"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
When you guys went exclusively to running in second half, how much of that was by design, and how much of that was your reads? Denard: “Reads. I mean, most of the time it was just reads, and that’s what happened.”
Why did that happen? How did this game turn into having to run the ball a lot in order to win the game? Denard: “We just go with the flow of the game, and what happens happened.” Smith: “The big guys up front, they did an excellent job of blocking, and we just took what the defense gave us. Eastern came out and played a good game of football.”
Vince, how many carries can you handle per game? Smith: “Whatever the team needs to win, I’m there. However many carries I need for my team to win, that’s how many carries I can handle.”
You had more than 100 yards rushing, which is usually really good for a running back. Is it intimidating that your quarterback has nearly twice that? Smith: “Not at all. We don’t even look at it that way. It’s whatever for the team. If we need the quarterback to score a touchdown [rather] than the running back -- we both compliment each other on the game.”
Can you comment on your slow start on offense and how important the 97-yard TD drive was? Denard: “We came out a little flat, but on the 97-yard drive, we picked up some momentum, and that kept us going the entire game.”
Does starting slow bother you? Denard: “We wanted to come out fast, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on everyday. Talking about coming out fast and getting off to a good start.”
Is there a reason? Denard: “No, there’s no reason. There’s no reason for it.”
Can you comment on Thomas Gordon’s 1-handed INT? Smith: “I saw it from the big screen. It was a great catch.” Denard: “When he first came in my freshman year I saw him do crazy stuff like that, so I knew he could do it.”
Can you breakdown the TD pass to Dileo, and can you talk about other throws today where you were off? Denard: “The pass to Drew Dileo. It’s a read, basically. I just read it out, and he came open and I gave it to him.”
Vince, do you feel like you have to prove you’re an every down back? Smith: “Just like I said, it’s all about the team. Whenever we needed a running back to step up when the game’s not going well, we feel like whatever for the team. Somebody’s going to step up and get the job done.”
How did you feel about your performance in passing game? Denard: “I mean, I always have time for improvement and room for improvement, so that’s the biggest room.”
Coach wanted to get tailbacks going. How big was it to get Vince going? Denard: “It was big, I mean, when he starts running well, they start crashing down on him, I can get the ball and read it out and get the ball and run some. When things like that start happening, it’s kind of hard for the defense to stop.”
What do you think you need to do better in passing game? Denard: “Come back on Sunday and come to work. Do everything coach tells me to do.”
Anything you want to address specifically? Denard: “We’ll see on film. Have to see the film first.”
Did you feel like you’re seeing the receivers and the passing lanes all right? Denard: “Oh yeah, oh yeah. We’ve been practicing for weeks, so I can see pretty good.” Looked to me like you were throwing behind guys a lot. “No. I don’t think -- no.”
Your numbers were like some games last year. Did you feel like last year or was it different? Denard: “I don’t know. I get caught up in the game, so whatever’s going on is going on.”
You had that one long run where you cut across the field. What did you see? Denard: “Which one are you talking about?” It was your longest run, I believe. It was 53-yarder or something? “I was kind of being patient. I thought ‘Tree was probably going to push the guy down or something. I should have just sped up and gotten up there and not taken the side.”
After the Notre Dame game, was it a little bit tough to get going in a noon game? Denard: “Everybody was just getting ready for the game. We had Kevin Koger in the locker room talking to us. We call him Hypeman86. We were just ready to go. We have another chance to play football, and that’s what we’ve been working on all summer.”
(more after the jump)
Are you glad you scheduled San Diego State? "Uh ... no."
How did this game turn into running Denard 25 times? Was that part of the game plan? “Uh, no, we don’t want to get him beat up. We’re going to play in a pretty physical league, so we have to make sure we get it out of the way. I thought Vince and those guys did a nice job. Vince and Touss’, did a good job running the football. It takes a toll on your body. He’s not the biggest guy in the world.”
How much of defensive struggle in the first quarter was them outscheming you vs. them winning the battle up front? “I think that the jet sweep, which is part of their offense -- it hasn’t been a huge part depending on different things that you watch game-wise, but I thought that was really where they hurt us early in the football game. But after the guys settled down and got used to where they tried to leverage you, they played pretty well.”
Can Vincent Smith be the lead back? “He ran the ball pretty well today. Until you analyze it, look at it, and really evaluate it, I would hate to say that.”
Thomas Gordon made two big plays. Talk about him, please. “Thomas had a really good summer, and it starts there [with] what he did with his weight and how he reported to camp. I think his attitude and Michigan football being important to him, and his teammates being important, and just the way he’s come to practice everyday, I’m really proud of him for doing those things. It’s paying off for him and paying off for us.”
Did the team seem flat early? “No -- [Eastern Michigan’s coaches] are good coaches too. I think they had a good plan. I think a lot of the movement and some of those things, they’re a little bit unconventional as it is from that standpoint. I thought they did a good job.”
What can you do to get passing game going? “I think we just have to be better with our feet. Setting our feet on some of our throws. That’s usually where it starts with our quarterback. We need to do a better job there. It would have helped with some possessions early in the ballgame, if we make a couple first downs.”
This is the third game you started slow on defense. Is there a way to combat that? “If there was, I think we would have tried to do that. We just have to execute some things better. There’s not a real answer to it besides we have to keep working on it and keep playing hard with it. Guys have to do a great job in practice, which they have. That part of our team has really made some good strides. It’s coming along.”
Can you talk about in-game adjustments to shore up defense? “You always have the things that you want to run from a defensive perspective. And there’s also things that may be on the fringe. We were pretty vanilla and pretty base today. But there’s a couple movements Greg called that helped us. A couple adjustments coverage-wise that helped us. More on the run support than the actually coverage.”
When it was 28-3, did you think about giving Devin some snaps? “Not really. I’ve been around this game a long time, and I never feel real comfortable until it’s :00 on the clock. We wanted to down and put the ball in the endzone, and unfortunately we didn’t.”
Assess how the defensive front did today. “I felt them a little more this week. I felt Mike, I felt Craig, and Ryan. I felt those three guys than I have.”
Running game -- what started clicking for you, and how big was it to have Vincent Smith to complement Denard? “It’s huge. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s not. The offensive staff came in at halftime, and said, ‘This is what we liked, this is how we’re want to align it formationally, this is how we need to tweak the blocking of it,’ and it went pretty well. Vince did a nice job. He made one cut too many on one run, but he did a nice job with his vision, and I thought Fitz did also.”
When you get a tailback going, what does it do for confidence of running backs as a whole? “They’re all very competitive. I also think they all want to play. But I think they also are very supportive of each other.”
Jibreel made a difference out there. Talk about him. “I think Jibreel’s played pretty consistent the last two games. I just didn’t feel him as much as I felt those other guys.”
Another big play by Kovacs on fourth-and-one. What happened? “It was a man coverage situation, and he was locked on that guy, and he did a tremendous job of beating the guy to the edge, to be honest with you. It’s something that Curt Mallory had worked with those guys all week.”
You’re off to a 3-0 start. This happened the last few years, too. Tougher opponents ahead. Cold shower? “Tougher opponents – I think they’re all tough. Believe me. College football – they’re all tough. Every game is such a from-the-neck-up football game. We’re a different team. I mean, yeah, we’ve been there, but we have to improve so much tomorrow when we look at the film and see, maybe we got out-leveraged here on this and why. There’s some urgency things when you’re setting up front, and guys getting lined up and all those things. Not getting technical, but we’ve got to go to work. I am not the funnest guy in the world like I am today, but Sunday to Friday, we have work to do.”
Second week in a row Gallon’s done some good things. Talk about him. “Well I think Jeremy’s another one of those guys who really, you could sense some things in his demeanor. Change in the spring. He had a really good summer, and good fall camp. He’s earning respect because of how he’s coming to work, how he’s playing.”
Denard had some problems passing. What do you want to see from receivers to help him out? “That one interception, that was kind of a bang-bang deal. I think Junior – if he comes back a little bit more, he maybe could have bodied the guy more and been in a better position. We’re pleased with our quarterback and I’m glad he’s at Michigan.”
You talked about Denard setting his feet. How hard is it to get him to set his feet when he loves to run so much? “I think it always is [hard] when you have a guy who can make multiple plays because of his athelticism. There’s no doubt that it’s a little more difficult. It is, and he’s done a nice job, and we just have to keep working, and he’s got to keep working on it and focusing and concentrating on that improvement in his game.”
Are Herron and Cam Gordon close to coming back? “Cam is real close, and so is Herron. I would think they’d both be ready next week.”
