Monday Presser Notes (Week 14)

By · Monday, November 24, 2008 · 8:06 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

(Note: I bolded the most important items that involve the future status of players, scheduling news, and other things that are worth calling attention to.)

Rich Rodriguez:

  • The team had dinner and a meeting last night and the seniors were excused first after they were reminded to complete their responsibilities like graduating. They were also thanked for laying the foundation for this program under Rodriguez.
  • “Naturally there is going to be some (attrition).”
  • Rodriguez wants to make sure everybody is 100% committed to the team.
  • One player that can graduate right now but still has another year of eligibility did not attend the meeting on Sunday.
  • Artis Chambers left the team last week, as did Zion Babb and Jason Kates.
  • “We gotta be more athletic.”
  • Everything (coaches, players, schemes, etc.) will be evaluated.
  • A special teams coach will not be hired for next year.
  • “You can hire Knute Rockne and he’s not going to make sure the guy catches the ball on a kickoff return or a punt.”
  • Seven to eight recruits are expected to enroll early.
  • Patrick Omameh almost played as a true freshman and traveled to away games. Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury also nearly played and traveled to some away games. All three were redshirted and will likely see the field next year.
  • 20-23 recruits will sign with Michigan for the 2009 recruiting class.
  • Rodriguez thinks Brandon Graham is coming back and believes that he should.
  • Terrence Robinson would have played this year if he wasn’t injured.
  • Cory Zirbel’s injury is probably career-ending. Rodriguez wants him back as a student assistant coach.
  • Stephen Schilling’s injury should not require surgery.
  • Rodriguez isn’t going to coach until he’s 81 like Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden. He joked that he would be happy to make it to age 60.
  • There is some concern over the health of Sam McGuffie since he’s had more than one concussion this season. (He got another one on the kick return during the Ohio State game where he was sandwiched by two OSU players, which I believe is his third since October. He got one against Toledo, one against Michigan State, and now one against OSU. That is never good for any player during an entire career let alone a span of a couple months.)
  • On a more positive note, Sam McGuffie is expected back next season.
  • Spring practice starts in mid-March and it is unknown if a true spring game will be held at Michigan Stadium. One will be held somewhere regardless of the venue.
  • Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Notre Dame are currently on next year’s schedule. Michigan still needs to find one more team to schedule at home in mid-October.
  • Rodriguez doesn’t think there will be a lot of attrition, and he is not worried about it since the players that stay will be fully committed.
  • “There were times where each unit played pretty well and there were times where each unit could have played better.”
  • Oklahoma coaches visited Michigan last spring to discuss the spread offense. Michigan may make the return trip down there to see them next year. Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, has visited with Rodriguez and his assistants just about every year. (That’s pretty interesting since West Virginia played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last season and absolutely destroyed the Sooners.)
  • Rodriguez didn’t say anything about whether or not changes to the staff will be made. He simply said that he will evaluate the coaches like he does every year.

Jason Kates Gone; Zion Babb Kicked Off Teamn

By · Wednesday, November 19, 2008 · 8:41 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

As mentioned earlier, defensive tackle Jason Kates has left the team. The decision was his, unlike the case of receiver Zion Babb. Rich Rodriguez mentioned on Tuesday that Babb was no longer with the program, and as it turns out, he was kicked off the team for repeatedly violating team rules. From what I’ve heard, Babb got in trouble for texting or something like that during a walkthrough, and if he was caught doing it on more than one occasion, it isn’t a big surprise that he is off the team.

Kates’ departure hurts the depth at defensive tackle, but Pearlie Graves’ commitment makes up for it a bit (see the below post).

Let the Attrition Begin: Ziob Babb Off the Football Team

By · Tuesday, November 18, 2008 · 2:17 PM |  Share | 21 Comments 

Rich Rodriguez said during today’s Big Ten teleconference that wide receiver Zion Babb is no longer of a member of the football team. Speculation over Babb’s status has been swirling for the last few weeks, as he reportedly hasn’t been on the travel roster for recent away games. Babb is originally from California and had only two catches this season, both coming in the Notre Dame game.

The general expectation for this coming offseason is that many players will leave the team. Babb is only the first to depart, and as MGoBlog reports, Sam McGuffie and Artis Chambers aren’t expected back, either. Obviously McGuffie transferring would be big news after he got so much playing time during the first half of the season, but there have been rumors of his departure for at least the last month or so. Things could change, just as we saw with Mike Cox at the beginning of the season, but things certainly don’t look good at this point.

I keep putting off saying that we have hit rock bottom, but at this point it doesn’t even seem like the Ohio State game will get us the very bottom. More attrition is expected, and you can bet there will be many negative things said about the coaching staff and Michigan in general. I don’t necessarily think any players will go Justin Boren on us and question the family values of the program, but there probably won’t be any positive things said.

