Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
I'm so artsy.
Not to be a total buzzkill or anything, and this is totally the best way to open up a presser after a 63-13 blowout win, but can you talk about your pick six. What did you see there?
Denard: “Uh. Jeremy Jackson came open. I just threw it behind him. It was just a bad, bad throw. It was a good read, just a bad throw. I have to put my feet into it and follow through with the throw.”
On your ermahgerd touchdown, Joe Kerridge blocked for you. Did you notice that?
Denard: “Um… I mean, when you’re on the football field, everybody on the team has to be accountable. Even from the scouts and everybody. When Joey gets on the field I know he’s going to be accountable. He just told me about it. He said, ‘Man, I came in and chipped him,’ and he says [the other guy’s] mouthpiece came out, so it was pretty funny.”
With Notre Dame a week away, is this a game you needed to have?
Denard: “Yeah we needed to get a good win. Every day we need to come out and get better. When we came out today I felt like we got better but we still have some things we have to work on.”
(After the jump, more questions -- some fluffy, some confrontational, some misunderstood -- and maybe one or two interesting responses.)
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
A half-empty student section, a press box full of beat writers already finishing their game columns, a field littered with walk-ons and freshmen; with eight minutes remaining in the final stanza, Michigan Stadium exhibited all the telltale signs of a blowout. A one-yard touchdown run by Justice Hayes had just given the Wolverines a 63-13 lead, one that stood as the final margin.
After the last two weeks, this was a welcome sight indeed.
Denard Robinson overcame an ugly pick-six to complete 16-of-24 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground to lead the way offensively. Robinson spread the ball around to nine different receivers, led by Drew Dileo's 91 yards on three receptions. The stars from last week, Devins Funchess and Gardner, each recorded a touchdown reception—Gardner's on a stellar effort to tightrope the sideline and dive for the pylon—and the enigmatic Roy Roundtree found paydirt for the first time this season.
It was a rebound performance for Fitzgerald Toussaint, as well, as he gained 85 yards on 15 carries, showing off the agility in tight quarters that made him so effective last season; after finding little room to operate against Air Force, Toussaint reached the edge on his 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter with help from an A.J. Williams block. Vincent Smith added a pair of touchdowns from inside the ten, Thomas Rawls doled out more punishment than he took, Justice Hayes recorded his first career score, and Dennis Norfleet made his offensive debut with a 15-yard jet sweep that surely made Brian one very happy blogger.
Michigan fans were even treated to a Fat Guy Touchdown, courtesy of a Taylor Lewan recovery after Denard fumbled into the end zone. Lewan, for his part, appeared more concerned about his quarterback's error than excited for his own fortune, sheepishly pointing his palms towards the sky when the officials belatedly signaled touchdown.
The defense limited UMass to 259 yards of total offense, though there was still reason for concern. The Minutemen doubled their offensive scoring output from their first two games—six points—and strung together three first downs in a drive for the first time this year. This should not cause PANIC, of course—six points, fergodsakes—but there are still issues to be resolved, especially on the interior of the D-line.
UMass got paid. Michigan got a chance to breathe easy and give their backups plenty of run. Now the team can look ahead to Saturday night's matchup with Notre Dame; for today, they can feel content about handling business as expected. With the baby seal emphatically clubbed, it's time to move on to the real season, not unscathed but with the ultimate goal—a Big Ten championship—still within reach.
Formation notes: The Air Force defense is the opposite of their offense when it comes to formations. They run their 3-4 on virtually every play. They started off in some unusual (for them, anyway) formations, got burned for 79 yards on the second, and then decided to do this every play:
That may look like a four-man line but the line is directly over the C and tackles; the standup end is a linebacker, with AF's other linebacker flared out over the opposite hash.
For Michigan this is "double stacks," BTW.
I did not call this out specifically—it's just shotgun twins twin TE but note the inversion of the line TE—Kwiatkowski—and Funchess, who is in an H-back spot inside of him. Michigan used this mostly to get Funchess on wheel routes.
Substitution notes: A mishmash at WR with Gardner, Gallon, and Roundtree all seeing about the same number of snaps. Jackson and Jerald Robinson were next in line. Funchess, Kwiatkowski, and Williams split a good number of TE snaps.
Toussaint was the only tailback all game save for a few Smith snaps; the line was all starters.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun triple stack||1||0||4||Nickel under||Run||QB counter||Robinson||1|
|Looks like read option in the backfield; Lewan pulls around into the hole. Omameh(-2) lets a DT go straight upfield into the Lewan pull; Lewan delays to prevent a TFL and Denard has to deal with that unblocked LB in the hole. RUN-: Omameh(2)|
|M21||2||9||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Okie||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||79|
|AF goes with a six man front and one MLB behind it with a cover two shell in the secondary. They send five, backing two out, those two are tasked with covering the receivers. They're looking at a bubble screen fake, and bug out. They're gone. Michigan blocks the four frontside guys, with Mealer(+1) and Barnum(+1) getting a scoop on the DT that gets Mealer(+1) to the second level, where he pancakes a safety. Gardner walls off a corner, and then Robinson(+3) is one on one with the last guy. You know how that ends. Ermagerd. RPS +3. This was easy, really.|
|RUN+: Robinson(3), Mealer(2), Barnum||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0. 8 min 1st Q. By the time M gets the ball back plays are 24-2 AF.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M27||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||-1|
|This is either a run blitz or a really great read; one AF MLB shoots forward at the snap, getting past Mealer(-1) before he can come off a combo block. Maybe Molk makes this play, but it's not awful to not be able to do it. The DT Mealer and Omameh(-1) are trying to combo is shooting way left at the snap, so this is a blitz, I bet. Omameh totally loses the guy. Hopkins(-2) runs right by the blitzer, and this gets Denard buried in the backfield. RPS -1. RUN-: Omameh, Mealer, Hopkins(2)|
|M26||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||PA TE seam||Funchess||21|
|Why, hello. LBs suck up on run fake, Funchess wide open, nailed, caught, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +2)|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||1|
|AF tips a blitz like whoah and Michigan does not check. They send a corner and LB, slanting the line away from that blitz. Barnum(-2) gets confused and lets a DT through untouched. This is not good. Toussaint dances through it for a yard or two. Omameh(-1) also did not pick up the blitz and let that LB through clean. Bubble? Open. RPS –1, gotta have a check. RUN-: Barnum(2), Omameh(1)|
|M48||2||9||Shotgun double stack||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||PA drag||Gallon||8|
