Not So "Special" Teams

One time can be written off as a fluke but two times seems more like a trend. For the second road trip in a row the Michigan Wolverines suffered a complete collapse on special teams.<br><br> Also, post-game presser comments.

The beginning of this game couldn’t have gone better. Chris Perry was running effectively. John Navarre was hitting receivers with good passes that they were catching. The run/pass mix was so effective that it put the Wolverines up 14-0. However, in a turn of events that would prove to be a glimpse of what would come later in the game, Iowa returned the ensuing kickoff 31 yards. Fifteen more yards were added because of a personal foul taking the ball to the Iowa 46 yard line. That was the beginning of the Hawks first TD drive. By the fourth quarter, the Hawkeye’s special teams unit was responsible for THREE returns over 30 yards which helped them to gain the field position advantage for much of the day. The fact that there was another punt block today (out of a hard to understand scheme) only exacerbated matters.

It is very common for fans to take the special teams as a 'given'. Plays like punts and extra points are automatic, right? That unfortunately has not been the case on the road this year. The inexplicable ineptitude displayed by the unit is the primary culprit in both losses this season. If the special teams unit just performs to standards that most would consider average, the Wolverines win both games. As it stands, it put the team in holes too deep to dig out of. While this team has an offensive unit full of talent, it doesn’t possess the type of come from behind heroics that can play over the faltering of another unit. Two first downs and zero points in the third quarter today combined with zero first half points two weeks ago in Eugene is proof of that. Both units put a lot of stress on the defense at times. Even a good defense suffers when it’s left on the field and is put in as many precarious field position situations as Michigan’s has been on these last two road trips.

Where this team goes from here depends in large part on what happens this week. With a short week to prepare for a Friday night contest with undefeated Minnesota, the Wolverines have to correct some things very quickly. The most pressing issue has to be how to correct the special teams miscues. Whether it’s a philosophical problem, or personnel, or an instructional problem -- or any combination of the three -- it is for the head coach to decide, and also to decide what it takes to fix it.

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Post-game Press Conference Comments

Coach Carr

Overall:

"I take full responsibility. Because of some injuries (to Larry Stevens and Jeremy Van Alstyne), I changed our punt protection, and we gave up a couple plays there that really were the difference in the game."

"I told them (the team) that it was my fault. I told them that they played hard, and they played well enough to win with the exceptions of the mistakes we made in the punt game. And I told them that as hard as it is, we have to leave here, stay together and try to fight back next week."

"Any time you lose, it's disappointing. They're disappointed; we're all disappointed. That's one of the values of the game. It's one of the things you have to deal with, when you get knocked down, there's no embarrassment, there's no disgrace. Some people think there is, but they're people who don't know anything about competition. So the only time you should be embarrassed is if you didn't give their best, and our guys gave their best."

More from Carr regarding the 'quick kick' special teams formation used three consecutive times in the second half, where Garrett Rivas took the long snap and rolled to the right, then kicked the ball on the run. The play worked the first time, was partially blocked (but rolled for around 40 yards) the second, and was blocked the thrid, resulting in an Iowa field goal. For their final two punts, Michigan went back to a normal punt formation with Adam Finley kicking.

"We've had some trouble with punt returns, and we had another blocked in the other (regular) formation (at Oregon), and we felt with our situation we needed to make that change."

"Early in the game we gave up a long punt return because we didn't get the coverage down there. That's (the unusual formation) part of that particularly punting plan. We wanted to roll him, keep him on the roll and if they brought pressure off the edge, he was rolling, too, he was to punt it. He had two very, very good punts. The strength of that protection is you should get great coverage. He hesitated a little on the second one. It's punt first. But if they chase our guys down the field and nobody comes, he certainly has the opportunity to run."

On whether John Navarre had a so-so game:

"People suggest that. But they'd be wrong. There are a lot of people out there. It's a team game and you can't just criticize the quarterback. Sometimes it's accurate and sometimes it isn't. You can make all kinds of judgments, but until you watch it from here you really don't know, because there is an awful lot going on."

John Navarre

"It's very difficult. If you had told me before the season that we'd have two losses by now, I'd have told you you're crazy. It's tough, but this is how it goes. We've got to step it up. We still have a Big Ten championship to win."

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On another topic, Bo Schembechler was in attendance at the game, and made a statement regarding Michigan playing Notre Dame:

"I think we should (break the remainder of the ten year contract). I don't mind playing Notre Dame but not every year. That way it would be a special game. You don't want to play them every year so that game becomes as important as Ohio State or Michigan State. And it would."

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