"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
I'm so artsy.
Not to be a total buzzkill or anything, and this is totally the best way to open up a presser after a 63-13 blowout win, but can you talk about your pick six. What did you see there?
Denard: “Uh. Jeremy Jackson came open. I just threw it behind him. It was just a bad, bad throw. It was a good read, just a bad throw. I have to put my feet into it and follow through with the throw.”
On your ermahgerd touchdown, Joe Kerridge blocked for you. Did you notice that?
Denard: “Um… I mean, when you’re on the football field, everybody on the team has to be accountable. Even from the scouts and everybody. When Joey gets on the field I know he’s going to be accountable. He just told me about it. He said, ‘Man, I came in and chipped him,’ and he says [the other guy’s] mouthpiece came out, so it was pretty funny.”
With Notre Dame a week away, is this a game you needed to have?
Denard: “Yeah we needed to get a good win. Every day we need to come out and get better. When we came out today I felt like we got better but we still have some things we have to work on.”
(After the jump, more questions -- some fluffy, some confrontational, some misunderstood -- and maybe one or two interesting responses.)
Brady Hoke, before he was cool.
Three games in, what about your team is developing well?
“Um. It’s a really good question. I think, uh, we’re progressing a little bit in the two areas that are the most concerning, and that’s up front defensively and up front offensively. I don’t think we’re close to where we should be and where we need to be, so we’ll go back to work and keep working it. I like the attitude our team's had and how they’ve come to work, but I think for us to meet the expectations that we have, we have to get a lot better.”
How would you assess how your offense ran the two-minute drill?
“I thought once we knew we were getting the ball back, we wanted to go, and they did a nice job with it. I’m not going to recite every play to you, but I thought we were good with the timeouts when we took them and what we needed to do.”
How important was it to come out of this game without any injuries? Did you have any reservations about playing Denard when you were up 49-13?
“Well we wanted to play another series, and this is all about trying to get the mindset of a team and the mentality to win a championship, and keeping the offense together was a big part of that, and letting them finish. I don’t know if we got any boo boos today, but we’re having one of those years where a lot of guys are getting dinged up.”
How would you assess Fitz and the running backs?
“I think he did okay. I think we’re a little - there were a couple times where I’d like to see him stick his foot in the ground and be more vertical with some stuff.”
Status of Desmond Morgan and Stephen Hopkins?
“They should be back next week.”
What’s the issue with Morgan’s head?
“Uh, a head thing. I don’t know what they classify him as. Sometimes you just get dinged.”
Is this a type of game that you needed to have before getting into the brunt of your schedule?
“We would have taken any win.”
What did you see from the offensive line today?
“Oh I didn’t think we moved the line of scrimmage as well as we needed to.”
What do you need to see from them in order to accomplish that?
“Well we better play with better leverage, and we better combination block better when we’re doing that, and we better finish.”
Would you contemplate shaking up the starting lineup?
“I think you willl evaluate like you always do.”
Vincent Smith had a couple touchdowns. How did he play?
“Vince is a guy who whenever you call his number, he’s pretty much going to perform. It’s not surprising. When you look at what he’s done for Michigan football and how he comes to work every day, it’s not surprising.”
You don’t sound like a coach that has won by 50 points. Are you disappointed? Can you give an assessment of where you’re at?
“I think we’re getting a feel, but these kids have worked hard, and they’ve worked hard throughout -- since last January, and they have high expectations. It’s our job to be honest and be real and push them to where they can meet those expectations. I told them the same thing I told you. It’s great to win. But if we want to win the Big Ten championship, we need to improve a lot in a lot of areas, and they start up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage.”
What kind of gains can you make from a game like this?
“Well, there’s always a team morale factor, and being able to play a lot of guys, a lot of guys who have worked hard, a lot of guys on the look teams, them having the ability to play in this football team in from of 100,000 family and friends, I think that’s great. That’s what you want to happen. The other gains are not just for those guys who got that opporunity but for us as a team to improve. The kicking game, on offense, and on defense. Turnovers -- we’ve been terrible, terrible, of creating turnovers. If we don’t start creating turnovers, we’re going to get beat because we need to give more opportunities to our offense. Running the football and defending the run. I think they were seven of 17 on third down -- UMass was. We had some opportunities to make some stops and we didn’t make them. I’m either answering your question or I’m rambling …”
Are you at the point where you’re a little frustrated with the offensive line?
