Sunday, September 22, 2013

Michigan 24, UConn 21

Fitzgerald Toussaint had 127 total yards and 2 touchdowns
Okay, now it's getting ridiculous. Last week I thought Michigan's performance against Akron was a little bit of a fluke. It was the week after a big win over Notre Dame, Akron was supposed to be a patsy, etc. Now I'm concerned. Michigan should have been champing at the bit to get on the field and destroy a mediocre UConn team, and they were just as lackadaisical. During the half, I thought "This seems like a game where Michigan might reverse the momentum with a defensive or special teams touchdown." Instead, after getting ball on the kickoff, Devin Gardner fumbled on a quarterback sneak when he ran into his own lineman, which was only slightly less embarrassing than Mark Sanchez's butt fumble.

Bench Devin Gardner? No, don't bench Devin Gardner (11/23 passing, 97 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 3 sacks; 19 carries, 64 yards, 1 touchdown). Last night broadcaster Sean McCullough suggested considering a quarterback change, but that's just a total lack of awareness of Michigan's situation. Gardner has to get things sorted out, and that's the bottom line. He needs to take better care of the football and refine his mechanics. Freshman Shane Morris isn't going to be any better, and the only other options are walk-ons, since presumed backup Russell Bellomy is out for the year with a torn ACL. Gardner's driving the bus . . . on the edge of a cliff.

The blocking up front is terrible. I've seen a lot of criticism of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint lately on blogs, Twitter, etc. lately. I'm really not sure what people expect him to do when he's supposed to run a zone stretch and the combination of sophomore tight ends A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess (1 catch, 14 yards) are allowing three or four yards of penetration. Or when center Jack Miller chooses not to block the right guy, allowing nose tackles to knife through. Or when Michigan's offensive line can't get push on an iso. That's not to mention the numerous times Connecticut got pressure on Gardner with a three-man rush where guards Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis were blocking air. Oh, and left tackle Taylor Lewan had a terrible holding penalty, and Glasgow had his third false start of the year.

Desmond Morgan has been watching Charles Woodson highlight tapes. That one-handed interception by middle linebacker Desmond Morgan (4 tackles, 1 interception) was extremely impressive for a guy whose athleticism has been questioned at times. He had a good drop, leaped into the air, pulled it down, and made a very nice return. Michigan proceeded to score the game-tying touchdown.

Michigan got out-coached. I haven't said this often, at least not in the Brady Hoke era, but the Huskies' coaching staff did a better job than the Wolverines'. I don't even know where to begin. Did defensive coordinator Greg Mattison really expect defensive end/defensive tackle Chris Wormley (1 tackle, .5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 1 pass breakup) to cover running back Lyle McCombs on a wheel route? Touchdown. Michigan brings in two extra offensive linemen for a quarterback sneak, and instead of putting All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan on the interior to blow a Husky off the ball, they put redshirt freshman backup Erik Magnuson? Fumble, touchdown for UConn. Freshmen killed Michigan on special teams, too:

  • Linebacker Ben Gedeon ran into the kicker on an early punt.
  • Wide receiver Da'Mario Jones lost track of a punt, allowing it to bounce off his foot and be recovered by the Huskies.
  • Cornerback Jourdan Lewis had an unnecessary roughness call on Drew Dileo's punt return, bringing the ball back from about the 12-yard line to the 40.
The demise of Fitzgerald Toussaint has been greatly exaggerated. Toussaint isn't the type who can create something out of nothing like Barry Sanders or run over people to gain two or three yards if the hole is plugged up. What he can do is take a little bit of space and exploit it. He had 24 carries for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 35-yarder on an option pitch that showed nice vision and quickness.

Hooray for Michigan's pass rush. Granted, it was against UConn, but Michigan still tallied 4 sacks on the night. Two came from weakside end Frank Clark, and four other guys notched a half-sack each: Jibreel Black, Mario Ojemudia, Raymon Taylor, and Wormley. I thought Clark specifically looked a little more energized, and it was nice to see Mattison dial up a corner blitz from Taylor.

101 comments:

  1. Sorry, but look at Gardner's line from last night, and tell me that Morris couldn't possibly have done better. Even if he couldn't have last night, he at least has the potential to improve over the course of the season and to play with increasing confidence. Gardner will never be a useful QB who can win big games for us. He's done, and now it's just a matter of how many games over the next two seasons the coaches are willing to trash before they realize that.

    And "refine his mechanics"? Come on...he's a fourth year junior and he's still missing wide open receivers on short passes, and averaging two INTs a game against really shitty teams. Exactly what is it that you think he needs to work on over the next two weeks that he hasn't worked on for years?

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    1. Wow. Blame Gardner for the fumble, yes, blame him for a bad throw on the 1st pick, but at least it was catchable. The second INT was 75% Chesson, 25% Gardner, Chesson just didn't work for it.

      Also that guy who will "never be a useful QB who can win big games" beat ND. 2 weeks ago. In the 2nd biggest game this season (from a national acclaim perspective)

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    2. This coaching staff will ride the Gardner train through hell or high water. Did you cheer for him when he was dealing in the ND game? We will take the good with the bad amd hopes he puts it together before it costs us.

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    3. Wow. You are a clown. I bet after the notre dame game you were on your knees singing his praises. He has the ability, and he has already shown that. Right now it is all mental, and the bye week will be incredibly helpful for him and for this team. Everyone is quick to blame the one making the obvious mistakes when the real issue was for about a 7 minute stretch he took a three step drop, looked at option one, and bolted because he couldn't trust his offensive line to block a three man rush. Learn some football before you comment and make yourself look like an asshat. I look forward to your post after the bye week, because I'm sure it will be a 180 degree turn.

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    4. You're a clown. I bet you were on your knees singing his praises after the notre dame game. Learn some football before you comment and make yourself look like an asshat. He's making the obvious mistakes because he is the one with te football in his hand. The real problem is that he can't trust the offensive line to block a three man rush and it's in his head. Benching him is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of

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    5. I think hiring a quarterback coach would help. Denard seemed to regress in his time here as a quarterback when Borges showed up, and Gardner hasn't shown improvements from last year to this year. I'm starting to think 9-3 is our ceiling this year with Gardner averaging 3 turnovers a game.

