|Here's some Kate Upton to make you feel better.|
WTF. There's really no excuse for the play calling in the second half, and that falls on both Brady Hoke and Al Borges. People want to fire Al Borges, but the head coach has to step in and call shenanigans on the crappy play calling. Now I'm not suggesting that either one get fired, but you can't separate the two entities. As the head guy, Hoke is responsible for the calls that are made by his coordinators. Michigan tried running the ball up the middle with Vincent Smith - which has been a terrible idea for years - and generally went into a shell on offense. There was no element of surprise, and all the plays and counter plays that were opened up last week by Robinson's utility were apparently erased from this week's playbook.
Derrick Green, come on down. Outside of Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan's running backs are terrible. Thomas Rawls has no vision, lacks speed, and isn't as powerful as a short yardage back should be. Vincent Smith is gone anyway, and while I always liked him as a third down-type back, plugging him in for short-yardage plays against OSU was a poor decision. You simply cannot expect him to gain yardage when Michigan's interior offensive line is this bad. He did okay running outside on the inverted veer plays, but good grief, Borges has to put him in a position to be successful. Even fullback Stephen Hopkins comes in for some criticism here, because he missed two key blocks and generally looked like he didn't understand his job. Michigan needs running backs in a bad way, and I don't see game-breaking ability in either DeVeon Smith or Wyatt Shallman. The coaches need to bring in a bunch of backs and let them improve through competition.
Play action bulls***. Here's the part that perhaps irked me most about the play calling in the second half. Borges kept calling play action passes when there was clearly no threat of running the ball. That doesn't work against teams who aren't stupid, and the Buckeyes are a lot of things - cheaters, ugly, arrogant, etc. - but their defense is always well coached. When Devin Gardner turns around to give play action fakes, he's diverting his attention from the coverage and sometimes he's limiting himself to throwing to half the field. The linebackers and safeties weren't biting on play action fakes to Vincent Smith because Smith gets tackled by a stiff breeze, so there's no tactical advantage. But again and again, Gardner wasted time by running around with his back to the defense and pretending like the Buckeyes gave a s*** about the 5'7", 175 lb. running back. Just drop Gardner straight back or roll him out.
Carlos Hyde played well. I actually thought Michigan's interior defense would hold Hyde down pretty well, but Michigan's defensive ends and play calls seemed so concerned with Braxton Miller that they unclogged the middle a little bit. Hyde got downhill and broke a few tackles, but there were several occasions where he got to the second and third levels without being touched. Greg Mattison seemed to call more 4-3 Over defensive fronts than normal.
Freshman frustration. I do not like seeing guys like James Ross and Joe Bolden out there in games like this. It was somewhat inevitable, I guess, because of a lack of depth, but today is an example of why you need depth at linebacker. Bolden in particular got out of position a couple times and allowed some key gains, and Ross got caught inside on a Braxton Miller run. Both of those guys have high upsides, but freshmen are freshmen. Next year the Wolverines should be able to go two-deep with experienced guys at every linebacker position, so we should see even more improvement in the linebacker group.
Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne exist in bad ways. I was not a fan when Rich Rodriguez recruited Jones and Hawthorne, and they have worked their ways down the depth chart. Jones incurred a 15-yard penalty for a late hit in this game, and Hawthorne has made similarly poor plays this season on special teams. It's not a coincidence that Ross and Bolden passed those guys for playing time. Hawthorne will graduate after this season, and I would not be surprised to see redshirt junior Jones depart with a year of eligibility remaining.
This was Gardner's worst game. Gardner was visibly frustrated at a couple points, and it showed in his play. Especially in the second half, it looked like he was trying to throw pinpoint passes instead if letting it fly. He's always had a slightly awkward throwing motion, but he just didn't seem to be following through with his normal verve. That's somewhat understandable for a kid playing quarterback in such a big game for the first time, which is why it would have been helpful to have Robinson ready to throw the ball. Robinson had his best quarterbacking performance against these Buckeyes last season, so limiting him to 10 touches seems like a bad idea. Gardner finished 11/20 for 171 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, and he took 4 sacks despite the absence of John Simon, OSU's best defensive lineman. There was nobody to take the pressure off of Gardner - Robinson out of the backfield, Toussaint, Borges - and thus it was left on his shoulders to try to make plays when there none to make.
The better team won. I argued with people all week who said that Michigan was the better team but that the Wolverines played a tougher schedule. The bottom line is that any of us would rather be 11-0 than 8-3 coming into the game, regardless of who was on the schedule. The Buckeyes ran the ball well, threw the ball well, and played pretty solid defense except for a couple huge plays (Robinson's 67-yard touchdown, Roundtree's 75-yard TD reception). The bottom line is that Michigan replaced David Molk, Mike Martin, and Ryan Van Bergen with Elliott Mealer, Quinton Washington, and Craig Roh, respectively, all of which are steps backward. I fully believe that an influx of talent is coming with Hoke's recruiting classes, but right now Michigan has a deficit that will take some time to fix.