Michigan State 27, Michigan 23

Michigan State 27, Michigan 23


October 18, 2015

Blake O’Neill is surely having a rough time right now (image via MLive)


Worst. Ending. Ever.

  1. Michigan State’s backwards-punt-fumble return for a touchdown with zero seconds left in 2015.
  2. Colorado’s Hail Mary touchdown victory from Kordell Stewart in 1994.
  3. Appalachian State’s blocked field goal in 2007.

I have not been alive forever, but those are the three worst finishes to Michigan games that I can remember. I’ll throw in an honorable mention to Spartan Bob and T.J. Duckett, but the above three are worse, in my opinion.

Hit the jump for the rest of the recap.

The Play. We all saw it, and we’ve been thinking about it non-stop since. I don’t know that there’s much I can say that hasn’t already been discussed or run through your mind. I will say that with ten seconds left in the game, I entertained the thought of having Jake Rudock take a shotgun snap and heave the ball as far downfield as he could. Catching and getting rid of the ball would take a couple seconds off the clock, and depending on the distance and trajectory of the ball, who knows? I got very nervous about a long snap and the fact that Blake O’Neill is an Australian. These are the things I mulled over in my mind as Jim Harbaugh took the timeout prior to the final play. Unfortunately, my worst fears came to fruition. Scott Sypniewski’s snap was low. O’Neill didn’t handle it well. When he lost the handle, he tried to do a Matrix-style kick of the ball rather than just holding onto it and curling up in a ball on the ground. That would have left MSU to try a field goal or run one play. None of those options are great . . . which is why I wanted Rudock to run a play. (Interestingly, MSU left Michigan’s runner – I believe it was Jehu Chesson – wide open on the left, but O’Neill either didn’t see it or didn’t have the green light to throw the ball.)

The referees really were terrible. And it went both ways. On L.J. Scott’s 11-yard touchdown run, Royce Jenkins-Stone was held egregiously – no call. It seemed like almost every play had to be reviewed, including three in a row on the goal line for Michigan. The Wolverines were finally awarded a touchdown when fullback Sione Houma’s forward progress should have been whistled dead. Joe Bolden was ejected after he was half-thrown by an MSU offensive lineman into Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook on the ground. How was Northwestern’s Matthew Harris not ejected for targeting last week for hitting Jake Rudock when Bolden got ejected this week? The referees have no idea how to interpret the rule. I thought Michigan State’s fullback Trevon Pendleton clearly scored in his 74-yard touchdown, but he was ruled down at the half-yard line. The entire game was called inexplicably.

Michigan doesn’t have the horses. The truth is that this Michigan team is overachieving a little bit. The Wolverines got to 5-1 and within a hair’s breadth of beating the #7 team in the country because they’re playing great defense as a unit. There are some outstanding athletes on defense, but there are also some overachievers. But where Michigan’s really lacking is in the offensive skill positions. All of the running backs are lacking at least one important trait. Quarterback Jake Rudock is a game manager who can’t hit a well thrown deep ball to save his life. It doesn’t help that his fastest downfield target is Jehu Chesson, who struggles to adjust to anything thrown downfield. The top wideout, Jehu Chesson, can’t get separation from defensive backs. There’s a reason that teams don’t fear Michigan’s offense, at least not until Michigan inserted defensive back Jabrill Peppers on offense, which precipitated two consecutive timeouts by Michigan State. (By the way, I thought it was against the rules for one team to take two consecutive timeouts.) When Michigan needs a play, they don’t have anyone who can make it consistently. Michigan needed an offensive play for the entire fourth quarter, and nobody could give them one. Michigan’s offensive success is almost entirely manufactured by Jim Harbaugh squeezing everything he can out of flawed talents.

Jake Rudock-to-Jehu Chesson frustration. This relationship just isn’t working out. Rudock overthrows a free-running Chesson once or twice a game. In this game, a well thrown crossing route in the middle of the fourth quarter turned into Chesson jumping awkwardly to catch a ball, which went through his hands and perhaps didn’t require him to jump at all. These are the types of things I mean when I talk about Chesson not being a natural receiver. If the ball needs to be caught outside the framework of his body, it’s a crapshoot. If you give Chesson the instincts and hands of Amara Darboh, you’ve got a potential All-American or at least All-Big Ten receiver.

