also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
9/25/2010 – Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21 – 4-0
It's been a long time since this has happened, but in the aftermath of a 721-yard outburst against a I-A opponent there's no grand emotional narrative arc to relate. Last year there was a sense of relief after the Western game; the Eastern game was a reminder that sometimes Michigan plays teams obviously worse than they are and beats the pants off them and isn't that nice but sometimes the quarterback goes down and that's not nice at all. The Bowling Green game was that minus a loss to a 3-9 MAC team the year prior—i.e., a pleasant nothing in which crappy special teams play was just an opportunity to rack up more yards on offense.
There was a bout of slight indigestion when it was 21-14, but in the aftermath of an offensive performance in which Michigan scored 9 touchdowns on 11 drives (and kind of scored two more on the drives that technically came up empty) complaining about that would miss the forest for the trees. I mean, Michigan took the admonition to "STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL" from the preview literally. I can't even make yet another impassioned plea against I-AA games since Bowling Green is part of the MAC, as I did after last year's silly offensive yardage number. So let's just get to the bullets.
Well, one thing first: Tate Forcier seems pretty level-headed for a guy the internet spent most of eight months deriding as an immature quitter bound to transfer ten seconds after Denard stepped on to the field against UConn and he declared himself "out" in the aftermath.
Somehow he's still here. He could have gone. He could have put in his papers like LaLota or Turner and spent a redshirt year somewhere else and preserved a year of eligibility and had three years to compete on a two-deep that doesn't feature Denard Robinson. But he's here, picking up small children in #16 jerseys after going 12 of 12 and running around on broken plays despite being obviously gimpy.
TATE: "Hey, kid. The offense scored a touchdown on every drive I had a part in."
SMALL CHILD: "Hold me up higher so I can see Denard."
My fiancée starts rooting for the other team whenever they are obviously overmatched, something that happened seven minutes into Saturday's game. She made an exception when Forcier rolled on the field. After the game he said he loved Michigan and would never go anywhere. You can't blame him if that turns out to be untrue, but I hope he stays around. I've got a feeling Michigan is going to need him.
NON-BULLETS TOLD THE PUNTER TO GET SOME COFFEE
Denard. Fine. Jumping higher than mortals for no reason late in a blowout:
Would have liked to see him get a couple more drives and finish his day with 200 yards rushing on ten carries just on the off chance he leads Michigan to enough stunning shootout wins to hit up the Heisman ceremony with a serious chance to win, but the important thing is that he's healthy. If he doesn't stop doing this, however, I am going to die with worry.
Number two. IME, Forcier. Gardner was certainly impressive downfield but on first glance seemed to make a ton of mistakes running the zone read and even when he did get some room displayed a nasty tendency to cut everything outside like he's still in high school, turning 6-8 yard gains into 2-3 yard gains. Forcier was crisper despite his status as Michigan's nominal #3.
Devin Gardner redshirt conspiracy. Yes, I am a one man Rubicon when it comes to this: Forcier was warmly welcomed by the crowd and got another big cheer when he came off the field late, then spent the postgame press conference saying things about how he will never, ever transfer. If that is true, that could be huge for the 2014 Wolverines because it might provide an opportunity for Gardner to redshirt next year. I want my fifth year senior Gardner, dammit.
Have I been advocating for this publicly? Someone gave me a shout out on the twitters when Michigan debuted a punt formation featuring three returners, so I must have been crabbing for it at some point.
I've been grumbling vaguely about the necessity for a second returner in this space for a while, but when Michigan came out in their new punt return formation on Saturday I was livid at myself for describing exactly what Michigan should do against spread punt formations during my Thursday WTKA appearance… during the commercials. Doh.
Anyway, the situation:
- The spread punt formation has virtually erased punt returns.
- Spread punting is almost impossible to fake out of as long as you rush the punter and cover the outside guys on the line.
- A single punt returner is insufficient in an era of line-drive rugby kicks.
The response I suggested (in the commercials) and Michigan implemented exactly:
- Two cornerbacks line up over the outside guys and cover/block them.
- Six guys charge after the punter on every snap to prevent fakes and maybe block a couple punts.
- Three returners are spread across the field so that Michigan fields almost every punt and maybe gets a return or two.