|Gallon comes in motion as the ball is snapped; M fakes the zone and flips it out to him in space. Same play that he got open on against Alabama but Denard overthrew it. This one is on the money. Gallon gets the edge on the slowish AF defense and nears the first down. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O44||3||1||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||7|
|AF running another blitz up the middle with stunting action. Michigan's pulling outside of a TE and Omameh(+1) plugs a blitzer, ending that backside threat. On the playside, Kwiatkowski(+1) seals the playside end, Toussaint(+0.5) kicks the OLB (easy), and Barnum(+0.5) pulls through to get an OK second-level block. Robinson is about to test those safeties again when a linebacker who was originally blitzing to the backside recovers for the ankle tackle. Nice recovery by that guy. RPS +1; blitz put AF in a bad spot.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Barnum(0.5), Hopkins(0.5), Kwiatkowski||RUN-:|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun triple stack TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB counter||Robinson||7|
|Run to the other side with Schofield pulling. AF blitzes right in the intended gap; Schofield(+1) slows up to wall the guy off… guy goes after Toussaint. If Schofield keeps going and bips a safety... oh well. Denard now has a big hole thanks to a big kickout from Lewan(+1) and Barnum walling off a LB who bit on Toussaint. S fills well, Denard tries to go around him and is chopped down by pursuit.|
|Mansome block from Hopkins(+2) who takes a blitzing LB, stands him up, and thrusts him out of the hole. Mealer(+1) adjusted well to a moving LB and escorted him out of the way; Omameh(+1) put a potentially problematic DT on the ground. Safety fill is rapid since he was moving forward on the snap as AF went to an eight man front.|
|RUN+: Hopkins(2), Mealer, Omameh||RUN-:|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||-1|
|This is just an old Rodriguez inside zone and that it doesn't work is kind of on three people. One: Denard. End isn't crashing but a keep is attractive here. Two: Mealer(-1), who can't get much of a block on a playside LB. Three: Toussaint(-2), who refuses to cut it up and ruins excellent blocks from Barnum(+1) and Lewan(+1) on the backside. Maybe the end shuts this down, but probably not for zero yards. Also... we could use some belly here. FWIW, yeah, Omameh and Schofield are in the backfield but this is essentially fine on zone blocking. That's where they went. Toussaint needs to cut.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Barnum||RUN-: Mealer, Toussaint(2)|
|O26||2||11||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||-8|
|AF tips a safety blitz, no checks on either side. Michigan runs directly into it. Lewan is expecting to kick a DE who screams inside of him; nothing he can do. Denard runs around and goes down. RPS -3. This was dead. Moar checks. This was so tipped.|
|O34||3||19||Shotgun double stack||1||0||4||Dime||Pass||Rollout out||Gallon||Inc|
|I think. This is a rollout flood route on which AF blitzes and still has everybody blanketed. Denard eventually throws it at a double-covered Gallon, getting it batted near the LOS. Given the situation I don't really mind the attempt—it's a crappy punt in a world of crappy punts if it gets picked off. He had Roundtree if he wanted to throw across his body... does he? I don't know. He's there for a reason, I guess. I'm just going to punt and BA this. (BA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 13 min 2nd Q. Gallon costs M 25 yards by not catching a punt before the next drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M12||1||10||Shotgun triple stack TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||6|
|AF blitzes right up the intended gap; Toussaint(+1) takes that guy out of the play. Mealer(+0.5) does an okay job with the NT; Barnum(+0.5) gets a linebacker he released directly into. Robinson(+0.5) gets a half for moving past the blocks in an optimal way.|
|M18||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone stretch||Toussaint||0|
|AF stunts, sending the playside DT right into Mealer. He goes low, submarining him and taking out Barnum. Not sure what Mealer can do about that. Omameh and Schofield now have to block guys inside of them that are at angles they are not expecting; they don't do this well. Even if they do, the peel-off leaves an unblocked guy waiting to fill. Williams(-1) did get owned on the edge and that didn't help. Rest of it seems RPS -2. Bubble open, BTW.|
|M18||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Out||Jackson||8|
|Stacked to the boundary. Bubble yawningly open. Michigan does it the slightly harder way by sending Jackson on an option route at about six yards. He breaks open, but not by much, and Denard shoots it in there like he's a WCO QB. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Wheel||Funchess||24|
|Play action fake to Smith sucks up the OLB, who dodges Funchess like he's blocking. He and Gallon break deep against one safety, who takes the inside. Funchess is open, Denard sees it and hits him. Big paws man. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Run||Broken play||Robinson||2|
|Denard(-1) bobbles the snap. I was going to call this an iso since the play worked out like that but after watching it a couple times, Smith is definitely expecting a mesh point and just improvises after he figures out it's not coming. This is a half-step from breaking big, in fact, but a blitz from the OLB gets Denard around the legs just as he's about to burst. Barnum(+1) and Omameh(+1) paved the way.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Barnum||RUN-: Robinson|
|O43||2||8||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||1|
|This one is on the right side of the line as AF slants to get it to the backside. Schofield(-2) is supposed to latch on to that slant and push him past where he's trying to go; instead he just whiffs and dude makes contact in the backfield. This is really all Schofield; Barnum is looking for someone to block in his zone and this is not a tough thing to do. All Schofield has to do is push the guy and Toussaint has a nice lane on the cutback he did find. RUN-: Schofield(2)|
|O42||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Hitch||Gardner||12|
|AF brings the heat. Both Mealer (-1) and Omameh(-1) get blown by, with Omameh's being more relevant. Denard has a guy in his face, and where previously he may have backfooted something turrible this time he shoots one out to Gardner in rhythm. It's a little upfield, but that's fine. (CA+, 3, protection 0/2, Mealer -1, Omameh -1)|
|O30||1||10||Ace Big||1||3||1||Base 3-4||Pass||PA TE corner||Funchess||30|
|PA gets Funchess one on one with a safety and Denard all day. Funchess loses the S because he's thinking waggle, and Denard fires it. It's a little short, but the S is still running as Funchess finds the ball, so it's not really very off. Much better this than missing. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +3). FUNCHESSSSSSS|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-3, 7 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||7|
|Looks like Toussaint(-1) blows an assignment and heads into the wrong gap. He ends up running into Omameh near the LOS; unblocked MLB. Robinson(+1) bounces it and gets the edge thanks to Schofield(+1) driving his guy a couple yards off the LOS. Interior blocking looked good, FWIW|
|RUN+: Robinson, Schofield||RUN-: Toussaint|
|M45||2||3||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||0|
|AF walks down a safety and blitzes him right into this. They tipped this too, but no checks never checks. RPS -2.|
|M45||3||3||Shotgun double stack||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Dumpoff||Smith||Int|
