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Stadium and Main: September 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back from the Bye Week Break

They have a team of monkeys working around the clock on this stuff

Want another example of the U of M “marketing” team doing a great job? How about the commemorative t-shirt for this weekend’s game against Wisconsin – the 500th in Michigan Stadium history. The game is a Maize Out, and the t-shirt is white. Way to go!

Weis Year 3 vs. Rodriguez Year 1

This has nothing to do with the ND game, but it’s somewhat related. What’s very frustrating for me is that Charlie Weis went 3-9 in his third year, and there was virtually no talk of firing him. But I guarantee you that if Rodriguez misses a bowl game this season, his first year, you will hear a LOT more talk about how he’s not the right guy for the job, etc. Never mind the fact that we don’t have a proper QB for his system yet – the most important part of Michigan’s team from here on out. Additionally, Rodriguez is working with about 5 of “his own” recruits. In his 3rd year, Weis was working with, what, 50(?) of his own recruits (two full recruiting classes, plus a few guys he pulled in after Willingham was fired). Pretty much all of his offensive players in year 3 fit his offensive system (pro style). And if you want to say that Weis struggled because his 3rd-year team was loaded with inexperienced players... umm, have you looked at Michigan’s roster lately? The entire THREE-deep on offense has just one senior (TE Mike Massey), and we’re starting freshmen at QB, RB, OL, and WR!

I’m already annoyed at the media because I can see this coming from a mile away. Rich Rodriguez is a very good coach. We need to give him time, and we need to stop any crap from the media before it starts.

Know the Horse-Collar Rule: Some Horse-Collar Tackles are OK (seriously)

I looked this up because the “horse-collar” penalty that Michigan was called for on one of ND’s interception returns was a horrible call. And, yes, it was called (although NBC didn’t mention it very clearly and the replay was shown while the ref was making the call). The Michigan player (David Molk, I believe) grabbed the ND player’s collar area and pulled down/back for a split second, but the ND player remained on his feet and his momentum carried him forward. He lost his balance after the Michigan player had released him, and eventually fell down to his right without being touched at the time. Does that sound like it fits within the description of the penalty (Rule 9-1-2-p)?:
“All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside back collar of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling the runner down. This does not apply to a runner who is inside the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.” (emphasis mine)
There are two things to note here: (1) “Immediately pulling the runner down” definitely didn’t happen in the Michigan-ND game. Under any definition of the word, that wasn’t an “immediate” tackle by the Michigan player. And, for future reference, (2) The horse-collar tackle prohibition “does not apply to a runner who is inside the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.” There is going to be a lot of confusion on this rule (there already is), because a QB will get sacked via a horse-collar tackle and either (a) the refs will call it a penalty, which it shouldn’t be, or (b) fans will riot because the penalty wasn’t called. Additionally, I think Michigan fans need to know this rule because I bet we’ll see a lot of horse-collar tackles within the tackle box in the future. McGuffie will take a handoff on a zone stretch play and get pulled down from behind by a crashing DE. Fans will want a penalty, but if he’s within the tackle box there shouldn’t be one.

Also note a further clarification by the NCAA that will probably be incorrectly called in the coming years: "If the ball carrier is grabbed by the shoulder or jersey and just ridden to the ground over a couple of yards, that's not going to be a foul." This jibes with the “immediate” standard that is listed in the rule, but I just see too much room for differing interpretations of this rule. Another annoying thing from that article: "We'll err on the side of safety. We'll defend the official who may be a little more strict, because that's a major point of emphasis." The whole “point of emphasis” thing is illogical on its face. So some rules are more important than others? The NCAA is starting to sound like the Notre Dame announcers on NBC, who stated that intentional grounding didn’t need to be called on Jimmy Clausen because he threw the ball “near” the line of scrimmage (the rule, as you know, is that the ball must at least reach the line of scrimmage). Every rule is important and every rule should be applied uniformly.

Looking at Wisconsin

The Badgers have a handful of nagging injuries, it seems. RB P.J. Hill has a leg bruise. TE Travis Beckum had a hamstring issue for the first few weeks of the season – those can linger. WLB Jonathan Casillas had a knee injury but played in Wisconsin’s last game (at Fresno State). CB Aaron Henry is recovering from a knee injury and might make the decision to play or redshirt this Saturday. Is it evil of me to hope that all of these guys play a lot but are very limited in their production/mobility? Maybe they’ll “tough it out” because it’s Michigan and they haven’t won in the Big House during their careers, but in doing so they might take valuable snaps away from healthy, productive players (like TE Garrett Graham, who has been Wisconsin’s leading receiving threat).

Here's a good take, from mgoblog’s diaries, on what to expect and what we need to do to win. Enjoy the game, and Go Blue!

Friday, September 12, 2008

If we lose, blame Adidas

And I’m not just talking about the inevitable complaints that will result from seeing our new road uniforms in action for the first time, I’m talking about the frustration that will result from seeing out team slipping and sliding all over the place. It’s going to be wet and a bit windy, and the grass will probably be longer than we’d prefer. Be prepared to flashbacks of the 2006 game at OSU, where our DL couldn’t seem to stay upright thanks to the slippery surface. I fully expect to hear horror stories about how Adidas only brought one set of cleats for Michigan. And then the conspiracy theories (which I will totally partake in) about how Adidas prefers Notre Dame to Michigan because ND has that one Adidas deodorant ad in all the sports magazines.

On a more serious note, here are some random things I expect to see in the ND game:

- A deep play-action pass out of the I-formation on 3rd and short. Kevin Grady will be in the game, and most will expect him to get the ball. He won’t. Whether it works or not is another story.

