The last two months have been pretty chaotic, particularly the last two weeks, so obviously this blog hasn’t seen much love lately. Things have finally started to slow down and hopefully I can post here more often…and hopefully my favorite teams give me a reason to post too. Two posts in about two months is just not good…pretty soon I’ll have to change the name to “The Monthly Traub.”
The weekend starting on Friday November 22nd was one of the worst sports weekends in recent memory. The club hockey team got swept Friday and Saturday, Michigan put up a brutal game against Iowa after jumping out to a 21-7 lead, the Lions choked away another free win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, my car got hit while my dad and I left Ford Field and then the Michigan basketball team lost to Charlotte on Sunday night. At the end of it all I was about done with sports.
Yet, here comes Thursday and the Lions are playing the Packers on Thanksgiving and I’m sucked right back in. It’s the true sign of an addict…always swearing you’re done for a while or you’re stopping and a few days later you’re right back in the game. I can’t help it. No matter how bad of a weekend my teams might have, I’m going to keep living and dying by them. Is that an irrational way to live life? Probably. But I’d rather invest in sports and worry about my teams than worry about real life issues, no matter how dumb that sounds. It’s more fun, easier, and less problematic. Real life is scary. After the Michigan-Ohio State game on Saturday my family went out to dinner with the Silverman family and an older man had a heart attack and died about 20 feet from us. It’s a pretty big eye opener about how fragile life is and how you should enjoy every moment, which is why I’ll always live and die with sports. You never know which game you watch will be your last, so live through it, take it all in, eat, sleep and breathe it. Sports are unpredictable, which makes everything so much more enjoyable. The surprise, the shock, the awe, the fact that anything can happen at anytime. They’re fun to play, they’re fun to watch, the roar of the crowd, the excitement of scoring, the excitement of big plays, the astounding athletic plays guys make…it’s all just so perfect. I hate losing more than I like winning, but even losing can’t stop my addiction.
On to some actual game analysis and away from my gush fest.
The Michigan football team had quite a frustrating finish. Showing no signs of life against Northwestern, but getting off a miracle field goal to tie the game and then eventually win in triple OT. The game against Iowa was a complete debacle, managing 158 yards on offense the entire game. Then came The Game, which had Brady Hoke show off his balls of steel and go for two and the win with 32 seconds left. My summation of it? Right idea, wrong play call. Devin Gardner was ailing and the defense couldn’t stop OSU, you go to overtime and unless you get a turnover, you lose. Either way, it was a fitting end to the season. The offense was explosive and Al Borges looked like a genius for 95% of the game, doing just enough to save his job. I will never understand why Borges will call games like Notre Dame and Ohio State when you’re impressed with the offense, and then put up 158 yards against Iowa. Is some of it execution? Obviously. But the change in play calling is evident for the big games.
So, Brady Hoke is going to stand by his guy now, which means Hoke has to be put on notice, in my opinion. To deal with this anemic of an offense and not fire the offensive coordinator means that this team has to get at least 9 wins next year for him to warrant keeping his job. How that will happen, I don’t know. I want Hoke to succeed, truly I do, and I love Greg Mattison, but a change has to be made to show that when something isn’t working that you recognize that. It’s a problem to me that Hoke doesn’t see the offensive play calling as a problem and isn’t looking to make a change there. I love Brady Hoke, which is as surprising to me as anyone, since I didn’t want Hoke to be hired at first. I also don’t want to start over with a new coach again and spend another four years rebuilding. I want this team to succeed. John Beilein fired his entire staff after year 3 or 4 at Michigan, hired Bacari Alexander and co. and hasn’t looked back, so why can’t Hoke do this? Trim the fat. It will be interesting to see what happens with the bowl game. It’s a pretty brutal matchup, Michigan-Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl? Vomit.
Back to the Michigan vs. Ohio State game though. I obviously was upset that Michigan lost, but the fact that they didn’t get throttled was very encouraging. It just made me sad that this team hadn’t been around all year. The team that showed up for Ohio State would have gone 10-2, with the only other loss being to Michigan State.
