FWIW. Michigan doesn't seem inclined to get re-involved.
In a way, it was fitting.
Denard Robinson's Michigan Stadium career did not begin according to script. It started with a fumbled snap, then became something magnificent.
It ended with him unable to throw a football, but still very able to take the Big House's collective breath away.
Robinson trotted out onto the field with the starters not as a quarterback, but as a tailback, taking a handoff from understudy Devin Gardner for three yards. Over the course of the game, he'd accumulate 98 rushing yards on 13 carries and add two receptions—the first of his career—for an additional 24 yards, lining up everywhere from quarterback to wingback to receiver in a 42-17 victory. While it wasn't the ending anyone had hoped for, there was at least still a little of the Denard magic left, especially on a 40-yard run to end the first quarter that featured an ankle-breaking juke of Iowa safety Tanner Miller.
Once again, the star was Gardner, who accounted for six touchdowns—coming on Michigan's first six possessions—with three through the air and three on the ground. Iowa's soft zone defense looked helpless in its attempts to stop the Wolverine passing game; Gardner finished 18-of-23 for 314 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception, with all three scores meeting little Hawkeye resistance. Jeremy Gallon had a career-high 133 receiving yards on five receptions, while Roy Roundtree turned in a second consecutive stellar performance with five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Al Borges used the threat of Gardner and Robinson to give Iowa's defense fits, perhaps giving a glimpse of what's to come in Columbus next week. A triple(!) reverse to Denard unfortunately was called back due to a hold. The threat of a Denard jet sweep opened up a cavernous hole for a Vincent Smith throwback screen, which the senior back took in for a fitting senior day touchdown. The most interesting wrinkle met a most unfortunate end when Fitzgerald Toussaint suffered a gruesome leg injury after taking an option pitch from Robinson.*
The defense gave up a score on Iowa's second drive before stiffening up, allowing just 221 yards in the final three quarters as an endless array of dumpoffs to tight ends and running backs couldn't sustain any real threat. Greg Davis was Greg Davis, Greg Mattison was Greg Mattison, and that went as expected. With Desmond Morgan out with an undisclosed injury, James Ross may have established himself as the weakside linebacker of the future, finishing with 12 tackles (9 solo) while showing advanced instincts and sideline-to-sideline speed.
Aside from the pregame festivities and quarterback-related dramatics, it was a mundane beating of a hapless Iowa squad. That much, at least, went according to plan. And while Denard Robinson's Big House finale may not have had a fairytale ending, there are worse ways to go out than with a few more virtuoso runs and a resounding victory.
Of course, Robinson's story isn't over yet. In Columbus, the stage is set for one final twist.
*There's no official word on Toussaint's injury except that he's currently undergoing surgery (via Hoke), but the ESPN replays and this photo from Eric—WARNING: GRAPHIC—tell an ugly story. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Fitz.
monumental; pay no attention to the dates plz
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
As I sit at my desk, I have to admit “Punt” is one tired puppy. Week after week of nonstop work is grinding me down. I don’t take time off—arranging coverage is more trouble than it’s worth. I’m not earning any vacation time because I’ve maxed out on what I’m allowed to accrue. This is a problem that needs a solution. It’s time to train an apprentice.
Making the pitch to my boss went well. He gives me the green light and the proverbial pat-on-the-back for all my efforts. I’m feeling good, looking forward to have someone that can step in for me when needed and not screw everything up. No more feeling guilty over taking a day off. No more dreading what awaits me upon my return. Having things done the way I want and need it to be. This is great! Then it hits me—did I just volunteer to train my eventual replacement?
While I contemplate the pros and cons of my decision, it seems the Michigan football team is facing a similar situation. We have a record setting quarterback who is observing what amounts to a medical leave. We’re missing him, his talent and hope for a speedy return, but a total recovery is first and foremost. Then there is the apprentice. There have been some instances where his lack of experience is evident, but there have also been several “Wow!” moments. He’s stepped up and done an admirable job.
All of this has to have many Michigan fans wondering “What if?” What if our late receiver had spent more practice time being an apprentice? What if the other “legends jersey” wearing receiver had rounded into his expected form a bit sooner? What if Denard’s injury improves enough for him to play? Give Robinson the nod early to try and shake off the rust? Or stick with Gardener and get him as much experience as possible prior to the show down in Columbus?
Something that doesn’t seem to be in question is the outcome of this Saturday’s game. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz brings another ho hum Hawkeye team to the Big House. This seems to be the new normal for the Big Ten’s second highest paid coach. I guess Coach Ferentz feels he owes the Wolverines one – their interest in him a few years ago has paid off handsomely. How no current Michigan senior has had a victory over Iowa is beyond belief.
Now don’t hold it against Counterpunt when he picks Iowa to surprise us. He’s just mistaken the Hawkeyes for his beloved “Stillers”. You can take the boy out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the Pittsburgh out of the boy.
Michigan 35 - Iowa 17
By Nick RoUMel
My co-worker Alex Dieck is dating her high school sweetheart, Michigan cornerback Steve Wilson. Steve starred at QB at Lakeland High School (White Lake, Michigan), and has since switched to cornerback and special teams. He is also majoring in cellular and molecular biology. Brady Hoke told him he was going to cure cancer someday.
