this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Last time on Picture Pages, Denard Robinson got Roy Roundtree killed against UConn by being too impatient to throw on a curl-flat combo. This time things will go a bit better.
The setup has Michigan in a four-wide formation with ND in a two-deep shell and a 3-4 defense—this is slightly unusual since ND spent most of the day in a 4-3:
Michigan starts the play with a zone stretch fake, pulling Schilling around to act as the lead blocker Shaw was on the previous play:
Roundtree's come in like he's going to block as Odoms heads upfield:
Roundtree then breaks outside as Walls rubs Odoms, pushing him out of bounds briefly. If this was man coverage Roundtree would be open, but if it's zone it'll be Odoms, or you can also take a look at Grady running well behind the linebackers, all of whom have sucked up to either the zone stretch fake or the threat of Robinson on the edge:
It was right about here, if not earlier, that Denard threw the ball against UConn:
But as you can see from the downfield perspective, that would have been a bad idea since the corner is disconnecting from Odoms and coming upfield. If he had thrown it above, the ball would be about halfway to Roundtree right here:
This probably would have led to another decleating hit. But Denard sees the play developing and waits. A split second later Odoms sits down on a fifteen-yard hitch. He's wide open:
ND's Harrison Smith doesn't know what to do with both Grady and Odoms open in front of him. Robinson zing:
Odoms picks up some YAC…
…and it's 21 yards.
- Most of the same stuff from the last post. Michigan will see a lot of zone. Most of the routes they run will be designed to beat it. Robinson is going to be expected to high-low cover two corners a ton, not least because a hard cover two corner gives the defense much better containment on the edge than a cover three where the corners bail out into deep zones.
- Holy pants wide open receivers again. The Roundtree and Odoms catches were more spectacular and the end result of this play had nothing to do with the linebackers, but Kelvin Grady is screamingly wide open on this play too because Manti Te'o is hurtling towards the line of scrimmage and Calabrese sucked in towards the zone stretch fake. Michigan should have run more play action, though I guess it's hard to criticize what the offense did when it wasn't getting flags in its face.
- Denard is learning stuff. Obviously. I haven't gotten through everything yet and do remember a period in the fourth quarter where he was looking pretty wobbly, but the coaches probably spent a bunch of time this week working on Denard's mistakes and getting his patience right for various plays. So far there haven't been any plays against Notre Dame where I thought "that throw is way too late/early" except one on which Robinson dodged a blitzer and had his timing disrupted.
- Odoms is just fine as an outside receiver. It would be nice if he was a towering colossus of speed but given Robinson's strengths it's better to have a reliable mountain goat and experienced route-runner who can sit down in the right spots and catch the balls zinged to him. It seems clear that going over the top is not one of Robinson's strengths, at least not right now.
This is from the UConn game and has been discussed previously, but here it is in glorious coughing-up-blood Picture-Page-O-Vision. It's pretty simple but I don't think I've spent much, if any time, on the site discussing making reads in the passing game.
It's the start of the third quarter and Michigan is facing second and eleven. UConn comes out in their two-deep look with corners playing off. Unless the Huskies are disguising a coverage this is likely to be two deep, and since opponents are almost forced to play zone against a spread attack featuring one Denard "Shoelace" Robinson, Esq., Michigan has a pretty good idea that UConn is either going to play a standard cover two defense or a cover four "quarters" look.
On the snap Michigan does a half-roll of the pocket, which gets Robinson closer to his intended targets, can delay linebackers uncertain whether it's a run or pass, and opens up lanes for Robinson if his receivers are covered:
At this point it's obviously a cover-two zone with the two deep safeties and the corner sitting about seven yards downfield looking in the backfield. Roundtree breaks well outside of the playside LB, who was held inside by the threat of a run. That guy's not going to prevent him from turning upfield if the ball is accurately thrown.
