Monday, October 13, 2008

Observations on Toledo

  • Michigan should be able to beat Toledo with its second string. So, I’m not trying to excuse the loss. However, Michigan was without three of its five best players. Brandon Graham, Donovan Warren, and Montavious Odoms were out with injuries. Considering how abysmal the team was with those guys in the lineup, it doesn’t take much imagination to get to a loss to Toledo without them.

  • A loss is a loss. There are a number of plays or decisions that you can go back to after a game and say “if x, then y”. However, Rich Rodriguez could have gone a long way in avoiding this loss if he had managed the game better on the last drive. After a nine yard run by Michael Shaw, Michigan had a 2nd and 1 at the Toledo 9 yard line with 18 seconds left. Rodriguez should have had two goals at this point; 1). Pick up the first down, and 2) center the ball for a possible field goal attempt. Both could’ve been accomplished on 2nd and 1 with a run to the left. The clock would’ve stopped with the first down and Michigan would’ve had three shots at the end zone from the eight yard line. Instead, Nick Sheridan threw incomplete passes on 2nd and 3rd and 1. Even if RR wasn’t thinking about picking up the first down on 2nd and 1, that should’ve been the goal on 3rd and 1. Picking up one yard and then having three shots at the end zone is much more ideal than taking one shot and then going to overtime. I realize that running the ball on 3rd and 1 with 13 seconds left and no timeouts would pretty much end the game if Michigan didn’t pick it up. That risk would not have been there if Rodriguez tried to pick up the first down on 2nd down. It was bad clock management and it very well could have cost Michigan the game. I was mildly pissed that Michigan lost to Toledo but I was really pissed that RR blew the end of the game. Michigan didn’t play well enough to win and certainly K.C. Lopata should be able to make a 26 yard field goal but you want your coach to know how to manage a game.

  • Informed football fans understand why Michigan is struggling. You cannot have success running the spread if you have a QB who can’t run or throw. Truth be told, you can’t have success running any offense with a QB like that but it is especially true with the spread. Michigan is bad for one reason and that’s because of the QB play. If RR had merely an average spread QB, or even just an accurate passer, Michigan would likely be 4-2. Instead, Michigan is 2-4 and looks even worse than that. There are many things this team could improve on but there is only one thing making this team bad. I’ll once again cite my favorite example when discussing Michigan and the spread: Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson literally hit the ground running at Georgia Tech with his triple option attack. With far less talent than Michigan, he had the Yellow Jackets wreckin’ house at a rate of 412 total yards per game. Why? Because he inherited two above average dual-threat QBs. That’s it. That’s the difference. Michigan is a disaster because of one position. Need evidence? Both of Georgia Tech’s QB’s were out this past weekend against Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb is a I-AA team and a mediocre I-AA team at that. Without its two dual-threat QBs—and with a Threet-esque QB—Georgia Tech won 10-7 and put up 199 total yards. Sound familiar? Michigan isn’t perfect, but it is literally one position away from being a 10-win bowl team. Don’t forget that when you’re making your “Fire RR” signs.

  • At this point, RR should understand a few things. First, defenses are just waiting to clobber Sam McGuffie. They don’t fear Threet’s feet or his arm. McGuffie is taking way too much punishment because of the bland play-calling. I realize that Threet is horribly inaccurate and that certainly limits things. However, giving the ball to McGuffie every play is not working. RR also needs to give up the WR screens. They are a disaster. Toledo managed to run them whenever they wanted. In fact, most teams seam to run them with success against Michigan. Michigan, on the other hand, seems to lose yardage on those plays more often than not. That might be another function of defenses not fearing Threet’s arm. They can simply jam ‘M’ receivers since they don’t fear Threet beating them with his arm. Unfortunately, that means Michigan has no chance of successfully running WR screens. The worst thing that can happen to a WR screen is for the corners to jam the line. So, I have two suggestions: 1). Stop calling the WR screen (it doesn’t work with a poor QB) and 2). Learn from what works against you and start jamming the opposition’s receivers. That brings up another point. Why do Michigan corners play 10 yards off the ball? It is infuriating. Stop doing it. Please! For the love of Edwin Moses, stop playing 10 yards off the ball. That’s how dudes rack up 20 receptions against you.

