Saturday, November 24, 2012

Final thoughts on Michigan/OSU, MSU/Minnesota

I expected there to be plenty to talk about following Saturday’s games, and there is. There were interesting developments for both Michigan and Michigan State in their regular season finales. Here are my thoughts on both team’s performances on Saturday.

Michigan 21, Ohio State 26
This is a game that looked to be Michigan’s for the taking at halftime, but an awful second half on offense kept the Wolverines from getting a big win in Columbus.
The fumbles are one thing. They happen. Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner could have tried to do a better job of protecting the ball, but ultimately, I thought it was the play calling that cost Michigan in this one.
Throughout the game, especially in the second half, I kept saying to myself: “Denard has to throw one of these times, right?”
But the clock kept ticking, and each time Robinson took the field, it was a run play. Not only was it a run play, it wasn’t a real creative run play.
Eventually Ohio State figured out what everyone in the world had figured out, that if Robinson is taking the snap, it is a run. The Buckeyes could commit their entire defense to stopping the run, which it did. The Wolverines couldn’t convert third downs because they were essentially giving away what they were doing based on who took the snap.
I know Robinson broke the big 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but he was unable to do anything in the second half because Ohio State adjusted to the way Michigan used him.
I had no problem with Robinson being on the field, but Michigan needed to have him on the field with Gardner to keep the Ohio State defense honest. Michigan showed those looks in the first half, but went away from them in the second half.
Michigan needed to have Robinson throw a short pass or two to not make it obvious what was coming when he was taking the snaps.
If Robinson was still not healthy enough to throw a slant or even a bubble screen, then why put him under center at all?
I expected the defense to play worse than it did. Ohio State still had nearly 400 yards, but I thought the Wolverines did a good job of containing Miller’s running ability and they also held strong in some tough spots when the offense turned the ball over.
I was surprised Brady Hoke decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Michigan 48 to open the second half. It may have been a different game had it worked out, but I thought there was more risk than reward in that case. I don’t think it cost Michigan the game, but it certainly gave a big momentum swing to the Buckeyes to open the second half.
Saturday’s loss certainly puts a negative on the season perspective for the Wolverines. An 8-4 season is clearly not bad, but no Legends Division title and a loss to Ohio State has to be considered a disappointment, especially when the conference was so up for grabs this year.
Three of Michigan’s four losses this season seemed to be games they could have won with a few changes here or there. The Wolverines controlled their destiny for the most part and couldn’t find their way to a championship when it was there for the taking.

Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10
A win to go 6-6 doesn’t turn MSU’s season from awful to good, but the Spartans came out and put on one of their best performances of the season.
The defense was dominant again, allowing just 99 yards of offense from the Gophers. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, it is difficult to hold a team under 100 yards of offense.
Le’Veon Bell was once again a work horse, pounding out 265 yards on 36 carries.
Andrew Maxwell struggled with accuracy, going just 13 of 29 passing. That has to be concerning at this stage of the season. Maxwell has not taken many strides throughout the course of the season that would give MSU fans much confidence for next season.
But, getting back to the overall point on this game, Michigan State fans should be happy that their team didn’t quit. It would have been easy to.
The Spartans came in with high expectations this season and missed them all by a wide margin. Making a bowl isn’t something that players can often get up for when they had hopes for a conference championship.
I give credit to the Spartans for not wanting to end their season on Saturday. A bowl victory can still salvage a little something to build on for next season.
But, make no mistake, this season has still been a step back for the program.

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