This is a curl-flat package where the inside receiver runs a very shallow out and the outside receiver heads about ten or fifteen yards downfield, then sits down in what should be the hole between the corner and the safety. The cover-two corner then has to pick whether to sink deep to take away the curl, opening up the flat, or come up on the flat, opening up the curl:
Robinson cocks to throw, but there's a problem:
He's throwing the ball too soon, before the corner has been forced to make a choice. Stonum's not even five yards downfield. The corner is is looking directly at what's going on and can jump up into the route…
…and it's never good when you're catching the ball with your back turned to a blur…
…so Roundtree is daed:
Video of what went down:
- Opponents are going to have to play a lot of zone against Michigan this year. Anyone intent on having base personnel on the field—which both Notre Dame and UConn did the entire game—will be putting linebackers in space against slot receivers if Michigan goes to man, and possibly opening up big plays when those guys read run incorrectly. Also, man coverage against four verticals means a lot of guys are running downfield with their back to Denard. This is not good for a defense.
- Most of Michigan's routes will be zone beaters, then. This may be the source of criticism about Rodriguez's fairly primitive passing packages, but if you've forced the defense into a limited subset of available coverages you can get away with this, as Michigan did all day against UConn and on the final drive against ND, when Michigan ran several variations on curl-flat to march down the field.
- Zone-beating routes endeavor to make one particular zone defender cover two guys. Here it's the outside guy on Stonum and Roundtree. In the snag package Michigan ran all day against UConn it's the playside linebacker and sometimes the playside corner.
- Most of Robinson's reads are simple "if this one guy does this throw it here, otherwise throw it there" things.This is the privilege afforded him by his running ability. Exotic coverages are difficult to get away with unless you're really good. I expect Ohio State to be able to confuse him. Maybe Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State will be able to do this as well, though PSU and Iowa are replacing lots of linebackers and are dedicated to base defense, too, so man coverage will be hard to get away with.
- Here Robinson lacks the patience to let the play develop. If he just waits a second or two it will be clear which option is open.
Later today: Robinson learns from his mistake to Notre Dame's detriment.
On Heisman hype: "I don't pay attention to none of that." He doesn't have cable,and doesn't go on websites that talk about it. For entertainment "I like being around my teammates, and around the players." The opinion on him has really changed: "A lot of people doubted me last year... I really don't care what other people think about me."
Staying humble: "My mom raised me to be humble, and always keep your eyes on the prize, and on you go." Can't get a big head. People back home tell Denard he's gotta keep going "It's not the end." What is the prize to aim for? "Try to keep winning for Michigan. Be all-in."
Are teams trying to knock him out? Yeah, but you can't control that. "I guess you've gotta be ready to take blows like that, shots like that." He's a little sore, but you've gotta get through it.Denard is stronger and faster than he was in high school. Can take more of a pounding, reads defenses better. "You get better when you get to the next level because you have great coaching."
Other teams recruiting him said receiver, corner. Michigan's pitch was "you'll be a quarterback unless you want to play something different."
Growing up, he watched "Charles Woodson, you gotta say the great guys who came through Michigan" but watched the great players from the Florida teams. Mostly receivers, RBs, guys with the ball in their hands. He's never talked to him or met Pat White, but it's an honor to be compared to him. "That's somebody that's set records." Denard has watched lots of tape of him. Great runner and passer. "Same thing they listed me at: as an athlete."
"When the offensive linemen are blocking like that and it's god-willing, I can do whatever."
QBs are a happy family. "We're all brothers on this team." Tate, Devin, Jack happy for him after the game. The team is having fun. "Just starving to get better."
The RBs are all-in for Michigan, and nobody's going against each other. "Michael Shaw is a tough, tough dude." He tells Denard to make the read, and if he has to pull the ball, so be it.
Punting - Practiced it a lot, and RR makes a big deal about QBs being able to punt. "I wouldn't like to punt. We don't want to punt any balls."
"Classmates, they don't really say to much. They probably just say 'great game, and just keep doing it.'"
"Both of my parents like smiling. My whole family smiles all the time. It's just something that goes through my family, I guess."
"Denard is probably the best person that could have all this fame." He can handle it, and doesn't seek it out. "He's not gonna get taken by the storm."
RBs - "Our running backs are forming. Denard's been taking a lot of it as we all know. they're going to step up and they're gonna be big."
Ranking doesn't change his view of the season "I don't like the attention that comes with all of it." Would rather see the team stick together. The team came in ranked 80th, now 20th, will change other teams' view of them.
"Everyone's more mature, no one's making mistakes" frorm last year.
