Thoughts on Michigan State: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes Sometimes

(ed: the opinions at the end of this piece are not meant to detract from MSU's performance.  They won, and due credit should be given.  2nd edit clarifies these statements)

First off, I'd like to direct you to Beauford's post directly under this, for some feelings  about the game that Michigan just lost, and Dave's old piece on the matter about respect.  I'm going to attempt to make a few brief X's and O's and points about the game without using Caps Lock excessively.  Spoiler alert: I don't want GERG fired just yet, but I know I'm in the minority.  Though I understand where everyone's coming from, especially with the UMass gashing not far behind us either, the problem isn't necessarily playcalling.  Maybe it is, but when your starting safety can't actually tackle, then the best defensive coordinator in the world would have a hard time stopping anyone.  More after the jump, but I want to make my main point right here:

The defense played like it has for the past five games.  The offense just didn't pick up the gigantic pile of slack left by the defense, forcing Denard into being less than stellar with his decisionmaking.

Let's stay on defense for a bit.  In one of the only two positives I saw today, Jordan Kovacs tackled well.  It seemed like he was the only defender making solo tackles with any regularity.  The other positive - I didn't think GERG was outschemed by Don Treadwell or even made poor coaching decisions in general.

In theory.

I appreciate him being aggressive with his playcalling today.  I liked seeing more than three men rush, and I liked seeing Roh somewhat return to form.  He had flashes.  The issue with being aggressive with blitzing is that you have to have some semblance of tackling.  Sure, I'm not saying every tackle has to be made, but when a M defender squared up with an opposing player and able to deliver a hit, that tackle has to be made.  I saw Cam Gordon swing and miss at least three times in crucial situations.  The one guy on the team that has to tackle is your safety.   Another problem was, and this was illustrated by a fellow blogger, Michigan couldn't defend the same play they live and die with - the bubble pass.  This is somewhat on GERG, but he's not a miracle worker.  It all goes back to tackling.

Man, I went negative real fast there.  Gotta stay with it.  I'm now going to echo the thought that was posted in open thread.  Punting with four minutes left effectively tells your team you're forfeitting.  Rich Rodriguez told his vaunted offense, the only thing keeping him in a job right now, that he didn't trust them to get the fourth down converted.  It was a gamble, sure, to go for it.  But that kind of statement to a team is a very public vote of no confidence.  That late in a game against a rival, you go down swinging, not kicking.

Offensively today, State did a good job of wrapping Denard up.  He didn't have a bad day running, he just didn't have a big play.  He ran pretty well for a mortal.  But he cost us the game with the three picks.  I'm not blaming him as much as I'm saying that he has to be pretty close to perfect because of the defense, which really lost us the game.  Michigan is just crippled offensively when Denard isn't playing well.  They just didn't have anything going.  Also, the long drives ending in turnovers were maddening.  Those plays need to be made.  Otherwise, you lose the game.  And M did.  State didn't really even play all that well today.  The worst tackling I've ever seen made their RBs look a whole lot better.

Big picture though - Michigan had a pretty bad day offensively.  Denard won't throw three INTs again this season.  Take that to the bank.  He might not win the Heisman, but he'll challenge for it the rest of the year and provide Michigan with the spark it needs at the right time.  I'm not the kind of guy to make win predictions, but Michigan's going to have a good season this year.  To reiterate: State caught Michigan having a bad day.  They didn't force it.  Denard made mistakes that were costly, but those are on him, not on MSU's defense.  And that to me is comforting in a macbre sort of way, because it means that Denard can still beat anybody.  Count on it this year.

It would have been nice to beat Sparty though, eh?  I hate losing to Michigan State just as much as everyone does.  But remember that they're fighting for a heck of a lot more than Michigan is.  Not many schools can go 8-16 in two years and still carry the kind of respect Michigan has.  Certainly not MSU.  We're coming out of a brief hibernation, but sometimes the sun gets in your eyes when you're just waking up, and it doesn't feel too good.  That was today.  Tomorrow we prepare for Iowa, a game that is certainly winnable.  Six days until the next game.

Chin up, M fans.  Better days are ahead.  Shake it off, because, let's face it, we're Michigan and they, be they MSU or anyone else, aren't.  No one else can say that.  We still have the most electric player in the nation who will carry us to better days.  Michigan hasn't won a men's basketball or football game against State in far too long, but they're still regarded as number two in this state.  Maybe it's not the greatest day in the world to be a Michigan Wolverine, but, heck, it's still great to be a Michigan Wolverine.  So be haughty.  Be aloof.  Be everything Michigan is criticized for, because except in a few brief instances, we back it up.  Be a Wolverine, because it'll get you to next Saturday when we start winning again.

Until tomorrow, cheers.  And a rather hearty thanks to the parachute team today for a pretty cool performance.

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