Sun & Bluesday: A Spartan Existence

By Johnny Ginter on November 5, 2013 at 11:15a
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Michigan needs to kill this whole "little brother" thing immediately. I cannot think of a single time where it has been invoked preemptively and not completely backfired in their faces in a loud and embarrassing way.

Sparty took it to the Wolverines hard on Saturday, winning 29-6, and the box score more or less tells the story. Michigan State's defense, which I previously had not been completely sold on due to poor competition, looked like the best defense in the country. Statistically they are by a wide margin (especially their rushing defense, which has very interesting implications in a potential B1G championship matchup), and on the field they might be too. If they had even an average offense, you'd be looking at easily one of the top 5-10 teams in the country.

As far as Michigan goes, I'm still somewhat befuddled by this team as a whole. Imagine if the hemming and hawing that hampered the Ohio State defense up until the last few games effected the entire team, and always. That's Michigan. Brady Hoke may not be on the mythical hot seat yet, but if the Buckeyes destroy them in Ann Arbor, and frankly they should, Hoke will be facing some serious pressure to rethink the direction that he's trying to take the team.

Quarter 1

Michigan led off with a promising drive that ended when Michigan State woke up and held them to a field goal. Sparty responded with a field goal of their own, and then it was just a montage of Devin Gardner getting sacked a thousand times to the tune of One Last Breath by Creed. It's that "six feet from the edge" song, don't bother looking it up. 3-3 tie.

This is roughly the point where I thought that Michigan would get creative, amp some things up, and put Sparty on its back a little. Obviously I have not been watching Michigan football this year.

Johnny: I don't know that there was a right way for Michigan to attack the Sparty defense, but whatever Al Borges did wasn't it. What should he have done?

Ace: I don't really think Borges called a bad game; the issue is that a lot of what set up MSU's dominant defensive effort has been the way he's brought along his "offense" (scare quotes because I still have no clue what his idea of an offense actually looks like) over the last three years. Michigan's wasn't suddenly going to play high-tempo and break out a spread attack with the requisite constraints, and that's the best way to keep the Spartans from getting into their hyper-aggressive groove. Were there some infuriating moments?

Sure. He finally called a bubble screen, it worked for something like eight yards—because it attacked MSU where they were getting too aggressive—and he never called it again, nor even faked it to try and open up something in the running game. He put Devin Funchess's hand in the dirt with Devin Gardner under center on 2nd-and-15 and called the most unconvincing play-action in the history of football; of course Max Bullough screamed up the middle for a sack practically before Gardner could execute the run-fake, because why in the world would he respect the threat of an under-center handoff to Fitz Toussaint in that situation?

Michigan's offense was dead on arrival in part because they run an ever-changing grab bag of plays with little in the way of coherence, but only in part. I'm not sure, in this game, what Borges could've done to consistently slow down the Spartan rush given the sorry state of the offensive line. (Where the blame falls for the line is another matter entirely.)

Quarter 2

Michigan State added a field goal after converting a few fairly impressive third and longs, which Michigan eventually responded to after a very silly drive that kind of worked in that they got points off a field goal. Frowning, Jim Bollman added some Sriracha to his glass of whole milk and was able to dial up a drive at the end of the quarter that resulted in a Michigan State touchdown. 13-6 Sparty.

The real change in this game is that Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi started dialing up the pressure on Gardner, and as soon as that happened Michigan's offensive line went into meltdown mode. This game was effectively over as soon as MSU took the lead.

Johnny: What happened on that last drive that worked so well for the Spartans offensively?

Ace: Connor Cook started hitting the passes that Michigan pretty much dared him to hit, and then MSU put the ball into the end zone in a fashion that many teams have this year—they managed to get to the line with speed and catch Michigan unready for the play, even in a two-minute drill. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis looked like he expected help over the top; safety Thomas Gordon's help didn't arrive until Bennie Fowler had the ball in the corner of the end zone.

At this point, Michigan's complete inability to deal with tempo—something that I believe stems from their offense's refusal/incapability to play at high speed—is something every opponent from here on out should attack; it's the main way in which offenses have been able to get big plays. Getting tempo'd by a Dantonio/Bollman outfit was definitely a low point, even on a day of low points.


