Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Overheard in the Student Section: Wisconsin

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Photo courtesy of the Detroit News

Before I could fully comprehend what was going on, I felt my back hit the concrete. Blackness engulfed me as I felt bodies pile on top of me. Hysterical screams pierced the air. My hat was lost in the struggle.

It was awesome.

Johnny Thompson's 4th quarter interception return for a touchdown set off a raucous celebration in the student section, punctuated by my friends decided it was a good idea to form a giant dogpile in our section. The scene would replay itself two more times, after Sam McGuffie put Michigan up 27-19 and when Allan Everidge's pass sailed out of the back of the end zone on Wisconsin's two-point conversion attempt. I finally learned my lesson during the final celebration, and jumped on top of my 6'2" friend before I could be once again buried underneath the sweaty pile of exuberance.

The scene could not have been more different at halftime. Boos rained down on a Wolverine team that had managed a paltry 21 yards of offense and coughed the ball up five times en route to a 19-0 deficit. We spent much of the halftime show discussing what the post-game meal would entail and how big a deficit it would take for us to leave the stadium. Morale was low.

Since it's Tuesday night, I really don't need to tell you what happened next. The offense came to life, and the defense continued to play the way Michigan fans expected them to play before the season. Steven Threet briefly blacked out and was possessed by the spirit of Randall Cunningham. Brandon Graham unleashed the beast. Travis Beckum forgot the basic rules of football, costing the Badgers the game-tying two point conversion.

Oh, and the student section was louder than I've ever heard it. As the second half progressed, and the tides turned, the fans who remained (and shame on you if you left) brought the noise like Public Enemy, circa 1988. After Thompson's touchdown, you could sense that the students, whose skepticism of this team has been well-documented on this site, finally embraced the team. They certainly seemed to embrace us. On the final drive, Steven Threet spent most of the time between plays with his arms raised, trying to squeeze every last decibal of noice out of the student section.

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Our quarterback (courtesy of the Detroit News)

In case you can't tell by now, there is not like the previous "Overheard..." posts breaking down all the stupid things said in the student section last weekend. I will only say that those who booed should feel ashamed for booing their fellow students who were doing all they could in the first Big Ten game of the RichRod era. However, I would rather not dwell on the negative. There were too many positives coming out of this game.

There is a different feeling on campus this week. Despite the struggles, the 2-2 record, the long stretches of offensive putridity, we love this team. People are starting to truly believe that Rodriguez was the right hire, and that we really will be good -- no, great -- in the seasons to come. We've been saying that all season, but the words had rung hollow, like we were only saying them to try to convince ourselves that, if we said them enough, they would become true.

Every week may be an adventure, but now it's an adventure in the sense of a roller coaster, not walking alone through a bad neighborhood at night. I look forward to more dogpiles, chaos, and lost articles of clothing in the years to come.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Best. Day. Ever.

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Todd Jones retires.

Up next: Jim Tressel involved in massive steroid bust. Tupac is actually resurrected. September 24th pronounced "Random Sexual Acts with Sports Bloggers Day".

Claude Lemieux May Return to NHL

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From Yahoo!'s Greg Wyshynski comes the news that 43-year old Claude Lemieux is contemplating a comeback attempt. As long as he returns with a Western Conference team, please, please, please let this happen. Darren McCarty is probably salivating at the mere thought of facing off against Lemieux one more time.

I dislike Claude Lemieux more than any other sports figure since I've followed sports (around 1994). March 26, 1997 (and no, I didn't have to look that up) was one of the greatest sports nights of my life, because I got to see him pounded mercilessly. Seeing that happen in 2008-09 would not be nearly as sweet, but it still would add some needed spice to a regular season slate that is devoid of the classic Red Wing rivalries of the nineties. If the Turtle gets signed to the Colorado, every Detroit sports fan will have the first Wings/Avs tilt on "save until I delete" status on their DVR.

C'mon Claude. If you come back, it'll be the first thing you ever did that I'll support, even if I absolutely do not have your best interests in mind.

Glazer: Millen Out as Lions GM

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Strike up the band! Cue the Munchkins! Party in the streets! Jay Glazer is reporting that the Lions have finally (FINALLY!) rid themselves of Matt Millen after a late-night meeting last night. It is not clear whether he was fired or if he resigned, but I couldn't care less about the details.

Millen leaves with a career record of 31-84 as a GM. I'm usually reluctant to say this, but that is a record that will never be broken.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bill Ford Finally Speaks His Mind

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Who had 84 in the pool for "how many losses under Matt Millen will it take for Bill Ford Jr. to finally snap?"

In all seriousness, though, it's about damn time. How much longer can William Clay Ford possibly hang on to Millen if his own son is publicly talking about how he'd fire the guy? It'll be interesting to see if Senior publicly responds to Junior's comments, or if he'll continue his lifelong trend of keeping his head firmly wedged up his own ass.

In other news, Tom Kowalski still makes zero sense.

Monday, September 22, 2008

All Aboard the 0-16 Bandwagon

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While watching the debacle that was Detroit's 31-13 loss to San Francisco, Webstarr and I tried to come up with a list of players on the Lions that we could see being an acceptable starter on a decent team. The list, after several minutes of racking our brains:
  1. Jason Hanson
  2. Calvin Johnson
  3. Roy Williams
  4. Ernie Sims
  5. Cory Redding
  6. DeWayne White (when he's trying)
  7. Dominic Raiola
  8. Nick Harris
Last time I checked, you need 24 starters (including the kicker and punter). If you want to be nice and project Kevin Smith to be a decent NFL back (or Rudi Johnson, who wasn't bad yesterday), the Lions clock in at nine, with two of the acceptable starters being the kicker and punter. We're not even halfway decent, by the loosest possible definitions of halfway and decency.