We didn’t see a lot of power runs today. A lot of spread instead. Is this by design or just playing more to Denard’s strengths as the game goes along? “It’s kind of what we’ve been since we started in the spring, to be honest with you. The quarterback power is still the power play, the read zone a little bit, and a couple things how we’re blocking that a little bit different depending on front. When we got I-backs today -- and Phil Snow’s a tremendous defensive coordinator, the guy has a tremendous pedigree -- he was going to load the box. That’s when we had a couple opportunities with some throws, because it’s all man coverage. You connect on those and the game changes a little bit.”
Thoughts on next game? “A guy from San Diego would ask that, wouldn’t he? I tell you, we have our hands full. That’s a very good football team, and a wel- coached football team, and a talented team. We’re going to try and get by the next 12 hours and then focus on that one.”
Glad you scheduled them? “Uh … no.”
Craig Roh got some stats today. Talk about him, too, please. “I thought he played more physical today. I thought he played with a little bit of a different mentality. He was aggressive. And you can really tell how he prepared all week he was going to do a great job for us today.”
Michael Schofield made an appearance -- what happened with Ricky Barnum? “His shoe came off. He’s got big feet. To get a big shoe on a big foot, sometimes it takes time.”
The way you guys end the game isn’t how you always start the game. What’s the deal? “I think it’s a little bit of both. I think both units, offensively and defensively … their respective coaches do a tremendous job of gathering information during possessions during the first half and coming in there as a group and each other’s room, taking some things out, putting some things in, making some adjustments, and relaying them to the kids so they can understand it. We [as coaches] can understand it all we want, but it doesn’t do us any good. If they understand it, then you’re going to make progress.”
When Denard struggles in the passing game, do you actively give him more carries to get him into rhythm? “I don’t know if we do that. I think your comfort level that you always want your quarterback to have is important, because he and the center and the only two guys that will touch the ball every play. Al looked at where we were and what we needed to do, and because we have worked on both styles so much, it’s easy to revert back and forth.”
Gratuitous Video of the Week:
Formation Notes: The most interesting thing was Michigan's deployment of an unbalanced line on several plays to good effect. The PA FB flat and throwback screen both game out of the unbalanced line, as did a two-yard Hopkins power.
Substitution Notes: Barnum went the whole way in place of Schofield. Shaw, Smith, and Hopkins seemed to alternate snaps about evenly. Odoms got in for a little bit towards the end; other than that the WR rotation was about how it was.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel tight||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||7|
|It's Nix, not Cwynar in for the first snap, FWIW. Michigan runs at the left side off the line, pulling Omameh and using Shaw as a lead blocker. Molk(+1) and Barnum(+1) double Nix, blowing him off the line; Lewan(+1) handles Johnson by himself. ND is not exactly surprised by this playcall and has the intended hole full of bodies. However, Nix has started to flow hard and Molk(+1 again) has peeled off to kick out KLM, so there's a cutback lane... Molk then peels off KLM to get a third(!) block on the play. Safeties ten yards off the LOS come in to keep the gain down.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Lewan, Barnum, Molk(2)||RUN-:|
|M30||2||3||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel tight||Run||Zone stretch||Robinson||-3|
Excellent diagnosis by Teo, who flows hard right into the intended lane. Shaw and Huyge both try to pick him off but he gets outside their blocks. Denard(-2) needs to cut his losses and cut behind this mess to pick up a minimal gain and a third and short; instead he tries to bounce it out. If he'd cut it up Nix had fallen (he is a battleship of a man) and he might have picked up the first. This is the kind of fast flow stuff that Michigan exploited last year. Didn't really do so this year. RPS -1.
|M33||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Penalty||False start||Barnum||-5|
|Nerves from the debutant.|
|M28||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Out||Grady||Inc|
|You can tell how scared ND is of Denard's legs. They rush four and have two linebackers flowing upfield right in the middle of the line, which opens up a huge gap for one of them to shoot. Instead they gingerly approach the line. Smith releases into a flare route that Fox belatedly realizes is his responsibility, he starts peeling out for it. Denard checks down to a three-yard out on third and eleven and throws it way upfield of Grady. He can't bring it in; even if he did this was zero yards. This is both a bad read and and inaccurate pass; this was a covered nothing route when he had full view of two linebackers in the middle of the field. A dumpoff to Smith had a much better chance of getting it done even without considering routes that are, you know, somewhat near the first down. (BR, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Out||Grady||Inc|
|LBs very spread out because of the... uh... spread. One safety creeping up, another at about 12 yards. This is the same route Robinson just missed, and there's an ND safety flying up on it to tackle on the catch if it gets there. It doesn't, as it's batted at the line. (BA, 0, protection 1/1.) Can't really blame Lewan here because he has to pass protect; he can't just cut because this is not necessarily a screen.|
|M23||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Hopkins||2|
|This is our first indication that the zone read keeper is going to work all day. Michigan has Koger on the backside of the play; instead of going downfield he kicks out the backside OLB. Both MLBs flow hard to the playside. Denard(-2) should keep; he doesn't. If he keeps he's one on one with the FS for a big gainer. Since he handed off the blocking is five on five with Omameh(-1) doubling the playside DE instead of doing something about those charging LBs. Hopkins has to cut back and gets cut down by the backside DE, who Lewan(+1) had sealed away. Molk(+1) had blasted Nix way off the line, FWIW.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Molk||RUN-: Robinson(2), Omameh|
|M25||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide bunch trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Dumpoff||Smith||6|
|Good protection but Robinson can't find anyone. He checks down to Smith, who is immediately set upon by two ND LBs. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q. Robinson's second-down errors have killed both these drives.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 4-3||Pass||Waggle (sack)||--||-1|
|Yeesh. Waggle suckers this entire insanely aggressive ND defense and gets Denard on the edge being chased by a single DE. Moore was late getting out because he got caught up in traffic but is wide open. Also wide open is the corner. Denard should run, or throw. He should do one of the wide open things. Instead he points a little bit, then slows up as he nears the line, then stops, then is snowed under. Horrible. (BR, N/A, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|M19||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB Iso||Robinson||14|
|Notre Dame defends this well, then loses contain. Mediocre blocks along the line provide smallish creases but nothing major; Omameh(-1) whiffs on Calabrese, who fills the cutback hole Denard was aiming for. Let's cut back further. Koger(+1) is still blocking the backside end after all this time; that end has started to give ground in case he has to pursue and gives up the corner. Hypothetical ND UFR guy just gave him -2. I give Denard +3 for making 12 yards on his own.|
|RUN+: Robinson(3), Koger||RUN-: Omameh|
|M33||1||10||I-Form Big Unbalanced||2||2||1||4-4 Under||Run||Power off tackle||Hopkins||2|
|ND essentially has nine in the box with a safety eight yards off the LOS and charging at the snap. Michigan has a bunch in the box, too I guess. Barnum(-1) pulls and I'm not sure because I'm no expert on power yet but it seems to me like his path to the hole takes too long. When he gets there Fox is already at his feet chopping his knees out. Maybe that's too harsh, since this contact is happening right at the LOS. Maybe not. Bear with me. I've yet to see any attempt to exploit the insanely aggressive ND defense with misdirection. RPS -1.|
|M35||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Screen||Smith||Int|
|ND rushes three and lays everyone else back so even if this is complete this is going to die immediately (RPS -1). Denard pumps, then tosses it over the head of Nix... and Smith... and into the arms of Gray. (INX, 0, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-14, EO1Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||18|
|Reminiscent of a phase in RR's second year when shooting that TE backside was all the rage. Koger is lined up as an H-back and pulls across the formation as Denard executes the read. ND is so aggressive Michigan's inside zone blocking looks like they're blocking down on power with Koger the puller; Lewan(+1) blows Johnson down the line and Koger(+1) kicks out the OLB. Denard(+1) pulls, then hits the hole right next to Shaw. Johnson does a valiant job to shuck Lewan and almost get out, as does Teo, but Denard is too fast(+1) and hits the corner. This play does exploit the aggressive ND defense—suckering in Teo was key. Roundtree had a nice block downfield. RPS +1|
|RUN+: Lewan, Koger, Robinson(2), Roundtree||RUN-:|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout post||Hemingway||Inc|
|Looks like a pin and pull zone on the line, but there are WRs. This does erase the safeties(RPS+1) while getting Denard time. He's got Hemingway with inside position on a post route, which is the perfect situation to put up an arm punt and let Hemingway get it... but he misses by five yards. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M31||2||10||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Corner||Roundtree||Inc|
|A preview of the Great Gary Gray Garbage ExtravaGanza: dude just falls down after Roundtree fakes outside and then back to the inside. This is the WR equivalent of breaking someone's ankles on a crossover dribble. After a play action fake that does NOT suck the safeties in—contrast between this PA and the previous play is stark—Robinson sets up and hits Roundtree's corner. He zings it on a rope just out of Roundtree's outstretched hands. Live I thought this was a drop but on the tape it looks like it just glances off his fingers. Would have been a very tough catch. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M31||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||3|
|ND moves a safety down into the box and sends a fifth guy. M picks up a looping stunt but the delayed blitz from the LB comes around and gets in; Denard has had some time but can't find anyone and has to roll out. Nowhere to go, he scrambles for a few. (TA, N/A, protection ½, team -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-14, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O45||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Hopkins||2|
|ND super aggressive linebackers are super aggressive, submarining the FB Watson at the LOS and giving Hopkins nowhere to go. RPS -1. The blocking is fine. It's just that there's no way for this play to work if the FB is going to get cut-blocked a yard behind the LOS and Teo is going to flow over the top.|
|Ah, the first of the impossible to chart things. Hemingway comes in motion to the short side, causing ND to reveal zone. The FS bails at the snap, not even considering play action. ND rushes five against seven blockers and gets nowhere. Robinson has all year. He eventually sets up and chucks a... back shoulder... fade? Is that intentional? Can it possibly be given what we've seen earlier today? It is to the outside and upfield and Gray is nowhere near it as Hemingway spears the ball, so... results based charting service. (DO, 2, protection 4/4) Hemingway catches it at the four and lunges in.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M18||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Shaw||-2|
Same thing: ND sells out on the keeper and does not leave enough backside. Denard(-2) hands off and there's just no chance because both MLBs are shooting up in holes and there is no contain on Denard. If he keeps he's got Lewan crushing a guy, Koger blocking the backside LB, and he's one one with a safety.
