Wednesday, November 04, 2009

GBMW: Doc4blu -- What Happened and What It Means -- Illinois


No amount of good prose, clever linguistics, or brilliant insights can hide the ugliness of last Saturday’s loss at Champaign. Of course before any reader get high hopes for prose, linguistics, or insights remember who the writer is, sorry!

What happened Saturday can be described by direct observation, but why it happened must be left to educated inference and experience, which is better than plain conjecture.

Every coach who has been around long enough has had a game where nightmares abounded, the breaks did not go the good guys way, and Murphy’s Law hit the team like a piano dropped from Bald Mountain. Saturday’s game was not such an occurrence; Michigan dug its own grave and quickly jumped in. The result of the game was not due to one fluke play of luck or physics. Neither was it due to one lapse of judgment by a young college player who destiny chose to be a scapegoat. No, Saturday’s result was a collection of many factors and conditions, some of which occurred even before the game.

In the movie “A Bridge Too Far” the Germans retreated helter-skelter to Arnhem and the Dutch asked what was happening? The answer was panic. Panic and a self-fulfilling sense of defeat were what the observers of Saturday’s game saw. What caused the condition that led to Michigan playing like an out of body experience? The answer is pressure. There is nothing more this team wanted and still wants than a trip to a bowl game. And so, when the prize was within reach and adversity (self-inflicted) reared its ugly head, the pressure increased. Just as Pascal, Boyle, and Charles postulated, the results of pressure are predictable.

It is a sign of well-prepared, experienced players and excellent coaching when pressure is handled and adversity is overcome. This is much easier said than done, especially at the college level. When the goal line stand was finished and Michigan was left in shock, the effect was that of the thought processes of the Michigan players (and perhaps even the coaches) being turned off like a light switch. And the power was never restored as the entire team played as in a fog whereby all were on some inefficient auto-power setting.

At this stage the game was entirely mental and no longer physical. Sharpness of decision evaporated, players, wanting to do well but looking like they could care less, simply went through robotic motions.

No, the writer will not pinpoint physical events like Brandon Graham chasing down the line to make a phantom tackle and leaving the flank open for a 25 yard gain, or discuss Mike Williams chasing into the backfield and not even remotely causing harm, or Tate’s trip to the grocery store carrying loaves of bread. Why so, because much of what was described above, and other fond memories, were a result of players going through the motions, which was caused by poor decision processes, which were caused by a sense of defeat, which was caused by pressure, which was directly linked to panic.

The writer has been on both sides of this fence, and readers need to know that the side Michigan assumed is the worst feeling imaginable. It is simply crushing. Is there justifiable blame? Maybe yes or maybe no, only those behind the scenes and privy to the events leading up to this mental massacre know for certain, and rest assured the general public will not immediately be made aware of the specifics.

So what can a head coach and staff do after such an event? Chew on and digest the failure quickly and flush it down the toilet post haste. Then the battle becomes both mental and physical for next week’s Purdue game. The most important part of the mental game is to build confidence. The coaches need to exude confidence this week and have it flow out of the pores so profusely that even the weakest cognitive link can quickly pick up on and buy into the mode of operation. The coaches must demonstrate poise and exude it to the degree that even the most panicked from last week’s disaster movie is calm and the thought processes are turned back on in technicolor. The players must show unity and support among themselves and for the coaches. The very thought of panic and the associated embarrassment must be eliminated; there can be no self-doubt.

The staff must be proactive and not reactive, there is simply no time to be reactive and build this team back up by gametime. That is not to say the guys should be babied, but neither should the situation be overanalyzed. The intuitive and knowledgeable five year old could explain what happened last week, maybe not why it happened.

And so on to the conclusion, what does this (the result of last Saturday’s game) mean? This takes little brilliance as well. The meaning is most likely that Michigan will have to play with calm, poise, preparation, and skill that has not been evidenced for several weeks. And now for the gorilla: this is almost certainly Michigan’s best chance to obtain that goal all of these guys want so much; to make a bowl game.

Can a team turn it around 180 degrees in one week? It is possible, but very difficult. The litmus test will be what happens next Saturday when Michigan faces adversity that turns up the pressure valve? The one thing that cannot happen is panic, or in the case of General Montgomery, parachuting 30,00 lightly armed troops directly into several panzer divisions. Now that is panic.

We at GBMW hoped you all enjoyed reading this somewhat unusual summary, even though as readers you despised the topic. Be assured that the points about pressure and panic are accurate. What caused the pressure and panic (called lack of poise)? That is a discussion for another day.

Thanks for stopping by Go Blue Michigan Wolverine
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Written by Doc4Blu


Anonymous said...

Great read doc despite the nature of the post. I can't help but feel a sense of impending doom every time michigan gives up a big play. It seems as if once they are on their backs, they can't get back up. I'm not sure how you would go about fixing this but I can't help but feel that the current staff does not build the players up, they only seem to teach with negative reinforcement. Mind you, this is only pure speculation, but this is the type of reaction that I've seen from people and teams that are taught in this manner. People can chastise Coach Carr all they want for being "soft," but I never felt like I saw a team of his quit like they did last saturday.

William (Bill) said...

Great analysis. The one parameter I did not see was any sense of leadership. When the drive was stopped on the goal line, the senior leaders should have become positive mentors and cheerleaders encouraging every player to perform at their best. If this team gives up that easily, particularly to a team that had one of the worst records in the Big Ten, what would they do in a game against Ohio State or a bowl game? The most glaring thing I saw was a total lack of leadership, in coaching and players alike. This team deserved a beating by their lack of intensity and urgency in that game. I hope the whole team learned something from that game. If they didn't, the season is lost.

Anonymous said...

"What caused the pressure and panic (called lack of poise)? That is a discussion for another day."

That would be Go Blue Michigan Wolverine's most interesting post.

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