I really hate to say this, but I'm actively rooting for the Lions to go 0-16. If Millen somehow survives an 0-16 season without either being fired or resigning out of embarrassment, then I'll be comfortable renouncing my Lions fandom until his GM-for-life status finally ends. As for Marinelli, I couldn't care less what happens to him. The chances of the Lions picking up a credible coaching candidate while Millen is still GM seem slim at best, so there's no point in starting over with another crappy coach and another crappy philosophy that produces the same crappy results.

If you think I'm sad, or mad, you're wrong. It's become much worse than that. I'm completely apathetic. I've watched every game of the Millen era, and I say that with pride. Each Sunday, however, I find it tougher and tougher to justify watching the Lions take any shred of hope I had left and trample all over it. I've got better things to do. I'm sure most Lions fans do.

Saying "Fire Millen" doesn't begin to cover it. With this ownership, management, coaching staff, and team, we're a solid half-decade away from beginning to think about contending. Will I care about the Lions by then? Who knows. Hopefully, I'll have better things to do on my Sunday afternoons.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tigers/Indians Brawl Video




Enjoy this before MLB takes it down ... here's the full video from last night's bench-clearing brawl. Gary Sheffield, you are insane.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick Link Drop: Mac Back in the Fold

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Sorry for the lack of content today ... got a test tomorrow. Hate it when real life gets in the way of the important stuff. Here's some links to hold you over:
  • Slightly old news, but Darren McCarty agreed to a one-year, two-way deal to remain a Red Wing. I personally hope the guy retires a Wing, and I'm sure practically every Detroit fan feels the same. The only issue will be whether he can crack the regular lineup.
  • Michigan just picked up another big commit in Arizona DE Craig Roh, who committed on ESPNU tonight. Roh is a Rivals250 player who fills a huge need for the Wolverines.
  • The Pistons will look to bring Antonio McDyess off the bench this season, meaning Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson, and Kwame Brown are competing for a starting role this season. The favorite has got to be Maxiell, but I'd love to see Amir step up and allow Mad Max to continue to bring his energy off the bench.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wisconsin LB Casillas Cited for Drunken Moped Driving

ESPN.com is reporting that Wisconsin linebacker Jonathan Casillas was cited last month for drunk driving. On a moped. Commence comedic gold:

Casillas, who missed the eighth-ranked Badgers' first two games because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, was stopped by a university police officer on Aug. 24 just after midnight. A breath test showed his blood alcohol concentration to be 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Casillas, 21, received three citations -- first-offense drunken driving, driving with a prohibited alcohol concentration, and driving with two persons on a mo-ped.
Casillas was named to Phil Steele's preseason first-team All-Big Ten squad, which is enough to make me scared of the guy. That is, until I found out he was driving a moped. The Ace of Sports has uncovered an exclusive photo of Casillas the evening of the incident, apparently before he had picked up his passenger.

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"Come on guys, jump on!"

Oh, the humanity.

Yeah, This Guy is the Answer to All Our Problems

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At least Rudi Johnson was good at one point in his career. Mr. Two Yards and a Cloud of Fumble, everybody!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gregg Easterbrook, Total Douche, Continues Total Douchery

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"A degenerate, am I? Well you are a festizio! See, I can make up words too, sister."

The evidence that ESPN.com Page 2 writer Gregg Easterbrook is a complete jackass and a hack writer mounts, well, every time he writes something (those links were the first five relevant Google results for "Gregg Easterbrook is a douche"). His obnoxious look-at-me-I'm-so-smart-watch-me-reference-some-genius-shit-that-is-completely-irrelevant style, his painful attempts at humor, his creepy obsession with cheerleaders and his 1000-word tangents into political issues that have nothing to do with football all make me dislike him. However, I decided to take a look at his most recent article when I saw this picture on the front page of the WWL:

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Could Easterbrook have some brilliant insight into the beginning of the RichRod era? Could he give Michigan fans already calling for his head some interesting historical perspective? Perhaps he'll discuss how strange the Michigan-Notre Dame game was and note how the Wolverines dominated statistically?

Or, maybe he'll lump RichRod in with two of the bigger jackasses of the coaching ranks (scroll down to "Weasel Bowl Approaches":
This Saturday it's Little Nicky Saban versus Bobby Petrino as Alabama meets Arkansas -- the first Weasel Bowl! Note the schools of the Weasel Three -- Saban, Petrino and Rich Rodriguez -- are a combined 13-8 since these extremely expensive promise-breakers arrived. They'd probably be a combined 13-9 if Arkansas' game at Texas had not been postponed by Hurricane Ike, and surely Arkansas boosters are now praying that meeting is never rescheduled. The 13 victories include wins over cupcakes Western Illinois, Western Kentucky, Western Carolina and Miami (Ohio). Between huge salaries, legal fees and buyouts, Alabama, Arkansas and Michigan have already spent about $20 million to get a mediocre 13-8 result. Considering the fantastic advantages in money and recruiting power possessed by Alabama, Arkansas and Michigan, orangutans could have coached them to 13-8.
Nick Saban left the Dolphins for Alabama after unequivocally proclaiming that he would not be taking the Alabama job. He is a weasel.

Bobby Petrino abruptly left Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons, then quit on the Falcons in the middle of the season and left only a typewritten note behind. He is a weasel.

