Observations on the disappointing loss to the Irish, 23-25!

1-Navarre has shown he can come back, and that is good, but he didn't show that he can win the big game; he was 19 of 42 for 230 yards and 1TD/1 game-ending pick. He overthrew receivers, threw behind receivers and underthrew receivers; in between, he has had passes tipped. Overall, it was not a good day for him. He only produced 15 first downs and 4 third down conversions in 25:59 of possession time (8 minutes less than the Irish). We only had 321 net yards, and a killer 4 turnovers. This is not the sign of a good quarterback nor a good offense. We couldn't do it when the game was on the line.

2-Our defense caused 4 turnovers and 6 sacks, but it is not a good defense. Hobson, Diggs and Kaufman were getting blocked big time. It was a good move to put Reid in; he is much faster and quicker and had a sack. Drake had two sacks, Rumishek and Hobson had our other sacks; Hobson led in tackles with 10. Our defense had not shown we can stop the meager Irish offense, but we have created 3 turnovers to keep us in the game. They have two long drives on us, and dominated time of possession. Their total offense had 311 yards with 157 net yards rushing, 3 rushing touchdowns (although one was questionable) and 16 first downs. Ryan Grant had 132 yards in 28 carries, and we had too many missed tackles to count.

3-Our kicking game improved in the second half by converting on a field goal and causing a turnover. They also responded with a field goal so we had no real advantage. Our punt blocking unit has shown nothing this year; obviously we miss Marquis Walker here. Our kickoff team is mediocre. Finley is punting well, but our punt return coverage is pathetic.

4-Our offensive line looked bad early, and improved on the pass blocking as the game ensued; Stenavich replaced Morgan after the safety! We couldn't block well enough to establish the running game against the Irish so we had 91 net rushing yards in 26 attempts, including three fumbles. Our longest running play was 13 yards, and we fumbled on it. We won't be able to beat Ohio State in Columbus with this type of effort, and we'll probably lose at least two other games with performances like this.

5-They had 4 red zone opportunities and 20 points; we had four red zone opportunities and 16 points. This is why teams win and lose games, and why teams are considered good or bad. It was obvious who came to play today. They had two big plays of 47 and 41 yards; both led to TDs; we only had one big play of 38 yards which led to 1 TD.

6-Turnovers! We could have won if we'd capitalize on their turnovers and not committed the ones we did, but again we haven't shown we are a good team and couldn't maintain a turnover advantage.

7-Penalties! We have 10 penalties for 88 yards and many of these have kept Irish drives alive. The personal foul on Charles Drake was a killer. They have 8 penalties for 57 yards, but theirs weren't as costly.

8-We don't have any "big play" guys on offense like a Marquis Walker or David Terrell. Both Edwards and Butler are good, but not nearly Terrell-Walker caliber (at least not yet). Edwards had 4 catches for 95 yards, and Joppru had 7 catches for 80 yards and a TD. Why do our receivers always fall down when they catch the ball? It is obvious that they have to lean back, leap or dive for Navarre's ridiculous throws. Bellamy and Askew have certainly not stepped up as seniors; everybody can see our screen pass to Askew because we telegraph it.

9-I have been very critical of our linebacker play in all three games so far, but this game also shows an obvious weakness from our safeties. They are good in run support, but absolutely terrible on cover. Julius Curry looks really bad and Charles Drake simply looks bad. Cato June is definitely weak in cover.

So let's review why we lost, and why the Irish won:

1-Their offense took advantage of red zone opportunities, and most of all they established a running game and we didn't do either. As a result, they had a 4 point advantage plus 8 minutes of time of possession.

2-There was no turnover advantage for us although for most of the game, we were ahead in turnovers. They took advantage of their turnovers and we didn't.

3-They had a better quarterback, Holiday outplayed Navarre and came up with big plays while Navarre didn't. He was only 8 of 17 for 154 yards, but he was more effective and withstood the 6 sacks, hurries and blitz package we threw at him. Most of all, he led their team back to a lead after we came back to take the lead 17-16. He led them to 10 points including the game winning field goal after Perry's fumble.

Players of the Game

Notre Dame
Ryan Grant
Carlyle Holiday
Omar Jenkins
Shane Walton
Gerome Sapp
Nick Setta
C. Watson

Bennie Joppru
Marlin Jackson
Victor Hobson

Freshmen who played
Darnell Hood
Jacob Stewart
Gabe Watson

Observations on the first half with the Irish, 7-16!

