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Monday, September 20, 2010

UM 42, UMass 37: Exposed? Or just Michigan caught looking ahead to Bowling Green?

That was close.

Hey, a win is a win.

What the f*ck?!  Seriously -- what the f*ck?!

I wanted to believe. 

Like many of you, I wanted to believe.  I wanted to believe that Michigan was "back."  That we'd turned a corner.  That we had a team this year.  But those illusions were "blown up, sir!" when UMass gave their gracious hosts all they could handle in 42-37 Wolverine win Saturday at the Big House.

Watching the game, those of us who bleed blue were faced with a reality many of us sensed in our gut but happily chose to ignore during the past two weeks of Shoelace Fever -- that Michigan has one of best players in the country in QB Denard Robinson, but not much else. 

And that's cause for concern.  Unfortunately, three years into The Rich Rod Experiment, I still don't see the overall improvement. 

Which is why what happened versus UMass, even in victory, was so disappointing.  When your starting QB is still in the game on the final play taking a knee against the Big Cupcake on your schedule, something's amiss.  When U-M is forced to recover onside kicks in the closing minutes against a team that squeaked out a win versus William & Mary, things aren't improving at the team level.

Yes, I know Michigan has a young defense. And I never expected to see something remotely on par with 'Bama wearing Maize and Blue this season. However, since we're talking about a young defense for the winningest program in college football history, for a team that hasn't had a sub-Top 20 recruiting class in decades, I thought the "young defense" lament was relative to a defense that would be able to lead U-M to a Big 10 title. I didn't think the measuring stick was to a defense that often looks like it has never played organized football before.

Go ahead, slam me in the comments: "Yost, you're being too harsh."  "Yost, we knew it was gonna take time."  "Yost, you're an extremely handsome, handsome man but you're overreacting...however you're still an extremely handsome man."

But let's look at the facts:  First of all, Michigan's defense, to put it in football terms, blows.  Unequivocally and without question, it blows big chunks.  We gave up 343 yards to a UConn team that lost to Temple on Saturday, we gave up 532 yards to a Notre Dame team that played without its starting QB for a quarter and a half -- a QB who, even when he was in the game, was playing with one eye, and we just gave up 439 yards to UMass -- one more yard than William & Mary gave up vs. UMass in their season opener.  Think about that:  UMass gained one less yard playing William & Mary -- at home in Amherst in front of 10,072 people -- than the Minutemen gained on the road  in the Big House playing the University of Michigan in front of a hostile crowd of 110,000.  Hey, I guess maybe William & Mary's 'D' isn't as young as Michigan's.  Or maybe W&M recruits better players.  After Saturday, 1-AA schools are probably lining up to play U-M in A2!

Second, we don't have a kicking game.  Not 'we have a bad kicking game' but rather we don't have a kicking game.  If the Wolverines hadn't gotten the TD and had Michigan been forced to go for a game-tying FG in the final seconds of the ND game, do any of you have any confidence we could have kicked a 40 yarder to tie it?  Okay, while 40 yards isn't exactly a monster kick in major college football, it's no gimme.  So what about 35 yards?  Would you have been confident then?  How 'bout 30?  25?  That I probably haven't reached your "confident zone" at 25 yards, for a school such as Michigan, is just as disgraceful as the defense.  Many high school teams have a better kicking game.

So what are we left with?  An offense.  Or more specifically, a very special QB and a pretty decent O line.  Until UMass, Michigan's RBs were averaging just over 3 yards per carry.  Yes, runners not named Robinson gained 181 of U-M rushing yardage last Saturday but, again, that was UMass.  That's why you schedule a team next playing something called Stony Brook on the road this weekend -- so that anybody with a fucking winged helmet can run wild.  

Look, I hope I'm wrong.  I hope we're able to simply outscore everybody (because we can't stop anybody and God help us if a game comes down to a last second FG).  But I suddenly have that queasy 2009 feeling -- a couple early thrilling wins that masked bigger and deeper problems.

Did I mention I hope I'm wrong?

Maybe UMass was a wake-up call.  But I can't stop thinking it was a realization.

"I think we're gonna need a bigger defense."


Maize N Brew Dave: They are who we thought they were.

Brian at MGoBlog:  Parachute check!

Gerd at The OZone:  Michigan Mondays (folks, yes, it's a Buckeye site but if you don't already, you must make Gerd's column a weekly read.  Great stuff!)


surrounded in columbus said...

you don't see improvement?

last time (before R2) we played a 1AA team we LOST!

we're at least THAT much better, aren't we???

phil said...