Rich Rodriguez left his alma mater to accept a job at a more prestigious university and football program. Yes, he got caught up in that ugly buyout business, but if you still think Rodriguez was entirely at fault for that ordeal you've been reading too much Michael Rosenberg. Rodriguez did not pick up and leave in the middle of the night, deny he could potentially leave, or abandon his team in the middle of a season. He is not a weasel.

Also, does Easterbrook seriously think that the 13-8 record of Alabama, Arkansas and Michigan is at all representative of how good these coaches are? Only Saban has had more than this season to do anything at his school. Petrino took the reigns of a team that lost Darren McFadden and Felix Jones from a team whose offense entirely consisted of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. RichRod took over a school with three returning starters on offense who were recruited for an entirely different offensive system. This is not karma. This is exactly what any sane person would expect.

Why does this guy still have a job? Orangutans could have written a better football article. And I bet they would cost ESPN less than whatever they're paying Easterbrook.

Jon Kitna is the Worst Starting Quarterback in the NFL


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Yes, worse than Tarvaris Jackson and Jeff Garcia. Combined.

To those who did not watch the debacle on Sunday, count your blessings. You missed a game that would make any NFL fan who wasn't a Lions fan fold his cards and get out. First, we go down 21-0, thanks to the usual suspects: bad tackling, especially right in the teeth -- er, gums -- of the defense. As for the corners? Every time any of our corners is up against a running back in a one-on-one situation, I say a little prayer for him. God never answers. Figures.

Anyway, the Lions suddenly remember that they are professional football players and were, at one point in their lives, really good at football. They go on a tear, thanks mostly to the only player on the team worth anything, Calvin Johnson. The Lions may have lost, but he is continuing his campaign for the Best Player on the Worst Team award, which LaDanian Tomlinson monopolized for a while before the Chargers got good. We actually pull ahead, 25-24, and there's some hope! The Lions might actually make a successful comeback, and one of the more amazing ones in recent memory!

But, as those of us who cried at night about the Lions when we were 5 know, you can never hope. Especially if you want to live past 40. It's just too stressful.

The Great Jon Kitna takes his place under center. The fans are downright raucous (the best fans in the league, hands down, no argument), hoping to build on the slim lead. Then they blinked, and the Packers had scored 24 points and the game was out of reach. Again.

Jon Kitna threw three interceptions on three Lions offensive drives, all of which were returned for touchdowns, one of which was returned by the Actually Great Charles Woodson. Good for him.

Really? Are you serious? This is our quarterback? Why is he still starting? Why not pull him? Am I going to write the rest of this post in question form? Well, no. It's obvious the Lions have nothing to lose. We should hand the reigns over to Dan Orlovsky and see what he can do. I know he probably sucks, but what the hell, you know? Either that or put Drew in. For God's sake, anybody. Somebody find Elvis Grbac.

Here's my theory: the only reason Marinelli won't bench Kitna is because the coach is afraid of some sort of divine wrath. I hope by now you all have heard of Kitna's insane forcefulness with his Christianity. The man is a walking Crusader. To hear him talk, every Lions win is a miracle from God (which is half true). What about the losses, Jon? Huh?

I have been calling for Jon Kitna's head since he got here. It is obnoxious to say you are set at the quarterback position for the present and the future when you're sending out a career backup in his mid-thirties. That is the voice of someone who doesn't know anything about football. Or age.

It's time for a change. The only way to get real change, of course, is for the Fords to sell the team. Or at least for them to fire the President-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. But you and I both know that won't happen for a while, so at least send out a quarterback who gives the team a chance to win every week, not one who seems to actively destroy that chance, especially when we're winning. You owe it to the fans. Send Jon Kitna to where he's always belonged: a pulpit. Give me Drew Henson. Anything is better than the same boring old mediocrity. And hey, maybe a winless season is just the sort of thing this team needs in order to orchestrate some change.

I can hope, can't I?

Rich Rod, Lou Holtz Sympathizes

A Michigan-Notre Dame game in South Bend ends with a team who was thoroughly outgained escaping with a victory over an unranked team with a first-year coach thanks to a bevy of turnovers, special teams errors and questionable officiating.

Think I'm talking about this past Saturday? Try 1986.

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The parallels between Michigan's 24-23 victory at Notre Dame Stadium borderline on eerie.

Goodness gracious, who won this game, anyway?

Surely it was the team that piled up 455 yards and 27 first downs, converted 8 of 12 third-down situations, completed 21 of 33 passes, averaged 6.3 yards per play and never had to punt. Sorry.

You mean it was the team that punted four times, began one offensive drive on its own seven-yard line and finished it on its own five, averaged 2.4 yards per running play in the second half, gave up as many rushing touchdowns in the first half (two) as it did in the entire 1985 season and generally played defense more ineptly than it had since the ark was built—when Bo looked up and saw that, yeah, all bad things are wont to fall from the sky?