A friend of mine also pointed out that since punt coverage guys are focused on the returners, not the ball, having multiple guys back there has the potential to confuse them. If the ball's coming down to Dileo and Gallon's moving upfield like he's going to field a short one, the coverage team has an unpleasant choice between splitting their duties between all three guys and teaching their guys to look up and find the ball, forcing them to take their eyes off their destination and possibly exposing them to killshot blocks.
The results in game one of the experiment were encouraging. Michigan fielded all but one punt and got some of those return things—what are they called—oh yeah—yards. Dileo looked as smooth as promised, fielding punts and making one or two guys miss before getting tackled.
I don't think Michigan can pull off the triple return threat against a conventional formation since it would be vulnerable to fakes, but against spread punt teams they should use it all the time.
The other thing I was advocating for was the deployment of a Wolverine Heavy package and we sort of saw one near the goal line. Koger and Webb lined up as H-backs, there was a tailback, and Michigan ground forward as you might expect. That's not quite Heavy, in which there are two tight ends, two H-backs, and no one in the backfield except a tank, but the flexibility provided by the H-backs should make short yardage hard to stop; I'd like it if M put one of the TEs on the line and brought in McColgan.
Corner what. The third and final thing Michigan debuted was a dime package in which the MLB and one of the DEs come off the field in favor of two additional cornerbacks on passing downs. JT Floyd dropped back to deep safety with Gordon; Kovacs stayed underneath. This also gets a thumbs up assuming the freshmen corners can cover people. This is not certain, but it's hard to imagine them being worse at it than Roh or Ezeh, no offense to either.
Here's a confusing thing: Cullen Christian has practiced with the ones in warmups two of the last three weeks. I thought he was going to start against Notre Dame because of it. But when Michigan brought in its dime it was Talbott and Avery getting the PT; Christian alternated some with Rogers. The first bit implies that Christian is the #3 corner; the second implies he's the #5. Maybe the freshmen have different responsibilities in the dime package and they're working the players in at different positions until they learn both.
Running back mess, verdict, no verdict. Shaw continues to look like the best tailback available. As long as he's running hard and finding the lanes, something he's done a much better job of lately, he's the #1 guy. Smith was okay but as the games pass it seems more and more indisputable that he's lost some burst after the ACL surgery and probably won't be full strength until 2011.
Of the four backups, Cox seemed the most impressive in limited time since Toussaint's runs came on vast, gaping holes in the line. Also, he got run down by a MAC linebacker. What's up with that, Fred Jackson? (A: he's still wearing a knee brace and is not 100%. People of twitter: I was joking.)
Preview: 2011. Late in the game we got answers to obscure personnel questions:
- What position does Brandin Hawthorne play? Spur.
- What position does Steve Watson play? Defensive end.
- Who is the primary backup at guard? Ricky Barnum.
- What's the deal with Kenny Demens? Oh, there he is.
Michigan also got a preview of its 2011 offensive line when Perry Dorrestein "got a hangnail or something." Taylor Lewan was entrenched at left tackle so Huyge came in to play on the right, and Michigan lifted Steve Schilling for Ricky Barnum. That is 99% likely to be your '11 starting OL down to the positions: Lewan-Barnum-Molk-Omameh-Huyge. They got lifted for backups on the next drive.
Pretty straightforward this week. I might have been a little overly schizophrenic in the middle section, so steer me right if that's the case.
Since this is a resume poll, and we'll have five data points for most teams next week, I intend to move to a full-resume ballot next week, with a resume chart to back up my rankings.
Quotes from after the game. Will update with photos when they're ready.
Injuries: "Denard seems to be fine, I know that's the first thing you're gonna ask." He'll get treatment and be fine after some rest and ice. No x-rays needed. He was moving around on it. Michael Shaw is "pretty much the same as Denard. Just a little bit sore." Perry Dorrestein is fine, just got "a hangnail or something on his toe."
Today was a good win, the team got better in all three phases. Defense was a little more aggressive than last week, offense controlled the game with the run. "Last week, we did not play well." Improved this week on defense and special teams especially. It was nice to get lots of guys in there, especially seniors.