I don’t care what you say: Connor Cook is good. I have heard some people trying to downplay Connor Cook as a quarterback, but he’s the best Michigan State quarterback in my memory. The guy makes good reads, gets rid of the ball quickly, and is accurate with the football. He only had a couple truly poor throws, his receivers dropped a couple, and otherwise, he was excellent. He is a difference maker that Michigan lacks. Rudock just doesn’t have the same anticipation or arm talent.

Jourdan Lewis vs. Aaron Burbridge was fun to watch. I would give Burbridge the edge in this matchup since he had 9 catches for 132 yards (and the win), but it’s only by the thinnest of margins. Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin decided to match Lewis against Burbridge wherever he went on the field, which was a great idea because Burbridge would have torched the other guys in Michigan’s secondary. If anyone else were covering him, he would have had 200 yards receiving. But Lewis managed to make 7 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, and 6 (six!) pass breakups in just this one game. (For some perspective on those 6 pass breakups, this one game alone would have tied Jourdan Lewis for #24 nationally for the entire first half of the season. As it stands, he now has 14 on the season when the national leader coming into this week had 12.) Even the majority of Burbridge’s receptions were hotly contested, with Lewis coming within a few inches of batting down the ball. Lewis is probably the best corner in the conference and one of the best in the country, but a well thrown ball from a quality QB like Connor Cook is tough to stop.

Michigan is not a contender. I said this a week or two ago, and I took some flak for saying it. The Wolverines have two losses, but even if they won this one, the flaws are too numerous. The biggest issue is a lack of offensive playmakers, as mentioned above. The elite teams have at least one guy who can make something happen, but Michigan doesn’t have that guy. The closest thing they have is a defensive back named Jabrill Peppers, who has two offensive touches in his career. The Wolverines’ offensive line still has a little way to go, too. Michigan had 33 carries for just 62 yards total, and that number only improves to 29 carries for 87 yards if you remove Rudock and O’Neill’s negative carries. Michigan really struggled with the Spartans’ defensive front, and despite a makeshift offensive line. Michigan’s defensive line and blitz packages didn’t start getting home until late in the game. According to recruiting rankings, Michigan has out-recruited Michigan State on both the offensive and defensive lines, but somehow MSU looks every bit as athletic and powerful.

40 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1307
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Oct 18, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    Well, I have to admit it, I never saw that one coming.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 48
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Nick.
    Oct 18, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    I told my wife the same thing on the last play. As the day went on, they got closer and closer to the punter and with 10 seconds left they would have been better served the heave it toward the endzone. Put Peppers and all the other burners in for the long pass and run Butt across the middle as the backup outlet. Easily could have run 3-5 seconds off the clock and not left them with enough time to get two plays off.

    Worst loss of my watching career too. Just demoralized the entire team snd fan base after what seemed like the righting of the ship. Michigan has a long way to go in developing the rest of the talent on the team. Hopefully we don’t see the second year slide, but an overall improvement.

  3. DonAZ
    Comments: 514
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Oct 18, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    Pretty much agree with everything you wrote.

    The only thing that keeps me from cycling into utter despondency is the fact that Michigan’s offense really isn’t that good right now. Rudock is not a credible deep passing threat. Chesson is not a credible deep receiving threat. The running game is marginal (a first down on that last Michigan possession would have iced the game).

    Michigan’s defense is not “elite” either. It is very good, but against good offenses it becomes exposed. LSU would carve up Michigan, as would Alabama. I shudder to think what TCU or Baylor would do to Michigan.

    The most painful thing about the loss to MSU is not the loss itself, but the way it was lost. Truth is, MSU is a pretty good team. As you say, we over-achieved and were up by two in the final seconds. What could have been a very satisfying upset victory turned into a bitter loss.

    I think Harbaugh had it right in the press conference — put steel in the spine and move on. Learn from the mistakes and work to never repeat them. I imagine coach Baxter was the object of a dark look from Harbaugh after that. I imagine Baxter is going to prescribe lots of pressure-situation work for O’Neill and the snapper.

    A 9-3 season is looking likely. A 10-2 season would be nice.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5998
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 18, 2015 at 10:44 AM

      I think the defense is elite. Maybe bump them from top 5 to top 10, but that’s still elite.

