Quick Recap: Texas Bowl, Minnesota vs. Syracuse
This game was like a week ago, what the hell took you so long to get the recap together?
Well, since I didn't watch it, I had to wait for other people's recaps to come out so I could plagiarize them. I also had a nuclear post-Christmas flu that tried to murder me, and then spent the weekend at the Great Lakes Invitational hockey extravaganza at Comerica Park.
So what was the score?
Michigan State 3, Michigan 0 in the consolation game, Western Michigan 3, Michigan Tech 2 in the championship. Oh, you mean the football game. Syracuse 21, Minnesota 17.
Oh, bummer. How did that happen?
Syracuse led most of the way, as Minnesota's heavily run-centric offense couldn't do much against a very good Orange front. It didn't help that Minnesota's QBs aren't so good at the whole throwing-the-ball thing. The defense held up pretty well, but Syracuse's offense isn't exactly the Denver Broncos.
But, as even casual observers will not be surprised to learn, Jerry Kill did a Jerry Kill Inspirational Thing and came down from the booth at halftime. It didn't immediately work or anything, since Minnesota was down 7-3 at halftime and then fell behind 14-3. Still, you've got to think his presence on the sideline inspired some better play, as the Gophers scored two TDs on actual forward passes to take a 17-14 lead.
Unfortunately, Goofers gonna Goof, and in this case it was borderline All-B1G punter Peter Mortell, who outkicked his coverage to set up a 70-yard return by a guy whose parents actually named him Brisly, yes, B-R-I-S-L-Y, Brisly Estime to be specific. Give Mortell some credit for making a touchdown-saving tackle, but lasering a long line drive punt straight at a guy whose name will clearly leave him angry at the world his entire life was inadvisable.
So from there, Syracuse pulled off a pretty good 4-minute drill, scored when QB Terrel Hunt scrambled free from an all-out blitz, and Minnesota couldn't do the passyball type of offense well enough to retake the lead. Advantage: team that went .500 in the ACC.
What's Minnesota got to do to get better and, you know, not lose any more bowls?
Well, those are two separate questions. Bowl games are such weird exhibitions that it's hard to tell sometimes how accurate a reflection they are of how good your team is. Guys get suspended, guys get hurt or come back from being hurt and screw up your rhythm either way, coaches get fired, the team has finals to theoretically worry about and then basically goes on vacation and then has to focus for a game in front of a stadium that's probably half-empty.
As far as getting better overall, I think Minnesota's essentially got two options. Either settle on a quarterback, teach him to throw with something approaching consistent accuracy (I'm thinking of the scene from X-Men: First Class where Professor X is trying to teach Havoc to not destroy everything in his path), and find a couple of receivers who can separate from coverage. Or. OR! Forsake the forward pass altogether and go full-Paul Johnson. I'm talking triple-option, labeling your running backs with different letters to keep track of them all run-dominant offense.
Because right now, Minnesota plays good defense, their special teams are usually solid notwithstanding certain Brisly events, and the run game is pretty good as well. Problem is, it's not good enough to beat good teams with any consistency if they know they can key on the run. Figure out some way to diversify the offense, other than moving fullbacks and tight ends around to block in a slightly different way or running fake jet sweeps that don't fool anyone, and you'll be right there in what should be a wide-open West division next year.
Quick Recap: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Michigan vs. Kansas State
So what was the score?
Kansas State 31, Michigan 14.
Yikes. Was it really that bad?
Worse, actually. Michigan got a touchdown and 2-point conversion when the game was already decided, so the score's closer than the game was.
Man, what happened this time?
A lot of the same things that went wrong for Michigan throughout the season, actually. And by that I mean, Michigan couldn't run the ball, and I mean at all, in a traditional fashion. So you get stats like your true freshman pocket passer QB and your big-play receiving tight end being your two leading rushers- with 43 and 14 yards, respectively. Had Devin Gardner possessed enough intact bones to play, he would have been the leading rusher, and might have done enough to will the offense to a more competitive score. But, welp, he didn't.
To make things (a lot) worse, the defense probably had its worst game of the season. K-State's wonky shotgun running attack, combined with new Wolverine nightmare villain Tyler Lockett, had Greg Mattison's unit looking out of sorts all night. Seriously, though, how many touchdowns does a guy need to score before he merits a little double coverage? The defense had the look, overall, of a group that's tired of covering for the offense's ineptitude, and gave up 420 total yards to a middle-of-the-Big-12 K-State offense.
Huh. Long offseason in Ann Arbor, eh?
Well...yeah. Replacing one elite-if-perpetually bloody (seriously, Taylor, get a helmet that fits better, the blood doesn't make you look tougher) and another excellent tackle off of an already-bad offensive line is going to be hard, as will be replacing an elite receiver. The good news, I suppose, is pretty much the entire defense comes back, and by definition, the offensive line won't be as young next year. Plus, even though his numbers weren't great, Shane Morris did not completely crap the bed in his first real game action, and even looked like a guy who might eventually be able to run the offense Al Borges and Brady Hoke are trying to create. Still, this coaching staff really needs to find a line combination that works, as well as the right playcalling to take proper advantage of what the players can and cannot do. After this season, I wouldn't be at all optimistic that that's going to happen.
So what I heard there was Shane Morris 4 Heisman?
I suppose he's got the right uniform for the September version of the award, sure, why not?
Big Picture: B1G = 0-2. Big Thing or Not Big Thing?
I will hesitantly say Not Big Thing. Yeah, this start isn't the way to start reversing The Narrative's momentum. But winning both wouldn't have done much on that front, either. New Year's Day is still going to make or break the B1G's bowl season, with 3 SEC opponents and the Rose Bowl all at stake. I even think that OSU's results in the Orange Bowl won't make much of a difference; this year's contribution to TN is made on Wednesday.