1-Our worst fear has come true: Navarre hasn't shown he can beat good teams in big games. So far, Navarre is 6 of 13 for 58 yards and no TDs/picks. He has overthrown receivers, and we have only 2 first downs with two third down conversions in 7:53 of possession time. If it weren't for Irish turnovers, we'd be down 0-23. Navarre is a terrible ball possession quarterback. The only thing you can say he did well was take a knee at the end of the half, and recover a fumble on a snap.

2-Our kicking game is sickening! We have a 27 yard field goal blocked, a chip shot and we take a roughing the punter penalty that almost leads to an Irish touchdown after our defense stops their offense for a 3 & out. Another penalty on the return starts us at the 6 and we take a safety on the hold by Morgan in the end zone. On the bright side, Finley is doing a good job punting, and our kickoff coverage and returns look decent.

3-Our defense has caused 4 turnovers and 3 sacks, but started terribly on the first drive. Hobson and Kaufman were getting blocked big time. It was a good move to put Reid in; he is much faster and quicker and has a sack. Rumishek and Hobson have our other sacks and Hobson leads in tackles with 5. Our defense had not shown we can stop the meager Irish offense, but we have created 3 turnovers to save our butts. They have two long drives on us, and dominated time of possession (22:07 to 7:53) and total offense with 195 yards with 117 net yards rushing and 11 first downs. Hobson does have 11 tackles and one sack, but overall this is not a good defense. Ryan Grant has 86 yards in 14 carries, and we have too many missed tackles to count.

4-Our offensive line looks bad! We can't block well enough to establish the running game against good teams like the Irish so we have 8 net rushing yards in 8 attempts. Our pass blocking was o.k. early, but looks bad now. We have 73 yards in total offense. We can't run block nor can we pass block; this doesn't bode well for the Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan State games.

5-They have had 3 red zone opportunities and 14 points; they probably would have had 21 if it weren't for a fumble at the one when Grant was about to go in. We have had one red zone opportunity and came up dry. This is why teams win and lose games, and why teams are considered good or bad. It is obvious who is and isn't so far in this one.

6-Turnovers! We could be on top if we could have capitalized on their turnovers and not committed the ones we did, but again we haven't shown we are a good team and can't maintain a turnover advantage.

7-Penalties! We have 6 penalties for 68 yards and many of these have kept Irish drives alive. They have 5 penalties for 40 yards, but theirs weren't as costly.

8-I think the only way we have a chance in this game is if we take the opening kickoff and drive for a TD to make it 14-16; otherwise, it looks like an Irish win. Their defense is tough; our offense is weak, and our defense won't be able to outscore their offense.

Michigan Football team observations after 3 games:

1-Our defense had 9 of 11 returning starters back from a team who tied a school record in sacks. Unfortunately, it is not a good defense. It has given up 29 points to Washington and 25 points to Notre Dame, and in each game this defense couldn't hold the lead. The linebacking is weak; Diggs is not a good Mike-Inside Linebacker (replacing Brackins) and Kaufman is nowhere near a good as Foote who was our defensive leader last year. Our safeties are great in run support, but like Holiday did today in his long pass to Jenkins; they are suspect in cover because they cheat up to play the run. Our defensive line is only above average, it is not rock solid like a lot of us had banked on. All four can be blocked in running and passing situations. They were possibly compared with our 1997 defense prior to this year, but in reality they are really weak. This defense misses tackles in the backfield, on the line and in the secondary. We probably are missing 20-30 tackles a game.

Many of us are perplexed because we thought that our defense would keep us in every game, and hold offenses to under 20 a game until our offense matured. We also thought we'd have strong play from our experienced safeties, and more sacks from our defensive line especially Shantee Orr. We were also excited about the possibility of seeing Pierre Woods sacking quarterbacks; it simply hasn't happened. Other teams are ready for us, and our defense is not as talented as we'd like to believe.