      Cook and Burbridge are amongst the best tandems in college football. That’s tough to beat, even with Lewis, who was close to Burbridge all day. I wonder if UM couldn’t have found a way to put more double teams on him. Might have played into their hands a bit to go one on one all day.

      Baxter doesn’t deserve any blame. ONeill has messed up very infrequently this year. Sypnewski has been reliable. Mistakes happen, the timing was EXTREMELY unfortunate, but that’s not necessarily a coaching issue. Chris Webber didn’t need timeout practice. Michigan’s 94 team didn’t need more hail mary practice. Sometimes bad shit just happens at bad times.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5998
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 18, 2015 at 10:47 AM

        One addendum.

        If Baxter is to blame for anything on the last play, it’s for not coaching Chesson to come in to block. MSU had 11 guys trying for a block and Chesson was out wide as a gunner by himself. UM agreed to play 10 on 11 that play.

        I don’t know if it changes that play…but maybe he keeps one of the blockers from getting downfield on the return and frees up Lyons to make a tackle at the one. Maybe not, but why put yourself in that position? It was a coaching error.

        • DonAZ
          Comments: 514
          Joined: 8/12/2015
          DonAZ
          Oct 18, 2015 at 12:36 PM

          My comment about Harbaugh giving Baxter a dark look is based entirely on my belief — I have no first-hand knowledge — that Harbaugh’s expectation is his position coaches cross all T’s and dot all I’s so that Harbaugh, the field general, does not need to worry about it.

          My sense — just a hunch — is Harbaugh is more *embarrassed* than he is disappointed in the loss. A hard fought loss he can endure. Looking foolish is something else.

          A great deal of the commentary today is about the long odds of such a thing happening. It wasn’t a completely bone-headed thing. It was, however, avoidable. And *that* I think is what eats at Harbaugh. And hence the speculation on my part about the “dark look” to Baxter.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5998
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Oct 18, 2015 at 2:49 PM

            I don’t think you can put every mistake that an 18-21 year old kid makes on bad coaching. The coach’s job is to get them ready, yes, but kids are still going to be kids.

            Low snap, bobble – that’s not on a coach IMO. I’m not sure that’s “avoidable”, as you put it. Execution error, more than a preparation error IMO.

            Now if we want to get into preparing against an 11-man rush – maybe Michigan missed something there. Did they prepare for it? How often does that come up? IDK.

            In general, our special teams have been spectacular, so it would seem strange to blame Baxter here.

            I think there is an instinct in sports fans to seek a simple narrative. That’s part of the appeal of sports – there is a winner and a loser and a good and a bad. With life being full of gray tones and ambiguity, the clarity of sports is refreshing and comforting. Except when it isn’t. Our team lost – but trying to put all the blame on one guy is unfair and inaccurate. We don’t have to make a villain out of Baxter, ONeill, Sypnewski, Chesson, Lyons or anyone else.

            It was a team mistake made at an extremely unfortunate point in the game.

          • DonAZ
            Comments: 514
            Joined: 8/12/2015
            DonAZ
            Oct 18, 2015 at 3:20 PM

            I’m not saying Baxter is entirely to blame. I’m saying the play suggests a certain lack of preparedness.

            Further down you question why Chesson was out wide as a gunner when there was no MSU return man. MSU rushing 11 may have surprised us, but it should *not* have surprised a seasoned coach like Baxter.

            O’Neill should never have attempted to pick the ball up. Yet another coaching oversight.

            Again, this all adds up to Michigan facing a situation they had no anticipated or prepared for. That has to eat at a perfectionist like Harbaugh. It won’t happen again, I’m nearly certain.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3658
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Oct 18, 2015 at 12:46 PM

          I’m not sure if that’s on Chesson or not. It should be on the punter or one of the personal protectors to identify the rush. The gunner can’t put himself in motion for fear of getting a penalty. Maybe that has been coached a great deal and O’Neill/the upbacks just missed it. Maybe it’s on Chesson, but I doubt it.

          • DonAZ
            Comments: 514
            Joined: 8/12/2015
            DonAZ
            Oct 18, 2015 at 12:54 PM

            If MSU had nobody back, why was there a gunner at all?

