"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
- Vincent Smith was held out due to a hamstring.
- Kenny Demens jumped the route and got the interception because he knew it was coming based on film study and preparation.
- Fitz's job isn't necessarily in danger; Hoke says he just wanted to get the other tailbacks some quality work.
- Hoke made the decision to pick Desmond Morgan for No. 48 before realizing the Grand Rapids connection, but learning of it made it cooler.
File, because I forgot to bring my camera and I forgot to take a picture of Hoke with my phone because I was a little out of it because I wasn't feeling well because I was ... dehydrated. Yeah. Dehydrated.
“It was good to win Homecoming. It’s good to win any time. And really thought complete game-wise, a lot of ways this was the most complete we played. Running the ball with the running backs, Denard obviously had some great runs in there. I thought defensively, after the second series, third series, we started playing Michigan defense. Played well against the run. And then I thought when we did that on first and second down it gave us an opportunity to try and put some pressure on the quarterback and helped the guys do a nice job. Some things in there -- we had some penalties, running the ball early, [penalties] against our defense we weren’t happy with, but overall it’s probably as complete as we’ve played, but it’s not near good enough.”
Both fronts look very solid. Your assessment?
“I think really up front defensively, I didn’t think we were playing with gap integrity and getting of blocks as well as we needed to. They were hitting in there and getting four or five yards, or five or six yards. That wasn’t stout enough at the line of scrimmage. I thought we had some more work to do there. I thought we played better as the game went on. I think at the same time there was a lot of improvement. From an offensive standpoint, as we continue to grow to some degree, I think we’re playing a little better when you look at pad level, I think we’re playing a little better with the speed we want to play with.”
There were a couple critical fourth down stops by your defense when the game was still in doubt. How important were those plays?
“Those were critical, but the one where they went for it on fourth down and our defense stepped up and did a nice job, we got the ball [with] two minutes, and we got nothing. That’s frustrating because we felt coming in the locker room after half time that we left some points on the board. You can’t do that when you play for championships.”
Quinton Washington and Kenny Demens?
“And I’ll tell you. Quinton has improved every game. It’s exciting as a coach when you see a guy who steps out there and gains confidence and plays better, and he’s a big part of our football team, and he’s a wonderful young man. Kenny, I tell you, the interception, he had seen the route. He was prepared. And that’s one thing we’ve done better as a team is the preparation. He knew formationally, he knew route-wise, he knew when they lined up what route was coming so he could jump the route. That’s the maturity that you like to see in your football team. Kenny being a senior, you expect that, but when it works out you’re excited about that.”
Can you assess how Russell Bellomy played, and how important is it to give him some good game experience?
“It always is, you know. Russ, we’re very excited about Russ Bellomy, and have been. He came in there with a lot of confidence. We had the one exchange problem alter in the game, and I think the ball slipped or we didn’t get it up enough, but he’s a guy that we think is a good quarterback. That’s why we recruited him. It was good to get him some work. Obviously meaningful work, but any work is good work.”
At what point do you start thinking about Michigan State?
“I don’t know. I mean I hope the guys enjoy this right now. I don’t know if you ever don’t think about rivalry games. I think that’s always part of what makes us special being Michigan.”
Why did you choose Desmond for the jersey, and did you lay any special expectations for him with Gerald Ford being a president and all that?
“Yeah. And I’ll tell you, it was very easy to choose Desmond because of his character and his integrity, because of how he comes every day in our building, I think in our classroom, in the community. He’s a great kid. It would really -- the grand rapids connection didn’t have a whole lot to do with it until I felt that I was going to do it with Desmond and then it kind of clicked in.”
What was the thought process behind using Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls earlier in the game?
“Um, you know, we just wanted to give them both some more carries. I think competition is always healthy for everybody, so giving those guys out there some time. Vince, we didn’t play him at all becaues he had a little bit of a hamstring, and that’s where Justice got some more reps because of that. Giving Thomas more carries was part of it.”
Is it still Fitz’s job?
When Denard went out, how confident were you that you could win with your defense?
“I’d like to tell you I was very confident. I felt good that our guys on defense, and then the other piece of it I thought our kicking game -- I thought we had kind of challenged that group, challenged ourselves as coaches. Our kicking game had to make improvements and has to continue to. At that part of it, I was comfortable if that’s the way it would have gone.”
Was Denard’s boo boo a hand injury?
“Just a boo boo.”
How relieved were you that it wasn’t that serious?