|Pass is a little high and hard for the 5'6" Smith, bouncing off his hands and getting intercepted. Denard had all the room in the world to run, but this was also wide open for a first down. (MA, 2, protection 1/1) On replay I don't even know if this is MA. Very catchable.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 14-3, 5 min 2nd Q. Next drive starts with 1:16 in the half and two TOs.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||10|
|AF shows blitz and backs out of it. Funchess's guy is backing out at the snap. Funchess ends up chasing him a bit, then decides to release downfield. Denard(+1) pulls since there's no one containing him and shoots up in the gap for a first down. Funchess probably should have clocked a linebacker instead of going for the safety, but oh well. RPS +1.|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Rollout hitch||Roundtree||5|
|A crappy throw takes Roundtree off his feet, robbing him of YAC and keeping the clock running. Accurate and this is 8-10 and a stopped clock. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|M34||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||In||Gardner||5|
|Eight men in coverage; Denard can't find anything except a short one to Gardner at the sticks. Accurate, at least. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Deep hitch||Gardner||19|
|Three man rush again; Denard surveys and finds Gardner open between levels in the zone, zips it for a first down. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1). They burn nine seconds before the next snap.|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Post||Dileo||Inc|
|AF sends seven; picked up. Denard stares down Dileo and does not see Gardner coming open beneath him. He forces it into three guys. No es bueno. (BR, 0, protection 3/3)|
|O47||2||15||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Post||Jackson||Inc|
|I'm not charting this given the situation. May as well force it. Do think Gallon was a better option, but whatever. (NC, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 14-10.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||58|
|AF sends a blitzer off the corner. Toussaint(+1) deals with him. Omameh has to get around that issue and does. Robinson slows up for him. Now both are on the edge with a linebacker. Omameh(+1) blows him up. Robinson cuts inside that. Lewan(+2) has donkeyed a slanting DL all the way to Schofield(!), so there's a gap. Mealer(+1) sealed away another DT. Williams and Barnum are doubling a linebacker. Denard(+2) has a big cutback lane. Dileo(+1) cracks down on the other OLB and gets a bonus block on a DB who wasn't making the play anyway. Gardner's stalk-blocking the corner to that side; Denard(+1) jukes that guy inside out and seeya. No shoes necessary.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-10, 14 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||1|
|M pulls Omameh and Schofield around two tight ends to the boundary. AF is stunting things; Williams(+1) does a good job to shove the playside DE past everything. Another DL has stunted himself out of the play, and Lewan(+1) gets the third despite the stunting. Michigan crushes the second level, and the only thing that can prevent Robinson from getting five or six yards is Robinson(-2) not cutting upfield and instead jogging out of bounds.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Williams||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|M36||2||9||Shotgun triple stack TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB draw||Robinson||10|
|AF tips that blitz again, and this time it seems like we do get a check. Robinson fakes a WR screen to Gallon and takes off. Just like his opening run, the two linebackers haul for WRs on the outside, so if Denard can get past the line he will get yards. Pump fake gets one for free; Lewan(+1) stuffs the other blitzer and there's an avenue outside. No gap in the middle, unfortunately, or this could have been a massive gain. As it is it's an easy first down. Denard(+1) for speed and things. RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Lewan||RUN-:|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||5|
|Barnum(+1) pulls and gets there. He takes on a run-blitzing LB at the LOS and wins. Toussaint(+1) kicks the OLB. No chance on the safety because Barnum got used at the LOS but he's got to be cautious and it's a decent gain.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Barnum, Williams||RUN-:|
|O49||2||5||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Slant||J. Robinson||10|
|That's not Milliner. The Other Robinson gets inside position and uses his body to wall off the DB; Denard nails him. Body-caught, but results-based charting. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||Wheel||Funchess||26|
|TEs both in two point stances. Michigan runs a Toussaint fake and then goes pass, with Funchess running a wheel down the sideline. Man coverage, AF linebacker tries a chuck or something, and that's over. Denard floats a perfect touch pass over the LB. Funchess bobbles it but does bring it in. Great throw maximized YAC. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|O13||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||6|
|This time the other way. Kwiatkowski(+1) seals the DE; Lewan(+1) shoves a slanting DT and then gets a second level block. LB spins off it but is significantly delayed. Robinson(-0.5) gets spooked by that fellow and runs a little outside where he should, giving up some yards when a guy Dileo cut decently can make a tackle from his knees.|
|O7||2||4||Ace Big||1||3||1||Base 3-4||Pass||Waggle out||Gardner||7|
|Play action fools the entire AF secondary; easy pitch and catch for Denard and Gardner. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-17, 6 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M1||1||10||I-form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||1|
|Ugh, just throw the damn ball to Gallon and see if this AF corner's eight-yard cushion is something he can make up. That's a guaranteed five yards. Instead, M runs a power. Williams(-1) loses a DE to the inside. Omameh(-1) does not get there, and that's all she wrote. RPS -1.|
|Extremely token run fake and max pro. Robinson fires a hitch, accurate but maybe a tiny bit late. Gardner gets his hands on it but ends up dropping it as the CB rakes it out. Could be route here, as separation was not gained. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)|
|M2||3||9||Shotgun double stack||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Out||Jackson||Inc|
|Zone blitz gets two ILBs in Robinson's face, so he flings a dart to Jeremy Jackson that he bobbles and then the OLB backing out knocks down. Dileo had separation and could have turned up for the first; Jackson is just slow. In any case, this was probably a yard or two short of the first down unless Jackson did some mansome OLB dragging after the catch. (CA+, 3, protection 0/2, team)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 28-17, EO3Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||6|
|Omameh's back to pulling really badly, as he ends up two yards in the backfield at one point and Robinson has to slow up for him. He does plug the linebacker that shows, I guess. Tentative +1. Lewan(+1) and Williams(+1) club the playside DE with Williams coming out on a LB. Barnum(+0.5) gets the easy NT block; Toussaint(+0.5) kicks the DE, and Denard only has a safety to deal with.|
|M40||2||4||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||PA seam||Dileo||Inc|
|Robinson gets instant pressure from the edge as a blitz comes and has to dump it immediately. Dileo is covered by one of those linebackers coming out from the center of the field and Denard chucks it high of everyone anyway. I'm filing this PR. I don't mind this from Denard. (PR, 0, protection 0/1, team, RPS -1).|