Well, at least Bo didn't tear his ACL and MCL. But yeah, other than that, replace Bo with Charlie Weis and fudge the numbers a little and this is essentially the same game. And think Michigan fans were tortured by the mistakes that plagued the Wolverines on Saturday?
Luck of the Irish? Hah. Notre Dame suffered two lost fumbles, an interception in the end zone, a kickoff it could not field, a dropped touchdown pass, a missed extra point, an apparent go-ahead touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that was ruled incomplete and a last-second field goal attempt that was tipped and barely missed winning the game.
It keeps going. Michigan fans were relieved to see that Rich Rodriguez's offense would be less predictable and (eventually, hopefully) more successful than the plodding mess that Mike DeBord's offense was. On first-year coach Lou Holtz:
Another is that Notre Dame finally has itself a real college coach who can draw up real college plays. "We could predict how they'd line up, but not what they'd run," said Schembechler. Said Notre Dame's Tim Brown, who led the team with 65 yards rushing on 12 carries, "No more Pinkett right, Pinkett left, Pinkett up the middle, punt." Allen Pinkett, since graduated, was Faust's idea of offense last (5-6) season.
Seriously, this is creeping me out. If there's a critical touchdown catch negated by a possibly dubious call, I'm locking all the doors and closing my blinds.

It was clear that Notre Dame could win the game. In fact it appeared that Notre Dame had , when Beuerlein threw a bullet to tight end Joel Williams leaping in the back of the end zone with less than five minutes to play. But the pass was ruled incomplete because the back judge, Ted DeFilippo, saw Williams's right foot come down on the end line (NCAA rules require a receiver to first touch one foot inbounds for a reception to be legal). Neither photographs nor TV replays conclusively supported the call by DeFilippo, who had a direct sightline to Williams's feet. Notre Dame settled for a field goal, making it 24-23, which was how it ended, after John Carney missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 13 seconds left.

Williams said after the game that he had been told by a Michigan ball boy poised near the end line that Williams had, indeed, landed inbounds. Said a crushed but ever-wry Holtz afterward, "The ball boy said he was in, and I believe Michigan runs an honest school."


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Self-portrait, taken moments after reading SI's recap of the 1986 Michigan-Notre Dame game.

Good lord. I guess the debacle in South Bend was 13 years in the making. It's even stranger when you consider that Saturday was the day Notre Dame honored Holtz for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Holtz went 5-6 in that 1986 season, losing five of those six games by a combined 14 points. He then went on to post a 100-30-2 career record with the Irish, and captured the 1988 national title.

Now if RichRod started talking with a lisp and committing major recruiting violations, we'd really be talking about some interesting parallels here.

Sorry, that was too easy. Michigan's loss to the Golden Domers certainly wasn't fun to watch, but there was enough good there to be very optimistic for the future. There's clearly already a very good precedent set, even if it was set by the insufferable Dr. Lou.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jimmah! and the Aztecs: Part Two

This post continues my look at Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen's performance against San Diego State last week. Without further ado, the second half (first half can be found here).

Ninth Drive:

2nd and 13: Swing to Allen for 3 yards.
3rd and 10: Shotgun; runs from pocket and delivers off-target pass that is too high for Rudolph to haul in.

Drive ends in punt.

Tenth Drive:

1st and 10: Fade to Kamara; overthrown and intercepted. The pass was not there and Clausen should probably never have thrown that pass. It seems like he went with his first read and threw it without looking at the coverage.

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Eleventh Drive:

No passes; drive ends on fumble by Allen.

Twelfth Drive:

1st and 10: PA rollout; completion to Tate for 10 yards. Throw is a little low from Clausen but a nice catch by Tate.
2nd and 5: Quick flare to TE Yeatman for 4 yards. Nobody around him.

Drive ends with punt.

Thirteenth Drive:

1st and 10: Finds Hughes sitting in middle of field wide open. 8 yard gain.
1st and 10: Slant to Tate. Clausen hits a window about the size of a Mike & Ike, again showing off his arm strength.

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1st and 10: Another slant to Tate. Almost identical to previous play. 15 yards. Jimmah(!) bears frightening resemblance to RoboHenne.
1st and 10: Screen to Allen for 5.
2nd and 5: Streak to Tate for touchdown.

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Another perfectly placed pass by Clausen. He looked really, really good on this drive.

Fourteenth Drive:

2nd and 10: Screen to Allen for 10 yards. Long developing play; Clausen actually did a good job of hitting Allen in the face of pressure.
2nd and 15: Threw deep comeback route to Tate, thrown 20 yards on a rope. Catch was called out of bounds, but a solid throw nonetheless. ND looks like it could (and possibly should) have challenged.
3rd and 15: Had Tate on streak, but Tate has to lay out and traps ball on ground. Would have gone for 40 yards. Pass interference keeps drive alive, but had nothing to do with play. I'm sure Irish fans would have liked for Clausen to throw a perfect strike to Tate, but throw was catchable (albeit difficult).
2nd and 7: Quick out to Grimes; 6 yard gain.
2nd and G from 6: Corner fade to Grimes for touchdown. Clausen puts the ball exactly where it has to go.

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Notre Dame had one more drive after this, but it was entirely comprised of clock-killing runs.

Clausen's final stat line: 21-34, 237 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, no sacks.

My impressions:
  • His arm is way stronger than it was last year. Not only that, but his decision-making seems to have improved as well. Besides the one bad interception on the overthrown fade, Clausen did a great job of making safe throws when necessary and going downfield when he had one-on-one coverage. If given the time, he can make any throw he wants to.
  • Having said that, I'm still unsure about his pocket presence. San Diego State got almost no pressure on him, thanks to a completely depleted defensive line (the Aztecs were playing their best linebacker at DE, to give you some perspective). However, the one time they were able to get pressure (during the third drive, on 3rd and 10) Clausen completely lost his mind and should have been hit with an intentional grounding flag. If Michigan is able to get some pressure on Clausen (and I think they will), there is definite Yakety Sax potential.
  • Michigan needs to force Clausen to make more intermediate throws. Almost all of his passes against San Diego State came either on wide-open dumpoffs, screens, or fades/streaks. There was nothing thrown deep over the middle all game, and the only intermediate stuff thrown over the middle was the two lazer-like slants to Tate and a couple crossing routes where nobody was within 10 yards of the receiver. Clausen has to prove he can make those throws, especially if Michigan gets some heat on him.
It may be a complete waste of time to try to assess Clausen's maturation based on a game against a team that lost to Cal-Poly in week one. However, as Michigan fans should know by now, no matter who a team plays against the quarterback has to execute on his throws. Clausen executed against the Aztecs. He will certainly go up against a much better defense in Michigan, but the Wolverines have to be prepared for a better Jimmah(!) than the guy they saw last year. The key, clearly, is going to be getting solid pass rush and forcing Clausen to make quick decisions with the ball. If he has time, he will pick us apart.