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    6. Lots of QBs who were less highly recruited, with far weaker supporting casts are doing a far better job than Gardner at hitting open receivers and avoiding interceptions. 8 interceptions in four games is really, abysmally, inexcusably bad. Most decent QBs don't have that many in a whole season, and most of Gardner's came against really poor competition. I had the same reaction from people when I expressed concern about his throwing 2 INTs against Central..."chill, dude..it's just one game". Well, now it's four games, and he still can't keep from throwing the ball to the other team. This is not an anomaly, it's not a one game glitch...it's what he is. We will not win many games in the Big Ten (where all of our opponents will be far better than our last two) with Gardner turning the ball over 2 or 3 times and missing open receivers on short passes.

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    7. Lots of QBs are not asked to execute the complex pass scheme that Borges demands. Gallon's out there making double and triple moves while the interior OL implodes. The playbook is constantly evolving.

      Denard Robinson's QB rating went down in '11 compared to '10 and then further decreased his senior year. His turnovers went up. If Gardner does the same thing you have to wonder what the common element is.

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    8. Quarterbacks can clean up their mechanics. Can/will Gardner do it by October 5? I don't know. But it can be done, and if he returns in 2014 (which seems like a certainty now), then I expect him to have improved.

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    9. Yes, QBs can clean up their mechanics, Thunder, but the question remains, why does Gardner still have these issues in his fourth year in the program? In none of the games of top 25 teams I've watched this year have I seen a QB with the INT issues that Gardner has..not even close.

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    10. Why does Gardner still have issues? Changing coaching staffs, changing positions, having little starting experience, a complex passing scheme, and facing lots of pressure.

      That doesn't fully excuse all the INTs but it explains why he has more than, say, Wisconsin's QB.

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  2. I haven't said this out loud myself but it has become clearer that Hoke has been out coached a few times and that he hasn't made right personnel handling choice on a few occasions. However, we still are supportive of him. I say Hoke because he is the one where the buck stops even though other coaches recommend moves.

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    1. Well, for the moment we still have to be supportive, because he's all we've got, but the last two games have given me serious doubts about whether he, Mattsion and Borges can bring this team back to elite status, even with the highly rated recruits they've brought in. As you say, we were badly, badly outcoached against both Akron and UConn, and this teams seems lost on even the most fundamental things, after three years with this staff. Our offense is scattershot, our defense is soft and doesn't hit people, and our special teams are very mediocre.

      On top of that, not one of the players that were hoped to break out and become star-caliber, impact guys this year have done so. Ross in particular has been a huge disappointment, and almost invisible most of the time, after being expected to emerge as one of the best players on defense in the absence of Ryan. Pipkins and Kalis, five star guys who were expected to shore up our lines, have also been very unimpressive and shown no promise at all. All in all, player development under this regime has been well below expectations. On top of that, our poor play in the last two games has deprived us of what would have been our best chance this year to get our really young guys like Butt, Charlton, Green, Smith, Morris, Braden, Magnuson and Stribling some valuable game experience as more than just spot players. Teams like OSU and Wisconsin, that have had those types of games over by halftime, have made the most of the opportunity to develop the guys who will be kicking our asses two years from now. It makes it very hard to get too excited about highly touted recruits any more, when the coaches can't seem to develop the ones we already have into high-quality on-the-field producers.

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    2. I think our defense has been pretty good every year under this coaching staff. Mattison is unassailable. He isn't perfect...but damn close.

      The recruiting has been good, the coaching has been good. The D has been saving this team's bacon. They're obviously not elite yet, but by next year I think they'll be there. If the O was a little more consistent and less turnover prone it would help.

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    3. Yeah, I'm with Lank. I'm not sure how anyone can seriously bitch about defense when the offense is turning the ball over like crazy. UConn had 206 yards of offense yesterday, 1-11 on third down, and only had one drive where they did anything of substance...that started around midfield. Wormley covering a running back was the only blerf moment.

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    4. @ Anonymous 11:20 a.m.

      I think you're being overly harsh on the defense. By the way, Ross has 23 tackles, good for third on the team (the top two guys have 25 and 24). That doesn't seem "invisible" to me. Ross has been just fine.

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    5. Well, just about anyone at Ross's position is going to make some tackles, but a tackle is not necessarily anything significant. Be honest...How many big hits have you seen from Ross this year...how many blown up plays? When has he come up with a huge stop in a key situation? When have you watched a play and thought, "Damn, Ross is going to be awesome"? In four games, three against mediocre competition, he has a total of two yards in TFLs, and no sacks. This was a guy that everyone was touting as a huge, breakout star this year, with a lot more expected from him than "just fine". I think it's fair to say that he hasn't lived up to the hype.

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    6. Ross is a sophomore in his first season as a full-time starter. Furthermore, Mattison's defense is designed for the SAM and WDE to make the big for-loss plays and the other two linebackers to do damage control, mostly.

      How about the near-INT Ross had in the ND game on third down?

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    7. Not quite. Mattison's defense is designed for SAM and WDE to play contain and the inside linebackers to rack up tackles. Ross and Morgan are not guys that are going to be making tackles for losses. Their jobs are to make the tackles. The front 4/5(including Sam) is to force run plays into these guys aka to the middle of the field. The nose is supposed to take on 2 blocks. So 5 guys taking on 6 blocks, allowing the two ilb to make the tackle. If one gets blocked,the other linebacker should be free if not its the unblocked safeties responsibility to play damage control.

      To the person at 11:20 and 2:26, big hits are not the same thing as good defense. In fact more often than not, big hitters use bad form. Ross and Morgan don't play glamour positions in this defense. Edge players are the ones with impressive stats usually. Gap football is more important than making the occasional tfl, because if the run back cuts back into your gap that no is covering its going to be a big gain. Really only the coaches know for sure if Ross is playing his gaps, watching live it seems like he is.

      Stats are great and all but fulfilling your responsibilities within the defense is a lot more important.

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    8. @ 6:19

      Thanks for the slight correction. I'm glad I'm not taking crazy pills.

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  3. For some reason it is not letting me hit reply but to the guy earlier who says Gardner should be benched in favor of Morris.

    What has Morris shown that you think he is a good quarterback? High school camps? Gardner showed out at top COLLEGE camps this summer. On field success? He wasn't even that successful as a high school quarterback. Clearly, Gardner is better in practice otherwise he would be back at wr.

    So Notre Dame wasn't a big game? Do you honestly think Michigan would have won that game if Gardner hadn't put up 375 yards and 4 touchdowns.

