Obviously two things:
- Depending on whether or not BHGP likes it, this is either an homage to or straight ripoff of their posts in this vein, down to J Leman's presence. I have tried to make this up to them in the content. Also, the J Leman picture was first brought to the world in those Big Ten team previews I used to do.
- I can't confirm that this is true, if you know what I mean.
INT. CLANDESTINE NORTH CAMPUS GENETICS LAB—MEETING ROOM. 1992
A conference table is surrounded by hooded figures. One throws back the hood, revealing himself to be STEPHEN ROSS, super rich guy. Also seated are JAMES EARL JONES, sith lord, and DOOMED J. SCIENTIST, a scientist.
Yes, yes, disturbing. For the record, I do too. You have created a mindless abomination that can accelerate to full speed in half a second, stop on a dime, and juke like there's no tomorrow. Shoot it in he head.
INT. CLANDESTINE NORTH CAMPUS GENETICS LAB—SUB-BASEMENT B1. 1992.
INT. CLANDESTINE URBANA GENETICS LAB—SUB-BASEMENT B1. 1999.
Another meeting room. BOB ZOOK, Ron Zook's evil but lazy twin, and a DUCK discuss dark matters.
You had better hope this plot works better than your last dozen, Zook. My patience runs thin. My pit of ravenous piranhas grows hungry. We must repay our arch-rivals for the generations who have endured nothing but humiliation!
[Tom Brady tries to remember all of the teams in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, GHOSTLY APPARITIONS of James Earl Jones and LAWRENCE KASDAN materialize nearby…]
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO DESMOND HOWARD'S DISEMBODIED LEGS? WILL BOB ZOOK FACE HIS COMEUPPANCE? WILL TOM BRADY'S BEAUTIFUL FACE BE MANGLED? WILL BLACK HEART GOLD PANTS ORGANIZE A DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACK ON MGOBLOG? STAY TUNED FOR PART 2: THE INTEGRATION AND INFILTRATION. TOMORROW!
Note: some of this is pretty elderly due to the season preview extravaganza last week.
Hey… like… does anyone have ND tickets they want to sell to their favorite blogger? Email me if so.
ND Week. Here we go.
Funny. The Funny or Die guys are Michigan alums, you know. They've got a movie premiering at the Michigan Theater October 8th. They also have a Ralph Williams shirt:
Zero. The Fulmer Cup has closed, and Michigan's score checks in at zero. Woo! This follows their one point from last year (Boubacar Cissoko's disorderly conduct charge) and their two from '08 (Darryl Stonum's DUI), and just goes to show what a program of renegades Rodriguez is building around these parts.
The Cup only runs in the offseason and therefore missed Justin Feagin's Bogus Journey, but since Michigan State would have put up 40 points from the Posse Roundup & Engineer/Woman Beatdown, a Fulmer Cup that ran year-round would have been awesome.
Georgia is your champion, by the way, finally breaking through with their innovative system of suspended licenses.
That ain't right. Barking Carnival points out this breakdown of the ESPNU 150:
That can't be right. BC points out USA Today's helpful database on NFL draft picks and says California—home of the most NFL draft picks since '88—gets disrespected, but doesn't go into the numbers. I added and divided and came up with this:
|Region||NFL Picks||NFL %||ex(150)||Actual 150|
Everywhere except Texas gets dissed by a wildly unbalanced ESPN ranking system. Maybe not by as much as that suggests since population's been slowly moving out of the Midwest, but that only explains one small slice of the lack of balance. The South does have the most talent, but not to the extent suggested by ESPN.
Raise them well.
In which insulting letters are sent to Jon Voigt. The final edition of Six Zero's series of profiles on mgo-denizens covers yrs truly. Marvel at the pratfall in which the blog's genesis can be found! Relive the acquisition of the press pass! Discover my favorite food! Explore the ways in which my life is like Kathy Griffins! No, not plastic surgery! Find out in what fashion Jon Voigt is insulted! Be relieved at this bit if you're one of those people who frets I might go work for ESPN!
I really hope MGoBlog is my job for life as long as we start going to bowls on the regular in the near future. Insufficient emphasis. I desperately want MGoBlog to be my job until I retire. I've rarely been so attuned with a fictional character as when Sterling Cooper was trying to get Don Draper to sign a contract, and when he actually signed it and was immediately slapped in the face with it I felt it was cosmically justified. So... yeah. It will take a lot to do something else.
Etc.: This is probably the oldest thing but it was awesome if you haven't seen it: Bobmurph deploys xtranormal in the service of truth re: Big Ten Divisions. Nick Saban on talent: "I don't know where we're stockpiling all this stuff at, but we've got room for lots more." Jesus.