OL is doing well, but there are always places to improve. Will find and make those improvements over the course of the season. Playing center in a spread offense is "probably no different than any other center in the country." He starts with the ball, so his screwups look bad. It's nothing he can't handle. "Offensive line play, in my eyes, really doesn't change. I just get to hit people, snap the ball."
On fan perception of Rich Rod: "They hate him when we lose, and they love him when we win."
It was amazing to see guys come together when drives would stall because of mistakes. "It was more come together: 'we know we need a drive.'"
"We don't really look at rankings. We're still playing like we're ranked 80th in the nation." The players all citing the 80th ranking is not a marketing ploy, it was the truth coming in. They're trying to earn everybody's respect back. Anything provides motivation.
Is it tough to get up for a powderpuff? There's no such thing. "We saw that with App State. We underestimated them, and it'll never happen again." Michigan will give their all against every team.
The defense wasn't low about allowing the last ND touchdown. "It happened one play ago, so we have to flush that in order to be ready for the next play." During Michigan's game-winning drive, Banks was just reminding everyone to stay focused and be ready to get back out there.
UConn and ND have great OLs, not taking anything away from them "we can only focus on what we can do."
Doesn't matter what year it is, "The Notre Dame game is the Notre Dame game. Big either way you look at it."
Can't replace Brandon Graham. It's not the player they're filling, it's the position. "I can only play within my limits. I talk to him every day before the game, before practice." Graham is a mentor. "He's a great friend of mine that I'll have for the rest of my life."
Preparing for an FCS team - "just gotta stay humble. Go out and prepare every week like it's the biggest game of the year." Prepare the same way as other games. Didn't see any of JMU's win against Virginia Tech. "I didn't see any of it, so I don't know."
UMass receivers - get scouting books today and learn more about them.
Michael Floyd "I kind of picked of some of his tendencies early from watching film." Prepared well for him. You have to watch as much film as you can for a little advantage over an exceptional opponent.
Denard off the field "He's a great kid. He's only a sophomore, but the kid's a leader." First one to workouts, etc. "Boy's a speedster. When I see him, I just look at it like it's a track meet. He's just gonna cross that goal line and be a champion."
DBs get together as a unit to watch film "I gotta help these young cats out a little bit." Help them use the film system, etc. Cam Gordon- "Cam's a hard worker. Me and Cam worked out together over the summertime." He'll watch the film and get better - he's his own biggest critic.
Comfort level - "I go out and play, just have fun every week. I feel that I've got nothing to lose." Have fun, play with enthusiasm. Always get out there and have fun with it. Saw Woolfolk's injury and any position switch as an opportunity. "I knew when Troy went down, I knew I had to step up my leadership as a senior."
Half the team probably doesn't even know they're ranked.
Denard "He's the best, man. He's a real down-to-earth guy... I can't say enough good things about him, I'm just proud to be on this team with him."
Jonas Mouton - "Man, I love having him on my side." He's a great ommunicator, always gives 110%.
Extremely impressed with James Rogers's play against ND. "He's always had the work ethic," and just needed a bit of game experience.
The goal is always to win for Michigan. Stay focused and keep the hunger.
"It was one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of." Confidence "I definitely believe this is a step in the positive direction." Still a lot of stuff that needs to be patched up. The road victory is something that can be attributed to hard work and preparation.
UMass has a good group of receivers. Work hard to prepare for them.
On his interception: "It was a big weight off my shoulders, just getting that first one. It's aways elusive." The secondary did well, had some good plays. Gave up a couple plays they wish they could have back.
Unfair perception of the secondary - it's just something out there, everyone's inexperienced. "Every week we've just gotta go out there and prove we really belong here."
File photo courtesy of the Michigan Daily
A couple notes from Michigan's Sports Information Department: Redshirt freshman defensive end Anthony LaLota has asked for, and received a transfer release. Michigan's game against Bowling Green in a couple weeks will be a noon contest on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Notre Dame and UMass
Injuries: Mike Jones suffered broken leg, and is doubtful for the remainder of the season. Brandon Herron sprained his ankle, and is day-to-day. JB Fitzgerald, Mark Moundros, Kenny Demens, and Kevin Leach will step up a bit.
