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Stadium and Main: September 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Penn State game thoughts

- Can you imagine losing to any team 9 times in a row? Our record against OSU recently is pretty bad, but 9 in a row?! Wow. And it would probably be 11 in a row if Michigan hadn’t missed two of Penn State’s worst teams in recent memory thanks to the rotating Big Ten schedule (2003 and 2004).

- Penn State played an ideal game… if you’re a Michigan fan, that is. And this ain’t the first time we’ve seen it. The PSU offensive gameplan against Michigan has continually made Mike DeBord look like Mike Leach. And I thought I was frustrated with our predictability on offense. On a related note, did you notice that we actually ran away from the “shuffling fullback” a few times against Penn State? And it worked!

- Mallett’s 3rd-and-11 completion in the 4th quarter, where he avoided a sack (or two) and made the completion to Greg Mathews, was the key play of the game, in my opinion. His pocket presence isn’t perfect, but it’s clear that he has natural instincts to make something out of nothing, which is a characteristic we haven’t seen in a long time in a Michigan QB. I like Henne, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him make a play like that.

- While the play-calling wasn’t flawless, I was fine with it. Even though Mallett appears to have “it,” he’s still going to make mistakes. At the end of the half, he threw a bad INT the play after missing 2 open receivers in the end zone. And he almost got picked on an out route at another point. So even though we ended up in 2nd-and-long a handful of times, we also ended up in 2nd or 3rd-and-short a fair amount. And Mallett did his part then – he was surprisingly efficient on 3rd down. But overall, we did the right thing by letting Mike Hart carry us. He is unreal.

- In case you missed it, Michigan will win the Big Ten outright if they win out. Indiana and Iowa, the two teams that Michigan doesn’t face this season, both lost on Saturday. Win out and we’re in the Rose Bowl. But there’s obviously a long way to go. The schedule still sets up nicely, as we can get healthy the next two weeks before a big game against Purdue.

- So I chastise Manningham for dogging it a few weeks ago and he comes out and makes me look like the fool that I am. Against ND, he was clearly on his game, running and even celebrating hard (watch Mathews’ TD). Then this week he picks up a huge first down on a reverse that probably should have been stopped for a 3-yard loss. His effort can’t be questioned as it stands right now. Let’s hope that he can get into a deep ball groove with Mallett soon, and that it continues when Henne returns.

- Brandon Graham is really good. So good that I’m already starting to worry about him not coming back for his senior year in 2009. He could be the defensive force that we need to complete a national championship run, but I could never blame a guy for going pro.

- Jamar Adams played his best game in a Michigan uniform. His pass interference penalty on PSU’s TE Quarless, in retrospect, might have saved the game. Adams was all over the field, and almost always in the right place. It was nice to see very solid safety play for the first time in a long time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Post-ND, Week 3 in CFB

- Utah destroying UCLA was a bit of a surprise, but one that I’m happy about. I was getting a bit tired of Mark May’s UCLA love fest.

- The Big East isn’t that bad, but they still aren’t that good. I have to give them some credit, because I’m always the first to criticize them. USF’s win at Auburn 2 weeks ago doesn’t look as impressive after Auburn lost at home to Mississippi State, but a win at Auburn, at night, is always a tough task. Cincinnati looks solid, too. Their offense gets lots of hype, and Brian Kelly is “the next hot young offensive-minded coach,” but their defense is pretty good, too. Still, WVU and Rutgers haven’t really played anybody yet, and Louisville clearly isn’t that great, losing to Kentucky on Saturday (although Kentucky isn’t the Kentucky of old this year).

- Brandon Graham finally played a full game, and played well. He was credited with 3.5 of our 8 sacks, and he was all over the field. He made a great run-down/sack on Jimmy Clausen near the sideline – probably his best play, of many.

- Attention Michigan big shots: Don’t hire Kirk Ferentz. One game doesn’t make or break a coach, but Saturday’s 15-13 loss at Iowa State was a BAD loss that brought to light some disturbing info about Ferentz that I wasn't aware of: he is 3-6 against Iowa State. In a year in which you don’t play Michigan or Ohio State, and you could sneak your way into a Big Ten championship, you have to win your non-conference games, because that most likely will be the tiebreaker that separates your team from the Wolverines and Buckeyes. Apparently Ferentz didn’t learn his lesson in 2002, when the Hawkeyes lost to the Cyclones and watched OSU “Krenzel” its way to an undefeated season. Iowa State actually had a pulse back then, but this year, we’re talking about a team that lost to Kent State by 9 and Northern Iowa by 11, both at home and both at night. I understand that Iowa-ISU is a big rivalry game, but come on! This is not the type of guy we need going up against Tressel, or even Mark Dantonio... Or even Charlie Weis (zing!). I was ambivalent about Ferentz before, but after reading about that game and realizing how bad he has been against his in-state rival (who is usually mediocre, at best, and was horrible when Ferentz took over a fairly healthy Iowa program), I only want Ferentz in Ann Arbor if he’s coaching against Michigan.

- Tommy Bowden has no class.

