Monday, September 15, 2008

"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you like the play?"

Trying hard to stay positive here:
-Sam McGuffie looked like a man among boys out there. Just like Mike Hart, three games into his freshman season, and we can already tell that a lot of people missed the boat on him (He was listed a three star / four star recruit, depending on who you listen to). I'm guessing that starting job is his for the next four years.
-Steven Threet all of a sudden looked like an actual Big Ten QB. They still didn't throw a lot down field or anything over the middle, but you could see where they could actually have an offense that is semi-consistent. The gap between him and Nick Sheridan is growing larger by the minute. Hard to believe Sheridan started the opener.
-The O line looked better in spots. Perry Dorrestein filled in very admirably. With some players possibly coming back for Wisconsin in two weeks (Huyge and Ortmann), the line could round into some sort of shape.
-Overall you could start to see how this offense could come together. They have a set of about half a dozen or so core plays, and a number of things that all work off them. Given some time, they could be quasi-decent.
-The Zoltan Mesko roll-out play is very nice, provided you have a punter who can make the right call and can kick it well on the run. If there is an opening, you get a first down. If not, you've at least held up some defenders close to the line and given your gunners time to get down the field.

-A loss is still a loss. And a loss to Notre Dame is worse. For the umpteenth time in my lifetime, we flat out gave away a game to a Notre Dame team that probably isn't very good, and might not be any better than us when all is said and done.
-The defense was very disappointing. We failed both times in the quick change scenario to stop them, couldn't defend a two-receivers pattern that resulted in a long ND TD, and couldn't tackle on another long ND run that killed some of our momentum before halftime. I don't think they cost us the game, but they didn't do much to help us win it either. I think before the season we felt this defense could be great. So far, I think it has been good, but nowhere close to great.
-The safety play has just been awful. Stevie Brown, in particular, is a 75 yard pass play waiting to happen. Bad angles, bad tackles, and just playing out of position..
-I didn't notice an egregious errors on the part of the LBs, but then again, I don't think ND did much to try and exploit them. Actually I don't think the Irish tried to do anything other than run out the clock once they got up by 21, and especially after the rains came.
-Of course that's what made the fumbles and missed opportunities. 21 ND points directly off unforced errors (three dropped balls without anyone touching them) and two drives stalled within the Irish 20. With the TOs, we win (or at least come much closer)

So where to from here? This doesn't look like an outstanding ND team (although part of that could be them dialing down after the big lead and due to the monsoon), and I would guess there are 4-5 teams better than them on our schedule, including the next two, Wisconsin and Illinois. It will be a real struggle to get to six or seven wins and keep the bowl streak going. As I've said many times in the past, my favorite trait of Carr's Michigan teams was their innate ability to come back from the dead (from a season perspective). It seemed like just about every year they would suffer one these losses, and everybody would write them off, and they would respond with a revitalizing win. As Bob Ufer once said. "Champions are never beaten." From OSU 95 to Illinois 07 and every one in between, you could never kill the spirit of Carr's teams. It now remains to be seen if Rich Rod's teams have that same quality