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5998
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Oct 18, 2015 at 2:53 PM

            Good point though that Chesson may not have had the option of changing his alignment after they saw what MSU was doing. Interesting notion to put it on the punter. I’ve never seen a punter make any sort of read or call like that to shift blockers around. I would think it’s on one of the blockers to make such calls. But my point was more to blame a coach here than Chesson. I don’t know if that’s fair or not, I’m just throwing it out there as being a more ‘coachable’ error than executing a punt poorly.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5998
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Oct 18, 2015 at 2:54 PM

            Why indeed Don. That is my point.

            I suspect is was more that M was not ready or expecting the 11-man rush. I certainly wasn’t. It seemed like a foolish thing to do to me, to not even attempt a return, but Dantonio made the right call obviously.

      • DonAZ
        Comments: 514
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        DonAZ
        Oct 18, 2015 at 12:33 PM

        I think Michigan’s defense is *very* good against the interior run. I’m not yet convinced they have the speed to contain a good edge team. And as you yourself point out, the secondary other than Lewis can be exploited.

        Michigan had to dial up a lot of blitzes to get pressure. Michigan’s defensive line is supposed to be it’s core strength, and yet it could not get sustained pressure without blitz support. An elite defense gets pressure with four. You can’t give a QB like Connor Cook time.

        In my mind “elite” is a word reserved for a defense that can give any offense in the country fits. I don’t see Michigan’s defense as that. I think Baylor, TCU, LSU, and probably Alabama would badly expose Michigan’s defense.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3658
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Oct 18, 2015 at 1:51 PM

          You might be right that Michigan would get exposed by those offenses, but then again…what defenses wouldn’t struggle against those teams?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3658
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 18, 2015 at 12:43 PM

      It depends on what you mean by “elite.” If you mean “elite” by one of the top three in the country, then no, they’re not elite. If you’re talking about the top 10 or top 15, then I think they’re elite. The truth is that every defense has a weakness in one area or another.

      • DonAZ
        Comments: 514
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        DonAZ
        Oct 18, 2015 at 12:52 PM

        To me, “elite” is reserved for top two or three. Not top 10 or 15. That’s where “very good” is applied.

        To my amateur eye, Michigan’s defensive weaknesses are: (1) a secondary that, aside from Lewis, can be exploited by a good QB; (2) questionable speed by our LB corp other than Peppers; (3) questionable ability to consistently get pressure from the defensive line itself.

        It’s (3) that worries me the most. Yes, they’re great against the run stop. But a decent OL will provide a good QB (like Cook) the ability to try to exploit (1), which he did. Now imagine a good passing QB with the ability to scramble … then (2) is a problem. I’m just not convinced this defense can slow a really good offense. Hence they’re not “elite” in my book.

        Semantics, yes. But my view.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3658
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Oct 18, 2015 at 1:49 PM

          Michigan is tied for #26 in sacks with 18. All but one of those came from a defensive lineman (Desmond Morgan is the only non-DL to get one). I’m not sure if that’s a fair assessment. Every team goes streaks without getting sacks, and Michigan did not start the game by getting pressure yesterday. Even so, Michigan had 3 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry, and 2 passes batted down by its defensive linemen yesterday. They don’t have a good outside rush, but their interior linemen generally do a good job of getting pressure.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5998
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 18, 2015 at 3:01 PM

          Henry got through very frequently and Michigan had what – 4 sacks yesterday. Conklin is banged up but he’s considered a 1st round pick. I think the pass rush was pretty good yesterday. Lets give Cook a little credit for getting it out quickly and Dantonio credit for calling plays that his team could execute – backshoulder fades vs one on one coverage.

          Michigan didn’t get as good pressure against MSU as they did other teams. That’s what happens when level of competition goes up.

          If your definition of elite defense is top 3, Michigan is almost never going to have that. Other than 1997, what year would they have had an elite defense.

          Seems like unnecessarily negative labeling and criteria to me. You can say “well Jourdan Lewis isn’t quite as good as Charles Woodson” and you will be correct, but what is the point?

          • DonAZ
            Comments: 514
            Joined: 8/12/2015
            DonAZ
            Oct 18, 2015 at 3:28 PM

            We’re arguing semantics, and I’m not going to get into a heated debate about the true meaning of “elite.”

