' Denard Fusion, then player WR, then QB under Borges' chaotic "mad scientist" 2013 scheme, and now under Nuss' scheme.  By constrast, every player that has come up in the MSU system under Dantonio during that time (and despite a lackluster start) has had the same message from day #1 until today.

Someone else, in another thread, aptly pointed out that continuity, and "waiting one's turn" behind experienced upperclassmen is akin to having peer-coaches to bring along the younger players at a position level.  When young guys are pressed into action, they're only able to rely upon the coaches and have to learn a lot of lessons the "hard way."

Despite what people think, development is happened at Michigan, it's just that the instability/change and the lack of "waiting one's turn" detract from the overall level of that development to some extent.

Sten Carlson

September 15th, 2014 at 8:31 PM ^

For a true comparison one would have to know just what the state of the Stanford pipeline was when Harbaugh took over.  It's easy to assume, well, it's Stanford, how good could it have been.  But, the pipeline of which I speak is more than just the recruiting rankings -- rankings do play a role, for sure, but retention and the ability to red-shirt is far more significant IMO.

As I said elsewhere, this is why the SEC's oversigning policy is such an advantage.  They get 5 classes ever 4 years, thus have the ability to red-shirt more players, and a great deal of their attrition is of the intentional sort to make way for a new crop of incoming players -- Michigan does not do this.

"Year 4 I'd expect us to be competitive in every game and by Year 5 to be dominating at least by this data."

As I said above, yes, Hoke is just beginning year 4 by the calander, but in regards to the rebuilding of the pipeline, he's really only just beginning year 3.  Further, Michigan was turned over to RR with a 25 scholarship play deficite, and those numbers were not rectified when Hoke took over.  Again, I wonder if the same is true for Stanford.  Michigan suffered amazing attrition/lack of retention from 2005 forward.  The decimated class of 2005 reared it's ugly head in 2008 and 2009, and the 2010 and 2011 classes (from which Michigan only still has10 players) did very little to solve the issue.

The good news is that the 2012 and 2013 classes we big, ranked high, and (so far) the rentention levels of both have been excellent.  If Hoke is able to maintain the level of both recruiting and retention, the pipeline issue should be totally solved by the end of 2016.


September 15th, 2014 at 7:40 PM ^

My frustration is really two-fold.  

First, I am frustrated that a player like Devin Gardner isn't enjoying the success he deserves.  He's smarter, I am sure, than probably 90% of us on the board, including me.  He's paid his dues, and done everything he can to become the player his coaches ask of him.  He wants to believe in "The Team."  He wants to be a Michigan Man who goes out as a success and a guy that delivers on his promise.  The system, for whatever reasons, has let him down.  That's what burns.  Not the losses, but the fact that a great man, and a great player, plays like he has to be the only guy who can save the team - because he can't.  Not one guy, in today's football.

Second, I am frustrated that Brady Hoke can be so lovable and so irritating at the same time.  He talks a great talk (not articulately, but I don't give a shit about that) and is genuine about what he says. That comes out in conversation after conversation by players, coaches, recruits, and everyone else.  Yet he seems too set in his ways for modern football.  I can't believe that the staff didn't have a fourth-and-six play that they could have tried out in the second quarter when they got the penalty.  This was against Miami of Ohio, fergodsakes!  So what if it fails?  You learn something for the time you really need the play, and the defense is Michigan, fergodsakes!  He sent the wrong message right there to fans, his own players, and his staff:  I don't trust my own guys, just like Gardner doesn't.

I'd love nothing more than to see both of these men succeed.  I love all the intangibles they bring to Michigan Football.  But I don't see it happening, until they learn to just lean on the others, both in the active and the passive sense, and take the chance that the others might let them down.  Because I think that they will discover that the other won't let them down; that, like any really good team, they would rather die than let their teammates down.  Only then can Michigan start the climb back.

Devin, Brady:  I think this team has shown they deserve your trust.  Give it to them, and prosper.

Otherwise, I will post again.

You Only Live Twice

September 15th, 2014 at 8:51 PM ^

First, I'm curious why I got 2 downvotes for my post above.  I save my downvotes for obvious trolls, so even though it doesn't ruin my day, I'd like to know the motivation.  Often you hear that downvotes are not for mere differences of opinion, so something I said must have crossed the line.  Please help me identify what that is.  

Second, Devin Gardner.  In order for any "fan" to attack him, they have some strange axe to grind which again, I don't follow.  He's an excellent quarterback and teams last year were going for him with all they had.  He's a student, an athlete and as many have said, a warrior.  There's no other way to describe someone who played an entire quarter against OSU with one foot.  Beyond all this, though, I learned something about him on the morning commute today, listening to WTKA's morning show with Sam.  Gardner is that rare species of human that can be called "born leader." Why do I say this... because when Darboh felt like crap after the fumble, it was Gardner who said just the right words to him, restoring the younger player's confidence.  In a pressure situation you get to find out what your leaders are made of - the pressure is on which makes people react in different ways, plus there's no time to consider how to frame your words.  That tells me that Gardner has solid leadership skills.  His first instinct was to support his teammate instead of  bitching.  This instinct can't be faked and people respond to it.  So I have renewed respect for his leadership role as well as his abilities as a player.