Monday Quick Hits: Notre Dame Game Observations and Other Things

By · Monday, September 15, 2008 · 2:59 AM |  Share | 4 Comments 
  • In case you want to relive the loss to Notre Dame or missed the game entirely, my very, very detailed recap of it can be found here or below this post if you’re on the main page. Just a fair warning, though, I went a little too in depth so it’s quite the long read (3,474 words to be exact). However, if you did miss the game it’ll get you up to speed on everything that happened.
  • Looking back, despite what the final score was Michigan could have won Saturday’s game had it not been for so many turnovers. I know you’re probably thinking, “Well, if Michigan scored more points they would have won.” But hear me out. We can sit here and talk about “what ifs” all day, but my point is that the loss wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Sure, turning the ball over six times is disheartening and something that can’t happen for this team to be any good, but if you take away only two of the fumbles Michigan could have won the game.
  • I know this will come off as sounding like sour grapes, but Michigan really did beat themselves. Yes, Notre Dame made a couple nice plays of their own, but you have to realize that their first two touchdowns came from starting inside Michigan’s 15-yard line because of mistakes Michigan made. Also, their final TD of the game was another direct result of a mistake made by Michigan. Sometimes mistakes are created by the other team, but that certainly wasn’t the case for the three TDs Notre Dame scored off of fumbles.
  • Notre Dame heads to Michigan State on Saturday for what should be a very interesting game to watch. My belief is that ND will go into the game with a false confidence as a result of their win over Michigan and get a reality check. Javon Ringer has been lights out this season and I think that’ll continue against Notre Dame. He should rush for over 200 yards and score at least 2 touchdowns in what I expect will be a fairly comfortable win for the Spartans.
  • If he can stay healthy, there is no reason why Steven Threet shouldn’t be this team’s starting quarterback. His improvement just from the Miami game to Saturday was very noticeable as he did a good job of running the offense. Aside from the fumbled snap that can be attributed to the weather, Threet made very few mistakes. His passes weren’t too high and for the most part were very accurate, especially the ones he threw downfield. Also, he showed that he has some mobility on a third and long play where he took off for a gain of 21 yards.
  • Sam McGuffie has exceeded my expectations by far after what he did against Notre Dame. He was consistently picking up 5-10 yards on plays where he had little to no room to run, and when he did have a hole he broke free for a big gain. Sure, there were still times when he was stuffed for no gain or a loss, but after his performance he deserves nothing but praise. If he can stay healthy (injuries were an issue for him last year), then I think we’ve found our starting running back for the next few seasons.
  • The defense has to get better quickly. They have looked dominant at times, but they have looked clueless as well. The defensive line struggled on Saturday, but it once again was the secondary that disappointed me more than any other unit. The amount of big plays they gave up was inexcusable, and one of them was because of poor tackling by Stevie Brown. He and Morgan Trent were the worst out of anyone by far. Trent was getting thrown at during the first quarter because ND liked the match up against him so much, and Brown just didn’t play well. In fact, he hasn’t all year and if things don’t get better I’d say it’s time to see what his backup can do.
  • To their credit, the defense only really can be fully blamed for giving up two touchdowns as there’s not a whole lot they could do when ND started inside Michigan’s 15-yard line. Also, another TD was scored by ND’s defense.
  • It was good to see Zion Babb make a play. He was on the receiving end of a 45-yard pass thrown by Nick Sheridan in the fourth quarter. Babb made a stellar catch and ran down the field to pick up a good amount of extra yardage. If I remember correctly that was the first catch Babb has made all season and really is the first time I’ve heard his name at all since Rich Rodriguez took over. He has rarely been mentioned in practice reports and many figured he just wasn’t a good fit with the new program. That still may be the case, but even if it is he still made a great play against Notre Dame.
  • Nothing frustrates me more than mistakes on special teams and we saw plenty on kick and punt returns. Boubacar Cissoko let the ball bounce off his chest on the opening kickoff and couldn’t even find it at first. He eventually did pick it up, but only returned the ball to the 9-yard line. On the second kickoff of the game Michael Shaw made an even bigger error. He couldn’t catch the kick, which was shorter than expected, and a Notre Dame player got down the field and recovered it. That set up Notre Dame’s second touchdown. Cissoko also fumbled a kick return in the fourth quarter, but luckily Kevin Grady fell on it.

    Donovan Warren is really the punt returner only because he has experience and should be able to catch the ball. Well, the latter wasn’t the case on a punt return near the start of the second half as the ball bounced right off of him. Troy Woolfolk made a nice play to recover the fumble, but that was near disaster as Notre Dame would have had the ball inside the Michigan 15-yard line similarly to how they started their first two drives of the game.

  • I will give some praise to the K.C. Lopata and Zoltan Mesko as the special teams weren’t all bad. Lopata hit both extra points he kicked and the only field goal he attempted, which is all you can ask for. And Mesko not only punted the ball better, but he looked awesome on the fake punt Michigan ran in the first quarter.

    It was another option play where he could run or punt and he decided to take off. Mesko actually broke a few tackles en route to picking up a first down and a gain of 13 yards. He also started high stepping a little bit after the run. That was pretty funny because he’s a punter and you never usually get a chance to see something like that. Later on in the game Mesko appeared to be running another option play, but he kicked it that time. Actually, it was one of the better punts he’s had this season, so if this continues I’ll have to start to warm up to this rugby style of punting.