- The over/under on USC sacks against Notre Dame should be 11. When you combine horrible pass protection, a center who is unreliable on shotgun snaps, and a general lack of “push,” you get one of the worst offensive lines I’ve ever seen. At one point in the 4th Quarter against Michigan, ND had -52 yards rushing. So how long does the Charlie Weis honeymoon last? For a guy who is supposed to be an offensive “genius,” his team has looked pathetic. For what it’s worth, ND is a 14 point underdog at home against Michigan State this weekend. Wow.

- I’m pretty sure that Lloyd is telling Bryan Wright to aim his kicks to his left from time to time, in an attempt to get them as close to the sideline as possible. This backfired against ND when his kick went out of bounds. The same thing almost happened against Oregon, but a good bounce kept the ball inside the pylon in the end zone. Speaking of Wright, he appeared to have some sort of injury, as he went into the locker room with a trainer early in the game. He later returned to the sidelines but not to the game. Some people missed that, I think.

- The PSU game is unbelievably important. If we want a shot at the Big Ten title, we have to win. And if we lose, a January 1st bowl might be out of reach. This is one of the rare September Big Ten games where the outcome will go a long way in determining the championship. If Michigan can pull out a victory, the schedule sets up nicely for the rest of the season. Henne can take his time and heal properly, and the defense can (hopefully) fix some things and gain some much-needed experience. I really wish I was going to this game. If you’ll be there, make sure to bring your “yelling voice.”

- R.I.P. Shaky Jake.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

2 games, 2 losses, 2 million thoughts

Here are 4 of them:

- Is Super Mario dogging it out there? Some fans seem to think so, and I can't necessarily disagree with them. I just watched the Oregon game after attending, and in person he looked like he wasn't at full speed - even moreso than on TV. On Henne's interception on our first drive, Manningham was probably interfered with. This was not visible on TV, even on the replay (although Nessler did say that Manningham's "path was blocked," or something to that effect), but from Section 9 the interference was quite clear. One ref even reached into his back pocket for a flag, 1998 Rose Bowl style. But where was Manningham's anger? I don't want our players to turn into whiners, but at least show some life out there. The universal "flag signal" that every receiver uses nowadays would have been appropriate there, but Mario just seemed like he was defeated from the beginning and didn't put up a fight. Maybe Mallett can connect with him this week and get Mario back in the game.

- ... ... For the eighth time, Lloyd Carr is a great man. But his time is coming to an end - it has to. There is a cloud of uncertainty and negativity surrounding this program, stemming from retirement rumors, health rumors, and rumors that Carr will be fired (which even my grandma knows ain't happening). Regardless of the merit of these rumors, they are persistent and will only get worse. Michigan cannot be successful under these circumstances. Lloyd has to understand this. Lloyd has to retire at season's end, for the good of the program.

- Henne getting hurt can't be seen as a good thing now, no matter how poorly he was playing. But in hindsight (like, in 2009), this might be a good thing for Ryan Mallett. If he has to burn a redshirt, might as well have a baptism by fire instead of mop-up duty against Eastern Michigan and Minnesota.

- This is exactly the type of ND game that we lose, because we're supposed to win. For those of you who have made big bucks off of Michigan's woes in the past few weeks, here's an odd (but not surprising) stat: In the last 8 Michigan-Notre Dame games, the favorite is just 1-7 against the spread. Somebody's gotta be 0-3, it might as well be us! Let the Clausen hype continue!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Just a few quick things...

More coming in the next few days, but...

1 - Mike Hart deserved better.

2 - ... If you don't know whose address that is, you might want to familiarize yourself with it (and him) over the next 4 months or so. Word on the street is that he locked his inbox over the weekend. Sweet! Tedford, Stoops, Schiano, Petersen (Boise), Johnson (Navy), Rodriguez, Richt, Tenuta, Brian Kelly... Just a few of the names that Mr. Martin needs to start researching, like, now. Call me naive if you want, but I'd rather attempt to have my voice heard than sit back quietly and hope that Martin makes the right hire.

3 - Appalachian State deserved to win. Congrats to them and their fans, who many said were the loudest visiting fans at the Big House ever (for real).

4 - Could we not see this coming?
9/21/02 – 10-7 win over Utah.

9/18/04 – 24-21 win over San Diego State.

11/4/06 – 34-26 win over Ball State.
And more than a few games where we were in a dogfight with "mediocre Team X" in the 3rd Quarter, but ended up winning by 10 or so. The writing was on the wall. This wasn't a fluke, it was just a loss instead of a narrow victory.

5 - One message board poster summed up many fans’ mentality in one sentence:

“Lloyd's regime has made me dread losses rather than anticipate wins.”

6 - Here’s the text of the e-mail I sent to my Uncle Dave on Saturday. Sometimes your first reaction says it best:
Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2007 20:41:48 -0400
Subject: Horrible.

Carr will retire at the end of the year and then, and only then, will we see what this program can do. New blood is needed. DeBord is just like Carr. English has been figured out. The program is stale and predictable. We need some new life. Later...Nick.

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