9/4/2010 – Michigan 30, UConn 10 – 1-0
First there were those two years of almost unrelenting misery. Then there was this offseason, the third consecutive in which seemingly every week saw another stomach-churning burst of negative publicity for things that don't matter very much individually but aggregate like nanorobots gone awry. Then there was all that sitting in the stadium as described on Saturday, envisioning different ways the future could play out, giving each a letter grade and having no grasp of which were likelier than others. Then there was Keith Jackson and a ribbon-cutting and a flyover and fireworks (Amurrica!). Then there was this:
There was a brief moment where I discreetly wiped my eyes and hoped no one was looking, and then there was another flyover.
By the coin toss I was bobbing up and down on an imaginary pogo stick, trying to do anything with the energy that threatened to shut my brain off. I was hyped up, yo. The only thing I can remember like it was Football Armageddon. It's probably for the best that I didn't have anything handy to headbutt.
I had no idea what was going to happen, but there were grades for all of it.
A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++. Would watch again.
What was it like for Auburn fans the first time they saw Bo Jackson? For Georgia fans when they saw Herschel Walker? Was it like that?
I can't recall anything similar in the Michigan canon. Braylon had 80 yards against Washington, Hart 124 against San Diego State. Breaston touched the ball eight times. Manningham did once. I'm too young to remember Wheatley's debut. Defensive players are too infrequently involved, and their jobs too arcane, to have the same obvious impact. Receivers, too—even a stellar debut will see the guy touch the ball maybe ten times. It's an accomplishment for quarterbacks when their first starts don't end in flaming disaster.
It's only at running back that you can unearth some guy three standard deviations above the norm at various forms of moving, put him on the field, and give everyone the epiphany of awesome.
But even the debut of one of those Godzilla running backs doesn't compare because Denard Robinson had a Godzilla tailback debut and was one late fourth down conversion away from setting a Michigan Stadium record for completion percentage. Last year he was so clueless he couldn't run the offense, so transparently not a quarterback he went 14 of 31 with four interceptions on the season and played wide receiver against Ohio State.
So I think this might be literally true: Denard Robinson's performance against UConn was the greatest leap from one game to the next in Michigan history. Possibly college football history. He went from a guy who could not run the offense or throw the ball to one of the greatest statistical achievements* in the history of the program.
Nothing, not even the ludicrous fever dreams on message boards that rivals fans point at and laugh, could keep pace. Expectation was left in the dust by the end of the first quarter. The reasonable best case scenario fell away on the first drive of the second half when Robinson whipped a ball over the middle for sixteen yards on third and eleven. The possibility this was all a dream gave it up on Michigan's final drive when Robinson rolled out and lofted a touch pass to Kevin Koger. Not even fever dreams have that kind of audacity.
By the end, all that was left was reality, as unrecognizable as it is. Rival fans are reduced to stammering "buh-buh-but he'll get injured" in the hopes that will happen before Robinson gets a crack at their defense; 7-5 seems… eh… doable. After last year everyone's fighting to keep their hopes in check; this is proving very difficult indeed.
I kept biting myself in the second quarter, just to check about the fever dream bit. You build all this up in your mind before the season, think about the way things can go, say "Anything can happen, and the wait is over," and then find out you didn't really believe it. This was not part of the anything after all the months leading up to the pogo stick moment a minute before kickoff.
Because at some point around five minutes left, the energy drained out of the stadium. When Edsall called a timeout to get the ball back it was irritating and people booed. With a minute and a half left, I thought about the cold and what I should eat. I was bored, and thanks to that now I can't stand how far away next Saturday is.
*(313 against Ohio State still wins, I think, but it's hard to come up with anything else.)
PREBULLET SECTION OF REASSURANCE! Repeat after me: this was not last year's Notre Dame game.
- UConn is likely better than that Notre Dame team; they beat them last year and returned sixteen starters from that 8-5 team that was so close to a major breakthrough, which is why everyone was calling them a sleeper until the point they were no longer that.
- Michigan won that game with ten seconds left after Charlie Weis called a first-down bomb needing just one first down to kill the clock.
- They got a free, highly irreproducible touchdown from Darryl Stonum.
- They were outgained by 60 yards in that ND game; total yardage Saturday was 473-343, with 42 of UConn's yards on their pointless final drive.
A quick list of downers:
- The Gibbons/Dileo pairing had serious issues. The missed XP was definitely on Dileo and the missed FG seemed like a bad snap, too. Van Slyke's return may actually be more important than you might otherwise expect.
- Burned redshirts have driven me crazy forever and a couple the tossed ones this year boggle the mind: Ray Vinopal played on special teams and Dileo held, though that one may have been forced. I'm not going to throw a hissy about Gardner since when Mike Forcier is saying they "knew there would be disciplinary action" it sounds like Rodriguez was faced with an unpleasant choice between doing the logical thing for your program and enforcing squad discipline, but if Michigan goes into 2014 without a redshirt senior Gardner that will be a major missed opportunity.
- I was irritated they played Will Campbell on special teams because he could redshirt if he's not even second team at NT. This is bad for multiple reasons.
- UConn's quick snap on fourth and goal was a little grrr aarrgh.
