It's not too early to check team stats at http://www.bigten.org/sports/m-footbl/stats/2010-2011/confldrs.html. Michigan leads the conference in total offense, averaging 502 Yds/G.. Alas, we are dead last in total defense, allowing 439 Yds/G, 47 more Yds/G than Indiana. We achieved the latter distinction with the conference's worst pass defense, allowing 293 Yds/G and the second-worst rushing defense, allowing 146 Yds/G. Only Indiana allowed more rushing Yds/G.
On the bright side, our offensive stats are quite good on some measures--First Downs, Pass Offense, Time of Possession, turnover margin (we're holding onto the damn ball), 4th Down Conversions, and we rock on Red Zone Offense and Rushing Offense. Big surprise. And a pleasant surprise: we rank 5th on Pass Defense Efficiency, 3rd-DN Conversions, and Red Zone Defense. And we're doing great on Sacks Against and very good on 3r-DN Conversions.
Until we are well into the conference part of the season, these stats won't take on a hard edge. At best, after two games across a very wide selection of teams that includes some very tough cookies like Florida and Alabama, and many cupcakes, the week 2 stats might indicate a few tendencies. But regardless of the opponent, I'll be looking to see how how we stack up against Indiana MSU stack up in a couple weeks.
Denard Robinson is the most spectacularly explosive quarterback in college football today; I think few would disagree with that. Dilithium, Shoelace, Judge Dreads, Sonic, or whatever you want to call him-- the kid has got moves. Given the impressive results of the season so far (875 yds. of offense in TWO games!), critics seem to have only one refrain left to fall back on--
Yeah, you have a great QB, but with 28 carries a game he'll never survive through the Big Ten portion of the schedule. [side note: the Wall Street Journal wrote a textbook article summing up this objection today]
The point of this diary isn't necessarily to refute this argument, though it's relevant to the main question at hand, which is this: Is our offense incomplete without a home-run-hit running back?
ON THE QUESTION OF CARRIES:
Last year we had a 4-headed rushing attack (Minor, Brown, Smith, Shaw), of whom only two rushers returned, Shaw and Smith. Although they split carries, it is worth noting that in the entirety of the 2009 season, neither Shaw (42 attempts) nor Smith (48 attempts) had as many carries as Denard has had in two GAMES, a total of 57.
While Denard is not the first incredible dual-threat quarterback in recent years to rack up yards on the ground and through the air, his carries are pretty far out there. Vince Young and Pat White both never averaged more than 16.5 carries a season while playing for Texas or WVU, respectively. Tim Tebow did manage to net an impressive 18 carries a game during his senior season, often in battering-ram, short-yardage plays, but even then, a pretty far cry from 28.5. Again, this isn't to say "ZOMG INJURIES" but more so to note that even the most successful dual-threat quarterbacks of the past decade have had far more balanced offenses that relied on fewer QB rushes than Michigan has thus far.
These numbers should come with the caveat that Denard will be getting far fewer touches against UMass, Indiana, and Bowling Green. Furthermore, with regard to risk for injury, he is being tackled mostly be second-level defenders, as opposed to getting gang-tackled by linemen, as is more often the case with dedicated running backs. That being said, as before, this is not a question of risk of injury (though that is relevant), but rather:
Why Are We Not Relying More On Running Backs?
Well, the answer isn't too difficult to see at the moment. Thus far this season, the numbers are underwhelming for both Shaw and Smith:
In the Notre Dame game, our non-Denard rushing attack was a paltry 30 yards. On the season, both RBs are averaging 3 yards per carry for about 10 attempts a game. These are underwhelming numbers.
Yet that's pretty surprising that for an offense as capable as Michigan's of producing jaw-dropping 87-yard rushing touchdowns on any given play when Denard touches the ball. And it is also puzzing that behind a very competent senior-laden O-Line, the longest play for scrimmage for a running back thus far this season is 15 yards.
I submit to you that this doesn't mean that we should rely on Denard more, but rather, that Rodriguez needs to dial up more run plays to establish a rhythm and determine where our RB attack is going to come from this year, because right now, that's pretty unclear.
