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Stadium and Main: Optimist/Pessimist - Northwestern edition

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.


Blogger Jered said...

Please correct me if I'm off-base here, but Michigan has always run a very conservative offense - usually running on 1st and 2nd, leaving 3rd to pass (and even run then in short yardage situations).

Do you think it's time to start moving toward the spread offense like so many other programs/NFL teams?
You don't necessarily have to have a mobile QB - just use more 3-4 WR sets. And with our O-line, which is always good, spreading the field with a single back, plus TE and or 3-4 WR creates space to run. Mix it up, throw short slants on 1st down.
would you expand on this a little? Why are we stuck in this rut? I feel like it's Carr's anachronistic, Schembechler-derived mentality.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Nick said...


I don't pretend to be smart enough to know what TYPE of offense we should run. The game changes, and in 10 years, the "spread" offense might go the way of the run-and-shoot, for all we know. But in terms of offensive mentality, I think it's safe to say these things:

Michigan coaches are still too concerned with time of possession and keeping the other team's offense off the field. Points per possession is what matters. If you possess the ball the entire game, but don't score, you don't win. I'm sure that Michigan's coaches WANT to score on each possession, but a bad kicker and a weak defense (at least against the spread) often put us in games (App State, NW, EMU) where a few missed opportunities lead to a close game or a loss. If we played D and Special Teams like OSU does, I would like (and understand) our offensive philosophy a lot more.

Also, we have a great RB and good WR corps, yet we only use play-action once in a blue moon.

"Why are we stuck in this rut?" Because of Carr. Ultimately, all failures and disappointments fall on his shoulders.

4:01 PM  

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