Just for kicks:

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I'll be at the game on Saturday, so a special "Overheard at Notre Dame Stadium" post may be coming on Monday, depending on where my seats are. Go Blue!

Jimmah! and the Aztecs: Part One

One of the greatest variables for Saturday's Michigan/Notre Dame matchup is the maturation of Notre Dame quarterback/savior Jimmy Clausen. Last season, playing behind perhaps the worst offensive line in the history of organized football, Clausen stuggled mightily. His season line: 138-245 (56.3 completion percentage) for 1254 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions in ten games. It is hard to take anything away from last season, however, considering the aforementioned abomination of a line and the fact he was playing as a true freshman.

How will he play on Saturday? I took at look at every pass he threw in Notre Dame's first game of the 2008 season, a 21-13 victory over a crappy San Diego State team that lost in week one to Cal Poly. Is this a new Jimmah(!)? Let's take a look at the first half:

First Drive (Score remains 0-0 until otherwise noted):

3rd and 2: Slant intended for Duval Kamara broken up. Pass thrown into double coverage, though it didn't look like he had much there.

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Second Drive:

1st and 10: Rolls out and completes 5-yard out route to David Grimes.
3rd and 3: Overthrows a fade route intended for Kamara.

Third Drive:

1st and 10: Play action streak to Grimes; play is well-covered, but a (highly) questionable pass interference call gives ND a first down.
1st and 10: Play action; rolls out and hits wide open tight end Kyle Rudolph in the flat for five yards.
3rd and 3: Fade route; complete to Kamara for 28 yard gain.

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Can't say he really could have thrown that pass any better. This is Good Jimmah(!), who is absolutely money when given time.

1st and 10: Another fade; receiver Kamara pulls up with apparent injury; pass goes out of bounds. Nothing Clausen could do there, since you can't really expect your receiver to pull up lame on a timing route.
3rd and 10: Chased backwards by pressure from blitz up the gut; should have been intentional grounding after he runs around like an idiot and then throws the ball out of bounds a good 5-10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

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This is Bad Jimmah (!), the young kid who never got hit in high school and has no idea how to handle a rush.

Drive ends in a missed FG.

Fourth Drive:

1st and 10: PA out; corner plays way off Grimes, allowing Clausen to hit him for an easy 16 yard gain.
1st and 10: Rolls out; drills Tate on sideline comeback route for 10 yards. Clausen's arm is definitely stronger than it looked last year.
1st and 8 (following downfield holding on run): Screen to RB Robert Hughes for 15 yards.
1st and 10: PA; throws a laser to Tate for 9 yards.

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This is the Clausen we never really saw last year. There's a reason he was regarded as the most fundamentally sound quarterback recruit in a generation: he has a gun.

2nd and 9: Crossing route to Hughes; no pressure, and nobody covering the guy out of the backfield; play goes for 10 yards.

Drive ends with Hughes fumble on four-yard line.

Fifth Drive:

1st and 10: PA; Corner blitz ends up right in his face, so he throws the ball away.
3rd and Eleven: Shotgun; Slant for Kamara deflected and picked; ball hit Kamara right in the chest, so it's tough to blame Clausen for that one.

Sixth Drive (score now 7-0 Aztecs):

2nd and 7: Quick WR screen to Grimes; nothing there; gain of two.
3rd and 5: PA; Chased from pocket and throws the ball away, which is the right move.

Drive ends in punt.

Seventh Drive:

1st and 10: Screen pass; incomplete because of heavy pressure from unblocked DT.
3rd and 6: PA; Had Tate wide open on smash route in back of end zone; threw too far ahead. That should absolutely have been a touchdown.

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Drive ends the next play on a fumbled snap on a FG attempt. Major blown opportunity for Jimmah(!) and the Irish.

Eighth Drive:

1st and Ten: Shotgun; pressure; throws the ball in general direction of Tate, who was double covered, but out of bounds.
2nd and Ten: Swing pass to Allen, stuffed for 2 yard loss.
3rd and Twelve: Shotgun; streak/fade to Floyd for a touchdown. Again, when given time, Clausen can make every throw.

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That's all for Clausen's first half. I'll have the second half and my conclusions up shortly.

Coming Tomorrow...

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At some point in the afternoon/evening, I'll have a post up breaking down every single pass Jimmy Clausen attempted last weekend against San Diego State, in a probably fruitless attempt to figure out his strengths and weaknesses and what Michigan should do to stop him. I was hoping to have it up tonight, but school inconveniently reared its ugly head. Also, I'm really, really slow at video editing.

Anyways, if you're wondering why posting is so light, blame school, iVideo, and my addiction to DVR'd South Park episodes. Oh, and Jimmah! Always blame him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tatum Bell is a Bad Liar

I'm at work, so Microsoft Paint it is.