    How many true freshman quarterbacks average over 275 yards and 3 td's a game? Especially with the supporting cast Gardner has.

    Your argument is look at his stat line for one game? Really? I guess Tom Brady is a below average nfl qb this year. Tell Belichick to start Ryan Mallet, he has more potential and he is just wasting games with Brady at qb.

    Gardner is 7-2 as a starter. Only loses coming on the road to an undefeated team and to a good SC team for a combined 10 points. That's just terrible...definitely don't want him as my starting qb.

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    1. The Notre Dame game is in the past, and despite his having a good performance there, he's had more, and more recent, bad performances against Akron and UConn (far worse teams), so that's the default assumption, until he proves otherwise. And come on...8 interceptions in four games? NO quarterback worth a damn does fhat

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    2. I agree, Anonymous @ 11:05 a.m. If Morris had started that game last night, he would have been sacked 7 times and likely would have thrown just as many or more interceptions. Take away the runs/scrambles from Gardner, and yikes...that's almost guaranteed to be a loss.

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    3. If you took away the sacks and calculator Gardner's actual rushing yards like NFL style, it'd be easily over a 100 the past few games. He makes the running game respectable despite the offensive line issues. Against Morris, every team could stack the box 8-9 easily and do fine against Michigan.

      Eli Manning has done that in 2 games so far this season. Thats the nfl though but still.
      But some big name college qbs that did similiar last year,
      EJ Manuel had 6 picks in 4 games-1st qb taken in 2013 draft
      Mike Glennon had 7 in four games, and 3+ in two more games-3rd qb taken NFL draft
      Barkley had 9 in four games-4th qb taken in 2013 draft

      I guess some of the top 4 qbs taken in this past NFL drafts aren't worth a damn....especially Barkley who had a great supporting cast.

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  4. All right. I've been saying this on mgoblog, facebook, etc., but everybody told me to give them time because they are young... Our O-line is trash, and it all starts with D. Funk. RichRod's O-Line was never this dysfunctional with redshirt freshmen. My God. Our O-line can't block a thing and this is what causing Gardner to make poorer decisions and Toussaint to get smothered. Fire the O-line coach, get a real coach who can coach these guys up.

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    1. I'm not sure how many redshirt freshmen Rich Rodriguez had on the line at any given time, but that offensive line was very bad at times. Lewan was better than Kalis/Miller/Glasgow, but he's also a potential first rounder, which doesn't make for a great comparison at this point.

      I also think Michigan is trying to walk a fine line between being a zone team and being a power/iso team. In my opinion, you can't be great at both. It has to be one or the other. And that's more on Brady Hoke/Al Borges than Funk.

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    2. @Thunder: I think that's the real issue here. We don't do anything well because we're trying to do a bunch of different things. The last two years we assumed the disjointed scheme was a result of an OC that wasn't comfortable coaching a QB like Denard. Now it looks like that just may be who Borges is. My theory is that Borges only really knows his classic west coast offensive scheme , thus why his passing scheme is pretty good. But, he recognizes that the WCO is out of date and new concepts abound that have left the classic WCO in the dust. So he's tried to mix some new stuff in but doesn't quite grasp the intricacies of why the new systems work, leaving an offensive scheme that's a disjointed mess.

      I think Borges can only be successful if he has clearly superior talent to his opponents. I'm not sure Michigan can wait the 2-3 years for that to be true with respect to almost every opponent in order to test the theory. Unfortunately, I don't think Hoke will ever make such a move.

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    3. "Michigan is trying to walk a fine line between being a zone team and being a power/iso team"

      Agree very much and agree with Anon 4:12.

      I don't think Hoke will want to fire Funk or Borges, but no one is totally immune from public pressure and perceptions. If Dave Brandon tells him to do it, he will have to.

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    4. Still a ways from that being necessary, IMO. But the way things are trending now...

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    5. Hoke should tell Brandon to fuck off if that is the case. The last thing you want is a business man making football decisions for the football coaches. If Brandon doesn't like the way Hoke is coaching, he should fire Hoke. You hire a coach and let him pick his assistants and do things his way, not micromanage him. David Brandon is not qualified at all to make personnel decisions for Brady Hoke. Playing football is not the same thing as coaching. Hoke has been in coaching for 30 years.

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  5. Our O-line is trash. Gardner doesn't have enough time and has to run to save his life almost every other snap. Toussaint is a great runningback who doesn't have a lot of chances because of the trashy O-line. RichRod's O-line was never this dysfunctional even with redshirt freshmen. Fire Funk. Get a real coach. Either that or we're going to lose a lot of games this year.

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  6. Can someone explain to me why on the last play the DB's are so close to the line of scrimmage when it is 4th and about 20 and a few minutes left in the game.

    Taylor got beat, luckily qb wasnt looking that way

    Countess, if he was back maybe one more step he would have completely negated that throw.



    I know we contained them but I am confused why having the DBs backing up a little more wouldnt be more containing

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    1. I think the idea was not to let them catch something short and run for the first down. They wanted tight coverage underneath with the safeties over the top to kind of bracket anyone who catches the ball.

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    2. Thought the same thing - but wasn't it Avery that got beat?

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    3. If you're talking about the 4th-and-29 play that was UConn's final offensive snap, that was Countess who got beat. If you're talking about the "touchdown" that was ruled incomplete, that was Avery who got torched.

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    4. To clarify, I meant the last UConn snap. The ball wasn't thrown his way, but Avery (I think it was Avery) was 1 on 1 on the outside and got badly beat. If the QB had thrown there he had a shot to win the game, but he didn't see it, throwing in the middle instead.

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  7. Classic trap game, guys. Right after an emotional victory over Akron and a bye week coming up. No sweat.

    Also, Fitz isn't Barry Sanders??? Fired!

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    1. LOL. Indeed. Also - Gardner isn't Tom Brady??? Fired!

      Bring on the freshman who got beat out without even a fight, that'll fix it!

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  8. This game was probably the most frustrating win I remember. I too thought Akron was a fluke (turnovers, poor decisions in the passing game, soft scheme on D) but I guess not.

    The Gardner sneak fumble was just a microcosm of what’s wrong with this offense right now. The OL got absolutely no push (Gardner had people shoved around into him on two sides), the coaching was debatable at best (Magnuson inside, no Gallon), and Gardner was too careless with the ball.

