Monday, September 05, 2005

Bo knows bad defense

I don't automatically use wins and losses as the basis for success. For some people, Michigan winning is all that matters. For me, what matters is how Michigan plays. Since there’s virtually no chance that N. Illinois could ever beat Michigan, it would be far too easy to view this game as a success simply because Michigan beat a MAC team. My feelings on a Michigan game, win or lose, are dependent on a). How the team played, and b). How the coaching staff performed. If you want to read a Michigan love-fest after every game, please don’t read anything I write. I am happy when Michigan plays well and I’m enraged when Michigan doesn’t play well. The Michigan football program is an elite program with talent in the 95th percentile in college football. They should be treated as such when analyzing their performance.

After all the talk from the Michigan coaching staff about the off-season emphasis on improving the defense, Michigan somehow got worse! Remember, Michigan’s meltdowns last season came against running quarterbacks. N. Illinois’s quarterback had all of the mobility of Scott Mitchell. Yet, N. Illinois ran up and down the field at will. It looks like the Achilles heel has moved from running quarterbacks to any semblance of an offense. Luckily for Michigan, N. Illinois was unaware that fumbling is not good. The highlight of the night for me was hearing Bo Schembechler call out the Michigan defense on live television. Usually Michigan coaches opt for the love-fest approach when discussing fellow UM coaches. Bo was visibly pissed about Michigan’s defensive futility. I know that a million fans screaming for Herrmann's head doesn't mean anything to Lloyd Carr but maybe one two-minute speech from Bo will make a difference. It very much needed to be done. Michigan looked like a MAC team playing against a far superior offensive team. Coming into the game, I was excited about quite a few defensive players including Chris Graham and Prescott Burgess. I can’t even put into words how bad this performance was. N. Illinois easily could’ve scored 40 points. If the Huskies didn’t turn the ball over four times, they could have easily reached 500 total yards.

So this begs the question, what did Michigan do for nine months when they claimed that they were working on the defense? My guess is that they spent the off-season patting themselves on the backs and convincing each either that last season was a fluke. Clearly, they didn’t come up with a solution to the problem. After the game, Lloyd Carr said that other than the big touchdown run, he was very pleased with the Michigan defense. Was he even watching the game? I know I saw him on the sidelines but maybe it was a robot pretending to be Carr. Pleased? Are you kidding me? Bo was noticeably embarassed on national TV yet Carr remained pleased! Unbelievable! Michigan will not make the Rose Bowl or win the Big Ten with this defense. The roster is loaded with 4 and 5 star talents so I have a hard time believing that it’s completely on the players. Would you rather have Purdue’s defensive roster? Iowa’s? Penn St.’s? As far as ability coming out of high school, Michigan dwarfs the other Big Ten teams in talent except for maybe Ohio St. The defensive disaster is on Lloyd Carr’s head. Knowledgeable Michigan fans have been screaming for Jim Herrmann’s head long before last season’s defensive atrocity. His 2000 defense was one of the worst in school history unless it’s OK to give up 54 points to Northwestern. Last season’s defense may have well been the worst in school history. Yet, Herrmann consistently receives 11th hour reprieves. It’s Herrmann’s fault that the defense is bad but it’s Carr’s fault that Herrmann even has the ability to make the defense bad. The responsibility falls on the man in charge. In any other college football program, Herrmann would’ve been gone a long time ago. Carr had the perfect opportunity to demote Herrmann but he passed it up. Now he will pay the price with the 2005 season. An average defense would put this team in the Rose Bowl. Carr sealed this team’s fate when he failed to look out for the best interest of the program. The defense is atrocious. If you don’t believe me, ask Bo Schembechler.

The Florida Gators were impressive in their first game under Urban Meyer. Florida won 32-14. They racked up 411 yards on offense and limited Wyoming to 222 total yards. Yet, Meyer was unhappy with his teams performance. Here is part of Yahoo's recap of the game:

Chris Leak's record-setting night wasn't good enough for Florida coach Urban Meyer.
Leak completed 26 of 34 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns, broke Steve Spurrier's school record for consecutive completions and led the No. 10 Gators to a 32-14 victory over Wyoming in Meyer's debut Saturday.
But Meyer wanted more from his junior quarterback.
"In case you're wondering what the offense should look like, that wasn't it," Meyer said, sounding a little like the Ol' Ball Coach. "We have got a lot of work to do. Chris Leak and the offense has a long way to go."

What's that? Doubling up your opponent in total yardage and points isn't good enough? Maybe Meyer should just be happy with the win over mighty Wyoming. Carr was pleased with his defense giving up 411 yards. Meyer was unhappy about his offense gaining 411 total yards. That pretty much sums up everything.