|M16||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Fly||Roundtree||Inc|
|ND rushes three and is stoned. Robinson pumps and then lets a sideline fly route go; way long. Robinson throwing a fly to Roundtree with nothing relevant. This is what I am saying by grab-bag: when this happened last year the pump was to a bubble they'd thrown several times. This year it's to nothing. Roundtree is covered well and the throw is long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M16||3||12||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout out||Hemingway||Inc|
|Michigan rolls the pocket; Smith cuts the OLB to the ground to give Denard enough time to throw. He forms up and fires to Hemingway, who he did identify in a window past the sticks. Unfortunately, it's a couple yards too far inside. He could have hung it up for Hemingway to get, but not this time. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, special commendation Smith)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 4 min 2nd Q. M's next possession starts at the six with 1:31 left; they run the half out.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M10||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||39|
|They probably should have run this until ND stopped it. This is a virtual replay of the earlier zone reads: ND's linebackers are insanely aggressive and have already committed to the dive before the mesh point even happens while Koger peels off to block the OLB over the slot. There is no one assigned to Denard Robinson! Koger(+1) and Lewan(+1) do get blocks but this is just easy. Robinson(+2) for the read and the speed, Roundtree(+1) for good downfield blocking. RPS +2, though mostly because Diaco's kind of a twit.|
|RUN+: Robinson(2), Koger, Lewan, Roundtree||RUN-:|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||4|
|Thirty Borgeses agree. This time Teo is slightly more responsible but has still ceded the corner to Robinson; the difference on this one is the FS, who is ten yards deep at the snap and flows downhill on the read fake. If you're running play action out of this, what happens? Does Robinson throw into double coverage? No. This is our assertion. Right here. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Robinson, Koger||RUN-:|
|O47||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB draw||Robinson||-6|
Line sets up to pass block but doesn't actually do it at all. Molk(-2) gets beaten clean; Lewan(-1) and Omameh(-1) let Johnson into the backfield and don't try to, like, block him, until he's four yards upfield and right in Denard's path. I have no idea what they were trying to do here; it looks like they were maybe trying to go off tackle but then you kind of have to block the playside DE. RPS -2. ND gets an illegal substitution afterwards.
RUN-: Molk(2), Lewan, Omameh
|Four rushers and the fifth guy coming on a contain blitz. Barnum is driven way back in the pocket, which may contribute to an iffy throw. Throw is not on time and Hemingway is not particularly open but does have position on the DB to box out; throw is okay but a little low and Hemingway cannot dig it out. (CA, 2, protection ½, Barnum -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-17, 8 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||Base 4-4||Pass||PA Deep Out||Hemingway||Inc|
|Zone read fake sucks up the linebackers and after the snap there are eight ND players within a yard of the LOS. Two of them eventually come through the line but it's too late; Hemingway has broken his route off and is wide open. Denard throws and hits him. Dropped. Throw could be a bit better but this is one you have to catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
Safeties are rolled up just inside the first down marker; Denard checks; ND safety backs off into a deep zone, then rolls right back to where he was. This is fairly well blocked but KLM does not get far enough upfield to open up a big hole. Johnson does on the backside and Omameh releases into the linebacker back there; a cutback is the play. Hopkins(-1) misses it.
|M32||3||7||Shotgun 3-wide tight||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Koger||11|
|Johnson gets out of his lane as he tries to rush past Molk, giving Denard a lane to step up into. As he does this Te'o sucks up, understandably; Denard rifles one to Koger for the first down. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2, Molk had this under control IIRC)|
|M43||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Post||Gallon||Int|
|The nadir right here. Play action on first down fools no one except Fox, who sucks up on it and falls down trying to re-direct on the wheel, leaving McColgan open forever. It is amazing how irresponsible these ND LBs are. Denard doesn't see it, instead throwing a post to a double-covered Gallon. It's easily intercepted. (BRX, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-17, 6 min 3rd Q. If Denard had looked for the FB this would have been a big +RPS, but he didn't.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||PA Drag||Hemingway||77|
|Zone stretch fake into a rollout... should I not comment on Nix, the NT, getting reached and thrown to the ground by Barnum? No? Okay. Denard's looking, should dump it to Koger but doesn't, and then KLM is on him. He dodges the tackle, KLM latches onto him, and doom is en route. Denard throws a flat-footed pass 12 yards downfield that could not be better placed, and there aren't any safeties since Hemingway is free of Gary Gray. (DO+, 3, protection N/A.)|
|O6||1||G||I-form||2||1||2||Base 4-4||Run||Down G||Shaw||-3|
Blitz off the edge gets a LB into the backfield before anyone can pull around. LB impacts puller three yards in backfield; slant under from below negates any cut inside. Barnum(-1) is the only player truly at fault. Shaw has to bounce and loses three yards. Nothing he could do there. RPS -2.
|O9||2||G||I-form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Pass||Waggle (scramble)||Robinson||8|
|Not even ND's insanely aggressive LBs bite on this because it is bloody obvious (RPS -1). As a result everyone is blanketed and Denard(+3) is chased from behind. He makes a miracle happen to get down to the one.|
|O1||3||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Dive||Hopkins||1|
Shaw as the I-back and he motions out. Hopkins will run the same dive M ran against WMU. ND is prepared for this and sends everyone at the dive, getting both linebackers to contact Hopkins as the pile forms at the 1. (RPS -1.) Hopkins(-2) fumbles; Denard picks it up and saves everyone a nervous fourth down.
