Done moping? Me too. After a game that saw Denard's stellar streak of not turning the ball over crash down with the kind of destruction usually reserved for building demolition, we can still focus on some positives. Hey - we're still 5-1! And we've got a chance at national redemption next week when we face #15 Iowa on the road [Ed- Clarification: Iowa is a home game, see comments]. Believe it or not, there are some positives to take away from last week's game against the Spartans which point to a (hopefully) better game against the Hawkeyes.
Denards turnover rate exploded against Michigan State as he threw 3 interceptions, 2 on the goal line. Michigan, to that point, had been ranked #1 in Red Zone efficiency, and Denard had thrown exactly 1 interception on the year. To quote from my prediction for MSU:
The MSU defense will be the best that Denard has faced, and my guess is that his thus-far stellar turnover rate takes a hit.
Right - by that I meant like one fumble, or one INT. The three that Denard threw, while certainly representing the return to earth that I predicted, are probably not a good indicator of things to come. One would reasonably expect Denard's future games to return more towards the statistical average, and less towards the soul-crushing. As Denard likely returns to form over the course of the season (oh please oh please oh please), Michigan should also return more towards the statistical mean in Red Zone efficiency, which means...more points!
Before Sparty fans start rolling into the comments section complaining, let me get this out of the way: Michigan's mistakes are nothing if the Spartans didn't have the talent and wherewithal to capitalize on them. As stated before, to suggest that Michigan State didn't have anything to do with the loss on Saturday is ignorance. However, to suggest that Michigan didn't have some now very common "Wolverines NOOOOOO!" moments (read: unforced errors) is equally ignorant. Michigan left 17 points on the board against Michigan State, which if added to the Wolverines final tally...ties the game. I know there's that cliche about if's and but's, but if (whoa - both at once!) Michigan were able to capitalize on situations where statistically they excel (minus kicking), this game is a lot different.
The defense is what it is at this point. If you're aware in any sense of real-life football outside of video games, you'll know that personnel trump scheme every single time. If you're still debating the 3-3-5 vs. the 4-3 vs. the 4-2-5, just stop. If you're calling for Greg Robinson's job, just stop. The defense, as has been stated over and over (and over!), is bad. There is nothing that coaching or scheming can do from stopping true freshman from being on the field at key positions. There is nothing that coaching or scheming can do to prevent our linebackers from actively jumping out of gaps. At a certain point, it becomes incumbent on the player to do the right thing within the scheme.
HOWEVA the defense, I thought, did enough against Michigan State to give the offense the opportunity to win the game. Michigan in 2010 is always every single time going to go as the offense goes, and this past week the offense went ka-put.
Denard Robinson has become the vocal leader of this team. Per Sam Webb, Robinson stood up in the locker room after the loss and told his teammates that the loss was on him, and that he would work to make sure that it never happens again. I'm not sure the loss is completely on Denard, but to take that kind of responsibility as a sophomore is impressive. There is no doubt in my mind that Michigan is going to have a solid week of practice and preparation for Iowa. Denard won't let them stay down for long.
Seriously I was more mad at Rodriguez for punting with 7 minutes left than I was an nearly anything else, but he said it was a mistake. I believe him.
All that being said, it comes down to execution. Michigan State did; Michigan didn't. Had Michigan executed the way that they have all season, I would expect the game to be much different - not necessarily a win - but different. The results to date suggest that Michigan executed far worse than they usually do. As we're all staring down the possibility that this year will be no different than last year, it is important to keep that in mind. This Michigan team is not dead in the water; we're still in the top 5 in total offense, and we still have (statistically) the most explosive player in college football. I won't pretend that Michigan is a lock against Iowa, and I actually feel a little dirty even typing the word "lock." But I will say that the Michigan State game doesn't necessarily sound the death knell for Michigan Football 2010. You've got to look pretty hard, but there are some positives to take from that game which will hopefully serve us well going forward.