The offense was brilliant in the first half. Chad Henne is like a maestro leading the offense. I was not nervous at any point in the game with him under center which is a far cry from the last four years of Michigan quarterbacks (including Henne last year). Mike Hart is the best running back I’ve ever seen in a Michigan uniform. He makes more yards after contact than any back on record. I get the same feeling watching Hart run as I did watching Barry Sanders run. Henne and Hart are the real deal. Jason Avant had an outstanding day. He made spectacular drive-saving catches and was wide-open all day. The offense is going to be hard to stop. Carr even went for a 4th and 1 on the N. Illinois ten yard line. Michigan didn’t get it but that’s beside the point. However, I fear that the fact that Michigan didn’t make the 4th down will preclude Carr from going for it in the future. I hope not. The kicking game was somewhere between abysmal and average. Ross Spencer was a touchback machine which is a rarity at Michigan. Garret Rivas had an extra point blocked and missed a field goal very badly. He did make two field goals but kickers are supposed to make 23-yarders. Steve Breaston had a very quiet day but I think that has more to do with Jason Avant’s spectacular day. Since Michigan couldn’t stop N. Illinois at any point in the game there was only one punt return for Breaston. Michigan seemed intent on using Breaston as the deep threat. I don’t think that’s the right way to go. He punked Texas last year in the Rose Bowl by catching crossing routes and turning them into large gains. Hopefully we’ll see that next week against Notre Dame.

Things I liked:

1). Hart
2). Henne
3). Avant
4). Carr going for it on 4th down
5). Malone’s first half play calling
6). The Offensive Line-especially the pass protection.

There is no question that Michigan is a top-ten team. The offense will score on anyone. The return game will be very good as long as Michigan can force the opposition to punt. It is entirely possible that Henne and Hart could be so good that they will win every game simply because they can outscore everyone. For anyone who thinks this, I remind you of the most potent Michigan offense in recent memory that featured Drew Henson, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, Anthony Thomas and the greatest offensive line in school history. That team scored over 30 points nine times in 2000 but still lost three games. You can’t outscore everyone. You have to play defense at some point.

Things I didn’t like:

1). The defense- It was so bad that I can’t even think of one player that had a good game. Woodley had one good play but that’s about it. N. Illinois dominated Michigan every bit as much as Texas and Michigan St. last year. The only difference was turnovers.
a). The pass rush was terrible. I had high hopes that Steve Stripling would make the defensive-line dominant. Maybe he just needs more time. At halftime, Carr said he was pleased with the pass-rush. If it turns out that it wasn't a robot standing in Carr's place, then this makes me think that Carr was watching the TCU-Oklahoma game on the sidelines. Maybe he was confused.
b). The pass defense. N. Illinois didn’t have the offense firepower to make Michigan pay through the air but whenever Paul Horvath did throw, the Michigan secondary was nowhere to be found. N. Illinois receivers were wide open all game.
c). As Bo stated during the game, the tackling was horrific. I don’t believe that all of the bad tackling high school All-Americans go to Michigan although I'm sure that's what Michigan coaches will have you believe. For some reason, Michigan is a bad tackling team virtually every year. What goes on during practice?
d). The rush defense was embarrassing. I heard on TV this weekend about 100 times
that Michigan’s defense was terrible against the run last year. I have a problem with that statement because Michigan’s defense against running backs was actually fairly decent last season. Just ask Cedric Benson. Michigan’s problem was running quarterbacks. So, seeing N. Illinois line up and pound their running backs over Michigan’s paper-
defense was worse than what happened last year. At least they could blame the running quarterback thing on some sort of plague. What’s the excuse for getting run over by a MAC team without a mobile quarterback?

2). Henne’s bullet passes- I heard that Henne had worked on touch passes in the off-season. Apparently that was just a lie because Henne throws as hard as he can on every throw. This might sound like a minor detail but it’s not. If Henne learns to put touch on his passes, he would be considerably more effective.
3). Second half offensive play calling-I can’t believe I’m saying this but Michigan’s offense went into a funk after Terry Malone stopped running on first down. Hart was good for five yards a pop early in the game. That left Michigan in a very comfortable 2nd and 5 situation. For some reason Malone started calling first down pass plays leaving Michigan in 3rd and long. Until N. Illinois proved they could stop the first down run, Malone should’ve kept pounding Hart on first down.
4). The kicking game. Rivas is shaky. He’s not awful. There have been worse kickers. However, I get the Navarre-dropping-back-to-pass nervousness whenever Rivas has to do anything on the field.

If Michigan plays the same way next week, they will lose to Notre Dame. If they play the same way all season, they will lose four games easily. The defense didn’t magically get better over the nine-month off-season and it won’t magically get better between now and next Saturday. Like I said earlier, the fate of this team was decided when Carr brought Herrmann back. For those of you that saw the first half of the Michigan St. game last year, this years game in E. Lansing will be a massacre. I feel bad for the Michigan players because they deserved better from their coach.


Anonymous said...

I agree about the Michigan Defense Jake. I hope they can pull it together in a hurry...

Anonymous said...

I was at the game Saturday and agree with most of your assessment. I turned to my buddy in the first half and said "looks like three losses to me". One problem is that Carr blindly puts faith in 5th yr seniors and "Practice All-Americans" like Pat Massey and Scott McClintock. Massey was continually buried in the middle of the line. Watson blew up a few plays, but only a few. Shawn Crable always seems to be around the ball, but often over-runs the play; he rarely plays! What I'm saying is we need guys out there who can make plays, not guys who kiss Carr's ass and show up on time for every meeting in March. I would like to see the following defensive starters:

DE's- Woodley & Crable
DT's- Watson & Will Johnson/Alan Branch
LB's- Burgess, D. Harris, Graham
CB's- Hall & Morgan Trent
SS's- Englemon & Mundy (no other option, but he hasn't done squat)


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