Penn State 41, Michigan 31

Penn State 41, Michigan 31

October 31, 2010
Happier now?  No?  Yeah, me either.

Michigan lost last night.  I’m not sure if you heard, but it was bad.

Sad bullets:

Michigan’s defense is still atrocious.  Matt McGloin, a former walk-on who has been the borderline third-stringer for the Nittany Lions, completed 17 of 28 passes for 250 yards and 1 touchdown (plus 1 rushing touchdown).  Furthermore, the Wolverines were unable to force a turnover even once.  Running back Evan Royster was averaging 64 yards a game until this point, and he torched the Wolverines for 150 yards on 29 carries; his 5.2 yards per carry average would have been significantly higher if Penn State wasn’t simply trying to run out the clock at the end of the game and slamming into a stacked line.  The defense got one important stop in the game, but a hurting offense – missing its top two tight ends and its starting quarterback, and with a hodge podge offense line – put up 435 yards and 41 points.

Vincent Smith isn’t good at running.  You all know my thoughts on where Vincent Smith belongs in the pecking order at running back on this team, but here’s where he ranks among the rest of the Big Ten’s lead rushers.  Smith had 9 carries for 24 yards against a depleted Penn State defense and behind a solid offensive line.  Stephen Hopkins had a slightly better day running the ball, and Michael Shaw’s lone rushing attempt went for 4 yards.  I wish I had a good reason for offensive genius Rich Rodriguez only being able to squeeze out the tenth best yards per carry average for a running back in the Big Ten, but I don’t. 

White, UW: 86 carries, 570 yards, 6.6 ypc, 9 TD
Edwin Baker, MSU: 124 carries, 800 yards, 6.5 ypc, 7 TD
Leveon Bell, MSU: 95 carries, 585 yards, 6.2 ypc, 8 TD
Dierking, Purdue: 67 carries, 403 yards, 6.0 ypc, 3 TD
Clay, UW: 160 carries, 887 yards, 5.5 ypc, 13 TD
Royster, PSU: 117 carries, 600 yards, 5.1 ypc, 4 TD
Dan Herron, OSU: 129 carries, 634 yards, 4.9 ypc, 12 TD
Leshoure, Illinois: 158 carries, 780 yards, 4.9 ypc, 6 TD
Robinson, Iowa: 172 carries, 806 yards, 4.7 ypc, 10 TD
Vincent Smith, Michigan: 79 carries, 349 yards, 4.4 ypc, 4 TD
Darius Willis, Indiana: 64 carries, 278 yards, 4.3 ypc, 4 TD
Bennett, Minnesota: 104 carries, 444 yards, 4.3 ypc, 2 TD
Trumpy, Northwestern: 74 carries, 307 yards, 4.1 ypc, 2 TD

Freshmen play like freshmen.  On a long completed pass thrown by McGloin last night, I remember seeing freshman cornerback Cullen Christian, freshman free safety Ray Vinopal, and redshirt freshman wide receiver-turned-free safety-turned-quasi-linebacker Cameron Gordon converging on the play.  I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more inexperienced defense.  And that doesn’t even include the pain of watching a perfectly positioned Terrence Talbott watch a ball whistle right past his perfectly positioned arm and into the belly of a PSU wide receiver. 

Denard Robinson runs the ball TOO MUCH.  Holy crap, Rich Rodriguez.  When are you going to learn that you’re driving Robinson into the ground by running him 27, 28, 29 times a game?  Sure, Robinson had 27 carries for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He had a great game (running the ball, anyway).  But he also missed time due to injury for the sixth time out of eight games.  If he’s such a valuable runner, put him at running back and give the snaps to a quarterback who can actually pass the ball, Tate Forcier.  While I haven’t been a fan of changing Robinson’s position up to this point, the gaping hole at running back makes me think the Forcier/Robinson combo in the backfield might not be such a bad idea after all.  In case you’re wondering, Robinson is averaging 20.5 carries a game so far this season.

