Sunday, September 22, 2013

Houdini Hoke

John T. Greilick / The Detroit News

We were fooled by our love for this program.   We listened to the hype because we really wanted it to be true.  This off season I was all in on Devin Gardner, I hadn't been this excited about a QB that could run and pass since Drew Henson got his shot at Michigan. 

We also saw glimpses in the Central Michigan game and then a very good effort against an ND team that was undefeated and in the BCS National Championship last year.   There were signs of greatness and there were some troubling signs for the Wolverines as well.   For Devin, we wrote off the bad plays as simply bad decisions or things that could be fixed quick as he got more experience.   It was an illusion or the perfect magic trick.  The reason a Houdini, Chris Angel or David Blaine are successful, is because we want to believe their magic is real.  That they can levitate or have the ability to cut a lady in half.   We bought the camp buzz and the hype around this team because we wanted to believe it was true.  After ND, we thought Michigan would storm through the Big Ten with the likes of Gardner, Fitz, Gallon, Lewan and a pretty solid defense without their leader Jake Ryan.  We then go from the high of the ND win to the past two weeks, were we have made two of the worst teams in division 1A look like Oklahoma.  

Like the great Houdini, Michigan escaped another performance last night outside of Hartford.   Rentschler Field provided a great stage as celebrities like Derek Jeter and Ray Allen looked on.  The venue was sold out and the patrons were all on the edge of their seat, wondering if the "Great Wolverine" would get out alive.   Michigan won the game as they scored 17 un-answered points in the second half and UConn's 4th and 30 yards attempt fell 3 yards short.   The fans gasped as 108 inches were the difference in Michigan being 4-0 or 3-1.   That is razor thin and wonderful theater!  The Great Houdini Hoke lives again!  Please tip your waitress and visit the casino on the way out.  Have a safe ride home!

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 continued to call the same plays over and over. 

The issues are many but here are a couple of thoughts on what is going on:
  • He is clearly not stepping into throws and trying to aim the ball.
  • Devin is targeting Gallon way too often.  Dileo was in man cover all night and many times Jake Butt seemed open as well.
  • He knows his back up is scrambling/running.  That is a good and bad thing, sometimes you need to be able to run other times you have to throw it.
  • He is not throwing the ball away and it's causing big losses
  • His decision making and how quickly he is making those decisions right now has to be improved moving forward.
  • Devin is averaging a 7 point mistake for the opponent each week
I liked how Big Al started the game getting Devin some easy throws and then when he needed to do it again, it looked like Big Al didn't ever want to call a pass play again.   So this is a joint responsibility and I think Big Al needs to take some of the blame.  There were some complete head scratchers calls.  That QB sneak couldn't have gone any worse. 

The offensive line is a complete head scratcher to me.  Fitz finally got over 100 yards but probably gained nearly 150 with all the lost yardage he had with the UConn defense in the backfield all night.   Do we ever run between the tackles anymore? 

Special Teams didn't help the cause last night either and looked like a unit that is currently being under coached.   How many mistakes were there on specials teams last night?   Here are a few that come to mind:
  • Ball hitting a Michigan player on the 10 yard line that sets up a UConn TD
  • Kick off that goes out of bounds
  • A great return is erased by a personal foul penalty for blocking a player behind the play.
All 3 could be game changing mistakes and they all most were.   On the upside, the punting game did look consistent last night. 

Thank you Defense!  The bright spot of the night.  They completely shut down the UConn offense in the second half after Michigan's offense gave them a quick TD.  Desmond Morgan's interception was "Woodson like" and completely changed the game and momentum.   Frank and Mario finally got their pass rush going late and those sacks saved the game.   You could clearly see improvements from last week and how GMat coached them up.  Avery looked a bit rusty but that was his first game of the season.  The Count struggled in his first game back as well against Central and has played well  ever since.

So where are we as a program right now?  One searching for answers and luckily they have two weeks to figure it out.   This is the perfect opportunity to get back to work on the things that is killing this offense right now.   It might also be a good time to give the kids a few days off.   These guys looked a bit "shell shocked" and what they might need is a weekend off to re-focus on their fundamentals and seasons goals.

As Michigan's enters into their bye week and the Big Ten Season, they find themselves feeling like they are 2-2 but their actually 4-0.   There is something to be said about finding a way to win.    There is also something to be said about getting better week to week and right now Michigan is heading in the other direction.   Let's hope they spend the next two weeks fixing those issues.

So is the illusion that this team knows how to win?  Or is illusion this team is not that good and they have played some pretty lousy teams?   You will have to buy a ticket in two weeks and see for yourself. 

See you there!  - Houdini Hoke


Voice of Reason said...

Michigan will only be as good as they are strong up the middle, you know basic stuff but still true. Devin's total number of game starts would still place him within being a first year QB, therefore, he is still learning the position and we see it on the field. The same thing when you look at Michigan's interior line, this is their first year and therefore, they are still learning while making errors that places their QB in jeapardy.

Michigan is still young in a number of places. That would include the head coach; this is his first time driving a big rig when he's been used to driving compact cars [BSU & SDSU], and then only for a short while (and to some this may be a non-issue). However, some of his decisions as a head coach are still rookie coaching mistakes IMO. Overall, this team isn't horrible, just young.

Bob said...

great points VOR!

Scott K said...

All that being said, if we can't take care of business vs Akron and UConn, it's going to be a painful Big Ten season.

All the talk was Devon isn't Denard, he's a pro style QB. The problem is, Devon looks a lot like Denard, most effective when he runs, not scrambles, but runs.

Only one real mistake on the big stage against ND UTL... then a host of poor decisions against two teams that should have been no more challenge than an inter-squad scrimmage. (what I mean by that is Akron and Uconn would LOVE to be starting our second string players at every position.

Two weeks to get back to some level of quality play.... lets hope so.

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