Man, what a freaking game. I’m really bummed we lost, and with the way we lost. But that was a game. That was a freaking football game. One thing is for sure – Tate Forcier is a player, and Michigan is a decent squad, which is damn shocking. We’re not great, and they’re not great for beating us, but they’re a lot better than I expected.
It’s tough to look at the good in this loss, but there were a number of things we did well today, particularly on offense. While it wasn’t close to consistent enough, we did show pretty solid chops in a few areas.
1) Clausen – Jimmy played a heck of a game, showed he’s become a leader, and led the team to TDs at the end of the game when we needed it. He played smart, and except for a bunch of high balls (likely due to being over-fired up) was pretty accurate. His stat lines are solid again, though obviously his completion percentage went down. But we have a real QB folks.
2) Running Game – for the first time in a long time, we broke big runs. Up the middle. Against a decent D-line. We weren’t amazing, but it was a good running effort. The OL moved the DL pretty well, and Allen is clearly our feature back. Jonas Gray is a far, far distant 2nd and shouldn’t get as many carries in the future.
1) Golden Tate. Tate is an amazing athlete, and yesterday he was bad. Very bad. Dropped balls, missed routes, more dropped balls, and still with the showy attitude when he does get in for a TD. I love Golden, but he’s gotta check the ego and start to make plays when they’re needed. He had several that should’ve been huge plays and could’ve put the game away. He also should’ve hit the dirt in the waning seconds so we could call timeout, but instead he just kept running for no reason. This was still a super longshot, but it was a foolish play showing lack of awareness of the game (unless somehow we had used our final Timeout and I’m misremembering bc of the 15 beers in me at that point, which is possible, but I’m 99% sure we had a TO left and Tate shouldve dropped to the ground and called it). He took the loss on his shoulders, and it wasn’t all him, but his play hurt us big time. Gotta come back next week and make up for it Golden.
2) DL/LB assignment football. Wow, as good as we were in keeping running lanes clogged (most of the time) last week, we were horrible this week. No one seemed to be in the right spot. We didn’t have the scheme right (on Tenuta) and we didn’t execute right (on the DL and the LBs). Assignments were missed all over the place and it hurt us big time throughout the game, and in the last minutes.
3) CB coverage. What I viewed as a great team strength this season is no longer. Our cover guys forgot how to cover yesterday. Was it the spread O? Was it the fear of Forcier running? I don’t know. But the last TD was indicative of horrible coverage all day. We had miscommunication in the backfield all afternoon, and just blown coverage. Very, very bad.
4) Tackling. I have to admit that Forcier is a solid football player as a frosh. He’s going to be giving us headaches for four years. But I cannot understand how our fairly athletic front 7 can’t bring down a dude that’s 165 soaking wet. Hugely disappointing performance.
1) Weis’ game management – this was a disgraceful job managing a game by both the HC and the OC, Charlie Weis. It took forever to get plays in, which led to several delay of game penalties, and a few burned Timeouts that were essentially wasted. If you’re going to call plays from the field as the OC, you need to be able to do so quickly. Charlie didn’t get the plays in fast enough, and it put Jimmy in tough circumstances time and time again. Horrible.
Charlie’s playcalling on the last drive (paraphrased quote: They had 8 in the box and weren’t going to let us run so I was trying to win the game) was absolutely atrocious. I don’t care if they’re stacking 8. You call 3 running plays and hope for the best. You get positive yards, force them to burn their last time out, and maybe you get the first down as well. You burn off more than a minute, then you punt.
And if you do decide to throw, you don’t throw deep to Tate when it hasn’t worked all day, and you haven’t received an interference call all day. You do something short to get positive yards and keep the clock moving. It was absolutely terrible in every way. Charlie gets this way sometimes (see Navy a few years back, 4th and 12 or whatever and going for it instead of kicking the FG) and I just don’t understand it. Everyone in the world knows to run that ball 3 times and get the clock burned. These are huge decisions that can swing the game, and they did.
2) The Refs – We lost the game. The refs didn’t lose it, we lost it. But to ignore the ridiculous one-sidedness of the calls would be ignoring a huge factor in this game. These were the worst ones:
Holding penalties all day against us. Some were legit, about a third were not.
The overturning of Allen’s TD run. This was just blatant cheating. You have to have clear, obvious, clean evidence that a call was wrong to overturn it. I agree that it wasn’t clear from the replay angles if he was in or out. I can’t say he was definitely in for sure. But I can say, 100%, that he was not CLEARLY out. And since the original call was TD, it should have remained a TD. This deserves a formal complaint.
The time at the end of the game. Even if we touched the ball as it rolled into the end zone, they have to review the tape to check the timing of things and ensure that the clock is right. Instead, they hurried things and sprinted off the field at the end of the game. This also showed a blatant homerism.
Unsportsmanlike conduct call at a pivotal time. This is my Senior Year at the Big House revisted. Bobby Brown, I think, was called for the same thing at the end of the game and it gave UM field position and helped them win. If Allen’s “Shhhh” was unsportsmanlike, then the refs missed about 10 others, on every TD scored yesterday. Granted, Allen shouldn’t do anything once he gets in the end zone. It was stupid. He should be running stairs for it all day Monday. We should be so much better than doing stupid things like that. But still, if you’re going to call it on Allen, you should’ve called it 4 other times at least. Ignoring the very-late shove of Tate while he was down on the ground, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE REF, makes this call even worse. The refs had it out for us all day, and they got the game result they very-clearly wanted. A formal complaint from Swarbrick should be filed. Not that it will matter in the least, but the review should happen, at least to make those cheaters sweat a bit.
I feel pretty sick today. We played pretty good football at times yesterday, and certain players (Clausen, Floyd in particular) played really, really well. But it felt like we were fighting an uphill battle all day. Bad bounces (Tate’s punt), bad calls, missed points, 2 good plays, then holding. Repeat. It was like we just couldn’t keep the momentum once we got it.
Throw on top of that some bad, bad bad coaching decisions, and an away game with a hostile crowd, and we just weren’t good enough to overcome it.
But this season is far from over. If these players cash it in, I will blame no one but the Coach and he’ll have to go. But I am hoping the staff and the players bounce back. There’s a ton of football to be played and some of our breakdowns are very fix-able. 10-2, 11-1 (yes, USC looks vulnerable) are not unachievable. This team needs to bounce back, play better, and beat MSU.
I like our offense when we dont make boneheaded decisions in play-calling. I have severe concerns about our Defense and Tenuta’s play-calling and scheme as well, which I never thought I’d say. Obviously we’re not an amazing team, but we could be by the end of the year if we go to work and fix some things.
Time to get our heads on straight. Time to buckle down and do the work. Time to beat MSU, and ensure that this season isn’t defined by yesterday’s game, and is instead defined by how we respond to that game.
Let’s go Irish. Let’s go.