"Anybody that says they don't want to be liked is probably lying to you. Everybody wants to be liked" the only thing that matters is how you react to it. Positive press "It's like poison - just don't swallow it." On bandwagoners: "What I'm worried about is things I can control. Am I a different guy now than I was two weeks ago?" People's perception is whateva for him. "There's probably some people who will still be unhappy. No matter what we do. And they'll be unhappy for the rest of their lives."
The team played well enough to win Saturday, it's not a case of being good enough to win despite playing poorly. Would like to have some plays back, "we're still not good enough to play poorly and win... I still would not like to test that out." There were enough good things to say that the team didn't play poorly.
On penalties - "some of them I still question. Nonetheless, we had them." Late hit on Cullen Christian: "I couldn't tell initially." Coaches film revealed it was a close call, but an unnecessary thing for Christian to do.
Nobody really realized that TJ Jones dropped the ball before scoring the TD. Wouldn't have known anyway, with no video boards in ND Stadium. "It's certainly a teaching moment to tell our guys to run down and jump on the ball." Michigan shouldn't have an issue with dropping the ball before the endzone: "We hand the ball to the official. That would never happen to a Michigan guy."
Poise down the stretch on the road - "You learn a lot on the road... When it's a hostile environment and the crowd goes crazy every time they make a play." There were never any Michigan guys who seemed to be afraid when ND made plays. "Hey, let's go out there and play football" was their attitude.
"I didn't see any panic whatsoever on anybody on the sidelines" after ND took the late lead. Face adversity in every game, they'll learn how to deal with it with experience.
No turnovers - "Denard put it on the ground one time" he was holding it loose, and Vincent Smith's hustle bailed him out.
"Two weeks ago, I'm not sure we'd have been favored" against UMass. Rankings didn't matter then, and don't matter now. Shouldn't bother with polls until October.
RR will bring up Virginia Tech losing to James Madison to remind the guys not to overlook anyone. "Thee's already been what 5? 5 or 6 this year?" FCS beating FBS. In FCS level, the good teams are really really good. If you play an average or below average FCS team, the D-1 teams aren't going to have a problem. "We're playing a good one. UMass is one of the good teams in 1-AA."
"You don't have to be listed as a recruiting service 5-star recruit to be a very good college player or even an NFL guy." Parity b/w 1-A and 1-AA - there are more kids that are getting known now. "All the upgraded facilities." Everyone has somthing to sell to recruits, and kids want to go somewhere they'll play. "We sell the biggest stage and greatest education."
"We'll do whatever we've gotta do to win the game." In the UMass game, they'll do what it takes to get the W, even if it means lots of Denard.
"I'm biased. I think we've got a bunch of good guys." Guys who succeed academically, athletically, and people who are just good guys. Some guys might be misunderstood (I assume he's talking about the Chris Henry, Pacman Jones, Demar Dorsey types), but some guys you know as soon as they're on campus, "this is a great guy." Denard was raised right, and has great family support. Loves football, loves playing at Michigan with his teammates.
Denard is continuing to grow and mature in the offense. Playing on the road was an experience that will help for the future. QBs haven't been hit in practice since camp started. They're not going to beat Denard up in practice. More worried about QBs throwing too much in practice.
Should they shield Denard from the attention? They've already talked about that. Everybody wants to talk to him. Good thing for him, family, and program. He's still got a full class load, practice, etc. "We're really gonna limit him. That's probably not going to make a lot of people happy." He's not seeking attention, though everyone likes being talked about in a positive way.
Denard's performance "continuation of the first game." He executed pretty well. He was hyped up to run at start of game, and would have taken a couple decisions back. Having such a young guy tear up opponents is a surprise. QB-centered offense though. "Denard's been taking a lot of threes" like a point guard who can make you pay for sagging off him.
On Denard's 57 carries - "You coach your team, I'll coach mine." [Ed: sounds like a snap back at Brian Kelly. Doesn't seem like there's much love lost there.] Lots of carries, but they do what it takes to win. Have two good backups. Denard getting better on run game reads and keeping his eyes in the right spot. He has great vision to read blocks - something they've been hamering him on since training camp.
"Some running backs, the more carries they get the better they go. Our running backs are fresh (laughs)."
