Sunday, September 02, 2007

Wow, that sure was fun

What's there to say after witnessing history? Nothing? A million things? Somewhere in between? Part of me could talk for hours about what went wrong and why it did. Part of me says who cares, it did. I can't believe I rearranged my travel plans to arrive in time to get to a sports bar to watch that debacle. I should've just got drunk at the beach and not believed anybody when they told me the score. Some random musings on what I watched before I get back to barbecuing on the beach...

  • This probably goes down as the biggest upset in the history of college football. Now it's not the biggest in terms of point spreads and it's not the biggest in terms of talent differential, because ASU is better than more than a few D1A teams. But in terms of perception? D1AA vs a team ranked #5 in the nation? Doesn't get any bigger than that.
  • The only moment I can think of right now since I've been following Michigan football that even comes close to describing the overall shock is Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook in 1994. That game isn't there, but the improbability of the moment is similar. That instant that Westbrook caught it is still burned into my memory banks and I'm sure this entire game will be as well.
  • I'm happy for the Appalachian State players and coaches and fans. They have a nice program that not many people knew about playing in rural western North Carolina. I'm guessing they will get a little more recognition from now on. Oh, and they can kiss any chance of ever playing a top opponent again goodbye.
  • I love rooting for the big underdogs to shock the world, unfortunately it was against my team this team. Oh well.
  • Michigan may have done the virtually impossible for 2007. Almost regardless of what happens the rest of the year, the single lasting moment from this edition of the Michigan Wolverines will be the loss to Appalachian State. They could rip off 12 straight wins including a bowl game, and people will still mostly remember this game. That's sad and unfortunate for a team that had big goals at the start of the year. Hell, this game might be the single biggest story of the entire 2007 college football season aside from whoever wins the national championship. It will be the year that X won the title and that Appalachian State beat Michigan. Does this put up more pressure for a playoff? I don't know.
  • You can't pin this loss on Lloyd Carr or Ron English or Mike DeBord or Vance Bedford or Andy Moeller or Chad Henne or whoever else you want to. It was a team effort. There are probably 150 people that can all take some blame for this one. It was the absolute perfect storm of things going wrong against a team that played the game of their lives.
Some specific points about the team and/or game:

1) It is beyond obvious that they overlooked Appalachian State. ASU spent the entire offseason watching Michigan's gametapes and coming up with a way to exploit a few weaknesses and figuring out a way to try to take away a few strengths. Michigan apparently didn't even bother to put in a specific game plan for this one and instead just wanted to run some base stuff and keep people healthy and get ready for Oregon. Well, I hope they got ready for Oregon.

2) At what point is Michigan going to a) recognize that their LBs and Safeties cannot cover wide receivers in space and b) do something about it. This is the 3rd consecutive game they have lost and in all 3 games I think you can pin most of the blame on the defense not putting guys in a position to succeed. Last year, Ball State got some points by spreading Michigan out and picking on the LBs and safeties in coverage. Then Ohio State scored at will with 4 and 5 WR sets that Michigan couldn't match up with. Then in the Rose Bowl USC got stuffed for the entire first half before changing gears at halftime and spreading Michigan out and moving the ball at will. Now call me crazy, but I suspected that the coaching staff would've worked at improving their ability to defend the spread formation this year. In this game, it sure didn't look like it. They ended up in the exact same situations as last year with the exact same results watching WRs get matched up 1 on 1 with safeties and LBs and making the defense look clueless. I'll give you one guess what the Oregon Ducks are going to do next week on offense and a hint that running up the middle from a 2 back set isn't it.

3) Why on earth did Chad Henne and his WRs look a step off on their timing for nearly the entire game. A 4th year senior and some junior wide receivers couldn't get on the same page in the first game? Haven't they been practicing for weeks? This would be excusable if it was a bunch of new starters, however all these guys have shown that they are much better than the way they executed yesterday.

4) When is Michigan going to learn how to pick up blitzes. Pete Carroll has owned their OL in the last 2 Rose Bowl matchups by bringing blitzes that they had never seen and making them look clueless. Appalachian State yesterday took a much inferior group of talent compared to USC and employed some of the same schemes and still got decent pressure on Henne. Sure, there are some new starters on the offensive line this year, but come on. That's no excuse. This has to fall back on OL coaching when it's the same thing year after year.

