Disclaimer: I am a very realistic Michigan fan. I do understand this was against Western Michigan, but last year, 13-10 Toledo.
First of all, I think it's pretty apparent Michigan's incompetence last year was due to their ineptness at the quarterback position. Michigan's options at quarterback were a walk-on who couldn't hit wide open receivers and a QB they never recruited who never really fit the system. They had skill players who made plays when the ball was thrown to them, but that was a rare feat to accomplish. Anyways, I digress.
Let's be honest; Michigan moved the ball at will in the first half. Tate looked like a young Colt McCoy while Denard showed flashes of Pat White/Steve Slaton (more on this in a bit). The linemen looked great; athletic, strong, and fast. Did you see Moosman make those two pancake blocks on the same play in the first half? The defense was playing aggressive and most importantly, hard. They converged on the ball and there were at least 3 blue jerseys around every tackle. I think Stevie Brown has finally found his position. Not athletic enough to be the last resort guy, but talented enough to be on the field. Outside of the last drive of the first half, the Michigan D held WMU to three-and-outs on six of their first seven possessions. Overall, a pretty perfect first half compared to anything Michigan produced last year.
Ok, now to some people's concerns. Short offensive possessions in the first half. The defense allowed a long, sustained drive in the last WMU possession of the first half. The offense looked inept at times in the second half.
The short offensive possessions in the first half I think were attributed to the talent/execution advantage Michigan had over WMU. By that I mean Michigan has superior talent (simple fact) and better coaching (most likely fact, but talent makes them look good). Michigan simply overpowered WMU; rare negative plays/no gains, rushing plays of 5-6 yard gains as opposed to 3-4 yard gains (yes, it matters), offensive linemen driving their men back instead of getting stood up or themselves being pushed into the offensive backfield, quarterbacks able to hit open receivers...
The last WMU possession of the first half was not worrisome to me as it was to others. I think at that point (UM - 31, WMU - 0), Rodriguez just wanted to go into the half up 31-3 at the worst and pretty much was willing to give up short underneath routes (curls, outs, slants). Essentially, they were calling off the dogs on Hiller for the last drive of the half. 31-7 is a three possession game, 31-3 is four.
Michigan's offense in the second half was not stunning, but it was without their apparent leader for most of it. When Tate was in the game, the offense had a particular rhthym and flow to it. This is not to say that when Denard was in there wasn't, but it was pretty clear to me that Denard is still a raw QB in terms of throwing mechanics/defensive reads. [Editor's note: Forgot to mention that I think Denard might at some point be converted to running back if Tate really establishes himself as the season goes on. Denard has too much speed and athleticism not to be on the field and think he could turn into a Slaton type of back. Also, looking down the road with Devin Gardner coming in, that could be a vicious backfield one day.]
My personal opinion is that the offense and defense were not as spectacular in the second half because of the mere fact that Michigan was up 31-0 at the half. I am of the opinion that Rodriguez doesn't want to expose his whole hand the first week of the season (no pun intended, all-in for Michigan) and has a few things waiting for Notre Dame next week on both sides of the ball. In the second half, by running the same offensive plays that were run in the first half and a pretty much base defense, Michigan did not give Notre Dame anything new to game plan for which I think is a strategic, and IMO genius.
I think next week we see a few (lots of) wrinkles to both the offense and defense. Hopefully Notre Dame has a full house and Michigan shows four of a kind (sorry, had to do it).
Driving in today (attended with my father...last time he came was "The Horror"...so a bit worried at that point); the sportscaster on 97.1 discussed "is Rich Rodriguez coaching for his job today?" I wonder how many of you heard this sort of discussion over the past week...indeed, I wonder how many of the cabernet drinking, luxury box opposing, Lloyd Carr missing (incidentally, I *do* miss winning 10 games a year), "sit down already" yelling old guard were secretly hoping that he was?
Well, I guess we can cast that aside for a week or two. Let's hear it again from the stands "Rich Rod-Ri-Guez" clap, clap, clap, clap, clap". What a pleasure to hear.
Rarely have we as Michigan fans have the opportunity to enjoy watching our offense work with fluidity...ever (I'm looking at you Mike Debord). There have been moments like the Florida/Michigan 2008 Capital One bowl game where for a series or two it clicks but today it was sustained for most of a half. There was a sort of joyous wonderment in the stands where you just were not sure what was going to happen. The speed is evident. Tate Forcier is more or less as advertised and the offense looked (aside from a few expected miscues) mostly competent.
