I left a fair amount of Brian's analysis out of this MPP because it didn't translate particularly well to video. If you haven't read Brian's original PP, go do it now. If you have, go do it again.
Setup: Michigan has it first-and-ten on their own 38 on their first drive of the game. They come out in a 'power' shotgun (a 12-gauge, if you will) with two backs and a TE, and will run an iso to the right utilizing combo blocks on the NT and a lead blocker (Hopkins).
Wha'hoppon: Schofield and Molk plant the NT like he's a burlap-wrapped sapling. Omameh and Huyge single-block their men halfway to the bench, Denard freezes the backside DE with his ever-present run threat, and Hopkins roars into the hole. He gets his helmet across the LB and blasts him out of the hole, collecting a safety who really sucks at geometry in the process. This turns out to be key to the play, since it both completely opens the hole and eliminates the man-advantage Minnesota had by walking an extra safety down into the box. Toussaint flies through the hole untouched until he gets well into the secondary, and breaks an ankle-tackle on his way to a 35-yard gain.
Full YouTube link is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U0Wh_TNn5E
It's one thing for a running back to have quick feet; it's quite another to have feet capable of nailing an unblocked guy's feet to the ground and teleporting an opposing nose tackle from one side of your guard to the other.
Of course, on this play Toussaint wasn't the only guy with super powers. The SDSU DE running the scrape exchange made himself invisible, at least to Kevin Koger.
The Setup: First and 10 for Michigan on the SDSU 16, up 21-7 and driving to close the game out. Michigan will run the zone read (I think; I'm sure I'll be corrected if I get it wrong) out of the shotgun, pulling Kevin Koger to open the backside.
Wha'hoppon: Robinson sees the LB come down for contain and so hands off to Fitzgerald Toussaint. Koger misses the DE coming down the line on the scrape exchange, blocking the LB that had already been neutralized by the handoff.
With a free hitter staring him in the face, Toussaint takes a half-step to the outside, freezing the DE and changing the momentum of the NT being blocked by Omameh. This puts him on the wrong side of the hole, and Omameh rides him out of the hole as Toussaint comes through one step ahead of the DE. Good downfield blocking lets Fitz ride his OL to a 9-yard gain.
Full YouTube link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxVJpWo2NOc&hd=1
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
So here we are again at the beginning of a new era in Michigan Football, not nearly far enough removed from the last “beginning of a new era”, and once again I find myself seated in front of the computer trying to sort out my feelings on the matter. In truth I had planned on not doing these this year. Most of my impetus for spilling my thoughts here for the past three seasons stemmed from the completely foreign sensation a Rich Rodriguez led Michigan team left me with on fall Saturdays – an out-of-sorts feeling of not really knowing what to expect going forward. While Bo/Mo/Carr teams had a character that evolved so slowly that year-to-year change was almost undetectable, Rich Rod’s first tilt against Utah flipped my perceptions of Michigan completely and it seemed each successive game of the past three seasons distorted my outlook further. Michigan football went from being a solid thing I could count on and often take for granted, to a crapshoot of strangeness that forced me to question my unhealthy obsession with Michigan Football each and every week.
I thought Brady Hoke’s hiring would make things easy again and give me that cock-sure attitude back that said “I don’t need to worry about the details; I can just turn on the TV on Saturday and feel assured that Michigan will most probably win.” My cousin who played DE as a walk on under Hoke assured me that there was no better hire to be had, and that the past would become the future. Hell, maybe it will eventually, but for now the trials of the past few seasons compel me to question what the future has in store.
Learn from yesterday…
What did the game against Western Michigan teach us, and what is left unclear?
· Just because your name is Greg doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate a defense. Seriously, raise your hand if the thought of starting out the season against a very-good, veteran QB didn’t worry you a bit. After last year I was braced for the worst and Carder was every bit the accurate and composed passer he was advertised to be. He shredded our secondary at will until Greg Mattison made adjustments and started getting blitzers through. In truth our defense never truly broke; the longest play allowed was a 24 yard run and the longest reception only netted 20 yards for WMU. I waited all game for the play that would torch us, but the defense did a good enough job of keeping the play in front of them and got aggressive when it was well suited. The end result was something bordering on mediocrity, which felt like competency, and is a win for Mattison for sure. Two defensive touchdowns is a nice start to the season as well.