RBs - They ran hard. There weren't missed reads, their lack of success was just due to the way ND was playing them. Opens up more things for the QB. Denard made a couple bad reads in the run game, but for the most part was sharp. "I think our biggest improvement in the runningback is to be involved not in the running, but the other aspects of it." They blocked well, and ran good routes. They can still block better.
Shaw and Smith "They're playing hard, not breaking a lot of big runs year but I like their effort." They understand the offense, are doing the little stuff, helping Denard with communication. "I'd like to get some of those other backs into the flow." Mike Cox, Stephen Hopkins, and Teric Jones might get into the flow. Fitzgerald Toussaint may be healthy enough to go this week.
Stephen Hopkins: "Yeah, every time he carries, he scores." He's a bigger back, but has a lot of 1-back skills. Getting closer to doing a lot of that stuff.
Roundtree's toughness: "He practiced all week." By Thursday he was doing everything, and there were no issues with the doctors. He made some nice plays. Receivers did a good job blocking downfield, but can still improve.
Outside WRs - "[Denard]'s got a lot of confidence with Roy, Martavious, Darryl Stonum." Hoping Hemingway will come back soon. Not a lot of depth out there. Tay and Stonum taking 80-some snaps - too many.
Downfield was blocking better than game one, but still can improve (from wideouts).
RR doesn't care who gets the yard if the team gets 500 rushing. "Would you like to have more balance? Yeah, if they give you that." "Denard wouldn't have whatever he's got rushing if he didn't have some dudes blocking for him up front."
Will Campbell and Quinton Washington couldn't wait for the game to start, and were hoping for a short-yardage situation. They have a few other packages that they're involved in.
Molk - "He and Steve Schilling are the two emotional leaders up front." Patrick Omameh - "He played better. And he'd be the first one to tell you the first game wasn't his best performance." He still has room to improve. The OL as a whole graded out "OK, it wasn't great. I thought Notre Dame's line got after us pretty good."
Defense good minus big plays - "you have to count the big plays in there." The D still held Notre Dame to six three-and-outs. There were lots of possessions though. They can play better, and missed more tackles than the first week (ND's players and technique issues in tackling were responsible for that). The three interceptions were huge.
Cam Gordon just made two bad plays. Just a technique thing where he misjudged the angles. "He'll be fine."
James Rogers - Really consistent. "He's seen the field, I've been really pleased with his play so far."
Kicking battle still open. Broekhuizen kicked the last extra point. Doesn't know today who will start on Sturday.
Hagerup will punt a lot better than he did on Saturday - just not on his game. "I didn't ask him" if it was technique or nerves "I just said 'can you kick a little better?'" Meram - hasn't been over as much with his soccer responsibilities.
Expecting 30-some guys to show up for walkon tryouts "I think there's gonna be a lot of kickers." "Maybe there's another Kovacs in there. Gosh, would that be great?"
UM Transplant Center - "I know what they do and the lives that they save." Had a staffer at WVU need a transplant to save his life. "I'm an organ donor. It's easy to do on your driver's license." Wolverine-Buckeye challenge to sign up people for organ donor registry. 108k people waiting for a transplant "The entire Big House."
9/11/2010 – Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 – 2-0
The Daily's Sam Wolson.
Sometimes even the corner of the endzone is a perfect vantage point to see something, and we were right on line to see Dayne Crist heave up what looked like a punt in the general direction of a covered Kyle Rudolph. We saw Cam Gordon take the wrong angle, backtrack desperately to take a futile swat at the ball, and twist his body around as quickly as possible to chase Rudolph. From there it's a dull haze as Notre Dame stadium erupted. The public address announcer, normally as staid and even-handed as Carl Grapentine, finished relating the details by exclaiming something about the rainbow Providence had directed to appear above the stadium at that exact moment.
Michigan fans are no strangers to this sort of thing. Ask anyone who's been around the block a couple times about Notre Dame Stadium and you'll get a recounting of injustices cosmic and otherwise perpetrated on not only Michigan but the idea of free will. Find them in a quiet moment in the dead of winter and get a couple drinks in them and you might hear a rigidly controlled statement about how the things that happen to Michigan's football team in South Bend make the speaker just… I don't know… unsure about certain things. Doesn't matter if they're religious or not. If they are, it's the existence of a just and loving God. If they aren't, it's the absence of a wrathful one. Either way the intensity with which your conversation partner is focusing on the rim of his glass will be unsettling.
