WHAT WE LEARNED: ABOUT MICHIGAN
Michigan reversed an important trend from the last 6 years. From 2009 to 2014, Michigan went 28-7 in games played BEFORE MSU, and 13-18 in games played AFTER the MSU game. Basically, they went on a 6 year stretch where they switched from DIRECTV to cable after playing MSU every year. There could be many reasons for this. Some reasons include Dantonio posting the blueprint for how to beat Michigan, mobile QBs getting battered and bruised, and just bad coaching in general. But one thing that this long term trend certainly shows: MSU was breaking Michigan's spirits, and Michigan was letting the losses affect them later on in the season.
Yesterday was one game, but Michigan showed that they are a new team with a new attitude. Michigan had every chance to quit and let the game become a blowout when Rudock went down, but they hung around, in a spot that the RichRod and Hoke Wolverines would have folded like a house of cards. They hung around just long enough to win. And while luck could be attributed to the way they won, the win was earned with hard work.
This is a new Michigan team, and they have taken on the no-quit personality of their head coach.
Harbaugh says he hoped his team learned to never give up.— Max Cohen (@MaxACohen) November 1, 2015
Let's talk about Michigan's QB situation. So Wilton Speight came in and got the game winning drive, after Rudock struggled and got a couple turnovers. Now Michigan has a controversy, right?!? Well...as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. Wilton Speight *DID* go 3-3 on the game winning drive, and threw a pretty sweet touchdown pass to Jehu Chesson. But this was due largely to masterful play-calling by Michigan.
A great TE is a young QB's best friend.— LG (@LGhail) November 1, 2015
After Speight looked like a deer in the headlights his first few drives, Michigan made some great adjustments. First, they simplified the offense for him and got his confidence up by giving him a couple easy throws to tight ends, first Butt, and then Hill. These completions help Speight's confidence tremendously, and got Minnesota to stop thinking about Michigan's deeper targets. When Michigan went for the touchdown pass, Minnesota's pass defense was a few steps behind, and that was all Wilton needed to hit his target, Jehu Chesson, for the go-ahead touchdown.
What Wilton Speight saw on his game-winning TD throw. Great protection from the offensive line. Two open options: pic.twitter.com/vxBQlcnwuR— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) November 1, 2015
However, this was a unique package designed to get Wilton Speight the game winning touchdown on a short field. This was in a game that Minnesota didn't gameplan for Speight, and probably didn't spend much time scouting him. This is not sustainable for the rest of the season. Rudock, despite his many issues, is the guy. He gives Michigan the best chance to win. While he sometimes takes too long to get the ball out, Speight held the ball forever before releasing several times. That just can't happen.
Michigan's defense took a step back, but that doesn't have to be permanent. Minnesota had a good gameplan to attack the Michigan defense. They attacked the intermediate middle/deep middle on the pass, particularly picking on Desmond Morgan and Dymonte Thomas. Michigan's pass defense surrendered too many of these passes over the middle. Also, the run defense did not look like it did the first half of the season. They surrendered 4.1 yards per carry, way over the season average, which is now 2.4. The concern is that these struggles are now on film for future teams to see. However it is nice to have a coordinator like DJ Durkin who can patch these things up. Should we panic? Maybe, but probably not.
Minnesota was coming off a bye and they had extra time to prepare for Michigan's defense. Minnesota has shown the propensity to play well in big games with time to prepare, as evidenced by their close 23-17 loss to TCU in their season opener. As Desmond helps point out, MInnesota had an extra gear that humans normally cannot achieve, playing under heavy emotion in response to the Jerry Kill situation.
Great effort tonight by a very inspired Minnesota team. Wishing the best for Jerry Kill. Good road win for @umichfootball.— Desmond Howard (@DesmondHoward) November 1, 2015
However, Michigan still needs to patch these leaks. One could say they already started to do so. The 4th quarter was chock-full of offensive 3 and outs for Michigan, and the defense just kept getting stops to keep Michigan in the game. And the goal-line stand was a great play to lift the spirits of Michigan's defense, heading into the 4 November games on tap. A home game against Rutgers is just what the doctor ordered, for the defense to regain their swagger.
MSU and OSU bloggers and writers have no quit in them when it comes to Michigan. A mini-controversy surfaced on the internet a day after the game, as this image of the final play was fed from bloggers to the MSU and OSU fans.
While we're talking officiating, is this not offsides? pic.twitter.com/ADVpvyc2lM— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) November 1, 2015
A cleaner look at Michigan's neutral zone issue on last night's final play. How does the head linesman miss this? pic.twitter.com/OhoT7wgnoy— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 1, 2015
Pictures can be deceiving. They do not tell the whole story. For instance, look where ESPN's black line is (true line of scrimmage), and look where the center has the ball (well past it). It is common for the center to move the ball up a bit in order to give himself a cleaner snap of the ball. It happens just about every single football play.
Some people might say "oh, well the black line could be inaccurate". Okay that's great and all, but the line judge is directly centered over it in his stance. It's legit. Doesn't look so offsides from that view, does it? Camera angles can be deceiving in photography. It can be used to alter people's height, appearance, and weight. But enough about my online dating history and back to the topic at hand. A picture can tell a thousand words, but no, half of Michigan's defensive line was not offsides.
The funny thing about this is who brought it up. Did Minnesota players bring it up? No. Did Minnesota coaches bring it up? No. Did Minnesota media bring it up? No. Did Minnesota's influential tweeters bring it up? No. Well who did then?
Best part of #NeutralZoneGate is that it wasn't even started by Minnesota. Just Ohio State and MSU fans/blogs.— Spine of Steel (@nezzy21) November 1, 2015
It was conjured up by two fanbases who always have Michigan on their mind. To be fair, boredom must have set in, as MSU and OSU were both on bye. Plus they did have an extra hour to think of creative new ways to try to cut down Michigan, as daylight savings time ended. Let me be the first to say that I often use those teams as part of my tweets and writing, so I don't want to be labeled as a hypocrite. However, it's hard not to when they consistently provide such good material.
WHAT WE LEARNED: ABOUT THE BIG TEN
Nebraska was Michigan's main hope to beat MSU, but that's not happening. I mean, I would like it to happen, but I don't think any team that gives up 55 points to lowly Purdue has a snowball's chance in Arizona of stopping Connor Cook. MSU could save travel costs by leaving their punter at home for that game, as he may not be needed at all. Finally a lucky break for MSU, a team that needs one as badly as this sentence needs a sarcasm font.
Iowa is rolling, but their schedule is a joke. Imagine playing a Big Ten season where you already have a one game lead plus the tiebreaker over the only team capable of competing with you (Wisconsin) in your division. You also avoid playing Michigan, MSU, and OSU. Iowa's road to Indianapolis at this point has less resistance than (insert any Big 12 team here)'s defense. So while they should enjoy their Top 10 ranking and best season in quite some time, it's hard to imagine a circumstance that doesn't involve the eventual East Division champion clobbering them in the title game.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
"But Coach, I was just following the title of your book…" pic.twitter.com/YDn52xz9xa— Solus (@wolverinebutter) October 31, 2015
Ok, I'm new to this. Michigan was very lucky to win this game. When do we start pretending like we dominated? Can any MSU fans help me out?— Scott Bell (@sbell021) November 1, 2015