I have not seen replays yet, but it would appear that we deployed three punt returners - Odoms and Dileo short with Gallon deep. This was a long overdue change and echoed a comment by Brian on WTKA last week - something like "put three guys back there and catch the ball". With the proliferation of spread punt formations and rugby punting we have seen way too many punts over the past few years that were uncatchable by our deep man yet landed short and rolled many yards to our detriment. This new formation covers the short area on both sides while leaving Gallon free to concentrate on fielding and returning boots of normal distance. Dileo lived up to his billing as a"natural" return man as he easily grabbed two shorties and returned each about 15 yards for a net of less than 20 (one was called back). Gallon was much more comfortable deep and very effective. This alignment also protects the deep man as the two short guys (no offense Ninjas) can tell him whether to fair catch or not. Great move - if a bit belated.
It was a strange feeling to come into a game day against a Maccy-Cake with such feelings of unease. I guess the UMass experience messed with my head more than I had thought. Friday night it was hard to fall asleep, what with visions of 6-8 yard runs on first down running through my head. But this Michigan defense turned it around and (hopefully) charted a new course for the Big 10 season. I saw more decisiveness from our linebackers, flowing downhill to make plays and getting burned by aggressive play once in a while. I saw three sacks and two interceptions caused by pressure as well. If our defense has a chance at becoming anything else than a liability to this team, this aggressive play will be the reason going forward.
Other things I learned:
- Michigan seems to have covered its bad karma quota. This is completely batshit crazy, but watching Denard Robinson's rapid progression gives me pause as a fan because I seriously worry about the wrath of Angry Michigan blank Hating God taking away what Michigan fans hold most dear. So when Denard Robinson is bouncing around after the game, and Perry Dorrestein's injury is "a hangnail or something on his toe (WTF?)," I start to feel that the punishment for years of excessive pride and entitlement may finally be over.
- I have been firmly in the camp that can't believe Devin Gardner won the #2 QB spot over Tate (perhaps by myself). I think what we saw yesterday vindicates this position. Gardner was pretty good actually, but Tate ran the offense with much more confidence and at a noticeably faster pace IME. Tate also seems to make sharper, more decisive cuts running the ball at this point, which makes him appear quicker (though DG's touchdown run showed that Vince Young deceptive glide speed). Overall, it is great to see that this team's outlook doesn't hinge 100% on Denard Robinson. Oh, and to any fans Hating on the Tate:
- Macky-Cakes are still good for a round of first-time Michigan Touchdowns. Congrats to Fitzgerald Toussaint, Devin Gardner, Geremy Gallon, and John McColgan for popping their cherries.
- If Michigan still needs that 6th win to become bowl eligible, look to Purdue to save RR's job.
- Any team can gut this defense, but aggressive play will give them the best chance of getting off the field. The defense seems to have the speed and size to wreck havoc when playing aggressively. If we get burned, that is more time for our offense to make up the difference.
Michigan faces an interesting portion of the schedule now, as the first three games of the B10 season really ramp up nicely. This stretch should give us a firm handle on how excited we should be about this team. I think Indiana is a trap game. The Hoosiers are going to look better than they did against Akron and Michigan can't afford to be looking ahead to the MSU game. Win or lose against Indiana, I think we take care of business against MSU, and then come through this year on the end of the game drive to beat Iowa. 6-1 or 7-0 heading into Happy Valley.
Have a good week and be safe everyone.
Not that anyone is supposed to care about this, but I found it interesting: I just saw Steven Threet on the sideline on TV after throwing a TD for ASU, and I noticed he wears a headband or bandana under his helmet with the number "517" on it, apparently showing his pride in being from Adrian, MI where that is the area code. This seems to be a semi-popular thing to do, as I believe Reggie Bush did at USC (among others), only on his eyeblack strips.
Anyway, I would also like to add Threet looks like he has improved a ton since his one-year stint at UM, evidenced by his more than solid numbers and almost leading his Sun Devils to a win at Camp Randall (I'm sure he wanted to strangle their kicker after that game, missed PAT and all). I have to say, good for him. I wish him all the best and hope he does some good things in the PAC-10 this year.
Check out this new "official Fan website of the Michigan Wolverines"
They have full length news articles from the Freep, AA News, Detroit News plus national stories (ESPN) and 8 or so Michigan blogs all in one spot.
P.S. Watch Tate's post game interview...
P.P.S. Very proud of Tate...