            I’ll let Michigan’s defense make its case. Michigan State was able to get 386 yards, with 328 in the air. Obviously the rush defense was great. The passing defense? Not so great.

            I recognize one of your favorite debating tactics is to imply a false choice … if I’m saying “not elite” it must mean I’m suggesting they’re “not good.” But of course that’s not what I’m saying. They are clearly very good. I am simply reserving the word “elite” for those defenses where when I watch them I go, “Wow.”

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5998
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Oct 18, 2015 at 9:59 PM

            “They’re not elite” sounds like a criticism. I did not take it as “they’re not good” or imply so.

  4. Avatar
    Comments: 142
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    coachernie
    Oct 18, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    13 flags (eight on Michigan)…the Bolden ejection was ridiculous.

    MSU started Freshmen, 2 of them, at Safety. Why we couldn’t take advantage of that I will never know.

    Still see us running the table, yes, including defeating the Bucknuts.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 4
      Joined: 10/18/2015
      dantonioisthedevil
      Oct 18, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      Hate to say it, we will not get a win against the Buckeyes unless the referees give it to us like they gave it to Sparty last night.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 5998
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 18, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    “I got very nervous about…the fact that Blake O’Neill is an Australian.” Please explain what you mean there Thunder because it sounds xenophobic as hell… Blake’s been a great player all year. Screwed up huge, but other than the one attempted run conversion, I don’t know why anyone had cause to worry about him before that play.

    Given the 386-230 total yards differential, did MSU ‘deserve’ to win the game, prior to the epic fail of the last play?

    Season shattering loss really. What more can you say? The comparisons to Chris Webber’s TO and Kordell Stewarts bomb are the only ones that hit home for me. Same tragic disbelief. Same five stages of grief.

    Agree on the offensive skill position talent. All that Darboh hype and the guy can’t get open. Honestly don’t want to hear another Jason Avant comparison ever again. Avant was NOT slow. He just wasn’t as fast as Breaston and Edwards.

    Chesson, like Devin Gardner at WR, just doesn’t have the skillset, despite having the physical attributes. You can’t always teach or learn this stuff. Those intangible skills and instincts that Gallon, Hemingway, heck Roundtree even had.

    Tough to blame the offense. 23 points vs MSU is respectable. We’ll get better on offense in the years to come, but honestly this is about what I expected from this group in 2015. Maybe a bit better from Rudock and maybe a little more from Canteen or Harris that would marginalize our dependence on Darboh and Chesson. But the RB, FB, TEs, even OL have been a bit better than I thought. Everything else – as expected.

    What wasn’t expected was MSU running up over 350 yards of offense on this defense. They did that despite having no run game whatsoever. Lots of blame to go around. The secondary got exposed a little bit, but that’s what an excellent QB (count me among those who had doubts about Cook dismissed yesterday) and an elite WR can do to even an excellent defense. (Burbridge was very good – but I thought Lewis was better. The total production belies how many targets he got.)

    I wonder who is to blame for the 75 yard FB pass. The punt will get all the attention of course, but that play had just as much impact on the game. Other than that though, MSU had basically one play — backshoulder fade after backshoulder fade. Cook is so good at putting the ball in a spot where his WRs can catch them. Often they did, sometimes they dropped them. Michigan lived and (too often) died by this.

    Credit to MSU’s OL. Conklin and Kieler really gritted it out and I don’t see anyway MSU wins that game if they don’t protect as well as they did. Our DL was good but Michigan had to dial up a lot of blitzes to get pressure in fast enough on Cook.

    I’m going to move on. Only way to redeem it is to beat OSU. Been that way by November for the last X years, and that’s why OSU will always be our biggest rival.

    To win the east (via tie-breaker), Michigan needs to win out and MSU needs to lose 2 games (OSU presumably AND another). A 3-way tie doesn’t help us. Longshot right now, of course, but if we make it through the next few games with victories we’ll all start thinking about what happens if we can upset OSU. Michigan fans can all unabashedly root for OSU when they play MSU.