· Will the Al Borges offense work? Not enough data here really, what with Michigan’s offense having only 6 meaningful drives to look at. The data we have is surely encouraging though. Michigan’s first drive showed a degree of composure and demonstrated an ability to take control of the game tempo. The long runs seemed to be set up for success, especially coming practically back-to-back. We probably would have scored on 4 of 6 drives had the game not been halted, though the other two were 3andouts. Will it work for Denard? I am not so sure of this. The first offensive play from scrimmage looked very familiar indeed. In fact most of the first drive looked much like last year, right down to the amount of punishment Denard was being exposed to. If the defense hadn’t spotted Michigan two touchdowns, I wonder if run-hard Denard would have continued to be the go-to play if the score had remained closer. Denard’s comfort level overall was encouraging though, and he looked much better playing under center than last year.
· +3 on turnovers will make a fairly evenly matched game into a lopsided one. This is obviously true and was on full display in this game. Two of WMU’s three were of the most back-breaking variety imaginable, while the third almost assuredly took points off the board for them. Even the most conservative estimate would have a 20 point swing from turnovers alone. We should all keep in mind that this could have easily been a dogfight to the finish.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Jordan Kovacs– KOVACS!!! KOVACS SMASH!!! KOVACS, KOVACS, KOVACS!!! (I had my four year old son chanting this with me. Kovacs is now the first Michigan player he knows by name.) Seriously, it is insane that this guy came from open tryouts. He is my favorite player.
2. Brandon Herron – Talk about johnny-on-the-spot! The best part though was that neither of those were gimmee TDs. Herron showed great agility and stamina to stay in bounds and truck 94 yards in that heat and scooping up the fumble instead of falling on it was a heady play as well.
3. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Shaw – Big runs by these two led to the touchdown that finally blew the game wide open. If the damned commentator had been right, and the first of the two runs had indeed been Shaw, there wouldn’t have been need of a second because Shaw == Fast. Fitz still looks somewhat slow, but manballed two TDs in from close which is admirable.
4. Kevin Koger – Koger
only had one grab but it had two receptions and one was a doozy. Stretched out and snagging the ball with his fingertips, he still managed to put a hurting on the safety that hit him with a full head of steam. Gets up like no prob, first down converted. Nails.
5. Denard Robinson – No particular statistics are amazing, but he seems to have handled the transition pretty well and had several encouraging plays. Of note: the pull-down-and-scramble move for 12 yards and a first down just prior to Michigan’s third TD. Also the long pass completed on the money (I think at least, TV commentator be damned) to Hemingway. Denard probably doesn’t need to be listed here as he is always awesome and steadfastly refuses to bask in his own glow (making him even more awesome of course).
Also of note was the play of Jeremy Gallon, Jake Ryan, Mike Martin, Courtney Avery, and Kenny Demens. Oh, and Woolfolk before his injury – here's to a speed recovery.
Hope for Tomorrow
Next week brings a matchup with a Notre Dame team that just choked on its season opener, losing to a South Florida team that it exactly doubled in total yardage in South Bend. The Irish seem to have settled back on the QB that led them to 4 straight victories to end last season, Tommy Rees. They also have Michael Floyd. After watching Carder to White shred us yesterday, it is safe to say that Rees/Floyd is going to be bad news indeed.
Then again, Rees did throw two picks, so maybe karma will continue to be on Michigan’s side and we will score multiple defensive touchdowns, and Denard will gain 500+ yards of offense again, and all will be just swell. In reality though, ND is good and will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing and the game is in our house and we may even be favored despite not outplaying a MAC school by all that much. Add it up and history dictates a heart-wrenching loss. I continue to be braced for the worst.
PS - I realize that the quantity and quality of the posting on MGoBlog has increased by leaps and bounds the past three years, and that my posts tend to be more emo/rah-rah than actually, you know, useful. So if the obvious consensus is that my posts are no longer a welcome addition to the blog, then by all means let me know so that I can ride off into the sunset and trouble you all no more.
Ok guys this is a thread I have wanted to start after NSD (and before spring ball just to make some of us look stupid). Lets do a bold predictions thread for the upcoming season. Just to add some format, how about we do one bold prediction about the offense, one bold prediction about the defense, and one bold prediction about for the upcoming freshman class. I'll start with mine
1. Offense- Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stephen Hopkins will run for a combined 1500 yards.
2. Defense- The defense will be ranked somewhere between 50 and 60 in yards per game.
3. Freshman class- Chris Barnett make the biggest impact outside of anyone on special teams next season (not the boldest prediction, I know).
Give it up with the eternal wishing that Fitz Toussaint is gonna be some mysterious weapon that gets unleashed and saves the day the next 2 games. Yeah he is a fighter, yeah he has has terrible luck, and yeah, I hope he can be 100% and get some PT. But there are many people that still need to get the delusions out of their head. He is an average back at best, injured or not. Our future at RB is not Fitz Toussaint or Mike Cox. It's Smith and Hopkins. Get used to it.