- Zero sacks (though Roh should have been given one on a Frazer rollout). Michigan didn't get much pressure from the front three. They did manage to get there with some blitzes but I don't recall anyone beating a UConn lineman straight up. (Roh avoided a cut block from an RB.)
And now that we're done with that:
- One penalty! Three fumbles is more of a downer, but add it up and that was a clean performance.
- Offensive production was considerably understated (and defensive production overstated) by how short the game was in terms of possession. Michigan had eight real drives. I'm not sure what the overall NCAA number is but it must be pretty close to the 11.3 the Big 12 put up last year. If Michigan had 11.3 drives they'd be expected to put up 42 points, which is a lot of points. Yes.
- I hate time of possession. It is a unicorn stat. But people might talk about it a lot this year since Michigan had two drives in this game that ate up more than half a quarter. And given their situation that ability might prove useful: how awesome was it that Michigan got the ball back with nine minutes left and essentially ended the game? How much more awesome would it have been if they were up just seven points?
- Running back concern is overstated. Their YPC was hurt considerably by the final drive, during which they plowed into the line to run clock time and again. Also, Shaw in particular seemed like he had to cut behind a defensive lineman slanting right into the play every time he got a handoff. I thought managing to avoid this guy and get positive yardage consistently was an accomplishment. That say something in UConn's scheme or the play of the line has to be addressed, though.
- It was odd that Hopkins never got in but as the game wore on it became clear that UConn couldn't hold a QB lead draw under five yards, let alone one. I do hope he gets unearthed in the future since those carries are usually low upside and if we're going to spare Robinson some hits it shouldn't be on first and ten. Or, you know, third and fifteen.
- Speaking of, it was a really weird experience for Michigan to run a QB draw in that down and distance and not have that moment of hate during it. My immediate reaction was "yeah, that seems like a decent idea." This was early, though, and it had not yet been established that Denard was capable of going 9 of 22, let alone 19 of 22.
- I have never seen two guys running wide open in as much space as Stonum and Robinson did on the late Robinson-to-Robinson connection. There was one safety trying to figure out which guy to cover and literally no one else for twenty yards. RPS +3, baby. That's the kind of thing that happens in these offenses when the quarterback is such a threat on the ground. When Pat White threw deep, most of the time he was doing so to wide open guys. It's like when Debord ran a waggle for big yardage, except the base offense's run game picks up like six yards a play.
- Speaking of: welcome to Michigan, Terrance Robinson. May you dream shake someone in the near future. (Conversely: surprising lack of Grady, no?)
- After Roundtree went out, there were a few plays on which the skill position guys were Terrance Robinson, Odoms, Grady, Smith, and Stonum. It looked like the Lollipop Guild had run out there, featuring Stonum as Dorothy.
- Mouton's getting good reviews and certainly seemed to be playing well. He brought the lumber on a couple tackles. I wonder if UConn's burst of run competence was Carvin Johnson-injury related?
- The reports on band amplification have varied so wildly that the effectiveness of it must vary significantly based on your location. From section 44 it sounded pretty bad, with a clear delay between the actual band and the speakers; I couldn't hear anything except the drums on the amplification. At least Special K was prevented from doing anything except playing "Don't Stop Believin'" after the first quarter.
Unfortunately, I think that might be an artifact of the jam-packed dedication festivities. There's no time for that old time rock 'n' roll when you're running down the top five plays in Michigan Stadium history (which by the way: no Wangler to Carter? WTF, internet?), introducing a bunch of program icons and Greg Mathews, and so forth and so on. Unless they continue to fill those gaps with stuff, Lose Yourself threatens a return. They should just pick a top five list every week: top five catches. Top five runs. Interceptions, fumbles, comebacks, etc.
- Also: Slippery Rock scores return. I credit Brandon.
AnnArbor.com photo gallery. Ring of terror. Denard as QB EAGLES. The HSR takes a look at some stats. MVictors has some extra stadium details and bullet points on the goings-on, plus an outstanding SNL reference:
My Q&A session would have gone something like this:
Me: “Do you remember when…umm, Denard ran up and down the field a bunch of times?”
Rich Rod: “Yes.”
Me: “That was so cool.”
The B-25 Mitchell bomber that flew over Michigan Stadium Saturday as a part of the rededication ceremonies was a similar model to the one flown over Tokyo by the Doolittle Raiders. The Doolittle Raid was an audacious plan by an unconventional man who felt a strong sense that, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, America had to do something to strike at the heart of the Empire of Japan, so what better than to design a crazy, shouldn't work on paper, never been tested plan that would break the Japanese of their long-held belief of invincibility, and boost American morale...
If it worked.
Braves and Birds is thrilled he's not the only one anymore. Denard is apparently a P-38 Lightning.
Every offensive snap? Every offensive snap:
In UConn's only chance to showcase itself against a name-brand non-Big East opponent this year, the Huskies looked more like one of Michigan's typical September MAC cupcake opponents.
