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Monday, October 10, 2011

The Strange Case of Dr. First Half & Mr. Second

What the hell was that in the first half?

Our defense was getting absolutely shredded.  Only by some miracle were the Wolverines down only 10 points and not 14 after Northwestern dropped a sure TD at the end of the 2nd quarter.  Basically, the Maize and Blue were Dan Persa's bitch. 

Mental mistakes were starting to show.  Michigan was picking up penalties it hadn't had the first five games of the season.  The Wolverines just looked sloppy.

And then there was Denard.

Yes, Denard has been off at times - even long stretches - during the season.  But that first 30 minutes on Saturday vs. Northwestern were horrific.  Between throwing off his back foot, missing wide open receivers and the three picks, it was all going wrong.  Hell, his third INT was so far off the mark, I was actually surprised to see a Northwestern player close enough to make the catch.

And Michigan fans - being the calm, cool, collected bunch that they are -  started to panic.  I saw a comment or two here on the open thread, read some tweets, and even talked to a former blogger-who-shall-remain-nameless, and each suggested it was so bad that Denard should be benched in favor of Devin in the second half.

Thank goodness Hoke and company aren't on Twitter at halftime.

Because Hoke stuck with his star and second half Denard was a totally different player.  Michigan was a different team.  Denard torched Northwestern for 28 points and no INTs while the defense picked up their game, shutting out the Wildcats for the final 30 minutes.

There's no way we win Saturday's Northwestern game last year.  Or the year before that (we'll leave 2008 out of this as there's no way we win anything that year).  Oh sure, last year we still might have scored 28 points in the second half, but we certainly don't shut the Wildcats out. 

And therein lies the biggest difference between 2010 and 2011: halftime.  The coaching staff - both on offense and defense - is making adjustments that are altering - and winning - games (see also: Notre Dame). 

Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison and Al "Mr. Spread" Borges are doing a fantastic job of changing what they're doing based on the current game situation, not simply sticking to the game plan they came in with.  Turnarounds like Saturday's are not happening on talent alone.  Outside of Denard and Martin, this is not an uber-talented team.  They're not good enough to win solely with God-given gifts.  Which is no insult.  This was the 108th-ranked defense in D-1 last year (yes, D-1, screw that FBS crap!).  And they didn't improve this much simply because "they have another year under their belt."  That's what analysts always seem to say when searching for a positive about crappy teams: "Look out!  The Hoosiers have 10 starters back on defense this fall!"  Yeah, 10 dudes who completely sucked balls last year!

No, Michigan now has a staff that is getting the most out of the talent they do have.  And they've got them playing together like a team.  Best of all, if things aren't working at halftime, there's a Plan B.

Strange, indeed.


* Through the first 6 games of 2010, Michigan had scored 224 points.  Through the first 6 games of 2011, Michigan has scored 228 points.

* Through the first 6 games of 2010, Michigan's defense had given up 161 points.  Through the first 6 games of 2011, Michigan has given up 75.

*  Via ESPN: It took Rich Rod 33 games to make Michigan bowl eligible. It took Brady Hoke 6 games in his 1st season to make Michigan bowl eligible.

 *  Every year since 1976 that Michigan started a season 6-0, it ended up in the Rose Bowl

*  As of late last night/early this morning, the cheapest tickets for the M/MSU game according to StubHub were $174 each for crappy upper deck seats.


GoBlueBob said...

Reminds me of Bo. He always made adjustments at halftime that did not always result in wins, but always resulted in the team playing better in the second half. I also like that they are adapting the type of play to the strengths of the current players and not forcing a system that will not work. Not sure how the rest of the season will turn out, but I am much more confident with this group of coach's than I ever was with the prior group.

rinmia77 said...

I'm sure RichRod would have made the proper offensive adjustments and we would have scored 42 points last year. We would then have lost 64-42. I'm not sure helping the defensive "coaches" add more stuffing to their teddy bears counts as an "adjustment".

The happiest people on the planet have to the parents of our players (especially the parents of the upperclassmen defensive players). I'm not sure it's time to whip out the Bo comparison's just yet; but just like 30 years ago these parents know their sons are getting coached -- in all the best meanings of the word.

Crock said...

I feel I should apologize. I was at a Relay for Life event and missed most of the first half.
I did rush home to catch the rest of the game - and our boys turned it around ;)
by the way - I have zero tolerance for "fans" that give up and bad mouth their team - when so much time is left on the clock. Is is so hard to believe the best of your team?

GoBlueBob said...

Crock... I agree with you. Two of my three sons are like that and it gets to me that they act that way. At both the ND game and watching this game on tv they where bitching and moaning about Denard's interceptions and that the defense could not defend the option. I ended up watching the second half by myself.

Michigan Sports Girl said...

Great commentary, Yost. I am in total agreement that the difference from last year's team is in the leadership on the sidelines: from both our coaching staff and our senior leaders. In recent seasons past, we get down ten points and we cower on the sidelines: tails between our legs, hoping the game ends soon.

In 2011, I simply look toward Team 132 to make the necessary adjustments and come out swinging when it's needed. There is simply NO QUIT in this team: and to me, that is a testament to the discipline and encouragement of our coaching staff.

Coach Brady Hoke: Turning Talented Kids into Michigan Men since 1/12/11.


Dennis said...

Don't even get me started on a tale of two halves. I thought for sure my prediction about post procedure pain being worse than watching that game was way wrong. And then our second half happened. On the plus side I saw potential on offense which I did not think was possible. On the downside our LBs look like they are coached by GERG.

I'm hoping at some point we can put a complete game together. Not looking forward to the next two weekends.

Congrats on your victory. I almost got on Saturday night but by the time our meltdown was over I was ready for bed. I was close on the prediction, you guys got one more TD than I thought. I just figured NW would hold the ball enough that you wouldn't get that many chances to score.