A thread for positive thinking

Submitted by Communist Football on September 2nd, 2018 at 12:10 PM

I fully share the MGoCommune's disappointment that we lost the game, but there were tangible signs of improvement vs. 2017, and reason for optimism if the team continues to get better:

- Significantly improved QB play (from both Patterson and McCaffrey), especially considering that it was their first game—compare with Rudock vs. Utah. Patterson's throws were crisp, and McCaffrey did a nice job of running and throwing on the fly, especially on short notice. He has nice mobility.

- Statistically, as Zach Shaw notes, Michigan gained more passing yards (249) against ND than in 16 of its last 17 games, and that against last year's 5th-ranked S&P pass defense.

- The Ambry Thomas kick return -- when was the last time we had a KO return for a touchdown?

- The defense, after getting gashed early, stuffed a talented and mobile ND offense.

- The punting was better than expected -- Will Hart averaged 43.7 yards with a long of 51. Kickoffs were solid as well with Moody.

- We have five games to shore things up -- WMU, SMU, Nebraska, Northwestern, Maryland -- before the toughest part of our schedule emerges. Hopefully, JH and his braintrust uses that time to get Hudson and perhaps Mayfield into the lineup. Warinner now has game tape he can use to evaluate the OL. If we can somehow get the tackle spot up to mediocre, we can absolutely contend in the B1G.

Keep your chins up, Comrades!

Comments

Barn Animal

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:15 PM ^

I generally agree but my main concern is that our improved qb play will be cancelled out my even worse (not sure how that's possible) tackle play compared to 2017. The staff needs to work in Hudson and maybe even Mayfield to help jumpstart their growth by giving them game reps against lesser competition.

chunkums

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:53 PM ^

I agree wrt Runyan at least, but I think we can win with JBB. He adds to the running game and we'll be able to run against most teams on our schedule. Runyan gives us nothing and we should probably just deal with the growing pains that come along with Hudson. Just removing one of those tackles and cutting down the thundersacks by a third would make a big difference. 

clarkiefromcanada

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:22 PM ^

Panic and Run Around Screaming! (animated gif)

Loss sucks to ND and, admittedly, around 1130 last night I found little comfort from the Laphroaig and Cohiba. 

That said, it's the first game of the year. Notre Dame will be good this year. The defense of the second half (80 yards) will be the norm and if Don Brown can figure what to do on pursuit angles/mobile quarterbacks Michigan can win 9/10 games. 

Fan participation (and I'm a season ticket holder) comes with this cost. I've thought about that today. Our commitment as fans and with our friends/families comes with an emotional cost. That cost was pretty high last night but I'll reserve judgment for a bit (while I pray for development by James Hudson and Jalen Mayfield). 

Gucci Mane

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:22 PM ^

I have never felt better about a loss...then I go to mgoblog and people’s are losing their minds. I expected people to be excited like I am that we might have a pretty good offense by mid season. We have people questioning Harbaugh’s Job ? This is insane. People only understand wins and losses. Look deeper people !

Gucci Mane

September 2nd, 2018 at 5:37 PM ^

The Baughz. I'm not content with 8-9 wins in general. My hope for Harbaugh is he coaches here till he retires an old man with 1 national title, and 2+ big ten titles. What i'm saying is this season is not lost, if we can win all the games we clearly have more talent, go 2-1 in that brutal 3 game stretch, then we are playing OSU for the title just like we should be.

myislanduniverse

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

I'm no football sage, and at best a casual observer over the years -- the finer X's and O's evade me and I leave it to the regular contributors of this website to break those down for me. But I actually felt encouraged, despite being disappointed as expected by another road loss, to another rival.

I think that the quarterback play by both Shea and Dylan was solid and gave me confidence. The defense stiffened up and adjusted, holding what will be a top 10 team, on the road, to 3 points in the second half.

Aside from the botched FG snap (oh, and DPJ still making some bad decisions on when to field a punt), special teams graded pretty well.

I think this will hopefully prompt some good growth, like Utah 2014, and gel the team.

ColoradoBlue

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

I'm with you, man.  The line play is definitely a cause for concern, but we have one of the best in the OL coaches in the business and I'm confident he'll figure out a way to shore that up.  What I saw in Patterson and DCaf last night was very encouraging.

I guess I keep forgetting my personal rule to avoid MGoBlog for at least 48 hours after ANY loss.

LKLIII

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:51 PM ^

And OL is notoriously slow to develop as well. The seeds of our dysfunction there were planted YEARS ago. It will take years to repair. 

Anybody thinking Warriner could fix this in his first 8 months is on drugs. 

The one thing that was fixable quickly on the OL that I did see improvement on:  zero penalties on offense. Two new QBs, a true sophomore center in his first start, hostile night game season opener & zero false starts, zero botched snaps. To me that speaks to good early indicators of good OL coaching. 