Tatum Bell should probably have made sure the subject of his alibi was on the same page as him before he issues his denial of intentionally stealing Rudi Johnson's luggage. Bell, as we all know by now, claimed that he thought the bags belonged to released DE Victor DeGrate, whom Bell said had asked him to pick up his bags. From the Free Press:

“I just know I had nothing to do with it,” DeGrate said today in a phone interview.

“What he did is his business. Why he said what he said, I don’t know. I can’t do nothing for you or for him as far as that goes.”

...

“The way I just figure, he got caught up in a jam and that was the best thing going at the time, was to say what he said,” DeGrate said.
Oops. Good luck finding another NFL job, Tatum. I don't think "handles pressure well" will be on his resume.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Overheard in the Student Section: Miami

Well, I wish I could say that I didn't have to bring this feature back. Unfortunately, Webstarr and I, despite being surrounded by a completely different cast of characters while standing on the same seats we did last week, were subjected to further aural torture (sexy!) during the Michigan/Miami game. The lowlights:

The guy standing next to me who apparently decided to be the personal Keith Jackson to everyone withing hearing distance. Except he didn't know a 4-3 defense from a pack of angry wolves (although, to be fair, our defense often resembles such). The kid did have timing however. He would call out "punt", "pass", or "run" at the exact second that it became blindingly obvious to everyone who was not stabbing themselves in the eye with a working jackhammer exactly what was unfolding. No exact quotes are needed for this one; I think we've all sat near one of these before. I coped by loudly proclaiming exactly why the kid was completely wrong to Webstarr every chance I got without actually addressing him directly. Passive-aggressive behavior happens to be a specialty of mine. Obviously.

"Morgan Trent is a fucking joke."

This is essentially akin to saying "I am a sheep who has not watched a Michigan football game with my eyes open since 2005." Morgan Trent was an All-Big Ten honorable mention last year. Not the highest of praises, I know, but the guy is about as solid as solid can be for a collegiate corner. There are literally dozens of other things you should be complaining about, even on our defense (coughSTEVIEBROWNcough). Instead, dickwad in row 56 decided to blame every completed pass on Morgan Trent, regardless of coverage or responsibility. Note to this guy:

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Thanks.

"C'mon Threet, throw a Henne block out there, you FUCKING ASSHOLE."

Exact quote, I swear to Fielding Yost. This came during the failed double-reverse to Martavious Odoms that only gained one yard. I don't really know what this guy expected, but Threet ended up all on his own with two guys to block. I guess this guy's definition of a 'Henne block' is to morph into Jake Long while gaining the ability to stop time in order to pick off the entire other team one-by-one. Seriously, I think Threet has many, many things to work on before he gets to refining his one-on-two blocking ability. But yeah, what an asshole.

"FUCK MIAMI, THEY'RE SO FUCKING GAY."

This gem came out of one girl's mouth after pretty much every successful play for either team. Even if you ignore the offensive nature of the statement, this hurts beyond belief. They are Miami of Ohio. We are Michigan. Even during an off-year, it is not worth directing this much bile towards a MAC team. Show some class. This is coming from a kid who was thoroughly entertained every time a certain friend would make a polygamy joke at Utah fans (best of the bunch: "Personal Foul: Too Many Wives"; which came right after one of the Utes' many 15-yard flags). When your statements are deemed too vulgar and stupid for the student section, please think about replacing the idiot filter that should be located somewhere between your brain and your mouth.

Note that every one of these statements (except obnoxious play-by-play guy) contains an f-bomb or two. Is there a direct correllation between stupidity and vulgarity? Actually, don't answer that, since I curse like a sailor on game days.

I'm pretty sure I can say this now: more coming in two weeks.

Lions Open Season: Collective Moan Heard 'Round Michigan


Anyone who watched the Lions game yesterday probably was asking the same three questions I was:

1) Isn't our coach, Rod Marinelli, of the defensive mind?  Isn't that his focus?

2) Why does Paris Lenon have an NFL roster spot?

3) Why was our offense moving slower than Taco Bell through a digestive system with 8 minutes left in the game and down by two scores?

I will attempt to answer these questions for you, just to clear a few things up.

1) Yes, he is.  And he is just not very good at what he does.  I understand that some blame lies with the defensive coordinator, and most should lie with the players, but if you are a head coach of a football team and you have worked on the defensive side of the ball your whole life, I don't understand how you can send a defense like that out on the field and sleep that same night.  The defense wasn't just bad as in blown coverage, bad angles, no.  They couldn't even tackle.  Now I'm no NFL football player, but isn't that the first thing you learn how to do if you play defense?  This was not run-of-the mill, just another Lions season bad.  This was worse.  The defense is as bad as I've seen it in a long time.  And for the second question, we're going to talk about it's star...

2) Paris Lenon, everyone!  The worst professional football player to have a roster spot!  This was the falcon's game plan: run the ball directly at the middle of the Lions' defense and see if they can stop us.  Well, that's just what they did, and guess what?  Lenon all but gave Falcons running back Michael Turner a kiss goodbye on his way to the end zone.  This guy Turner had 220 yards!  I wish I was kidding.  I wish this was a joke, but that's our defense.  Just put in the practice squad guys.  At least they want it.