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-24, 14 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA sack||--||-5|
|Man, I still think they should be running the read. Teo is less nuts now but I'll take my chances. Instead they go play action and Fox blitzes. Barnum(-2) doesn't read it and lets him through to double a DE; Smith(-1) does not cut him on the run fake. Fox sacks. (PR, 0, protection 0/3) RPS -1.|
|O45||2||15||I-Form Big Unbalanced||2||2||1||4-3 over||Pass||PA FB flat||McColgan||15|
|I am in disbelief ND could be so dumb to let this work, but I think the unbalanced thing screwed them up. Still, Michigan's running for 2 YPC from under center and it's first and 15. ND's 55 picks up a hypothetical -3 by crashing inside and McColgan releases into epic space. Denard dumps it off and it's a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2). This was easy. Not much tonight has been easy.|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||13|
|Pretty much the same story except now Teo is more responsible. He is not plunging right into the line. He stops and peels outside when Denard keeps but Lewan(+2) got an excellent block on KLM, forcing him down the line and causing Teo to stumble; Smith(+1) is now a lead blocker an finishes the job. Denard(+1) takes off for a first down.|
|RUN+: Lewan(2), Smith, Robinson||RUN-:|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Down G||Smith||3|
|Barnum(+1) cuts Nix out of the play as Molk, Omameh, and Huyge pull around Koger. ND shifted late to put the playside DE in a two point stance and he gets immediately upfield, forcing a cutback and making Molk useless. Because of the Nix cut Smith does have a cutback. Johnson ends up chucking Koger(-1) away after defeating his block to both sides. RPS -1.|
|O14||2||7||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Pass||Back shoulder fade||Gallon||14|
|Extra guy in the box, so one on one on the outside, Gallon vs Gray. So... like... what the hell do I do with this? Given Denard's accuracy earlier this may be a terrible read and a mistake. But it works. Is this brilliant? Lucky? Insane? I don't know. Since this is a results based charting service we will give the benefit of the doubt, and Gray did seem to have tough job given the timing and placement of the throw. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-24, 10 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M9||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Deep hitch||Roundtree||15 (pen -5)|
|Four man rush with a contain guy. Robinson sets up and finds Roundtree with a dart between two zone defenders for a big chunk. Quality throw. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) Michigan picks up a hold on Huyge that is exceptionally weak. Not relevant to the play at all and not much of a hold, either.|
|M4||1||15||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||6|
|Okay, ND has adjusted. Calabrese shoots the backside gap and tackles Smith. Robinson's read this and pulled; Teo is scraping over and waiting. Lewan(+2) pancakes Johnson, giving Robinson a cutback lane. Cavalry arrives. (RPS -1)|
|RUN+: Lewan(2), Robinson||RUN-:|
|M10||2||9||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA Post||Hemingway||45 + 15 pen|
|I was willing to give Denard the benefit of the doubt on the previous one but this is a throw into double coverage when he's got a huge lane in front of him that he can run up into for positively ages. It's underthrown and Hemingway high-points the ball but I can't condone chucking it up into double coverage. (BR, 2, protection 2/2) ND gets a terrible roughing the passer penalty after the play (refs +1)|
|A terrible throw to a blanketed WR. (BRX, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-24, 4 min 4th Q|
|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 off tackle||Robinson||8|
|Omameh(-1) does not release downfield, instead doubling the NT that Molk has dealt with. God, Nix is such a tub. Huyge(+1) and Koger(+1) destroy Johnson; Smith and Barnum kick out guys who are maintaining outside leverage, forcing the play back to Teo. Denard(+2) WOOPs him and the safety who had come down, with help from Hemingway. A corner comes in to finish him.|
|RUN+: Koger, Huyge, Robinson(2)||RUN-: Omameh|
|50||2||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Post||Hemingway||Inc|
|Wide open post since ND again has a single high safety who is ten yards deep at the LOS. Hemingway wide open for 30; Denard misses him. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|50||3||2||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||2|
|Molk(+1) chucks Nix to the ground again. Omameh(-2) again delays instead of getting out on Teo; Koger(+1) and Huyge(+1) flatten Johnson. Teo and Robinson meet at the first down line. I think this spot is accurate.|
|RUN+: Molk, Koger, Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Corner||Grady||27|
|Rush four this time with man coverage and a single high safety. Grady breaks a corner route off and gets open against a safety—mismatch. Denard hits him in stride, allowing Grady to rip off some YAC. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O21||1||10||Ace twin TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||Throwback screen||Smith||21|
|The dagger for these linebackers. No one is keying Smith and six ND players are hammering after Robinson as the entire left side of the line fans out to block for him. Robinson flips the ball to Smith and he turns upfield to see... well, he should see nothing but green except Lewan(-2) totally whiffed on the OLB. Smith(+2) cuts upfield past him, then heads back outside as Roundtree(+1) blasts the last corner infield. Touchdown. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-24, 1:15 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Deep hitch||Gallon||Inc|
|Omameh(-2) gets beaten and is lucky that he doesn't get called for a hold; he shoves the OL past Robinson and Robinson steps up. He finds Gallon open for 20 yards and misses him (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Omameh)|
|Better protection this time; ND does loop a guy around to flush Robinson up. As he's moving he finds Gallon open again, this time deeper, and nails him in stride about 35 yards downfield. Gallon rips off another 30 on the ground before being angled OOB. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|This is only an okay throw; if Gary can get his head around he's got a play on the ball. But he's Gary Gray. He's all interfering and such, not looking back, and Roundtree makes the catch anyway. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-31, EOG|
Your enthusiasm is insufficient. I sentence you to death.
Look, man… it's just that… thanks to poker I have a model of the world in my head that holds two things as very different things: what happened and the likelihood of it happening. This remains a results-based charting service but that doesn't mean the charts are the be-all and end-all. They've always been useful guides but sometimes I disagree with my own numbers, for one. For two, results-based charting has always been an offshoot of the humility that comes from being amateur trying to figure out a very complicated thing. I'm not sure "chuck it up and hope" is that complicated.
As you'll note above, I did provide some credit to Denard/the offense for chucking it up. The diverse and sundry skyward heaves:
- Hemingway 43-yard touchdown: dead on
- Roundtree fly route: inaccurate
- Rollout post to Hemingway: inaccurate
- Double-covered Gallon INT: bad read XTREME
- Back shoulder fade for Gallon TD: dead on
- Hemingway 45 yard double covered arm punt: bad read
- Single-covered Gallon INT: bad read XTREME combos with inaccurate
- Roundtree touchdown: catchable
2 DO, 1 CA, two IN, three BR, two of the X variety. I don't know if that's sustainable. For whatever reason, Denard's accuracy is in the crapper this year, so having him heave it to covered WRs is a 50-50 proposition. I mean, what happens when the guy defending them isn't "atrocious"?
In a lot of scouting circles, Notre Dame CB Gary Gray was considered a draftable prospect entering the year with a possible mid-round grade according to some. However, when watching him on tape this summer I didn’t really like what I saw then and I certainly didn’t like what I saw Saturday night vs. Michigan as Gray was victimized time after time vertically down the field. And it wasn’t’ the fact he struggled to keep pace, as he is a solid straight-line athlete. It was his ability to look, lean and find the football that was downright atrocious. And it doesn’t matter how good a defensive back’s coverage skills are, if he can’t find the football he’s never going to make plays, which is my biggest fear concerning Gray as he looks nothing more than an “athlete” free agent at this stage.
What would the results-based charting look like if we tried that against someone average instead of atrocious?
So why is it the offense's fault instead of Denard's?
The possibilities as I see them:
- The accuracy issues are a short-term fluke. Denard's only had a game's worth of opportunities to throw so far. People have bad games.
- Last year Denard was restricted to a set of easy, short routes that he could hit and is now being asked to do other things. IE: last year was a mirage because he just threw hitches.
- Denard is worse now for whatever reason. IE: he is legitimately regressing.
Hoping for the fluke explanation, but there seems to be some merit to Door B. He's a breakdown of passes in last year's Notre Dame game:
- Hitch: 9
- Flat, seam, bubble: 6 (one waggle FB flat!)
- Deep curl, flare: 3
- Tunnel screen: 2
- Post, corner, fly: 1
- Throwaway: 1
- Run around like Tate: 2
This is a dedicated short passing game that ran a ton of curl/flat. Denard completes 60% for 1 TD and no INTs, averaging 6.1 YPA. This year we've got the eight downfield chucks, two throws behind the line (8% of attempts) instead of 11 (over 28%), and a total lack of free touchdowns in the seam or hitches to stationary targets that worked well last year when Roundtree wasn't dropping them.
This is kind of sexy in the long term since it indicates that Borges is partial to bombing it downfield; in the short term it leads to things like nasty—
I don't want to see your chart.
Charts anyway. I've left common opponents from last year in, because it will be interesting to compare.
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
Hello massively bipolar day and worst DSR since we crammed his entire freshman year together to get a single game. The number of throws were way down; the number of tosses into coverage and badly missed balls were way up. Why? Too early to tell.
Adding to Denard's tough day were a few bad decisions on the ground. On the first drive he could have cut it up on second and three for near first-down yardage; instead he lost three. It took him a bit to recognize that ND's linebackers had lost their minds, so he handed off for nothing gains a couple times on the zone read. He did manage a bunch of yards on the ground by being Denard, though, most importantly the Dance of Waggle Chicken Salad:
Mmmm waggle chicken salad.
As the season develops we'll get a better idea about whether this is momentary jitters, an adjustment to a new offense, or a straight-up limitation that needs to be gameplanned around. Survey says ask again later.
But his receivers sucked.
No. There was one drop and a couple of maybes.