September 16th, 2014 at 10:15 AM ^

Everyone gets incomprehensible downvotes.  If you read some of the comments, you can probably understand why people do not like rational comments like both of the comments you have posted in this thread.  I upvoted you both times, but (a) to me, the glass is always at least half full and (b) Gardner is a terrific representative of my school even if he does occasionally throw a pass I wish he hadn't thrown.


September 18th, 2014 at 8:13 AM ^

First, I'm curious why I got 2 downvotes for my post above. I save my downvotes for obvious trolls, so even though it doesn't ruin my day, I'd like to know the motivation.

When you're dissenting to a subject that is essentially, "Why we shouldn't be satisfied with just winning", somebody is going to downvote you because they're going to fall into the same irrational camp as the OP; and yes, I think the premise of this diary is fairly irrational.

There seems to be this pervasive attempt at revisionist history that, prior to Carr's retirement, Michigan was a program where we could rest assured that week-in and week-out we'd win and win convincingly, when really the opposite was true. Every season you expected the team to be good, but you were also wondering where in the schedule the landmine(s) would go off to derail our season. 1997 was a pleasant surprise, not a foregone conclusion and to act like uncertainty over the near term fortunes of our football team is a recent phenomenon unique to the Rodriguez and Hoke regimes is completely inaccurate.


September 19th, 2014 at 12:53 AM ^

during the last 4-5 years of his career, minus that great defense in '06, I did like the fact, in retrospect, of course, that he'd normally put us out of the NC hunt in the preseason ooc schedule, thereby allowing us to run off a string of victories, giving the average fan a distorted view that we were truly an elite team. 

Back then, when expectations were high, it really wasn't fun realizing we were out of the NC hunt in Sept, but if it didn't happen we always had the season finale against OSU to bring us back down to earth.


Space Coyote

September 15th, 2014 at 9:43 PM ^

Both Rich Rod (2010) and Borges (2011) debuted a more under-center I-form game plan against Iowa. Rich Rod called it 14 times in the 2010 game, with probably half of those on the opening TD drive.

I know Rich Rod always believed in having an under-center I-form option, but that was something I hadn't noticed before.

Also, according the the Michigan raised great author Elmore Leonard, rule number 1 of writing a story: never start with the weather. After reading his ten rules, I was surprised how often I had done just that, and he's right. But still, well written diary nonetheless.


September 15th, 2014 at 11:18 PM ^

If football isn't supposed to be hard, it owes my body an apology.

There is a disconnect between fans and players that seems to be too big to overcome. The guys on the field pay for those wins with their blood. I wish most people would realize that.

Fans are not entitled to wins. Players aren't entitled to wins. Every day, someone breaks a bone, tears a muscle, ruptures a ligament, suffers sub-concussive brain trauma. For the win. They are all precious. Hell, even the losses are. For every guy who pulls on a helmet, there will come a time when he looks back and thinks, "God damn it, how did I miss that block?"

Obviously, everyone wants to win. But Appalachian State, Toledo, 3-9 seasons should have disabused us of the notion that football is easy.

Ron Utah

September 16th, 2014 at 12:09 AM ^

I think you missed the point.  Of course football is hard.  The field is a classroom, and life is hard.

Michigan seems to lack the precision and cohesiveness that lead to the appearance of ease on the field.  I played through college, then coached at the high school and collegiate levels.  I know the game is hard.

My point is that we seem to make it harder than it has to be.  That we are missing whatever ingredient takes you from very good to great.  The frustrating thing is that we seem to have great players and great coaches (or at least coordinators) and we still look far short of our potential.

Teams like Baylor, A&M, OSU, FSU, Alabama, Auburn...they can make it look so easy, even against good opponents.  We make it look harder than that against bad teams.

I've played and coached with great teams; there were games and even stretches of games where it seemed like all we could do was win.  When was the last time you felt that way about Michigan football?

I want that feeling.


September 16th, 2014 at 7:11 AM ^

I was just waxing poetic about the game. I got your point; this diary was really well written. I guess the comment wasn't really meant as a rebuttal but as a little comment on the nature of the game in the face of all the negativity around the program.

The last time I felt that all Michigan could do was win was before the Ohio State game in 2006. I miss the feeling. But as Michigan fans, we were allowed that feeling for much longer than any of the teams you mentioned. I refuse to complain. We're pretty lucky, if we're old enough.