Tuesday, November 24, 2009
GBMW: Doc4blu -- What Happened and What It Means -- Ohio State
Gone the game, game is gone, on and on, on and on, on and on, but the issue is the future, not the past, gone this season at last.
And what a short season it seemed to be, even with all of the uproar and second-half downfalls. The call around here was for between five and seven wins, with six being the number of choice. Would of, could of, ifs and buts, will abound until next season starts.
Make absolutely no mistake in rationalization; not going to a bowl game is a huge defeat for this program, one that the competition will point out with vigor and repetition. There will be more written of an epitaph nature in latter days, but first the final what happened and why report for the season.
The call was for a 25 point Buckeye win, but the final 11-point spread was close to the gambler’s 12-point spread. Michigan covered and it is a guarantee that many Ohio residents lost some income yesterday; most of the street talk in Cowtown put the margin at a 21-point game. Tressel stepped to the plate and took the air out of the ball and the game to insure a Buckeye victory. A play here and there and an outmatched Michigan team could have seriously competed for the win.
Once again, this game did not need a Houdini crystal ball too view the game predictability. As mentioned late last week there were things UM could and could not do. UM indeed had some but limited success running the ball against a very good Buckeye front seven. Also, Michigan had to pass the ball more, and as predicted the quick slants and other speed-passing plays worked the best. The Buckeyes did indeed, as mentioned, run seal blocks to spring runners inside and jammed up the defenders to run outside plays. Michigan helped by slanting Mike Martin to a side whereby the nut offense could get him going past the play and seal him and the linebacker off. Again Michigan crashed the entire side down the line allowing the nuts to collect the defense in the middle and break the play outside, with the aid of some good tight end blocking. The use of the tight ends for UM was begged, they seem open enough, often enough. Webb dropped the ball (again) and that was that.
One coach, Tressel, chose to not let a young quarterback keep Michigan in the game via turnovers. Very few deep attempts were attempted and most of the passing game was a simple pocket roll and choose variety. After the Pryor interception, Ohio State simply put the game on the back of the offensive line and wore out the Wolverine defense, with some help as mentioned above. The other coach, RR, let his quarterback run and pass with abandon (or at least the quarterback did so). The results were five turnovers by one player. Someone grab the series stats and find out if that has ever happened in this game.
There will be no attempt to dog Tate, he loves to play and will compete fearlessly (but sometimes not wisely).
Ohio State knows Michigan’s offensive sets and tendencies better than the Michigan staff does. The Buckeye defense did nothing at all unusual, but had the advantage of being in the Michigan huddle, via the very predictable tendencies Michigan shows. Have you ever wondered why Michigan runs the outside sprint play with a runner going laterally time after time, for occasional games, but more often than not, no gain or a loss of one? Have you ever wondered why Michigan’s receivers are frequently well covered? Have you ever wondered about the announcers saying week after week that when Denard Robinson enters there is an 80% chance of him running up the middle? The percentage is more like 90% the last few weeks, and a few nut linebackers and linemen were waiting.
And now for the coup d’etat on planning and structural organization, the screen pass in the redzone was used at the perfect time to settle the game. Michigan had stopped a couple of plays, but Tressel knew Coach Robinson would bring the fort, and he did. The linemen let the entire Michigan front and blitzers past the line of scrimmage, the entire right side of the line slipped out, and Pryor lobbed the ball just over the rushing defense for an easy touchdown, just like you see in recess games across the nation daily.
The players played very hard and nothing derogatory should fly their way. Coaches Rodriguez and Robinson coached with fire, showed a great will to win, and the decisions they made must be judged with some reservation, since likely both thought the calls they made were necessary to give the team any chance to win. Ohio State’s game was simple yesterday: “our team”, as long as there is a lead of one touchdown or more, will do nothing to beat ourselves and we believe our defense can handle anything you bring forward; we are prepared. Tressel could care less if the win was by 1 point. If the game had been in Columbus, perhaps Tressel would go for the throat big time to placate the masses, as in the Roman Coliseum.
There is the summary, but most readers are probably more interested in the future, that is, what effects, upshots, or consequences could yesterdays game and indeed the season bring forth in the coming months?
Ballyhooed for days now is the status of Coach Rodriguez. Mary Sue Coleman is a university president of very high stature and some participants in these types of upper circles place her at the top of academia administrators. She will not bend in to emotional outcries or mob mentality. She is highly believable, unlike some AD’s and presidents who profusely support you on Monday and fire you the next Monday. Michigan has always been slow on the trigger mechanism regarding firing.
