Michigan’s Mindset Problem at QB

Posted on Posted in Uncategorized

From 2008-2010 under Rich Rodriguez, Michigan had a defense that often made opposing teams look as though they were running “offense only” drills. Opposing teams scored at will, and this put the heavy pressure on Michigan’s offense to keep up and outscore the other team. This was a recipe for disaster, as quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson defaulted to “making something happen” on 3rd and long. They always did make something happen. Sometimes it was a miracle 1st down, but way too often it was a turnover.

Fast forward to Michigan’s hiring of Brady Hoke, and his hiring of Greg Mattison. In 2011, Michigan started slow on defense, but you could see the signs of growth. Guys were taking the correct angles to the ball carrier, the pass rushers were actually rushing passers, and the secondary was existent.

I point to the Illinois game in 2011 as the landmark where I fully bought into the idea that Mattison is probably some sort of deity. Michigan was making stops against potent offenses, forcing turnovers, and actually winning games for the team.

Football is a team game, and the defense, offense, and special teams must be cohesive units. Michigan now has a defense that can make stops. Michigan (usually) has a punt team that can flip field position. They have all the makings of a team that can consistently hold opposing teams to single digits. Except for one thing: they need smarter game management from the QB position.

“But Lance, the QB position has nothing to do with defense!” Not true. I would say it has a lot to do with it, especially when you are talking about this many turnovers from the QB, during the era of the vastly improved defense. And these aren’t tipped balls, freak accidents, or voodoo magic, these are plays where Michigan’s offense is once again “trying to make something happen”.

What Gardner needs to realize is that Michigan no longer needs to score on every possession. Not at all. So when 3rd and 12 comes, it’s ok to check down to the RB or run a draw play, and hope for the drive to continue. Forcing a ball into double and triple coverage has been a common theme instead, and it’s hard to make a living by forcing throws when opposing defense are now expecting the forced throw.

Michigan has a defense that can make stops, and it’s time for Devin Gardner to trust them to do that. Since the Minnesota game in 2011 at the Big House, Michigan hasn’t had a turnover-free game since. I can’t think of a better time for that streak to end than against the last team they did it against, in the same venue.

Follow me on twitter @LanceGordon

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.