    • Klctlc
      Comments: 84
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Klctlc
      Oct 18, 2015 at 12:13 PM

      I think this loss is in class by itself. This was a TOTALLY unforced error that cost the game. Webber’s timeout still required M to score a basket to win. Kordell’s bomb was the opponent doing something. This was worse. We catch a snap. that is practiced thousands of time, under pressure, we win.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5998
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 18, 2015 at 12:54 PM

        You have a point. I’m not sure I care to rank the sports tragedies. I’m not sure if Colorado’s hail mary was any less of a failing on M’s part – in both you are just trying to execute a basic play that the opponent is highly unlikely to score on. This one does have the fact that it was an in-state rival to burn a little more.

        True that we were down with Webber, but if you watched that team you felt sure they would score. Basketball has a lot of back and forth and with that narrow margin and a chance to score you are pretty close to 50/50 to win the game.

        My main point is just the emotional reaction is similar – disbelief that what just happened happened.

        • Klctlc
          Comments: 84
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Klctlc
          Oct 18, 2015 at 2:18 PM

          Agree on the MSU. Truly don’t want to argue either, just trying to understand why this hurts so much. I honestly spent the first 10 seconds in shock, like an out of body experience. This was so unexpected.

          Webber was different, I anticipated we could win, but here I unfortunately thought we were going to win. I am Cubs fan, I should know better and I don’t mean that in a funny way either.

          BTW, I appreciate your reparte with Thunder on this blog. Thanks.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3658
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 18, 2015 at 12:57 PM

      When you don’t have a sport ingrained in your culture, sometimes you just don’t have the same sense of it. I think of soccer, for example. I watch European and South American teams play, and the flopping is ridiculous. They clearly grow up with flopping and overacting, and whether it’s coached or it’s just because they watch/live soccer from a young age, they get away with it (not all the time, but enough). Meanwhile, I watch the USA team play, and they don’t flop as much. A Spanish or Italian or Argentinian player might draw a penalty kick at a critical time because they have a sense of when they can flop. USA players probably miss opportunities to flop. In the same sense, we grow up playing backyard football, watching it on TV, etc. Americans have a better sense of playing the game of football. Obviously, everybody watching on TV knows that as soon as O’Neill drops the ball, he should probably just fall on it – but the Australians piping this game in might not have been so quick to decide.

      I thought Delano Hill was to blame for the FB getting open, and he also didn’t really seem to be busting his butt to catch up to Pendleton – either that, or Hill is just too slow to make up ground on a fat fullback. I thought MSU would find a way to take advantage of Michigan’s safeties, and if that one was on Hill, well…I’m disappointed to be right. Other than the botched punt, that play was the most disappointing play of the game, because not only was it a coverage bust, but as I said, Hill didn’t seem overly concerned with making up for the mistake.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5998
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 18, 2015 at 10:05 PM

        Maybe the cultural difference factored in, but really – That’s what you were thinking before the play happened? This guy might not know to fall on the ball?

        I wonder how different Rugby and Aussie Rules are from Football anyway in this sort of case anyway.?

        I see american football players try to pick up balls they should just try to recover on the ground nearly every week. Seems like after-the-fact rationalization.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3658
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Oct 18, 2015 at 10:19 PM

          Not specifically that he “doesn’t know how to fall on the ball” but that if something goes wrong, does he know what to do? There are a number of things that could happen. And keep in mind that he had a wide open gunner, but nothing was ever done to move that gunner in or throw him the ball. I don’t think it’s strange when you see that setup to think, “Is he ready for this?” If the ball is snapped over his head, does he know that he can kick it out of the end zone for a safety (which would have tied the game) rather than trying to pick it up and perhaps allowing a touchdown? If he sees it’s going to be blocked by this rush, will he just eat the ball and get tackled?

          Yes, it went through my head. You can obviously choose to believe it or not.

          When I was playing baseball growing up, I was always taught to think before every pitch, “What happens if the ball gets hit to me?” If you’re playing shortstop, you have to know what to do on a slow roller vs. a ball hit deep in the hole, a play with no runners on base vs. a play with bases loaded, etc. And as a coach, you always hope your players on the field remember the various scenarios you’ve been throwing at them in practice all summer. I don’t think it’s a stretch to share what I was thinking before that punt, but if you don’t believe in the authenticity of the words that I type, then I’m not sure why you visit the site.