    I can’t take anyone seriously that wants to bench Gardner. His legs are the only thing keeping this offense afloat. You put a Morris or Cleary back there and you’d instantly double the sacks and halve the rushing yards. It would take A LOT of improvement in the passing game to get that back – improvement that probably isn’t there no matter what you think of Morris.

    Agree so hard on blaming Toussaint being misguided . Come on, the backups don’t do any better and he’s proven himself to be the best ball-carrier on the team for the last 3 years. He’s also passing the eye test with the burst. The problem point is obvious -- It’s the OL. Trying to blame it on the RB is rationalizing the misguided optimism that most M fans had about the OL coming into the season. “It can’t be any worse than last year”: FALSE.

    Re: Morgan – I was saying before the INT that Morgan was showing some good presence – just reading his body language after plays, his awareness during them – his confidence seems better and I think he’s coming into his own as a player. Thought Ross looked good too.

    Black was good as well. The haterade coming from certain other blogs was not warranted IMO. But lets see what he does in Big Ten play.

    I’ve never agreed with one of Thunder’s recaps more.

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    1. Yes, Gardner has legs, but frankly he ran us into some even bigger losses than we would have had otherwise last night by trying to make everything happen by scrambling, instead of just taking a sack. And more than a few of his scrambles came because he took off running too soon, when he didn't have the ability to find, or the confidence to throw to open receivers. In the end, scrambling alone does not win you big games...you're more likely to win with accurate downfield passing, which keeps you out of 3 and 17 situations.

      Maybe Gardner hasn't quite played himself out of a starting job yet, but after he throws 2 picks against Minnesota, are you still going to stick with him? How much longer are you going to keep a QB in there who's turning the ball over 2 or 3 times every game? I don't think a lot of people really realize just how bad that is, and how much of a disadvantage it will put us at against every one of our opponents. You'd have to look very hard to find another Division 1A starting QB that has 8 interceptions in four games, if you could find one at all. It takes a heck of a lot of productive scrambles to make up for the 14 points or so that Gardner's turnovers are costing us every game.

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    2. @anon

      I don't buy that. at all. Gardner has avoided so many sacks and turned them into 1st downs and big plays. Yes, he's taken a handful of sacks that were made worse, but that's the risk that you take. In balance, his scrambling has been an enormous benefit, and most of his runs in the 1st two games came on called pass plays where he scrambled and then ran for plus yardage.

      If some other pocket passer was back there taking sack after sack you'd be begging him to move around more.

      The INTs are bad, but the TDs and yardage are very good.

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  9. For starters, the single best football player on the field last night was Yawin Smallwood. That kid is just a hellacious football player and I think by far the best Mike we'll see all year. Max Bullough wishes he were the football player Smallwood is.

    It was nice to see Frank Clark show up finally. I thought our linebackers were all real solid and that Jibreel Black was pretty good again as well. We did a nice job controlling their offense for the most part and I think we wear them down and win this game 28-7 or more, if Devin Gardner just takes care of the football.

    The pass interference call on Gallon was a bad ball that I thought we just flat lucked out on. It looked to me like Gardner walked out of the huddle knowing exactly where that ball was headed. If their kid just looks up and finds the ball instead of drilling Gallon ..... I think we lose.

    This kind of crap should have been expected as last night was Gardner's ninth start, he has spent close to half of his time here catching passes, which I still maintain will be his future path to the NFL if indeed he has an NFL career and while he was a highly rated kid coming out, he was never thought to be a Pro Style QB prospect. The buzz on Gardner was exactly what he is, a dangerous dual threat kid that needs to learn the position.

    We don't have options here as I really don't think we want to start the Big 10 season with a Freshman QB with no demonstrated touch, accuracy issues of his own and ZERO college starts. It's Gardner ... for better or worse.

    It was interesting to watch UCONN spend resources accounting for Gardner on every play, the were intent on preventing the bootleg for sure and even though they slipped up a bit here and there and got hurt on it, they worked hard at filling lanes inside and maybe spied him some. This is the blessing of Gardner, you have to assign personal to him. As for the curse of Devin Gardner, we are now all painfully aware of that issue ..... turnovers.

    I thought Hoke got out coached against Akron as well, but I also think that both of these games were big time, focus games for opponents who thought they had a chance for a marquee, program win against a Michigan team that isn't as talented or veteran as it will be.

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    1. Gardner has been at Michigan for almost 4 years. He spent only a few months at WR. He was really bad at it. Unexceptional players like Jackson and Roundtree played more than he did as the coaches figured that out. He has no instinct, hands, blocking-ability, and his speed is unexceptional. Other than being tall and thin and faster than your typical QB, there is nothing that indicates he would be a good WR. He has no future there, whatsoever. period/bold/all caps

      Being a QB is hard when the OL is terrible. Gardner is keeping things together almost single-handedly for a team scoring almost 35 ppg. He needs to work on the turnover yes, but people have some crazy expectations here it appears. As pointed out, the D is focusing on stopping Gardner, because no one else really matters (Gallon, I guess, but he needs Gardner too). His OL is bad, his TEs don't block either, and his only good WRs are 5'9. Yeesh.

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    2. With regards to that hands thing you mention.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BAdmLPyVIo ... tune in at about 45 seconds.

      Demonstrated abilities in adjusting to a tipped ball and then going up and getting it ... as they like to say around here ... and one handed at that.

      Regarding your abilities when it comes to evaluating speed Lanks, your comments posted at this blog have more than demonstrated to my satisfaction that you wouldn't know fast if it zipped by you on the street and slapped your lips off. ... Period/bold/ALL CAPS.

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    3. @ Lanknows 1:04 p.m.

      It is FALSE that Gardner was really bad at playing wide receiver. He was our leading receiver for a while, and he finished his half-season at WR with 16 catches for 266 yards and 4 touchdowns. Put him with a decent throwing quarterback, and you're probably looking at double that production (or more). I don't think 32 receptions for 532 yards and 8 touchdowns is a bad year.

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    4. "For starters, the single best football player on the field last night was Yawin Smallwood. That kid is just a hellacious football player and I think by far the best Mike we'll see all year. Max Bullough wishes he were the football player Smallwood is."

      Taylor Lewan the first round draft pick disagrees.

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    5. Taylor did not play like a first round pick last night. He was as bad as I can remember him being.