Quarter 3

Another Michigan State field goal started the half off on the Big Ten-iest foot possible. The rest of the quarter was a Cormac McCarthy novel, complete with an excess of mud and ennui. Gardner got sacked another 50 times I think, but it did not lead to a Drew Tate spiking of the football in anger. Sad. 16-6 Michigan State.

Johnny: Should Ohio State meet Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, what matchup would you be looking at the most closely?

Ace: The B1GCG vs. Other Available Television Programming.

Okay, if you want actual analysis, I'd say it's OSU's speedy outside receivers vs. MSU's corners. One of the main ways to put up points on the Spartans is to attack deep down the sideline; unlike Michigan, the Buckeyes have the line to protect the quarterback and actually allow these routes to develop. The MSU corners—especially Dennard—are very adept, but one mistake and Devin Smith could be waltzing into the end zone; these are the risks when a defense is predicated on playing a very aggressive cover 4.

Quarter 4

Michigan State thrust their tiny dagger into the back of Michigan on their first fourth quarter drive with a touchdown. Michigan's defense seemed ground down after three quarters of Bollmanball. The PAT was blocked, but who cares because the final ten minutes were an exercise in futility on the part of Michigan. Devin Gardner's brain finally broke (along with his soul) as Dantonio's squad added another TD and wrapped up a 29-6 victory.

Johnny: What is needed to fix the problems on the Michigan offensive line? Also, is Taylor Lewan history's greatest monster, or merely a low rent Pol Pot?

Ace: Time. Michigan is currently trotting out a true freshman, redshirt sophomore walk-on, and 285-pound redshirt freshman (and converted tackle) on the interior of the line. Backup options include redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis, who rotates in frequently as a sixth OL and should earn his job back next year—when the aforementioned RS frosh tackle, Erik Magnuson, projects to start at (hey!) tackle—and ... well, they tried a 6'1" walk-on at guard and he tore his ACL, and Chris Bryant got dropped to third-string after his stint as a starter, so that's about it. They need a year, and possibly a chance of OL coach (or offensive coordinator, but that isn't happening barring an even bigger collapse) for reinforcements to become viably big—the vaunted 2013 O-line class will have some serious starting candidates, one of whom (Kyle Bosch) is already there—and the rest of the guys to hopefully figure out how to properly execute blocks. Continuity would be nice; that won't happen with both tackles graduating.

Taylor Lewan played like an idiot and admitted as much on Monday. That was disappointing—and disappointingly unsurprising—to see. I understand that he plays with an edge and this is a good thing 95% of the time; there's a line you don't cross, however, and it's well before you start yanking guys heads around after plays are dead.


Johnny: For some inane reason I thought that Michigan was gonna win this game in a walk. I don't know why I thought that, or what drugs I was on when I figured "Oh sure, Funchess and Gallon will just let Devin dink and dunk his way down the field for three eventual touchdowns and that will be enough to beat Sparty pee pee doo doo I'm a bad sportswriter."

As far as whatever this means for Ohio State, if the Buckeyes stay aggressive on defense they will destroy Michigan. Right now Ohio State looks like a team full of men with a plan (a canal, Panama) whereas Michigan just looks like a dumpster fire schematically. That's real, real bad for them going forward and honestly I'm surprised Hoke has let it get to this point.

Sparty-wise, I dunno! Their offense is hilariously Bollman-esque, but their defense is legitimately one of the three best in college football. An Ohio State/Michigan State matchup in the B1G Championship Game would be fascinating.

Oh, and Taylor Lewan is a horrible person. News at 12.

Ace: [crawls in a hole to die]

Thanks again to Ace from MGoBlog for helping us out.


Comments Show All Comments

Smanpoint10's picture

I'm disappointed Ace wasn't apart of this Sun & Bluesday. I was really looking forward to see what he had to say about this game

BucksfanXC's picture

Why no Ace this week? NVM

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

zbd's picture

M State defense sure looked like the real deal Saturday. I'm glad we have 4 weeks to prepare for them.

