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Stadium and Main: Reality check

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Reality check

So, ya. Remember all of my enthusiasm and delusions of grandeur regarding the 2007 season? Well, we can temper that, significantly. Too many issues, too little time. We have seen games like this before. Unfortunately, it seems to be becoming an annual occurrence. I’ll focus on the Offense, but that doesn’t mean the Defense wasn’t just as bad. But the offensive issues are easier to analyze quickly, especially when they’re so blatantly obvious. This is going to be a disorganized rant, because I’m a bit peeved. Anyway…

Defensive issues

Isn’t it supposed to be an advantage for the Defense when a team is one-dimensional? We knew that USC wasn’t a strong rushing team, and we still couldn’t figure out a way to defend the pass. I hate to bring up the “H” word, but can you imagine the heat he would be getting if he had coached the last 2 defensive debacles? Ron English had the best front seven since 1997, and he got shredded by the two best teams Michigan faced. Save for one pass break-up by Willis Barringer, the Safety play was atrocious. Herrmann was DC and LB coach, and our LBs regressed. English is DC and Safeties coach, and the same thing seems to be happening to his crew. Seriously, what is the deal?! The honeymoon is over, Ron. Teams saw the OSU game (or should I say the Ball State game?) and realized we can be had. Spread the field and throw. Expect more of the same against Oregon, ND, OSU, and others next season. Better figure it out.

Offensive issues

USC’s CBs were giving our WRs huge cushions. Where were the quick slants and 3-step drops? What happened to “taking what the Defense gives you?” That’s the excuse we’ll hear when we stumble through a 17-7 win against a crappy team like Northwestern or Illinois. But where is that quote when we lose a game? It’s nowhere to be found, because the truth is we don’t take what the Defense gives us… ever. Sure, Henne will check from a pass to a run on a 2-point conversion, but the play-calling, in general, consistently puts him (and the entire Offense) behind the 8 ball. We line up and do what we want, and we expect it to work. Then we blame “execution” when it doesn’t. So ridiculous. So arrogant.

So that’s what we have: a team that can line up and “execute” against inferior competition, and expects to do the same against teams with equal or superior talent. A team that can zone block against mid-level Big Ten teams, but gets stuffed by teams with speed and athleticism (which makes sense – you just can’t run slow-developing zone plays to the outside against teams with speed on the DL and at LB (but don’t fret, we’ll try it again next year against OSU and in the Bowl game!)).

A five or seven-step drop against a USC team that is blitzing on every play is like a death sentence for the QB. Did you see how comfortable Henne looked in the shotgun? Did he miss one pass out of the shotgun (I don’t think he did)? So why the lack of shotgun? Oh, that’s right:
“Our Offense primarily is designed… the shotgun part of it is the 2-minute offense, late in the half, late in the game. And, we felt like we had to have good balance, we had to be able to run the football some to be successful against SC. And, to be able to run the ball effectively, we’ve gotta have the quarterback under center.” – Lloyd Carr, post-game Rose Bowl press conference
“The shotgun part of it is the 2-minute offense, late in the half, late in the game.” And that’s how Lloyd thinks. That mentality is etched in stone in his brain. Because, you know, you wouldn’t want to exploit an opponent’s weakness (USC’s was its DBs, although you wouldn’t have known by our play-calling). And you certainly wouldn’t want to make life easy for your QB who has continually shown, for 3 full seasons, that he is reliable when he has time, but makes mistakes and lacks the ability to throw the ball away when he is under pressure. Nope, you wouldn’t want to do that. Not after 4 sacks in the 1st Quarter! Not if you’re Lloyd Carr or Mike DeBord. Because the shotgun is reserved for special occasions, like the fine china in your mom’s dining room. C’mon, Lloyd. Get real.

The bullheaded notion that we must have “balance,” and must “run to establish the pass” took yet another swift kick to the groin in the Rose Bowl. During one stretch in the 3rd and 4th quarters, as USC racked up 28 points off of 4 passing TDs, the Trojans threw the ball on 27 of 29 plays (if my math is correct). Ball game. They dominated us in the 2nd Half without a running game, or even the threat of a running game. And yet Lloyd and DeBord will continue to harp on “execution” in the running game.

You don’t win the game by being balanced. You don’t win the game if you have more rushing yards than the opposition. You win the game if you score more points than the other team. That’s football in 2007, like it or not. Offensive coaches: get with the program… like, now.

I love Mike Hart – I really do. But Mike Hart’s “highlight reel” runs are plays that should go for a loss, but end up going for 8 yards because he has great balance and is tougher than nails. Hart’s “amazing” runs go for 8 yards, not 80. Sure, Hart busts a 40-yarder every now and then (on runs up the middle when the blocking is perfect), but he isn’t a game-breaker. He isn’t Reggie Bush.

So why are we obsessed with stubbornly trying to churn out gains of 4, 2, 8, and 11 with Hart when we have ridiculous talent at WR, and a QB who, given time, is pretty darn good. Protect Henne, learn to pick up blitzes, and use the shotgun more often (it isn’t against the rules, you know?). Is that too much to ask, or do we have to let USC set a single-game sack record against us before we change things up a bit?

Bottom line

Attention Michigan coaches: The game has changed. Other teams are innovating. You are regurgitating. Stop being reactive. Start being proactive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Analysis that is right on the money. I watched the "game" with friends who played college football and they were astounded at the lack of change by UM until it was too late.
Your 'saving the china' analogy could not have said it better.
I am loyal blue (79 grad) but last night was the most painfully poor coaching I have seen since when Bo refused to use Anthony Carter unless they were in trouble.

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfectly said. With writing like yours, I need to stop by more often.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Lichty said...

Well said. I agree with every painful word of it.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Travis said...

I mostly agree, except for the bit about zone blocking. Our zone blocking scheme worked extremely well against OSU, and Hart ran roughshod over the LB and DB corps. The reason the zone blocking didn't work against USC is because our O linemen couldn't keep any of USC D linemen from penetrating. It was like they were a half-step ahead on every play.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And that is exactly why we need to keep those USC defenders on their heels with misdirection, quick slants, waggles, use the shotgun,etc., EARLIER in the game.
It's like the concept of taking ADVANTAGE of defenders who are flying too eagerly up field is a strange and new concept to our coaches!

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an OSU fan and I must say WELL SAID!!!! Michigan coaches there is such a thing as the spread offense learn how to use it and then teach your defense how to stop it.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bo is gone, God rest his soul. He was a great coach and a great man. But he was also the one who carried the "Michigan Man" torch. It is time to reach for the stars, and they aren't in the back pocket.

9:56 PM  

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