Tuesday - September 30, 2008
Instant, Disposable Classic
That game against Wisconsin was something else. And whatever it was, I'm not sure I ever want to see it again. I can't really think of a coherent thing to say, so I'll just dump some thoughts.
1. That was the worst half of offense I've ever seen Michigan play. I honestly found myself thinking that 4-8 was a possibility.
2. Part of the problem was the playcalling. If Mike Debord had a game plan where we ran on almost every single 1st down, even though it was not working, and where the big changeup when we didn't run was a swing pass to the RB, he would be skewered. I love the Rodriguez offense and it will work, but the one thing that will, guaranteed will frustrate fans at times is the playcalling. There will be times when fans throw their hands up and say "Another swing pass?!?!?!"
3. The defense was exceptional. IIRC, and I don't care to count, Wisconsin had 5 possessions in the first half that started in Michigan territory. At one point, they had 3 consecutive possessions (due to a Michigan fumbled punt followed by a fumble on the ensuing Wisconsin kickoff). The defense did not wilt. 21 minutes of field time is a lot to ask of a defense.
4. The defensive line was outstanding. Brandon Graham got the stats (3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, I believe), but Jamison kept constant pressure on, while the DTs (including freshman Mike Martin) controlled the middle. Martin is a tremendous surprise: no freshman DT is supposed to be that good. We have two talented senior DTs and Martin is forcing his way into the rotation nonetheless.
5. Attempting to throw the ball with 0:04 left in the 1st half was silly, and I have witnesses that I said so before the play unfolded. I believe I even turned to my father and said "Wisconsin is more likely to score on this play than we are" (or maybe I said that to the Wisconsin fan sitting next to me).
6. Wisconsin also helped us. Dropped passes, a missed field goal and some really cautious playcalling. They should have been up 28-0 or 31-0 at the half.
7. It is troubling that we are in Game 4 and are having open auditions for the kick return spot. It just seems to indicate that not much time was spent settling that in the off-season. Mathews, Trent, Horn and several other candidates were in Ann Arbor in spring, even, so there's been plenty of time. But whoever is back there, our kick returns are awful. Guys can't get out to the 20. Harrison stopped at the 10 on one, as if surveying the blocking that wasn't laid out in front of him. Just put your head down and barrel forward for what you can get if there's no seam.
8. On replay, Threet was not as bad as I first thought or as bad as the stats made it look. The first pick was partially on Odoms, who hesitated on his route (though the pass was still too high). Mathews dropped a TD. The bomb to Minor was dropped before the hit by the safety. On another play, Threet rolled out and made a heads up play to throw a bomb down the sideline for Mathews. Mathews was slow to react and head upfield, and the ball came up long as a result. He had some bad throws, too, but he was undone by poor receiver play repeatedly. Threet is a reasonably good freshman QB. We are used to really good QBs.
9. In the second half, the big plays on offense started rolling in. The 25 yard TD to Koger. The 35 yard run by Minor. The 60 yard run by Threet. Some, yes, was improved execution, but some is just stuff we weren't in position for in the 1st half. That Minor run doesn't exist until you start throwing a bit on running downs to force the defense out of the middle.
10. Also in the second half, the defense went from damage control to inflicting damage. They got after Evridge, who consistently held the ball too long. They dropped Hill at the line repeatedly and forced Wisconsin into 2nd and long situations.
11. Mesko's punts look horrible, but none ever get returned, so the net is fantastic.
13. The best 2-back pairing, based on limited data, seems to be McGuffie and Grady. Grady is the only guy who can turn a 2-3 yard run in when there's no hole, the guy who can keep the defense honest and free up other things.
14. Losing because of a misalignment on the 2 pt conversion is a brutal way to lose.
Does this game raise or lower my expectations for the year?
My expectations are to be totally erratic, and that's exactly what we were. A half of very good defense and the worst offense you will ever see. A half of decent offense and exceptional defense. That shows the potential is there, but it would be a mistake to take every development as a trend. We are erratic, and the 2nd half may have been just a good half.
But it was a game many expected to lose that we won, so that has to up our expectations for the season by a half game or more, right?