  • Tight end Carson Butler was ejected near the end of Saturday’s game after he took a swing at a Notre Dame player. I imagine it was a case of frustrations boiling over, but I really wouldn’t be opposed to him being suspended for a game. I understand that things happen in the heat of the moment, but you can’t ever take a swing at an opposing player and expect to get away with it.
  • Greg Mathews was unable to finish the game due to cramps. Steven Threet had the same problem, which explains why he was being stretched out on the bench during the third quarter. Throughout the second half it appeared that he was in pain at times, so it’s good to know that cramps was the problem and not an injury of some sort.
  • Wide receivers coach Tony Dews apparently shouted at a fan that yelled something at him after the game while he was walking to the team bus.
  • In case you missed this since it happened Friday night, Michigan got a commitment from a 5-star defensive end.
  • Marcus Witherspoon, as expected, is now going to Rutgers. He suddenly was ruled eligible by the NCAA on Friday, so I don’t understand what the hell happened that made him ineligible at Michigan. It seems like this is a type of story where details will only come out from insiders years from now as it is such a weird and possibly sensitive situation. It seems like something happened that caused things with Witherspoon and Michigan to not work out, and I’m not talking about eligibility. That’s only pure speculation on my part, but it just seems like there is more to this.
  • This was expected beforehand, but NBC’s coverage of the game stunk. Their commercial breaks were longer and more frequent, which is something that is always bad when watching football games. For example, when there were only seconds left in the third quarter NBC went to a commercial break. One play was run after the break and the third quarter ended, meaning it was time for more commercials.

    The announcing was also pretty bad. Again, that was expected considering the announcers are going to favor Notre Dame, but the homerism isn’t what annoyed me. Sometimes the announcers just displayed a lack of knowledge about football in general and that really pissed me off more than anything.

  • I agree with Tim from Varsity Blue in regards to how bad the officials were on Saturday. The pass Greg Mathews caught in the end zone that was ruled incomplete totally changed the way the game was going, and the pass interference call on Donovan Warren (the one on the long pass downfield) was ridiculous.

    The one thing I do disagree with Tim on is the Kevin Grady fumble. Tim thought the play should have been blown dead for forward progress. When it first happened I felt the same way. However, after reviewing the tape I noticed an earlier play in the game where Grady was hit and tried to fight for extra yardage before forward progress was called after four or so seconds. Taking that into consideration, Grady fumbled the ball barely three or so seconds after he was first wrapped up, so if the precedent was four seconds then he just missed being called down.

  • Also at Varsity Blue is a video of every pass and run by Shavodrick Beaver from his game on ESPN2 last Thursday.
  • Charlie Weis tore his ACL and MCL near the end of the first half when a Notre Dame player was shoved into him on a punt. Weis was looking at where the ball landed and the player rolled right into Weis’ knee since his back was turned. The injury itself looked pretty bad, but Weis was actually laughing about it after the game, saying that he felt like an athlete for the first time in his life.
  • What’s really coincidental is that Tom Brady suffered the same injury when he tore both his ACL and MCL against the Chiefs a week ago yesterday. Brady and Weis were apparently texting each other last week about Brady’s injury, so now this week it’ll be more of the same except the subject will be Weis’ injury.
  • Despite the injury, Weis will be on Notre Dame’s sideline on Saturday when they play Michigan State. He will not immediately have surgery, either, as he wants to wait until a bye week or after the season.
  • One other thing to add to Weis’ injury is that the first thing I thought of when it happened was this video:

  • Is EA Sports psychic or what?

  • The Patriots signed Matt Gutierrez from their practice squad to the active roster.
  • Michael Phelps hosted Saturday Night Live over the weekend and made reference to Michigan a couple times. The first reference was a promo for SNL that aired before the Notre Dame game started. He said something about how he was hosting the show and was rooting for Michigan. During the show itself he had a Michigan shirt on when he introduced Lil’ Wayne, so that was cool to see. His performance as the host is a different topic of discussion as he probably should just stick to swimming, but either way, I liked that he referenced Michigan.
  • Speaking of Phelps, he and former Michigan swimming coach Bob Bowman will be honored during the Wisconsin game on September 27.
  • Finally, I’d like to thank the humidity for setting off my dorm’s fire alarms multiple times during the game on Saturday. The fire alarms first went off right after McGuffie scored on the 40-yard catch and forced the people in my dorm to scramble to find a place to watch the game. Luckily a few of us found a lounge in another dorm with a TV to tide us over until halftime (we went back to our dorm after), but we ended up missing a couple possessions, although I have since seen them on the recording of the game.

Michigan Turns the Ball Over Six Times in 35-17 Loss to Notre Dame

By · Sunday, September 14, 2008 · 8:31 PM |  Share | 2 Comments 

Although Michigan outgained Notre Dame by a rather large margin and controlled the ball for nearly four and a half minutes more than the Fighting Irish, the only stat that really mattered on Saturday afternoon was turnovers. The Wolverines turned the ball over a whopping six times as Nick Sheridan threw a pair of interceptions and four different Wolverines lost a fumble. Michigan actually fumbled the ball seven total times as a team, but was able to recover three of them.