In the case of the William & Mary team, they had lots of veterans on this year's defensive squad. Granted most of them were from World War II.

Mikoyan said...

If you want to feel really sad, as I was sorting through my pics Saturday night, many of the plays from UMass looked exactly alike. If they can't stop something that predictible...Yowch.

I hope that this was a wake up game and not something else...

plooder said...

The "Big Reveal" won't happen until Indiana. Enjoy the next 2 weeks.

Bigasshammm said...

More than likely it was definitely a case of the kids not giving much respect to their opponents. All week long they probably believed the hype of playing a tomato can and they could just walk out there and UMass would hand them the ball and call it quits. This has been common at Michigan football for the last 15 years. Every team that has come in that should have been beaten by 30 or more was never handled. Exceptions were maybe last years team where they rolled over the teams they were supposed to roll over. But that was also a team led by true freshman on the offense so they couldn't just sit back and relax during the week because they were still learning and practicing hard.

The Bowling Green game will really tell the story. If they struggle against them (they're really not that terrible for a MAC team) then we've got problems. If they roll over them then I think it was definitely an issue of not preparing to play a football game last Saturday.

Indiana scares the shit out of me with their completely veteran offense. Could be trouble.

Bigasshammm said...

I've been preaching on Mgoblog that if they get through the first 5-6 games with either 1 loss or definitely undefeated they need to give RR a contract extension before the bulk of the Big Ten schedule hits. That would release all the pressure on him, the team, and spark recruiting.
There are still tons of people saying he needs to go which is just asinine to think this team would be any better with anyone else. The spark that could give the team and recruiting would be huge.

surrounded in columbus said...

yeah, they looked bad at times. could be caused by a lot of things. could be they are really not very good. doubt that we'll know much more over the next 2 weeks (well, nothing positive- i guess if we lose either of these games we'll know something negative).

however, before everyone scurries off the cliff fretting about how bad we looked winning, ask yourself this- if we beat MooSU in 3 weeks, will any of this concern over the UMass game matter?

if after 3 seasons, our new coach still can't beat MooSU (which had a losing record last season & isn't likely to be much better this season), we have a problem no matter what we looked like against UMass.

and if after 3 seasons our new coach does beat MooSU, nobody is gonna care how we looked against UMass.

this will work itself out in the end.

Andy said...

Is Sru now posting under the name "plooder" ?

ChicagoWolverine said...

Just got back into town last night and watched the game on DVR - was it me, or did it seem that our game speed seemed really really slow. Our offense between plays seemed to be taking longer, our players just seemed to be stuck in a gear lower than what it looked like live @ND?

i'm shocked we're still in teh top 25.

Also, really sad what happened to Mark D. - hoping for a speedy recovery for that dude.


plooder said...

In the interest of full disclosure; I am a Buckeye. That said, R2 is recruiting kids that will be successful in his system and not kids that will be successful in the Big Ten. He needs to change his system to fit Big Ten personnel or he will rightly find himself coaching back in the Big East.

surrounded in columbus said...

you know, if my team had had it's head handed to it by spread option teams like, oh, say, Florida, Texas, and even Illinois, over the last couple of seasons, i might be a little more hesitant to criticize the system.

maybe R2 isn't going to get it done. but "you can't win the big ten w/ a spread offense"??? really? you watch tosu's 2007, 2009 bowl games?

the 2008 game against Illinois?

seriously? the only teams to beat tosu in the last 5 seasons (other than USC) were all spread offenses.

plooder said...

The spread-option has not worked in conference play. It will not work in conference play until the Wolverines can keep Big Ten defensive linemen out of their backfield until the play develops. Maybe all he needs is a dive man.

surrounded in columbus said...

starting w/ the 2005 season, tosu has lost only 10 games total (a very impressive record- gack/spit).

of those 10 games, only one (1) team, USC, runs a pro style offense.

all of the other teams that have beaten tosu in this time frame- Texas, Florida, Illinois, PSU, Purdue, and LSU, all run (or at that time, ran) some variant of a spread style/non pro set/I set offense.

i'm not sure what you mean when you say a spread offense "won't work in conference play", but i do know it will work against tosu.

whetstonebuck said...

Didn't Oregon run a spread in the Rose Bowl? Seems like the bloom is off the rose (yuk, yuk)and some unnamed defensive coordinator figured out how to stop it.
Could be the end of the spread's effectiveness against OSU. Just sayin'.

Michael said...

I don't understand how/why:

1. Michigan is ranked in both polls

2. They held both positions after Saturday.

Sounds like ND...