3) The last question, about the curious pace of the offense with 8 minutes left and down 10, ties in directly to my biggest gripe of all when it comes to the Lions, besides Matt Millen: Jon Kitna.  Jon Kitna is a past-his-prime, career backup quarterback who is a cancer in the locker room.  Now if you have any idea what you're talking about, you may be saying, "Joe, I know he's old, and he led the Bengals to some 4-win seasons before Carson Palmer got there, but why would you say he's a cancer in the locker room?"  Here's why

The article itself is glowing.  It was written last year, when the Lions were in the midst of a 6-2 start and feeling pretty good.  So of course then, when we were winning, everyone loved Jon and his militant faith.  Of course, the writer probably now knows he shouldn't use the term "mastered" when it comes to a quarterback and an offense until the end of the season.  Keep in mind, We won 7 games that year.  We started off 6-2, and won one game the rest of the year.  Even I was surprised.  I don't care what anybody says, it is impossible to have that kind of annoyingly vocal faith pressed on a locker room day in and day out without it being divided.  I guarantee players have gotten sick of JK and his preaching.  No wonder his offensive line won't protect him.  At least if he gets a concussion he'll shut up.  

Oh yeah, and Dan Orlovsky is retarded.  And so is whoever said the Lions were blessed.  I hate Matt Millen, I already want the season to be over.  Goooooooooooooo Lions!
 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bill Davidson Drops the Gloves

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Beneath this gentle, wrinkled exterior is a feisty man with a distaste for the men in the gray shirts.

The Detroit Free Press has posted an interview with Hall-of-Fame bound Pistons owner Bill Davidson, covering a wide range of topics from his relationship with Isiah Thomas to his distaste for loud music. Davidson is one of the great owners in sports, and is widely respected in the NBA, but he clearly is not afraid to throw out some zingers.

On Larry Brown: "Well, Larry Brown is not what he appears to be. And he's built a reputation for himself based on his own PR people. He's not what he appears to be."

He also said he decided he would fire Larry Brown after half a season of him coaching the Pistons, and was forced to stick it out with him for two years because he won the NBA title in 2004. He even blames Brown for the loss to San Antonio in the 2005 finals:
We were the better team, but Larry Brown was not the right coach. Now that you can say.
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Beneath Larry Brown's slimy, opportunistic exterior is, well, more sliminess and opportunism, probably.

Davidson definitely comes off as a player's owner. In fact, here is his reasoning for the firing of the last three Piston coaches:
Brown: "The reason I get rid of a coach is if he's lost the players. I don't want to subject my players to a coach they don't want, basically and in whom they have lost faith."

Rick Carlisle: "Yeah, he had lost the players. He had a certain style, which wore off after a certain amount of time. But he was a good coach, on kind of a short-term basis. He knows the game, did all the right things, but he didn't have that personal touch with players."

Flip Saunders: "He had definitely lost the players."
Davidson saves most of his venom, however, for the NBA referees.
Well, I look for certain things, which are mainly fouls ... and, unfortunately, the referees are not what they should be -- although they're getting better. So I watch the referees. I watch who they are. There are certain referees -- when they come to our game -- you know you're gonna lose. And that should never be.
Wow. Don't go so easy on them, Mr. Davidson. Wait, there's more?

Q: What do you think of the whole Tim Donaghy scandal?

A: That's the tip of the iceberg with referees.

Bill Davidson is officially one of my favorite people on Earth.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Michigan Football News: Hill, Witherspoon Gone, Grady Back, Injuries

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Grady's back (see what I did there?...sorry, never again)

Via everywhere (I'll link to The Diag, since it has all this info in one place), comes several new pieces of information on Michigan football from Rich Rodriguez's press conference.
  • Freshman LB/DE Taylor Hill, as previously rumored, will transfer. In addition to that loss, freshman LB Marcus Witherspoon has not qualified for Michigan and will not make it to Ann Arbor, now or in the future. Michigan's strong linebacker class from '08 takes a sizeable hit.
  • Kevin Grady will play on Saturday, back from his indefinite suspension for being drunk beyond anything I can possibly imagine. Hopefully he can add a spark to a Wolverine running game that was anything but productive against Utah.
  • Receiver Greg Mathews and defensive end Ryan Van Bergen will both be out for Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio).
Well, at least Kevin Grady is back.

This Tatum Bell/Rudi Johnson Story is Getting More Awesome by the Second

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Rudi Johnson has commented on the Tatum Bell luggage-stealing fiasco. Tom Kowalski has the quotes:

According to Johnson, Bell took two of Johnson's duffel bags from the Lions locker room on Monday and, when they were returned by another party on Tuesday, almost everything was missing.

"Underwear, socks, credit cards and money. He left my money clip with no money in it,'' said Johnson, adding that about $200 was missing. "He should've taken the clip, too. It's quite stupid if you ask me.''

...

"All of this happened after he got released and came in and got some stuff out of his locker,'' Johnson said. "That's when he scooped the bags up, some real shyster, conniving stuff.''

It's not every day you hear the word 'shyster' thrown around, but man, if that's true, shyster it is.

Bell has a different take on things, naturally. Naturally, it sounds like pure horseshit.

Bell told The Detroit Free Press that it was a misunderstanding. "I ain't no thief,'' Bell said.

According to Bell, he was to pick up some bags in the locker room for defensive lineman Victor DeGrate, who was recently released. Bell said he picked up some bags in the locker room and dropped them off at a woman's home. Bell said that he found out his error, he tried to explain it to Johnson but that Johnson wouldn't listen.