So much for the bye week.  We thought Michigan would be able to heal its injuries and put together a good game plan for a struggling Penn State team.  But Mike Martin re-injured his ankle injury and missed most of the game, Denard Robinson got dinged up again, and running back Michael Shaw totaled one carry.  Meanwhile, Michigan’s defense couldn’t cover the flats, couldn’t break on deep balls, and couldn’t stop a paltry running game.  And Jeremy Gallon still looks like a lineman trying to catch the ball; instead of letting a kickoff go into the endzone for a touchback, he dropped the ball and then kicked it out of bounds at his own 2-yard line.  I don’t really feel like the week off helped this team at all.

Greg Robinson is gone after this year.  I’m almost sure of it.  Somebody’s head has to roll after this year’s performance, and Rodriguez will be lucky if it’s not his.  But I do not expect Greg Robinson to return in 2011, whether the defense has been littered with freshmen or not.  This is the worst defense in Michigan history and perhaps the worst in the country.


  1. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    I'm pretty sure the rest of the defensive staff (save Bruce Tall) can also all go in the metaphorical woodchipper ;). I'm tired of RR scapegoating the only outsiders he's brought in. Makes me question his priorities.

    Also, co-signed on the Vincent Smith as starting RB thing. He's great in space; McGee and RR straight up refuse to put him out in the flat more than once a game… and when was the last time we saw him get an outside run? Sheesh. They have to do a better job than the Denard single-wing game. That's not even the "spread offense" :).

  2. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    TTB, if you'd be so inclined at some point, I'd like to know what you, as a coach, feel are the top five/ten/whatever reasons that Rodriguez hasn't succeeded at Michigan.

  3. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    Greg Robinson will be gone, and so will Rodriguez. This was RichRod's swan song. He'll end up 6-6 at best and that's absolutely unacceptable in year 3. The problem isn't Robinson. It's Rodriguez. This joker has got to go. Rodriguez should have been fired in the locker room after the game. This was the most disgraceful and embarrassing loss of the RichRod era so far.

  4. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    I'd be fine with firing every defensive coach including Tall- Banks, Sagesse and Patterson are barely helping despite being relatively high profile recruits and being seniors.

  5. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    @ Anonymous 4:33 p.m.

    Banks and Sagesse weren't high profile recruits. Patterson was, but he was already on a path for anonymity before Tall arrived. And if you ask me, Sagesse hasn't looked too bad over the last couple seasons.

    I think Tall should stay, and I think the jury's out on Brathwaite; the safeties haven't played well, but the hand he's been dealt has been the worst of anyone's. All he has to work with are freshmen and Kovacs.

  6. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    Tony Gibson will never be fired as long as Rich Rod is the coach. Do you think Brandon has made up his mind or is he still in wait and see mode? I remember him saying that it was more than just wins and losses so i kind of feel that after last night it might take a miracle (beating OSU) to save Rich's job.

    BTW last night was the first time in my life that i actually felt apathetic being a Michigan fan. I didn't really yell at the TV or called for someones head it was just… yeah, our defense blows and there is no way to fix it right now. Really, how can GERG or anyone fix Mouton trying to arm tackle Royster?

    PS-I will always wonder what might have been if last year we went for two against Sparty and won that game.

  7. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 9:59 PM


    Clearly a disappointing loss, but not an extremely surprising one.

    Michigan's mid-to-late season struggles under Rodriguez have become now become a trend that Brandon cannot ignore. It scares me to think what will happen in the next couple years but hey we'll be back at some point.

    Some questions…how come this team consistently fails to show up in critical games? Where is the fire that drives them to perform better than what they are on paper (clearly this shouldn't happen all the time but it should happen once in a while, but never does)?

    Also what's your take on the o-lines performance? I expected M to control the line of scrimmage against a depleted Penn st Dline but there were too many times that Penn st stuffed the hole and beat their blocker.

    Lastly why do the execution errors increase as the season goes on? Isnt it normally the other way around? I understand errors against Iowa but Penn st has a mediocre defense.