|M40||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Out||Jackson||9|
|Three-step rhythm throw (except this is a shotgun). This is west-coasty. It's Purdue-y. It's a short out to Jackson for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1). Jackson gets some bullish YAC, too.|
|M49||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA post||Roundtree||Inc|
|Toussaint gets a great cut block on a blitzing OLB that gives Denard time. He pumps, indecisive, and then he's got to go. He runs up in the pocket and as he's getting tackled by that OLB unloads 50 yards downfield to Roundtree, who is open by a step; pass is way long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M49||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB draw||Robinson||7|
|AF sends a double A gap blitz, backing off an OLB. Barnum(+1) catches one LB and escorts him out of the hole. Toussaint(+1) kicks the other one. Crease. Williams(+1) gets a good downfield block on that OLB who backed out. Robinson is one on one with a safety and ends up trying to cut behind Williams; Safety chops him down by the ankles.|
|O44||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||11|
|DE slanting inside on the playside makes Omameh move around him, which slows him. Denard slows, too. By the time he's finished doing that, Williams(+1) has shoved that DE all the way past the back of the line, Schofield(+1) has blown the playside DE past Barnum's guy, and a big cutback lane opens that Robinson(+2) takes. Dileo(+1) cuts off a linebacker and bang secondary.|
|O33||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Run||Waggle corner||Gardner||20|
|Toussaint again gets a nice cut block on the OLB coming hard on the edge. Denard is now in plenty of space and can leisurely pick out Gardner breaking open 20 yards downfield. Hit in the numbers, easy catch, big gain. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|O13||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Run||Iso||Toussaint||-1|
|S nominally covering the slot comes on a Kovacs blitz and nails Toussaint for no gain. RPS -2. No blocking matters here.|
|O14||2||11||Shotgun empty||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Delayed slant||Gardner||Inc|
|Gardner hitches up at five yards and then extends his route when a LB comes up to cover, and Denard goes for him. He's about to have a completion nearing the sticks when an DL who's not even bothering to rush gets a hand up at the LOS and bats it down. Foiled again! RPS +1, great little route. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O14||3||11||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Dumpoff||Toussaint||Inc|
|Air Force sends six. Picked up but Robinson is spooked and dumps it to Toussaint, low and tough. Not caught, not getting the first down even if caught. RUN THE BALL DENARRRRD. Taking off here has possibilities, man. (IN, 1, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: FG(31), 31-25, 8 min 4th Q|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Playside LB splits Toussaint and Barnum, getting upfield of Barnum and forcing Denard inside away from blocking. This gives AF a free hitter, who tackles Robinson in the hole. Think Toussaint(-1) has to go at this guy and cut him so Barnum can come around. Stunt made the blocking down very easy FWIW.|
|M45||2||8||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||2|
|Williams(-1) gets shoved back and loses his guy, which picks off Brink and gives Brink's guy an avenue to flow. Toussaint(-1) never actually gets a hat on the contain guy, and these folks combine on Robinson for a short gain.|
|RUN+: Schofield||RUN-: Toussaint, Williams|
|M47||3||6||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA rollout hitch||Gardner||Inc|
|Wide open as the smash route takes the corner to that side deep. Robinson finds it and leaves it short, but catchable. Gardner cant' bring it in. (MA, 2, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-25, 2 min 4th Q. Michigan's final snaps are kneels.|
I like this not playing Alabama thing.
Yeah, it's pretty cool.
My favorite bits are Denard running until your brain melts.
My second favorite bits are when Denard throws the receivers are not coated in a blood-red harbinger of doom.
I feel you.
I'm even feeling pretty good about this chart you're going to hit me with.
Do… you want to? You know, do it? The thing where I say—
—chart and you interrupt me to say—
--chart. The love is back!
[Hennechart legend is updated.]
|2011 through MSU||13||66(12)||11(1)||34(1)||17||2||3||10||4||55%|
|2011 after MSU||9||77(9)||7||17||9||6(1)||5(2)||9||5||69%|
Boom. Denard's misses:
- Dumpoff to Smith that's a little high and hard marked MA. This was the INT.
- Two iffy throws on sideline stop routes, one of which takes Roundtree off his feet inbounds on Michigan's hurry-up drive at the end of the first half, one of which forces Gardner to try and dig out a low throw on Michigan's final real snap. Both MAs.
- Fifty-yard bomb to Roundtree thrown while on the move and getting tackled. IN, but not a big deal.
- Dumpoff to Toussaint as he's getting pressure on third and eleven. IN.
There was also a crappy read right at the end of the first half. That's it. Denard Robinson killed Tacopants tag: deployed.
I mean, I'm just like you guys. Wheels on the money, corner routes on the money, even one of those dinky Purdue routes in traffic squeezed in there. He stood in against pressure and shot darts out to his WRs. QBs make mistakes. There are those little frustrating moments when the guy won't just RUNNNNNNN and you're going HNNNNNNGGGG because look at all that space on third and three. But if you're trying to tell me this is not a significant leap forward, you crazy.
This is pretty.
I am so Funchized right now you guys.
I am Funchized to the max.
that's not even a thing
Oh, man, this is great stuff.
Fine, fine, I am so Funchized.
I clipped all four of his catches not because I set out to do so but just because it happened. Each was a big gain, each was virtually unstoppable for safety or linebacker, and all but one made you think that Funchess was going to have awesome hands as he plucked the ball out of the air with the twelve-inch skillets attached to his wrists. Was the seam a little behind him? Maybe if it's Dileo the throw forces a spin and a tough catch. Funchess just reaches out for it. Was the touchdown a little short?
Maybe if we're talking about Martavious Odoms or Jeremy Gallon going for that. In Funchess's case, feed the man up high.
Let's do another variety of chart first.
|Lewan||8||-||8||Blew some guys off the ball; locked out edge guys.|
|Mealer||4.5||2||2.5||Seems like a decent player.|
|Omameh||5||5||0||Pulling getting bad again; got blown by a couple times.|
|Schofield||3||2||1||Not tested that much.|
|Funchess||-||-||-||Blocking is for saps.|
|TOTAL||34||14||71%||What they needed to do against Air Force.|
|Toussaint||5||5||0||Pretty good day blocking on rollouts FWIW.|
|Hopkins||2||2||2||Denard running meant not much Hopkins.|
|Protection||33||5||87%||Team –3, Mealer –1, Omameh –1.|
|RPS||17||13||+4||A lot of RPSes.|
Those line numbers have extremely low amplitude because Michigan only got off 28 rushes—Air Force had 71!—and the high RPS numbers mean that I attributed a lot of stuff to play design/response instead of blocking. Like, on the 79-yarder there was only one second level player who needed thumping. That means fewer treats to pass out to the OL and more for Borges. Similarly, getting whacked in the backfield by an unblocked blitzer is not on the OL.
When the line did get called upon, they did well. Mostly.
Okay. Now: Aigh Toussaint?
