So I made an "Inside the Box Score" post last Sunday and it was reasonably well received, so let's do this again.
First, the link thingy:
Last week, I mentioned that I was going to be paying attention to the 2nd quarter this year, as we routinely lost the 2nd quarter last season. Jamiemac picked up the theme by making the 2nd quarter score one of his prop bets. A quick glance at the box score shows we won the 2nd quarter 7-3, and after the rough first quarter, that was huge in keeping us in the game. Look a little deeper, though, and you'll see that we ended the 1st quarter with Denard's first interception, giving the Irish a short field to start the 2nd quarter. This was a recipe for disaster last year. Instead, with the Irish starting at OUR 39 yard line (you almost don't need a 1st down to get in FG range) our defense stiffened and forced them into a 3 and out. Three plays, 2 yards, after getting 140 yards on 17 plays in the 1st quarter. That stopped their momentum enough to keep us in the game.
Other items of interest:
* Net yards per kickoff: ND 49.3, UofM 45.3. This was much improved over last week when WMU had a 15 yard per kickoff advantage over us. I did go back and watch our first kickoff last week, and it appeared that Woolfolk was playing the deep safety on the kickoff. The guy who is supposed to run down the returner if said returner gets through the first line. If Woolfolk has the best combination of speed and tackling on the team, I can't fault them for playing him there. It really shouldn't be that much of an injury-risk, but this is football, and those things happen. The kickoff disparity COULD HAVE been huge at the end as the Irish started their last drive on their 39, while we started at the 20. I thought it was going to take a miracle to go 80 yards in 23 seconds (after the first incompletion) and that is exactly what Denard and Gallon produced on the 64 yard play. It called to mind the AC play against Indiana. Instead of going Hail Mary, you throw a 20 yarder and get YAC.
* Gallon and Smith, two players who receive more than their fair share of criticism, combined for 4 receptions, 104 yards receiving, and 2 TDs. And they handled the punt and kick returns flawlessly.
* We had 22 players show up on the defensive statistics section, similar to last week. Although a lot of last night's seemed to be special teams or from our turnovers. It was nice to see our leading tackler be a LB, but the next two were safeties. BWC didn't record a tackle, but he showed up in the box score for recovering a fumble, and he showed up in the box score indirectly by forcing an ND holding penalty. Which leads me to this:
* Penalties: ND 9 for 75, UofM 9 for 82. After a 1 penalty game last week, and a good start to last night's game, we started racking up the defensive penalties, some of which were actually earned. I think those refs throwback hats were a size too small, but I'm not one to complain about officials.
* First downs: ND 28, UofM 16. How the F did we win that game? Oh yeah,
* Turnovers: ND 5, UofM 3. Gotta win the TO battle. Apparently, UofM's stat sheet is crediting the Irish with a fumbled kick return on the last play. And,
* Yards per play: ND 7.1, UofM 9.0. I guess you don't need many first downs when you are averaging 30.7 yards per completion. ND was playing break-but-don't-bend. They stuffed our run (except for Denard) and matched up one-on-one with Hemingway, Gallon, and Roundtree. We played a mixture of defenses, sometimes blitzing (ouch on the upcoming RPS numbers) sometimes doubling Floyd, but generally giving different looks. I couldn't keep track of how many times the play clock got down to 1 second for ND. At one point, I screamed at the TV, "Hey REES, you are not Peyton Manning, snap the damn ball." They ended up using a lot of timeouts and I think that helped us out.
* Attendance: 114,804 (yes, they put the attendance in the box score.) I believe that's a record of some sort. While I was watching out here in Southern California, my brother and his wife were rocking with the students in section 29. He reports that the pom-poms sucked, and I'm generally not a fan of the pom-pom, but I think they looked good last night.
* The referee's name (what don't they put in the boxscore?) was T. Tomczyk, the same as my uncle before his last name was Americanized. After last night, I think we can agree, Notre Dame has been Denardized, AGAIN!
WLB starter was true freshman Morgan, with Hawthorne getting legit time too.
But I never saw Herron, or even M. Jones at all.
Injured? Special teams? Suspended?
And before anyone gets all uppity on me, no, I didn't dig through the in-game posts to see if this was discussed....
Do it for the good of Michigan football. Currently a close race between Tyler Bray of Tennessee and Denard.
I am awake and it is real. Somehow, this terrifies me more than if we had lost. I still have no real idea what our true potential is. There was a lot of suck, and a lot of awesome on both sides of the ball and I am left here to try and repiece together the fragments of my exploded mind. Here are my Saturday thoughts:
1. From what I can remember, it seemed like nearly every effective offensive play fell into the category of "Eye-Popping Denard Highlight Reel" stuff. The lack of production from the running backs has been discussed extensively already, but I really missed the consistent, controlled offensive drives we saw against Western. I love when Denard goes into unchained animal mode, but bread and butter running and short passing would be a welcome sight in the Big Ten season.
2. I can't help but feel that Denard and Borges are turning a big corner after last night, and that thrills me. Is there any doubt now concerning what Denard can and can't do? Maybe I am crazy and still riding the victory wave, but I have a feeling that to a large extent the sadly disappointing Denard that ruled in the first three quarters will be absent in future games. I am fully prepared to eat this words and hate myself over the next couple of months though.
3. I am insanely grateful that we do not have to face Floyd again. That being said, I'm very worried about the MSU game now. I don't think they have any receivers on his level that just seem unstoppable, but that game could also turn scary.
4. Greg Mattison, you are the king and messiah of adjustments. I honestly have no idea what happened in the second half, but somehow we had a number of tremendous defensive plays.
5. There is a chance, a chance I hate even bringing myself to hope in, that this team could end up being pretty solid by the end of the year. I am not used to the idea of a team actually improving as the season wears on, but there are encouraging signs that this team could pull that feat off. Again, prepared to eat these words.
6. It is great, so very great, to be a Michigan Wolverine.
At one point during the game, they announced that some kind of super high-res photo had been taken of the stadium, with approximately eleventy billion pixels. It was said that after it was posted, you'd be able to zoom in and see all the individual people in the stands.
They said it would be posted within 24 hours of the game, but I don't recall where exactly they said it would be... anyone know?
*Time at start of drive per ESPN http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/playbyplay?gameId=312530130&period=4