The good: UConn will never have to play against Denard Robinson again, and thank God for that. A few weeks ago I drew the ire of Michigan fans by saying I felt the Huskies had more talent than the Wolverines. Clearly, I was wrong. After yesterday, I'd say that on-balance, for every position but quarterback, the teams are pretty equal, maybe with Michigan grabbing a slight edge. But holy hell what a difference that quarterback makes. Video I had seen of Robinson didn't even come close to doing justice to the monster that he was yesterday. I don't care if UConn always struggles against mobile QBs, Robinson is something special.
The good: Michigan fans and Michigan Stadium. I can't say enough good things about the Michigan fans I met in Ann Arbor yesterday. They were a fantastic, friendly and knowledgeable bunch that created an incredibly welcoming and fun atmosphere. Inside the stadium I think the contingent of Husky fans acquitted themselves nicely, but they were completely overwhelmed by the size and passion of the Wolverine crowd. A fantastic experience all around.
"Obviously, I'm pleased with the victory." The stats were pleasant, though maybe not a surprise. The only penalty in the game came on the first drive, and there were no turnovers in the game. Third down conversions were pretty good at 14/19. "Our goal offensively was no turnovers and execute, and I think we did that for the most part."
At the last team meeting last night, Rodriguez could tell that the team was ready to get out there and play.
"We were halfway down the tunnel" for Brock's walk. It was a touching moment because they know the whole story.
"When they announced 113 thousand - I normally don't pay attention, but by that time the game was pretty much under control" Rodriguez thought it was amazing to have that many fans at the game.
RR didn't realize Denard ran the ball 29 times. He was really sharp passing, with only three incompletions. There are a few things that he can fix after watching film, but his decision-making was great for a guy in his first start. Denard and the rest of the backs did a great job running North and South instead of moving around laterally.
Denard showed a lot of toughness, and he'll only keep getting stronger as he grows. Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith showed toughness as well. "It's a good physical team we played, and UConn's gonna win a lot of games this year." Is there anything about Denard that reminds Rodriguez of Pat White? "Yeah, he runs fast." He also has a sense of feel for the game, and maturity. "If he can carry it 29 times for 200 yards, he'll carry it 29 times again." He probably won't be able to carry that many times so effectively in every game. Rodriguez would like him to carry it a little bit less.
Denard has been showing his potential since the Wolverines recruited him. "That's why we signed him." In the spring, he took another step forward. His experience last year helped, but spring practice helped him understand. "He'll hit some bumps in the road, and he's going to play against a lot of good people, and there's going to be mistakes made." The key is minimizing those mistakes.
"I knew, most of the guys knew, and I don't think it was probably a big secret" that Denard would be the starter. The goal in practice is to get all three guys better, and they've done that. In fall camp, Denard solidified himself as the guy who should take the first reps.
"Part of it is just going from a true freshman to second-year player, and understanding the offense." All the QBs can make all the throws they need.
Will Denard start against Notre Dame? "Stay tuned. I think you'll see him starting."
Devin came in after Denard's injury "Because that was a coaches' decision."
If the team doesn't turn over the ball, they'll have a chance to win. They haven't held onto it in the past, so the key is to take care of it this year.
The wind was a big factor in the game. "I think it was a factor somewhat, particularly in the kicking game."
"I felt, from the first series, on that long drive, that we had some fast guys in the space that they may have problems with."
"I will enjoy the next three hours and ten minutes. Try to get me five hours of sleep tonight, and my wife will probably get a chance to sleep a bit tonight." The program has been through a lot, but the focus has never wavered. They have tonight to enjoy the win, but after that, it's Notre Dame time.
After last year's disappointing finish, it was important to start the season on the right foot. "I want our guys to get some confidence." The key now is to maintain the level of intensity.
The defense played hard and tackled well. "We gave up a couple big plays, the one on the tipped pass that the guy made a good play on." The defense had to be ready, because UConn was playing at a fast tempo.
"I'd like to score more than 30, but I like the fact when you don't have to punt." It was good to get Will Hagerup some experience on his only punt of the day, though.
"Everybody likes a win. Everything is better. The food tastes better, you're in a better mood, everybody's happy." Michigan's 110,000 fans (RR estimates there were 3,000 cheering for UConn) deserved the win. The goal and expectation at Michigan is to win championships, but there's a process to get there.
Brendan Gibbons's missed extra point was a snap/hold issue. The missed field goal was due to a stiff wind knocking it short. Rodriguez was going to kick another field goal at the end, but though they'd have a chance to get the first down and run out the clock. "Seth Broekhuizen is still battling for the job."
"One of the goals as a coach when you coach college football is for your players to truly enjoy the experience of being a student-athlete." It's easier to do that with a win.
James Rogers was really poised, and made a couple nice plays. "We're probably going to kick ourselves watching the film defensively, because it looked like we had a couple opportunities to get some BIG big plays: interceptions and something like that, and we just missed out on the ball." The secondary was well-prepared.