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    6. @Roanman

      The fact that you link to Gardner messing around without pads says it all. The FOOTBALL GAMES I watched - Gardner could not adjust and failed to catch balls he should have.

      @Thunder

      You're wrong. Most of his production came very early in the year and he never made impressive plays there despite being frequently targeted. Denard threw to him, but he couldn't haul it in. Plenty of opportunity. By Big 10 play his playing time and targets fell off because he wasn't effective. 5 catches in 4 conference games.

      Doubling his stats is ridiculous when he played 2/3 of the schedule including the easy non-conference stuff.

      Look, the kid is a good overall athlete, but he's not elite WR fast. He doesn't have the skills to be a player there. People have been saying crazy athleticism at QBs and trying to turn them into WRs for many many years and it rarely (ever?) works out as well as people imagine. WR is about more than raw physical ability - it's a SKILL position. You have to be able to locate the ball, run routes, use your body, fight through contact, anticipate and catch away from your body...I could go on.

      Gallon may not beat him in a foot race or outjump him, but he's 20 times the receiver that Gardner will ever be.

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  10. I really hate calling for coaches heads until they get 4 years, but I also really hate what I’m seeing from Borges and Funk.

    This year, personnel can be somewhat to blame, but last year the OL was veterans who had proven they could play (other than Mealer). The thinking was now, with THEIR kind of guys in place, the OL would get better but they haven’t. The run game has dropped off every year under Funk. Reminds me of our defense from ’08 to ’10. If things don’t get better by the end of the season…

    As for Borges – at some point the OC has to take some blame for these turnovers. His passing scheme has always been long-developing stuff and high-risk stuff. Devin does look like Denard, yet they are different players. Put your guys in a position to succeed.

    The other thing is consistency. Our only identity is no identity. Having different plays every week is both a blessing and a curse. Creativity is great but we need a core competency that we can rely on and work around. Right now, it’s Borges trying to do what he wants to do, then when it doesn’t work: “Devin, start running”.

    The last thing is stubbornness. Despite not having the personnel for it, Borges has run 2-TE sets very often. In ’11 it was with a position-switch unexceptional vet, instead of Gallon, Dileo, etc. In ’12 it was with true freshman who couldn’t block very well. In ’13 it’s with sophs that can’t block or another true freshman. I thought maybe it was excusable with Denard’s limitations, but at this point it just seems like stubbornness. Funchess can’t block, Williams is slow, and Butt is a true freshman. I’m having a hard time not thinking we would be better off with Dileo or Norfleet out there as a 3rd WR instead of the 2nd choice amongst those 3.

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    1. Got to fire D. Funk for his sorry O-line coaching, and got to get a QB coach. I keep saying it. Our O-line completely sucks. Funk sucks as a coach. Just because Hoke's staff do a good PR with the fans doesn't mean we can't call for their heads. Funk sucks and the O-line is the proof of that.

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    2. Miller getting his ass kicked SO HARD by the UConn nose tackle was the worst. I was at the game in an end zone seat and that was the most obvious deficiency.

      I can't believe this, but I agree on the tight ends. They can make big plays, but they're not solid. Dileo is solid, and with this turnover-prone offense, solid is what we need.

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    3. No point in firing Funk mid-season. He has the rest of the season to prove doubters wrong, but after that...

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    4. Well, I think if we can get a real O-line coach, it might be the best option to fire Funk mid-season. We have a bye week, so we can see what improvements they make for Minnesota game. But if we put on another garbage performance, we got to get a real O-line coach or we'll lose plenty of games and the fanbase will be furious.

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    5. Agreed..it may not be reasonable to expect this team to be playing at a top 5 level this year, but we should certainly expect to see some significant improvement from individual players and the team as a whole as the season goes on, and so far we've seen exactly the opposite. There is not one area of play where we seem to have improved over last year. There's a way to go yet this season, certainly, but if we don't start seeing some improvement over our last two performances very soon, it's going to be a long season, and Hoke's seat is going to start to get warm.

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  11. Gardner is a good QB when given the time.. The O-Line is absolutely horrendous.. Why even try to recruit 5 star linemen, like Kyle Kalis, if we're going to have him block air? It's so disappointing to see a team that had B1G championship aspirations come crashing down so hard. We won't be able to win another game this year if something doesn't happen to the O-Line during the bye week. QB is fine, RB is fine, WR is fine, O-Line horrendous.. That is all

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    1. .... WR is fine? Jeremy Gallon is our best receiver. Jehu Chesson, Dileo, and Joe Reynolds are our next best three. WR is far from fine. I've posted saying I wanted a bunch of WRs in the last few recruiting classes, and I think Magnus has said we had around 8 on the roster already which was enough from a numbers standpoint. I can agree with the numbers there, but our WR talent is lacking. I'm hoping George Campbell and Drake Harris can develop into the kind of big play receivers we need when they get here, and I'm hoping the hype on Darboh this off season wasn't just off season hype, because we really need an upgrade in talent.

      -JC

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    2. I agree with Anon. WR is fine. Gallon is a stud. Chesson looks solid, and Dileo is a strong #3. Not much depth, but Reynolds and Jackson aren't going to shoot us in the foot. Norfleet is a nice weapon to throw at defenses too. Seems to me that Reynolds made one great grab, Chesson a couple nice plays, and I think even Jackson has caught every ball thrown to him (?). I don't see it as a problem. Gallon's all but uncoverable so everyone else just has to not mess up.

      We could use more star-power opposite Gallon, sure, but that's not why this offense is struggling so badly. The WRs aren't going to be picking up blitzes or doubling the NT.

      I do think the TEs probably deserve some blame here. They should be RS Freshman playing backup to vets but that's what you get when you transition offensive philosophy back and forth for so many years...

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    3. Dileo is a strong #3? He's 5'8" and pretty slow. He's a valuable addition to the team acting as the holder, backup receiver, and return man, but saying he's a strong #3 option at receiver is pushing it.

      Jehu may turn into a good receiver, but it has yet to be seen. The bomb from Gardner where Chesson slowed down had me shouting at the TV pretty loudly.

      Gallon is a good receiver for what he is, but he's not the kind of game changer you want from your #1 receiver. He puts up game changing numbers from time to time (see ND) but I would think if you threw him on the 2004 or 2006 roster he's then our strong #3 receiver.

      Let's take a look at the 2004 Wolverines:
      Edwards, Avant, and Breaston were all great receivers. Avant and Breaston are still on NFL rosters.