I don't know why Hermann doesn't move Hobson to Mike-Linebacker replacing Diggs and move June from Free Safety to Sam-Outside Linebacker. He can keep Curry, Drake and Shazor rotating at safety. I think Jon Shaw should also be given more playing time, too. Our cornerbacks are doing a good job, but they can't compensate for weak linebackers and weak safeties. We need more team speed on defense, and better tackling; I don't see why we don't bring in faster people into the linebacking positions, and the faster people would be Cato June.

2-John Navarre has improved at quarterback. He is more mobile and he has worked hard to improve; he deserves a lot of credit for his effort and his attitude. Unfortunately, he simply doesn't have the talent for this position to win big games and score enough points. It would be wise to play both Matt Gutierrez and Spencer Brinton this year, and adding Sam Kellar next year would bring the competition for 2003 to 4 quarterbacks for the start of the year. Navarre has a strong arm, but no mobility. He locks in on receivers, and his accuracy is inconsistent.

3-We don't have great leadership on this team offensively or defensively. Who is our offensive leader? Today, it was Ben Joppru! On defense? Hobson? Jackson? We don't have great senior leadership on this team. The offensive line is all underclass as is our receivers. Askew and Bellamy aren't producing any senior offensive leadership. On defense, Lazarus, Rumishek, Hobson, June and Drake simply aren't getting it done. They haven't put the brakes on the Huskies or the Irish.

4-Our offensive line has improved. Stenavich came in today and did a nice job replacing Morgan. Lentz is also doing a nice job along with Pape on the right side. Baas and Pearson are also coming along. Is this a great offensive line? No, it has potential, but this is not a line that is blowing people off the line. It is protecting Navarre pretty well, but not well enough to win big games like this. Carr has been talking about the "great depth" we have on offensive line with Solomon, Lentz, Stenavich, Denay and Cristopfel; unfortunately, our starters aren't getting the job done.

5-We sure miss Hayden Epstein! It's hard to admit, but Brabbs and Neinberg are a poor substitute. Our punt blocking unit isn't nearly as good as last year. Finley is doing a nice job, but his hang time probably isn't as good as Epstein's. Our special teams are nowhere near as good as last year, and last year they were pretty good. We won games last year with our special teams; this year, we'll be lucky if we don't lose games because of special teams. I don't know why we are not considering playing Steve Breaston on kickoff returns. I can see why he wants a more sure-handed upper class punt returner like Curry, but in exhibition games we should look at a talented returner like Breaston.

6-Many of us complain about how predictable our offense is. Well, if we can predict what will happen, think about sophisticated defensive coordinators and their staff. This is one reason why teams like Notre Dame are so successful in stopping our attack. We've all been saying these things for years, but Carr and staff refuse to change their philosophy. There really is no change with our new offensive coordinator, and we can't expect there to be any change because he is only carrying out the same philosophy that Carr wants: conservative, grind-it-out, ball possession old-time Bo Schembechler football! It is amazing recruits like Matt Gutierrez, Sam Kellar, Drew Henson and Tom
Brady even consider coming here. I suppose they do because we also recruit some tremendous talent with David Terrell, Marquis Walker, Anthony Thomas, etc. Well, currently we have neither a great quarterback nor pro-quality backs or receivers to compensate for an antique coaching philosophy. We can't get the job done offensively with the combination of current talent plus current coaching philosophy in my opinion.

Think of this in term of team balance and recruiting philosophy! We have 15 offensive linemen which is nearly 18% of our entire scholarship team; we simply strive every year to run the ball 200+ yards every game. Are we achieving this? You all know the answer, and our stubborn coaching staff refuses to believe that this philosophy won't work; they can't see that other coaching staff's are capitalizing on their stubborness. I'm sure there are coaches at the college and professional level that simply chuckle every time they watch us play because we are so stubborn in our offensive philosophy. Well, most of our fan base is no longer chuckling; we are beyond frustration.

7-Our defensive philosophy is nearly as stubborn. We refuse to recruit defensive linemen; we recruit linebackers instead and beef them up to compete against offensive linemen. Lazarus and Orr came to Michigan as linebackers; Rumishek and Heuer came as defensive ends. Watson and Harrison are the only true defensive linemen we have signed in three years. We are similar in our philosophy on recruiting kickers; Rivas is the first kicker we've signed since Epstein other than Finley. Prior to that, I can only remember Cory Sargent(South Lyon) and Nate DeLong(Wyandotte) (i.e. in our "back" yard); everybody else is a walk-on.