I'm not sure it was much about Toussaint. He missed one cut pretty badly. Other than that, I'm not sure what he was supposed to do:
Air Force tipped blitzes a lot and Michigan didn't check out of their play but once or twice (and I didn't actually clip the check). Not sure if that's on Denard or Borges, but a lot of the time when Toussaint was getting the ball he was dodging unblocked guys in the backfield. Lewan said this was "embarrassing" OL performance; I do think they had some problems but I think it was mostly Toussaint getting the wrong chamber in Air Force blitz/slant roulette.
Michigan's success in the air was the flipside of that business. Michigan's final TD was easy easy because even Air Force's corners freak out about run.
But the right side of the offensive line is a problem?
I'm not sure Schofield had enough relevant reps in this game to make any sort of declaration. Omameh was pretty bad, though. I was probably too kind when gave him a +1 on some of his pulls. He's back to that arcing thing where he ends up running eight yards when he can run five. And too often yesterday did he let slanting guys right by. Here's the first play:
Have to get a shove on that guy even if he hops past you. Schofield had a similar error on a zone where Air Force slanted hard playside and the only thing preventing Toussaint's good-idea backside cut from working was the whiff. I don't see stuff like that from Lewan.
Robinson only had 4.5 YPC if you take out the big touchdowns, though.
Thanks, Danny Kanell. The way Air Force was playing left them exposed to monster plays. The 79-yarder saw a blitz and both LBs bugging out into a potential bubble screen:
the youtube url for this play has "Wee" in it
There is no one on the second level, period. Air Force did a lot of stunting and slanting blitzing in order to make up for their size deficiencies, and when it worked it got Michigan in second and long. The long runs were a cost they were hoping not to pay. You can't just take them out and expect to say anything meaningful.
Yo I got your magic midget right here.
He'll get some carries Saturday.
Did you forget something?
[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]
Notice the large drop in 0s. Obviously. The only routine drop was a Jackson out when Michigan was backed up on the goal line. Wouldn't have gotten the first down but would at least have gotten Michigan away from the goal line and give Hagerup an opportunity to boom one. Smith's 0/1 was of course painful.
Denard! Also Funchess.
Omameh had a rough day on the OL.
What does it mean for UMass and the future?
UMass will be a walkover.
As for the future, if Denard puts up the same sort of accuracy against UMass that ND game will be monstrous for the fan excitement level. Put up a bunch of completions against the Irish and keep that streak going and it's that MSU game for the Roses. Revert and we're all feeling pretty crappy about ourselves.
Toussaint gets an INC; the right side of the line is the biggest worry now, along with the tight ends holding up against bigger teams.
But, hey, Funchess and a rapidly developing Gardner combine with Denard's running to pose a tricky question for upcoming defenses. The passing just has to be for real.
9/8/2012 – Michigan 31, Air Force 25 – 1-1
It's been a long time since the first game of Michigan's football season wasn't at home. It was 1998. Michigan headed to South Bend to get annihilated by Autry Denson and the option in the opening game of their title defense. The box score lo these many years later is horrific:
Michigan Notre Dame First downs 24 19 Rushed-yards 38-150 55-280 Passing yards 322 96 Sacked-yards lost 3-29 0-0 Return yards 6 14 Passes 28-44-0 4-10-1 Punts 2-31.0 2-44.0 Penalties-yards 4-30 5-32 Time of possession 29:46 30:14
Michigan led 13-9 before four straight ND touchdowns turned it into a laugher. Michigan got blown out despite outgaining the opponent by 100 yards and allowing the opposition to complete all of four passes. They fumbled all of the balls. They stopped none of the options. That game was 36-13 before Michigan tacked on a cosmetic touchdown at the end.
This was the Michigan-ND rivalry in the 90s. If all you know about it is 38-0, "oh, wide open," and Michigan ripping Irish hearts out in the last 30 seconds, you are fortunate. I know better because I was in college then.
The next week I sat, despondent, in the student section as a group of resilient (and probably drunk) guys in front of me chanted "Cross is Boss" in the waning minutes of Michigan making a blowout loss to Donovan McNabb and Syracuse look pretty on the scoreboard. Donovan McNabb was in college once. I said it was a long time ago.
Walter Cross went over 100 yards that day, all of it racked up long after the game had been decided. Syracuse, too, had murdered us with the option.
Saturday started strangely blank. I wrote this thing two years ago about the opening of football season that I already kind of wrote back when far fewer people were reading this blog and have to force myself not to write again every Friday before Michigan starts playing football again:
I can say that most of the time I like that I find football important. It gives life a rhythm. I think my favorite part happens on the first day of the new year, when I file into the stadium an hour early. It's still mostly empty then. You can spread out in the sun. In my mental picture of this my seats are high up in the corner so I can take in the whole vast breadth of the stadium. Perched there, looking down and across, the future stretches out across the horizon. Anything seems possible, and the wait is over.
I hadn't felt a lack of possibilities since 1998, when Michigan was not going to repeat as national champions even before Donovan McNabb showed up. I went in at the usual time and sat in the usual spot and felt… not that. It turns out getting hammered 41-14 in your opening game restricts dreams of future glories quite a bit. It's like having New Year's Day on the eighth, a week after you found out you're not getting a promotion. You found this out because your boss stapled it to a bobcat he mailed to you. The stitches still itch.
So when the band rolled out, it was weird. I did the thing with the clapping and the raising of the fist. The voice in the head that has been going ermagerd fortbaw ermagerddddd the last 13 years was not there. Alabama had taken it, ripped its pigtails out, stomped on it, and returned it to me. They said "what?" confrontationally. They asked if I was going to do anything about it. I said "no, sir." It sat in the corner, petting itself, maybe whispering ermagerd fortbaw, maybe not. It was hard to make out.
Two plays later, Denard Robinson ripped through the line, cut directly towards me, and was one on one with a safety with an angle. An angle and no chance in hell. Turbo was engaged, and Denard shot into space with the same breathtaking speed he showed after fumbling a his first snap against Western Michigan.
ermagerd ermagerd ermagerddddddd
On the first play of the second half, Denard ran 50 yards in one shoe, making a cut on his sock.
Cross (@ right via MDS) was a freshman that year. He must have thought a hundred yards in his second college game was a hell of a start. Must have thought he would be watching other guys take the meaningless carries pretty soon. But Cross never cracked a hundred yards again. He'd only match the ten carries he had against the Orangemen three more times. Once a year Michigan would blow the doors off the worst team in the Big Ten; Cross would dust himself off to pick up 40 or 50 yards as the stadium emptied and walk-ons made their moms proud.
I liked him, though. I remembered Cross Is Boss whenever he'd hit the field, and how those deranged guys in front of me were taking whatever they could from the game in front of them. If the only thing it offered was an opportunity to ironically root for some guy to rack up more meaningless yards than had ever been gained by a guy in a winged helmet, that's what they were going to do. I was still sitting on those seats as Michigan fell to 0-2, but I was less despondent. Cross was boss. If those guys could be okay with life, I could maybe be too.
