The State of the Program

We have officially entered the put up or shut up phase of Brady Hoke’s tenure. This season, which started with so much promise, ended Saturday with more questions than answBoba Fetters. We are left to pick up the pieces of another disappointing 4+ loss campaign, and while the team is largely young (how many times have we heard that the past 5 years???) an offensive line that has been destroyed much of the year, loses its best two players. A receiving corps loses two of its top three receivers. ‎Like his play or not, you lose your top RB in terms of yards in Fitz Touissant.

While I’m not a “call sports radio and demand my coach be fired” kind of guy, I believe in excellence for my Alma mater. Both on and off the field. When Dave Brandon completed his “process”, he hired Brady Hoke, and paraded him in front of the world. Told us how he had the man that would lead Michigan for the foreseeable future. Brady stands up, talks about how he would have walked here, how Michigan is an elite job and an elite program. I mean, this is “Michigan, Fergodsakes.”  And while he is right, that it is a program that has an elite history, this program is as far from being elite as any teams in the B1G not named OSU or MSU. But no season ticket holder will argue that they don’t pay like it’s an elite program. And pricing goes up most every year. Even though most fans won’t see an increase in their ticket pricing this year, the 60% or so of them who first got a PSL this year, will get the full rate in 2014 (double what this year’s was).

Now I love Brady Hoke, mind you. Most anyone would send their sons to play for him, merely because there are few who have the integrity that Brady does (which is becoming rarer in college football).  But outside of the offensive line, few can argue that Rich Rodriguez left the cupboard far more full than when he found it, in spite of his obvious issues. Take away a 2011 season where seemingly everything fell Brady’s way, fans have been left holding the bag.  ‎A schedule where most all of their difficult games are on the road next year doesn’t bode too well. It’s time for the staff AND David Brandon to be held accountable. 8-4 and 7-5 are becoming the norm and not the exception. With annual schedules including the likes of UCONN, Akron and CMU on it, 9 wins should be the floor, not the ceiling most years. Michigan is in jeopardy of losing a generation of fans, which in terms of what’s important to the AD, a generation of future donors. Al Glick and Steve Ross won’t live forever, you know. It’s time to put up or shut up in 2014. And that starts today.

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Nebraska Game Prediction

Anyone not still stinging from last week’s brutal beat down by the Spartans in East Lansing must have been on a coma this week. DGreenEvery fear fans had, other than turning the ball over, was experienced time and time again. We’ve known for several weeks that Michigan had issues on the interior of its offensive line and we all hoped that they would gel. Well the doors got blown off t hat one last week.

All is not lost however, Wolverine faithful. Nobody will argue against the fact that MSU has one of the very best, elite defenses in the nation. And also the toughest one Michigan has faced or will face, the duration of the season. What better to come to town after getting your ass kicked? A team that this year is softer than Kleenex. Who is also missing their best offensive player in QB Taylor Martinez and others on both sides of the ball. Nobody confused them with a tough team when they weren’t banged up all over the place, but even more so now.

Now that hopes of a B1G Championship game appearance are doused and on life support at best, it’s time to get other players some snaps. Shane Morris, Derrick Green, DeVeon Smith, Ben Braden, Taco Charlton, and several others need reps. All are talented, and many have as good or more potential than those starting in front of them. Fitz Toussaint has done some very good things for U of M, but few will stand up to say they don’t want others to get some snaps. Nows is the time to see what you’ve got, both for the last 4+ games of the season, and beyond.

We will find out whether Michigan has the fortitude to bounce back, and I think they will. In fact in a big way.

Michigan 44, Nebraska 21

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Grading The Performance: UConn

The Good

The Defensive Line– For the first time all season the defensive line put forth a dominant performance. In the wake of the Akron game, Greg Mattison vowed to get back to basics with the defensive line and the players responded. The off season hype machine on Frank Clark was enormous and through the first three games of the season was more bark than bite. Clark had a monster game against the Huskies however, accounting for 5 tackles and 2 sacks. Jibreel Black also had a strong game from his defensive tackle position and was a match up nightmare for the Huskies all night. The defense has the potential to make major strides if the Wolverines can get this kind of performance out of the defensive line for the rest of the season

The Bad

The Offensive line- While the QB position is often the most important, everything cascades from the offensive line. If the offensive line struggles, so too does every offensive position. QBs and RBs magically look unstoppable when the offensive line does its job. Michigan is simply not getting winnable production from its offensive line. Running lanes are few and far between, and pass protection is spotty at best, especially against the blitz. While there is an injury issue, you know things are bad when Taylor Lewan struggles to protect the edge.

The Ugly

Devin Gardner above the neck- Devin is a broken QB at this moment. His confidence is shot, he’s playing scared to make a mistake, and he doesn’t trust his teammates to do their jobs. Turnovers were a big issues coming into the game and things just got worse against UConn.  Between the constant pressure and turnovers DG has become a head case. He’s anticipating pressure even on plays where there isn’t any because he flat out can’t trust the line to keep him upright and bails before plays have time to develop. Thanks to the interceptions, and now what is likely constant emphasis on not turning the ball over, Devin has become gun shy. He’s so afraid to make a mistake that he hesitates, which ironically causes even more mistakes.