      The 2006 Wolverines:
      Breaston, Manningham, Tabb, Arrington, and Matthews were pretty good receivers.

      The 2013 Roster doesn't have quite the same punch at WR as older rosters did. I would say Breaston was a strong #3 receiver in 2004.

      When we have Campbell, Harris, Darboh, and Chesson, I'll be feeling better about the receiving corps. But until then, it's one of this team's bigger weaknesses, behind the OL.

      -JC

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    4. Oh, he's short? I had no idea - he must suck, like desmond howard, jeremy gallon, wes welker, and tavon austin. Sorry for the sarcasm, but come on.

      Chesson isn't great, but he is adequate.

      Gallon IS a game changer. I don't know what games you're watching. He's the best WR Michigan has had since Manningham. He's a better WR than Breaston (who doesn't have good receiving instincts, but is the best returner Michigans ever had).

      Comparing to the best WR corps we ever had is like comparing every QB to Tom Brady. Have fun being disappointed forever.

      Is the 2013 WR corps as good as our best ever - of course not. But neither is our LB corps. OL, RB - every position!

      It's not a strength but it's not a weakness either. Gallon is a beast and the other guys are somewhere between below average and average.

      3 of the 4 guys you mentioned haven't played a significant down of football. Recruits often don't pan out and there's a real good chance none of those kids turns out to be the player Gallon is.

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    5. Comparing Gallon to Howard, Welker, and Austin is ridiculous. Yes, there are shorter receivers who are successful, you could add Steve Smith to your list if we're talking about great NFL receivers, or maybe we should just throw Dorien Bryant on that list if we're talking about great college receivers. I can't really compare Gallon to Bryant with Bryant earning All-Big Ten honors twice, playing a couple positions grabbing 2125 all purpose yards his senior year (2007), but I think they could have similar senior years from a receiving standpoint. I hate when people throw out other smaller athletes and say, "Size doesn't matter, look at these few examples I found." What has Gallon done to make you think he's comparable to NFL receivers or a Heisman winning receiver from Michigan? Better yet, let's look at his college stats from last year:
      Last year in the NCAA, Gallon ranked:
      73rd in receiving yards with 829
      133rd in receptions with 49
      201st (a huge tie) in TD receptions with 4 (also tied with Gardner)

      Gallon is a good receiver, I'm not trying to say he's not. But players like Campbell and Harris, even though they haven't played a down of college football, one will most likely have more success than Gallon in their playing careers. Could be because they are going to have a passing quarterback throw them ball. Could be because the talent around them is going to be better than what is currently around Gallon. Or it could be because they each have elite size and speed for the receiver position while Gallon is physically limited.

      Receivers on rosters the decade before Rodriguez: Edwards, Avant, Walker, Streets, Terrell, Manningham. If Gallon puts up more 180 yard 3 touchdown games, it's going to be pretty easy to associate him with those elite names, but not if he's putting up Akron type numbers every week from here on out - 10 targets, 6 catches, 66 yards 0 TDs.

      2013 LBs - great. Even if Jake Ryan doesn't come back 100%, I've been impressed with Gordon and Beyer.
      2013 RBs - pretty deep and pretty good. I am a pretty big fan of Fitz.
      2013 DBs - pretty good. I've been a fan of Wilson this year. Countess is very solid. Gordon is pretty good and experienced. Taylor is ok. Avery is a good nickelback, I would rather keep Countess at corner in the nickel though.
      2013 DL - deep and average - maybe slightly above average at some positions.
      2013 OL - Need more experience and younger players to develop quickly. Lewan and Schofield - Great. Time is the biggest ally for the rest of them.
      2013 WRs - there are a lot of bodies there, but they're not talented. Gallon is a pretty good receiver, but that's it right now.

      In terms of where the current WR corps lie on THIS team, I think they're the 2nd biggest weakness, right behind OL.

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    6. The height comment was actually about Dileo. regarding: "He's 5'8" and pretty slow."

      Slow is a problem - short, not really. Too many guys have overcome that limitation. There are so many other limitations a WR can have (hands, brain, instincts, strength, etc.) that it's not worth discussing.

      Similarly, Gallon isn't anymore physically limited than other Michigan WRs. His height is below average - he makes up for it in other ways.

      Project out the 9 games Gallon has played with Gardner and it's a top 5 WR season in Michigan history. It's far more likely that one of Harris/Campbell doesn't surpass Gallon's 2013 season than it is that one of them does.

      RE: position groups

      TE is a MUCH bigger weakness than WR. RB is a bigger weakness than WR too (Toussaint, like Gallon is great, but after that...no Smith for blitz pickup or pass catching), OL - duh, DL (fairly mediocre, there is no impact player like Gallon).

      Secondary is an interesting debate. You have Wilson-Chesson inexperience/limitations. You have Gordon-Dileo adequacy and reliability. You have Countess-Gallon as stars. Not sure who wins there.

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  12. Hey magnus, do you think that its possible that the coaches try another combination of blockers or are we just going to stick with what we have? I've been reading a lot about putting Glasgow at center and starting Chris Bryant, but is that really plausible at this point? I mean, the pass blocking is what seems to be the major issue and I'm not sure changing centers and introducing a guy to the line who is not particularly known for his pass blocking is going to help out a lot. Are there any other combinations that you think might work? Do you just need to hope that Miller gets better? Thanks.

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    1. I got the vibe last night (and maybe I'm projecting) that the coaches wanted to take a look at Bryant. He was right near the sideline, and when Michigan called offensive timeouts, Bryant was the first guy to jump in there. They probably didn't want to shake things up in such a tight game, but if Michigan had been up by 20 points (the Vegas line, I believe), I think he could have been given a long look. I would not be surprised to see Glasgow at center and Bryant at left guard at some point.

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    2. @Thunder

      That's interesting. I didn't see that - If they're going to make a change the time seems to be now.

      The thing I don't get is why Magnuson is in on the goalline stuff. Shouldn't Bryant be pretty good at that situation, theoretically?

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  13. I don't think fans understand what's looming ahead. We'll get killed by the following teams if our garbage O-line doesn't become serviceable. Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern, Nebraska, and OHIO STATE will kill us. Our run game won't exist and Gardner will keep getting sacked and throw interceptions out of desperation. Fire Funk now and pay a million for a real O-line coach. Better that than pathetically losing.