“Any time any guy gets dinged up with boo boos and stuff, you always worry about it.”
It’s two games in a row that Denard hasn’t thrown an interception. Is that comfort with the game plan or just maturity?
“I think it’s a combination of both. I think he obviously reassessed probably after Notre Dame a little bit. I think we all did. I think game plan-wise, we were bound and determined that we were going to run the football. In the passing game, the play-action part of it, the part of the passing offense that he felt most comfortable with.”
Can you assess Fitz’s play today? Did he get the jumpstart he needed? Second question is how much did you stress not peeking to Michigan State?
“I’ll answer the second question first. I didn’t even talk about it because our guys never even mentioned it, looked at it. I was really surprised, but I felt real confident about every week for us is a championship game no matter what. So they have to prepare for every opponent like a championship game. There was none of that in the locker room or anywhere else. It was Illinois and how we wanted to play and how we wanted to prepare. I thought Fitz ran the ball hard. I thought he got more north and south. Jump starting? I hope. But at the same time, I think there were two runs I didn’t really like, but other than that, I thought he really started getting vertical.”
Is it fair to say he needed a jump start?
“Eh, I don’t know. You gotta explain jump start. Is that when your battery dies and you -- ”
“Well we didn’t do that with him. But I just think, and I said this before -- it’s not always the back. There’s 10 other guys other there. If Denard doesn’t carry out fakes very well, then that’s not going to be effective. And I just saw that as a piece of coaching and how you put an offense together.”
You always preach relentless effort. Can you talk about Jake Ryan missing the quarterback, hitting the ground, and then coming back to force the fumble?
“You know, Greg and the defensive staff do a tremendous job when you talk about effort and the toughness that you need to play football at Michigan with, and defense at Michigan with. And the pride that, number one, the self-pride that Jake has and how this is a football player. It’s more of a Michigan pride than team pride and a defensive pride -- that’s not why he got off the ground and forced a fumble, but that’s part of who he is and who we want to represent.”
Outside of a two-possession stretch when Michigan fans held their breath as Denard Robinson was sidelined with a pinky injury, the Wolverines couldn't have made it any easier to look ahead to next week's game against Michigan State, pounding a hapless Illinois squad, 45-0.
If anything, the final score belied Michigan's dominance. The offense moved the ball at will, rushing for 353 yards on 6.9 per carry and adding 174 through the air on just 15 attempts. The defense held the Illini to a mere 134 yards, including an unheard-of 29 yards on 16 passes; while it didn't help matters when starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase exited in the second quarter with an upper-body injury, his four yards on six attempts weren't lighting the world on fire.
Seemingly every play called by Al Borges worked as intended, starting with a 71-yard touchdown to Jeremy Gallon on a bubble screen* to open the scoring; Gallon weaved through the Illini defense, helped by stellar downfield blocking, most notably by tight end Mike Kwiatkowski. The next drive stalled near the goal line for a field goal after Denard exited the game with a banged-up pinky; it was the only moment when Michigan fans felt even a hint of concern.
The Wolverines continued to establish their identity as a run-first, run-second outfit on Denard's first possession back in the lineup, gaining all 68 of their yards on the ground en route to a six-yard scramble for Michigan's dreaded wonder. When Robinson opened the second half with a physics-defying 49-yard scamper to paydirt, the rout was on in earnest. Illinois's next possession ended after one play, a Kenny Demens interception of Reilly O'Toole. Three plays later, Devin Funchess hauled in a Robinson lob in the back of the end zone, bringing the score to 31-0 before many fans had returned with their halftime hot chocolates.
On the other side of the ball, Jake Ryan flashed his All-American potential again and again, amassing 11 tackles (7 solo), four TFLs, 1.5 sacks, and a devastating forced fumble as he flushed O'Toole out of the pocket, doubled back, and blindsided him to jar the ball loose. Denard Robinson may have finished with four touchdowns, 159 yards passing, and 128 yards rushing, but Ryan made a legitimate claim for best Wolverine on the field.
Ryan wasn't the only standout, as seven Wolverines tallied tackles for loss, neither Illini quarterback could find an open receiver, and Greg Mattison's blitzes hit home time and again. Two years ago, Michigan faced this same Illinois squad—with the same starting quarterback, even—and gave up 561 yards and 65 points. Against this defense, the Illini would need almost a full 17 quarters to rack up that same yardage; no matter how long they went, they'd obviously never reach that point total.