“I’m not frustrated with them. I wasn’t frustrated before with them because I know how hard they go to work and how much work they put into it. At the same time we have to do it better. So, frustrated? I’m not frustrated. I like the offensive line. It’s my favorite part of the football team because of the work they do. I put a lot of pressure on them. We put a lot of pressure on them, just like we do with the defensive line. But if your’e going to be good at football, you better be good at your offensive line and your defensive line.”
How important is it to find a playmaker on offense other than Denard?
“That’s a big part of it, and that’s why we need to block better in the traditional run plays with the running back. I think there’s some playmakers on the offense, at receiver, at tight end. Devin’s a guy who -- he’s a freshman, he’s still got a lot to learn, but he’s a playmaker. We have to find more, but trying to get your running back to be a playmaker is blocking at the point of attack.”
It’s very clear you’re not happy with the run defense.
“I think you are to some degree. They had four senior offensive linemen who were pretty good football players. Mike Cox was a scholarship athlete here at the University of Michigan. Mike, when there’s a hole there, he runs it pretty well. Totally? Probably not, when you get into a power running team.”
So were you pleased?
MGoQuestion: It looked like Matt Wile was varying the angle and direction of his kickoffs. Was that part of the plan, and what were you hoping to accomplish with that?
“Yeah we were trying to, just like everything else, your kicking game -- we felt that the first two ball games, we didn’t play as well as we needed to. The Alabama game we had three blocks in the back on kick returns that kills you. And then last week, we didn’t think we were consistent enough. Part of that is trying to place the ball on kickoffs. He did the pooch punting because he had a little pineapple kick -- I don’t know what they call it, that’s what I call it -- but he does it pretty effectively. Yeah we were trying to spread the ball a little bit.”
Drew Dileo. Nice surprise?
“Drew is not the biggest the cat in the world, but he’s a got a heart that’s huge, and he loves the game of football. Every day Drew comes out and we ask him to do a lot, and he does it well for us. So it’s not surprising.”
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
A half-empty student section, a press box full of beat writers already finishing their game columns, a field littered with walk-ons and freshmen; with eight minutes remaining in the final stanza, Michigan Stadium exhibited all the telltale signs of a blowout. A one-yard touchdown run by Justice Hayes had just given the Wolverines a 63-13 lead, one that stood as the final margin.
After the last two weeks, this was a welcome sight indeed.
Denard Robinson overcame an ugly pick-six to complete 16-of-24 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground to lead the way offensively. Robinson spread the ball around to nine different receivers, led by Drew Dileo's 91 yards on three receptions. The stars from last week, Devins Funchess and Gardner, each recorded a touchdown reception—Gardner's on a stellar effort to tightrope the sideline and dive for the pylon—and the enigmatic Roy Roundtree found paydirt for the first time this season.
It was a rebound performance for Fitzgerald Toussaint, as well, as he gained 85 yards on 15 carries, showing off the agility in tight quarters that made him so effective last season; after finding little room to operate against Air Force, Toussaint reached the edge on his 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter with help from an A.J. Williams block. Vincent Smith added a pair of touchdowns from inside the ten, Thomas Rawls doled out more punishment than he took, Justice Hayes recorded his first career score, and Dennis Norfleet made his offensive debut with a 15-yard jet sweep that surely made Brian one very happy blogger.
Michigan fans were even treated to a Fat Guy Touchdown, courtesy of a Taylor Lewan recovery after Denard fumbled into the end zone. Lewan, for his part, appeared more concerned about his quarterback's error than excited for his own fortune, sheepishly pointing his palms towards the sky when the officials belatedly signaled touchdown.
The defense limited UMass to 259 yards of total offense, though there was still reason for concern. The Minutemen doubled their offensive scoring output from their first two games—six points—and strung together three first downs in a drive for the first time this year. This should not cause PANIC, of course—six points, fergodsakes—but there are still issues to be resolved, especially on the interior of the D-line.
UMass got paid. Michigan got a chance to breathe easy and give their backups plenty of run. Now the team can look ahead to Saturday night's matchup with Notre Dame; for today, they can feel content about handling business as expected. With the baby seal emphatically clubbed, it's time to move on to the real season, not unscathed but with the ultimate goal—a Big Ten championship—still within reach.
