What's Being Said: The UConn Fallout

Once again, M bloggers have taken to the streets. Brace for impact.

Maize & Go Blue:
The win keeps Michigan unbeaten on the season, but concerns abound after a second straight scare at the hands of one of the worst teams in FBS. The defense, however, isn’t one of those questions. UConn gained just 206 total yards, gained just 12 first downs, averaged 1.9 yards per rush, and converted just 1-of-11 third downs. In reality, only seven points can be pinned on the defense since the second touchdown started on Michigan’s 9-yard line and the third was a UConn defensive score.

“We’ve got to prove that we can move people off the line of scrimmage.”  That was Hoke in the pregame field interview on ABC. Then on consecutive third and short calls early in the game U-M didn’t even consider handing it to a back and plowing over 77—Gardner kept the ball and wiggled around the end.  Same on the first drive of the second half that yielded the butt fumble. Then once more on 4th and short early in the 4th when Gardner was cut down and fumbled again. 

In each case they didn’t even try to do the Michigan #Manball thing, namely, the old everyone-knows-it-is-coming-but-you-can’t-do-a-damn-thing-about-it running back smash. If you were unsure before Saturday night, understand right now that the coaches know they have a crisis up front.

The Wolverines were sloppy regarding penalties, turnovers, and pass protection, both last week and this week. Their offensive execution was not consistently sharp, both weeks, but especially in the first half this week’s game. The second quarter was a nightmare. It seemed they had an extended Notre Dame game hangover. Finally, they did just enough to win.

Redemption was a prime Wolverine goal Saturday night, to prove they could play so-called “Wolverine” football, and that were ready for the grueling Big Ten season. Perhaps the defense is ready, or can soon be ready, but obviously the offense is not. This game was hardly reassuring on that count, and relieved few concerns.

I haven't said this often, at least not in the Brady Hoke era, but the Huskies' coaching staff did a better job than the Wolverines'. I don't even know where to begin. Did defensive coordinator Greg Mattison really expect defensive end/defensive tackle Chris Wormley (1 tackle, .5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 1 pass breakup) to cover running back Lyle McCombs on a wheel route? Touchdown. Michigan brings in two extra offensive linemen for a quarterback sneak, and instead of putting All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan on the interior to blow a Husky off the ball, they put redshirt freshman backup Erik Magnuson? Fumble, touchdown for UConn.

You can choose to see a game where Michigan struggled with a team that lost to I-AA Towson and scrapped out a victory is disheartening fashion. That's fair, the narrative pieces are there.  I choose to see a young team that fought back to score 17 unanswered points to win a game, on the road, in what was considered to be the biggest game in the stadium's history. Michigan is ALWAYS going to get an opponent's best shot, because if you beat Michigan, your name gets etched in history, next to the Appalachian States, next to the Toledos. It's the burden of being Goliath, and it's the unspoken flip side of what This is Michigan entails.

So sure, it's 4-0 that doesn't feel well deserved, but did 2-2 after four games last year feel like what Michigan's team really was either? You have two weeks to correct the mistakes, to work on the fundamentals, to get back to what made people think you were worthy of the preseason praise.  It's much easier to "forgive" a bad win than a frustrating loss. The math says you may run out of rabbits to pull out of your hat, but if you start to play better, you can move on to other illusions.

I was convinced that this Michigan team was capable of running the table and giving Ohio State a run for its money following the Notre Dame game. The Akron game called all of that into question, and this last game solidified all of the doubts in my mind. Michigan simply isn't good enough to contend with Ohio State this year, and they might not even be good enough to win their division. Gardner's poor decisions aren't about to disappear, the running game is weak and will stay weak, and the defense's inability to get to the passer will keep it from holding Michigan in a game or two come Big Ten play. The roster just isn't there yet.

Right now this team is an illusion of a good team.  They aren't having "let downs or over looking opponents" they have some very serious issues. A lot of it rides on the shoulders of Devin Gardner and some of it lies on Brady Hoke and Big Al. Devin is completely out of confidence in the passing game.   His mechanics looked terrible last night and after that tipped ball was picked off in the first quarter, I knew he was going to struggle to throw all night.  So did everyone else, as UConn continued to load the box against the run and Big Al continue to call the same plays over and over.

Related from MBN:

  • 5 Takes From UConn
  • UConn Post-Game Presser [Video]
  • 1 comment

    1. Michigan will be okay, Devin needs to cut on the turnovers, channel his inner A.J. McCarron and manage the game. Our offensive line is young and needs to improve. Our defense is playing better and improving each week. The bye week will help the whole team.