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Stadium and Main: Post-Utah thoughts

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?

Bullets:

- 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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