That's basically fine, better when you consider Gallon and Hemingway bailing Robinson out on jump balls. The receivers were a net positive.
|Lewan||7||3||4||A couple impressive pancakes.|
|Barnum||2||2||0||Down block, pull around, kick out, etc.|
|Molk||3||2||1||JAG in power scheme|
|Omameh||0||6||-6||Inexplicably doubling DTs on outside power instead of getting to Teo on second level.|
|Huyge||3||-||3||Comboed with Koger effectively.|
|Moore||-||-||-||Still pretty anonymous in limited PT|
|Koger||6||1||5||Gave team lot of room outside tackles.|
|TOTAL||18||13||5||Couldn't run for crap unless ZR was pulling LBs out of position|
|Robinson||15||4||11||The only thing M had going.|
|Shaw||-||-||-||Hardly got a carry.|
|Smith||3||-||3||Screen weaving a game-changer.|
|Hopkins||-||3||-3||Welcome back to the doghouse|
|McColgan||-||-||-||One slamming block.|
|TOTAL||18||7||11||Just Denard again.|
|Roundtree||3||-||3||Very helpful on screen, couple of Denard runs.|
|Protection||44||6||88%||Team 1, Barnum 3, Smith 1, Omameh 2|
FWIW, I have the RPS as 10 – 14 = –4. Not quite enough exploitation of those LBs.
Getting a little concerned over here that the offensive line is being asked to do something it's not very good at even when there seems to be an obvious reason to go back to the old well: a 340-pound nose tackle who's about as mobile as Woody Hayes. Sean Cwynar didn't play at all so this Nix battleship came in and fell over every time he was asked to move down the line. This seems like the perfect opportunity to zone stretch some dudes—and when they used stretch play action the backside G was usually throwing him on the ground—but we didn't get a single one all day. Thus Molk coming out of a game with a +1.
Misopogon already calculated this but it's something I was going to do anyway: runs from under center averaged 2.3 yards. Runs from the shotgun averaged 7.5. Small sample sizes apply; they are less small this time around.
What is your problem with the offense, buddy?
Mostly I miss the tender caresses of Rich Rodriguez, the moonlit walks we'd used to take as he described his decision to hire Greg Robinson's hair and have it run a 3-3-5 Greg Robinson's hair had never heard of, or his decision to recruit one OL in that one recruiting class, that a center, and lose 30% of his players a year in. I have no good reasons for thinking this and can be safely dismissed because I don't know what I'm talking about.
For my mother, the only person who can muster up enough love to keep reading this far: so the thing is, here's a screenshot. It's from the first play of what would eventually be Michigan's first go-ahead touchdown drive.
Denard's taken about two steps towards the line of scrimmage and all eleven Notre Dame players are within eight yards of the LOS. They are in man with no reasonable safety help. If Denard was to pull up and look for a receiver he'd have Odoms breaking open on a corner or post from the slot. This kind of thing didn't happen when Michigan went under center. Notre Dame did blow some stuff because their linebackers are stupidly aggressive; they were not forced to put every player they had level with the umpire.
Here's the next play, which is just a straight drop-back pass. This is a full two seconds after the snap:
You see that guy at the edge of the screen ten yards deep? That's the free safety. The deep middle is now ten yards. There are 100 seconds left! The free safety is ten yards off the LOS and Notre Dame is rushing three! This is the planet of Denard's legs!
A receiver wide open for 30 yards who Denard misses. This is easy. Two plays later ND will show a straight-up 3-4 on first and ten with one high safety and man coverage; Grady will break a corner route against man and Denard will hit him for major yards.
Michigan did not get much that was easy based on the structure of the offense. Te'o and Fox/Calabrese running headlong at anything that moved got them open FB wheels, those zone reads, and the Smith throwback screen, and then everything else was chuck and pray. It worked; I have doubts it is a tenable solution long-term.
This is not easy
The deep middle is 25 yards downfield on first and ten from under center. Yeah, all of Michigan's touchdowns came from under center. But they weren't, like, open except insofar as anyone covered by Gary Gray is open, nor was there anything about the structure of those plays that required playing from the I-Form—Michigan scored on a throwback screen to Martell Webb last year.
If you want to rely on Denard being able to diagnose and consistently throw back-shoulder fades against good, sometimes double, coverage, um… okay. I'd rather have him throw at the blitheringly wide open dudes. I think that the shotgun + Denard makes guys blitheringly wide open This is no doubt because I make my wife wear a Rich Rodriguez mask at night and not because I spent last year copiously documenting it.
Do you have an annoying disclaimer for us?
Yes. I spent large chunks of the offseason praising the coordinators and I'm not throwing that out the window after two games. There are a lot of things that concern me but these are not GERGs. I'm guessing we'll see things get figured out. God, this is tedious isn't it? Should I bother explaining things to the kind of people who see this as an attack on the coaches? Sure, I don't want Michigan to win anymore because Rodriguez is gone. That makes sense given the last six years of content here. Nevermind.
But Notre Dame's defense is really good!
I'm skeptical of that argument. ND finished 50th last year in standard yardage, 25th in FEI* and Bob Diaco is a weird guy. They coach their linebackers to be super aggressive, which is great when it works and stupid when it doesn't, like when a simple zone read with hardly a tweak opens up for big gashing runs. I suspect they might be vulnerable to misdirection all year.
*[If this sounds good in the context of 120 teams, it's in the Illinois-Iowa-UNC area, so… good, not great.]
So Bob Diaco is…?
I think not very good. His linebackers are incredibly irresponsible. You know about the two McColgan openings caused by linebackers not covering him and the zone reads where Teo flew upfield:
What you may not have noticed was that on two other zone reads where Denard handed off they did the exact same thing. This was the fifth(!) basic zone read where they had no one for Denard Robinson. Maybe they wanted the OLB to be the contain guy but dude was getting blocked. They did manage to adjust on the sixth one, though. Good job, Diaco!
This is how they did it:
By getting the free safety to tackle him four yards downfield. Which goes back to the earlier point, I think.
Denard. Also Hemingway, Gallon, and especially Gary Gray.
What does it mean for Eastern Michigan and beyond?
I've already given you my take above. They'll work on their stuff and try to get Denard more accurate and their tailbacks gaining more than two yards a carry out of the I, but when push comes to shove I don't think they really have a choice. We'll see.
News bullets and other important items:
- Hawthorne and Campbell did well enough to get more playing time.
- Woolfolk played really well for a guy with one arm. Has a sweet cut on his nose, but his ankles are fine.
- Borges calls his offense a westcoast/spread hybrid (not transcribed)
- Wants less shotgun to feature tailbacks more. “The best teams don’t depend on one player, yet they have that one player that can win for them. But when push comes to shove, I want the ball in his hands.”
Opening remarks: “I guess 2-0 is a good way to start. I think we have to still play much, much better on defense. We’ve got to correct some of the mistakes that are allowing some yardage. The one thing I wasn’t happy with was one of the bigger plays that broke on the run, that was the first time all year we didn’t pursue like we had to on the back end. That was something we talked about that they’ve been doing a good job on so far. We just have to make sure we crowd that football and make that ball be inside, but it was a great win for the program.”
Did you see good enough play from Hawthorne to give him more playing time? “Yeah, oh yeah. He showed some things in the spring. He showed some things in the fall. And then he sprained that ankle. One thing I’ve been impressed with him was even when the ankle was not good earlier, he came out and practiced hard, and limped and tried to do everything he could. He shows you he’s a tough kid. I was happy for some of the things he did, and he really helped us.”
Are you disappointed in the defensive line, and are you concerned about having to blitz so much? "I don’t know if you’d say I’m disappointed. We’ll always blitz, and we’ll always pressure. You’d like to make sure we can get pressure from a four-man rush on a more regular basis. To be able to do both, then you really have it, and that’s something we’ll address, and that’s something we’ll work on right now.”
Did creating turnovers help solidify the defense during the game? “No question, no question. Our ability to get those turnovers -- this was a really good offense. Make no mistake about it. This was a very, very good offense that we played against. There’s a great deal of experience on the offensive line. We won’t face a wide receiver than Floyd. The tight end, in my opinion, is a big time football player. Their offensive line is all older. That did help us a great deal to be able to [get turnovers], but its’a mindset that we’ve been able to build, that no matter if teams are moving the football on you, as long as you have a place to stand and they’re not in the endzone, something good can happen. The other thing, when you’re getting turnovers -- I think when you get turnovers it means they’re around the football. We’ve all seen times before where the ball’s lying on the ground and there’s nobody there to get it. We’ve got to keep doing that. That’s something we’ve got to keep doing until we get better at our fundamentals and get more seasoned.
