Michigan Wolverines: Ryan Groy
September, 16, 2013
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesJoel Stave and the rest of the Wisconsin Badgers were flabbergasted by the ending of Saturday night's loss to Arizona State, as the Badgers bizarrely ran out of time deep in ASU territory.It was a rough weekend all around for the Big Ten, which went 0-3 against ranked teams, 1-3 versus the Pac-12 and only 5-5 against FBS competition. Even some of the winning teams either had major scares (Michigan), looked sluggish (Northwestern) or had the game overshadowed by a different concern (Minnesota).
But, really, all I want to talk about is the Wisconsin-Arizona State ending, aka the Desert Debacle.
If you haven't read up on one of the most absurd finishes of all time yet, take a moment to brush up here and here and here. Consider all the things that went sideways in 18 infamous seconds:
- As Badgers quarterback Joel Stave ran to his left to center the ball for an upcoming field goal try, he collided into the backside of left guard Ryan Groy and very nearly clipped Groy's heel while attempting to kneel. (Groy didn't even need to be there, as he'd shed a defender and had no one left to block.) Adding to the confusion, Stave quickly bounced up and placed the ball on the 15-yard line as if the pigskin were covered with scorpions. Had he merely Tebowed it and held onto the ball for a couple of seconds, or just handed it to an official, the ensuing chaos probably doesn't occur.
- A whistle had blown and the referee, stationed behind the Wisconsin offense, clearly signaled the ball as down. And yet, other officials and players seemed unsure if Stave had actually knelt or whether it was a live, loose ball. Postgame photographic evidence proved he did take a knee, but it took a specific angle on a freeze frame from the hi-def broadcast to remove doubt. Things aren't nearly as clear in full speed live action when you're a 50-year-old-plus referee who's been running around in desert heat for three-plus hours.
- But here's the thing: It shouldn't have mattered whether Stave's knee actually ever touched the turf. According to the NCAA rules manual (specifically, Rule 4, Article 2, Section A), the ball is dead if "an official sounds his whistle (even though inadvertently) or otherwise signals the ball dead." Later in Rule 4, the handbook states that the play is dead "when a ball carrier simulates placing his knee on the ground." So Stave should be off the hook here, even though his actions looked odd at the time.
- Three Sun Devils players went for the ball, understandably so given the mixed signals, and Anthony Jones laid on it for more than five seconds. Ironically, Arizona State fans booed earlier in the game when they thought Wisconsin's Michael Caputo faked an injury to slow their team's offensive pace by the goal line. Apparently, an even better way to disrupt tempo is to smother the ball like it's a rogue hand grenade, because Jones astonishingly got away with a clear and obvious delay of game infraction.
- Even if Stave's kneel-down had gone smoothly, the clock would not have stopped, and the Badgers had no timeouts. Yet, Stave and his teammates wasted precious time by looking to the confused officials instead of rushing into formation for a spike. In fact, Wisconsin players only frantically pointed to the clock when there were two seconds left. The umpire, moving slower than most Arizona retirees, wrongly signaled for the Badgers line to back away, but even that didn't happen until 0:02. The umpire also appeared never to have looked at the referee as the latter was signaling the ball as down.
Without question, the Pac-12 officiating crew displayed a shocking lack of rules knowledge and cohesion. They never huddled together to try and figure out what had happened. The referee, who presumably whistled the play dead and signaled it as so, should have taken charge of the situation. It's disgraceful that two teams could play so hard for 59-plus minutes, only to have officials approach the frenzied final moments so casually (they sure moved fast once they'd decided the Sun Devils had won, however). And if we're going to continually interrupt games for replays, many of which have seemingly little effect on the final outcome, then why isn't there a protocol in place to correct last-second disasters like this on review?
While the officials deserve nearly all the blame, Wisconsin played with fire in trying to get the ball into only slightly better kicking position with the clock dwindling. Badgers coach Gary Andersen said his team practices that specific play for that amount of time, but any seasoned Saturday observer knows that most college teams are notoriously bad at late-game execution. That's because of both inexperienced players and the NCAA 20-hour rule that limits the amount of time coaches can spend on such scenarios. Even when teams do practice for it, they can neither simulate nor predict how quickly -- or, in this case, how interminably -- a given official will clear the pile and spot the ball.