The recruiting & development of our young  OTs already on campus will take another 1-2 years. 

CompleteLunacy

September 2nd, 2018 at 2:40 PM ^

Lots of comparisons to Utah.

If everyone remembers, that game vs. Utah looked like a team still trying to shake off its Hokian tendencies. There were glimmers of hope, but ultimately they still looked like a Hoke team.

It's possible the OL goes through a similar transformation. We won't see the fruits of the OL coach's labors until later in the season, and right now they just look like a copy paste of last year's OL.

Even marginally-competent OL play would be good enough, but it's gonna take some time.

It's not all shit, ladies and gents. There's reason for optimism. Everyone bringing up the road game woes of Michigan over the past decade plus, but right now the team is 0-1 and has 11 games left to define the season. It could mean it all goes into a tire fire 5-7 Hokian season...or it could be one of those early losses that help to shape the course of a successful season. I'll take this loss to ND if it becomes a valuable lesson for what to expect when we got to MSU and OSU later on. 

 

Sopwith

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:25 PM ^

Two positives I took away:

1. Dramatically better QB play.

2. The team, unlike most of MGoBlog, didn't quit on the game.

Otherwise, Brian's note on the front page about the offensive tackles... ("the balsa wood holding up the whole damn building") was more or less spot on. Balsa wood is not a good foundation. Sigh.

BlueMarrow

September 2nd, 2018 at 1:29 PM ^

I'll add a TD on a KO return. Although that was balanced by the hold debacle.

When DM came it at QB, I saw a guy that looked like an NFL QB. 

If I slit my wrists after a bad loss, I would have died after the FSU game 1991.

We are moving in the right direction. No one is less pleased with the progress, or more disappointed with the loss than those who are the program.

Does no one give credit to good D line play unless it's Michigan's line?

TVG_2.0

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:29 PM ^

The team is certainly improved from last year. Problem is the the improvements are not major enough for us to overcome the tougher schedule this year. Our last hope is to roll out Hudson and mayfield and hope that they’re at least serviceable at tackle by B1G play. At very least it sets the line up better for next year. Because as long as the tackle spot is this bad, we’re not going to beat anyone of note this year. Like no offense to Runyan, but that was worse than Ulizio vs Florida. 

SkyPanther

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:29 PM ^

People that really believed Brandon Peters was better than Dylan McCaffrey must have been confounded last night. I wonder if Peters was put 2nd on the depth chart to keep him from transferring.

What I feel positive about (I hope) is that I had read an insider say, when Jim McElwain was hired, that McElwain is poised to take over Pep Hamilton's duties if the passing game looked like it did last year.

A commenter said last night the receivers were getting open, unlike last year, so Pep Hamilton is calling good plays now, unlike last year. But Pep Hamilton is not coaching the WRs. Jim McElwain is coaching them. I look forward to the time, hopefully soon, that Jim McElwain is running the entire passing game.

 

SkyPanther

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

I did see the National Championships he was part of at Alabama. I did see the improvement he brought to Colorado St.

And I did see how many players were suspended at Florida, which is really to blame for what happened at Florida last year.

Take a look at Jim McElwain overall, and not just at last year.

Hotel Putingrad

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

I don't know that I buy the "Peters tweaked a knee" story. I think McCaffrey is better at running a hurry up offense, and that's why he was in last night. 

Without the All 22 tape, I couldn't really tell you how the routes were, but it was bittersweet watching Nico grab a deep ball while knowing they weren't dialing up more similar plays because they knew they couldn't protect Shea long enough.

YoOoBoMoLloRoHo

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:34 PM ^

There are many positives and the team has a lot of talent in many areas, just not OT.  We know the defense is much closer to the 2nd half version than the 1st Qtr - but guys must make basic plays and they must generate some turnovers.

The passing game is much improved and Shea/Dylan showed command despite a lack of pocket security. The special teams also looked solid other than the botched hold.

Besides the OT gap, the core issue is mental toughness and moxie to make plays. Period.

YouRFree

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

- Better QB play due to more accurate passer on the team at starter and backup. Not sure how much of this is on coaching though.

- No false start in a noisy environment, that may be the reason they "mismanage" the 2 min drill. But hey, a flip side, if we hurry and led to 5 yard backward due to false start, it's not good either.

- Brad Hawkins was not much downgrade from Metellus, bearing the their long TD, where Hawkins was in a good position to bat it down or intercept. we have depth on most defensive position. Just need to clean up the DT and DE play

- I don't see any downgrade after Bush is off the field. again good depth.

Kick off return and punting has been improved. Thomas is electrifying as kick off returner.

Karan Higdon start to look like Mike Hart but faster. He's elusive on first cut and burst to full speed. He will dominate the weak team. Hopefully, the OL improve enough to make his running better. A few positive running play behind FB Mason tells me that we should keep doing this more often especially in red zone.

