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College Football Recap
Sunday, 2007 September 2 - 11:24 am
Dark days: Michigan 32, Appalachian State 34. N.C. State 23, Central Florida 25. Do I really want to blog this?

Michigan 32, Appalachian State 34. Yes. I know. You don't have to tell me. Biggest upset in the history of football. The only ranked 1-A team to lose to a 1-AA team. An embarrassing trivia question answer for decades to come. So all you haters and gloaters, just shut the hell up already.

By and large, the offense played reasonably well. Michael Hart, God bless him, had 188 yards on 23 carries... and he really only played half the game, out for most of the second and third quarter with a bruised thigh. Chad Henne wasn't spectacular; he threw one really bad interception, and missed several open receivers. But there were times when he made some great throws to Greg Mathews, and for the most part, managed the game well. I wasn't thrilled with some of the play calling: it took too long to exploit ASU's overcommitment to the run by throwing slants and TE passes. And I don't recall seeing any four- or five-receiver sets to spread the field and open things up for Hart. And the irritating thing is, we might have done better playing a wishbone and just ramming the ball down ASU's undersized throat. A telling tale? ASU's time of possession was 31:12, compared to Michigan's 28:48. When was the last time a pass-happy spread offense had more possession time than Michigan's run-oriented ball-possession offense?

Where Michigan really laid an egg was on defense. Michigan came out and gave up slant pass after slant pass, just the way it had in the games against OSU and USC. By the time Michigan had made the correct adjustment (parking a safety in the middle of the field), ASU had racked up 28 points. Granted, the coaches weren't entirely to blame: on one ASU touchdown play, linebacker John Thompson was about ten yards outside his zone coverage area; he should have handed the crossing receiver off to another zone and stayed at home to cover the wide slant pattern. And when Michigan was blitzing, the corners should have maintained inside technique, or pressed hard and bumped the receivers off their routes. So if you can point to one glaring problem with Michigan's defense, it's the inexperience and lack of athleticism in the defensive secondary.

Some players on defense had pretty good games. Tim Jamison and Shawn Crable played hard and made several tackles for loss. Brandent Englemon, replacing Stevie Brown after Brown had been burned several times, also played well. But mostly? The defense simply got shown up. Michigan's worst fears are coming true: the drop-off from last year's team is immense, and without stars like Hall, Branch, Harris, and Woodley, Ron English doesn't look so much like a genius any more.

Special teams were a disaster. There were two bumbling two-point-conversion attempts. (I was livid when Michigan decided to go for two the first time, down by five near the end of the third quarter. If not for that decision, Michigan might have taken the game to overtime.) And two blocked field goals? The first can probably be blamed on young kicker Jason Gingell for not getting enough elevation on the ball. But the second was just a fundamental blocking error: the wing back went for the far outside rusher and let someone blast through inside, letting the kick get blocked cleanly.

The woulda-shoulda-coulda report: If Michigan had made a defensive adjustment in the second quarter instead of the third, if Henne had not thrown an interception, if Hart had played the whole game (and Minor had not fumbled), and if we had made our PATs and FGs when we should have, the score would have been Michigan 52, Appalachian State 20. But none of those things happened.

I have been a staunch supporter of Lloyd Carr for many years, and I still believe he's a good coach. But ultimately a coach has to take the blame for something like this. While there's no doubt Appalachian State is a good team (I can tell you, there are plenty of other 1-A teams who could have lost to them), there's no excuse for a team with Michigan's talent level to come into a game so woefully unprepared.

Michigan's outlook for the season suddenly looks grim. I still think they're a good team, and that they have enough talent on offense to carry them until the defense matures a bit. Oregon, next week, is more of a running team, so that game is winnable. Notre Dame looked completely hapless in their game against Georgia Tech. Penn State, though, is looming as a very scary game.

In a way, though, it's a relief that we lost, because now I don't have to go through the season biting my nails over every game. There's no loss that could be worse than this one; there's no way our season could be ruined more than it already is. So I can kinda relax for the rest of the year. I just want Michigan to beat Ohio State. We could lose every other game all season, so long as we beat Ohio State in November. Guys, that gives you eleven weeks to shape up. Get to it.

Grades: Offense B-, Defense F.

N.C. State 23, Central Florida 25. Ahh, misery loves company. I didn't see this game at all, but there's a couple of telling statistics: 10 penalties for 67 yards, and two interceptions. One penalty was on the final drive for having twelve men on the field. So much for all the discipline that Tom O'Brien was supposed to bring to the game. And, uh, 85 yards rushing? (Negative 14 yards rushing at halftime?) What the heck is up with that?

Other News

Georgia Tech walloped Notre Dame 33-3. At some point people will realize that Charlie Weis isn't really an offensive mastermind, and that an NFL-style offense doesn't work without NFL talent.

Cal beat Tennessee 45-31, avenging last year's loss. Cal will give USC some competition this year, I think. DeSean Jackon? Scary good.

UCLA beat Stanford, 45-17. Suck it, Harbaugh.

Michigan State beat UAB 55-18; Ohio State beat Youngstown State 38-6, Penn State beat Florida International 59-0. I take some consolation in the fact that Appalachian State, despite their 1-AA status, are probably far better than any of those other losing schools.

Wisconsin beat Washington State 42-21, looking pretty impressive. Wisconsin will be a top contender in the Big Ten. Illinois lost to Missouri 40-34. The Zooker will continue to struggle. Bowling Green beat Minnesota 32-31; Minnesota might occupy the conference basement this year.
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Posted by Ken in: sports

Comments

Comment #1 from Earl (Guest)
2007 Sep 2 - 1:18 pm : #
I had the joy of being at the game. Nice description of the adjustment troubles. It was clear that ASU was happy to spread the field & run the QB draw & option pass, as we had nobody behind the D-Line to stop these plays.
I really didn't agree with the offensive play calls at the end of the game. We had the lead, and we had worn down their D-Line. With just 4 minutes left, we had 3rd and 5 from their 30. We were getting 3+ yards every run, and could've run the ball twice & gotten the first down & run out the clock. But instead, we try to throw the ball, get a delay of game, and then get a 3rd & 10. Not wise!
Comment #2 from Brett (Guest)
2007 Sep 2 - 2:50 pm : #
When I heard about them going for 2 in the 3rd I was PISSED!

I root for both U of M and MSU (I know, right?), but this game will make it that much easier for me to cheer for MSU when the two play, so I can thank them for that.

Oh, and you forgot to acknowledge WMU, though. Probably for the better, but come on, I'm a regular reader, I have feelings too.
Comment #3 from John C (Guest)
2007 Sep 2 - 8:52 pm : #
I am in denial, and no you do not want to blog about this. jIn other news did you see mgoblog?

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