  6. Lanknows
    Comments: 5998
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 18, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    Couple other thoughts…

    Stribling really struggled I thought. I’ve been a big advocate of his on this blog, but he got beat repeatedly yesterday by MSU’s ‘other’ WR. I don’t think it’ll get reflected in stats in anyway because of a couple of MSU WR drops and Dymonte Thomas saving Stribling from shame on a late 4th quarter pass play where he again misjudged the ball. Clark got beat too, and Hill was around a lot of successful MSU plays as well, so I don’t think a call for a personnel change is appropriate.

    I gave credit to Cook above, but I don’t think he’s a great NFL prospect. Those backshoulder throws aren’t going to be there in the NFL the same way that they are in college. I don’t see him doing anything that would necessarily translate great to the NFL. Helluva college QB though.

    Bit disappointed Harbaugh and company didn’t generate more big plays on offense. One nice FB run, one ‘almost had it’ to Chesson.. but where were the TEs, timely back-breaking screens, etc.

    I don’t envy Brian Cook today. However he labels the end of game gaff is going to enter into a substantial portion (especially the younger part) of our fanbase’s lexicon. Pressure’s on.

    On a personal note, a silver lining from yesterday’s fiasco was that I ended up not going to the game through a confluence of events. Tailgating was great fun, but I have to say this was a game I was glad to be watching from ‘home’ and not in person. The game really dragged through all the official reviews, the offense struggled, and of course filing out of the big house after that ending would have been pure misery.

    • DonAZ
      Comments: 514
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      DonAZ
      Oct 18, 2015 at 12:39 PM

      Agree with nearly all of this.

      Post like this make it hard for me to be irritated with you. Stop it. 😉

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3658
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 18, 2015 at 1:05 PM

      I can’t really say “I told you so” about Stribling, because nobody else has shown himself to be head-and-shoulders above Stribling, but I constantly refer to him as an “almost” guy. For the past three years, he’s been a guy who is almost in a position to make plays, but he very, very rarely does. That was yet another example. He had himself in decent position, but he just can’t close the deal. If not for Dymonte Thomas – who seems to have taken a step forward under this staff – that would have been a huge play for MSU. I know Stribling had a good day against UNLV, and I gave him credit for that day, but he’s definitely a weak spot.

      I don’t see why Cook can’t be successful in the NFL. He’s running a pro-style offense, he makes quick decisions, and he has a pretty good arm. Back-shoulder throws are there in the NFL – they’re harder to complete, but so is every other kind of throw since it’s the NFL. I don’t think he’s a top-five pick, but I don’t see why he can’t be picked in the first couple rounds.

      It’s very hard to run screens against MSU. You want to run screens against a team like that because they’re so aggressive, but honestly, they get so much pressure that you don’t often have a chance to set up the screen. That’s what happened yesterday. Unless you can pick up their pressure, you can’t screen them. And Michigan could rarely pick up their pressures. Even without Narduzzi, they’re still very well coached.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5998
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 18, 2015 at 10:14 PM

        You can say “I told you so”. I can take it.

        My argument was that Stribling could and likely would improve from freshman year (where that reputation was really built) to now, just as Lewis improved from his first year. But that jump ball late in the game was a deja vu moment. Maybe he isn’t a “playmaker” and maybe he won’t ever put it together. I remain a believer, but my confidence that he has already “got it” is severely diminished. I still don’t see him as a weakspot, or even close, but I think he had a bad game. Not a shock against Cook…

        I’m not a Connor Cook expert, but I haven’t seen the diversity of throws that you’d like to see from an NFL stud. I don’t see him zining out routes to the sideline or deep throws down the middle. It was all backshoulder fades. An important throw to be able to make, but having good touch isn’t enough in the NFL. Good point about quick decisions though I’m not sure UM made it hard on him this game with all the man-to-man coverage.

        He’s certainly a NFL candidate, I’m just saying I wouldn’t draft him in the first round.

  7. Klctlc
    Comments: 84
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Klctlc
    Oct 18, 2015 at 12:20 PM

    Thunder.
    I posted this on Mgoblog too, but hoping you can add some thoughts.

    What is the scuttlebutt on Gentry and O’Korn? It appears O’korn can throw but is he better than Rudock? Gentry has upside but what is going on in practice, will he stay at QB. I really don’t hold out much hope for Morris. Not sure about Malzone either.

