Detroit News - Michigan Index Detroit News - Michigan Index       Detroit Free Press- Michigan Index Detroit Free Press- Michigan Index
Stadium and Main: October 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Michigan 27, Illinois 17: Random thoughts, as usual

The Man kept me down last week, which was disappointing on many levels, but mainly disappointing because I went to the Purdue game and had some extra random thoughts. But that’s old news. About Illinois:

- On our 3rd-and-goal from the 8 yard line on our first scoring drive (which ended with a FG to make it 7-3), Jeremy Ciulla moved early, but a false start wasn’t called. Just another criticism on a night where he looked completely lost at times. The right side of the line was sub-par, and the center-quarterback exchange continues to be a mess. Steve Schilling had his worst game of his career. Illinois was one of the nation’s best in terms of sacks entering the game, so I’m hoping that they were just “on” and we were just “off.” Otherwise, we might get a wake up call against Michigan State, who has had strong DL play.

- Max Pollock was at LB on the weak side for a 3rd-and-1 to open the 2nd quarter. Word? Jonas Mouton was playing a few downs at what appeared to be MLB in the 2nd quarter, as well.

- The whole Mallett/Carr “argument” is being way overblown. My thoughts: (1) Mallett, as I’ve said before, continues to show very good pocket presence for a freshman, (2) he was holding the ball in his throwing hand, waving it back and forth as he moved; he was lucky it didn’t get stripped (I’m pretty sure this was Carr’s main beef), (3) do people really think that players don’t get seriously chewed out from time to time (in games, practice, film room)? This wasn’t the first time for Ryan and it won’t be the last, and (4) despite ABC showing Mallett appearing upset after the incident (with his helmet still on on the sideline), Mallett was celebrating like a madman after the Arrington-to-Manningham TD and could also be seen actively engaged in the game during other sideline shots. He will be fine, his relationship with Lloyd will be fine, and he’ll be a great QB for Michigan. On a side note, the play-calling while Mallett was in the game was giving me bad flashbacks to the Northwestern game.

- Were we lucky to win? I’m inclined to say “no.” Entering the 4th quarter, we had turned the ball over 3 times, and Illinois hadn’t turned it over yet. In the 4th quarter, yes, we got a complete gift on the muffed punt, but there were plenty of plays that didn’t go our way at crucial points in the game. How about the tipped-ball interception at our 40-yard line when we were down 7-0 and we looked like a bunch of deer in the headlights? How about a handful of fumbled snaps, resulting in one turnover near the red zone and a few wasted downs? Illinois played undisciplined football, but we weren’t exactly mistake-free. We didn’t commit many penalties, but we didn’t bring our “A” game by any stretch of the imagination.

- Speaking of the muffed punt, there was definitely a whistle blown before the play ended. I am 83% sure that it came from the referee who was standing behind the punter (and who eventually made the call that it was Michigan’s ball). After the play, you can clearly see the punt returner motioning that he heard a whistle. During the play (which is the reason for my 83%), you can clearly see the ref put his whistle in his mouth way early – like he is anticipating the play being over ASAP.

- John Ferrara got absolutely frozen on an option read where Juice Williams picked up a big gain. That was painful to watch. Herbstreit called him out on it, adding insult to injury. I don’t mind playing these young guys (like Ferrara and Renaldo Sagesse), but what’s the deal with playing them so early and so often lately? Are the DL starters really that out of shape? Are these guys impressing in practice?

- Just a reminder: If you’re gonna give Lloyd credit for 6 wins in a row (which I will), you can’t let him slide on the first 2 games of the season. Instead of all of this stuff about how this is “Lloyd’s best coaching job,” wouldn’t it have been nice to have actually beaten Appalachian State?... or maybe come within a dozen of Oregon? I understand that people are impressed that Lloyd was able to keep the team motivated and fairly well-prepared after those debacles. Avoiding those debacles would have been the preferred route, obviously. As is often the case, Brian put it nicely:
“Of course I am hung up on the first two games of the year. I would remind you that we went from national championship contenders to national laughingstocks in two quick weeks in the senior years of Jake Long, Chad Henne, and Mike Hart largely because the team was woefully ill-prepared to stop a I-AA team that could not throw. The horrendous coaching breakdowns that led to the parade of mistakes do continue to color my opinion of the team and the year and will do so until the sun expands and consumes the earth. Given Carr's well-established track record it would be silly to do otherwise.”
- Our kick return blocking was horrendous. Just terrible. But Lloyd’s teams are always fundamentally sound, right? We certainly don’t need a Special Teams coach… nope!

- Zoltan’s acting skills are top notch. There wasn’t much contact on the roughing the punter penalty, but he sold it like Ric Flair in his prime. Woooooo!

- After Manningham’s first TD reception, Carson Butler got into it with #44 from Illinois. #44 pushed Butler when Carson came over to celebrate the TD. Then Butler threw an open-handed left to the dude’s face. It was not a punch, since there was no closed fist, but it sure looked like one until I slow-mo’d it. This all took place right in front of a ref, who must have seen it. #44 turned to him for a penalty, but to no avail. The Illinois player wasn’t innocent, but Butler needs to keep his cool. That was dumb, dumb, dumb, and the type of “retaliation” penalty that is usually called.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Post-EMU, Pre-Purdue

Michigan stuff:

- Some people have noted that Junior Hemingway looked much shorter than they imagined. If he’s 6’3” (like the official roster says he is), then I’m Andre the Giant. There’s no way he’s as tall as Arrington.

- Now that we’re finally playing a team with a pulse, we get into “if we win this game” territory. I’m not going to get into that stuff, but if we beat Purdue and Illinois avoids a letdown at Iowa, it sounds like ESPN College Gameday might be at Illinois next weekend.

