Sunday, October 11, 2009

Out of Time

"We didn't deserve to beat Michigan State. But this one, we played tough, we played hard, we played 60 minutes. We just lost." – David Moosman

I am convinced, if Michigan recovers the onside kick, they win that football game. If there's anything out there that puts two more minutes on the clock for Denard Robinson, Michigan wins. The offensive line was capably handling the Iowa DL, as they (mostly) had been all game. And the defense was doing a solid job of it's own. I mean, look at how Iowa scored.

How did Iowa score?

  1. Kick return starts Iowa's second drive on their own 43. Huge coverage bust where Mike Williams bites on Moeaki's fake that he's staying in to block and blitzes Stanzi.

  2. Tate Forcier INT. Iowa begins the drive on the Michigan 19. The defense holds them to 8 yards and a FG.

  3. Tate Forcier fumble gives Iowa the ball at their own 46. Stanzi completed one big pass for 22 yards to McNutt and then got nothing. Iowa kicked a 41-yard FG.

  4. Zoltan punt. Iowa starts on their own 21. Stanzi converts one 3rd and 6 with a perfectly-thrown 33-yard pass, then an absurd 3rd and 24 to Johnson-Koulianos, who's just barely got a step on Donovan Warren. Herbstreit blames this in part on Williams being slow to get back in coverage. Iowa covers the remaining 9 yards for the TD.

  5. Zoltan punt. Iowa starts on their own 24, and begins gashing the Michigan rush defense. The defense then stops the run and forces two incompletions, holding Iowa to another FG.

  6. Zoltan punt from the Michigan 1 is caught at the Iowa 38, but the coverage team allows a 20-yard return. Moeaki immediately gets loose on a similar bust (don't know who was victimized there) for a TD.

So what does that look like? Three of Iowa's scoring drives start due to Michigan turnovers. One is Zoltan punting from the 1, giving Iowa a short field. On drives that started behind their own 40, Iowa got 10 points, and they had to make a ridiculous 3rd and 24 to get 7 of them. 14 points came on epic coverage busts. OK, OK, Iowa did drive down to the 1 after starting on their own 33 once, but that relied on the Mathews fumble for 33 of those yards. Iowa had 15 drives. They started (on average) from their own 38 and went 25.5 yards per drive. The defense held them to 367 yards and 30 points and scored 7 points of their own. They crushed the Iowa rushing game (2.7 YPC), got burned on 4 big pass plays, and showed signs of actual competence.

So, uh, how did Michigan score?

I'm glad you asked, alternate me.

  1. Donovan Warren 40-yard pick 6.

  2. Iowa FG is answered with a 12-play, 72-yard TD drive.

  3. Hemingway returns an Iowa punt 7 yards to the Michigan 43. Michigan embarks on a 10-play, 57-yard TD drive featuring 7 Brandon Minor rushes, including the TD, and only one (4-yard) pass.

  4. Michigan gets an extra 15 on an Iowa personal foul, starting the drive at their own 40. Denard Robinson throws a couple of completions, but mostly keeps it on the ground during the 11-play TD drive.

Michigan's TD drives took a lot of plays to develop (12 plays, 10 plays, 11 plays). They had another 5-play, 51-yard drive halted by a Minor fumble. They were able to move the ball on the Iowa defense, but not in large chunks. I'm no expert, but that gives Iowa a lot of chances to stop you when you don't have good field position. There were only 2 (of 13) underachieving drives, for me. Michigan got the ball at their own 37 and 39 and punted away on both of those. Otherwise, Michigan started (on average) from their own 28. They were dominant in running the football. The big, overwhelming problem was giving the ball away. You can't overcome 5 turnovers, even if you get a pick 6, without being much, much better than the other team. And the thing that Michigan was doing well, running the ball, became a non-factor on the last drive due to the clock situation.

What people are going to remember most about this game is that last drive, with 1:30 on the clock and Tate Forcier on the bench, and that's a shame. It's not Forcier on the bench that killed Michigan, it's the five turnovers. Iowa had good starting field position all day, thanks to Michigan's generosity. They converted that into 30 points on 367 yards of offense. And while most of those turnovers came in the middle of the field, they stopped 4 Michigan drives.

And about that Forcier thing: Something happened out there that made Rodriguez keep him off the field. Even before the benching, there were several times where Rodriguez got in his face. After the fumble, after the three-and-out from the Michigan 1, after Tate's final series. Something was wrong out there. I'm assuming Forcier wasn't making his reads correctly or listening to Rodriguez's coaching. He tried to simply walk away after the fumble, which is a dumb idea (This goes for you too, JT Floyd). I don't know if this is a Hoosiers moment like Greg thinks it is, but I don't think it's the worst call in the history of sports to bench Forcier. Yeah, Robinson looked like a panicked freshman on the last pass. Yeah, I'd rather see Forcier out there. But if it means we're a better team in the long run, I'll take it. This team has too many weaknesses to be a Big Ten title contender, so I'll trade a loss today for another win next year.