    Getting a QB who can complete a decent amount of long balls is going to be huge. It would open up the run game and take some pressure off of the D.

    Also, What do you you think about Marshall, Jones or Johnson and getting a pass rushing end. Yesterday exposed our lack of a true rush. Henry finally got through late, but we did not put on much organic pressure.

    Finally the last area where I think we need improvement is LB. We need an athletic linebacker so bad. Love Morgan as you do, but he is gone and where are we going to get guys to wreak havoc?

    I think OL will keep getting better and the recruiting looks promising. WR’s seem good enough, especially with Cole and other recruits coming in.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3658
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 18, 2015 at 1:22 PM

      The scuttlebutt on Gentry is that he’s very raw, which was somewhat expected. I heard over the summer that the coaches were developing some Wildcat-type packages for him, but it now looks like he’ll redshirt. Supposedly, the coaches thought they could squeeze enough out of the OL, running backs, and receivers – not to mention the fact that Rudock can run a little bit, too.

      Also, from what I’ve heard, O’Korn would be starting right now if he were eligible. My guess is that he’ll be your starter in 2016.

      I think one of those guys you mentioned has to be developed and given some snaps, preferably Marshall or Johnson. Jenkins-Stone isn’t a pass rusher. He’s decent as a backup, but he’s just a guy when it comes to starting as a weakside end in this defense.

      Michigan is working hard on Devin Bush, Jr., Dontavious Jackson, and Jeffery McCulloch for the 2016 class. I think one of those guys could be an answer. I agree that we need someone more athletic at linebacker.

      • Klctlc
        Comments: 84
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Klctlc
        Oct 18, 2015 at 2:23 PM

        Thank you for the response. You give me hope hearing about O’Korn. I really like what has been said about Peters, but I don’t think we should count on a true freshman

        Did you see anything in earlier film on marshal, Jones or Johnson that gave you hope they can come off the edge?

        Praying for one elite LB recruit.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5998
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 18, 2015 at 10:18 PM

        If you look at Gentry, he is years away from being a viable TE. Far too skinny. He could be a Riemersma in the end, but he’ll be a QB first.

        There is no way Jones and Johnson still weigh less than 230. I guarantee you’ll see their listed weight go up significantly by the time spring rosters come out.

  8. Avatar
    Comments: 528
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Oct 18, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    You are a sharp guy Thunder. That being said the coaches played it perfectly by milking the clock and only having 10 seconds left. I think UM could have called a naked bootleg with Rudock but then he could get the ball knocked out.

    Stuff happens and UM choked the game while MSU found a way win. They were only up by 2 pts. Can’t take a safety. Can’t run around for that long and not get tackled and take the risk that MSU would kick a fg with a second left.

    Can you put a player back behind O’Neil? Then you are one more guy short on the line to block. MSU wasn’t blocking that kick but O’Neil got a big time case of the jitters. The put him in his normal position to succeed.

    My point is there was no other alternative. No other person to blame. No other option to consider. The amateur kicker (respect) made a flub/blunder. We are all humans and unfortunately it wasn’t a good result for UM and it’s fans.

    I would take the same option a 1000 times out of a 1000.

  9. Avatar
    Comments: 19
    Joined: 10/16/2015
    Vienna Jack
    Oct 19, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    The defense had two really bad plays: the 74 yard catch and run by the FB and the blown coverage on the TD pass. Both were plays where the MSU player was wide open (especially the FB). If you take away those two plays, then MSU is well under 300 yards of total offense.

    I have one question for which I would really appreciate an answer. Why is it that the Michigan DBs never (or rarely) seem to be looking back for the ball? Jourdan Lewis even had one ball bounce off his helmet.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3658
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 19, 2015 at 11:42 AM

      We are playing mostly man coverage, which makes it difficult/unnecessary to look back for the ball. Players are taught to play the man, not the ball. Looking back for the ball automatically slows a player down and can force him to lose track of the receiver. There are different ways of teaching defensive backs to find the ball, including waiting for the receiver to raise his hands or to watch his eyes for them to get big, but it’s not an easy task. We’re mostly doing well in coverage, so I really have no qualms with how we’ve been playing, except for the botched FB coverage and then Clark biting on the double move that allowed a touchdown.

You must belogged in to post a comment.