We, at the height, are ready to decline. There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.
This is a quote from Act Four of Julius Caesar. It talks about the importance of timing to find success. When ships leave the harbor, they do so on a full, or flood, tide. But during an ebb tide, any number of problems could happen to a ship on a new journey. Michigan, for decades, was a cornerstone of consistency. More often than not, it found the right person, and the right time, to hand off the baton. Now, the Wolverines have to move on from a metaphorical fumble. How does the program get pointed back in the right direction? How does one react after a loss? It does it with focus, and a steady thirst, and desire and ambition. It does it with pride. And Michigan has lost many of those things.
The worst takeaway from yesterday's loss was the lack of energy on the field. After a dispiriting loss to one of our rivals, Brady Hoke talked about getting his players back in the Big House, to feed on that energy, but this was a colossal error in judgment or vision. The players get their energy from Our House, but they feed it, too. They support what supports them. The fans come for the players, for a chance to touch a part of a storied legacy, but Michigan is slowly losing everything that it has steadily, painstakingly built for far more than a century. Michigan has beaten the Buckeyes once in the last ten years. They've ceded ground in Michigan to the Spartans. They gave the Irish their more lopsided victory in the rivalry's history.
And yesterday was not an exhibition in pride. It did not erase the question marks that a game just one week ago in the very same House - Our House - asked. Yesterday was lifeless - the exact opposite of what Michigan is supposed to be.
Hitting the Links Prepares for Minnesota
In case you forgot, here's the bad and the ugly. ....This better not be a theme.
A good summary and post-game analysis.
This focuses less on the situation with Hoke and more on just the game, but another good game summary.
Great coaches make bad scenarios and flawed teams look good. They pull wins out of thin air. Bad coaches do the opposite of that. It's becoming baldly obvious that Hoke is not a good coach.
With that said, Hoke said some good things in his postgame. He talked about being competitive (himself, not the team), and trying to impress upon the team what turnovers can do. I even like his desire to protect the student athletes from criticism, and taking them himself. That was all fine.
A lot of fans did just that. I've talked about pressure a lot, and it's now time for the brunt of an entire fan base's pressure to be felt by those at the very top. This is not acceptable at Michigan, and it will be changed if the fans are going to continue to support anything that has David Hoke Brandon's (yes, that is his middle name) fingerprints on it.
Brady Hoke is trending even further down, and he's accompanied by the offensive line and the starting quarterback.
The Wolverines defense has now held all four teams to below 300 yards, while the reigning champions Florida State has allowed well over 300 in all three of its games. This is a rough comparison, but this ultimately points to the extreme power of turnovers to deciding games. Michigan has looked "in neutral," or worse, because of now 12 turnovers in four games. Some have questioned whether Michigan even has the athletes to compete with teams like Utah, and that's something I haven't lost faith in. But turnovers destroy teams. Offenses can't get in a rhythm, defenses can't catch their breath.
Somewhere deep on the Internets, I believe I'm on record as calling DG one of the fifteen best quarterbacks in the country. But I think Shane should start. I think it would be important to send a message that nobody on the team is safe if they turn the ball over - and this team deeply, seriously, extremely needs that message, loud and clear. At every level of football, athleticism is both invaluable, and a bit overrated. Especially in the NFL, durability and smarts, not athleticism, rule the day. If Morris is a game manager, and protects the ball, he would give the running game some time to work and wear down opposing teams.
The three running backs that took carries produced 83 yards on 21 carries - almost 4.0 yards a pop, with 0 turnovers, which is actually better than what Gardner and Morris produced through the air and on the ground. Between 39 throws and 14 carries, DG and Morris had 4.3 yards a play and 4 turnovers. Nussmeier needs to explore what these running backs can do and in turn get his quarterback to benefit from eight in the box and safeties keying on the run. Any physical run game would bear more fruit in the fourth quarter, but once again Michigan was stuck throwing to catch up. Nineteen of the twenty plays that Michigan ran in the fourth were either a pass, quarterback run, or sack. Justice Hayes had one carry for 3 yards. In a way, the answer to DG vs. Shane should be - the running backs.
This is getting into what I think the real failure of this team has been: its recipe. In general, teams try to find a recipe that makes them hard to stop. The Lions drafted yet another tight end, but there was a method to their madness - as they started pulling out three-tight end looks that were hard to defend against the New York Giants. Ameer Abdullah's running, combined with Tommy Armstrong's running, is hard to defend. Hernandez and Gronkowski were almost impossible to defend.
My point is that, with this Michigan defense, some good and steady running, and leaning on the quarterback position less overall, things start to open up for whoever the quarterback is. Nussmeier is trying underneath stuff to protect his line and his quarterback, and it's ultimately falling apart. Ideally, Michigan would have a very soft hand and adept coach who could navigate a two-quarterback situation with grace. Both quarterbacks have a chance to challenge the other. But somehow, the coaches have pulled the lowest common denominator out of two talented players. Gardner has played terribly next to his ceiling, and Shane has looked no better. And yet, we're still wondering about this quartet of running backs, all of whom still have season averages of better than five yards a carry. Give the ball to Shane, let him hand off to our backs, and play Devin too for long stretches - but fix this recipe. The quarterbacks consumed 53 plays, and the running backs 21. It's insane.
Those who stayed. pic.twitter.com/eEHK3xYFPI— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) September 21, 2014
There's something about football in rain, or snow. It feels right.