Earle's picture

Ace in the hole.  Maybe he can find Michigan's offense in there.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

sir rickithda3rd's picture

i dont think there is a team in the nation tosu wont score on. guapo eats, herman is a genius (literally), brax is making huge strides and urbs always has a good offense

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

chitown buckeye's picture

 I agree, If it boils down to our offense putting points on MSU's Defense, I will take that bet. We have more weapons then any team MSU has faced this year.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

ticodillo's picture

I agree here, the only thing that worries me is that the douchebag MSU come out and play dirty (again) and try to injure Braxton. He has been smarter with his running though. It's gonna be an awesome game , but i hope it ends like last years BTCG with a blowout, just that for the good guys on the 3rd best D in the country. GO BUCKS !!

jedkat's picture

At this point, Michigan's complete inability to deal with tempo—something that I believe stems from their offense's refusal/incapability to play at high speed—is something every opponent from here on out should attack


"Can we please stop the message board fighting? I really can't stand the message board fighting..."

"No. You're an idiot, and your posts are terrible."

81Alum's picture

Yeeeessssss!!! Well done on the gif.

airbuckeye's picture

When i first glanced had the picture first thing that pop in my mind was i was looking had my X wife and broke out in a good sweet.

zbd's picture

How did you get a picture of my mother-in-law?

Baroclinicity's picture

I also thought Michigan would win this game.  I found myself asking a few Michigan friends very gingerly, "Is Hoke the right man for the job?"

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

misterbulbous's picture

I still go back to the strange scenes of Denard Robinson on the sideline.  Every time they showed him he was goofing around with people.  There was one sequence where Gardener either got sacked or threw an interception...TV cut to Robinson and he was joking with another UM guy looking at their phones.  So much could be inferred from his presence on the sideline.

M Man's picture

It is so surreal; the difference between being at a game and watching a tv broadcast.  The people who watched the game on tv seem to think it was all about Denard Robinson, who didn't play, and Taylor Lewan, who had a pretty good game individually.
It is remarkable how tv production and commentary can be suggestive to a tv audience.

Larryp713's picture

It is a microcosm of how TV producers can influence so much of public opinion. I like it when they show guys come back to support their teams in big rivalry games. I don't know if Denard was supposed to don some monk robes and self-flagellate. Wolverine Football has serious problems, but Denard's upbeat personality is not one of them.



misterbulbous's picture

I get you.  The commentators even made a comment similar to "have you ever seen Robinson without a smile on his face?".  That's fine, I get the upbeat personality and truly admire him for his contributions.  I guess if I was a UM guy watching the TV broadcast I would be a little upset seeing the horrendous plays followed by cuts to Denard on the sideline goofing around. 

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Lewan did hold his own. He also held anyone matched up against him.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

rdubs's picture

It seems to me at this point, all of the problems with ttun start and end with the offensive line.  Gardner may not be Braxton, but he'd be a lot better if he could stay upright on even just 50% of plays.  Toussaint is no Hyde (or Hall which is likely a better comparison), but any running back should be able to average more than 3 yards per carry.  Heck even the defense would be better served if the offense put together more than 3 drives over 15 yards.
They better hope that one more year will help them figure it out.  And it very well might, playing that many first and second year players on the OLine is rarely effective.  But I also would have expected to see a bit more development from them.  

TheShookster's picture

The B1Ggest thing ever would be if OSU ended up playing Minnesota in the Big Ten Title game. The way Minnesota has been finding ways to win games, the fact that this is not a complete impossibility is absolutely hilarious. Michigan State would have to lose twice, to Minnesota and either Nebraska or Northwestern; Both those games are on the road, anything can happen.
Disclaimer: I expect none of the above to actually happen. Except for OSU to be in the championship game, which we all are assuming is a lock but STILL ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. THIS IS THE BIG TEN THIS AIN'T INTRAMURALS.

He ain't even stretch doe!!