  8. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 10:07 PM

    @ Anonymous 5:39 p.m.

    I don't think Brandon has made up his mind yet. If Michigan miraculously wins the next four games, then I think Rodriguez keeps his job. If Michigan loses the next four, then he's gone. Anything between those two extremes and we'll just have to see.

  9. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 10:16 PM

    @ Alex

    If I knew why this team failed to show up in big games, I would probably be coaching the team. The truth is, I really have no idea. I don't think that the team plays without emotion in big games. I just think they don't execute. And honestly, Michigan really just isn't very good. The defense is horrible (for a multitude of reasons), and Michigan's quarterback is what Brian Kelly said he is – a running back who can throw the ball.

    I don't think the offensive line played that poorly. Michigan's running backs aren't very good, and that's a problem. I don't think Penn State's pass rush was a huge issue. I do, however, think Penn State's interior defensive line is pretty good. Devon Still is a guy I'd like to see in a Michigan uniform.

    I'm not sure what "execution errors" you're talking about. Offensively, I think the execution errors boil down to better, faster, and more intricate defenses. Defensively, I think the execution errors boil down to better and faster players forcing Michigan's defenders to react quicker than they're capable of doing; that's something that might only be fixable with experience. I'll repeat something that I read on Rivals earlier, because it's something I've believed for a couple seasons:

    There are players on this team who shouldn't be playing for Michigan in the first place, and some of them are starting. The recruiting, attrition, and coaching on that side of the ball have largely been atrocious.

  10. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    Nice post. Few thoughts to nibble on:
    1) V. Smith's average yards per carry isn't good. But, I think breaking down his YPC when he runs up the middle and gets plays outside would show a substantial difference. I kinda want to bang my head against the wall when RR runs him up the middle, but I think he'd be great for sweeps or screens.
    2) No doubt the D is bad, but really the question is will it be any better next year with or w/o GRob? I can't imagine changing scheme again is a good idea, but even if we keep the same scheme, it won't fix a pure talent issue. Thus, recruiting is the only way to fix it, so we're at least two year away.
    Always enjoy your posts and comments.

  11. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    @ kriegers

    I agree that Smith is good for screens. He's a good receiver and is decent out in space. He just can't break any tackles. I don't know if he has the speed to run sweeps, though…

    I think the notion that a new scheme = a steep learning curve is a little bit overblown. Lots of new defensive coordinators step in and have success early. This defense has many flaws when it comes to personnel, but the weaknesses could be hidden better than they have been.

  12. Comments: 21381
    Oct 31, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    Well, it looks like you'll be breaking out the running shoes, my friend. Exercise is great for improving mood.

  13. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    Smith is not a good running back, and the fact that Rodriguez uses him on short yardage repeatedly (and fails) should be grounds for firing alone.

  14. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    Smith is not a good running back. He is tiny and slow. The fact that Rodriguez continues to use him on short yardage should by itself be ground for firing.

  15. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2010 at 5:19 AM

    I also think that RR's offensive success is overblown. Sure we were great against the bottom of the barrel teams on our schedule, but against even average defensive teams, our offense seems to slow way down.

    The telling stat from the past 2 weeks is that 434 out of 945 yards gained have come after being down 21 points. Gaining all those yards does not make us a good offense, but rather it shows that we can put up yards only when opposing defenses ease up. RR is relying too heavily on Denard being a great runner and that is sugar-coating what is probably a 4 win team otherwise.

  16. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2010 at 6:23 AM

    Of all the women to pick….

  17. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    Iowa: Hopkins 8 for 38, Smith 10 for 39
    Penn State: Hopkins 5 for 14, Smith 9 for 24

    Nearly identical production.

    Hopkins, just as Shaw before him, has failed to distinguish himself from Smith in terms of ypc in meaningful situations. By meaningful, I mean without the advantage of soft defenses, be they situational (game out of hand: soft pass coverage or 2nd stringers) or due to inferior talent (UMass, Indiana, etc.)