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
In the past year, you’ve gotten a lot of ink for your commitment to have Michigan play the most entertaining schedule they possibly can. And while this season’s schedule has plenty of marquee games, you’ve failed to address the worst inequity facing season ticker holders. This is the dreaded ‘every other year is great’ syndrome. This is something that has to be addressed.
I’m not the first, nor the last, person to point out this feast or famine pattern in the schedule. Last year was fat city; great excitement, record crowds. The Irish, Huskers and Buckeyes; all were gracing the Big House. This year, all we’ve got is Sparty. Now I’m not pooh-poohing the MSU game. It’s arguably one of the biggest games in recent program history – the Wolverines need a win badly. But one big game does not make a season.
If you doubt the lack of interest in this year’s home schedule, look no further than my column-mate, Counterpunt. Counterpunt has yet to attend a home game—and won't be in the stands today. The runt was all fired up to make a last minute, 1200 mile road trip to Dallas. But negotiating the 2.3 miles from his abode to Michigan Stadium has thus far, proven to be an insurmountable task. And what is it that’s kept my esteemed colleague away? Why it’s soccer! Counterpunt would rather attend a tweenies’ girls’ soccer game than make an appearance at Stadium & Main. Who knew? (I guess he’s technically coaching, but that’s a matter of opinion.)
While this might make Counterpunt a candidate for dad of the year, it’s also somewhat of a commentary on the unattractiveness of what’s being presented. Would it be too big of a sacrifice to offer to play two away games in one of these series, just to even out the schedule? Especially, if giving up home games to accommodate “spread the brand” appearances, is going to be the name of the game in the future.
I’ll admit today’s game will be great for those who like blowouts. Frankly, UMass probably isn’t good enough to be in the MAC at this point. I think the only way Michigan doesn’t score half a hundred, is if Coach Hoke starts substituting early and often. Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to enjoy my doublewide, cushioned seat. It’s costing me enough. Go Blue!
Michigan 54 UMass 10
By Nick RouMel
Nearly two years ago today, after starting the season 2-0 including a stirring win at Notre Dame, Michigan played the tiny, insignificant University of Massachusetts “Minute Men” in the Big House. They barely escaped with a 42-37 win, unable to stop UMass, which gained 439 yards and scored 20 points in the 4th quarter.
I fear a similar result today. And yes, I understand UMass is now 0-2, and that Brian calls them the football equivalent of a baby seal. As if we Wolverines are anything so fearsome, padding across the ice floe with our Nerf club in hand, causing said baby seal only mild curiosity.
Which is why, Punt, instead of sitting with you on your cushy, hemorrhoid-resistant stadium cushion, I am choosing to coach my 11th grade girls’ travel soccer team, the MPSA Crush “Fighting Pumas,” in a tournament in Linden, Michigan. (And these 16 year old young women, who for the most part have drivers’ licenses, would take mighty offense at you calling them “tweenies,” if they cared even one whit about the opinions of the self-described “geezer” Punt.)
(Remember last week, when Punt got all excited when a young woman at work admired his maize and blue bulletin board push pins? Punt is much like the old dog on the front porch, who watches the squirrels cavort not twenty feet from his nose, but too tired to actually do anything about it.)
Except to navigate those 2.3 miles to the Big House, and fancy himself active and energetic, wearing his maize and blue checkered “Sans-A-Belt” pants, sitting on his soft cushion, and lifting his bottom six inches when the “wave” comes his way. Punt is as responsive as the Michigan linebackers, when a couple of Minute Men come lumbering their way, turning their heads in apparent surprise, followed several seconds later by the realization that they must give chase.
You, Punt. Go watch those Wolverines, as they barely escape the inexplicably motivated baby seals. In turn, I will pace the sideline of the soccer pitch, cheering on my Pumas, immune from the criticism of blogs, sportswriters, and snarky pseudo-journalists such as myself.
Hmm, maybe I’m actually the one looking for the soft, cushy Saturday, hiding in Linden from our lumbering linebackers, who will get the job done in the end, when they have to.
MICHIGAN 28, UMASS 24
Technically incorrect, which is the best kind of incorrect. This is BWS's UMass preview in full:
Awesome. MVictors and the Hoover Street Rag have collaborated on a historic Michigan calendar that tells you, for instance, that tomorrow is the anniversary of the "Yakety Sacks" game against Jimmy Clausen… and that Sunday tomorrow is the damned Kick It To Rocket anniversary. Also, March 7th is Alijah Bradley's birthday.