Three of Michigan’s fumbles led to a Notre Dame touchdown, and really that was the reason why the Fighting Irish came out of this game victorious. After quickly going down 21-0 thanks in part to two fumbles, Michigan did make a comeback attempt and looked like they were going to get within 4 points early on in the third quarter. However, another fumble ended an otherwise solid drive. Steven Threet then mishandled a snap and the ball got knocked behind him for a Notre Dame player to pick up and run into the end zone. That cemented the Irish’s 35-17 win and handed Michigan its second loss of the season.

The predicted weather for this game was rain and lots of it. For the first half, though, the rain held off and actually was north of South Bend. Even so, that didn’t prevent Michigan from playing sloppily, especially when it came to holding onto the ball. That was evident on the game’s opening kickoff as Boubacar Cissoko let the ball bounce right off of his chest. He actually took a few seconds to locate the ball after it bounced off of him and only was able to return the kick to the 9-yard line because of the mistake.

Cissoko’s mistake really didn’t hurt Michigan too much as the Wolverines quickly got away from their own end zone. Threet hit Greg Mathews for a 7-yard pass and Sam McGuffie followed the completion up with runs of 5 and 11 yards. The offense was moving the ball and things looked good, but this is when everything fell apart for Michigan. McGuffie lost a couple yards on a run and Michigan was called for an illegal block, backing the ball up 15 yards. Then came the worst mistake of all.

Threet threw a pass out to Brandon Minor and Minor couldn’t make the catch despite having no defenders near him. The pass was actually thrown backwards, so it was considered a lateral and the drop was considered a fumble. A Notre Dame player alertly jumped on the ball to give the Fighting Irish offense amazing starting field position.

Jimmy Clausen came out and started Notre Dame’s first drive of the game on the Michigan 11-yard line. After an incompletion on first down, disaster almost struck for ND when John Thompson knocked the ball loose from Clausen. Clausen was able to recover his own fumble, meaning the Irish avoided their own disaster situation.

The fumble brought up 3rd and 6 and Clausen threw a pass into the end zone. Morgan Trent didn’t have good position on his man and had to interfere with the receiver to keep him from making the catch. The penalty gave ND an automatic first down and the ball on the 2-yard line. Only one play later Robert Hughes ran into the end zone untouched to put the Irish up 7-0.

When Michigan came back out to return Notre Dame’s second kickoff of the game, Michael Shaw made Cissoko’s mistake look like nothing at all. That is because Shaw dropped the kick and hesitated a little bit when he went to recover it. Since the kick was short anyways, a Notre Dame player was able to get down the field to fall on it, giving the Irish offense the ball at Michigan’s 14-yard line. Three plays into the drive Clausen found Duval Kamara on a fade in the back corner of the end zone. Clausen’s pass was perfect and Kamara had little trouble getting behind Trent to make the catch. Only four minutes into the game and Notre Dame already led 14-0.

Michigan returned to the field knowing that something had to happen for them to stay in this game. Sam McGuffie was able to effectively move the ball and Threet had a couple solid passes as well, one of which went to Greg Mathews for a gain of 14. Although the drive was going well, it stalled and Michigan was faced with 4th and 2 at their own 46-yard line. Zoltan Mesko received the snap to punt and ran to left side. Immediately you could tell he was running an option play where he could either run or punt the ball downfield. With little hesitation, Zoltan took off and not only picked up the first down, but broke 2 tackles and gained 13 yards to get the Wolverines into Irish territory.

Perhaps the biggest moment of this game besides any of the turnovers came two plays after Zoltan ran for a first down. Threet threw a picture perfect pass downfield and Mathews made a diving catch in the end zone for what appeared to be a huge touchdown. Unfortunately, the officials didn’t see it that way. The pass was ruled incomplete as the officials said that the ball hit the ground. It was a very close play, but even after an official review the call didn’t change.

Looking at the replay, it looked as though Mathews got his right hand under the ball, meaning it did not bounce off the ground and wasn’t trapped as the announcers originally stated. The ball itself may have touched the ground, but only when Mathews had full possession. However, as stated already, the Big East officials did not see it that way and the outstanding catch was ruled incomplete. Michigan would not move the chains again on this drive as they were unable to convert a 4th and 6, meaning it was Notre Dame ball.

The Fighting Irish wasted no time in going for the jugular after the turnover on downs. On the first play of their third drive of the game, Jimmy Clausen faked a handoff and threw the ball downfield for freshman Michael Floyd. Donovan Warren made a tremendous play on the pass by getting a hand on it to knock it away. However, once again the officials didn’t see it that way. After Floyd got up and started waving his hands for a flag, he got one from an official that wasn’t even the closest ref to the play. Although Warren did make some contact with Floyd, it was nothing that warranted a pass interference call.

