Iowa 38, Michigan 28

Iowa 38, Michigan 28


October 17, 2010
Tate Forcier (#5) jumps for joy after a Stephen Hopkins rushing TD.

I expected an Iowa victory on Saturday, but once again, Michigan’s defense failed in spectacular fashion.  Giving up 38 points to a team with mediocre offensive personnel is extremely frustrating.  I can’t imagine what a team with a truly good offense – Oregon, for example – might do to Michigan’s D.  Some bullets:

Tate Forcier is quarterback 1b.  I’m not prepared to call for the benching of Denard Robinson.  Robinson is still the prototype for Rich Rodriguez’s zone read option offense.  However, Robinson also feasted on defenses early in the season who a) lacked athleticism or b) lacked complex defensive schemes.  How many times did we see him torch defenses that committed an extra safety or two to the run game, only to see Robinson and one of his receivers beat man coverage with a throw over the top?  Meanwhile, Forcier made a couple questionable throws, but provided a spark when relieving an injured Robinson late in the game.  Tate finished the day 17-for-26 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns (1 rushing, 1 passing), and 2 interceptions.  Is there any question at this point that Forcier ought to be one of the top two quarterbacks on the team?  We haven’t seen freshman Devin Gardner since the Big Ten season started, so I still can’t understand why the coaches burned his redshirt against UConn . . . unless Gardner comes down with a mysterious “injury” or “illness” that allows him to get a medical exemption.

Denard Robinson runs the ball too much.  Posters over at MGoBlog have done “studies” to show that mobile quarterbacks and pocket quarterbacks have similar rates of injury.  When people have made the argument that Denard Robinson is bound to get hurt because of his small stature, some internet message boarders have scoffed.  Well, my study of Denard Robinson says this:

  • On 143 pass attempts, Denard Robinson hasn’t suffered an injury that caused him to miss playing time.
  • On 137 rushing attempts, he has suffered injuries that have caused him to miss time in 6 games.

Robinson is too slight and/or injury prone to be carrying the ball nearly 20 times a game.  If I remember correctly, he had 17 carries at halftime.  Should Michigan really be running its MVP and starting quarterback 34 times in a single game?

Rocko Khoury is a solid backup.  Unlike last year, when right guard David Moosman replaced David Molk at center due to Molk’s injuries, redshirt sophomore center Khoury played admirably after Molk aggravated an ankle injury early in the game.  Khoury had a case of the jitters early on and had some snap issues, but those seemed to get solved pretty quickly.

Vincent Smith should be relegated to backup duty.  I know I’m a broken record, but at least Rich Rodriguez finally figured out what I’ve been saying for awhile: Smith isn’t a short yardage back.  Hopkins was the short yardage back on Saturday, and he responded with 8 carries for 38 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and a goal line touchdown (pictured above) in which he actually ran through a tackle.  Meanwhile, Smith had 10 carries for 39 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and a critical lost fumble on Iowa’s 14-yard line.  For the record, Smith also had 2 catches for 22 yards and 1 touchdown, so he wasn’t exactly useless.  But that’s my thing with Smith: if he’s lined up in the slot or catching passes out of the backfield, I’m okay with him being out there.  But he shouldn’t be leading the running backs in carries.

Tate Forcier and Darryl Stonum are in love.  When Denard was in the game, Darryl Stonum got visibly frustrated with having to dig out a couple errant passes from hitting the ground.  When Forcier entered the game, it seemed like the QB was looking for #22 on every play.  Stonum ended the day with 9 catches for 97 yards, most of which came after Forcier’s entrance into the game.  Forcier also hit Junior Hemingway a few times and Hemingway ended the day with 9 catches for 134 yards and 1 touchdown.

Run the ball, damnit.  It would have been nice if Michigan’s offense could have kept Iowa off balance by running the ball late in the game.  I know they were running short on time, but passing on every down is extremely difficult.  Once Forcier entered the game, the playcalling seemed to want him to sling the ball all over the field.  Maybe it’s just me, but I thought Forcier’s second interception was the result of the lack of a running threat.  Like I said, the clock might have dictated the playcalling, so I don’t have a huge problem with the call.  But it sure would be nice if a dangerous running back (hopefully Demetrius Hart in the near future) could make defenses think twice before getting to their drops.