Jeremy Gallon's fumbled punt was a tough one. "He's going to be a very good punt returner. Terrence Robinson will be fine too." Both guys will still play in the return game, though Rodriguez was not pleased with the overall play of the unit today.
Obi Ezeh's fumble recovery was a huge play.
The only real injury was Carvin Johnson "I don't know what his status is." (Afterwards, it was revealed he's day-to-day with a sprained MCL). Junior Hemingway's hamstring is injured, but "our hope is that he'll be able to go this week." Terry Talbott is still working through a clearinghouse eligibility issue.
"They practiced hard, and they've got a chip on their shoulder; they've got some things to prove. Hopefully today was the start of something good."
Winning the home opener is a big deal, but there's a lot more season to go. "They're just going to go back and work hard - and I know they will. We've got a big game next week; let's see how it goes. But I'll tell you what: I love the start, love the start."
On Denard Robinson: "I'll tell you what, he's the fastest guy on a football field that I've ever seen." His toughness in taking a bunch of hits against a big UConn team is underrated, as well. He can outrun guys even when they have the angle on him. His passing stats were as impressive as his running. "If you think too much about the run, he's gonna burn you."
There will always be critics, even with a big win. "We'll let [the plaers and coaches] enjoy this, because they deserve it."
The Stadium Rededication was designed to be special, which was the reason for the multiple flyovers, fireworks, etc. Brandon challenged the marketing team to come up with some special things.
"Brock is an inspiration to this team. He's got a share of this victory today, too." When he touched the banner, "I held it together pretty well until that moment, and I'll tell you why. I sat with him, we planned this whole thing. I told him how we needed to make this happen and he was great about it. I'm getting ready to leave, and he kinda called me over and said 'Mr. Brandon, would it be OK if I touched the banner?' That's what he wanted to do, and that's what he did."
The big victory felt good, because that's what the team has been working hard to achieve. "We just wanted to come out and just play."
The first touchdown run "felt a little bit weird because I was like on my injury, coming out and just catching the ball. I wasn't expecting to break that many tackles and just head upfield and score." The knee is 100%, and even Vincent was a little surprised by that.
With the team so focused, they're able to run the offense at a faster tempo. They knew which plays were going to be effective against the UConn defense. The team has been running that tempo in practice, so they were ready to play that fast.
On Denard: "I knew what he can do, and he just needed to be put in the right positions and come out and just play." The offensive line did a great job clearing the holes. Smith didn't think Denard would run that ball 29 times. Despite the heavy workload, "he always gets up. Very tough."
Denard's first start was pretty much everything he's dreamed about. "I've got my offensive line to thank, and my coaches for putting me in the right situation."
The quarterbacks found out last night that Denard would be the starter. Rodriguez also told the other guys to be ready. "I was just playing well, and I'm going to continue to play well. That's how it gonna be." Despite that, Denard's not guaranteed to start next week.
Setting the QB rushing record: "That's crazy. That's a dream come true, I guess."
Denard didn't know how many times he'd be carrying the ball, but he was ready to do whatever the coaches asked of him. "Coach told me to be ready, and I was ready."
Denard didn't have first-game jitters, because he saw the field a lot last year, even though this was his first start. "My team, my offensive linemen, all the seniors told me 'we got your back.'" He din't have to try to win the game by himself.
The biggest change from Denard 2009 to Denard 2010 is knowing the offense more, staying focused more, and "giving my all in the offseason."
UConn's players were trying to take Denard's shoes at the bottom of the pile. They got one of them on one play. "Trying to slow me down, I guess. Or slow down the offense, because the offensive line was just killin' 'em."
"I knew I always could throw the ball, that was never a question. It was just, getting the offense down at, that's basically what it was."
Denard wouldn't say what the design of the play was for Terrance Robinson's 43-yard reception. After leaving the podium, Denard (jokingly) told Rodriguez that the media was trying to steal the play.
Denard took a shot to the hip when he had to leave the game for a play. "I feel alright, pretty good, pretty good." He had confidence that he was going to be able to come back in.
The adrenaline takes over during games, so Denard doesn't really feel the nerves.
"It was a pretty good feeling" to have the offense rolling along in rhythm.
Are you going to wear shoelaces against Notre Dame? "(laughing) I'm not changing anything."
"It was definitely a tribute to our coaches and our preparation" to beat a good team like UConn. It was good to finally have a chance to show everyone what the team is capable of.
"James played a heck of a game, man. I'm proud of him, man." He's been waiting a long time to play, so it's good for him to get a chance.
On forcing UConn's only fumble of the day: "I just put my hat on the ball. When you're in position to make plays, the coaches put you in position to make plays, good things happen."
On Denard: "Aw man, he's a crazy animal to tame. He gives every defense problems." It's good to see him get a chance to show off some of what he can do.
this game is a step in the right direction. "We're at no point to stop working. We've still got a lot of things we've gotta do." A good game for the defense should be a mental boost for the young defense.