Was Notre Dame’s last touchdown due to a breakdown in communication? “No it wasn’t. We didn’t execute it exactly like we wanted to. I’ll be dead honest with you, there’s sometimes calls a guy makes that afterwards you say, God I wish I hadn’t made that call. That was the same call we got the interception on earlier in the game. It looks exactly like the blitz, and we had blitzed right before that, and they knew we were going to blitz the closer they got down there, so I just thought to myself, you know what, maybe we can do the same thing. Show that blitz and come out of there. We didn’t execute it as well as we did the first time, and they hit it. I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not always 100%, and if it was all over again I probably wouldn’t have called that.”
Is disguising coverage more important in college than in pros? “The thing about disguising is you’ve got to be pretty experienced. A lot of times out there you’re just saying, ‘Guys, make sure you’re in the right place.’ Disguising is the next phase. The first thing we have to make sure is we don’t bust on coverage and make sure we’re in position to make the plays we can make. As they get more seasoned and as they get better, then you can say, ‘Okay, now you got that down, now let’s make it look like this and go to this.’ But we haven’t been able to disguise as much as you’d like to, and we’ll get there.”
How many of your linebackers are you comfortable with? I’m comfortable with anybody on that football field. Anybody that practices and goes through what they go through … Anybody on the field for Michigan I feel comfortable with, because that means they’re the best. We just have to keep getting them healthy, trying to make sure they’re 100%, making sure they’re improving. You’ve got a bunch of linebackers there that haven’t played a lot of football. You get thrown in a ballgame like that, for them to make some of the plays they made, I’m proud of them. There’s always mistakes. The one thing I’ve said all along that I’m so proud of this defnsee about is they come in everyday after the game’s over trying to correct those mistakes. I hope there’s someday where we don’t have to correct those mistakes but that’s what we’re working on right now.
Longer runs when Mike Martin dropped into coverage. How do you protect the middle of field? “The same blitzes that hit the quarterback from western -- [Notre Dame] obviously saw that and didn’t want that pressure to come at them, so what they did was check to a run whenever they saw that look. We have defenses that look exactly the same that are run defenses, and it’s the same thing. I called the pressure thinking it was pass, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking I should have called the pressure for the run because maybe they’re going to do that, and sure enough they did do it. And the next one they ran it on third-and-seven. If a team’s going to run it on third-and-seven, you aren’t ever going to pressure if you’re worried about it. And some of the overloads on both sides -- they aren’t great run defenses.”
What do you see from Martin that allows you to drop him into coverage? “He’s a very good athlete, and he’s a very intelligent football player. And that’s what it takes. A bigger guy like that, showing that he’s a defensive lineman and then dropping out, can cause problems. You can only do that when a guy’s enough of an athlete to do it. I don’t want to do it too much because he’s a great run player, and all of a sudden he’s dropping out, and they’re running the football at you, it’s not very smart.”
What did you see from Will Campbell? “I thought that when he went in, he gave us a spark. I thought he played with a lot of passion, and that’s a big body that can move. Again, everybody buys in and everybody steps up the way we want it at different times and at different levels. And he’s one that when he was out there, he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it the way they want it done.’ I do believe he’ll probably get more playing time. We’re rotating anyhow, but I do think he’s earned it by what he showed right there. The biggest thing the guys have to do is earn it at practice. The game is the reward for how you practice, so they’ve got to continue to practice hard and go out there, and that’ll be their reward.”
Does a healthy cam Gordon allow you to do some different things? “He was a safety, and a very good athlete, but all those factors -- most of [the linebackers] are pretty good athletes and can cover. I don’t think we ever think, ‘well Cam’s not in there, we can’t run this defense.’ ”
What have you seen from Craig Roh the last two games? “Craig played much better. Craig played much better in this game than he did the first game. I think Craig’s another guy that all of a sudden he sees that the bar is higher than maybe he expected it to be. He’s bought in, and he’s going to be an outstanding football player. I’ve got all the confidence in the world. And just to see the way he’s practicing since that first game and then played better in this game, I look forward to him playing much better in this game.”
In the past two games, the other team has moved the ball on you easily at the beginning, but then you seemed to figure them out. Can you explain that? “Maybe I need to do a better job with the pep talk. I looked at that, and I don’t know if it’s us adjusting. I think every game you have to adjust. That’s part of coaching, and that’s part of the players really understanding our whole package. That’s why I always talk about bullets. If something isn’t working, then you’ve got to have something else to go to. We were fortunate to call some other defenses that the kids executed very well, and got some big plays off of them. I don’t know if that’s adjustments, that’s maybe just the way defense is, if you have enough in there, don’t stay out there and let yourself to continue to not do well. Change it up, and do something until you find that mix, and luckily our players kept playing. A real credit to them. They believed all the way, and they played all the way. That’s why we’re going to be good. That’s why our defense is going to be a Michigan defense. We’re not there yet, by any means, but as long as those players keep doing that, then we’re going to be fine.”
How many kind of defenses do you run? “We’ll always put in different things each week. We’re never going into the game with the same game plan, and usually it means pressures. I don’t think you can say, this is our package in the spring, and it’s the same thing you run throughout the whole year, so we will always tweak things, we’ll always add some things, we’ll take something out. We have a number that I kind of look up on the board, and I say this is the number of defense we have to have in this game, and no more because you can’t get enough practice time on them. I look at how many times I can call a defense in a practice to decide whether I can call it in a game, because you don’t want to put a defense out that they aren’t prepared with.”
Has that number changed every week? It’s usually a set number. It all goes by what they can handle, but I don’t know what you’d say the number is, but I know when I look at that board, if I see too many defenses on that ready list, I’ll be taking them down by tonight or tomorrow, saying, ‘No no, we can’t, this is too much.’ I’d like to do it, we’d all like to do it, but it isn’t going to get called. Or if you do call it, you’re hoping it’s run right, and that’s not fair to the kids.”
Are you hesitant to play Troy Woolfolk because of his cast? “No, no. In fact, after watching the film, Troy Woolfolk played unbelievable for a guy with one hand. He made one tackle with one hand that might have broke. I was proud of him. He’s a Michigan man. He came up to me before the game, and said, ‘Coach, you can count on me, I’ll go. I think there’s a lot of programs where people -- seniors and everything -- might have said, ‘Oh, I can’t go.’ Not him. I’m proud of him for doing that.”
(Borges after the jump. ball.)
News bullets and other important items:
- Eastern Michigan is 2-0 and is averaging 331 yards rushing, which is scary to Hoke. Fear level now up to 2.
- Fitz Toussaint (shoulder) will likely return this week.
- Brandon Herron (unknown), and Cam Gordon (back) are questionable. Will need good week in practice to return.
- Woolfolk had a bit of a nose injury, but re: his ankle -- "He's fine." Period.
- Marell Evans still working on eligibility. Currently operating as scout team linebacker.
- Jake Ryan playing with hand down primarily in nickel package.
- Need to see more from Will Campbell in practice for more playing time.
- Odoms working his way back into rotation.
- No student-body tryouts until January.
- No. 21 jersey will likely go to wide receivers in the future. Unknown whether Raymon Taylor is wearing the Desmond Howard patch.
Press Conference (filmed)
"Does that make sense? It does to me ..."
Opening remarks: “You guys ready? Thanks for coming.
“Saturday was obviously very exciting in a lot of ways. The crowd, the passion, how both teams played 60 minutes of football. It was a neat environment, fun, all those things. Obviously a record crowd to see a college football game, and it was good to have the outcome the way it did. It was hard fought, not a perfect game. When you look at it offensively and defensively, things that we need to get a lot better at before we’re going to be any kind of a football team -- we need to focus in on those things, and as a team, we’ve gotta do a good job of coaching, number one, and teaching, and then playing. Our expectations are high, and we won’t get that way if we don’t possess the ball offensively to help the defense, and if we don’t do a better job in third-down conversions from a defensive standpoint.”
What did you see from Brandin Hawthorne and Will Campbell? “I thought Brandin got in there and did a nice job and made some plays. I think it was good to see him be productive in that role. Part of it [was] he did a nice job reacting and seeing the ball and focusing in on keys and finishing plays. And that was good to see from him. He had been banged up about the last week of camp. He practiced, but he had an ankle problem and still does to some degree, but it was good to see him play full speed.”
Overcoming adversity, was it especially hard trying to overcome a 24-7 deficit or trying to score with 30 seconds left? “Probably both. Our team stayed together. At halftime, we went in, and we just talk about -- asked a pretty simple question, ‘Have we played our best football?’ … ‘Are we playing our best football?’ and ‘Are we coaching our best football?’ and it was a unanimous ‘No.’