On the very next play, Notre Dame did the same thing. Clausen faked a handoff and threw the ball downfield, this time for Golden Tate. Tate ran right by Morgan Trent on the slant and go pattern and Stevie Brown was out of position after buying the fake handoff. That left Tate open behind the coverage, allowing him to make the catch on a perfectly thrown pass, giving Notre Dame a 21-0 lead.

Desperation mode started to set in for the Wolverines as this was quickly becoming a blowout. Not only did they need to score, but the secondary, namely Morgan Trent, had to start playing much better. Taking it one step at a time, the offense did finally find the end zone. After Threet hit Mathews for a gain of 16 on 3rd down, Brandon Minor rattled off 9 yards of his own. Martavious Odom then picked up 14 on a swing pass, putting Michigan in Notre Dame territory. Following a Minor run that lost 4 yards, Sam McGuffie put Michigan back in this game by scoring on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Threet.

McGuffie went in motion before the snap to Threet’s right side and it was obvious that he was waiting for a screen pass. That’s exactly what happened, but what made the play work even better is that Notre Dame blitzed three of their defensive linemen, a linebacker, and a cornerback. That left McGuffie with lots of room to run downfield, and thanks to some great blocks from the right side of the o-line and a couple wide receivers, McGuffie simply had to navigate his way into the end zone. He ran by a few defenders that were out of position and actually bounced off of Perry Dorrestein and nearly ran into Tim McAvoy before getting into the end zone.

Now trailing 21-7, it was time for the defense to do its job. After being burned a few times already in this game, Morgan Trent redeemed himself a bit by making a diving interception. You could tell Notre Dame was specifically throwing at Trent, so it was nice to see him make a play, especially since it gave Michigan the ball back. Michigan immediately was able to move the ball as Sam McGuffie closed out the first quarter with a 27-yard run. An unnecessary roughness penalty on ND would add 15 yards onto the run, quickly putting Michigan at the Irish 29-yard line.

McGuffie canceled out a 9-yard loss on a busted swing pass to Odoms with a gain of 10 of his own. That only made it 3rd and 9, though, and it was actually Steven Threet who ran the ball for a first down and much more to keep the chains moving. Notre Dame blitzed and had another linebacker spying McGuffie, giving Threet a wide open hole to run for a gain of 21 yards. Unfortunately for Michigan, the drive would stall after Threet’s run, but K.C. Lopata connected on a 23-yard field goal to get Michigan within 11.

Notre Dame answered Michigan’s field goal with an eventual 1-yard TD run by Robert Hughes that was set up by a 60-yard pass to Golden Tate. The pass was nothing downfield where someone blew their coverage as it was a simple slant pattern. The problem was a case of poor tackling. Jonas Mouton couldn’t bring Tate down on a diving tackle attempt, and then Stevie Brown got juked and shoved down by Tate. John Thompson did have a chance to bring Tate down, but he wasn’t able to trip him up enough to make the tackle. Thompson did slow Tate down enough to allow Charles Stewart to catch up and make the tackle, but that was after a gain of 60 yards.

Fast forward a few plays and Notre Dame had moved the ball down to the 1-yard line and had 2nd and goal. Clausen again faked a handoff, but Michigan didn’t buy it this time. Tim Jamison was able to get right in Clausen’s face and the pressure forced a bad throw that Donovan Warren actually caught barely out of bounds. However, as usual, there was a flag and Warren was again called for pass interference. He did push off this time, so the flag was warranted for a change. Anyways, on the very next play Hughes powered his way into the endzone for a touchdown.

Michigan started the proceeding drive with great field position as the kickoff went out of bounds. They quickly went from their own 40 to ND’s 40 as Threet hit Darryl Stonum on a diving catch for a gain of 20. After a pass to Odoms went for 8 yards, McGuffie moved the chains with a gain of 5. Kevin Grady came into the game and was only able to run for 1 yard, but Threet found Stonum for another leaping catch that went for 10. A Notre Dame facemask penalty put Michigan at the Notre Dame 8-yard line and two plays later Grady took the handoff, was hit at the 5, and carried a defender into the end zone for a touchdown, putting Michigan behind only 28-17.

Both teams got the ball back two more times in the first half, but neither was able to do much of anything. The final possession for Michigan was only a kneel-down to end the half, but something worth noting did happen after ND’s second to last possession. The Irish punted the ball away and a Michigan player shoved a Notre Dame player off the field and into the sidelines. Charlie Weis had his back turned to that part of the field (he was looking toward where the ball landed) and the Notre Dame player fell right into him. It was a really nasty fall as Weis’ knee got bent in an ugly way, and it turned out he tore his ACL and MCL. He got a brace put on his leg and toughed it out by using crutches to move around the rest of the game, which I do give him credit for as the hit didn’t looked pretty bad.

As the second half opened the weather had changed quite a bit. The skies went from being just cloudy to being dark and rainy. The rain had an immediate effect on the game and prevented both offenses from having a whole lot of success in the second half. That was evident early on when Notre Dame opened the half by going three and out, and then the weather’s presence was felt even more on the ensuing punt. Donovan Warren couldn’t catch the punt, and had it not been for Troy Woolfolk, who recovered the fumble, this could have been a repeat of how the game started.