Yeah, that makes total sense, Tatum. Dropping off the bags with some woman, who in turn brings them BACK to the Lions practice facility, where a recently cut defensive lineman would not be, because he was CUT. Methinks Rudi saw right through that one:
"He tried to make up an excuse. He said some girl had got it and took it to somebody's house,'' Johnson said. "The story didn't make any sense so I didn't pay it any attention.
Johnson also said he wouldn't be taking the matter to the police, and instead would "handle it" himself. I hope Tatum Bell has some solid home protection in place, since it doesn't look like he'll be getting any job offers anytime soon.

Exclusive: Evidence of Tatum Bell's Daring Escape

As many of you know by now, now-released Lions running back Tatum Bell decided to steal newly-inked Rudi Johnson's luggage from outside Matt Millen's office and stash it at at the hosue of a "female acquaintance". The Ace of Sports has uncovered unreleased footage of Bell sneaking away from the Lions' practice facility with Johnson's luggage in tow.

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My Photoshop skills pretty much match Bell's ability to get tough yards between the tackles. Zing!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Your Detroit Athlete of the Decade Is...

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...Nicklas Lidstrom, with a 73%-27% victory over Pistons guard Chauncey Billups in the finals.

I'd like to thank all the bloggers who helped me out with the tournament: Dave from Gorilla Crouch (Lidstrom), our very own Sam Weiss (Billups), Big Al from the SideLion Report (Jason Hanson), Blake from Spot Starters (Magglio Ordonez), Natalie from Need4Sheed (Ben Wallace), and Christy from Behind the Jersey (Steve Yzerman).

I must say, I couldn't agree more with the results of the tournament. All of the athletes nominated are tremendous athletes who have represented the city of Detroit well. However, Lidstrom, with his unbelievable statistics, four Stanley Cups, and absolute dominance of his position, stands just above anyone else who has played in Detroit the last decade.

I will say no more. Here's five minutes of Lidstrom homage, YouTube-style.




Mike Cox Likely to Transfer

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Freshman Mike Cox might not be in the maize and blue for much longer (photo from rivals.com)

Brian at MGoBlog has some inside info that freshman running back Mike Cox is currently looking at east coast schools to transfer to. With fellow freshmen Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw already getting the starting nod in the backfield, and with running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint, Vincent Smith, and Teric Jones all part of the 2009 class, Cox was likely never going to see significant (or even mop-up) playing time for the Wolverines.

Called that one, by the way. However, I also projected Michael Shaw to transfer eventually, and that looks extremely unlikely at this point. You can't win them all.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lions Sign Rudi Johnson

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Tom Kowalski is reporting that the Lions have signed former Bengals running back Rudi Johnson to a one-year deal. Johnson was released by the Bengals last week, and apparently impressed Rod Marinelli enough in workouts to merit a deal:
"I just had a chance to watch him in some drills (during a workout) and he's impressive. He's a big, thick guy who has great feet. I played against him over the years so I know he's a very physical back. He's a guy with a lot of talent and a lot of experience.''
Johnson had three straight 1000-yard rushing seasons from 2004-2006, but struggled with injuries last season and during training camp this year. He will likely begin the season as Detroit's number two back, behind rookie Kevin Smith.

Overheard in the Student Section: Utah

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Note: This piece is going to come off as an incredibly negative picture of the Michigan student section. For the most part, Michigan has great fans who understand football, the new offense, and the fact that this season will not be a normal Michigan season. Unfortunately, they do not comprise the entirety of the student section.

Depending on the continued proficiency of the students around me and Webstarr in saying absolutely ridiculous shit that makes me want to give up watching sports, move to Tibet and live in a tent on the side of a mountain, this may become a regular feature. These things were overheard in the student section at the Utah game on Saturday. Snarky comments ho!

"Why do they keep running the same play?"

This was said several times, by the same couple kids, after any time Michigan ran the ball. For the record, a shotgun zone read =/= a dive out of the ace formation. For further explanation of your stupidity, please consult any football video game made since the dawn of fucking time.

"TACKLE HIM" and "THROW THE BALL"

This from the shrieking girl standing directly behind us, every time Utah ran the ball and Michigan dropped back to pass, respectively. Word to the not-so-wise: they can't fucking hear you. I have no problem with such statements as "[Defensive player X] took a bad angle on that play" or "[Receiver] was really open". That is called 'insight'. Telling the 250 pound man who spent his entire spring and fall learning how to "TACKLE HIM" to take down the ballcarrier while you're standing 200 feet away will only make everyone around you want to shove a $5 hot dog as far as it can go down your windpipe.

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Brandon Graham, taking the advice of the chick in Section 26, Row 56 and tackling the guy with the ball (photo courtesy of Rivals.com)

"Come back, Lloyd!"

This stroke of intellectual genius hit several students in our section as Lloyd Carr made his way up the stadium steps after halftime. Let me say this: I love Lloyd. Unlike 75% of the kids in the student section, I actually watched Michigan football when he won the national title in 1997. I have nothing but respect for Lloyd Carr. However, even he admitted it was his time to go after last season. To say you want him back after the new regime has had all of 30 minutes with an absurdly inexperienced offense to make an impression is unfair to intelligent Michigan fans everywhere. These are undoubtedly the same people who were calling for Ryan Mallett to replace Chad Henne last season. Cue horrifying memories of fumbled snaps, out routes thrown to the eighth row, and turnaround jump passes landing directly in the hands of appreciative safeties.

"You know, as much as I hated Henne, I think we're really going to miss him this year."

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I could go on, but my blood pressure is surely rising to unhealthy levels usually reserved for P.J. Hill when he is refused sixth helpings at team dinners. If I can keep my anger in check, look for this to be back next week.