The wild card in all of this is the NCAA investigation and the forthcoming results. IT WOULD INDEED BE INTELLIGENT FOR A UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT, WHO HAS EMPLOYED A COACH WHO SUED HIS OLD SCHOOL, AND VICA VERSA, TO NOT GIVE ANY AMMO TO A COACH WHO MIGHT BE FIRED FOR MAJOR VIOLATIONS. Strangely on the surface no one seems to show much worry. That is on the surface and the surface is the last spot a pot boils, the boiling (vaporization) starts at the core of the heat (the bottom of the pot).
One common scenario when things do not go well at a big program is to fire the assistants to save the big cheese. This could happen and will likely be between Martin and Rodriguez. Since Martin is a lame duck, it could be inferred that Rodriguez will make the call. Coach Rod sides with loyalty, a noble but two-edged sword.
The writer will step forward and make the call as seen from only one point of view, not the entire GBMW staff, that some replacements need to be made. For two years, the quarterback play regressed through the year. With a young quarterback, the end of the freshman year is essentially sophomore status, especially when he has play significant minutes in every game. No improvement in game management or ball security has been demonstrated. Tate came in with great mechanics, but the biggest task of quarterback coaches (including quasi-quarterback coach Rod) is to teach a better understanding of the game and eliminate mistakes. Coaches should never put a quarterback in a situation where he beats you time after time. There is no way on the green earth that a freshman quarterback should not have two hands on the ball at all times, especially in the opponent’s endzone. Tate is small and likely does not have big hands; he has dropped the ball on his own all year carrying it in a reckless manner. The blame for this goes to the coaching staff, not the player. If the staff mandates what to do and the player does what he wants against the mandate, then pull the player.
Regarding time and game management problems, that shortcoming always falls upon the head coach. In the past, Coach Rod had big leads and did not need perfect time management skills. Things have changed and the staff must be more proficient in this critical skill.
The passing game must be better and the writer has long believed it lacks sophistication. The notion that a spread offense is first and foremost for running is dangerous. This automatically turns a team one-dimensional and reduces the possibility of quick comebacks. There had better be a talent difference for this offense to run over teams, and as now there is not. Teams are catching up to the curve regarding the basic plays of the spread. Oregon can kill a team with the passing attack, a quarterback running the ball, or a big back that runs through the tackles of a minimum front brought about by the success of the spread passing game. Those are the types of spread offenses that, given talent, will win.
The receivers have blocked better this year, but the bar to improve from last year was so minimal as to be laughable. Weekly, announcers continue to point out that once Tate starts running around the receivers become clueless. There is no excuse for what the announcers correctly point out. Every team has comeback drills where people yell out common terms like fire or stay, or go and the receivers job is to find a spot to go to and be open, or peal back and block on the fire call.
On defense, it is much more difficult to put forth any meaningful commentary. The talent is thin and Coach Rob has used smoke and mirrors. Once other teams saw the smoke, calls were made that yielded big plays. For certain, there is still a lot of confusion on defense (and the same goes for the receivers). Another certainty, UM had better get some real linebackers that can play right away and not continue to pump in recycled safeties into the hybrid program. It is so hard to judge any coaching competency with the current talent in the defensive backfield. Yet, on the weekend there were examples of many teams with equal or even less talent that held the fort in the secondary.
Perhaps the key to everything mentioned above is Coach Rodriguez’s ability to flex and be adaptable in the face of obvious needs. If he sings the same old song “I did it my way” next year may be the final chorus.
Thinking of this team without Brown and Graham and Minor (when he could play) is a bit scary. But people graduate every year and someone needs to step up. Marvin Robinson may fill Brown’s spot, no one on the current team can fill Graham’s shoes, Graham deserves All-America status. The running game should have sufficient talent to be moderately successful. UM needs a big back that can get the tough yardage. Cox and Hopkins are the only maxbackers on the table. Some accounts have Hopkins at 235, if this is so; this is about the max for a 6-foot back.
Day is done, gone the sun, gone the fun, and so on. Another long time period awaits Michigan fans before more fun. The real question is how much more time will go by before really fun days return?
As always a big thank you to the readership.
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Written by Doc4blu