After the two teams traded punts, Michigan put together its best drive of the second half. The drive was promising at one time because on 3rd and 2, Steven Threet found Martavious Odoms downfield for a gain of 33 yards. It was another perfect pass by Threet and Odoms did a nice job of making the catch. Odoms actually kept the drive alive a few plays later when he drew a pass interference penalty on another 3rd down. The penalty gave Michigan 1st and goal on the 6-yard line and put them in position to score a touchdown that would really make this a game.

Sadly, that touchdown would never happen as two plays after the penalty Kevin Grady was stripped of the ball and Michigan’s hopes of winning went out the window. Grady got the handoff and was hit at about the 4-yard line. Just as we saw on his TD run earlier in the game, Grady fought for extra yardage, but with the rain coming down and a swarm of defenders on him, that proved to be a mistake this time. As Grady was fighting for extra yardage the ball came loose and rolled around. Mathews nearly was able to fall on it, but it got knocked near the sidelines and a Notre Dame player fell on it. Not only did the turnover hurt mentally, but it kept Michigan from getting within a single possession.

The Michigan defense held tough after the turnover and forced a punt, but it would be yet another fumble that truly did in Michigan’s chances of winning. The ball slipped out of Threet’s hands on a snap (out of the shotgun) and got kicked backwards by an offensive lineman. That allowed Notre Dame’s Brian Smith to pick the ball up and run 35 yards for a touchdown. This play was a direct result of the rainy weather as Threet simply dropped the ball. The unfortunate bounce the ball took after the fumble was just one of the many breaks that went in Notre Dame’s favor during this game, and it put the Fighting Irish on top 35-17.

There was still an entire quarter left for Michigan to make a comeback, but with the weather being as bad as it was, that wasn’t about to happen. Michigan nearly didn’t even go on offense at all after the ND touchdown as Boubacar Cissoko had the ball knocked out of his hands on the proceeding kickoff. A Notre Dame player got his helmet on the ball and jarred it loose, but Grady fell on it to keep the ball with Michigan.

Fumble or not, Michigan still went three and out and had to punt the ball away. The defense did come up with another stop, and Nick Sheridan entered the game at quarterback when the Wolverines took over. I already didn’t think Michigan could pull off a comeback, but when Sheridan came in I really didn’t have a good feeling about the rest of this game. Initially that feeling was wrong as Sheridan completed a perfectly thrown pass to Zion Babb. Babb made a great catch over a Notre Dame defender and ran down the field for a gain of 45 yards. Now having some confidence in Sheridan, I was quickly set up for disappointment. Only three plays later Sheridan threw a pass that was just barely too high for Carson Butler and it was picked off.

The defense, just as they did the entire second half, held Notre Dame and forced them to punt, meaning the interception didn’t lead to any Irish points. However, Sheridan would give ND the ball right back on the very first play of Michigan’s next drive by throwing a terrible pass. He lofted it down the field and a Notre Dame cornerback stood there and waited for it like he was returning a punt. The interception gave Notre Dame a chance to add to their lead, but Morgan Trent made his second interception of the game in the end zone. Trent was actually on the ground and the ball bounced off of a couple players and ended up in his hands.

Michigan would go three and out following the interception, giving Notre Dame the ability to take a knee and end the game. The Wolverines lost by a score of 35-17 and really did outplay Notre Dame in many aspects of this game, especially in the second half. However, as I stated at the very beginning of this post, the only stat that really mattered in the end was turnovers. Michigan had six of them and all but one came at the worst possible time or place on the field. Had it not been for even two of the fumbles Michigan very well may have won this game, but talk of “what if” means nothing as the Wolverines are now 1-2.

Despite how badly this game turned out, I am encouraged by how the offense played at times. Aside from the fumble, Steven Threet did a nice job of running the offense and making plays. He was able to run the ball once for a big gain and his passes were accurate for a change. And then Sam McGuffie had a huge game. He rushed for 138 yards and had a 40-yard touchdown reception that kept Michigan alive when they were down 21-0. I also liked the way Kevin Grady ran on his one touchdown, although that fight for every yard style caused a fumble when Michigan was inside the Notre Dame 5-yard line.

Defensively, we once again saw the secondary struggle a lot. You can’t really say anything about the first two possessions of the game as the offense and special teams gave ND such a short field, but I just really don’t understand what has happened to the secondary. Trent did have two interceptions, but he made just as many mistakes that gave Notre Dame points. At the same time, I don’t even know where to begin with Stevie Brown. I’ll concede that any safety could be fooled by a play-action, but that juke by Golden Tate where Brown missed the tackle was just another of the many mistakes he’s made this season.