The last time I went was 2002. Michigan fumbled four times, committed ten penalties, missed a 32-yard field goal, gave up a safety on a Courtney Morgan holding call, saw a Carlyle Holiday fumble at the two ruled a touchdown, and lost when Navarre's first pass on Michigan's last-ditch drive was batted directly to a Notre Dame defender. Michigan lost 25-23; in their previous two outings Notre Dame hadn't scored an offensive touchdown. I wrote two things about it in the aftermath:
- An Every Three Weekly article titled "John Navarre Blamed For Offense, Defense, Kicking Game, Iraq, 9/11, Everything Else."
- The other half of the infamous article exchange with Blue Gray Sky, in which a small child utterly defeats me by saying "good game, mister" as I attempt to trudge my way home.
The thesis statement of the latter:
To a Michigan fan, every Irish loss over the past ten years has been due to an unfortunate confluence of unlikely events: fumbles, ridiculous refereeing, blocked punts, hilarious deflected passes, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not (though it is): that’s what it feels like. It feels like Michigan has nothing to gain and everything to lose, and everything gets lost on a biannual basis.
When Kyle Rudolph crossed the goal line the thing I thought was not an unprintable string of expletives. It was "of course."
Before the season a reporter from the Hartford Courant called me up for a story he was doing on the UConn game, probably because he saw me as a way to tap into the zeitgeist of the Michigan fan. As these things usually go, he only used one sentence from a fifteen minute conversation. This left out what seemed to me like the most interesting bit of the conversation, where he asked what I thought Michigan football stood for, what made it special and unique.
I had no answer to this. I said "that sounds like a question a Notre Dame fan would love to answer"—which caused the reporter to laugh a little more heartily than objectivity would approve of—and then launched into a narrative that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been around here a while. The post titles say it all, really: "Empire of the Fallen." "You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad."
I told the guy that my inability to answer that question any more was kind of the point. The thing that was is dead, having expired from natural causes after a long illness. The thing that replaced it wasn't really anything except incompetent.
Basic understanding of the Michigan zeitgeist is understanding that now there is no answer to the question. Advanced understanding adds that until the Horror there was no program in the country with a more confident answer to it, and puts the two together to find a large number of sad pandas.
And then with 40 seconds left Denard Robinson stared down a blitzing, unblocked Manti Te'o and fired a dart to Roy Roundtree for fifteen yards on third and anything but a field goal attempt. Michigan had done its best to gaffe its way out of it like this uniquely frustrating rivalry demands, but after that it was academic. You try to stop Denard Robinson from going two yards, or seventy-two, or eighty-seven.
The rainbow was not Providence, except insofar as Denard Robinson might be it. It was the Shoelace bat signal, or rather one of many Shoelace bat signals: Flagpoles. Trees. Corned beef sandwiches. Damn near anything. Once summoned not even the vast historical juju of Notre Dame Stadium can do anything about him.
So this thing you dared not hope for starts to coalesce just from the things that happen on the field, and then yesterday morning I was struck by a sense of profound gratefulness when I watched the MGoBlue video of Denard's postgame presser:
I love how he smiles all the time and wears his heart on his sleeve and goes "AHHHH" when someone mentions Roundtree blocking for him and seems about as amazed as everyone else as what he's doing. I love how he drops to one knee after he scores in a way that seems genuine in a way I couldn't comprehend until I saw it. I love that if you ask him he'll sign your forehead. I was going to let my skepticism overwhelm, to wait until it was obvious that 2010 was not going to be 2009, but I lasted two games. I'm in the tank again.
That feeling Johnny identified in 2008 when it became clear that neither we nor Michigan had any idea what it was any more is obliterated. I've got an answer for the Courant now: Michigan is receivers blocking like tiny mountain goats 40 yards downfield because it matters, because if you set Denard free he'll go "AHHHH" at you afterwards. He'll smile and it will seem like the sun is poking through dark clouds, scattering colors in a circle all around you.
BULLETS ARE NO LONGER BULLETS
They're annoying. Now bold section titles. More room. Easier blockquoting. Win.