“Al and the offensive staff did a good job in some adjusting that they did. You’ve got to get Notre Dame a lot of credit. They’re a pretty good football team. Their biggest Achilles heel is they’ve turned the ball over, and you can’t do that. I’m not coaching them, but I’m sure Brian is sick about that. I thought the guys complement each other as a team, and they stayed together.”
What did you say to the team yesterday to get them to move past Notre Dame? “We were going to spend Sunday talking about the things that we did [well] and didn’t do [well]. Eastern -- they’re 2-0. They’re a confident team. I think Ron’s done a nice job. They’re averaging 331 yards per game rushing the football. That’s pretty impressive -- I don’t care who you’re playing. I think you’ve got a staff over there of guys -- with Mike [Hart] and Kurt Anderson, Steve Morrison, who are all products of this program as players -- that understand about coaching hard and doing those things, and you know just from being around those guys that’s how they coach their kids. And you can tell, with Ron’s influence as a defensive coach and defensive minded guy and an aggressive personality guy -- that’s the way they’re playing football. They’re impressive. They’ve got 10 sacks in two games. They’re doing a lot of good things.”
Did Denard have a rough game, great game, or little of both? “Probably a little of both. Obviously he made some plays when we needed to have some plays made, which a guy of his capability and caliber can do, but we also needed to make better decisions at times. He was the first one to come off the field after one [bad play] and say, ‘My footwork was bad.’ So that’s good to see. The whole thing is a process to some degree, and we’re learning everyday.”
What is Fitz Toussaint’s status, and are there concerns about repeated injuries to him? “I don’t know much of his history. I think he’ll be okay. He just bumped up his shoulder a bit against Western. Didn’t see as much as we’d like to for him to be ready for the Notre Dame game.”
You’re blitzing a lot. Are you concerned that it’s taking the linebackers out of the running game? The middle of field did look pretty open. “Well … honestly it shouldn’t have been. It’s open for a second, and then we’ve got to execute a little better at closing it off. You can get hurt, no question. If they want to take that gamble depending on who they are, depending on down and distance, they can check into a run, and sometimes you want them to. But you got to execute the defense when you want them to.
“Does that make sense? It does to me …”
Do you need to blitz more based on pressure (or lack thereof) from the front four? “I think yes, we have had to be more aggressive. At the same time, you’ve got to look at your match-ups pretty hard, and what you want to do with your guys in the back end, and how you feel about that.”
What was postgame like for you? “I have a lot of family in the Midwest, believe me. We had 35 or 40 people at our house. Nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, and in-laws -- the whole deal. Everybody found a place on the floor and went to bed, but it was late. 3:30 maybe by the time you say hello and talk to everybody and be as gracious as I can be.”
Other health updates? Anybody definitely out for Saturday? “We’re pretty healthy. We’ve got some nicks and those kind of things, but I’m trying to think if, uh … Cam is gonna see what it feels like tomorrow. He feels better. Brandon Herron felt better but we’ll see what he’s like. I think Fitz is going to be fine. I don’t think we’re in too bad of shape.”
When you were down 17 points, was the offensive play-calling based more on Borges’ offense or 2010-Denard’s offense? “One of the key plays in the game was McColgan’s catch. Coming off the play-action, and we didn’t run a whole lot of play-action with I-backs and all that. A lot of the stuff was just being basic third-down offensive stuff and being in the gun anyway on third downs. It was a good mix, I would say.”
How much of last couple drives was within framework of offense, and how much of it was Denard making rainbows? “The rush lanes kind of went like this. And he did what he’s coached to do. Step up, step up in there, and keep pushing the pocket up when you feel it on the perimeter. It was pretty open. They were spying at times – one of the linebackers – but in that situation, they were playing pretty far off, so it bought time for Gallon. It really bought time for the sail routes, the cross, to take and suck their secondary that way, and Gallon was there by himself.”
Are you still trying to identify playmakers on defense? “I think we still are. Practice is one thing. Game time stuff is a little different. I think who plays with the lights on … we’ll see. It was good to give Will [Campbell] some snaps against good competition. Like I said, they’re a good football team, they’ve got good personnel. Right now the difference for them probably is turnover margin.”
What’s going on with Brandon Herron? “He’s got a little bit of a leg problem.”
Linebacker rotation/competition … how many linebackers are you comfortable with? “I think J.B. [Fitzgerald], all those guys, we feel pretty comfortable. I think it’s who you identify as taking most of the snaps. You work through. Kenny is pretty solid in what he does. J.B. has an opportunity to get in there and rest Kenny a little bit, which is important in the fourth quarter. There will be a rotation, and it really depends some on what package we’re in, if we’re playing out of our base front, or if we’re in our dimes and nickels.”
How would you assess D-line play? Are there things you see in practice that aren’t translating onto the field? “We’re not near to the expectations that we have. I think the kids feel the same way at that position. I think there are things that Ryan Van Bergen has done at times that are really well. I don’t want to get specific, but I think we have to feel those guys. We need to get a little big more pressure with four guys rushing the quarterback, so you don’t put J.T. or Courtney Avery out there on an island. I think we’re a work in progress in a lot of degrees. Some of it is because it’s a little different schematically, and how you attack the line of scrimmage, take on blocks, and get off blocks. We would think we’d be further along.”
Talk about efficiency of red-zone offense (Michigan was 5/5). “I think we’ve got a pretty good package down there, and the kids are executing. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. Certain teams, defensively, always are going to have certain teams they like in the red zone, and I think the kids have been executing what the plan has been.”
(we're bringing back the jump. so ... more after the jump!)
9/10/2011 – Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 – 2-0
is this real life?
Not only can Denard Robinson redefine All-America teams, average nearly 500 yards per game against Notre Dame, and pilot the most insane fourth quarter Michigan Stadium has ever seen, but he can sum up what happened on Saturday in a single word:
If you still need evidence that Denard can do things other people can't, there you go. Because I've got nothing. I can gape, slack-jawed and twitching, if you'd like. Oh, and I can put my finger between my lips and go "brrrrrrrrrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrrbb" with crazy googly eyes. Also I can spin in a circle going "yip yip yip yip yip."
These are my capabilities. All other functions are currently offline. Attempt to access higher cognition and you will receive 503 Gateway Not Found.
That's fine. There's nothing to say that "brrrrrrbrbrbrbrbrrbrbrb" doesn't cover anyway. I am so high, you guys. I don't even know what I'm saying.
Seriously. I'm really struggling here to put words in the computer. I guess… okay.
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field. I couldn't block them from my phone. The tweets sat there, whispering evil things into my ear.
As I projected Denard's state of mind my own got inky black. The road ahead seemed like another two years of painful rebuilding towards a goal Denard will never see, his career relegated to that of Brandon Graham when Desmond Howard seemed in reach. It's going to kill me if Denard ends up a really good player on a mediocre team for the duration of his career and Michigan doesn't end up making anyone who wants 16 in the future wear a patch with dreads on it. It's going to be worse if he's not even a really good player. Someone is at fault for this travesty.
I was running advanced equations of blame assignment amongst Bill Martin, Rich Rodriguez, Al Borges, Dave Brandon, and bloody fate when Denard rolled out. Corralled by a Notre Dame defender, he stood perfectly still but still delivered a game-changing dart to Junior Hemingway before two more ND players could close in.
From there the delirium took over.
That game was delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other. Jeremy Gallon jump-ball touchdowns. Tommy Rees's aiming device locked on Michael Floyd. Tommy Rees throwing a ball backwards for no reason. More jump balls to Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon turning invisible with 23 seconds left. All the reasons it left you with your finger between your teeth are reasons to wonder about the smoothness of this transition (not very), the repeatability of such miracles (even less).
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
For now, though:
The game is ova!
Non-Bullets Of WHAT?
Pantheon placement. I think this is below Braylonfest—but only just—in the competition for Best Comeback Ever (that people 32 or under remember). For Michigan to pull Braylonfest out they had to recover an onside kick and survive not just triple overtime by an oft-forgotten 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation that was set up by a horrible pass interference call.
A good proxy for the level of kickass in your comeback is how many people left the stadium early. While there were some people who took off when ND made it 24-7, they don't compare to the legions who left early during that MSU game. And winning that eventually got Michigan a Rose Bowl appearance. The season-long significance of this ND game is going to be lower.
It easily beats out the Buffalo Stampede game, since it's not against Minnesota or in the Metrodome, and then it's a long way to fourth place.