Last week in practice, Hoke let Steve mimic Northwestern QB Kain Colter. Steve performed it to perfection, enabling the Wolverine defense to increasingly contain Colter as the game progressed—and ultimately stuff him in overtime to seal the thrilling victory.
I will look for Steve (#20) on the opening kickoff. However, his special teams play has resulted in Alex's growing concern over Steve’s well being. Football is played by players growing bigger and faster every year. A recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analysis of All-State high school rosters over the last 70 years, found that the average offensive lineman grew from 178 lbs. in 1940 to 273 in 2008. On the defensive side of the ball, linemen grew almost as much.
Steve is 5’11”, 179 lbs. according to the official roster. He plays on kickoffs, deemed to be the most violent play in football. ESPN says, “Take two large, fast men and give them long running starts at each other, and their collisions won't be far from car wrecks. Kickoffs are particularly hard on brains. In college football, for instance, 1 in 5 injuries during kickoffs is a concussion; during other phases of play, it's 1 out of 14.”
Alex can’t get over the assortment of injuries that Steve and his football roommates have compiled over the course of the season’s first ten games. But football players love to hit. I remember a story about pro football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, when he was a skinny but fierce linebacker for Kent State being scouted by the Steelers’ Tim Rooney. The fields were muddy, so the team practiced in the parking lot. Rooney watched in amazement as Lambert went flying after his teammates, tackling them on the gravel, oblivious to the damage to his own body.
Today’s opponent, Iowa, famously painted its visiting locker room pink during the Hayden Fry era. Fry believed pink would have a calming effect, and make opponents less violent on the field. It may have worked. Until Fry arrived in 1979, Michigan had won every game at Iowa since 1962; after the paint job, they won only 1 out of the next 4.
Michigan has had trouble with Iowa lately no matter where the game is played, dropping the last three. But today is different, because Steve Wilson didn’t play last year. With no heed to his injuries and worried girlfriend, Steve – along with the rest of our banged-up Wolverines – will dominate today’s game physically on both sides of the ball.
Just be sure to keep your helmet securely fastened, Steve. We still need a cure for cancer.
MICHIGAN 21, IOWA 17
|WHAT||Michigan vs Iowa|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||12:00 PM Eastern
November 17th, 2012
|THE LINE||Michigan –17|
|WEATHER||Partly cloudy, dry, low to mid 40s|
Why? I don't know. Ask BHGP.
This preview assumes that Denard Robinson will play in a strictly ceremonial role.
Run Offense vs Iowa
This has been a depressing grind since Denard Robinson's injury and will remain so unless Michigan finds itself behind the eight-ball late and resorts to Devin Gardner's legs. That seems like a highly improbable outcome what with Iowa being terrible.
So expect a lot of under-center running from Toussaint and Rawls that doesn't make much headway. Against Northwestern late Michigan did finally get some movement by always doubling guys at the LOS before moving on—I'd expect they go that conservative route so that they're at least getting four yards on an iso and whatnot. Michigan's actually been decent at moving bleah defensive tackles when they do that; the foremost amongst many problems on the ground has been blocking assignment errors.
Those should decrease, but at this point it's foolhardy to expect them to decrease much. At least Borges has responded to the problems on the ground and the week-to-week surge in Devin Gardner's ability by doing a lot more passing.
As for the opponent:
Iowa started off well before getting clubbed by Northwestern, had a virtual run bye against Indiana, and then struggling against Purdue. They're dead average nationally—60th.
Issues against both run and pass caused Iowa to remove linebacker Anthony Hitchens, their top tackler with a whopping 114, and insert freshman Travis Perry last week; Hitchens remains on top of the depth chart. The defensive linemen top out at serviceable; the linebackers are just okay. Michigan should be able to get people blocked, somewhat, if they get their assignments right, and grind out a few yards here and there. At this point it's a sideshow keeping folks honest for the passing game.
Key Matchup: Michigan Interior OL versus Block Somebody. Right? I mean, right. [repeat]
[Hit THE JUMP for the joy of GERG on the other team]
Brian has already waxed poetic about the seniors, so I'll stick to moving pictures and keep the words to a minimum. I've done my best to cover each member of the outgoing class. Let's just say it was hard to pick one moment for this guy:
He may make some cameo appearances later.
[For the rest of the gifs, hit THE JUMP.]
A leaf blows in fall
Tasting each position once
Time to duck, Martinez
These days people who
are not Thomas Gordon say
"Get off of me, please"
A man from nowhere
is the safety blanket for
a hundred thousand
As Northwestern died
they must have thought "ouch" and
"my god, sweet mustache"
We'll always have that
Purdue hash to hash zone drop
and a kickoff hold
finger-gun Balrog LB,
state YOU SHALL NOT PASS
Stayed through some things
that would have made most depart
and we needed him to
Not a walk-on, no
A scientist of brains, yes
And blocker of sweeps
[UPDATE: so I forgot Roy Roundtree.
Joe Tiller quivers
in walrus rage as Roundtree
waves an arm, alone
I had been in the desert for some time, lost and directionless. The sun was relentless. A deadly thirst stalked me. I had not accepted the grisly fate which awaited me but was powerless to change it.
On the fifth night—possibly the sixth—a breeze arose. It was cool and dewy. I savored it for a time, then step by step it led me home.