The unsung hero: Shavodrick Beaver, the backup at Tulsa. Does anyone else remember the sick feeling in your stomach when you found out that Michigan had lost a desperately-needed QB recruit to Tulsa? Funny old world, isn't it?
Denard is like a video game, but to Google it's NBA Jam:
HT to reader Apoorva Bansal.
Crist return. We were only getting the usual scattered texts that actually got through but by halftime it was clear that Crist had some sort of head injury that prevented him from seeing out of one eye. I laughed at my friend's concern that Crist might come back in the second half, reasoning that a head injury severe enough to keep someone out of a half of football is severe enough to keep someone out of a game of football. But lo, Crist rose after this:
Q. What play was it that you got dinged up on and what happened?
DAYNE CRIST: Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus. …
Q. Was it your vision?
DAYNE CRIST: Just kind of dazed a little bit and couldn't really see out of my right eye. But that was really it.
How would you feel if Michigan's coach had done that after everything we've heard about concussions the past couple years? Apparently they "did the tests" on the sideline and determined he didn't have one, but it's hard to be comfortable with that decision when it's a debate about in what particular way Crist's brain was messed up.
Ref argh. There have been a lot of complaints about Michigan's many penalties and the lack of ND holding calls—especially after Mike Martin described Chris Stewart getting a "warning"—that I can't comment on yet since I haven't seen the tape, but we saw this live since our endzone was the one it happened in:
What is it with Notre Dame getting free touchdowns on a balls they fumble at the one? No one from Michigan jumped on it, unfortunately, or a review would have been uncomfortable for the home crowd. What happens if a player fumbles into the endzone and it just sits there forever? Does anyone know what the result would have been? You can't claim an inadvertent whistle ended the play until after the ball is out. Commenters seem to think it would have been ND's ball at the one.
Tailback argh. Thirty yards rushing is not so good for all your tailbacks, though as we'll see below Fred Jackson thinks Notre Dame made a bizarre decision to put it all on Denard's shoulders. I'll reserve judgment until I see the tape since the corner of the endzone isn't a great vantage point to draw conclusions, but with a couple of less challenging games coming up it seems like its time to pull the other three kids out of mothballs and see what they can do. Tousssaint's Mike Hart and Chris Perry except fast, after all. That sounds okay.
Flagpole argh. One thing that did not factor into my decision as to which tickets I'd use and which I'd give to my friends: whether or not the flag would be 1) in my LOS and 2) at half-mast. It was kind of hard to see stuff inside the 20 on the far side of the field; people twenty rows higher were probably steamed about Al Qaeda in a way they'd never thought possible.
Denard implosion argh. In the aftermath of another OMG Robinson day the questions about his durability continue. I think they're slightly overblown since Robinson takes way fewer hits from the pocket than most quarterbacks, and hits in the pocket to a stationary target are always the most dangerous. Even so they're not entirely so, which means Robinson should see a reduced workload over at least the next two weeks and hopefully three as Michigan tries to find some confidence in the backup quarterbacks and find a tailback. If it comes down to it, though, you have to put the ball in his hands when it's do or die.
The truly terrifying thing about Denard Robinson is how often he was one downfield block from being gone like he was on the 87-yarder. These blocks got missed way too often, but I guess it's a lot harder to make them when you don't have any idea where the runner is going to be.
Game theory stuff. I agree vigorously with this message board thread about how the Rudolph touchdown was a blessing in disguise since any Notre Dame touchdown drive of actual length would have pulled so much time off the clock its hard to see Robinson leading a drive to win. He can execute a three-minute drill now (obviously), but with one and a half minutes I keep going back to those seams to Roundtree in the third quarter. The first was thrown directly at a linebacker when lofting it was a touchdown; the second was lofted and would have been a touchdown except it was considerably overthrown.
Giving up a 95-yard touchdown is obviously bad, but I think the play once Rudolph is behind the secondary and around the 35 is to let him score. Michigan didn't do this intentionally, but they did prevent the same sort of agonizing touchdown drive they gave up against Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2005, where they soft-shell their way down the field and allow the opponent the opportunity to score for the win with vanishingly little time left.