So, yeah, Michigan's definitively not elite. The defense got torn up by a triple option team, and the offense got stoned against Alabama, and I guess I'll be okay with that, because if some dudes in 1998 can carve some fandom out of Walter Cross, how can you not be excited about Denard Robinson's final games in Michigan Stadium?
Fortbaw. Let's get it.
Things That Still Aren't Bullets
Honorable mention: Funchess, Gardner, Joe Bolden, James Ross, Jake Ryan(?).
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS:
1: Denard Robinson (Air Force), Jeremy Gallon (retroactively awarded for Alabama game).
Welcome, freshmen. Not really. Hey, remember when this was finally the year when Michigan didn't rely on freshmen all over the place? Yeah… nyet. Michigan rolled out not one but two true freshman ILBs (James Ross and Joe Bolden) on Air Force's penultimate drive—the last one they actually used their offense on. Hoke would later say Bolden played so much because Colerain, his high school, ran the option, but even so… man.
Meanwhile, Ondre Pipkins, Mario Ojemudia, and Keith Heitzman (a redshirt freshman) saw plenty of time on the defensive line and Jarrod Wilson was the guy who came in when Michigan went to nickel. You make shake your fist at Rodriguez's last couple of recruiting classes now.
It wasn't that bad on offense, where the only freshmen to get a lot of playing time were AJ Williams and Devin Funchess. The former is like okay, we'll deal, and the latter was going to play early on damn near any team in the country.
not having shoes is the coolest now (Upchurch)
FUNCHESS. I try not to get all I told you so because I have occasionally not been right about things—like those three solid years when I thought Rodriguez was going to work out—but dang I told you so. Not that this is any great scouting feat on my part. Pretty much everyone who went to that open practice and saw a 6'5" guy with freaky long arms getting sent deep on wheel routes thought "holy crap" to himself and wrote about it on the internet.
I'm not sure if it was wheel one, wheel two, or not-a-waggle deep bomb that was the turning point, but by the time it was over Funchess had 106 yards receiving and was the first guy out of everyone's mouths in the postgame. It doesn't take a keen eye to think that guy has potential.
In Funchess we saw the beginnings of Michigan's Swiss Army Offense. They lined him up as an H-back and sent him on a wheel against a linebacker, who had no chance because he was too slow. They sent him deep against a safety, who had no chance because he was too small. That's the stuff Borges has spent years doing instead of figuring out how to tweak a read option, and in Funchess we saw the future.
Also the present.
…and introducing Chasing Jim Mandich. Is this too early? No. For one, I'd rather put up pictures of Bo and Mandich 20 times than, like, four. For two, it's the internet. This is how we do. Suck it, guy on twitter who told me to calm down and that it was just one game. WOO!
Jim Mandich is Michigan's all-time tight end receiving yardage leader with 1494 yards. After posting Michigan's first 100-yard receiving day by a tight end since Jerame Tuman did it in 1997, Devin Funchess has 106 yards receiving and needs 1389 to pass Mandich. At his current pace he needs just over 26 more games to do so.
That was the best thing, now the worst thing. Fitzgerald Toussaint: eight carries, seven yards. Commence offensive line panic. Do not hold any in reserve. If you end up in a cornfield wearing nothing but a traffic cone holding a sign that says "AIR FORCE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN ARE 260 POUNDS," this is about right, give or take a jockstrap.
I don't know, man. Live I didn't see anything Toussaint could have done except collapse in a pile of bodies. When Carl Grapentine forgot to turn off his mic and told the stadium "they can't do anything with that" after Michigan set another down on fire by running from under center, he was only telling everyone in the stadium what they were already thinking. Most of those plays went right, we're already nervous about Schofield… conclusion… yeah.
NORFLEET. hey drew dileo what's up you're all catching this ball wrong yoinkkkkkkk now I'm going to run over here bad idea getting tackled bouncing back not getting tackled running back over here different way different direction funnnnnnnnn I am the NORFLEEET zip that was like two guys oops here's like three guys awwwwww now I'm on the ground oh drew dileo you look sad let me apologize I am the NORFLEET this kind of thing just happens sometimes go with the flowwwwwwwwwwww
Denard accuracy. Seemed pretty good, right? The interception was zinged too hard—I'll give him a pass on the "high" bit because Vincent Smith—and the third down Gardner catch-that-wasn't was short. But those are MAs in UFR jargon, and if you put college football in your head all Saturday you'll see plenty of quarterbacks make similar errors. The only throws into coverage were a couple at the end of the half when you may as well force it.
I've seen some complaints about Denard not seeing open guys. I'll check for that as far as is possible given the tape, but if the costs of the Borges transition are an inability to make tiny run game adjustments the payoff tentatively appears to be an ability to put the ball where Denard wants it to be, most of the time.
It helps when you're throwing to Funchess and Gardner, too. The Funchess touchdown was short, but given the target that's what you want to do. As long as that guy is jumping for the ball it doesn't matter that you made him slow up, because he's winning that battle every time.
Crazy enough to work? Air Force's combination of triple option with Oregon's tempo and a pro-style-esque formation blizzard was fun to watch in the same way Nebraska's double pitch was last year… except it was far less fun because instead of one seemingly indefensible play it was dozens of probably defensible ones that weren't.
Q: think that could work at a major college level? Georgia Tech is doing it in the ACC, yes, but I think the option + jet tempo combo would be absolute hell to play against if the guys getting the ball were Denards and Norfleets instead of 5'7" academy guys. It was kind of hell to play against even against guys who are going pro in blowing things up. You're getting gashed, you have to substitute to keep guys fresh, you are freaking out and guaranteed to let some guy run free for a 70-yard score…
worst waldo. Upchurch
…unless he bobbles the ball and falls over.
Maybe it wouldn't work against Alabama but pair that Air Force offense, personnel and all, with a quality defense and you're winning nine games in the Big Ten. Falcon total offense against BCS-ish foes the last three years:
- 2012 Michigan: 417
- 2011 ND: 565
- 2011 TCU: 416
- 2010 Oklahoma: 458
- 2010 TCU: 231
- 2010 Utah: 411
- 2010 GT: 287 (in a 14-7 win)
So unless you also run a flexbone triple option or are the 13-0 2010 TCU team that finished first in total and scoring defense and won the Rose Bowl by holding Wisconsin to 19 points (on 385 yards, FWIW), Air Force is going up and down the field on you.
