September 15, 2008
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Week 2 (Michigan)
Well put Counselor. Unfortunately the "Summer of Weddings" kept me from attending the rain-soaked fiesta in South Bend. However, my inner asshole did get a kick out of being in Seattle for OU's thrashing of the sinking Good Ship Ty, and perhaps an even bigger kick out of hanging out with a bunch of OSU fans during the ass-kicking in the Coliseum. Good times to say the least.
Great effort by the Irish on Saturday. I was considering throwing a smallish wet blanket on the celebration, but on a second viewing the problems I had while watching the game were minimal and very fixable in the long term.
Oh, and to all those Michigan bloggers and even players touting the Wolverines as the "better team" (I'm looking at you Stevie Brown), in what sport does the "better team" put the ball on the ground 7 times, throw 2 picks and allow Golden Tate to run unmolested through the secondary? Michigan is on the way back, but they've still got a long way to go.
I agree with Doug - the running game was pretty good, all things considered. Michigan was holding opponents to just over 1 yard a carry and was easily the strongest defensive line the Irish will face until traveling out to LA at Thanksgiving. With the deteriorating weather and the hefty lead, Michigan knew the Irish were going to be focusing on the run. Hughes and Aldridge did pretty well and the O-line opened some holes.
Clausen played well - not great, but the improvement is there. He throws a better deep ball right now than just about anyone that's ever put on the blue and gold.
Golden Tate is becoming a certified badass. Its scary to think how good he'll be with some more coaching and polish. Floyd's on the same track. Clean up the blocking and the route-running and Weis won't be able to keep him off the field. Glad to see Kamara make a big play, but he was pretty quiet after the 2nd series. He might be getting supplanted even as we speak. Here's hoping he steps it up in practice and keeps himself in the rotation.
The O-line again didn't give up a sack and did a nice job opening some holes against a real tough front 4.
Most importantly, the offense was able to take advantage of the mistakes and turn many of the gifts handed to them into TD's.
I can't get too critical, but Clausen's reads need to get better. Maybe its a function of the freedom he's given to check out of plays at the line, certainly its a function of his youth and most definitely its a bit of both. I'm confident this will get better as the year goes on.
The TE's need to start becoming more involved in the passing game. They've been available for max-protect which paid off on the Tate TD, but the middle of the field needs to become the happy hunting ground that Weis used so effectively in '05 and '06.
Don't really have anything here. My biggest quarrels with the offense had mostly to do with the playcalling.
Opportunistic was certainly the word of the day on Saturday. 5 turnovers, including one return for a TD. Had a nice stop to force a FG on Michigan's second scoring drive. The secondary played well again - McCarthy and Bruton are the best safety tandem in the country. If Bruton isn't an All-American this year it will be a travesty of the highest order. Can't really add too much to Doug's glowing endorsement of Brian Smith. Kid can play and he's fun as hell to watch flying around the field. Gary Gray saw his first meaningful PT and turned it into a pick.
There were many occasions when it seemed the front 7 had McGuffie wrapped up at the line only to let him slip and slide into the secondary. 159 rushing yards isn't bad, considering the score of the game (and the fact that the second leading rusher was the punter), but McGuffie kept the chains moving and kept the Irish from sticking the dagger in until the 4th quarter. I'll cop to believing that at least one hold should have been called on the Michigan OL, but that doesn't change the fact UM ran out 4 new starting linemen and was still able to run the ball very effectively against the Irish front. The run defense is definitely still a concern.
The Cor-Nuta blitzing scheme was in full effect once again and, once again failed to make a large impact on the opponent's passing game. Threet had ample time to throw and wasn't even flushed that much. UM did work mostly out of the gun, and mostly with short passes, so its difficult to be too critical. I love the agressiveness, and the secondary has been able to hold up their end of the bargain, but at some point, the pressure has to get there.
Big fumble recovery after the first score. 5-5 on XP's. Maust and the punt team did a nice job getting the ball away and out of trouble. The coverage was great again - Bruton and Anello of course. There were even a few kickoffs that appeared to get to the goalline. Tate had a nice kick return that he came close to breaking.
Not many quibbles - would like to see the kickoffs a bit deeper, but the coverage has been so good its hard to argue with.
Other than the weather, I got nothin.
Love to see the agression on both sides of the ball. Haywood went for the jugular after the first couple turnovers and drew up a beauty on the 3rd TD to Tate. The defense kept dialing up the blitz even with the big lead.
Am I the only one who thinks we have about 5 plays in the book right now? We always run the same play around the goal line - that play action pass to the back of the end zone that Shark made famous. Well, by now everyone's seen that thing 50 times and it hasn't been open since 2005. Apart from the occasional slant, the middle of the field isn't used at all. What happened to the creativity that Weis was supposed to bring to the table? I know its early in the year and most of the skill players are still pretty young, but I'm not seeing much in the way of successful playcalling.
Most of this comes in the form of questionable individual calls - the passing in the first two series in the red zone (bailed out by some PI calls), the pass from the one yard line that was almost picked off (again, bailed out by the refs), and several of the "look" plays that just weren't available. Again, some of this might be poor reads made by Clausen, but the coaches don't seem to be putting the offense in a position to be successful with some of these calls. I'm sure everyone is still feeling each other out and trying to find what works and what doesn't, but MSU certainly won't be as mistake-prone at home as Michigan and the Irish will need to tighten up if they want to have a shot to bring home a W.
OFFENSE: ROBERT HUGHES. Ran hard all day long and provided one of my favorite moments of the game: the nasty stiffarm in the 2nd half that led to a nice gainer. Kid's a beast, pure and simple, and ran hard when he was needed most. Tate certainly merited consideration as well.
DEFENSE: BRIAN SMITH. Smith had the dagger - the fumble return for the TD - along with a few other big plays in the Michigan backfield and a near INT that could have gone for another 6. Bruton could win one every week, and will probably have plenty before the season's done.
SPECIAL TEAMS: ERIC MAUST. Hopefully the only time this season he'll be called on to make some big plays. Fielded every snap cleanly and did a great job changing field position when it was needed. Anello had the big recovery on the kickoff, but we're an equal opportunity blog here at WE IS and everyone loves to see the punter get an attaboy.
SHORT TERM: The offensive line can't continue its sackless streak, but only gives up one early knockdown of Clausen in a tight game in East Lansing.
LONG TERM: Trevor Robinson becomes a two-time consensus AA and a 1st round draft pick.