"Wait, I just looked at Mattison. He had about three or four of these [tape recorders] here. Can somebody explain that to me? I get up here and [omg there are so many.]"
You talk softly. Honestly.
"I don't understand."
"Speak up!? I've never had anybody tell me that was a problem."
What did you like from the first game?
"Well, we had some very nice plays. We ran some plays that were executed very very well. We had a reverse that was done pretty well. We had a couple play-action passes that were nicely done. We had some outside zone plays that got the corner nice, and we [were able to make] one-cut and run. I think those things were good. The biggest issues were interceptions. That's got to go away, because that's going to come back and haunt you, and then we had some penalties. Most of them were from first time players. Not all of them, but some of them were first-time players. We had a false start. We had a premature snap one time. So, you know, I hope that's first game stuff. It'll go away as we play more."
How does Drake Johnson's injury change the running back position?
"Well it's just one less guy. He was the first guy up after Fitz [Toussaint]. He was playing well and he was really learning our offense from the perspective of protection. He was a guy that was able to do some of the things Fitz could do, [Thomas] Rawls could do, guys that have been in our system for a while. So that hurts. That hurts. He's a good player who's going to become a better player as he plays more. Hurts our depth and we lose a guy that's not only a good offensive player but a good special teams player, too."
Football is back, and major props go to drum major—and Belleville native—Jeff Okala for nailing the traditional back-bend in his very first game:
I love that the BTN showed large portions of the pregame show; they had three(!) different camera angles of Michigan touching the banner. This one's my favorite:
Of course, I'm sure you want to see GIFs from the actual game. For Kyle Kalis and Devin Funchess setting their phasers to "kill", Taylor Lewan dominating with however many arms he pleases, epic ninja Hokepoint, and much more, read on below the jump.
- Boo boo watch: Joe Reynolds "feels better each day." I don't know what that means. Courtney Avery is "close" to being able to play.
- Derrick Green is second on the depth chart.
- Brady Hoke thinks depth charts are silly.
- The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry is a pretty meaningful one, yeah.
- Interior line did pretty okay.
- Erik Magnuson has gotten stronger to earn playing time.
- Missed tackles vs. CMU were not so much the issue on defense. Cupping the ball was.
“Thanks for coming out. I know some of you would rather be on a boat on a lake, but it's football season so you don't have that opportunity. You know, as far as last weekend, I was pleased we won the game. At the same time there was a lot of things that we talked about as a football team, as a staff, that we can do better. There’s a lot of work. There’s no excuse for some of the penalties we had from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint. We had a couple returns that Dennis [Norfleet] did a nice job on, but obviously were canceled out. The turnovers -- can't have three turnovers. We lost five games a year ago, and we had 18 turnovers in those five games.
“From a defensive perspective, we got two turnovers, but we need to get more. There were a lot of good things, but for us to be a championship football team, we have to do a much better job in how we play. I thought the tempo in the first half and a little bit of the second quarter from an offensive point of view wasn't really what we needed. I think they got a rhythm and they started to do some very good things. Obviously Devin [Gardner] has a great ability running with the football and throwing the football, so I think he helped us a ton some times in there. When we settled down a little bit, we got into the run game pretty well. I thought the defense stood up well in some sudden change situations. We got to play a lot of guys. There were 11 true freshmen and 14 redshirt freshmen who played in the football game. So that was good because they need the experience.
“As you know and I know, this is a different week. It's a great rivalry game that's been played starting in 1887. It's a great rivalry game, and it's always a lot of fun. The atmosphere here, if you were here for the first night game, the second one should be just as fun. So with that, any questions?”
The feeling was boredom, interspersed with brief moments of Norfleet-related anticipation that ended an ankle-tackle away from being actual excitement.
Boredom, in this case, was a great feeling—a pleasant return to normalcy for Michigan. A home opener against a directional Michigan school, a 50-point lead heading into the third quarter, a fourth quarter spent looking up numbers of various freshmen and walk-ons while fretting about burned redshirts; this is how it's supposed to go, fergodsakes.
The Wolverines got on the board before the Big House crowd even got a chance to see the much-anticipated new offense, as freshman defensive back Dymonte Thomas screamed off the edge to block a Central Michigan punt on the opening drive of the game; senior receiver Joe Reynolds scooped up the loose ball and took it 30 yards to give Michigan a 7-0 lead.
