October 14, 2013

Karsch: From The Sidelines

Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers' bullpen assured that Doug Karsch will be talking less Michigan football agony on WXYT AM-1270 today. The Michigan sideline reporter IS talking Wolverines exclusively with TheWolverine.com.

Here's Karsch…

On the Penn State game in general: "I'll start with this. They're down 21-10 at halftime. When they came out of the locker room, Taylor Lewan wasn't with them. They finished the half with a thud, but I've never seen them be that loose and that fired up. They were almost giddy on the sidelines, waiting for the second half.

"I was surprised. I suppose I shouldn't have been. I wouldn't expect them to white flag it at halftime, but they really were fired up to start that second half, and it showed in their play.

"As far as the end of the game and in overtime, yeah, there are probably about seven plays they'd want back, that are relatively elementary that could have salted away the ball game. The interception that should have been, the delay of game that shouldn't have happened, the field goals that were blocked and missed … no doubting it, they were in position to win this game.

"People might forget, they were only a very slight favorite. They had a kicker who hasn't missed from that distance in two years.

"People want them to play to their strengths. I went back and looked at overtimes in college football this year. In the last few weeks, I found seven instances where a team only needed a field goal in the bottom of the inning, if you will, to win the game. Only Michigan and Georgia, under those circumstances, even threw a pass.

"Tulane ran their kicker out on first down from the 25, and kicked a field goal to win. Michigan had a kicker that was 100 percent from that distance the last two years, and 90 percent for his career. They played a lot of percentages, and it backfired. There were some other things they should have done better, but they played a lot of percentages."

On the notion that it runs counter to the gambling side of Brady Hoke that he's demonstrated: "I understand the frustration of the fan base out there. My phone has been ringing off the hook. But you have a quarterback who leads the Big Ten in interceptions, and you have an offensive line playing without its left tackle, and that line has struggled anyway.

"When you drop back to pass, if you take a sack in overtime, before you've gained any yardage, you are out of field goal range. At the very least, you take it out of your kicker's wheelhouse. [Brendan] Gibbons is 50 percent from above 40, and 90 percent from 30 to 40, and his two misses from inside 40 came in 2011.

"He's made a ton of big kicks for them. If they get three yards, they're inside of 40. I can't sit here and tell you that's what they were trying to do, but if you look at the percentages, this was a pretty high-percentage play."

On Lewan going out of the game: "They never confirmed on the field at the time what it was. He looked groggy. He looked like he went through a concussion protocol, but that's just speculation on my part. There was no confirmation that it was a concussion.

"They have a concussion specialist that's with them at all times. He didn't go running over there, but he went and talked to Lewan at one point.

"It looked to me like Lewan was begging to go back in the game the whole second half. He was like a caged animal, walking around. At one point, he grabbed the white board and went over and spent a good deal of time with [Kyle] Kalis and [Erik] Magnuson, drawing stuff up."

On the offensive line in general, with Fitzgerald Toussaint gaining 27 yards in 27 carries: "I'm not a football coach, and I can't tell you what's wrong up there. It doesn't look like Fitz has anywhere to go.

"The style they want to play, they want to run the ball. I don't know what they can do. I guess the option is to go heavily with the pass, but then you've got to take better care of the football. It stifles what you can do.

"I love the way they recruited the last two years. They have loaded up in the trenches. This is a bit of a reminder that it doesn't happen quickly, when it comes to the development of college players. They've got four- and five-stars all over the place, but they have to get stronger to play in the trenches.

"I think some people might be giving up, but each and every week, you get bigger, stronger, tougher, and kids need to do that, and learn more. It's not going to happen as quickly as everybody wants, and this is another reminder."

On the reaction: "They were devastated. This one hurts. And I will tell you this. State College has always been one of my favorite trips, and it still is pretty cool, but that's one bitter crowd, man. That's one bitter crowd.

"They absolutely believe that the refs are out to get them. They're still mad about [Jason] Avant and his toe-heel catch in 2005. They aren't quite as happy as they used to be, or as welcoming.

"It wasn't Columbus, in terms of what I heard on the sidelines, but it was not the Happy Valley crowd I've become accustomed to, from several trips out there."

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