  • Although the defense isn’t the reason why ‘M’ lost to Toledo—that distinction once again goes to the offense—there is no question that it was used and abused by the Rockets. There is no reason for a defense with as much talent as Michigan’s to look as bad as it looks. Scott Shafer isn’t working with the same handicap that RR has to deal with. Donovan Warren, Morgan Trent, Brandon Graham, Terrance Taylor, Tim Jamison, Will Johnson and Obi Ezeh will probably be playing in the NFL at some point. Michigan’s defense isn’t unbelievably talented but there is plenty of talent to work with. There have been instances (fourth quarters of Wisconsin and Utah) when the defense has looked outstanding. Unfortunately, that is not the norm. The D-Line has not had a consistent pass rush. The linebackers have not defended the pass well. The defensive backs have been atrocious in virtually every area. Shafer hasn’t been around long enough to call him a bust but it isn’t nearly as difficult to implement a defensive philosophy as it is an offensive philosophy. It’s usually “plug and chug.” Shafer has plugged but the chugging is noticeably absent.

  • Streaks don’t define programs. Winning does. Do you think Ohio State fans cared that they had a down year at the end of the Cooper regime or lost two consecutive bowl games to weak S. Carolina teams when they were holding up the National Championship trophy in 2002? Michigan fans are the only ones who even remember that. It’s about winning now. The fact that the bowl streak, winning-season streak and the MAC streaks are going to end is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. RR came here to win Big Ten and National Championships. I’m sure he wanted to go to a bowl game this year and have a winning season but he has “bigger fish to fry.” Streaks are nice. Championships and relevance are better.

  • There are countless examples of programs that have struggled in year one of a system. In fact, it is extremely rare for a program not to struggle. Minnesota went 1-11 last year and was the butt of many, many jokes. One year later? Minnesota is 6-1 and just disposed of Illinois on the road. While everyone was laughing, Minnesota was getting better. Does anyone really think that Urban Meyer goes 8-5 in his first year at Florida with Steve Threet at QB? If you do, then I have some Jeremy Bonderman baseball cards that I’d like to sell you. Change takes time. Some coaches are lucky enough to inherit a fairly good match of players to fit their system. Others are not so lucky.

  • Penn St. is better than Illinois. Michigan got crushed by Illinois at home. Michigan plays at Penn St. That’s all you need to know. The line is Penn St. by 23.5. Considering what Illinois did to Michigan and what Penn St. did on the road to Wisconsin, I think that line is generous. Michigan fans need to realize that nothing that happens the rest of the season matters. I would be surprised if Michigan won another game. This team cannot win or even have consistency until it has a QB. That won’t happen until next year. Quit pretending that each loss changes things. We know everything there is to know. Michigan could lose the rest of its games and it wouldn’t matter. There is nothing RR can do about his QB play nor is there anything he can do to salvage this season. Next year is all that matters.

  • Remember when Bill Martin hired RR? There was a huge group of fans who were still complaining about not getting Les Miles. I believe those are the people who are already giving up on Rodriguez. Only an ignorant fan would already give up on Rodriguez six games into his career. I think the people who supported RR from the beginning are still behind him. It’s just too bad that we can’t expel moronic fans who are jumping ship six games into RR’s career. They will come back and cheer just like the rest of us with no consequences. There was an idiot who called into Sam Webb’s show on Monday morning who said, “If Michigan would’ve hired Brady Hoke, we’d be undefeated.” There wasn’t a person in the universe who wanted Michigan to hire Brady Hoke (Hoke relatives not included). In fact, Hoke represented the worst possible scenario. People were having nightmares about the possibility of Hoke running the program. I can’t believe there is a guy out there, living and breathing, who could actually bring himself to mutter the sentence, “Martin blew it by not hiring Brady Hoke.”

  • Go Blue!

1 comment:

GoBlueExpat said...

I think everyone who's joining the "Fire RRod.com" websites should be forced to read all of your posts from beginning to end; it's really sad to see how many fickle, hypocritical supporters of this school there are. IMO, a student and alumni body of UofM's caliber should not have a. booed the team this year and b. kept anywhere near the same expectations for the season once they saw Sheridan and Threet in an actual game. Of course, that's not to say that Coach Rod walks on water...saying you'll make adjustments shouldn't mean you'll lose next time, just by a different score.

Of course, I'm hoping this is some master plan to lure TOSU into a false sense of security just so we can say Rodriguez beat Tressel in his first year. Even if that puts our record at 1-11.

 

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