Safe to say, times have changed for both programs.
Michigan has found their perfect match at head coach and defensive coordinator. The offense under Al Borges has had their growing pains, but it's clear that they've found a suitable balance since the bye week to maximize Denard's remaining time as a Wolverine.
After the game, the marching band spelled out "Marry Me, Danielle?" as a band member dropped to a knee at midfield. Like everything the Wolverines dialed up on Saturday, the play was a success. On a cold, grey, rainy day in Ann Arbor, only the weather could dampen the spirits of those in Maize and Blue.
*On second look, it wasn't exactly a bubble screen, as Gallon started downfield before stopping and coming back to the line; a very well drawn-up play regardless.
Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post. This link is always here. You never read it. You are bad.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one. Something like… Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
Mascots are as much a part of college football as cheerleaders and marching bands. The continued use of numerous Native American tribes as mascots has fallen into disfavor, with many schools, including Illinois, having stopped the use of what have been long-standing symbols of universities across the nation. The NCAA actually bans schools that use mascots they call “hostile and abusive American Indian nicknames” from hosting postseason games and NCAA sponsored tournaments. While I agree these are measures that were long overdue, they just don’t go far enough. ALL MASCOTS MUST BE BANNED!
While the NCAA has virtually eliminated Native American mascots, they’ve done nothing about those that promote the use of banned substances. What about MSU’s steroid enhanced “Sparty” or the “Rainbow Warrior”—an obvious abuser of psychedelics? How are these symbols allowed to remain on the college landscape? Why hasn’t the ASCPA championed the ban of the innumerable animal mascots, from the obviously neglected PSU lion, to the endangered Maryland Terrapin? And then there’s the University of Maine’s “lobster baby” – an actual baby dressed as a lobster and carried around in a cooking pot! Is it animal cruelty or child endangerment?
On the food front, there’s the "Fighting Okra" of Delta State University and the :Fighting Artichoke" of some school in Arizona. The most outrageous food mascot ever could be Endworth College’s "Badnana." This was a banana whose skin was increasingly peeled back during the course of the season, to expose its phallic fruit. (However, the Rhode Island School of Design pushes the anatomical boundaries even more with “Scrotie” a giant…you know what… that, along with “The Jockstraps” (cheerleaders), root on the school’s teams “The Nads” (hockey) and “The Balls” (basketball).
Mascots have become a scourge nationally, if not worldwide. Can you remember any of the Olympic mascots? Of course not, because they were created by someone who was obviously under the influence. The line has to be drawn people. And as Michigan fans, you’re in the forefront of the anti-mascot crusade. No poor student wearing a smelly costume with a too big head will roam our sidelines! Ever!
Michigan 41 Illinois 17
By Nick RoUMel
Nobody expects Illinois to beat Michigan. Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition either, yet it still happened.
Every time Michigan plays Illinois we are favored. Yet during the throes of “The Curse of Dino” (Football Guide 11/16/96), we failed to win two consecutive matchups against Illinois that we were expected to win handily. Another heartbreaker occurred in 1999.
The point is that Michigan has been involved in far too many games where the unexpected has occurred, defying the pundits who pick the percentages. Today will be one of those days.
Yes, certain things can be counted on. Homecoming will be a grand time, with grey haired alumni honorees and former cheerleaders squeezing into their old uniforms. An impressive flyover will occur; the Wolverines will burst through the tunnel; and Denard will dazzle. The student section will stand the entire game, and despite a cold rain, drunken frat boys will stand shirtless, with runny maize and blue paint on their hairless chests.
And before the game, tens of thousands of fans will fruitlessly seek the passer-outers of the free Michigan Football Guide, to see what Punt and Counterpunt have to say about the game. (Hey, fans! We’re online now—it’s SO 21st Century!) After the game, Punt will soak his feet in Epsom salts and enjoy a Long Island Iced Tea.
Other events will be less predictable. Will Fitzgerald Toussaint gain more than 50 yards? Will Jose “Papagrande” Valverde hold the Tigers’ lead? [ed: no.] And will the Inquisitors come to your house in the dead of night, and torture you until you confess your lifetime loyalty to the Michigan Wolverines?
Here is where Counterpunt, seized with uncertainty, will go out on a limb. Cobbling together scant evidence, I predict a stunning Illinois victory. After all, they did trounce Western Michigan, and shut out Charleston Southern. Compared to that, Michigan will be low hanging fruit.
