Why did the Utah loss turn the world upside down?

Submitted by Cold War on September 23rd, 2014 at 11:27 AM

There has been growing discontent with Hoke for some time now, dating back to at least last season. But the Utah loss seems to have had a disproportionate effect. ESPN is suddenly smelling blood and televising a routine Hoke presser, and MGoBlog and Michigan fandom has lit the torches and picked up the pitchforks. I don't recognize this place.

I get the start of the season is disappointing. Even as a Hoke slappy, I'll admit whatever doubts I had have grown. And I understand how whatever oppostion Hoke had would grow with the loss.

But why have we gone over a cliff after Utah? It's not App State, Toledo, or even an Akron near miss.  They're a decent PAC team that came in and we lost a game we shouldn't have.

What am I missing? What was it about Utah?




September 23rd, 2014 at 11:41 AM ^

That is the problem. You just favorably compared the poor play in Utah's game to other poor performances by the team.  The performance against Utah was listless and uninspired, and that has become a far too regular occurrence. That it was not the worst we've endured under this leadership is damning. 

A game like Utah won't sink a coach if that is the worst his team has ever performed and it appears to be an abberation.  Continually falling short of even rapidly diminished expectations is the harbinger of doom.    Losing to Utah in this fashion surprised too few people and it is the culmination of it all, and the confirmation that the Notre Dame game was not an isolated incident, that has caused the reaction we are seeing on the board lately.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:04 PM ^

The Utah game confirmed what many of us feared.  

The offense was very problematic and over four games, there was little tangible growth. When you don't score a single TD in a game against an opponent that was not ranked, Houston, we have a problem..  On top of that, when you are fielding 10 players on special teams and a punt gets returned for a TD, a certain realization occurs.  Add DG's lack of growth and a very bad INT to the equation, and what you got from Utah was an affirmation that the problem was real and not being fixed.


Sauce Castillo

September 23rd, 2014 at 11:59 AM ^

Cold War, don't consider this bashing but I think it's the culmination of being 4-8 in our last 12, with 4 wins against crappy teams, and being out coached in most of the other 8 losses.  It’s as simple as that.  Lets not get into “we didn’t play as bad as we did in other games” cause that’s just an excuse losers make.  We should expect better results in a results driven field.  Currently the job is not getting done.  It’s time to cut the cord. 


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

You didn't check in after Penn State, did you?

Look, I really appreciate what you're doing this week. It's easy for people to mindlessly fall in line with the general consensus and repeat talking points about why Hoke needs to be fired. There are occasional accusations of groupthink toward Mgoblog, and you are a great demonstration against this. In fact, I'm going to up vote you just to show that I appreciate your independent thought.

But man, are you wrong. People melt down after every loss. The problem here is that Michigan is ever-more-clearly not delivering on its talent. Two years ago there were injuries and a hard schedule. Last year things were unexpectedly shakey. This year... is year four. These are, except for a brilliantly talented fifth-year quarterback, Hoke's players. And they are losing badly to less talented teams.

Every one of these circumstances is another piece of evidence that things won't get better. So we're not just looking at a bad start--we have history showing us that the team is unlikely to improve, that we will probably be embarrassed by our rivals (again!), that we move again will not compete for a title in a conference that is as weak as it has ever been, and that for any of these things to change we must once again go through a disruptive coaching change.

So there you go.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:40 PM ^

Here's how I look at it: each coaching regime has turning points. The Utah game was turning point #2 for Hoke, as I see it. Let me explain.

Turning point #1 in a coaching regime is the point when the honeymoon wears off, and the head coach has no longer has the benefit of the doubt from the fanbase.

Turning point #2 is the moment where the coach has exhausted the goodwill of the fans, and only a major turnaround will save his job.

Turning point #3 is the dead-man-walking stage where nothing the coach can do can save his job and it becomes a waiting game for the most oppertune time to fire him.

For Rich Rod, #1 was Illinois '09, #2 was Wisconsin '10, and #3 was either OSU or the bowl game, depending on your perspective.

For Hoke, #1 was PSU '13, and Saturday was turning point #2. I see #3 coming soon, unfortunately. I think Brady is a good man and recruiter, but he's a mediocre coach otherwise and that fact is becoming more clear with every game.


September 23rd, 2014 at 11:35 AM ^

The game left it very difficult to argue that the two teams were coached at an equal level.  Utah - a team that doesn't recruit well compared to Michigan - came into the Big House and looked both sharp and cohesive relative to the Wolverines.  This was despite the fact that they lost their starting QB for a quarter. 