Michigan’s defense is atrocious.  I’m not going to spend too much time talking about the defense.  We all know which unit most needs to improve for Michigan to have any chance of success.  Michigan failed to come up with key defensive stops and allowed a mediocre running back to run for 142 yards.  And while Iowa’s passing offense isn’t prone to huge plays, quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 71% of his passes.  My frustration reached its apex when JT Floyd aligned himself inside of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos to take away the slant and force the receiver to the sideline.  Johnson-Koulianos deked outside, Floyd jumped him, and Johnson-Koulianos waltzed untouched into the endzone after catching – what else? – a slant.  I don’t know if that’s poor coaching or poor execution, especially because Floyd made the same mistake a couple drives later (although it didn’t go for a touchdown).

Jordan Kovacs is oh so close to being good.  On a corner blitz in the first quarter, safety Kovacs jumped a fade route near Michigan’s end zone.  If Kovacs were a half step faster, the ball would have been picked and returned about 100 yards for a touchdown.  But since Kovacs is who he is, the play resulted in a PBU.  Kovacs played well for the most part, but his physical limitations will continue to make me wish brain transplants were feasible.  If Justin Turner had Kovacs’ knowledge and work ethic, Turner would be an All Big Ten safety.

Kenny Demens played well.  He still did some frustrating things, but Demens showed more promise than Obi Ezeh has shown this year.  I’m still not entirely sold on Demens as the savior at MLB, but he made some strides against Iowa.

Special teams were atrocious, too.  Walk-on kicker Seth Broekhuizen has beaten out redshirt freshman Brendan Gibbons.  Gibbons must be horrible, because Broekhuizen had a field goal blocked for the second week in a row.  He also booted at least two (three?) kickoffs out of bounds to give Iowa great field position.  That’s effing ridiculous.  And if you’ve been wondering why William Campbell hasn’t earned more playing time on the defensive line, maybe that blocked field goal gives you an inkling – Iowa defensive tackle Broderick Binns got lower than Campbell and blew open a gap in the protection.  At least Will Hagerup played well and averaged 50+ yards a punt.  I wonder if he can kick off.

19 comments

  1. Comments: 21395
    Gorgonzola
    Oct 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM

    If a kicker can't keep the ball in bounds on a 53 foot wide playing field, how can you expect him to kick field goals? There must be at least one guy on the roster (or the student body) who can kick better that Brookheisen.

  2. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Oct 17, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    What do you think of Kovacs becoming an LB?
    If he put on some muscle in the off season via Barwis?

    People keep saying our LB's suck, and Kovacs is too slow for Safety. Fine, have him pack on some weight and move down.

    Possible idea or crazy talk?

  3. Comments: 21395
    Matt
    Oct 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM

    You can't blame the defense for this one, it falls on the offense. The defense was already bad,then to leave them with three turnovers to deal with. It's just like last year,it doesn't matter if it was Tate or Denard the offense is choking. I don't think RR gets it. He doesn't get the Big Ten, Michigan,the level of play and expectation. He does not have one significant win going on three years,not one. Damage controls,I believe, are being put in place at the AD dept.

  4. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Oct 17, 2010 at 11:41 PM

    Another week of disappointing defense, but I don't think this game is completely their fault. How much help was it for our struggling defense to twice spot Iowa to the 40 because of bad kickoffs. How much fun for them to have to take the field after a field goal (of REASONABLE distance) gets blocked and everyone sits around while Iowa takes it into our territory.

    Less turnovers and better special teams play (special teams coach should be fired at this point in the season, inexcusable) could have really helped our defense out some. Maybe Iowa would have only hung 25-30 on them.

  5. Comments: 21395
    Andrew
    Oct 18, 2010 at 2:33 AM

    I don't entirely understand why the defense this THIS terrible. Mouton, Roh, RBV and Martin are all above average Big Ten plays while Kovacs and Johnson/T. Gordon combo should be serviceable.

    Ideally, of course, Robinson runs less. But if that gives us our best chance to win, right now, I have no qualms with it.

    At this point, I will admit that Gardner burning his redshirt seems like a waste. Then again, how can you put a price on the president a couch places on work ethic and competition? Both send a message to the whole team? If Gardner doesn't get a fifth year, I blame Forcier – not RR.

  6. Comments: 21395
    Oct 18, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    @ Anonymous 5:02 p.m.

    I don't think it's crazy talk to have Kovacs move to LB. The question is, which linebacker position would you like to move him to? He's too small to play MLB for sure, even if he packs on some weight. He's probably best suited for the Spur position (Carvin Johnson's spot), not the Bandit position in which he frequently has to cover a deep third or a deep half.

