November is an odd month. Some years it is the most miserable 30 days on the calendar. Others, you think it was June and summer was around the corner. This year seems to be a combination of the two, and Saturday provided us with one of the most beautiful November days I've seen in Ann Arbor since I first set foot on campus in 1994.
Unfortunately, the weather was the only thing I could compliment on Saturday.
Despite a 14 point halftime lead, Michigan allowed 21 unanswered points to Purdue en route to a heartbreaking 38-36 loss. Well, "heartbreaking" probably isn't the proper word. "Maddening" is. Despite throttling the Boilermakers in the first half, the Wolverines allowed poor play and decision making to cost them a game they should've won. There's little more to it than that.
We can go into great detail about the colossal pooch screwing that occurred when Michigan fumbled at its own 19 yard line. Or about the 91 yard drive immediately following Michigan's follow up score. Or the blown onsides kick. Or the inexcusable screw up that allowed a 54 yard touchdown on a play action pass.
(more after the jump)
I'm done with dissecting this stuff because it doesn't serve any purpose. The harsh reality that has been deposited at our doorstep these past five weeks is that this team is not very good. Specifically, this defense (with the notable exceptions of the Defensive linemen) is god-awful horrible. I will not mince words on this. After three defensive coordinators in three years, the same fundamental mistakes keep popping up. Tackling. Basic positioning. Coverage responsibilities in man-coverage (yes that's redundant, but that's the point). I'm tired of blaming coaches for the mistakes on the defensive side of the ball. We've done that twice already and nothing has changed. Our linebackers are just as bad in 2009 as the were in 2007. Sean Crable and Jonas Mouton are basically the same player, and make the exact same mistakes. We have no middle linebacker to speak of. Our safeties are perennially a target of 50+ yard completions and missed tackles.
At a certain point, the players must be held accountable for their performance on the field. And at a certain point, we as fans and supporters must realize that some their deficiencies may not be curable. Michigan's recruiting at two vital defensive positions (safety and linebacker) has been nothing sort of abysmal for the better part of five years. We have two converted safeties and a fullback as our starters. Or two walkons. We need to acknowledge that you're not going to play for a Big Ten title if that's what you're rolling out at the defense's most important position. Since Jamar Adams left, safety has been a barren wasteland. It's so bad that we're starting another walk on, and he's better than the four star recruits we thought we had.
The bottom line is this team will not improve until its defensive recruiting does. Michigan doesn't just need athletes, it needs smart ones. It needs players that can execute at game time. Players that tackle well in games as well as in practice. Other than the defensive line, those players are few and far between on our roster.
Now before you torch Rodriguez for not recruiting better players, please keep in mind that the 2007-2008 recruiting class was 90% Lloyd Carr's. Rodriguez came in with approximately 3 months to hold onto Carr's last class and add on top of it. And he did. We've had one full Rodriguez class hit campus, the 2009 class, and it's pretty good. If you look at our deficiencies, we're not going to have new kids ready to step in until at least next year. Our biggest defensive holes are holes that should have performing upperclassmen from Carr's tenure, but don't. With the exception of Kovacs, Warren, Woolfolk and Williams were all Carr recruits. Ezeh, Mouton, and Brown signed under Carr and English.
Honestly, I'm starting to think I owe Scott Shafer an apology.
We all got fooled by a 4-0 start. We were fooled by a close loss to Iowa and a blow out of a D1-AA team. But we've seen the real team the last few weeks. A team capable of putting up 36 points and just as capable of giving up 40. But that's what this team is. This is not a 8-3, 8-4 go to a crappy bowl game and be pissed that we lost a game we shouldn't have team. It's not even close. This is not, repeat not, a talented defensive team. And until that changes, Michigan's Saturday fortunes won't.
Still. Saturday could've been worse. A year ago I sat through a miserable downpour in 28 degree weather to watch Michigan lose to a Northwestern team they probably could've beaten. But Saturday wasn't like that.
Saturday was sunny.