A high throw to Gallon, an underthrow to a covered Joe Reynolds, and fumble on a QB sneak nearly cost Michigan the game. Devin was erratic for much of the night and very easily could have turned the ball over 5 or 6 times.

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Grading The Performance: Notre Dame

The Good

Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon- Michigan fans have seen dynamic QB-WR duos in the past. Grbac to Howard, Brady to Terrell, and Henne to Edwards/Manningham come immediately to mind. While duos of the past have often produced stunning numbers, few have displayed the kind of relationship that the nation was treated to on Saturday night. Gardner and Gallon acted in unison for most of the night and seemed to be connected almost telepathically. The back shoulder fades that Notre Dame found so difficult to defend takes an enormous amount of practice and trust between QB and WR and Michigan’s 2013 duo made it look easy. Devin and Jeremy put on a beautiful display of teamwork and execution on Saturday that is likely the envy of many in both college and the NFL.

The Bad

Nonexistent pass rush- Getting pressure on the QB with a 4 man rush has been the major point of emphasis for the Michigan defense since the end of last season. Despite multiple opportunities for Michigan defenders to go one on one, the Wolverines failed to consistently beat blocks and pressure the QB. Notre Dame used a variety of maximum protections to keep Tommy Rees upright. Michigan struggled to beat blocks and get pressure with a 4 man rush even on the occasions when Notre Dame did not leave backs and TEs in to block however.

The Ugly

4th Quarter Interception- There were a number of instances that could have gone in this space. Notre Dame’s horrific secondary, Eminem’s bizarre halftime interview, Louis Nix’s nonexistent vertical jump. In the end, Devin Gardner’s interception in the endzone was too ugly to ignore. In reality the entire drive could have been include but Devin’s decision to throw the ball while being tackled in the endzone takes the cake. While ultimately not costing Michigan the game, the play marred was was otherwise a flawless performance for Mr. Gardner.


QB: A-

A single offensive series keeps the grade from reaching A+ level. Devin was the maestro for a Michigan offense that seemed unstoppable.


Two of the biggest plays, a run and a reception, occurred on a single drive in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. With limited running room, Fitz Toussaint was able to eek out a number of big plays purely on effort.


The difference in the game was the Michigan passing game, highlight by the playmakers outside. Gallon, Jake Butt, Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, and Devin Funchess all contributed big plays to a stellar day through the air.

O-line: C+

Notre Dame’s defensive line and constant blitzing did a number on the Michigan offensive line. The holes were few and far between and Devin was running for his life on too many occasions. Jack Miller put forth a Heraclea effort inside against Louis Nix, though the interior had issues overall identifying and picking up blitzers.

D-line: C

The lack of pass rush was alarming for the 2nd game in a row, registering zero sacks and only 2 TFL. Michigan is badly in need of high impact, game changing defensive linemen.

LBers: B-

Michigan’s LBers did an adequate job of filling run lanes and making tackles but there were issues with drops into coverage and proper pursuit. James Ross put in a Dr. Jerkel-Mr. Hyde performance, looking like an All-American one series then following it up by looking like a true freshman the next. Both Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon did a great job making plays from the SAM position.

Secondary: B

Thanks to the defensive gameplan, the primary job of the secondary on Saturday was coming up and making tackles. The Wolverines did a masterful job of limiting the yards after catch for the Irish and also managed to produce two huge turnovers. Blake Countess is well on his way to becoming a bonafied playmaker.

Special teams: D

A dropped punt, a shanked kick, and poor kick coverage all played into a special teams unit that struggled to contribute in a positive way for the team.

A: Unit played as close to flawless as possible. Unit played well enough to win the game on their own.

B: Unit had a major positive impact on the game but also had several assignment/execution miscues.

C: Unit did not negatively or positively affect the game. Unit made key positive plays along with several errors.

D: Unit made multiple critical errors that could potentially cost the team a win. Unit blew assignments and had poor execution across the board.

F: Play of the unit was bad enough that it could directly cost the team a victory.

Note: Plus and minuses denote degrees of the grade.

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Grading The Performance: Central Michigan

The GoodJibreel Black 3

Defensive Front Seven– Losing Jake Ryan was a definite blow to the defense but front 7 looked no worse for wear without the presence of #47. The front seven was as fast as the unit has been since 2006. Good pursuit is always preached by defensive coaches but the group of Saturday went above and beyond, often getting to their spots well ahead of their offensive counterparts. The LBers flowed to the ball with exceptional speed and quickness and were solid in their open field tackling. The line didn’t get quick as consistent a push or rush early as Greg Mattison probably would have liked, but they rebounded nicely in the second half and were active throughout. Jibreel Black and Mario Ojemudia flashed the ability to beat one on one blocks that the coaches have been pushing for since in the end of last season.

The Bad

Turnovers – Cutting down the number of turnovers has been a major point of emphasis that has been preached by both Brady Hoke and Al Borges. The first game often has its share of hiccups but the Wolverines did an average job of taking care of the football. The two interceptions have been a major point of discussion since Saturday, but there was also a muffed punt by Dennis Norfleet early in the 1st half.

The Ugly

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