A muffed punt by Dennis Norfleet, recovered by Delano Hill at Michigan's seven-yard line, led to an inauspicious start for Devin Gardner; after his first pass of the season was dropped by Devin Funchess, he telegraphed a quick out to Drew Dileo, and CMU's Jarret Chapman jumped the route for an easy interception.
Michigan's defense held strong, though, forcing the Chippewas to settle for a field goal. Gardner was in fine form on the subsequent drive, picking up a first down with his legs, then buying time for Drew Dileo to find a wide open hole in the Central defense on a 3rd-and-4 for a 36-yard catch-and-run. On the very next play, Gardner stood tall in the pocket, couldn't find an open receiver, and waltzed untouched into the end zone for a 22-yard score (right, Upchurch).
From there, the Wolverines didn't look back. A 38-yard run on a Dennis Norfleet reverse set up a one-yard touchdown run for Fitz Toussaint, who looked back to his old self—aside from missing a couple open cutback lanes—in rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries. After another Gardner hiccup—an overthrow to Gallon that resulted in his second interception—led to a second Jason Wilson field goal, cutting the lead to 21-6, the redshirt junior quarterback roared back with an 11-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Jeremy Gallon. After Raymon Taylor jumped an Alex Niznak throw to the perimeter, nearly taking the interception back for a touchdown, Gardner finished the first half with a four-yard scoring run, again making his trip to the end zone look downright easy. Despite the pair of turnovers—and a punt block for a touchdown that didn't count towards the yardage numbers—Michigan held a 243-139 edge in total offense and a 35-6 halftime lead.
The onslaught didn't stop there. Michigan's opening drive of the second half featured a 45-yard play-action pass from Gardner to Reynolds; two plays later, Toussaint tallied his second score of the day from two yards out. After another quick defensive stop, freshman running backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith combined to run on each of Michigan's ten plays, including a 30-yard Green scamper on a zone stretch and the five-star's first career touchdown on a goal-line scrum.
Sacks by Brennen Beyer and Mario Ojemudia forced another three-and-out, and from there the backups took over. Freshman quarterback Shane Morris quarterbacked the next drive, completing a 36-yard pass to Devin Funchess before Thomas Rawls rumbled into the end zone from five yards out, giving the Wolverines a 56-6 lead as the third quarter expired.
The rest, as they say, was academic. The fourth-quarter monotony was broken briefly by a 36-yard punt return by Norfleet, who was one man away from scoring; a Morris interception on a tipped pass; and a forced fumble by freshman cornerback Channing Stribling just two plays later, recovered by Delonte Hollowell. That third play led to a 30-yard Gibbons field goal—his 14th consecutive make, tying a school record held by Remy Hamilton*—that gave the game its final margin: 59-9, Michigan.
Funchess sporting his new Ron Kramer Legacy jersey (Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)
Aside from the two picks, Gardner looked like the superstar he's expected to be in his first year as the full-time starter, averaging 10.8 yards per attempt and rushing for 52 yards on seven carries; CMU couldn't keep him in the pocket and couldn't stop him when he escaped, including one play in which Gardner comically olé'd an awaiting defender hoping to hit him on the sideline.
His ESP-level connection with Gallon showed, as well; Gallon caught four passes for 47 yards and had a second touchdown catch wiped out when Taylor Lewan
wandered downfield illegally rode his donkey too far even from the generous blocking zone they give linemen on play-action these days. Funchess and Reynolds both impressed, as well, and while each left the game due to injury, those dings appeared minor. Brady Hoke said after the game that Funchess left the game due to a cramp (an unfortunately-placed one, given the rather sensitive area he clutched after his long catch), while there was no report on the status of Reynolds.
Defensively, Beyer was a consistent presence in the backfield as a lineman in Greg Mattison's nickel package, tallying a sack and another TFL. Cam Gordon, playing in place of the injured Jake Ryan, looked fantastic in tallying a pair of sacks among his 2.5 TFLs, lining up at both strongline linebacker and defensive end and playing both well. Desmond Morgan took to his new position as the MIKE with aplomb, leading the team with seven tackles despite heavy rotation in the front seven. While the much-balleyhooed Frank Clark recorded a lone QB hurry, his backup, Mario Ojemudia, came up with a sack and looked like a very solid option at weakside DE.