Two more points to consider: First, the bizarre finish absolved Arizona State's Todd Graham of some atrocious clock management and play calling on the Sun Devils' final drive. Graham has yet to impress as a head coach; he twice decided to go for two-point conversions far too early in a back-and-forth game, and it nearly cost his team.
Secondly, Wisconsin's kicking game has been highly suspect for a while now, so there's no guarantee Kyle French makes that field goal, even if it's only from 27 yards out after a delay penalty. But French is 6-for-6 in his career from 30 yards or closer, and he'd made one from 34 earlier Saturday night. It's a shame we'll never know if he could have hit the game winner.
One last question: Why do so many weird things keep cropping up at the end of games for the Badgers, who now have 10 losses by a touchdown or less since the start of 2011? Wisconsin fans can no longer scapegoat Bret Bielema for late-game mismanagement; his wife's schadenfreude was readily apparent when Jen Bielema tweeted "#karma" shortly after the Arizona State fiasco ended.
Take that and rewind it back ...
Team of the Week: Iowa. The Hawkeyes snapped a two-game losing streak against Iowa State, beat a FBS team for the first time since Oct. 13 of last year, and now can feel much better about a potential return to postseason play.
Biggest hangover: Nebraska. For all the obvious reasons. The sky isn't falling in Lincoln, as the Huskers should still be able to win at least eight or nine games. But the sun sure ain't shining, either.
Fun with numbers (via ESPN Stats & Info): Iowa’s Mark Weisman ranks third in the FBS in rushing yards, but his most impressive stat might be his 85 carries. Weisman, who toted it 35 times versus Iowa State, has run the ball 10 times more than anybody else in the nation. Michigan State workhorse Le'Veon Bell had 81 carries through three games last year. ... Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, meanwhile, leads the country at 12.89 yards per rush. The redshirt sophomore is averaging 10.1 yards per attempt for his career. ... Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld has taken over the Big Ten lead in QBR. Sudfeld ranks seventh nationally with his 91.7 raw score (based on a 100 point scale). Sudfeld also is tied for the national lead in most completions of 20 yards or more, with 19. ... Penn State continues to baffle with its ineptitude on third down, having now converted just four of 34 tries. Only Miami of Ohio (3-for-29) has been worse. ... Bet you wouldn’t have guessed this, but Iowa is leading the league in plays per game, at 83 snaps per contest. The Hawkeyes are tied for 10th nationally in plays per game. Minnesota is running the fewest plays per game in the Big Ten, at 60.
David Purdy/Getty ImagesMark Weisman made 35 carries against Iowa State. Workhorse running backs are still typical throughout the Big Ten.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Kenny Guiton -- or Kenny Football, as I’ve taken to calling him, because the real Kenny G is far too lame -- continues to get it done in Braxton Miller's absence. The Ohio State quarterback threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 92 yards in the win at Cal. Urban Meyer says he might find ways to play Guiton when Miller is healthy.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Not a lot of great individual defensive performances in Week 3 (see below), so we’ll go with Iowa’s linebackers. Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris combined for 25 tackles, and Morris had a 27-yard interception return. They helped limit Iowa State to just 59 yards rushing.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): It’s time to recognize Purdue’s Cody Webster, who might win the Ray Guy Award if it were handed out today. Webster continued his tremendous season by averaging 41.8 yards per punt and downing three of them inside the 20 versus Notre Dame.
Pointing up (the wrong way): In the first two rewinds of 2013, we pointed out how scoring is up in the Big Ten. In Week 3, that was also true in a negative way. Six Big Ten teams (Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois) gave up at least 31 points, and Michigan nearly joined them (and would have been the sixth of seven to lose if so). Offenses have improved in the league, but let’s face it: Most Big Ten teams still aren’t well-equipped to win shootouts, so the defenses need to play better.