Michigan is off next Saturday and will resume play on September 27 at home against Wisconsin. As we head into the bye week I am hopeful that the offense will continue to improve. They really did look much better against Notre Dame, and if they can stop turning the ball over then Michigan will have a chance against Wisconsin if — and that’s a big if — the defense can contain P.J. Hill. The defensive line didn’t look impressive at all against ND as Robert Hughes rushed for 2 touchdowns and 81 yards, so hopefully they will be able to at least contain Hill.

Thankfully Michigan can’t lose next Saturday since they have a bye, but the outlook for the rest of the season really will depend on what they do against Wisconsin two weeks from yesterday. A surprising victory could mean they are on the path to get 6 wins, but a loss could mean they are on their way to having one of the worst seasons in a very, very long time. I hope it’s the former, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Until then, I’m just glad we have one Saturday to sit back and relax before Big Ten play gets started.

Monday Quick Hits: Game Week Has Arrived

By · Monday, August 25, 2008 · 1:59 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 
  • Last Thursday was Michigan’s final two-a-day practice. They wrapped up the week on Friday with a scrimmage in Michigan Stadium called the “Beanie Bowl.” The team’s focus now turns fully toward Utah as the first game week has arrived.
  • MGoBlue has a video report on the “Beanie Bowl,” detailing exactly what it was all about. Basically, the coaches treated it like a home game to give the players an idea of what they should expect on game days in Ann Arbor. They took buses to the stadium, went into the locker room, ran out of the tunnel and touched the banner, and then scrimmaged in front of an empty 106,201 seats (note: capacity is reduced until the end of the stadium renovation). Even the band was there to help simulate a game day in the Big House.

    Due to construction, this was actually the first time Michigan players and coaches have even been in Michigan Stadium in quite a while, so it was a good idea to get them acclimated with the environment, even if the crowd was empty.

  • The Ann Arbor News’ John Heuser wrote a great piece on where Rich Rodriguez came from. It’s a long read, but is worth the time as it provides a detailed look at Rodriguez.
  • Also from John Heuser is a 2-deep depth chart for Michigan. I don’t know how accurate it is, but for the most part it seems to be correct. The only inaccuracies I noticed are that Steven Threet is listed as the starting quarterback and Zion Babb is Greg Mathews’ backup at receiver. At this point it seems like Nick Sheridan will be the starting QB and I haven’t heard a single thing about Zion Babb that would indicate he will even see the field at WR. I guess we’ll just have to wait until the official depth chart is released to see how accurate Hueser’s is.
  • Freshman linebacker Marcus Witherspoon claims that he is coming back to Ann Arbor and will be returning to practice. Witherspoon went back home to New Jersey earlier this month after something came up. The general consensus was that the issue had something to do with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Witherspoon is saying that he wasn’t ineligible or anything like that and called the issue a “personal matter.”

    I don’t think anyone ever believed he was ineligible as most people were under the impression that he had to fulfill a class requirement or something of that sort. It’s not that he didn’t pass a class or anything like that, but instead Witherspoon had to make sure that he had enough credits in certain categories to be eligible.

  • The reasoning behind Kevin Newsome’s decision to decommit from Michigan appears to be that he didn’t want to risk being moved to a position other than quarterback. That is what his father told ESPN, and to me it sounds like Newsome got some bad info, meaning Michigan was negatively recruited.

    It sounds like Newsome was afraid that if Shavodrick Beaver beat him out at QB in the future then he would have been moved to another position. In reality, though, nothing could be farther from the truth. Newsome would still have been a QB even if he was beat out by Beaver as Rich Rodriguez wants to have as much depth as possible at that position. In case something happens to the starter, Rodriguez wants to make sure the backup is just as good, which is why Newsome would not have been moved to another position.

    This was either a case of being afraid of competition or being told false things to further the recruitment of other schools. I have a feeling it’s a little bit of both, but the latter probably was the biggest reason Newsome decided to decommit.

  • The Free Press has a recap of how Michigan athletes did at the Olympics, which just came to a close yesterday.
  • Michigan is playing Oakland University in basketball at the Palace of Auburn Hills on December 20. The game will start at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on FSN Detroit. Also, Michigan is not on UCLA’s schedule. This is likely due to the fact that the two teams could play each other in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament.
  • USC’s Nick Perry, who was at one time strongly considering going to Michigan, still is not qualified. He will have one more shot at passing a test that would make him eligible to play this season.
  • Matt Hinton, formerly of Sunday Morning Quarterback fame, can now be found blogging at Yahoo’s Dr. Saturday.