Michigan had trouble blocking, catching, running routes, running the football, throwing the football, and covering punts.  They looked like a team that is a good bit away from being able to beat Utah at home.  Utah is a decent team, but they also went 5-7 last year.

At the risk of harping on two plays, the punt return and following extra point also said a lot to me.  They ran out ten guys to cover a punt, gave up a touchdown, and after the touchdown still didn't realize they'd had ten guys on the field.  We know this b/c they only sent ten guys out for the ensuing extra point. 

Short version:  Michigan looked like they're a good distance from being able to beat a 5-7 Pac 12 team at home.  That's a very long way from where we want to be.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:03 PM ^

My take was completely different.

I think Utah played like shit and really tried to keep us in the game. Their offense was worse than ours outside of two plays after the half.

Their defense let our dreadful offense move the ball pretty well, whereupon we threw it to them. They didn't even have to make any great plays ala Willy Henry, they just had to stand there and catch the ball.

You have to give Utah some credit for winning on the road, but they didn't beat us so much as we out-terribled them. And that's why I'm so disheartened by the loss.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:10 PM ^

Our D played very very well.They were aided by Wilson missing time, but still kept them in check.

The problem is the offense but....that's been the case for a year now, except for the instances when Borges pulled the rabbit out or the opponent was severly overmatched.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:06 PM ^

That Utah kept their cool and did not freak out when their team struggled to move the ball and then gave up an AWFUL pick 6. Because we have to be clear...Utah had a far from perfect game too. But their response to each event told you everything you needed to know about them. How a team responds after non-ideal in-game events is the mark of a great coach. And Utah responded by scoring 10 consecutive points and figuring out how to move the ball against an otherwise stout defense. 

Meanwhile, even if we were to accept that we underrated Utah's defense...we couldn't once get into Utah territory without shooting ourselves in the foot. Not once into their redzone. Gardner crumbled as the game wore on...he simply has never responded well to adversity (pressure and turnovers). The defense responded well for the most part, but unfortunately that's just 1/3rd of the team. Utah's entire team rallied (at some point) each time they faced some adversity.

Now, not all of those issues are on the coaches obviously...but certainly some of it is.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:08 PM ^

Were you really expecting different? Utah has been doing more with less for over a decade now.

Utah's 5-7 record is a mirage.  The lost Wilson to injury for more than half the year last year and still came close to beating a bunch of good teams and did in fact (with Wilson) beat Stanford and BYU.

I agree with the OP. This was no surprise.  And if you don't believe me, check my comments in the Utah preview.


September 23rd, 2014 at 11:32 AM ^

ND was either a fluke or a continuing pattern, we didn't know which until Utah, now we do.

Hoke's got 8 games left to change the narrative, but using his own words, you don't get a second chance at making a first impression and the first impression of team 135 has been abysmal.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:42 PM ^

After ND and Utah it looks less and less like a fluke. The Miami game didn't help, either, and the schedule isn't getting any easier. This team needs to make significant improvements for Hoke to have any chance at keeping his job, but I don't see that being possible.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:12 PM ^

That's why I kept saying "it was just one game" after ND despite everyone else saying "but...3-7 in the last 10!" And I really felt that the turnover margin was not representative of a pattern (yet). The turnovers in ND mostly happened when down by 3+ scores. The turnovers against Miami felt very flukey to me. But there's really not excuse for the turnovers against Utah.

I like to give each season a chance to define itself. If everything persisted year-in year-out, then Beilein would not be a Michigan coach any longer.

Now, I'd still like to give this season a chance since they're still 0-0 in teh Big Ten. But wow is it hard to see a turnaround happening this year, at this point. I hope I'm wrong though.


September 23rd, 2014 at 11:32 AM ^

question after the Jug gets on the plane back to Minnesota? 

3-7 in the last 10 games. Utah just happens to be the latest in a string of clusterfucks against teams that wouldn't get murder fisted by a gang of baby seals.

Avon Barksdale

September 23rd, 2014 at 11:33 AM ^

This would have happened last year had we lost to Akron. Utah is a Mountain West program that has sucked in the Pac12, and they just destroyed the winningest college football program of all time in The Big House.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:12 PM ^

You're the type of guy who said the same crap about Oregon in the early 2000s.  Things change.

Utah might be better than ND and MSU for all we know. Look at how Utah did against Oregon and Stanford in the last year -- it was on par with MSU.  Look how they did against UM - it was on par with Notre Dame.