As far as best game ever… it depends on what you're rating it on. I like my defining victories to be well-played and not hinge on the opposing quarterback throwing the ball backwards for no reason. In terms of pure drama it's up there but with both teams unranked and not looking likely to defy that I'd say most Ohio State games before we stopped being competitive had more salt to them. We lost all the ones that came down to the last play, though.
The entire Denard interview. If you missed this, you should fix that:
Commence the bitching about the offense. Watching Michigan run a play-action bomb from the I-formation after averaging exactly two yards per carry out of the I on previous attempts was exactly what I was beating into the ground over the offseason. No one is scared of Michigan's crappy backs running power out of the I-form so no one has to cheat to it. Thus instead of Worst Waldo plays featuring Roy Roundtree and twenty yards of grass we got a lot of hopeful downfield jump balls into excellent coverage.
Michigan was lucky as hell to get most of those. That was a Jeff Bowden special right there. I'm not alone in this. There has to be some adaptation now that we know the relative success rates of manball and Denardball. When Denard's averaging 7.5 YPC (sack excluded) and the rest of the backs under are 2, power is a lost cause.
Denard has to be the focal point of the offense, fragile or no. And the new offense seemed to remove Denard's legs as the primary threat without actually reducing his carries: he had 15 carries* in just 50 snaps. Project that to last year's 72 offensive snaps per game and Denard would have carried 22(!) times. What's the point of throwing away snaps on two-yard runs from the I?
Primary thing that may just work. "Chuck it up to Hemingway" may be the world's most primitive passing game but dang if it doesn't work. Hemingway not only has great leaping ability, he's enormous and therefore capable of boxing out opponents. Add in an uncanny knack for being able to high-point the ball and he's a hell of a lot like Marquise Walker before Walker got the dropsies as a senior.
Primary thing that did work from under center. Vincent Smith's throwback screen touchdown was a great call since it used Denard's legs. He rolls, defense freaks, he throws back, Smith should have an easy touchdown if any of the offensive linemen block that one linebacker, Smith makes it happen anyway. Contrast with the earlier screen where a short Denard has to float a ball over a guy leaping in his face and ends up throwing it eight yards too far and getting it picked off.
And introducing… Facepalm Guy. The facepalm guy from the sad fugee face picture in the "So I Was Like" post: the the new Lloyd Brady? He's already won an award for "Media Criticism" from Doctor Saturday.
1) He caught ESPN's camera's capturing his facepalm moment and gave them an oh-no-you-di'in't:
2) After the game he… well, he did this:
Can a brother get a Facepalm Guy touchdown Jesus photoshop?
(HT to MGoUser Haterade.)
Defensive events. Brandon Herron and Mike Jones were supposedly out with injury but if I had to guess they were not so badly hurt they couldn't play and Michigan was trying out their other options at WLB. Desmond Morgan started, played poorly—he got trucked like he was in a BTN practice highlight-type substance—and was yanked. Then Brandin Hawthorne came in and may have been plausible. He knifed into the backfield for one key TFL on third and short. I'm guessing he was at least partially responsible for a number of Cierre Wood runs that went for big yardage, but we'll see. WLB remains a sore spot.
The other sore spot is an alarming, unexpected one: WDE. Craig Roh had zero tackles for the second straight week and while he did get a QB hurry or two he seems less impactful from that spot than he did last year. I mean, last year he split two ND linemen and picked up a huge TFL en route to a +11 day. This year he'll be lucky to break even. Hopefully he's still sick. I wonder if we see more Black in the short term.
How did Jordan Kovacs only have eight tackles?
BONUS: Will Campbell got held! By an offensive lineman!
Special teams. Matt Wile has been at least average spelling Hagerup, and with only one more real-ish game left before the latter returns it looks like Michigan will escape that suspension without much real damage. I still hate the regular punt. If ND's John Goodman hadn't made inexplicable fair catches he had tons of room on two of Wile's five punts despite Wile's excellent hangtime.
The patch thing. It's pretty cool. Some potential tweaks and additions:
- Should we un-retire numbers? I could get behind a 98 if it meant someone was going to be sitting in front of a locker that said Tom Harmon. You'd have to ask whoever the nearest relative is.
Further locker room additions. Everyone who's been an All-American should have their name engraved in a fashion more understated than this legends designation…
...but still be there. Having Chappius and Oosterbaan and Friedman and McKenzie and Dierdorf and Long's names up in the locker room would be a nice way to recognize All-Americans past.
- Next up. AC and Woodson. If they don't put the retired numbers back in circulation. Jake Long would probably be next up way down the road.
- The patch is too big. That's just, like, my opinion, man.
So there's this. Exploit your children for fun and profit:
Profit not applicable.
Pom-poms and RAWK and crowd noise. Is it just me or was the stadium not actually very loud when it would help out the most? The pom-poms encouraged people to use their hands shaking pom-poms instead of making noise and while the piped-in music was indeed loud, when it cut out the people in the stadium making noise were largely going "OH oh oh oh oh, OH oh oh oh oh" instead of "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA." The latter is louder.
Putting aside the insults to the Great Tradition they represent, is the noise level created by the frippery mostly cosmetic? It has seemed much louder in Michigan Stadium—I was frustrated as I was screaming myself hoarse on the last drive while people around me shook their little plastic thingies. Plastic thingy shaking is not that intimidating, people.
And then there's the guy two rows in front of you who's shaking the thing constantly so you can't see the game. In the South they have a protocol about these things: raise that thing above your shoulder during a play and you're not getting that arm back. Here we get them every five years or so and there's always someone who thinks row 14 is the last one.
ST3 goes inside the box score. Michael Scarn says trying to describe that game was like taking a picture of Bigfoot. Post-ND MonuMental riff by ppToilet. (You can't choose your username, man, it chooses you.) MonuMental himself shows up to modify his Denard action figure for the occasion.
Pretty much the best. An obviously drunk Jeff at Maize Pages digs up the fantastically entertaining Roundtree-Shaw Newlywed game BTN video in response to the delerium.
Photo galleries and assorted media. Pregame shots from MNB Nation. Other shots from MNBN. The Shredder took a zillion shots. Tailgating from AnnArbor.com. Also the game. Here's a great stadium shot from Melanie Maxwell:
Also here's this dude:
The whole gallery is worth checking out.
Wolverine Historian put together a 28 minute highlight reel.
Column-type events. Wojo. More Wojo. MVictors also fills you in on the techno viking behind Hoke: yes, it's Steve Everitt, and no, you do not want to get between him and his cubs. Kyle Meinke says Denard was a big part of the offense and the running backs weren't and that's not so cool. Florek in the Daily.
UGA/M dual-fan Michael at Braves & Birds wonders whether it's better to play poorly and win (as Michigan did) or play well and lose (as Georgia did).
Entertaining serieseses of bullets. MVictors:
On the sunny side, they pulled out all the stops in the press box for the media on hand. Witness the butter dish of victory:
This might have been Brandon's special bonus.
[Robinson's] total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange. Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that's because it's the same as Michigan's kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.
That graph is intended as a baseline estimator for a team's real-time win probability and is independent of situation, but the site also offers a crude win probability calculator, which, while it's calibrated to an NFL scale, can at least give us a decent estimate of how unlikely Michigan's victory was: four percent, Michigan's win probability after Notre Dame's slot receiver scampered into the endzone without a defender in site. Denard Robinson laughs at your probabilities and says, "Really? Oh man, that's crazy," and throws the ball to Jeremy Gallon standing alone in the Notre Dame secondary.
Maize and Blue Nation wins best headline: "The Denard. The Denard. The Denard."
National takes: Adam Jacobi marvels and notes that Robinson couldn't throw the ball even when he was completing passes; he also points out that uh… the Big Ten is not so much this year. Doctor Saturday:
Here, instead of merely covering poorly, Notre Dame subsequently failed to cover Wolverine receiver Jeremy Gallon at all, incredibly freeing him for a 64-yard sprint to the Irish 16-yard line with eight seconds left for a) A couple shots at the winning touchdown; b) A shot at a field goal to tie; or c) A confused catastrophe that left 110,000 people contemplated mass hara-kiri. With all of every one of those people secretly fearing c), Robinson delivered the dagger.
Robinson was, again, heroic for Michigan. He has brutalized the Irish the past two seasons, rolling up a mind-boggling 948 yards of total offense to go with eight TDs. His performance in the fourth quarter Saturday night was downright epic: 7 of 9, 202 yards, three passing touchdowns to go with six carries for 24 yards and another TD. In all, he accounted for a staggering 226 of his team's 229 yards.