1VaBlue1

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

I'm hoping that Hudson and Mayfield were held out simply because the first game was at ND, at night.  Sort of like giving JOK the start at PSU last year, instead of Peters.  Give them a few games to work in and settle down, so we can see improvement.  That's essentially how Newsome started out in 2016, also - before the injury.

Granted, ND's DL is pretty good, but man did Runyan look bad last night.  The OT situation has to improve, as does the OL in general.  If that improves in the next few games to last seasons late year performance, the offense will be far better than what we saw last night.

Rick Sanchez

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:57 PM ^

^^This.

There was no way Harbaugh was going to throw Hudson or Mayfield to the wolves in a hostile road environment against a top 10 defense. You’ll see them play this week at WMU and gradually get more time as the season progresses.  Remember we destroyed PSU 2 years ago and they went on to win the B1G East. Too early to panic!

Cranky Dave

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:43 PM ^

The QB play seemed better but both Patterson and McCaffrey had QBRs in the 30s, Wimbush’s rating was 62. The RBs rushed for 3.1 ypc.  Runyan got his ass handed to him all night, gave up at least 2 of the 3 ND sacks.  Both on stunts...

when you have to talk about the punter averaging 43 yards as a bright spot you’re really stretching.

Can the team turn things around? Absolutely, just think about 2014 OSU.  But the odds are against us, given how shitty the OL looked and how many boneheaded plays we made whether DPJ on the punt return, Hawkins dropping sure INT, penalties, etc. At this point the entire schedule is toughest part.  Even  assuming SMU is a gimme is over,y optimistic.  

Cranky Dave

September 2nd, 2018 at 1:34 PM ^

So the QBRs I listed were from ESPNs box score which were raw QBR (I believe this is the NFL metric). Using sports reference college rating system Michigan’s QBs ratings are

2015

Ruddock 141.3 (from 133 in 2014)

2016

Speight 139.8

JOK 121.0

Patterson 121.0

2017

JOK 102.1

Speight 121.9

Patterson 151.5

2018

Patterson 123.6

Speight 81.5

 

So a clear regression in QB rating since 2015  especially Speight. is this all Peps fault? No.  But unless the OL gets better it doesn’t matter much who’s coaching the QBs  

 

 

 

 

jcorqian

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:58 PM ^

I was absolutely furious during the game, lots of yelling and swearing till my voice was hoarse.  But in retrospect, I really don't think it was as bad as I thought.  Don't get me wrong - it's still bad - but I really think there is hope.  The defense performance first half was shockingly bad, and the offensive line was abysmal, but I still think we can build from this. 

I think people also have to keep in mind that ND is a pretty good and veteran team coming off a very successful year last year.  It's also on the road, at night, which is difficult for any team to go and play in for the first game.  I think it was unreasonable to expect some sort of blowout win.  Do I wish we played better?  Definitely.  Do I wish we had better game management / less mental mistakes, which killed us as much as anything?  Definitely.  But there were some positives.

+ QB.  Shea is a much better QB, actually accurate, actually has some moxy.  I was also extremely impressed with Dylan McCaffrey - put 20 lbs of muscle on this kid and turn him loose.  I think he already has outstanding poise, game sense, and command of the offense.  Kid is a leader and just has that "it" or "gamer" or whatever intangible moniker is in fashion.  I actually saw him step-up in the pocket in face of pressure and then make a throw or at least run to take what was available.  By contrast, Shea hasn't seemed to mastered stepping-up at all - he just runs backwards / plays backyard football (high-risk, high-reward).  Sidenote: I was super impressed with Wimbush - gotta give that kid respect, he was getting hit and hit hard on lots of plays and still had the game sense to know exactly when to step-up and exactly when to take off.

+ Defensive pressure.  I completely disagree that our defense wasn't getting pressure.  We got an incredible amount of pressure on Wimbush all night and hit him as much as I've seen a QB get hit in my ~10 years or so of seriously watching college football.  The thing is 1) he didn't get rattled, and 2) he was able to step-up in the pocket when our ends were too aggressive in getting upfield.  If we just contain a bit better (ends breakdown more, linebackers fill the rushing lanes better) then we do much better on defense than we did.  

+ Ambry Thomas.  Magnus posted on his blog that Michigan is lacking the big-time offensive playmaker.  I think it can be Ambry.  If anyone watched the PSU game yesterday (in which they were pretty fucking awful as well, FYI - probably worse than us) you will see the damage they did with KJ Hamler (a kid that we didn't recruit but probably would have come here, if I recall).  I think Ambry is just as good - if not better - of an athlete / playmaker than Hamler and he has the added benefit of being bigger and stronger as well.  We should be getting him the ball more.