Avon Barksdale

September 23rd, 2014 at 12:55 PM ^

I'm definitely not that type of guy. Oregon went 11-1 two years prior to that. They went 7-6 the year before and had Kellen Clemons coming back. We still shouldn't have lost to them, but I'm definitely not "that type of guy."

Utah hasn't went to a bowl game since 2011. Let that sink in. They just took us to the woodshed at home. OK, OK? Just making sure. Totally different than Oregon beating us after 11-1 and 7-5 seasons.


September 23rd, 2014 at 1:15 PM ^

They've had undefeated seasons and won BCS bowls. They proved they were a big conference program.  That doesn't eliminate the struggles that you'd expect when going up to a tougher league. The last two seasons have been not as good, but there are good reasons for it (QB out for more than half the year) and Utah still came out ahead of Michigan in FEI, beat Stanford. They have established themselves as a legitimate program, superior to most in the big 10. Not making a bowl in the last two years, when they've proven themselves to be so strong in the last 10 years is ridiculous. 


September 23rd, 2014 at 4:51 PM ^

OK, but are they so good that we should be cool with them strangling M to death at home?

Two imaginary scrubs playing QB for Michigan scored 23 offensive points against a Utah team that would go undefeated and beat Alabama in '08. Is this incarnation of Utah even better than the '08 version?


September 23rd, 2014 at 10:03 PM ^

By FEI they were a top 35 program last year, with Wilson hurt for most of the year, that beat Stanford and BYU and lost a very close game to UCLA. 

There is no reason they can't be a top 20 program this year, other than that they play in a very good conference that will make it hard to win 9 or 10 games.  If they were in the Big 10 I'd expect them to be in the top 3 with MSU and OSU, with a good chance of beating either.

They could be better than they were in '08, but I doubt their UM game outcome will tell you much because the '08 team was early in the year with a new coach, and therefore not so predictable. Also they came off a bye this year and had proven they could win.



September 24th, 2014 at 7:53 AM ^

If M had lost a close game to Utah, this might be a valid argument, but that's not the case.  Whether Utah is a good team or not isn't the issue.  The issue is whether the game showed any evidence that a horrid Michigan team had the potential to become mediocre.  I think that the game showed that it doesn't.  Whether the Urah team was really 20 points better than Michigan or, secretly, only really about 10 points better, is kinda moot.


September 23rd, 2014 at 11:34 AM ^

The program should be rocking and rolling at this point.  Harbaugh went 12-1 in year 4 at Stanford after inheriting a one win team.  The team that would have been Rodriguez's 4th year went 11-2.  Both walked into situations far worse than Hoke did here.

Utah is just the straw.  Some people didn't want to see the writing on the wall after ND smoked us or they convinced themselves we'd be better on offense despite losing Gallon/Lewan/Schofield, but there is no denying at this point that this is a downright bad football team.  One that is closer to 6 or 7 wins than winning BCS bowls. 


September 23rd, 2014 at 11:39 AM ^

I also think that some portion of the fanbase was willing to accept a 2014 Michigan team that went 9-3 and was competitive in the losses. But 9-3 with competitive losses? That's a pipe dream unless this team improves radically.


September 23rd, 2014 at 1:59 PM ^

where is the Mike Hart, Terrence Taylor, Molk-Martin-and-van-Bergen, or Jim Harbaugh stepping up to will the team forward? No where. We don't have captains.

This team was tougher in '11 and to some extent in '12 where they believed in each other, and they fought through adversity. (Jim Stapleton is wrong.) Then - except for a few games - they became mush.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:00 PM ^

That's why we can't score any points?  I really think people have just lowered their standards and therefore see progress on the line.  We put up 41 points against a better ND defense last year.  This year a big fat goose egg.  At best we're treading water and we'll see more of that as the season goes along and people start testing our pass protection more and more.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:16 PM ^

If Devin Gardner had played like he did last year against ND, we might have put up 41 points. He was awful in that game and he was awful in this game. 

Combine that with an over reliance on under center snaps that limit his visibility...the offensive line is really not the main concern right now on offense. 


September 23rd, 2014 at 11:54 AM ^

You are the worst kind of Michigan fan right now.  Were you expecting a national championship this year?  You have been all about the fact that if Rodriguez was here he would have gone 11-2 in his fourth season.  Do you have concrete evidence of this?

Who was the quarterback for Harbaugh in that 12-1 year?  Is he comparable to Devin Gardner?  Do you think Michigan would be 2-2 right now if Andrew Luck was the starting quarterback?  Do you think if Hoke is fired this year, and we bring in another coach, he goes 11-2 next year?  If he does, by your logic that means we never should have fired Hoke.