While we're on the topic, Kelly's decision to go for it from the three at the end of the first half has come in for rampant bashing by Notre Dame fans because it didn't work out but to me it seems like one of those decisions that's so close there's no right or wrong answer. We happen to have a huge database of one-shot plays from the three because that's where two-point conversions are attempted from. The expected value of a field goal from there is basically 3 points. The expected value of going for it is 45% of 7, or 3.15 points… if you assume an average defense and offense. Michigan does not have an average defense but Notre Dame's offense while directed by a third-string walk-on is probably even further below average, so in terms of pure points expected I'm betting Kelly gave up a little when he went for it. On the other hand, when you're down 14 points and you might not get many opportunities to score because you're down to the third-string walk-on you take variance where you can; you should be willing to give up some expectation for it. My gut feeling was that I was unhappy with the decision to go, which means it's probably the right call.
Yardage bit. This has been noted elsewhere, but what a bizarre game. Over 1000 yards of total offense but a winning score of just 28 and 18 punts. In a game where yardage was dead even Michigan was +3 in turnover margin and barely won. This happened because they lost about 40 yards of field position on punt exchanges, missed two field goals, got away with giving up the bomb at the end of the first half, shot themselves not in the foot but the head with penalties, and intentionally gave away 50 yards on Notre Dame's final drive.
So… yeah, Michigan functionally outgained ND by 50 since they weren't trying to stop those first two passes to Floyd, which makes the second week they did that against a BCS opponent. That didn't happen until the Purdue game last year.
Defense? Caveats about the backups in the first half apply but the defense managed to hang in there. Cam Gordon is going to come in for some huge minuses in UFR, but the rest of the defense can't be blamed for 200, maybe 250 (Jones phantom TD, Rudolph TD, long pass @ end of first half, final drive) of ND's 500 yards. Given the number of drives in this game holding ND to 24 points is an accomplishment. After Crist came out of the locker room and led ND right down the field twice I thought we were doomed, but the D got a stop after first and goal and then got five straight stops after. Say what you want about rushing three but I'm pretty sure all three picks were thrown into a three-man rush when the QB could not find anyone open. I'll be adding a "players rushed" tracker to UFR to see if the thing everyone hates actually hurt M.
Field goal argh silver lining. Rodriguez may be forced to do mathematically correct things on fourth and three from the 25.
AnnArbor.com slideshow. Genuinely Sarcastic column makes a good point about Cam Gordon and a box safety spot: ideally that's where he'd be. Doctor Saturday says "at some point you begin to run out of perspective, and adjectives." HSR took video of postgame celebrations. Wolverine Historian has a three-part set of highlights up. USA-Algeria-style bar explosion video from NYC's Professor Thom's. MVictors bullets. The Daily ranks the greatest individual performances in Michigan history, slotting Denard #4 behind three guys who killed Ohio State singlehandedly.
MGoReader scores tickets at face when ND opens up wheelchair seating to the public, sits next to Brock Mealer, and gets told this story:
He told me and a couple of nearby patrons a story about Denard: last week, before the game, he asked our QB if he ever thought about cutting off his dreads in case someone tried to pull him down (a la Polamu). Denard's response?
"If they ever catch me, they can have 'em."
Amongst the great many articles using the above picture and declaring Robinson to be hotter than the surface of Mercury but deploying the same stats and quotes as all the others is Mike Rothstein's from AnnArbor.com, which quotes to Fred Jackson about all those carries:
Notre Dame (1-1) offered no choice. With the defensive fronts the Irish presented, it was Robinson’s ball to carry over and over again….
“A lot of times, his reads tell him to give the ball to the running backs,” Jackson said. “But this game, they were forcing him to run it. They were probably trying to beat him up. But he’s too quick to beat up.”
That's an… interesting decision on the part of the Notre Dame coaches there.
I missed a few of Ryan Terpstra's postgame videos. Here's Jordan Kovacs:
The biiiig torrent is up, a 19-gig uncompressed capture. The more manageable one's ETA is 3PM.
Goot bye 87 yards zing:
Fuller highlights from MGoBlue:
WMAX radio guy Ryan Terpstra's field-level video of Michigan's last drive, the final play of the game, and the aftermath includes some priceless shots of the ND student section right after they got Denarded:
Rodriguez and Denard postgame:
If you could bottle Denard Robinson's smile it would light up the universe.
Other bits after the jump.