Of the true freshmen to see their first action—and there were many—it was Stribling who impressed the most; he was Michigan's field corner when they went into the nickel package, and while he gave up a couple catches, he showed off his playmaking ability by stripping CMU's Andrew Flory after one of those receptions. Linebacker Ben Gedeon also played well in his first career action, tallying four tackles; "The Freak" didn't look out of place at weakside linebacker.
The only major points of concern were Gardner's two picks—hopefully those can be chalked up to opening-game rust, as he otherwise looked like a Heisman candidate—and the play of the safeties. Jarrod Wilson and Josh Furman blew a couple assignments, though there's a good chance that neither is starting by mid-September—strong safety Thomas Gordon sat out the game for a "violation of team rules" and Courtney Avery could factor in at free safety when he recovers from knee surgery, hopefully in time for next week's game but more likely for Akron. The offensive line had its moments, good and bad; Al Borges called for a lot of zone running plays instead of asking for his two new guards, Kyle Kalis and Graham Glasgow, to pull; Kalis played a very solid game, featuring a bone-crushing body-slam on Gardner's first touchdown run, while Glasgow and center Jack Miller had their ups and downs.
Michigan's fans trickled out of the stadium throughout the fourth quarter, content that their team took care of a MAC opponent like Wolverines should: devouring them alive. There was little reason to stay, more competitive football games to watch, and celebratory beers to drink. Cheers to a new season, a 1-0 record, and zero heart attacks.
*If you've just woken up from a three-year slumber, this is somehow not a joke.
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST
Rating: 4 of 5. Yeah, I said it.
|FEATURE BACK||Yr.||SHORT YARDAGE||Yr.||3RD DOWN||YR.|
|Fitzgerald Toussaint||Sr.*||Derrick Green||Fr.||Justice Hayes||So.*|
|De'Veon Smith||Fr.||Thomas Rawls||Jr.||Fitzgerald Toussaint||Sr.*|
|Drake Johnson||Fr.*||De'Veon Smith||Fr.||Drake Johnson||Fr.*|
The Man Comes Around
"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer that could approach six yards a carry." –Albert Camus
Toussaint rehabbed with a vengeance, and went into spring camp with a vengeance, and hopes to confront the Big Ten in superhero outfit and big guns this fall. His coaches have taken notice. Borges:
"Fitz has got fire in his eyes. I see no signs of any injury ... He is very hungry.
"One thing about running backs, it's not like the lines. You get to see them cut, even if it's not live or not with pads on. His stop and go ability looks to be right back where it was."
Fullback Joe Kerridge looks like a cross between a refrigerator and a bear (more on this in the Tight End And Friends section) and says Toussaint outworked even him over the summer:
"He busted his butt to get back before the start of camp. It seemed like every time I went in this summer to lift or do conditioning, Fitz was already there and he would still be there after I left."
When fall camp launched, the immediate and consistent buzz was that Toussaint was back to his old self—his old-old self. Tellingly, the coaches didn't dance around the topic like they do on most every other personnel battle. First he was back, then he was playing very well, then he was leading, and then it was his job, full stop.
So… what now?
[after THE JUMP: Yeah, what now? Freshmen are large men. A replacement for Vincent Smith, and veterans trying to hold off the youngsters.]
- Shane Morris is the backup QB.
- No decision on center or left guard yet, where Jack Miller, Graham Glasgow, and Chris Bryant are playing musical chairs.
- Michigan has a lot of receivers whose first names start with the letter "J."
- Matt Wile will handle all kicking duties other than regular field goals and PATs.
- Norfleet is the kick returner. Norfleet will probably be the punt returner. Norfleet4Life.
"We have nine games before we open up and Team 134 gets an opportunity for their first impression. I think we've had a very good camp. We have two days left of camp, and tomorrow we'll start looking more at Central Michigan, scout teams, look teams, that sort of thing. The coaches have already been breaking down that opponent in the summer. Really the last couple days, [we'll be] getting back to it a little more at the stadium, [run] about the half the number of plays of Saturday's scrimmage. I thought we came out, played hard. I think we'll get some answers on some rotations or spots, if you want to call them that as we look at the tape tonight and keep evaluating through the end of camp."