  7. Comments: 21395
    Oct 18, 2010 at 2:40 AM

    @ Matt 5:13 p.m.

    You can believe that all you want. But the fact remains that this defense allowed 38 points to a mediocre offense. Twenty-eight points should be enough to win most football games. We had 522 yards of offense. We just can't get any critical stops from the D. And yeah, we turned the ball over too many times, but how many turnovers did we force? ZERO. None against Iowa, and none against MSU.

  8. Comments: 21395
    Oct 18, 2010 at 2:46 AM

    @ Andrew

    All those guys you listed who are good players are in the front seven. The problem is the defensive backfield. Not only are they bad, but the defenses are called to protect them (remember all those 3-man pass rushes?). We have two guys back there who were wide receivers last year, one former walk-on, and a 3-star corner who – I'll be honest – I was never very high on in the first place.

    You can't honestly blame Gardner's lack of a redshirt on Tate Forcier. That's totally the coach's decision. If Rodriguez REALLY wanted to send a message, he could have tossed Jack Kennedy or Nader Furrha out there for a play or two while Robinson caught his breath. Instead he burned the redshirt of a potentially great player. The phrase that comes to mind is "Cutting off his nose to spite his face."

  9. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Oct 18, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    Being a coach yourself, do you think the coaches are making the most of what they have and what they could have? Do you think this coaching staff, given the information we have (which is obviously incomplete), is capable of winning championships in this conference? Or, is this coaching staff just in over their heads? I say 'what they have or could have' because I think one can't just chalk up defensive woes to lack of depth or talent, when that state of affairs is partly due, it seems, to actions made by this coaching staff. Given what we have seen, given that things may of course change, do you think this coaching staff capable of competing at this level?

  10. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Oct 18, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    This game proved to me why Denard Robinson is not a Big 10 quarterback. Against top Big 10 teams two weeks in a row he has been shut down from making big runs and when he tries to pass from the pocket he can't make the big throws. I hope Rich Rod gets canned after we lose to Penn State. Tate needs more playing time for next year when Harbaugh takes over.

  11. Comments: 21395
    Oct 18, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    @ Anonymous 10:28 a.m.

    I do not think the coaches are making the most of what they have. I think moving to a 3-3-5 was a mistake – not that it's a bad defense, but it was a change of defenses. I don't like the way they've deployed Craig Roh. They allowed Cullen Christian to get burned by MSU.

    That being said…I do think the coaches are capable of competing at this level. But the quarterbacks are sophomores, and the defensive backs are horrible through no fault of the coaches. Those are two pretty important problems to have.

    My bigger issue is with Rodriguez's recruiting and retention, not so much his coaching (although I do have some issues with his game management decisions).

  12. Comments: 21395
    Oct 18, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    @ Anonymous 10:49 a.m.

    I don't think these last two games prove that Denard Robinson isn't a Big 10 quarterback. I mean, he's not there yet, but he still has shown some promise. Keep in mind that he's a true sophomore who played in a Wing-T high school offense and he's a first-year starter. Experienced observers should have seen these issues on the horizon. There's a reason I said in the season preview that Tate Forcier is extremely valuable to this team.

    That being said, I hope Rodriguez ISN'T canned after we lose to Penn State…because I don't think we'll lose to Penn State. I'd prefer that Michigan wins the rest of their games and goes 10-2. That's not likely, but as a fan of Michigan's TEAM, I'm hoping for nothing but success. You're putting your dislike for Rodriguez ahead of your feelings for the team, which is not how fans should act, in my opinion.

  13. Comments: 21395
    Michael S
    Oct 18, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    The defense was doomed after Warren left and Woolfolk was injured. It's not just talent, it's experience, and even if Dorsey and Emilien and etc were here they would still be bad. Look at USC, who has tremendous talent, a "genius" defensive coach, and no secondary experience. They're terrible.
    Look at the starting lineups on D for OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, MSU… Full of upperclassmen. It's too bad RR didn't recruit more DBs his first year, but most other programs are starting guys who were recruited when Carr was still the coach.

  14. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Oct 18, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    Denard has had 189 yards in the last two games on the ground and is still the nation's leading rusher. Take away one sack and he's over 5 ypc the past two games. As a QB. Consider that his longest carry in that period is 16 yards. That's a downright Mike Hart-like performance. You don't get much more Big Ten than that. If the "down" side to Denard's running is that we only get 4.5 yards per carry on 20 carries, I'll take it. The real problem that I see with the offense is mediocrity (at best) at tailback. A problem which will be fixed next year provided Dee Hart stays healthy.