Strangest moment, Part II: Nothing tops the end of the Wisconsin-Arizona State game for absurdity. But more strangeness occurred in the UCLA-Nebraska game, when officials signaled for a made field goal on a kick that was obviously wide right. The call was overturned on replay, but how is that missed in the first place? An Arizona State field goal early against Wisconsin was similarly odd, as it appeared to curve from out, to in, to above the right upright. Officials called it good, but it was hard to tell for sure. Both plays only added fuel to comedian Adam Carolla’s common-sense crusade to raise the darn uprights already.
Did you see? A skywriter spelled out “Go Blue” over Spartan Stadium shortly before Michigan State’s game against Youngstown State on Saturday. Who bothered to do that or why remains unclear, but as Michigan State swimming coach Matt Gianiodis tweeted: “That’s a lot of work for your 3rd biggest rival.” Maybe Michigan fans should have focused more on Akron.
September, 4, 2013
We've come this far, for us. What's one more?
- Purdue coach Darrell Hazell says he's encouraged despite his team's opening performance. Rob Henry is eager to make amends for his play at Cincinnati.
- Indiana's Shane Wynn -- who's back at practice after taking a scary hit -- gets his inspiration from doubters. Kevin Wilson is ready to get the Navy game over with (subscription required).
- Minnesota and Philip Nelson found a lot of mistakes from their opener that need to be corrected. A Minnesota native took a long road to play at New Mexico State, the Gophers' opponent this week.
- Wisconsin guard Ryan Groy was a pro at pulling in the opener. Melvin Gordon and James White showed they can run between the tackles. Reviewing the Badgers' defensive showing vs. UMass.
- Some Iowa injury and personnel notes. The Hawkeyes are still looking for their first sack of the season. AIRBHG follows Mika'il McCall to Southern Illinois.
- Bob Flounders discusses the Penn State running game in this mailbag. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones made a big impact in the opener. Bill O'Brien focuses on the positives from the Week 1 win.
- Illinois dismissed running back Dami Ayoola. The Cincinnati game offers a reunion of sorts for Illini athletic director Mike Thomas. The Illinois running game is stuck in neutral.
- Pat Fitzgerald says he expects quarterback Kain Colter (concussion) to play versus Syracuse. Northwestern has come a long way.
- Freshman linebackers Josh Banderas and Nate Gerry played in crunch time for Nebraska. Footwork drills have paid off for Huskers receivers.
- Michigan got a huge donation from Stephen Ross. Safety Thomas Gordon wants to atone for his one-game suspension this week vs. Notre Dame. Freshman tailback Derrick Green "grew a little bit" in his Week 1 debut. Devin Gardner made a rapid development at quarterback.
- Michigan State's tailback situation is still unsettled. South Florida might be just what the Spartans' offense needs. One week into the season, Mark Dantonio is already shielding players from the media.
- Urban Meyer is putting extra emphasis on Ohio State's special teams play. Jordan Hall remains the Buckeyes' starting running back. Safety Christian Bryant is growing into his role as a leader.
Happy football eve!
- Minnesota is pulling out all the stops to get students in the stands for tomorrow night's game against UNLV. The Gophers have a four-way competition at punter still going. Some injury news on the eve of Minnesota's opener.
- It's bowl or bust for Indiana, Bob Kravitz writes. The Hoosiers are adding more to their gameday experience (subscription required).
- Michigan State's quarterback battle is just beginning, Graham Couch writes. Receivers have to emerge to help Andrew Maxwell. Jeremy Langford will start at running back, but the Spartans expect to play four others there, too.
- Wisconsin's Gary Andersen is looking for ways to get his best athletes on the field, including possibly using Tanner McEvoy on defense. Ryan Groy feels comfortable in his move back to left guard after being asked to play left tackle. The Badgers haven't settled on a starting center or right guard yet.
- Devin Gardner takes the reins with confidence at Michigan. The Wolverines plan to go three deep across the defensive line. Greg Mattison looks for Jarrod Wilson and others to step up with Courtney Avery out. Watch Michigan recruit Jabrill Peppers' unbelievable touchdown run.