Edit: Hoke walked into a good situation here?


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:08 PM ^

Yes, that is a good situation.  An offensive line with 5 future NFL players (Molk, Omameh, Lewan, Schofield, BWC) at your disposal is a good situation that Hoke bitched about (we need to get bigger and play MANBALL, and boy just wait until my recruits get here, there'll be blood on the field).  Having the returning conference player of the year is a good situation Hoke bitched about (not a PRO STYLE qb like we want in the future). 

My evidence is a team went 11-2.  That is pretty concrete.  It happened with a coach who has a shitty record throughout his career and has lost at least 5 games every season since (this will make three years in a row). 

Guess what, numbnuts, Harbaugh recruited Andrew Luck in his first recruiting class.  Hoke signed NOBODY.  Just like at running back.  Harbaugh also brought in David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin who were beasts as RS freshmen and superstars by his fourth year.  The team stinks now because Hoke didn't restock the cupboard, not because it was empty.  That's why we ain't going 11-2 next year with Hoke or anybody else.  I'd certainly admit I was wrong about Hoke's program building skills if it happened, but what evidence do you see on the field to make you think this team is going to be really good any time soon?


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:15 PM ^

But it is not concrete evidence.

Hoke's offensive fiasco is almost as bad as Rodriguez's defensive fiasco.

Injuries had a lot to do with the turnaround from 2010 to 2011, but they don't explain it all.  Mattison (and Hoke) helped a good bit.

The defense now is as good as the offense was in 2010, if not better.  The problem is the offense.  Just as Rodriguez needed to turn over the keys to "Head Coach of the Defense" - so does Hoke need to give freedom to a "Head Coach of the Offense".


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:24 PM ^

The only way you could compare the 2010 defensive secondary to the 2013 offensive offensive line is if the 2010 secondary had two NFL picks in the first three rounds on it. 

We were starting a true freshmen 2-star and a converted wide receiver after midseason in 2010. Hoke had two NFL tackles and loads of highly rated young players to choose from, not to mention Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow (starters this year over all the highly rated young players). 

Here are the facts: Rich Rodriguez walked into a bad personnel situation and did not handle it well, but built a team up that was successful by year 4. Brady Hoke walked into a good personnel situation, but was hamstrung by his late hire and made some glaring errors his first two seasons recruiting (QBs and not trying to poach more OLs in 2011).

So really, if you're going to blame anyone for the mess we are in right now, blame Dave Brandon, who stabbed the coach he didn't like in the back and screwed over the coach he did like by hiring him late in the recruiting cycle. 


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:46 PM ^

Successful by year four?  How can you say this.  He was fired after crappy seasons in year 2 and year 3.  He didn't build year four.

I do wish RR had more time at Michigan, but I don't believe the past three seasons would have gone any better.  We were only good at offense against crappy teams.  The most exciting game of RR's career at Michigan was a 67-65 OT win over Illinois!  Is that what constitutes a winning program?  Against mediocre-to-moderate talent, the constant for RR was failure.

But yeah, blame Dave Brandon.  I can get on that boat.


September 23rd, 2014 at 12:54 PM ^

Arizona has been a better program than Michigan the last three seasons (three games better in the record books, signature wins, etc.). 

If firing Rich Rodriguez rather than giving him one chance with an upperclassman at QB and returning starters across the board so that we could hire Brady Hoke was a good idea, then why is that the case?

And will you bet me a dollar that Michigan has a better record than Arizona next year?


September 23rd, 2014 at 1:10 PM ^

I will bet you a dollar that Michigan has a better record than Arizona next year.  I did not say that firing Rich Rod was a good idea.

In fact, I will bet you two dollars that Michigan will have a better record.

I am very well aware that I am either in the minority in my support of Hoke, unless that those calling for his firing truly are just a "vocal-minority" (unlikely).

I am a believer in Hoke because I have seen first hand the way he coaches football.  I am a believer in Hoke because not doing so makes me a crappy Michigan fan.  I am a believer in Hoke because it makes it easier to watch Michigan play football when I tell myself "this is our coach, take it or leave it."

It is a sport.  It can ruin my weekend when Michigan loses, but I still put on my maize sweatshirt Sunday morning, win or lose, and proudly support the players and the coaches.

I am a believer because I choose to be, and because I know that no matter who we have as a coach, if we don't go undefeated every season there will be people calling for a change.