"You're blocking, and two seconds later you just see Denard 20 yards upfield. There's nothing better than seeing that."
"It's amazing how far he's progressed in such a short amount of time, and really without any true game experience, and now he's just building and building and building on what he can do." His patience and knowledge of the game are the biggest jumps.
The goal of the offense is to get first downs all up and down the field, and wearing down the defense. There was no specific key to converting third downs, everyone just did their job and worked well.
It was nice to see a lot of young guys get out and have a chance to perform.
29 carries won't wear Denard down. "He's just a tough kid. He's tougher than I am. He'll push through anything."
"We were hungry, we were so hungry." The team was hungry last year too, but the defense didn't pay as well.
When people talk about the defense not being any good "if they can give even, a little bit more of a morsel of motivation, then we're just gonna come out and do what we did today."
Getting stops and turnovers at critical times is huge. Getting the 3-and-out right at the beginning of the game really boosted the defense's confidence. "It's great. Confidence is obviously a big thing. The whole team is going in hungry, and nervous too. So, winning this gives us a huge confidence boost."
It was nice to see somebody else chase Denard. "I had to chase that guy all spring, and let me tell you, it's not easy catching that guy."
There were no real surprises from UConn. "I felt like what our coach told us was exactly what happened."
"I'd say in spring, we were molding into what we would become, and what you see today." That was more of a learning experience, and fall camp is when the intensity came in.
Craig's hybrid position is a perfect fit for a guy with a hybrid skill set like him. He can take pass drops, rush the quarterback, etc.
1. Can you answer the same quarterback question everyone's been answering since the spring game?
Sweet hot pickle John The Baptist, the fictional questioners are just as persistent as the real ones. One last time: I expect Denard Robinson to get the start against UConn. Rumor has it the team has already been informed.
The premium sites are engaged in a war of information about the #2. Scout is claiming Gardner has haxored the offense and will plug into the matrix sooner rather than later; Rivals says Forcier's come on like gangbusters of late and is hinting he'll end up starting sooner rather than later. Both of their mumbles are of the "I'm just saying" variety where blame can't be assigned retroactively but credit sure can; both are seriously hedging on Denard Robinson.
I don't buy either much, but I buy the latter way more than the former. My personal obsevations are in line with UMGoBlog's assessment of the spring performances of each. Gardner:
@ the :24 mark: here you can see the game moving really fast around him. His feet slow down because his brain is working overtime to process all the info available. Finally, he leans back away from the contact on his delivery, which will normally cause the ball to sail, or fall well short.
@ the :38 mark: this may be his "can't teach that" moment. With Tate and DR, we have to roll the QB one way or the other to attack the middle. They cannot see over the line. Here, DG confidently steps into the pocket and throws a nice, although low, pass in a deep in route. As he continues to develop, he physical stature may end up being a large advantage for him in the QB race.
@ the 1:15 mark: we see some of the TF-like play making ability. He escapes the rush, but works back INTO the pocket to keep all his options alive down the field. Very good poise for the young guy in his first spring.
@ the 1:55 mark: this is not the first example on this film, but the ball HAS to come out quicker here. Giving the LB/DB time to read this play is a huge mistake and really hung the RB out to dry. Again, no doubt understandable with DG's inexperience, but this is a HUGE thing that must improve before I will call him "Game Ready".
@ the 2:23 mark: SHEESH! Protect the ball above all else, especially at your own goal line. As soon as he felt the hands around him, that ball should have been thrown to the Off. Coord. on the sideline. Live to fight another play.
It keeps going like that, promise alternating with the freshman mistakes we've gotten all too accustomed to the past couple years. Reports from the fall scrimmage, which was all of two weeks ago, are similar. Downplaying the one horrible interception is "a mistake but…" neglects Gardner's tendency to just chuck things when he got pressure. It didn't happen often, but when it did he responded—all together now—like a freshman. I'm done with this true freshman stuff. We've seen the chart, right? Michigan ran out a drilled-from-birth prodigy last year, got significantly above average performance from him, and still had a creaky offense. Devin Gardner is not that good yet. I have every confidence he will be that good in time, but not yet.
Forcier remains Forcier, hopefully minus many of the crippling turnovers. Denard, well;
@ the :59 mark: he is rolling left and fires a strike over the middle. I cannot overstate the difficulty of this throw. Very Impressive.
@ the 1:30 mark: he cannot find a target and tucks and runs. It will be beneficial at some point for him to learn to 1)identify targets earlier 2)throw it away 3)get out of bounds and avoid unnecessary hits.
@ the 1:40 mark: he makes a perfect read on the option. Watch the DE on the O's left side completely bite down on the run. Other Big Ten teams will not bite this hard. They know DR is the bigger threat. He will have to hand off more this year.