You'd need a lot of breathing room to get that up and going, granted. Troy Calhoun just tweaked the thing Fisher DeBerry had been doing for decades. Implementing it from scratch would be painful at first, but if you're an Illinois or Minnesota or Rutgers or Cal, it might be worth a shot. I'd loathe it if Minnesota gradually became Air Force++ and Michigan had to deal with it annually. Therefore someone should try it.
Calhoun's just 46. If someone can pry him away from his alma mater, I promise to praise that coaching hire up and down. He even releases his Coaches' Poll ballot weekly.
Does that make you feel better? Those ND/TCU/Oklahoma numbers are just like ours. ND finished last year 30th in total D, 18th FEI. TCU was 32nd, 42nd FEI (schedule issues). Oklahoma was 53rd, but a shocking 4th(!) in FEI.
FEI has Air Force's offense 33rd and 32nd in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Last year's mark was better than Georgia, VT, Michigan State, Iowa, Auburn, and Florida State. With guys who are going pro in going Mach 3. This just happens when you sign Air Force up, even when you don't do it the week after playing Alabama.
"No, not really" -you. I hear you. All the rotation and getting zero out of the defensive line and freshmen and etc. What if I bring up last year's game #2 against Eastern Michigan?
We had all of those happen on Saturday. Nowadays "non-Martin" DTs are all of them, so expand that slice of the pie. The coaches worked some things out. They've got a virtual bye next week against UMass, so they'll have two weeks to prep for Notre Dame—this time State takes the bullet and we get the rebound.
I'm hoping we see some progress against the Irish, who couldn't run at all against Purdue and got Everett Golson sacked five times. Yeah, no Cierre Wood, but Purdue's rush defense was appalling last year.
It doesn't look good but hold out a couple weeks before hitting the panic button.
Also, Alabama couldn't run on WKU. LA LA LA NOT LISTENING
Marmot, city. I've heard from a number of people that Air Force mistimed a lot of their plays and ended up having Arena-style guys running at the line of scrimmage before several plays. Here's TTB:
The officials were terrible. Terrible. Air Force's first touchdown should have been called back for illegal procedure. Quarterback Connor Dietz tossed to A-back Cody Getz, who beat everyone to the edge. In the meantime, the wing started moving forward prior to the snap like he was in the CFL and chopped down safety Jordan Kovacs, who was responsible for the pitch. Without that forward momentum, Kovacs - Michigan's best open-field tackler - very well could have stopped Getz before the goal line. Later in the game, Air Force converted on a key third down when both the quarterback and the running back - who were in a shotgun formation - started moving to their right before the ball was snapped . . . and a slot receiver was already in motion. So three guys were moving prior to the snap, and the play was allowed to stand. Those were obvious, blatant non-calls and each one could have had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
It was hard to tell if that was the case from my vantage point, but the refs did miss a really blatant illegal motion on an AF third and long conversion late. They had a guy moving, and the tailback took off before the snap, and no one noticed. I know they're military, but this is not 'Nam. There are rules.
Adventures in Special K. One: no "In The Big House." That is also two through six hundred. NO POP EVIL~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!!!!atatatat.percentsign.asterisk.
Given how much they ran that into the ground last year, that's either a sign of that thing's merciful departure from our world or Special K's greatest ever troll. I wouldn't put it past him, the scourge.
Instead, Special K put on that Flo Rida song that is not at all about blowjobs, wink wink nudge nudge:
Is that the kind of thing we want to be exposing the youth to? The guy is seen using a Windows phone in that video.
Injuries. Brennen Beyer has a "knee strain" according to Hoke, which means he has anything from a fairy tickling his patella to a Turkmeni flaming crater where his knee used to be. Other than that, Michigan didn't get it too hard from all the cut blocks. Ash's issue seems like a one-week thing, and no one else is publicly injured.
Helmet numbers. I don't miss them.
Paging 2011 Jeremy Gallon. 2010 Jeremy Gallon has started returning punts again. Please report to the maize and blue courtesy phone.
Number stuff. The first Kovacs bullet has been dodged, and I think if they were going to give him someone else's number they would have done it right away. They probably aren't changing a senior captain's number in their second or third opportunity to do so. So, hurrah. Ryan's as good a choice as any, but I was hoping they'd put it on a receiver since Oosterbaan was famous for catching Bennie Friedman's passes and 47 is a distinctive number for a wideout.
Ron Kramer's 87 is next. Hopefully that ends up on a tight end. I'm rooting for Not Funchess because 19 is not a number I have strong associations with yet.
Air Force didn’t turn the ball over, but they only went 2 for 5 on fourth down. They missed a field goal, and were stopped on a fake field goal. That’s six points. That’s the margin of victory. Ugh.
Michigan missed chances to get off the field, giving up frustrating first downs on third and medium-to-long time and again. Brady Hoke missed a great chance at points to end the first half with some terrible clock management, ending up with a TO in his pocket. With Michigan up 14-3, Vincent Smith missed a chance to extend Michigan's drive and possibly their lead by tipping an accurate third-down pass from Denard up for an easy interception; Air Force would score a TD and keep it close for the rest of the game.
Photos and such. Galleries from Maize and Blue Nation…
Media with the main and the stream and the Theo. Funchess named freshman of the week, Denard offensive player of the week by Big Ten. Denard Robinson had more total offense than Michigan did. Michigan up to 17th in the AP. Devin Gardner's still a quarterback in his mind. Give it four more games. Also the media refuses to call people by their last names. That's what they're for! They're names!
Michigan struggled early against Western Michigan and especially Notre Dame, and wasn't exactly pretty against Eastern Michigan. But it improved.
It shut down San Diego State the following week, then shut out Minnesota the one after that, and the Wolverines were in business.
The key to that success was simply getting better every week, especially on the defensive line, and Hoke sees the same thing happening this year.
"I would say there's a uniqueness to the offense, and the schemes -- but at the same time, we're a work in progress," Hoke said. "Quinton Washington is getting better every time he plays. Ondre Pipkins is getting better every time he plays. Keith Heitzman ... Mario Ojemudia ... Frank Clark, having him back.
"We're a work in progress."
Meinke also gives Toussaint a D+, which come on man that guy could have been Barry Sanders and gotten 15 yards on those attempts. BOO THIS MAN. Also, this may be a typo or it may be that DENNIS NORFLEET IS TOO FAST FOR VERBS
Dennis Norfleet is who we that he was
So there's your answer, Michigan fans.
Denard Robinson still is Denard Robinson. And so are the Wolverines.
On days like this, that'll be enough. Just barely enough, maybe, but Robinson, with a little help from his friends, did manage to beat Air Force, 31-25, before a crowd of 112,522 in the home opener at Michigan Stadium.