- Lots of dink and dunk passes from ND, including a variety of screens to RBs, WRs, and TEs. This has been discussed all week, since most people believe the Irish will attempt to neutralize Michigan’s DL with quick passes.

- A fluky special teams play. Most likely: the wet football is going to get dropped by a punter. And I think Michigan tries for at least one punt block (which shouldn’t really merit a mention, but it’s been so rare for Michigan to do so against ND that it will be nice to see them try it).

- More of Carlos Brown at QB than we’ve ever seen. He will get a handful of snaps, and he might even play QB on consecutive plays. And for the first time in my life, I think there’s a (small) chance that he’ll actually attempt a pass. I’d also expect a designed run to the strong side of the field which turns into a reverse when Brown hands off to Martavious Odoms.

Looking back at Miami (OH)

- As I was hoping, the blocking out in the flats improved, but there were still several missed blocks.

- 2 weeks in a row of terrible (as in, way worse than usual “bad”) announcers. They harped on Miami’s missed opportunities, but never mentioned Michigan’s: 2 or 3 dropped INTs, 2 or 3 missed wide open receivers – a few of those might have gone for TDs. I won’t even get into the stupid “the state of Michigan is crap” segment. Unbelievable.

- The defense wasn’t great, but I’m surprised at how many people were ripping it in the immediate aftermath of the game. After re-watching, and realizing that we held them to 6 points, I think people realized that we did a decent job. But, yes, Stevie Brown still has issues.

- For all of the talk about Sheridan being the better runner, Threet is the guy who appears to have made more correct reads on the zone-read handoffs this season. He made 2 very good reads vs. Miami, one resulting in the first TD. On a related note, I just feel more comfortable with Threet in there. For now.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Post-Utah thoughts

Had to digest the game a bit longer than most, obviously. And it never helps that September is the busiest month at work. Great timing, huh?


- It’s a bit disappointing to see how many people are ready to write this team and its coaching staff off. It was one game! Yes, there are various areas of concern, but some people need to get a grip. I always disagreed with the people who claimed that Michigan fans just liked to complain about anything, but after some of the things I’ve seen and read this week… maybe they’re on to something. This season will be tough, but Utah is a good team. What you saw was a good spread team with a veteran spread QB vs. a bad spread team with inexperienced “spread QBs” (and I obviously use that term loosely for Sheridan and Threet). We will get better over time, and we will get much better once we have a true spread QB. As much as it stinks to say it, Terrelle Pryor really set our program back a year or two by choosing to attend Ohio State.

- On the last play of the game, Threet threw high and incomplete to Stonum. Watching the replay, Minor appears to be open on a seam route down the middle. It would have been a 40-yard throw, but it also might have been a TD. I can’t knock Threet too much for not seeing it, since it clearly wasn’t his first read. But I’m hoping we see more of these seam routes from Minor, Shaw, Butler and the like. Utah certainly killed us (mainly in the first half) by lining up WRs and TEs against our LBs. If teams are willing to play us like that, we have to make them pay.

- That incomplete pass from Sheridan to Minor near the end of the first half was a heart-breaker. Same seam route (on the left side that time), same wide open receiver, but Sheridan couldn’t connect. I also had flashbacks to some of the practice video I’ve seen over the summer, and I distinctly recall Rich Rod yelling something like, “Brandon, don’t stab at it.” While this was off-camera, I’m pretty sure he was talking about putting one hand up to catch a pass when you really need two (or when you should be diving for the ball). And he might have been talking to Brandon Moore for all I know. Anyway, I understand that Sheridan threw a fairly bad pass there, but the old coaching axiom that “if you can get a hand on it, you should catch it” comes to mind. I can’t really fault Minor, since he’s not a WR by any means, but I wonder if his eyes got big when he saw all that open field. Maybe a leap and a two-handed grab for a mere first down would have been the better option? Would that have even been possible, considering how quickly the play developed? Just thinking out loud…

- Mesko was very lucky not to get his 4th quarter roll-out punt blocked. It seems he was told to look for open field and run for the first down, if possible. But there was a Utah player right there when he finally punted – I’m amazed he missed that punt block.

- Did Tony Gibson have some chewing tobacco in his mouth? They showed him on the sidelines on TV at least twice, and both times it looked like he did. If so, gross.

- The 4th quarter was really loud. Good job by the fans who were still there – quite a few had left. Probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it (although I’ve missed a few “loud” games like MSU 2004).

- Yes, the first half defense pretty much stunk. Marell Evans wasn’t that good, although I must admit watching from the stadium he looked like he was fast and active. Re-watching, he was clearly fast and unproductive. I think the coaches love his speed and athleticism – he’s just not ready yet. The second half performance was very good. I don’t buy the “Utah shut things down” argument. They might have been a little conservative in the 3rd quarter, but it wasn’t Lloydball by any means. Our DL was getting good pressure and the secondary was staying true to their assignments just long enough – something that couldn’t be said in the first half (Stevie Brown again taking a bad angle, Charles Stewart settling into weird/deep zones). The result was a lot of sacks, hurries, penalties, and a fumble recovery. The defense also looked fresh, so maybe all of that off-season conditioning is going to pay off. As many predicted, the LBs will be key. Jonas Mouton replacing Evans helped a bit, and John Thompson replacing Austin Panter in certain situations might make things better.

- I think we beat Miami (OH), 28-17, or something like that. I would love to see us block some of those screens a bit better. I won’t even ask the OL to block better, since that’s a work in progress and a much bigger problem. But Mike Massey, the WRs, and the RBs need to make their blocks if we’re going to have guys like Martavious Odoms do any damage in the flat. I think we break one or two of those this weekend, and that will end up being the difference.

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