Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Observations on 'M' vs. Notre Dame

  • Sam McGuffie was the best player on the field on Saturday. His performance reminded me of Justin Fargas’s rainy-day effort against Northwestern in 1998. When the rain began to poor in the second half on Saturday and both teams struggled to move the ball, McGuffie was still churning out yards like they were a brand of Edy’s ice cream. His 40 yard TD catch and run was a magnificent example of McGuffie’s ability and the potential of RR’s offense. In a season that was never supposed to be anything more than a stepping stone for the future, fans should remember this game as the day Sam McGuffie went from a YouTube sensation to a college football sensation instead of the fact that Michigan lost. McGuffie had 178 total yards. Notre Dame had 260.

  • Steven Threet was probably the third best player on the field on Saturday behind McGuffie and Notre Dame’s Golden Tate. ‘M’ fans have to be encouraged by the way Threet was able to throw the ball on a miserable day. He was so impressive that some fans are starting to think he has a chance of being Michigan’s starting QB next season. That would be the definition of “getting a little carried away” but Threet’s rapid development from last week’s god-awful performance to this week’s heroic effort is great news for Michigan’s prospects of reaching a bowl for the 34th consecutive season.

  • We saw an example of vintage Michigan football on Saturday. Notre Dame stunk. The Irish only managed 14 first downs (Michigan had 21) and 260 total yards (Michigan had 388) yet, somehow, Michigan still managed to give up 35 points. This game reminded me of Michigan’s trips to Washington in 2001, Notre Dame in 2002, and Oregon in 2003. Hopefully there will be no equivalent editions in 2009 and 2010. Losing games to opponents who don’t play well is a Michigan staple. I would love for that to stop.

  • Michigan tried to tweak its punt scheme a few years back in what ‘M’ fans endearingly refer to as the “Boccher debacle”. Jim Boccher was unceremoniously removed from Michigan’s coaching staff after his "whacky" punt formations were ruined by horrible execution by his players. Boccher became the fall guy and his reputation and employment at Michigan were history. Michigan’s current punt scheme is not so different from what Boccher tried to do. In fact, I bet this is exactly what he had in mind. Did I mention that I love it? Zoltan Mesko is fast and he can break a tackle as he proved on his fake punt against Notre Dame. This scheme works well for three reasons: 1). for every yard the punter runs forward, an extra yard is essentially gained on the punt, 2). if the defense doesn’t honor the punter’s run threat, then the punter can take off, and 3). the defense cannot run its usual punt return formation when it has to devote players to a constant fake punt threat.

  • RR’s decision to allow Threet to throw the ball more often gave Threet a chance to get into a rhythm. His strength is throwing the football but we didn’t see anything that led us to believe that was actually true against Utah or Miami (OH). That’s because RR didn’t let Threet thrown down field. I think RR realized that Michigan’s offense could not be effective without the downfield threat. Threet showed he was capable of fitting the ball into tight spots. This is a good sign for the remainder of the season.

  • Another good sign? RR took a severely inexperienced offense—with four freshman starters, a poor offensive line, and a QB ill-equipped to run the spread—into a hostile environment in terrible weather conditions and still put up 388 total yards.

  • My first impression of Notre Dame’s announcers was that Tom Hammond was his normal homer-self and Pat Haden was quite tolerable. After a second viewing of the game, I’m very comfortable with those first impressions. However, Hammond and Haden were a lot like Michigan’s special teams in the booth. Both made sweet (if sweet means not sweet) comments that are sure to get large portions of the country riled up. Haden ripped on the state of Kentucky by insinuating that half is equal to 50% everywhere but Kentucky. He suggested that Kentuckians think that half is 53%. Hammond followed that with brilliant (and by brilliant I mean not brilliant) rhetoric of his own by saying, “The fag is down in the end zone” no doubt bringing a smile to the pope.

  • I’m not familiar with Gregg Easterbrook’s work beyond what I read in his TMQ column today on ESPN.com. For the love of sports journalism, I hope his asinine comments aren’t indicative of his typical opinions. He said of Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, “Considering the fantastic advantages in money and recruiting power possessed by Alabama, Arkansas and Michigan, orangutans could have coached them to 13-8.” I’m not sure where to start. Alabama is 3-0 and ranked #9 in year two under Nick Saban. Bobby Petrino and Rich Rodriguez are just starting to build their programs with new schemes that will take at least two years to reach an elite level even with the most optimistic expectations. Easterbrook’s attempt at a witty putdown is incredibly flawed. He has woefully entangled two totally unrelated points. Only an idiot would attempt to criticize Saban, Petrino, and Rodriguez’s merits as coaches. If he takes issue with their decisions to leave old jobs for new jobs (a decision that is usually criticized with ignorance), then that’s one thing. To try to make the leap from that to “orangutans are just as good” is just simply moronic.

  • Go Blue!

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