- Taylor Martinez has become comfortable with life in the fishbowl. Nebraska is looking to rotate more players in and out of its secondary this season. The Big Red defensive depth chart is clearing up, with Vincent Valentine claiming a starting tackle job thanks to improved conditioning.
- Bill Cubit gives Illinois' offense an identity, but he has a lot of reloading to do. It's all about finding a comfort level for the Illini and Nathan Scheelhaase.
- In a change for Iowa, Kirk Ferentz seems more optimistic about his team than the fans do. Beating Northern Illinois is a must for the Hawkeyes, Rick Brown writes. Jake Rudock views his debut Saturday as "just the beginning."
- Outside perceptions are finally matching Northwestern's own expectations. Some Wildcats practice notes.
- Purdue's offensive line bonded by going canoeing. Both the Boilermakers and Cincinnati present mysteries to one another.
- Ohio State chose eight captains -- does that mean the Buckeyes have a lot of leaders or not enough? Urban Meyer is confident in his young defense, though he says the jury is still out. Breaking down the Buckeyes' depth chart.
- Like Penn State, Syracuse is keeping people guessing about who will start at QB on Saturday. Allen Robinson has been quite a catch for the Nittany Lions. A freshman defensive back left the team.
June, 5, 2013
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Is it preseason All-America team season already? You bet it is.
Phil Steele has issued his 2013 preseason All-America teams, and a total of 15 players from the Big Ten made the four squads.
Let's take a look:
Some notes and thoughts:
Phil Steele has issued his 2013 preseason All-America teams, and a total of 15 players from the Big Ten made the four squads.
Let's take a look:
- Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
- Nebraska G Spencer Long
- Wisconsin LB Chris Borland
- Michigan State LB Max Bullough
- Penn State WR Allen Robinson
- Wisconsin TE Jacob Pedersen
- Ohio State G Andrew Norwell
- Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
- Indiana long snapper Matt Dooley
Some notes and thoughts:
- Lewan is an obvious choice for the first team, while Steele clearly sees the potential in Shazier and Roby after breakout seasons for the 12-0 Buckeyes in 2012. I don't see much separating Bullough from Shazier and Dennard from Roby, and wouldn't be surprised to see either Spartans defender moving up a team on the postseason All-America list.
- Ohio State's Miller is listed behind only Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and ahead of Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. It's clear Miller will enter the season very much on the Heisman radar. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez didn't make the top four signal callers, but can't be too far behind.
- Wisconsin's Pedersen is a solid player, but Penn State's Kyle Carter has the higher ceiling among Big Ten tight ends, in my view. Carter had 453 receiving yards in just nine games in 2012. He'll be a big help for Penn State's new starting quarterback, and could work his way onto the postseason All-America list.
- It's not a huge snub, but Northwestern's Mark should be better than a fourth-team all-purpose player. He earned first-team All-America honors in 2012, and also was a second-team All-Big Ten selection as a running back. Mark could have worked his way onto the list as a running back. Instead, Steele went with former Penn State star Silas Redd as a fourth-teamer despite a so-so first season at USC. Mark's teammate Jeff Budzien also was snubbed from the kickers list after a near-perfect junior season.
- Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan didn't make the preseason list despite an excellent 2012 season. Ryan suffered a torn ACL this spring, but is expected back before the end of October. It'll be interesting to see if other Wolverines players besides Lewan put themselves in contention for postseason All-America honors.
- It's nice to see Steele recognize Wisconsin's Abbrederis, who might still be the Big Ten's top receiver. Like Pedersen, Abbrederis' numbers suffered in 2012 as Wisconsin sputtered on offense, and especially in the passing game. Abbrederis is an excellent route runner, a big-play threat, and a good return man.
- I'm interested to see which Big Ten linemen work their way onto Steele's postseason All-America teams. Keep an eye on guys like Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes, Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Groy, Northwestern defensive end Tyler Scott, Penn State guard John Urschel, and Ohio State's dynamic young pairing of defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.