A week after getting thumped by top-ranked Alabama (then No. 2), the Wolverines needed a late fourth-quarter stop Saturday to avert an even bigger disaster. And they needed every bit of Robinson's dual-threat ability, as the senior quarterback actually managed to account for 101 percent of Michigan's offense.
With 208 passing yards, Robinson is now just 12 yards behind ex-Michigan great Tom Brady for sixth on the school's all-time passing yardage list. Brady had 5,351 career passing yards as a Wolverine.
Brady only started two years, but even so…
Larry Lage gets in another holy crap:
He had his fourth game with at least 200 yards rushing and trails only Mike Hart's school record by one. His 426 yards of total offense ranked fifth in school history, trailing four of his own performances.
Blogz! The flyover:
MVictors has some bullets:
The two Devins: Added to the postgame press conference hall of shame was the fiasco around the media trying to figure out how to address individual questions to Devin Gardner or Devin Funchess, as the Two Devins were trotted out to meet the press at the same time. The Wolverine’s Michael Spath asked the first question and intentionally addressed the question to “Devin” as a joke, but that didn’t help matters. More than a few times the players had to ask for clarification as to whom the question was addressed and it got silly. “The old one,” was offered up at one point to clear up the confusion, making Gardner, who was trying to be a bit stoic, crack up. Props to WTKA’s Steve Clarke who directed the final question to “Number nineteen”. I was going to direct mine to “number square root of 144”.
No one asked why they love bucket hats. Get with the program, media. Get with the program, Heiko.
MVictors also has helmet stickers Hoover Street Rag:
Air Force looked exactly like I would want to see a group of my nation's future military leaders look like as a football team, disciplined, focused, moving quickly, attacking the enemy's weaknesses, and fighting to the last man. They gave Michigan all they could handle and earned the respect and admiration of hopefully every Michigan fan. I had joked earlier in the week that "It's hard playing against Air Force because you can't boo freedom*", but I stand by it. Air Force, along with Army and Navy, are America's teams. Every one of those players made the choice to not only become an officer by going the Academy route. Every one of them has taken on the additional responsibility of being a football player at the Division I level, above and beyond what is asked of them. It was the same reason that I found it so hard to be angry when Air Force beat Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA Hockey Tournament in 2009. The cadets did an outstanding job and I am proud of their service to our country.
I agree with all of that save the "hard to get angry after the 2009 Air Force hockey game."
Jake Ryan and Denard Robinson
Opening remarks re: jersey:
Ryan: “It’s an honor. Coach Hoke called me in about a week ago and told me I was going to be wearing 47. It’s been an honor. This game is awesome for me and just wearing it is amazing. I’m going to wear it with pride and represent him as well as I can.”
Did wearing that number give you any strength today? You looked like you were a mad dog out there.
Ryan: “I did a little research on Bennie. I just feel like he was a really athletic Michigan man. I feel like it’s just a number, but I’m representing someone, but I don’t know I guess a little bit. I kind of had pride in what I did.”
You guys seemed to struggle with the triple option. What was going on there?
Ryan: “Yeah it was just technique. We just needed to improve on our technique. Just get back to the benches and see what we did wrong, what we needed to improve on, and just go from there.”
Ryan: “No, just technique. I mean, we weren’t playing our technique, so we needed to get that done.”
After The Jump, more Denard and OosterJake, two Devins, Kovacs & Lewan.
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In a game that felt like something out of the Rodriguez era, Michigan showed that while there's great promise for the future, the flaws exposed by Alabama are very real.
The Wolverines edged Air Force, 31-25, and the outcome wasn't decided until Jake Ryan batted down Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz's fourth-down throw with 1:28 remaining. Denard Robinson accounted for all but seven yards of the team's total offense. The defense ceded 417 total yards—290 on the ground—and failed to keep contain all afternoon.
It wasn't all bad, however. Robinson was masterful, completing 14-of-25 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception—one that deflected off the hands of Vincent Smith—while rushing for 218 yards and another pair of touchdowns on 20 carries. True freshman Devin Funchess emerged as a viable threat at tight end, becoming the first Michigan TE to eclipse 100 receiving yards in a game since Jerame Tuman. Devin Gardner looked like a wide receiver, hauling in five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while running crisper routes.
The offense lived and died with Denard, as Fitzgerald Toussaint found little room to run—seven yards on eight carries, to be exact. The offensive line failed to get a push against Air Force's undersized D-line, doing little to ease concerns from last week's debacle. By the second half, Al Borges had essentially given up on generating yards the traditional way, and he was justified in doing so.
Defensively, Michigan looked ill-equipped to stop the Falcon triple-option attack. The defensive line spent much of the day on their stomachs, unable to evade chop blocks or get any sort of push. Kenny Demens looked positively Ezeh-esque, letting blockers get into him again and again before being pulled in favor of true freshman Joe Bolden. Jake Ryan was all over the field, recording a career-high 12 tackles, but sometimes "all over" can be a bad thing—keeping contain was an issue. The final Air Force touchdown came when Desmond Morgan overpursued. The defensive backs struggled against the run as well, failing to shed blocks and come up to take the pitch.
When the defense needed a big play, odds are it came from an underclassman. Ryan continually redeemed his poorer efforts with critical stops, including two pass breakups on the final Air Force drive. Bolden replaced Demens and displayed the aggressive, instinctual play that made him a high school All-American. Fellow freshman linebacker James Ross spelled Morgan late and acquitted himself well after struggling in his debut against Alabama. Several other freshmen made appearances during the game's biggest moments, including Ondre Pipkins and Mario Ojemudia.
Last season's 11-2 record belied the myriad issues Brady Hoke faced upon taking over in Ann Arbor. After two games in 2012, those issues are at the forefront for the Wolverines. The lack of depth on the offensive line means Michigan must move ahead with the current unit—despite its ineffectiveness in the run game—unless they want to insert a true freshman. The defensive tackles will be a sore spot all year; the players expected to relieve that problem are freshmen or not even on campus yet. The offense still leans heavily on Denard, whose style doesn't always mesh well with the offensive philosophy of Borges.
The Wolverines came away with a victory, a fact that cannot be overlooked, especially against a team with a difficult style to prepare for in a week's time. Denard will still make magic with his feet—his touchdown runs were both exhilarating—and perhaps his arm as well—he looks much-improved from last year even if the numbers don't necessarily bear that out. The future looks bright, too, thanks to the major contributions from a number of young players already gaining crucial experience.
The overwhelming feeling in the aftermath, however, is that this team is still two years away from competing on a national level, the only level of success that matters at Michigan. Today's game had Rich Rodriguez's fingerprints all over it; as we know, that's a smudge that isn't easily wiped away.