+ Young talent.  The ND game - again, on the road, at night, in an utterly hostile environment, against a very experienced team with a very good defensive front seven especially - is over.  It's done, it's in the past, it's history.  Now we can move on.  I believe we've seen all we've needed to see unfortunately from Jon Runyon and its now time to get some of the young guys involved.  Hudson, Mayfield, time to step-up and cement your legacy as the next great Michigan tackle and lock down a 4-year starting position.  The schedule allows us to break these guys in.  Are they going to have perfect strength / perfect mastery of the offense?  Not right away.  But in the 2nd half of the year and in the coming years, this is going to payoff greatly.

Overall I would say that I'm surprised at how calm I am after this loss.  I hate ND with a passion, more than OSU, but I mean we still had a chance in the game even late, which was miraculous given how shitty we played.  That says something about this team - the ability is there.  If we can stop doing some of the dumb shit we did - missed opportunities for clear interceptions, a ton of penalties that kept enemy drives alive, and poor clock management / lack of urgency - we can still go far.  I don't think those things are impossible to fix.  I didn't think the refs were that bad, I think we actually committed most of those penalties.  If we clean that up alone, we are right in the game the entire time within probably one score.

The sky is not falling, and the season is not over.  This team can still be something, the ceiling is still a Big Ten contender and the floor is a good setup for next year, at the very least.  I, for one, will keep watching and try to evaluate objectively without pre-season homerism expectations.  We aren't the only program out there trying to get better every day - other teams have good players and coaches too.  But we can still come out of this season fairly well.

 

ToledoWolverine

September 2nd, 2018 at 12:59 PM ^

What I saw was a game in which many of the breaks didn’t go our way. The late hit on Winovich cost 4 points. The botched fg attempt cost us 3. ( it was from a very makeable distance. That’s the scoring difference right there. A 50/50 ball winds up a TD for them, maybe the difference between Hawkins and Metellus is making a better play on that ball.

 

credit to ND for having a better gameplan and better playcalling. Their defense is legit and deserves a lot of credit. They were able to scheme around their offensive limitations. I feel like if this is a game we play in week 3 instead of week 1, it would have benefited us more than them.

 

That being said, their is obviously work to do with the Oline, and our play calling needs tweaked. I just don’t see the game as an utter disaster that many do. 

 

The sad takeaway, is I think if we can’t move them back a week or two on the schedule, I would take them off and schedule in favor of a tomato can. The risk vs reward for playing a good team in week 1 does not equate. 

Neversatisfied

September 2nd, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

Most neutral people were predicting we lose like this. The positives are Shea finally figured out what he is in the 2nd half. Step up in the pocket, make them miss, find guys down field. Our return game looks healthy. Our defense is aggressive. We lost some 50/50s, but this team fights. That is a positive. 

Those ND pass rushers looked pretty dang good. 

BlueMk1690

September 2nd, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

We lost on the road against what's probably a pretty good team. That was certainly within the range of expected possible outcomes even for a good Michigan team. If you went into yesterday without considering a L a normal possible outcome, you need to readjust your mentality.

If your two modes of fandom are "We're gonna smash them!" and (upon failing to do so) "Burn it all down!" then you are that idiot in the sports bar.

BlueMk1690

September 2nd, 2018 at 1:47 PM ^

I think it was naive to think all issues of 2017 would be completely turned around in the 1st game of 2018 to the extent where they won't be notable vs good opposition.

I am firmly convinced this was the wrong game at the wrong time. It can't be changed obviously, and there isn't much of a rational point in harping on about it, but I am still mighty sore about how our AD sold the interests of the program down the river in those negotiations.

The path from here is pretty obvious. Win everything up to the game at MSU. That won't be easy either, but I think it's within the range of what we can reasonably hope for. I actually find the Wisconsin home game to be far more relevant as far as the overall picture is concerned than last night's game. Win that and we're on track as a solid team, if you lose that you can legit say..yeah it's pretty mediocre.

wahooverine

September 2nd, 2018 at 2:33 PM ^

I don't it's that misleading.  Michigan played about as bad a game as they could have on the road, caught no breaks on 50/50 situations, and got no relief from the refs and still just lost by a touchdown. Meanwhile ND played great, looked like a top 10 team and their QB question marks looked answered...and the game was still decided by just a touchdown, with Michigan having a chance to tie.  Play that game 10 more times and Michigan wins at least 5 of them. 

0-6-1-0

September 2nd, 2018 at 1:06 PM ^

Some people saying that despite this loss, Harbaugh has turned around Michigan (through first 40 games): 

Brady Hoke - 27-13 overall, 4-5 vs OSU/MSU/ND, 1-2 in Bowl Games 

Jim Harbaugh - 28-12 overall, 1-6 vs OSU/MSU/ND, 1-2 in Bowl games. 

Not the turnaround artist I'd be positive for. Especially at $7.5 million annually.