Monday Quick Hits: Porter for Hobey Baker

By · Monday, March 24, 2008 · 2:06 PM |  Share | 6 Comments 
  • Kevin Porter, captain of the Michigan hockey team, is one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. The Hobey Baker Award is like hockey’s Heisman Trophy in a sense, and Porter is one of the favorites to win the honor. You can vote for Porter as 1% of the ballot comes from fan voting, but it appears someone has rigged it as Miami’s Ryan Jones has over 183,000 votes right now. Considering the next highest total is in the 3,000’s, I’d say Jones is getting some illegal help.
  • Speaking of awards, Michigan head coach Red Berenson, freshman Max Pacioretty, and Kevin Porter all were honored at the CCHA Awards Show on Thursday. Berenson was named the CCHA Coach of the Year (surprisingly only for the second time in his career), Pacioretty was named the CCHA Rookie of the Year, and Porter was named the CCHA Player of the Year.
  • Rich Rodriguez answers questions about Michigan’s first padded practice:

  • Also uploaded on MySpaceTV are an interview with Morgan Trent and highlights of spring practice.
  • Running back Carlos Brown has a broken finger after injuring it while lifting weights. Brown was expected to see some time at quarterback this spring and also compete for the starting running back job, so this is definitely a setback. Also out right now due to injuries are wide receiver Zion Babb (hamstring) and defensive tackle Renaldo Sagesse (shoulder).
  • Angelique Chengelis talks about how life will go on without Terrelle Pryor. When Rodriguez was asked about the newest Buckeye, he answered back with this memorable quote: “I only talk about the guys that play for Michigan.”
  • Jake Long scored a 26 and Chad Henne a 22 on the Wonderlic Test, which is given to NFL rookies to test their intelligence. Really the scores don’t mean anything once the players get on the football field, but they always are a topic of conversation around the league.
  • 2008 Michigan football student season tickets are now on sale and will be until March 28.
  • MGoBlog posted his 2009 recruiting board for Michigan.
  • Michigan Football Saturdays took a look at the SI Vault and posted links to Michigan-related pages.
  • MVictors posted a video tribute to Bo Schembechler that was recently uploaded to YouTube.
  • Randall L. Tessier, a professor at the University of Michigan, wrote to the Ann Arbor News to share some examples of athletes he’s had that care greatly about academics. Included in the article is an interesting anecdote about former Michigan hockey player Jack Johnson.
  • Thanks to the great weather in this state, the Michigan baseball team had to postpone another game today. They did get to play their home season opener on Thursday, and Big Ten Hardball was in attendance.
  • Michigan will play VCU in the second-round of the Women’s NIT tonight at Crisler Arena.
  • The Michigan women’s swimming team finished 9th at the NCAA Championships and had one swimmer win a national title.
  • Two Michigan wrestlers both barely lost out on national titles, but did help the team finish tied for 7th at the NCAA Championships.

Big Ten Media Day Notes: Roster, Carson Butler, and More

By · Wednesday, August 1, 2007 · 12:56 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 
  • Michigan’s official football roster came out yesterday and there are a few notable things about it. First off, we finally got to find out incoming freshman’s numbers. Most were known already, but now we get the full list, which is below.

    6 Donovan Warren
    15 Ryan Mallett
    17 Toney Clemons
    21 Junior Hemingway
    26 Zion Babb
    29 Troy Woolfolk
    30 James Rogers
    32 Vince Helmuth
    33 Marell Evans
    34 Avery Horn
    38 Artis Chambers
    40 Michael Williams
    50 David Molk
    53 Ryan Van Bergen
    58 Brandon Herron
    72 Mark Huyge
    80 Martell Webb
    81 Steve Watson
    95 Renaldo Sagesse

    JUCO linebacker Austin Panter is #54 and Marques Slocum is #91. Also, wrestler turned running back Mike Milano is sticking with football and is #38.

  • Adrian Arrington has returned to the roster after not being listed in the spring. We’ve known that he was back on the team for a while, but it’s still nice to see his name back with everyone else’s officially.
  • Speaking of returning to the team, tight end Carson Butler may have a chance to make a comeback as well. Rumors of this exact outcome have been going around the Internet for the last week, but Lloyd Carr officially acknowledged it yesterday.
    “I’m evaluating the situation right now. I’m going to make a decision. There’s a little bit more information I need to evaluate,” the Michigan coach said. “I want to make sure that it’s the right thing for our team, first of all, then for Carson, second of all. I’ve got to make sure of that, as sure as I can be. Part of that will be dependent upon what his responses are.”

    Carr has met with Butler already and will meet with him again this week. Even if Butler is allowed to return to the team, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that he will be playing immediately. He probably would first have to endure the Michigan Stadium steps program that Adrian Arrington got to know so well, and after that, earn his way back into the starting lineup. I hope things work out and Butler can return to the team. He has to get his head on straight as Arrington has done, but he would be a huge addition to a tight end position that really is thin right now.

  • While players return to the team, others depart. Noticeably absent from the newly released roster are FB Quintin Patilla, DT James McKinney, and OL Justin Schifano. Patilla reportedly is actually scheduled to rejoin the team once camp starts next week, so I’m not exactly sure why he isn’t on the roster. McKinney has a medical problem that is preventing him from playing, but if it got straightened out down the road, he could come back. Finally, Schifano gave up on football. He quit the team, so he won’t ever be back I’m guessing.
  • To close things out, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said that the chances of the conference expanding aren’t that likely. He stated that his recent comments about looking into the possibility were really overblown, so we shouldn’t worry about it too much. Brian at mgoblog did write a great post about which colleges would be the best candidates to be the 12th team, so I would still check that out.
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