- So just when people are starting to praise Morgan Trent and talking about how Donovan Warren is the next Marlin Jackson, Ty Law, or any other very good cornerback not named Woodson, Purdue comes to town and might put up 50 passes (considering the relatives strengths/weaknesses of each team). While we have been solid against Purdue’s attack in the past, this is 2007, and in 2007 Michigan loses to Appalachian State. Two things that worry me: (1) We didn’t play Purdue last year, and (2) our play in the defensive backfield has almost been too good to be true the past few games.

- Steve Schilling at RG and Mark Ortmann at RT struggled at times, especially Schilling (who gave up a 3rd down sack in the red zone). I didn’t re-watch the game this week, but I thought their run-blocking was decent. I was actually surprised at how many times we ran right. Of course we do this against Eastern Michigan…

Other college football stuff:

- This was the 2nd straight week of great college football, partly due to a few upsets. I tend to enjoy these types of weekends more when Michigan plays a Noon game against a weaker opponent, as opposed to an important game later in the day (like PSU 2005, which was playing opposite the classic USC-ND game).

- After discussing it with Jake over the past few weeks, I have Les Miles at #1 and Jeff Tedford at #2, head and shoulders above any other potential coaching candidates. Even if Miles loses a game or two, I think I’ll still be on the bandwagon. Some might argue that having Miles NOT win a National Championship this year is in Michigan’s best interest (assuming they want to hire him). His price would go up, he might be tempted to build a dynasty at LSU, and Michigan would have to wait an extra week to interview/hire him (since the BCS Championship Game is in the 2nd week of January). On a related note, Kirk Ferentz has lost 8 straight Big Ten games. So the only time I want to hear his name is when we are adding to the list of reasons why he should NOT be hired.

- You might hate ESPN, you might hate Lou Holtz, but you folks are consistently talking about his “Pep Talk” segment week in and week out. I’m still amazed by that magic trick. I have been ever since I saw some dude (a Michigan alum, no less) do it at Ben and Karen’s rehearsal dinner.

- I’m sure you heard about JoePa's (alleged) road rage. I’ve had a beef with JoePa for a few years now, but I don’t want to see his time at PSU come to an ugly end.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Optimist/Pessimist - Northwestern edition


- The schedule is still in our favor. A pseudo-scrimmage against Eastern Michigan will allow both Henne and Mallett to get playing time, and our injury issues might be cleared up by the time we play Purdue.

- Henne looked good. He made one really bad throw, missing a wide-open Arrington on the right sideline for what should have been a TD. But all things considered (knee injury, “rust,” the way he looked in the first two games), he seemed fine. Henne’s resurgence (or whatever you want to call it) will persuade DeBord to open up the playbook, and we have the talent to surprise some folks.

- The defense has made halftime adjustments when needed (which, unfortunately, is often). Oregon was over at the half, and Notre Dame is terrible, so our defensive stats from those second halves don’t matter. Against Appalachian State, we gave up two FGs after giving up four TDs in the first half. And at Northwestern, we shut them out after halftime. Both games included key second half takeaways by the defense, too.

- Sure, the team came out flat, but they had just ended what was possibly the most emotional four weeks in Michigan Football history. And it was against Northwestern.

- Brandon Graham, Shawn Crable, and the rest of the DL woke up in the second half and made a handful of outstanding individual plays. We’ve seen some of that in the past and should expect more in the future.

- We won the game. We’ve won three straight. We’re 2-0 in the Big Ten, with time to improve.


- We couldn’t run on Northwestern. Northwestern. Yes, the play-calling (another thing to be worried about) was horrible, but we still couldn’t execute. Adam Kraus, pre-season All Big Ten in many eyes, got abused by Northwestern’s DL. It was really bad.

- Mike DeBord has consistently run left (often to the short side) against an 8-man front on 1st down, as opposed to taking advantage of single coverage on Manningham and/or Arrington. Talking to fans who attended the Northwestern game, this was their #1 complaint (and there were many, since the issues seemed much more pronounced watching from the stands). Northwestern had the 114th-ranked pass efficiency defense, and Michigan did pretty much nothing to exploit it until they were down by 9 at halftime. That’s DeBord in a nutshell, my friends. I know I'm like the 600th person to point this out, but still.

- Mallett made a couple of impressive throws, but looked average for the most part. Again, he wasn’t helped by DeBord, who put him in some third-and-longs after running Hart into a stacked Northwestern defensive front on first and second downs. If Henne gets hurt again...

- The poor tackling continues. And as a result, the back 7 was beaten by one of the slower running backs in the conference (that wasn’t Tyrell Sutton out there) for a long TD run. And probably the one guy with the fundamentals to make consistent tackles (Brandent Englemon) was too slow to catch him. That entire play was ugly.

- For the third time in five games, the team came out flat. Actually, this seems to fit with Lloyd’s M.O. While the team often plays with passion against Ohio State, Penn State, and others, they seem to be unmotivated against weaker opponents. This is the second straight year where we looked uninspired against Northwestern.

- We lack an adequate kicker, and we have no homerun threat on kick or punt returns. Brandon Minor seems more likely to slip or run into a defender than break a return for a big gain.


The world did not end. But if this type of play-calling continues, coupled with the requisite defensive breakdowns, we will lose 2 or 3 more games. If we try to “establish the run” the entire first half against Purdue, we will lose. For the rest of the season, the play-calling needs to be great – on both sides of the ball. That means no pointless 3-man fronts and/or blitzes from a safety who is 15 yards off the line of scrimmage, Mr. English. Unfortunately, my confidence in the coaches is at an all-time low (and that's saying something). I hope they can prove me wrong.

Detroit News - Michigan Index Detroit News - Michigan Index       Detroit Free Press - Michigan Index Detroit Free Press - Michigan Index