So brave the rain and admire the drunken frat boys, but otherwise, prepare for the unexpected. It’s the only way to survive Saturday’s Inquisition.
ILLINOIS 27, MICHIGAN 26
|WHAT||Michigan vs Illinois|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||3:30 PM EST
October 13th, 2012
|THE LINE||M -25|
|TELEVISION||ESPN/ABC reverse mirror (I KNOW)
|WEATHER||around 50, light rain all day w storms at gametime|
Bring your ponchos out. Image via Dubsism.
HEY GUYS I'M KIND OF TERRIBLY SICK AND IF THIS IS LATE AND MAYBE LESS EFFORTFUL THAN NORMAL JUST BLAME EVERYTHING EXCEPT ME.
Run Offense vs Illinois
Do not get used to this statement about the Illini football team: hey, this isn't half bad. Every other Illini stat of relevance languishes 80th or below; Illinois is 38th in rush defense despite acquiring almost no sacks. The problems only happen against bad BCS rushing offenses:
PSU is currently 80th, Wisconsin 90th in rush offense. Arizona State is okay at 55th. The week before the Illinois-Wisconsin game, the Badgers got Montee Ball 93 yards… on 31 carries. You can probably chalk the relative statistical success here up to schedule effects that will evaporate as the season goes along.
Spence's star has started to fade without departed defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Akeem Spence*/DL/Illinois: Spence recorded 9 tackles during the loss to Penn State, but the statistics don't tell the whole story. The junior tackle was manhandled most of the game and pushed off the line of scrimmage or controlled in man-on-man blocking. Spence did not turn in a terrible performance, but did not look like the first-round prospect most believe him to be.
My memories of Spence are mostly David Molk reaching him like a boss.
Okay, okay, but Wisconsin had about half of those yards in the fourth quarter when things got out of hand, and Michigan has not been pushing guys around. Everyone's concerned about Fitz Toussaint's production, or lack thereof, and despite the numbers above this just doesn't seem like a slam dunk, especially if Michigan is going to put the passing game in the barn again.
That said, fits and starts are the order of the day, with starts being long long runs when Illinois busts something and the fits coming when one of their players shoves someone other than Lewan into the backfield. It'll be an ugh-ugh-WOO kind of thing.
Key Matchup: Mealer/Omameh/Barnum versus Spence and Other Guy. Would like to see some movement here, some inside zone doubles that actually come off, some Toussaint yards. Our operative theory so far is that it's hard to deal with Short and ND's 3-4s in Michigan's non-Denard Run Game; movement Saturday is necessary to continue that narrative.
[Hit THE JUMP for Champaign
Wondering why you are all the wonderful things you are.
Don't tell Danny Hope, but there was more than one hard-G GIF animating the boards this week. The Flying Denard Photoshop thread, as cropped by blue95, was almost as fruitful as the Lewan twosie and worth your visit. Denard can be seen attacking imperial walkers, pulling Santa's sleigh, riding Falcor, and traveling via DeLorean back to 2011 to screw Tommy Rees. Drkboarder wins two internets for that last. More from the board later; first diaries.
They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. In case you missed it among the 10/10/2012 post-a-thon, turd fuguson's graphic representation of the B1G 2013 classes is quite helpful so long as you can resist the urge to defrag it:
Why do so many people have to die for the crime of the century? The newest addition to the weeklies is a preview of the opponent's defense, Illinois being the flavor du semaine. This is death by trident, the guy I bumped for his Purdue front 7 preview last week. He followed up with the Purdue secondary after that. The Illinois one covers personnel, stats, and a lot of scheme: You'll recognize some of Ohio State's terminology on this one. He nailed the thing about Supo Sanni. He also brought up the thing about how this is another game Toussaint dominated last year, not that they're all that likely to try the same "force Denard beat us with his legs" gambit that worked so well for Purdue. Diarist of the Week, this. Other weeklies:
ST3: Inside the Box Score was quickly disabused of any notion that the Purdue game was closer than it looked. Revel.
Enjoy Life: Statistics and FEI Prediction is starting to come back to common perception, with Michigan ranked 24th overall. And here's a weird thing that shows just how far we've come: the defense is ranked ahead of the offense. Turnover Analysis shows just one forced fumble all year, which may be keeping the recovery rate depressed.
[After THE JUMP, the board produces an NFL depth chart of Wolverines, and we grieve for some heavy losses to the world of sports.]