Team is deeper on offense than last year. "Defensively, we're younger." Completely different years. "I think there's enough positive things that we can grow from and enough negative things that we can fix." The first goal is the B10 championship, everyone is 0-0 in the conference.
Offense didn't have to do a whole lot in order to move the ball, ddn't have to show a lot. Executed well.
All three QBs did well. Didn't think about putting Denard back in at half. "We were moving the ball whoever the quarterback was in there." Needed to just get a couple stops. "I wish he woulda stepped out before he got hit." Needs to scoot out when the touchdown isn't going to happen. "I thought all 3 quarterbacks were very efficient." Devin not as ready as Denard or Tate because he's a year behind. These guys are getting it. "All three of those guys have not hit their ceiling yet. Not even close." It's a tough deal because only one can play at a time. Denard and Tate both more comfortable seeing the field than last year. Seeing things like coaches see them, why a play did or didn't work. Tate maturity - "I'm impressed with a lot of our guys' maturity. There's a lot of progress."
RBs - "It started up front. I thought our line and our tight ends did a good job blocking." Made a couple mistakes, but it was nice to get lots of RBs experience.
Guys come in boys, leave 4-5 years later as "a man, a Michigan Man."
Could tackle better, hit a couple screens on us. Missed opportunities to make tackles. Played more aggressivley, not on their heels like last week.
A couple special teams penalties were frustrating. Would FG kicker have been Broekhuizen? "Maybe." Depending on length and hash.
Team knows Indiana is very good, they can't mail it in and win.
After last week, the players wanted to just return to playing good Michigan football. Different year than last year. "Everybody's playing for somebody." They play their hardest every Saturday.
Offensive skill guys didn't have any trouble with the rotating QBs, because it happens in practice. When Tate came in, he was shocked everyone was yelling his name. Denard - "I'm pretty sure he'll be back this week coming up - get some treatment on it." Roy is very confident whoever QB is. "Minus the MAs [missed assignments] and the penalties, we just keep rollin'."
Defense showed up today. "Wasn't like the slackin' last week." In practice, it was 11 hats to the ball, they did it today.
RVB is not really amazed at the offense's performance. They've been going toward that for the past year. Expecting to see them make plays.
"Absolutely" more focused than last week. Might have been reading too many press clippings coming into last week. "Circled the wagons and prepared this week like it was a bowl game."
The team used a little more 4-man rush to get to the QB this week. "Persistent, and keep coming after the Quarterback." Had pressures, finally turning them into sacks. As long as the QB is moving his feet, the throws become inaccurate. "If you sack him, it's prettier but you don't necessarily need it."
Better team chemistry this year. Team united, want to play for each other.
"Michigan is noted as a powerhouse in the Big Ten, and we have not lived up to that the past two years." Hungry to be successful in-conference this year.
"A lot of people say I'm not staying here, but I'm still here... I love Michigan, I love everything about it... I love Coach Rod, I love these fans, I love everything about Michigan football."
Felt good to be out there competing again. "Coach Rod just told me to be patient and stay ready." He was ready when his number was called. Coach Rod told him to be ready, he knew he would get in this week. Never know when your number's gonna get called, have to be ready to come in. "Coach Rod's the coach. I'm gonna let them make the decisions, and if they go with him, I'm gonna be right there, ready."
Felt almost ilke a first start again. Thanks the crowd and coaches. How can you not notice that the crowd was supporting him. "Crowd always motivates me. Because you just want to keep hearing that." Michigan has the best crowd in the country, and the team has to to keep them happy.
His injury isn't serious. "I got hit. I got a little dead leg." He'll be fine within a day or so. "I'm healthy, and as long as Denard gets healthy, I'll be happy still." Never 100% as a football player, have to play through a bit of pain.
Hard to wait when you played last year "Denard got the same question last year when I was the guy." Everyone is good enough to play, he'll let the coaches make a decision. No rust. Studied lots of film this week "It was easy out there." Had something to prove when he went out there. "That's what I heard." that he set a completion percentage record. Could have improved a couple things.
Treat every team like a threat. Cites App State. "Treat every game just like you're playing against Ohio State." hould be able to play this well every week. Should be able to have a lot of success this year.
Indiana gave the team a good game last year. Fun to go into away stadiums and have everyone against you.