A few quick observations from my section:
- Denard is *fast*, very very fast
- Tate is your starter
- Stevie Brown appeared competent (mostly)
- God love you Brandon Graham; Craig Roh looks nicely competent
- The new luxury boxes certainly add to the reflected noise (I will agree that the bands seem quieter...you could barely hear Western at the half)
- Student section *very* loud
-Old school Cabernet fans in my section still annoying (about 200 left after the Michigan punt with a minute left in the 3rd; they didn't much like the guys near me waving the fans "get up" all the time)
- same old same old regarding fans complaining at the most minor of Michigan transgressions (apparently it is not okay to compel the opponent to take 5 yard chunks and run down off clock when up by 31). It is *still* sad to hear middle age men yelling at teenagers and the defensive coaching staff (it seems it's not okay to just win but you need to do it with some defensive panache...)
- looking forward to seeing Minor Rage next week.
Overall a very inspiring game and you can see RichRod's program and talent meshing nicely. Imagine four years of this system.
I am hopeful that the "old guard" cabernet fans, unhappy with the noise, RAWK music and overall commotion, are near their end and that the complaining I heard in the 3rd and 4th quarter (because we were only up 31 points...then gasp...24 points) is their last gasp before being overwhelmed by RichRod's coming success with the team.
Best wishes to all of you. Go Blue.
and looking to escape...
Then...late last night...the Spirit of Bo came to Rich in a dream:
"Rich, if you ever get out of here,
do me a favor. There's this big
hayfield up near Saline. You know
where Saline is?"
"Sure Bo, lots of hayfields out there."
"One in particular. Got a long rock
wall with a big oak at the North
end. Like something out of a Robert
Frost poem. It's where I asked Rick Leach
to commit to Michigan...I asked and he said yes.
Promise me, Rich. If you ever get
out, find that spot. In the base of
that wall you'll find a rock that
has no earthly business in a Saline
hayfield. A piece of black volcanic
glass. You'll find something buried
under it I want you to have. "
"What Bo? What's buried there?" - asked Rich
"You'll just have to pry it up and see..." said the Spirit of Bo
as his vision faded away in Rich Rod's dream.
The Next Morning, before the team meal... Rich Rod woke up and thumbed a ride on an old fruit truck, out to Saline. After searching for miles and miles..., he finally found the spot that The Spirit of Bo was referring to.
There it sits, the mystery solved at last...Rich stares at the object buried under the rock. Stunned. It's an old cigar box..
Rich slowly opens the box and inside is a dusty old book:
"Michigan Defensive Playbook 1976".
He just stares at the book for a while, almost afraid to open it. But open it he does. Inside the book is a smaller envelope and a letter. Rich begins to read:
"Dear Rich. If you're reading this,
you've gotten out. And if you've
come this far, maybe you're willing
to come a little further. You
remember the name of the town,
Rich Rod thinks for a while and then it comes to him:
"I could use a good Michigan Man
to help me get my project on
wheels. I'll keep an eye out for
you and the Playbook ready.
Remember, Rich. Hope is a good
thing, maybe the best of things,
and no good thing ever dies. I will
be hoping that this letter finds
you, and finds you well. Your
friend. Bo. "
But man. That was a fantastic football game.
The things that impressed me the most (thoroughly subjective, and nowhere near the level of analysis readers of this site are used to, for what it's worth): Tate Forcier is a goddam general on the field. Skinny arms and all. His poise is almost uncanny. It reminds me of Muad'dib's little sister in the Dune books: springing from the womb fully intelligent and aware. Ready to bend circumstances to her will. Today young Tate showed that, indeed, age ain't nothing but a number. And I can't imagine how good he'll get over the next four years.
Denard Robinson is faster than anybody I've ever seen wearing maize and blue. He's like, SEC fast, the kind of fast that doesn't get run down by safeties, the kind of fast that makes me keep my eyes glued to every second of offensive possession because I don't want to miss the next rip.
Our defense…looked good! More specifically, our guys were making tackles more consistently than anytime I can remember, reaching back into fin de siècle Carr years. They were making hits, and making them stick. And it was a pleasure to behold.