IBleedSandG's picture

I thought the same thing about Minny (Wow, they are actually 7-2?) the other day when I was looking at the B1G standings. If this were the SEC and Minnesota was say, Vanderbilt (team in conference that rarely, if ever, contends), the media would be trying to create this Minnesota bandwagon because "Look at the depth of the SEC, it's amazing! A team that is usually at the bottom of the conference is having a great year, and has a chance to play in the conference championship game. S-E-C, S-E-C."


45has2's picture

Why is anyone surprised that Jabba The Hoke sucks? His overall record before landing in weaselville was 47-50. He is not a winner, period. I just hope they keep that fattard until Tom Herman takes a job outside the B1G.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

buckeyejonross's picture


"You might as well appeal against a thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war. War is cruelty, there is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." -William T., Battle of Atlanta, B1G.

niblick's picture

The scariest part of that game is "What would the score had been if the MSU QB hadn't missed WIDE OPEN wr's 3-4 times or if the MSU wr's hadn't dropped 3-4 balls that hit them in the hands as they were running WIDE OPEN down the field?"
They could have easily put up another 3 td's.

buck4's picture

If Michigan's oline could block, I wonder what the score would have been. You could play "what if's" all day long...

hit_the_couch's picture

Michigan needs to kill this whole "little brother" thing immediately. I cannot think of a single time where it has been invoked preemptively and not completely backfired in their faces in a loud and embarrassing way.

They'll just resort to desperate measures: when all else fails, refer to the all time record.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

Larryp713's picture

I watched a Sparty game at the beginning of the year and thought they and Wisconsin were legit top 15 teams. Sparty's defense reminds me of Ohio State in 2002 - players making plays. Drummond is ridiculous. I think the B1G Championship game will be awesome, assuming it is Bucks v Sparty.



RBuck's picture

Looks like Dantonio got a whiff of something nasty.

Long live the southend.

Ethos's picture

Anyone else remember when we were talking about playing Michigan twice this year?  hahahahahaha

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

Idaho Helga's picture

Great point, and before I really didn't want that but it would be delicious now, amiright?

SteveyWonder's picture

You know whats sad? I thought wed be seeing Northwestern again the day after we played them. I certainly never would have guessed that the two contenders would be MSU and Minnesota.

The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture 2011

Ethos's picture

Sadly, yes.   As I walked out of the stadium in Chicago I was patting NW fans on the back saying "see you guys in Indianapolis."
I feel like such a fool :(

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

harleymanjax's picture

I'm thankful MSU isn't on our schedule this year, awful hard to beat a team twice in a year!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

Seattle Linga's picture

I like Minny's D - it's getting better each week. Should be fun to complete the season especially the way we have been playing

ChazBuckeye's picture

All I know is MSU, aka little brother, sure didn't seem to need an announcer to declare that there is one clear worthy opponent for the B1G championship.  It's more that there will be a clear winner of the Leaders and Legends divisions respectfully.  One will be ranked in the top 5 and the other in the top 15 (may be top ten if OSU gets lucky).  That will be much better than a one or two lose TTUN in week 13 and then possibly an even lower ranked team the following week in the B1G CG.  I couldn't be happier:-)
I also agree with the sentiments about that AKA little brother remark by TTUN following or players.  I'd say Hart and now Fitz need to reevaluate their comments.  I'd also say the entire TTUN team and fan base should just stop now, before it gets worse.  May be they should put it in textbooks like Ole Miss is using Cardale Jones' remarks about playing school.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

pompano buckeye's picture

I think that Sparty should embrace the Little Brother moniker...nothing wrong with being a little brother to an older, uglier, fatter SISTER!

“...indomitable in victory, insufferable in defeat.” Woody Hayes

sharks's picture

I almost quit reading when you referenced a Creed lyric. Jesus, don't do that, it was a great article.

A man got to have a code...

JozyMozy's picture

That was my favorite part. I literally stood up and slowly applauded in front of my laptop. Literally. 

Chad Peltier's picture

If I ever coach football then I would want to teach aggression/restraint kind of like this:

I understand that he plays with an edge and this is a good thing 95% of the time; there's a line you don't cross, however, and it's well before you start yanking guys heads around after plays are dead.