Offensively Devin Gardner looked pretty damn good. He was clearly injured but battled through it and played a nice game. Sure the throw on the two-point conversion was forced, but that was better than taking a sack. It was more the play call that was at fault anyways. Even after Ohio State called timeout, Michigan came back out and went into the same formation. OSU players said the coaches told them that it would be one of two plays and to watch for Drew Dileo. Stacking three wide receivers to the right against zone coverage with four guys up against them is beyond stupid. Michigan had one more timeout left, the coaches should have recognized this, called timeout and chosen a different play. That is on the coaching staff.
At the running back position is good to see Derrick Green and Deveon Smith getting the primary touches. Both of them looked good against Northwestern and Iowa and it became clear that Fitzgerald Toussaint’s time was up. Toussaint can’t pass block and aside from catching passes out of the backfield, Smith and Green are superior players. Giving Green and Smith a full offseason in the weight room has me very optimistic about the run game for next year, forgetting about the offensive line for a second.
Devin Funchess has fully transitioned to the wide receiver position, which is just fine. He’s still a matchup nightmare and I hope he gets the drops under control. I’m not sure what started to happen the last 3-4 weeks, but he got a case of the drops. Jeremy Gallon was still a monster, and the emergence of Jake Butt was quite nice. Outside of those three though, no one really caught many passes of worth. Dileo had a nice OSU game, but was used sparingly prior to that. Jeehu Chesson needs to get more reps during bowl practice and improve and it’s really too bad that Amara Darboh has a lisfranc injury and is missing spring ball. I’m not sure how ready Darboh will be for fall camp, but this injury has been a dagger to his development and the Michigan receiving core.
The offensive line played surprisingly well against Ohio State. I was expecting the worst and they actually did a solid job. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was better than it had been in recent weeks. Kyle Kalis re-emerged as the starting right guard and played well down the stretch. They still have a problem at center and when Erik Magnuson moves to tackle next year, they’re going to need Kyle Bosch to come back in at left guard and be ready again. I think Bosch will be just fine, and the tackle spots will be the areas of concern. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield had good seasons and replacing both of them will be difficult.
On the defensive side of the ball….woof. Giving up 526 yards is not the way to go, especially against Ohio State. I wasn’t thrilled with the way any one played on the defense except for Willie Henry, Ben Gedeon and Blake Countess. The defensive line was dominated all game and Frank Clark was completely invisible. Taco Charlton had a decent game, but again, the only player that had a good game on that defensive line was Willie Henry. The defensive line showed how badly they missed Ondre Pipkins and the defensive line will be better next year. Pipkins and Henry should be the starting defensive tackles, while Wormley moves inside with them. Taco Charlton is likely going to be on the outside, getting some snaps inside, while Clark is also outside. That is a very young group.
At linebacker, Jake Ryan was average, Desmond Morgan was solid and Ben Gedeon was great. James Ross was out with an injury and Ben Gedeon replaced Joe Bolden quite early in Ross’ spot. Gedeon was fantastic and showed a great nose for the ball carrier, recording 5 tackles and a sack. The linebacking group next year is going to be outstanding, especially because they are so young.
The secondary was flat-out brutal. Raymon Taylor had a terrible game, his first bad one of the year, and I have no idea why Courtney Avery or Josh Furman played at safety. Neither one is any good and I don’t understand how they were getting snaps over Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson. Blake Countess was the only one that had a good game, and good is a relative term when your defense gives up 526 yards. This is going to be an interesting group next year, another one with a lot of young players. I expect Channing Stribling, Dymonte Thomas and Jabrill Peppers to get a lot of snaps in the secondary next year with Blake Countess and Taylor.
The next few posts should be coming towards the end of this week, this week being Friday the 20th. I’m planning on doing a post for my predictions on U.S. Olympic team, the Canadian Olympic team, a recap of the Lions season thus far and maybe a bowl game preview. We’ll see how it all plays out, right now the Lions are far too frustrating to warrant a post. They should be 9-4 at worst and laughing their way into the playoffs/contending for a bye. It is inexcusable to lose 6 games when you have led in the fourth quarter for 4 of them and had a fourth quarter tie in 1 of them. Too much talent to not be on easy street right now.
[Photos via: ESPN]
[Funchess Photo via: @GlanzPiece]