  15. Comments: 21395
    Alex
    Oct 19, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Some questions for you Magnus:

    Is the lack of a special teams coach leaving the unit out to rot? Just awful! Falling asleep on the blocked field goal, bad kickoff coverage, bad kick returns, can't kick FGs, kickoffs out of bounds…at least Hagrup looks good.

    Also the throws that Tate was making were looking pretty standard (not advanced) and I even remember seeing about 4 slants to Stonum in a row. Denard can make these throws correct? I'm pretty sure we saw him make them earlier in the year. How come they weren't going to these routes early in the game on 3rd downs when he was still playing? Did Denard seem limited from your observations?

    More on Tate…I thought he played well and has shown improvement, but still has similar problems as last year. Especially when he steps up on the pocket and runs back around thinking he can outrun Clayborn. Would you say it's a matter of youth that both QBs try to make too much out of plays?

    What do you think about the defensive play calling? I thought Iowa's offense was very predictable (Carr-esque) and Greg Robinson guessed wrong on all the big 3rd down plays.

    And lastly why go away from Hopkins? I was very confused particularly against a huge Iowa DL where Smith is going to get owned…I hope that what happened this game was a message that Shaw when healthy is your starter, Hopkins is your change of pace and short yardage back, and Smith is great as a 3rd down back.

  16. Comments: 21395
    Oct 19, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    @ Alex 12:20 p.m.

    AFAIK, most college teams don't have special teams coaches. You're only allowed to have so many coaches on the staff, and most college teams don't "waste" a coaching position on someone who only does special teams. Usually special teams duties are split up amongst the coaches.

    Denard didn't seem limited other than by his own wariness. I think those throws would have been there earlier, but he was hesitant. Rodriguez's passing offense isn't complicated. The receivers run bubble screens, hitches, slants, posts, and fly routes. That's about it. The difference is that Forcier can read a defense and check down to a second option, whereas Robinson seems to struggle doing that.

    I think youth causes them to think they can do a little too much. But in a situation like we were in at the end of a game, I don't mind Forcier coming in and being a gunslinger. We needed that type of attitude when we were down by 3 touchdowns.

    I don't think Greg Robinson guessed wrong all that much. I just think our defense didn't execute.

    Why go away from Hopkins? Well, that's the million dollar question… I don't understand the running back rotation at all.

  17. Comments: 21395
    Oct 19, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    I thought the comment from RR's press conference was interesting: "Vincent Smith is NOT a fumbler."

    I think that gives us some insight on how the staff view their RBs. I realize they could be wrong, but with a bunch of freshman/sophomore backs, and turnover-prone QB, maybe they want to mitigate their risk at the RB position and let the big-plays come from QB and WR.

    Not saying thats right or wrong. Obviously, Smith did fumble. Just saying that line of rationale isn't totally indefensible. Moving the ball hasn't been the problem for this offense, even with V.Smith in the lineup. The problem has been turnovers.

    If you add in speculation that Smith is a superior receiver and blocker, maybe his sub-optimal explosiveness as a runner isn't as big of a concern as many are making it out to be. Furthermore, maybe his knee really is a handicap, but a temporary one, which justifies him getting experience that will further benefit the team in 2011 and 2012.

    As for the goalline…yeah, bring in the big guy. Goalline running is primarily about the OL and other blockers, but why not add some mass into the equation.

  18. Comments: 21395
    Jim
    Oct 20, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    Question for Thunder.

    Did we go away from the read option in both of the last two games?

    It seems to me, that against Iowa and MSU in the first two series, we were gashing the defenses with zone read. I know they were forcing the handoff, but even Smith was effective.

    Is there any reason they moved away from the zone read after the first two series of each game?

  19. Comments: 21395
    Oct 20, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    @ Jim 8:57 p.m.

    It certainly seemed that the offense moved away from the zone read option early in the game. I don't know exactly when it happened, but most of Denard's runs in the second and third quarter seemed to be isos and QB keepers. I still don't think Robinson is adept at making the option read; he hands it off when he shouldn't and keeps it when he shouldn't. I think MSU and Iowa have done a good job of penning him in.

    For comparison, it seemed that Pat White ran the zone read option a lot because he gained yards on it consistently and made the correct read. Rodriguez seems to realize that Denard can't do it as well yet, so he figures an extra blocker on a QB iso is better than Denard making the wrong read on the zone read option.

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