5) Is there any question that Mike Hart is the MVP of the team? Yesterday he racked up 188 yards and 3 TDs on only 23 carries. So what, it was Appalachian State. But did you notice that when he sat out almost the entire 2nd quarter and the first 10 minutes of the 3rd quarter with an injured leg that Appalachian State outscored Michigan 24-6? Michigan outscored them 26-10 with Hart on the field and got blown off the field when he was out.

6) Game management. Who's bright idea was it to go for 2 with a ton of time left and trailing 31-26? Everybody and their brother knows you kick the XP to make it a 4 point game with an entire quarter to play. Instead, Michigan went 0-2 on 2 point conversions down the stretch and lost by 2 points. Way to go.

7) 2 field goals blocked in the final 2 minutes of the game? Yeah, that hurts in a 2 point loss. The blame for the blocked kick at the end of the game falls squarely on Shawn Crable. He was the wide blocker on the left side on a kick from the right hash. There were 2 players coming at him and he blocked the outside man allowing the inside guy to go untouched and block the winning field goal. I'm not sure what exactly he was thinking, but you absolutely positively have to block the inside guy and force the outside guy to take the long route to go for it.

8) Stupid bumbling mistakes that always happen in the first game: late hit out of bounds, mishandling some kick returns, etc. You have to expect those in the first game of the year, but they don't help matters in a tight game.

9) Expectations - I guarantee you that every single person in that stadium outside the Appalachian State lockerroom expected Michigan to win yesterday. Every one, apparently including the Michigan coaches and players. That's not right. Heck, my expectations are as guilty as anybody (however I'm not responsible for lining up and playing). If you listed all 12 games and ranked them from the one you most want to win this year on down to the one you least care about winning, Appalachian State is probably at the very bottom of the list. I mean they just don't matter to Michigan. You want to beat Ohio State. You want to beat Notre Dame. You want to beat Michigan State. You want to beat Wisconsin. etc. Nobody had the season opener circled for anything other than a nice day to watch Michigan win a game. Well, the next 3 games will tell us a lot about a team that "expected" to have a big season. They've got Oregon and Notre Dame and Penn State all in a row and all 3 are pretty much a must win at this point.

I'm sure I'll come up with some more stuff later, but I'm still shocked at what happened as is most of the college football world. What does this mean for the rest of Michigan's season? That's actually a pretty tough call at this point. It might mean nothing. Maybe it was just a perfect storm of things going wrong for one team and things going right for the other. Maybe Michigan is closer to 2005 than 2006. Maybe it's a wake up call and they blow Oregon off the field next week. Anybody that claims to know at this point is just flat out lying. I'm still pretty confident that Michigan's defense will be just fine against teams that line up in a traditional set with 2 WRs and a TE. I'm also still pretty confident that Michigan's defense will not fair well against a spread formation. We'll see how that plays out in the next few weeks.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that it's a little unfortunate this will go on Lloyd Carr's resume. He's one of the truly nice guys in college football and this is likely his final season and it's sad that he'll be remembered for this when he has done so many good things for the University. Here's just a teeny guess: Jeff Tedford is going to get a big $$$$ offer in January to be the next Michigan coach. Bill Martin has very few qualms about conducting a national search for a head coach (see the hires for men's hoops (x 2), swimming, baseball, tennis, etc as evidence of that).

And hey, look at the bright side. Michigan still has a very good chance at becoming the first school in college football history to lose 4 Rose Bowls in 5 years. Ohio State came the closest losing 4 times in 6 years from 1971-1976 and Cal and Michigan both have had 3 straight losses before. History in the making...

P.S. anybody else see a little cosmic karma for finally scheduling a game against D1AA competition for the first time ever? Yeah, lots not do that again.



Blogger mzgoblue said...

Ecellent analysis as always. This was a bitter pill to swallow but it was cool for Appalachian State and college football in general. I just wish it did not come at Michigan's expense. Go Blue!

Sun Sep 02, 11:48:00 PM  
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