How do we wiki this thing?
Speaking of that money. Another reason real games are becoming more viable:
Per MassLive's report, Massachusetts got $390,000 to come to Ann Arbor two seasons ago. …
According to MassLive, Michigan is getting somewhat of a deal this season with regard to UMass' guaranteed money price tag -- as the school will receive roughly $800,000 to play the likes of Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Penn State in the future before grabbing a whopping $1.25 million to play Florida in 2016.
That's inflation far outpacing ticket prices. Since the TV money is essentially negligible—split with the conference—that's a motivator to play real teams to keep fan interest up. That increase is probably how the Oregon State and Colorado games got done. Those will cost more—CU got two million for a one-off with OSU—but not enough to offset the actual opponents bump they bring. Yeah, even Colorado. Death to Hail Marys.
Never forget (not that Never Forget.) Or that other one. This one:
Let us all take the opportunity to reminisce.
We must keep Notre Dame in our lives, people of Michigan. Be you green or blue, you must know this.
Whoah. Via Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat, the best darn football/cossack blog on the internet:
Understanding the Big Ten's rough weekend really can't be completed without a guide to what disappointed coaches look like when compared to specific Zaporozhian Cossacks.
I don't even know what he's talking about, but I'm still amazed.
Kramer stuff. His jersey will be un-retired this weekend and folks are talking to other folks about stuff:
The Michigan Daily: What are your emotions, what are your family’s emotions as your grandfather’s number is put back into circulation this weekend?
Kelsey Kramer: My family is thrilled. It’s kind of a cool thing for me, being a student here. I know a lot of kids my age don’t necessarily know about him, so for me it’s neat that it’s back on the field. It’s going to draw a lot of attention to that and the memory of him playing here, in a way.
Kramer stories are the best stories; look for a few in Greg Dooley's article in the game program.
ND stuff. They're adding a game or two to their ACC schedule, and more importantly, aren't going to pick who they play. The ACC will do that, and they'll do that by rotating through their entire collection of pretty awful football teams. This puts ND's various Big Ten series in doubt because the really important thing is to keep playing Stanford for some reason. 5 + 3 + 3 == 11, meaning that if ND keeps playing their three (almost) annual Big Ten opponents they'd have only one other slot to hand out, and up to three(!) actually good opponents in any one year—USC, Michigan, and VT/Clemson/FSU.
So ND is rumbling about reducing playing games against MSU (a total of 69 meetings), Purdue (80 meetings), and Michigan (33 meetings, the vast majority of them classics) so they can play Stanford for some reason. Brandon's said he would like to keep the series going…
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon says he hopes to keep playing football with Notre Dame after their contract expires in 2020. … Brandon says it's up to the Fighting Irish to decide how to schedule the rivalry. The teams meet yearly through 2017 before taking a previously scheduled hiatus in 2018-19.
…but who knows if that will happen.
Anyone who wants to stop playing ND is nuts. It's an easy road trip, the fans there are incredibly nice, you get more credit for beating them than you deserve, and Michigan has feasted on ND hearts for five of the last six years. The Notre Dame series is fantastic, and it's not like you can't schedule a second real team despite having that. Michigan State has Oregon and Alabama lined up in the future, and college football is moving towards a committee approach that has schedule strength as a point of emphasis. ND is not a death knell for playing other interesting opponents going forward.
Meanwhile, think of what Notre Dame has given us. Awful, awful things like Rocket and Harry Oliver. Awesome things like Yakety Sax, Yakety Sax II, "Oh Wide Open," and the last three years. Charlie Weis. Lou Holtz. Freekbass. NDNation. NDNation!
Not playing Notre Dame is stupid. It's stupid that Michigan doesn't play them in basketball and stupid that they seemingly won't be playing much in hockey after the CCHA breaks up. More Notre Dame. Always Notre Dame. They are the perfect foil. I love them, the bastards. Let's never stop playing them. Amen.
Etc.: Freep Deathwatch continued. Tyler Eifert is a WR for ND, mostly. File under "scouting" and "something Devin Funchess might end up doing." Manny Harris to Ukraine. Commence Seinfeld Risk jokes. Brian Kruger discusses Black and Blue on WTKA. Ufer retrospective from the Daily. Nick Saban DB technique. Starting DT off Nebraska team after getting blitzed for 600+ yards by UCLA.