Obviously these numbers can be expected to go up, and yes it is only 2 games, but at the moment, the Michigan offensive identity is basically all Denard Robinson, all the time. If he can't get the ball into Roundtree's hands or seems stymied on the ground at some point in a close game, what are our other options? Is it balanced to put that much weight on one player's shoulders? How successful have we been in establishing a rhyhthm running the ball with our RBs, or even discovering reliable homerun-threat running plays? Even Pat White could hand off to Steve Slaton every once in awhile when the pressure was on:
If past history is any precedent, a balanced offense and healthy QB play necessitate fewer carries by Denard and higher-level RB play. People keep saying "Rodriguez has finally found his Pat White-style quarterback," but they forget that effective Rodriguez offenses also had unbelievable stud running backs like Steve Slaton and Noel Devine lining up in the backfield, too. Amazing as our offense is, I really don't think we're that close to the ceiling, yet.
As we are only seeing the beginning of the Denard Robinson era, hopefully the current offensive balance is just a part of the growing pains and we'll be able to keep terrified opposing D-Coordinators up at night fearing runs, throws, or QB keeps equally.
Robinson Collects Second Straight Walter Camp Player of the Week Honor
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – For the second straight week, University of Michigan sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach HS) has been named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week. Robinson collects this week’s honor after racking up 502 yards of total offense in the Wolverines’ 28-24 victory at Notre Dame yesterday.
Robinson led the game-winning 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive against the Irish, capped by his two-yard scoring running with 27 second left in regulation. He accounted for all 72 of the Wolverines yards on the drive, completing 5-of-6 passes for 55 yards and gained 17 rushing yards on six attempts.
Robinson set the Big Ten rushing record for quarterbacks with 258 yards on 28 carries against the Irish. His rushing output is the best road effort ever for a Wolverine ground gainer and the fifth-best single-game effort in school history.
He set career highs in every passing category, completing 24-of-40 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown. Robinson became the ninth quarterback in NCAA history to run and pass for over 200 yards in a game and the first since West Virginia’s Pat White accomplished the feat against Pittsburgh on Nov. 16, 2006 (220 rushing and 204 passing).
In addition to his two-yard game-winning scoring plunge, Robinson raced 87 yards for a touchdown during the second quarter at Notre Dame. The scoring run was the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history and the sixth longest run in Michigan football history.
Robinson reset the Michigan total offensive record with 502 yards at Notre Dame, surpassing his total of 383 yards set last week against Connecticut. He also set the school record with 68 total offensive plays (28 rushing and 40 passing) in the Notre Dame game.
Robinson leads the nation in rushing (227.5 avg.) and total offense (442.5 avg.) through two games.
Robinson is the fourth FBS player to earn Walter Camp Player of the Week honors twice in a season. The last player to earn the award twice was Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell (won the award twice in a three-week span during the 2008 season).
Not mentioned in the release: He's the first-ever guy to win it in consecutive weeks.
Fifteen yards, Twenty yards,
Eighty-seven yards rushing,
All in the valley of Irish
Smoked for five hundred.
"Forward, the Wolverines!
"Charge for the goal!" he said:
Into the valley of Irish
Drove for five hundred.
"Forward, the Wolverines!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the Irish knew
Kelly would blunder:
His not to make reply,
His not to reason why,
His but to lose and cry:
In the valley of Irish
Burned for five hundred.
Irish to right of him,
Irish to left of him,
Irish in front of him
Volley'd and sundered'd;
Storm'd at with Shaw and Smith,
Boldly he rushed and well,
Into the jaws of Irish,
Into the mouth of Hell
Drove for five hundred.
Blurr'd all his laces bare,
Blurr'd as he went to the air,
Torching the defenders there,
Charging for touchdowns, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the misty-rain
Right thro' the line he broke;
Te'o and Fleming
Reel'd from his righteous moves
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they struggled back, but not
Not for six hundred.