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  14. The defense, I feel, will be ok. For most part, they played well. 14 of UConn's 21 points came from bad turnovers. They really only allowed one bad TD. As for lambasting Gardner, I think a lot of the criticism is not entirely fair. The o line is abysmal, as is blocking by the TEs. The guy can hardly set his feet to make a throw because there really is no pocket. The o line is like Swiss cheese, full of holes. The only reason why Gardner eats turf only three to four times per game is because he has speed. You stick a less mobile pocket passer like Morris into the game, with this current o line, and he would make Akron and UConn look like sack machines.

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  15. Although I am not in favor of benching Gardner in favor of Morris on a permanent basis, I can see some value in sitting him down for a series. O-Line play is contributing to some issues, however; Gardner's decision making is more worrisome. He takes a sack when it appears that he could throw the ball away. Perhaps the awful interception against ND still has him afraid to make a mistake.
    I appears that he relies on his athleticism too much and has not matured; plays like he is still in high school where he would always be the best athlete on the field and he could get with improper technique and haphazard adlibbing.
    The above being stated,I don't have an answer. Gardner's sloppiness is concerning, however; with the sloppiness and a lack of discipline in other areas (special teams, o-line, penalties..) his play may just be symptomatic of a deeper issue. The coaches set the tone, but they need the upper classmen to help lead. To me, the leaders on the team have not matured to fill the gaps left by their predecessors.

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    1. The problem with Gardner is, he is a 4th year junior. He's had more than enough coaching, practice and game experience to become as good a quarterback as he's capable of being, and we're seeing the result. The chances of him getting significantly better than we've seen the last couple games with a few more weeks of coaching are slim.

      And yes, this team overall is not well coached. The turnover on the punt return was a classic example..everyone was standing around like ducks in thunder, with no clue what to do, and no idea that in that situation, there is no need to be anywhere NEAR the ball. That's very basic, and not something that should ever happen.

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    2. Yeah, that's not even close to true. Regardless of how many years you've been in the system, 8 games starting doesn't get a QB to his ceiling.

      Delete
    3. For a QB who's going to be any good, it doesn't even take that long. Manziel won the Heisman as a RS freshman, and Mariota was kicking ass as a RS freshman last year too. Elite talent doesn't take 3 years to show itself, if it's well coached..it just doesn't.

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    4. Yes, the Texas sharpshooter fallacy is always convincing.

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    5. As I said earlier, he is 7-2 with only two loses coming against pretty good teams on the road. How many qb's with a better record through their first 9 games?

      How long has Michigan been running the current offense they are now? Isn't that more important than how many years he has been in school? The tools are clearly there, some of the top qb guru's in the country were raving about his talent this summer so its safe to say he is an elite talent.

      Manziel and Mariota both have incredible supporting cast. Did you watch the Alabama game? Manziel got bailed out on several long passes by his receivers big time. The speed Mariota has around him is ridiculous. Gardner's supporting cast is pretty bad. Terrible interior o-line and best receiver is 5'8.

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  16. Just my observations from last night.

    1. offensive line play was terrible the first half. Not great the second half either, but they went with more two tight end sets to slow the pass rush and give Devin more time.
    2. Chesson has game. He played well on special teams, but needs to finish running his routes.
    3. Toussaint is a patient man. He runs and runs and runs.....then breaks one.
    4. defensive line played better. They got more pressue than lsst week. Frank Clark looked good.
    5. the middle of the field is too open too often, defense needs to close it.
    6. Countess looks aggressive. He is playing hard.
    7. too many freshmen on spevial teams creating penalties.
    8. Wile is too inconsistent. Quit kicking the ball out of bounds on kickoffs!
    9. Devin....breaks too easy under pressure, has studied under Denard too much when forcing the pass. The interception to Chesson was terribly under thrown. He needs to learn to throw out of bounds. Glad to see he bounced back in the second half, but he needed a series on the sideline in the first half to slow the game down for him.
    10. Glad to have a bye week!

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    1. Nick, I think this is a pretty nice set of observations. I'd add to number 7, "too much inexperience across the board, in addition to special teams". Thinking back to great Michigan teams, a common thread was a good deal of experience in most positions, v. a few like this year. I think a lot of people would say that the most impressive leaps forward this year have come from Beyer and Morgan, who now happen to have 2+ years of playing time under their belts. So, what does this mean for this year? Adjusted expectations. It's going to be a lot more chest pain than I thought.

      And your #10 is something you are dead right about!

      -Phil

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    2. @Phil

      I think that's a good point. Everyone says the biggest leap happens between fresh and soph year, but a lot more can happen between being a first-year contributor as a young kid and being an experienced starting vet. Especially at positions like QB, LB, Safety.

      Delete
  17. Mattison did not put Wormley on the UCONN running back. Wormley seen that the RB wasnt going to be ciovered on the wheel route and tried his best to cover him.

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    1. Wormley was pointing at the RB and yelling for help the whole time, while Thomas Gordon hesitatingly chased a WR across the field instead of covering his side of the field deep. There's no way that was actually the playcall. I'm surprised Magnus thinks it is.

      Also, one of the MGoCommenters says putting your weakest OL as the inside tackle on an unbalanced line is SOP. I hope Magnus will explain why he disagrees.

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    2. I don't really care what an MGoCommenter says. It doesn't make any sense for the play call. You don't QB sneak over your worst lineman on the field. If you're trying to block down and run power, then it might make sense. If you're trying to run to the A- or B-gaps, it's dumb.

      I did not see Wormley pointing at the RB. If you can link to that, it would be great. He did put his hand up to try to blindly knock down the pass or shield the running back's vision, but from what I saw, he reacted immediately knowing that he had that running back in man coverage. And even if it was a blown coverage by someone else, it's still a blown coverage, which potentially comes back to coaching. Were the players aligned properly? Did they get enough reps in that blitz or coverage? Etc.

      Delete
  18. Not trying to be crabby or put the blame on someone, but if this keeps up is it almost time to put the boot on Al Borges?

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    Replies
    1. Gotta cut Funk first. If there's no O-line, nothing can work on the offense.

      Delete
    2. Not Funk's fault, this O-line is so young, and the only two problems are Miller and Glasgow, both who wouldn't be any good regardless of the coaching staff.