Team executed better today. Did a lot of studying with good focus this week. Made sure they were focused to take advantage of opportunities.
"We just come out and just execute and make plays." Don't worry about what the opponent's doing.
Denard's injury made him think of his own knee injury, even though it didn't end up being as serious.
The offensive line: "They had a awesome game. Just the same, they're very consistent and always do their job up front." Lewan - "He's doing an excellent job. I was telling him that on a couple of runs."
"We have a lot of talent in the backfield, no doubt." Everybody does their part when their number is called. "We all look at it from... if one man falls down, the next man steps up."
Red zone mindset - "We gotta get in."
Performed better than last week. Pretty good outside of a few plays. This defense is always hardworking, taking positive steps toward learning more. Concentrated and wanted to get everything right today.
Prepared the same as last week, maybe a couple guys watched a little more tape. "I thought our preparation was consistent."
On BGSU's QB: "You know that's in his mind where he's already kinda out of his comfort zone." Backup QB is obviously going to be nervous coming into the Big House.
Impressed with offense? "Yeah. I love our offense. It's very dynamic and explosive."
"I really feel like we have 3 very good quarterbacks coming in that can all run our offense."
Lewan - "I heard he did pretty good. I talked to him after the game, and I'm just excited to see Taylor playing." Been playing against him in practice a few years now, likes to see him develop.
"This team is just so close. Everyone is everyone's friend."
Concentrating coming into Big Ten season. "We... we're ready."
There has been spirited debate about the angles that Ohio University LB Rufus took in tackling the OSU RB Brutus during last Saturday's game. Does increased head mass require a higher tackling angle, or should traditional non-encephalitic technique be employed?
It is early in the game, with OSU lined up in a 1-1-9. The RB is parallel with the fat dork carrying the flag. The OLine of nine band weenies is clearly off the line of scrimmage in an illegal formation, but this doesn't get called; we're in the Horseshoe, after all.
Unblocked, Rufus arrows towards Brutus demonstrating, at first glance, excellent technique with arms wide to wrap up the opponent.
But here the question of angle v. encephalitis comes into play. What can’t be seen at this angle is that the RB’s momentum is carrying him past the impact point targeted by the OU LB, exposing why a traditional, lower attack point is desired. The OSU RB pulls away with a little, mincing gesture with his forearm and clocks the fat dork (FD) in the head with his opposite elbow. By the way, WTF is with that running OSU dude on the left side of page? I’ll tell you what it is: too many men on the field.
At this point, it looks like the unblocked OU LB will tackle for a decisive TFL.
But then we see the consequences of hitting the OSU player too high: with help from the OSU FD, Brutus maintains his balance and stands up Rufus.
If Rufus hits the OSU player just above the knees, then there is no opportunity for Brutus to recover. The OLine here is still in pre-snap formation revealing that this is a trick play.
Rufus begins to slip as the RB deflects his momentum…
…and loses contain letting the RB into the secondary with a convoy of blockers...
The RB makes a mistake: he slows up and begins to taunt the OU sideline. Rufus cuts between the WR and the TE in pursuit...
Notice the poor blocking on the part of the OSU WR running with Brutus downfield. How can you let Rufus approach your RB untouched? Again, the OU LB takes waaaay too high of an angle at the goal line. Seriously, what is this? Who tackles a player this high? Shame on the RB for walking into the end zone. Typical OSU classiness.
Rufus hits high...
...and already in the end zone, the OU LB commits the personal foul with unnecessary roughness…
...yet still demonstating why it is important to hit the player low; he still can't get him down. Bonus: notice the abused, defeated expression on Brutus's face...
This is not football; it is more reminiscent of Bogs in Shawshank. The infamous punch that got Rufus suspended from the OU team leaves Brutus a shell of mascot.
Teammates hang their heads in shame.
Takeaways: Even large-headed mascots must maintain proper tacking angles. They should not compensate for higher mass distribution with a higher attack point. Paradoxically, the higher mass point makes mascots more vulnerable to the classic leg tackle.
Also, there is no place in football for the kind of personal foul witnessed at the end of the play. Even when the other team is execrable as OSU, keep it clean. Don't sink to their level.
Edit: Special thanks to a friend who took those pictures in the endzone (I pulled the link so that we stop overloading her server).