Irish to right of him,
Irish to left of himm,
Irish behind him
Volley'd and sunder'd;
Storm'd at with Shaw and Smith,
While defenders fell,
They that had play'd so well
Came thro' the jaws of Irish
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
With yards of five hundred.
When can his glory fade?
O the wild game he play'd!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge he made,
Honor the Wolverine,
Blazed for five hundred.
That was an unbelievable experience, watching the game with my family, unwittingly teaching my 4yo son a bad word or three, watching Michigan rewrite the 2009 script to include the new answer to all that ails Michigan Football. Because that is what Denard Robinson is, The Answer. Not just an answer, but instead The one and only Answer that you will need right about now. Let's demonstrate:
Q. Why is the sky blue?
A. Because Denard Robinson.
Q. What is the sound of one hand clapping?
A. De-Nard Rob-In-Son.
Q. Why do Michigan fans have a shit-eating grin on their faces?
A. The answer is The Answer, and he'll be here all season, just ask away.
Seriously though, enjoy this everyone. Denard Robinson is making Michigan Football history and for the first time I can remember we have a new script.
Other things I learned:
- Rich Rodriguez is old school. To hell with the latest in game theory, he will punt on fourth down and makable in the opponents end of the field, even on 4th and 2, if he wants to. No amount me ranting about it in my living room will make him change his mind. And let's not get started on trusting the leg of Gibbons a second time. Of course there was an answer to my frustration, see above.
- Michigan now has, I believe, the toughest group of players I have ever seen play anywhere. Roy Roundtree comes back a week after serious internal bruising, gets crushed again in this game, and gets back up to catch arguably the most important ball thrown all day. Odoms took a couple wicked shots as well. Of course Denard Robinson defies what every hater has said all week, getting up time and again and channeling the beating he is receiving into pure awesome. Credit to the almighty Barwis.
- Tate looks like he has decided to be a team player. His hug with RR at the beginning of the game looked a tad scripted ("Is the camera looking yet? OK now!") but it was nice to see him with the headset on, ready to help out. Others mentioned in various comments that he was getting the team huddled up during time outs and generally was with his teammates. I am glad to see this.
- This season our defense no longer looks incompetent, it merely looks young and inexperienced. Big plays burned us over and over, but for the majority of the plays faced, the defense appeared to be improving if anything. Man this Kool-Aid tastes good...
- Cam Gordon can really hit, but he needs to improve quickly as the deep contain. One bad angle and one letting a man behind him = burn crispy twice. Future opponents are definitely going to try to exploit him.
The best-case scenario has come true through two games. Denard Robinson's amazing displays have shoved all talk about RR's hot seat and the NCAA investigation out the window, and we are looking at a probable 4-0 start (I don't like adding Indiana into that figure after last year's game). Pretty much everyone of note is healthy and I think this team is showing improvement on defense despite some issues giving up the long ball. Take away the two touchdowns totaling 148 yards and Michigan has at least an average day on defense.
It was easy after this game to get very concerned about our reliance on one player. With Denard Robinson accounting for 502 of 532 total yards on offense, what happens if he goes down? Let's not forget that the OLine is getting great push, creating holes, and protecting the QB. Let's not overlook that the receivers are getting open, catching the football, and blocking well. And most of all, take solace that in Tate Forcier we have a more than capable starter waiting in the wings, and that he appears to have adopted a team-first mentality.
Enjoy this time fellow fans.
**Note: Sorry if some of this is redundant with any other posts/diaries. I'm short on time**
I was able to attend the Alumni Association Tailgate before the Michigan-ND game today (great game)! AD Brandon did a Q&A session at it. I thought I'd pass on a few of his thoughts/answers. Nothing to earth shattering, but probably of interest to at least a few folks. I'm trying to provide the answers as quotes, but this was transcribed on my phone as he was talking, so it's bound to contain some paraphrasing.
From his opening remarks:
Sorry this isn't really 'original' from the perspective of me creating it, but it seemed kind of long to put in a Board.