Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MSU game thoughts

Ed. I will likely try and put a column like this up Monday or Tuesday from now on. I just wasn't exactly sure what to say and, ya know, the blog just started a week ago.

I've had a tough time really putting into words my thoughts about the Michigan State game. Immediately after it, I railed against Rich Rod for his insistence on using two-WR sets for a lot of the game when MSU had clearly loaded up against our run game. Not torch and pitchfork, calling-for-his-head anger, but a befuddled and disappointed feeling. When you put kids in bad situations, they're almost always going to produce bad results. But coaches have bad games. This was a bad game for Rich Rod.

I don't worry or care so much about the difficulties we had on the ground. It's obvious to everyone that watches Michigan, just how much David Molk means to that offensive line. They couldn't move MSU's defenders and open gaps (though when they did, MSU was playing banjo coverage on everyone in the backfield and pretty easily shut the run game down) and were subpar on pass coverage, to be gentle. But time goes on. Sparty gets a nice win and something to put on their mantle. Michigan looks ahead to Iowa.

The feeling that's hit me recently, however, is one of fear--and it's a stupid, premature fear to have. If this was the first game of the season, Ann Arbor would still be smoldering. This was the first time this year that the offense really seemed to sputter out of control: dropped passes, poor line play, no run game, etc. There were shades of Michigan2008. Many people have commented on how good the defense played, and they did play well for the most part. But when do we start getting excited about 20 points in regulation as a good defensive performance (granted, three of those points were given to MSU on the nonfake punt)?

But I don't have a fear of becoming Michigan2008 this year. That obviously isn't going to happen. What does scare me is 7-5. Or 6-6. Or 5-7. It's a recalibration of expectations. At the beginning of the year, 7-5 seemed reasonable. Now it seems disappointing, almost. And the thought that we might miss a bowl game begins to linger once again. Michigan's offense, even against what appeared to be mediocre defenses (there are a lot of these in the Big Ten) seemed to be impressive. Now we know they can fault, and if they do, our defense can't really shut anyone down. This game put the fear of God back into me, I suppose. We can lose to Purdue and Illinois and Wisconisn and Iowa and Penn State and Ohio State. If you were to ask me after the first four games if we'd lose to Purdue, I'd tell you resoundingly, No. Now, it depends.

This is obviously reactionary, and overly so. It is, however, difficult when you crash back down to earth.

  • Forcier was great once again. These last minute drives are too much for my heart to handle. It's even hard to blame him for that interception in overtime. We always win coin tosses this year. We lost this one and paid for it.
  • No, Rodriguez should not have gone for two at the end. That's a play you make when you're a significant underdog. We weren't. There's a bit at Smart Football about it. I suggest you read it. As a caveat, there's been a lot of discussion about how the late touchdown PATs should have been handled. In short, Rich Rod should've gone for two after the touchdown that made it 12-20. Make it and we have a chance to win with the final touchdown. Miss it and we have a chance to tie it after the final touchdown. The averages bear out that this was about as good an option as playing for overtime. This is not something I necessarily expect Rodriguez to think of during the game. It would be nice if he did, though.
  • I don't know what to do with the defense except shrug. What makes it worse is that now, there's a blueprint for beating us: Keep our offense off the field by dink-and-dunking down the field with 5-yard passes we can't defend (which also take our front four out of the picture by negating time for the pass rush to get to the quarterback). I'm with Brian Cook at MGoBlog: "My prescription for this game is TAH-NOO-TAH; I will cringe at any three man rush. If you're worried about screens spy with a DT." For the record, MSU converted one of their 2nd and 20+ with a three-man rush that saw absolutely no pressure. (It should be noted, I'm with Brian on most things.)


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