    Its time to stop blaming Smith and ask the real question: Why are (ALL) the RBs in this offense so ineffective? Is it really the talent? There are certainly a lot of 3-star type recruits but Mike Shaw and Fitz Toussaint either haven't looked any better, or haven't been able to stay healthy.

    In theory the threat of Denard should be opening big holes for the RB, but I'm not seeing those big holes consistently. None of the RBs are making their own success, but something about this system is making it so that they don't have consistent success. Is it just too many men in the box?

  18. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    @ Lankownia 2:24 p.m.

    Is that production from Smith/Hopkins REALLY nearly identical? As far as I can figure, that's an average of 4.0 yards per carry for Hopkins and only 3.3 yards per carry for Smith. That's a fairly significant difference.

    Are "all the running backs in this offense so ineffective"? Or are you projecting your feelings about the team in general? Every running back Michigan sends out there puts up decent numbers (Mike Cox, Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michael Shaw, etc.). Literally the WORST running backs in Rodriguez's career at Michigan have been the two he decided were most worthy of earning carries – Sam McGuffie (4.0 yards per carry as a freshman in '08) and Vincent Smith.

    I think one big factor is having too many in the box. Denard isn't able to consistently beat teams with the pass. His short throws are hampered by his height, throwing motion, and indecision; his deep throws are hampered by his inaccuracy and lack of touch. I would be stacking the box, too, if I were an opposing DC.

  19. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2010 at 7:28 PM


    I don't intend to criticize RR's offense as a whole – his resume speaks for itself. Furthermore, the offense (as a whole) is good this season… but something about the scheme this year has the RBs being ineffective. Not necessarily on a down-to-down basis, but the big runs from RBs are extinct since conference play. This is a HR-hitting position in RR's offense, and its only hitting singles. Your leading rusher stat attests to that.

    If Shaw or Hopkins produced any better, I'd feel differently, but these guys come in and are no better. It was one thing when we were just arguing Shaw/Smith but now Hopkins has popped in and also looked meh. Its the position, not the player.

    Yes, across a small sample of less than 20 carries, I'd consider a difference of 0.7 ypc to be statistically insignificant. On an game-by-game basis the only significant difference this year was seen in the UMass game…which makes it nearly insignificant IMO.

    Smith, more than anyone else, has failed to distinguish himself. He's too blame more than anyone else. However, to me, its the equivalent of blaming Rodgers, when Avery, Christian, and Talbott aren't doing any better.

    Like CB (though not nearly as dire), I don't think better options exist…but I hope I'm wrong. Let Cox, Toussaint, Shaw – you name the guy – run for 170 and 2 TDs to upset OSU. I'll be happy to say I was wrong.

  20. Comments: 21381
    Nov 02, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    @ Lankownia

    I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on Smith vs. the rest.

    Hopkins and Smith were essentially the same against PSU.

    Hopkins averaged 4.75 YPC against Iowa while Smith averaged 3.9.

    Hopkins averaged 6.5 YPC against MSU, Shaw averaged 7.2, and Smith averaged 4.9.

    You can continue to ignore statistics and think that all the running backs are equal, but I'm not going to ignore the numbers.

  21. Comments: 21381
    Nov 02, 2010 at 5:14 AM

    I feel very comfortable ignoring averages based on 2 or 4 trials.

    If I didn't I'd say that Fitz Toussaint is the greatest RB in Michigan history. After all he averages 33 yards per carry and chumps like Morris, Wheatley and Hart never came close to that that.

  22. Comments: 21381
    Nov 02, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    Agree to disagree…we're just recovering old ground. I don't think either of us are "ignoring statistics" any more than the other. They say stats tell the story you want them to tell. This may be such a case.

  23. Comments: 21381
    Nov 03, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    Shaw vs Smith. "Do we run a 4-2-5 or a 3-3-5?" Vinopal or Gorgon at FS? All of this crap is minutiae. We need to get of Rodriguez. There's no sense in talking about the little ifs and buts anymore. This guy is a fiasco.

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