@ the 2:20 mark: he hits Roundtree for the 98 yarder. Beautiful touch on this pass! However, his throws out to the slots and RB's on the bubble screens and hitches need to be this accurate. They aren't yet.
Denard is ridiculous. He will be given the first shot because of this, and it will be up to him to keep it. No one can take it away from him; he'll have to give it away. If I had to put numbers on it, there's a 65% chance Denard is the primary quarterback, a 30% chance Tate is, and a 5% chance Devin is.
2. Why should I be excited at all when the "Rodriguez leap" amounted to finishing ninth in total and scoring offense in conference play?
Last year around about the Notre Dame game some very excitable people were proclaiming things about the Rodriguez Leap, something Doctor Saturday identified as a strong trend in Rodriguez-coached offenses to blow up in year two. Michigan's was coming from so far back and running in place when it came to quarterback experience, so that initial prowess ended up being a mirage. Michigan was way, way better, but still pretty meh. So the above conference stats exist.
While those may be literally true, they don't exactly feel right, do they? Michigan's offense did fall off considerably after a scorching start, but whenever that stat gets brought up it seems wrong. Michigan had the misfortune of missing two below-average defensive teams in Northwestern and Minnesota, after all.
That is more intuitively correct than raw things like points or yards per game and, since it is conference-only, sidesteps the Baby Seal U issue. Michigan's offense was seventh, a hair away from fifth. That's not good but it is a major step forward after they were last by a mile in '08.
Besides, it's possible they actually made the RR leap. Seriously. The problem is how far back they were coming from. As last year's preview noted:
…even if Rodriguez makes a leap similar to that turned in by his 2002 West Virginia team—probably the most comparable since they were coming from so far back—Michigan will only improve to 68th in total offense.
Sans BSU, Michigan would have finished 78th. With BSU they finished 59th, and since all the other teams that played super tomato cans didn't have them stripped out by when I say they would have finished 78th, splitting the difference seems reasonable. We're back to 68th in total offense again.
The best RR leaps to date were virtually identical improvements at Tulane and West Virginia where year two saw yardage output increase by 21%. If you discount BSU, Michigan went from 290 yards of total offense to 353. That's a 22% increase. While it's a lot easier to go from godawful to bad than go from bad to average or average to great, at previous stops Rodriguez had the luxury of installing an experienced quarterback in year two. With Michigan's chaos there (and Rodriguez's inability to get a viable quarterback in his first recruiting class), they did not have that luxury.
And here's the thing: with the quarterbacks going from freshmen to sophomores and some number of starters back ranging between seven and ten—depending on how you assess players like Roy Roundtree, Martavious Odoms, Patrick Omameh, Mark Huyge, Perry Dorrestein, and a couple others—isn't it plausible to expect another leap in year three? Tacking on 17%—the average yardage increase in previous RR leaps, discounting last year at Michigan—to Michigan's BSU-free yardage yields 414 yards per game for Michigan, which would be good for 32nd nationally.
- There was a leap,
- It was hard to find because they were coming from so far back, and
- There should be another leap this year.
This could be worth a small "woo," or something.
3. Can the running game take a… well… can it improve a… aw, hell, can it make a leap? The leap?
Last year Michigan obliterated their best YPC mark since the turn of the century, posting a 4.52 well clear of 2006's previous high water mark of 4.27. All right, yes, Michigan's demolition of Baby Seal U (54 carries, 461 yards) is heavily distorting, and if you pull it out Michigan's season YPC drops a half-yard. That drops it to third, as you can see at right. Since most of the seasons there had a nonconference cupcake that wasn't good but also wasn't quite as distorting (in 2006, for example, Michigan put up 246 yards on 51 carries against Vanderbilt in addition to their two MAC snacks), that sells '09 a short.
So. Despite missing their best and most critical lineman for most of the year, suffering a number of bad snaps that ended up looking like –20 yard carries as a result of that, and spending most of the year down at least one of their senior tailbacks, and running out freshman quarterbacks. Michigan posted one of the better YPC numbers of the last decade of Michigan football. They were solidly third. I'm throwing this on the pile of evidence that Rodriguez's approach to the ground game is just plain better than Carr's.
Meanwhile, I'm not too concerned about the lost personnel on the line. Omameh should be better than the Moosman/Huyge/frosh Omameh combo over the course of the year. Molk was clearly better than Moosman as a center, something that was addressed in the Illinois game:
Moosman is not as good as Molk on tough reach blocks. Lot of cutbacks against Illinois because the playside DT did not get sealed. Cutbacks are tougher sledding, usually.
Here's a successful run from Brown on which Moosman does not seal his guy and Brown has to hit it up behind Moosman in front of Schilling:
From what I've seen, Molk is more likely to actually get that block on the frontside. He won't do it all the time and the cutback can be effective but then you're relying on the backside block, which is often a tough one.