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    3. I disagree. Other schools have rs sophomores (Miller) and seasoned walkons (Glasgow) in their line and up and do just fine. We get all these talent and they can't even block against Akron and UConn? Two of the worst teams in the country? Give me a break. Funk sucks. Remember RichRod had even less talent on his O-line and Rich Rod's O-line was never this dysfunctional.

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    4. No. But if the trouble continues he'll be on the hot seat. Needs to show us a run game improvement or reduced turnovers. One or the other, at least.

      O-line is young and struggles, last year it was old and struggled. Can't blame youth.

      Glasgow is not seasoned, but it's a bad sign that he beat out Bryant, Braden and all the other hyped recruits that Hoke has brought in over the last 3 classes.

      Firing people mid-season is stupid and desperate.

      We survived the non-conference unscatched, but there is a lot of season left.

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    5. We barely escaped losing to Akron and UConn. With this crap of an O-line we won't survive the conference schedule. I knew Funk's coaching was suspect when our O-line was barely serviceable last season. Sooner we get a real coach for O-line, the better.

      Delete
    6. 'Real coaches' are already employed this time of year. texas, perhaps the most prestigious job in the country, just made GERG their D coordinator...and even that was an internal hire.

      Your options right now are pretty much promoting a grad assistant to the job.

      Let's be sane.

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    7. I guess you're right about Funk and his coaching tactics, but you can't deny his recruiting abilities. Funk is bringing in good O-line recruits and recruits from other positions. I think Michigan should give Funk a few more years before deciding to fire him, if that's still the case. I think that with the pay Al Borges is getting (being the top paid OC in the country), and the players he has, I think Borges has one more year before he should be fired. This is getting to be really ridiculous with his gameplans and playcalling.

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    8. Chad Morris is the top paid OC in college. I don't think Borges is even close. Mattison is near the top though.

      Delete
  19. I was at the game everything can be fixed! Turnovers kill us and the defense was in a hole all night, they responded. Devin needa to manage the game and we will be fine. Basicly points off turnovers is the problem.

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  20. "Freshman Shane Morris isn't going to be any better"

    I'd like to know what evidence you have seen to make this statement when the starting QB is 11-23 for 97 yards and 2 INTs. That is incredibly, incredibly, incredibly terrible. It isn't possible to be worse than that. If Morris were to come in and pitch the ball into the ground on every down, he would be more effective than what Gardner was able to do in the 2nd quarter.

    True freshman Christian Hackenberg is playing at a program with only 65 scholarship athletes and he has a better QB rating than Gardner. He also has more TDs than INTs. Contrary to popular myth, freshmen can and do play college football without being abysmal.

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    1. Christian Hackenberg has also not run the ball much/well, and he's played a string of poor teams (no Notre Dame). And he was named the starter and has been receiving all the snaps. Hackenberg also has a running game that averages 4.8 yards/carry. Even with Gardner's 6.1 yards/carry and 301 yards on the year, Michigan is averaging just 4.7 yards/pop. Take Gardner's running away (because Morris can't run particularly well), and you've got a crew of running backs with 109 carries for 472 yards, which is 4.3 yards/carry.

      Fewer snaps + bad offensive line + no running game = bad freshman quarterback

      This isn't even a legitimate conversation. Morris is not a serious contender right now for snaps. The offense would be terrible times 1,000. This team isn't built for a guy who can't scramble or run some option.

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    2. By the way, Penn State has two redshirt seniors, two redshirt juniors, and a redshirt sophomore on the line. So replace Glasgow and Kalis with guys who are two years older, and then you might approximate Michigan's experience/talent level at the position.

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    3. Michigan just played two even poorer teams (Akron and UConn). Syracuse and Central Florida are vastly better than the cream puffs that Michigan has played other than Notre Dame. Gardner can't pick apart I-AA caliber defenses who got shredded by teams like James Madison and Towson. His throws are God awful, regardless of whether he has any pressure on him. You could put in a walk-on and he would be better than 11-13 for 97 yards and 2 INTs. And UConn showed that you can take away Gardner's legs by keying on him.

      Delete
    4. You are flat-out wrong that a walk-on could have done better, and UConn "taking away his legs" meant 19 carries for 60 yards and 1 touchdown. He certainly still had his legs, although he wasn't as effective as in other weeks.

      You're being irrational.

      Delete
  21. This is my starting lineup at O-line:
    LT Taylor Lewan
    LG Chris Bryant
    C Graham Glasgow
    RG Kyle Kalis
    RT Michael Schofield


    THOUGHTS?

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    1. I would be in support of that switch if Glasgow has the ability to snap the ball well. At the very least, I think that would help the power run game.

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    2. No one has seen Bryant play a meaningful snap, so we don't know what he offers. Have to trust the coaches until we have better info.

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  22. If there was a WAR statistic for offensive linemen and normed on a sample of MAC schools, Jack Miller would be several points in the negative. I'm sure there are at least five guys on our bench who are at or above "replacement level" by MAC standards.

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  23. Very disappointed in Lewans performance! I believe it was the first quarter when he appeared to get beat by a speed rush by the end and gave up on the play resulting in a sack to Gardner. It appears that the team has believed too much of whats been written by the media regarding them being a elite team. Something has to be done before the play on the field results in some of our highly ranked recruits looking elsewhere.

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  24. Thunder, is it possible for you to require a login for some of your posts, such as this one? It's difficult to follow when most of the commentors have the same name. More than that, it's tough to take someone seriously when they're offering overly fervent critique of collegiate athletes, while under an identity that isn't consistently represented.

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    Replies
    1. That has been tried before, and the comments mostly disappear because nobody wants to bother to login. The choice is to either have a few comments with good identification, or lots of comments with some Anonymous posters. I chose the latter. It's not perfect, but both options leave something to be desired.

      Delete
  25. Chalk me up as anonymous because as of yet, I have not signed up (later tonight). I find it ironic how we all have a love of Michigan football and share our thoughts on the game, recruiting etc...and be told by someone that its hard to take "someone serious and overly fervent". I didn't know we needed names to post how we saw the game?. My gosh, its an opinion and if reference is made to require a log in "for some posts such as this one", I'm sorry I watched Lewan give up on a play and Gardner got sacked. I believe it was right after the first sack. Anyhow...Thunder, I enjoy the site and will sign up provided this blog remains open to different views and opinions without having folks somehow look down on someone because they posted "anonymous" David Giovannini

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