And the crowd. It was obviously big, but it was also almost rabid in pitch. Maybe it's the new press boxes, but whatever. It was loud, it was energetic, and it was clearly and comprehensively behind this team. All of a sudden, I realized that I was watching my team again. The team that makes me look forward to Next Saturday each and every week during this glorious time of year.
Blah, blah. We're back. Redemption is palpable. The ninjas are loose. Can't wait for next week.
The home opener is over and the Wolverines have won the first home opener since 2006 we've waited 3 years for this moment and it's finally here! 1-0! It's a huge win and great boost for coach Rodriguez and the Wolverines but it's always awesome winning the first game of the year. Michigan deffinetly looked MUCH different from the team we saw against Utah in last year's home opener and this win officially burries the fears and memories of last year's 3-9 season so it looks like 2009 could be an awesome year for Michigan football. Tate Forcier looked awesome in his debeut as a Wolverine and he did not dissapoint. 175 yards in the air two TDs and how about Denard D-ROB Robinson with some impressive carries and a TD for himself on his debeut also. Sheridan also stepped in and unfortunetly threw a pick (was dreading that) but in the end it didn't do any harm as the Michigan defense played like an iron curtain and shut down Hiller and the Broncos offense. I'm really amazed by the athleticism by Tate Forcier this guy is the real deal, he can run, throw, scramble and even throw and run under pressure in the pocket.
But now that the home opener is done it is officially ND week and it will be a tough one this coming saturday Michigan's defense is going to have to play just like they did in this game maybe even a little tighter. Clausen looked pretty damn good today against Nevada but screw the Irish's win this is a Michigan blog and the attention should remain on Michigan. One thing I saw that I didn't like against the Broncos was the penalties on Michigan. Warren has to be a little more careful when it comes to man to man coverage and make sure he is not holding on to the wide reciever. Way too many penalties in the second half on the Wolverines and they have to be much more disciplined against ND this Saturday. But the way they played today really opened my eyes and I truly believe if they can play as aggressive as they did today against Western they can beat ND and pull of the upset. On a lighter side I'm deffinetly more comfortable right now as Michigan fan than a suckeyes fan would! Ready for USC,OSU? They are going to get thrashed. Great game from our Wolverines and looking forward to another big win in the Big House this Saturday! GO BLUE!
BTW: HAPPY LABOR DAY The day when you can tell your boss KISS MY ASS!
It was the Minnesota game. Our family had decided to see this one in person, as it wasn't too far away. Good choice, as it turned out: a rare win. One reason I will remember it: my little daughter, barely old enough to understand what was going on around her, was offered a Golden Gopher necklace by some nice old Minnesota fan. The girl wouldn't touch the thing. "Wrong colors!" she yelled at the befuddled old dude. My heart swelled.
The game went about as well as a game could go last year. The offense was moving the ball, chewing up yardage with one long run after the other. The defense looked competent, aggressive, even good (a new twist for the year: a good defense!). On the day the team would rack up over 400 yards of offense. We celebrated loudly with all the other Michigan fans tucked away in the corner of the Metrodome. That's another thing I'll remember: the camaraderie of the Wolverine fans. Even in that down year (perhaps because of that down year?), there was a palpable sense of togetherness. One guy even complimented my ratty old M hat, weather-worn and falling apart from too many years of outdoor usage. "Awesome hat," he said. I was pretty sure he wasn't being facetious.
There was a single play that stood out for me to this day. In this season full of mediocrity, what I saw filled me with a kind of hope, perhaps not for now, but for the future. It was on one of the longest runs of the day, by Minor (I actually don't even recall, it may have been Shaw). As he sprinted downfield and all eyes were on him, somehow I found myself watching what the other players were doing during this small miracle of a play.
My eyes came to rest on Martavious Odoms. 5' 8" if that, all of 170 lbs. But here was this little man, sprinting downfield, actually ahead of the play, blocking one Gopher after the other, creating more room, hustling, working, trying. In this miserable season, in this one exception of a game, here was a player who was putting all of himself out there, who at least for that one singular moment exemplified what Michigan football was trying to become. In a year, for him, that was mired by fumble after fumble, loss upon loss, along came something that I had been looking for the entire year.
A Michigan Man.
Go Martavious, and Go Blue.
p.s. that video is goddamn awesome.