Ortmann to Huyge/Lewan probably won't matter much; tackles aren't that important in the spread 'n' shred run game. The only other losses are at tailback, where Minor managed just 96 carries a year ago. His average YPC was 5.2, only slightly better than the team average in I-A games. Brown, meanwhile, finished the above run like this:
It's not like either of the lost guys was 1) that great, 2) ever healthy, or 3) irreplaceable. Here's a preview of a stupid prediction: Michigan 2010 tops that YPC table.
4. What about the tackles?
Yeah… that's the thing. Michigan has depth and talent at the skill positions and the interior line. The quarterbacks have been discussed ad nauseum—while they won't be great the best of the three options available will be at least average and possibly (probably?) good. Michigan can take some hits and still expect good things to happen… except at tackle.
There Michigan has two guys who did not play well last year and two redshirt freshmen. Though Taylor Lewan has a boatload of hype he's just one guy, and a freshman at that. Meanwhile, Mark Huyge and Perry Dorrestein took turns playing Slight Hindrance To Guy Forcing Forcier Out Of The Pocket; both were benched for the other at some point. It's clearly the weak spot.
There are reasons to hope:
- Experience helps out offensive linemen more than other position groups.
- Huyge was undersized but is no longer.
- Dorrestein was struggling with a back injury most of this year.
- Frey's coaching saw Ortmann improve substantially in his final season.
- Lewan does have a boatload of hype and provides a viable third option if one of the starters struggle.
A step forward is likely. Even so, at the end of the year the thing that will have held the offense back from great heights will probably be an inability to keep defensive ends away from the quarterback.
This rocket has two stages, the second of which should kick in this year. There's more experience everywhere, plenty of talent to go around, multiple options at quarterback, some of whom are scholarship non-freshmen: Michigan's offense will be much better in 2010. Now for the greater-than-less-thans!
- Sophomore Tate/Denard >>> Freshman Tate/Denard
- David Molk >> David Moosman
- Senior Schilling > Junior Schilling
- Patrick Omameh >> Moosman/Huyge/Omameh chaos
- Stonum in HD > Stonum in black and white
- Roundtree/Grady > Odoms/Roundtree/Grady
- Tight ends > younger versions of themselves
- Five-headed running back monster == constantly injured seniors with younger versions of running back monster.
- Martavious Odoms == Greg Mathews
- Perry Dorrestein == The better of Dorrestein/Huyge
- Mark Huyge < Mark Ortmann
As stated above, RR Leap 2 would hop Michigan up to 32nd nationally in yardage even without the benefit of a tomato can I-AA game. Put that back in and Michigan should find itself in the bottom third of the nation's top 25 offenses.
Things that can make this not happen: tackles are bad and or injured. Quarterbacks do not progress like they should. The tailback situation is a muddled heap of mediocrity. Things that can make this pessimistic: Stonum blows up. Toussaint or Cox blows up. Denard really is that good.
Last Year's Stupid Predictions
- ESSENTIALLY CORRECT IF SLIGHTLY OPTIMISITIC: Minor misses two games with injury [note: chalk!]. [Minor missed Western and Ohio State; he also sat out against DSU, if that matters, and was seriously limited for much of the rest of the season.]
- RIGHT DESPITE INJURY: People expect Vincent Smith to be the 2010 starter.
- WRONG BECAUSE OF INJURY: Junior Hemingway is your leading downfield receiver (ie: Odoms is in the running but we aren't counting screens). [Roundtree blew up late; Hemingway finished well behind Mathews amongst outside WRs.]
- PRETTY CLOSE: Denard runs for 450 yards and throws about ten times. [350 yards and 31 attempts.]
- NOT PARTICULARLY ACCURATE: Michigan uses a huge multiplicity of formations on offense, debuting new stuff frequently and ending the year with a huge (hur) package. [Michigan never busted out
- WRONG: A two-back three-WR set is most common, though sometimes that third WR will be a tight end in the slot. [Michigan went 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB most often.]
- OPTIMISTIC EVEN COUNTING BABY SEAL U: As noted, Michigan finishes somewhere between 40th and 50th in total yardage. [59th.]
This Year's Stupid Predictions
- Michigan 2010 finishes atop the rush YPC chart above without considering the UMass game and by a considerable margin.
- Gardner ends up burning his redshirt in very, very frustrating fashion, because…
- …Denard is pretty much your starting quarterback all year, but…
- …Forcier plays in every game, bailing Michigan out in one critical fourth quarter.
- Vincent Smith gets the most touches amongst the running backs. Second: Shaw. Third: Toussaint. Fourth: Hopkins.
- Robinson is Michigan's leading rusher.
- Darryl Stonum does not exactly go Chris Henry on the planet but does greatly increase production via a series of big plays: 30 catches, 650 yards, 6 touchdowns.
- Michigan breaks out the triple option with regularity, using Hopkins as the dive back and Shaw/Smith the pitch guy. They also dig out those WVU formations where the slot motions into the backfield, with Grady the man beneficiary.