the season has truly begun now
America's fav. commentator Kirk herbstreit jus said on CFL "Mike Martin and Jeff Van Bergen really need to step up on the DL this week". Just thought that was funny, but on to business. After NU, our defense is still only giving up 12.5 points and we already have forced 17 TO (19 all last year), but I know that we haven't faced MSU yet. I think Mattison is going to hit Cousins early and it will affect him the rest of the game (a couple TOs). I say 20 pts How many do you think we give up to Lil Bro?
Also, who do you think steps up this week?? I think Mark Martin gets to Cousins and Countless steps up again....oops!
Yesterday I was unable to watch the game, but I was receiving score updates throughout. When we were down 24-14 at the half, I told my Dad I wasn't too worried because they seem to be a 2nd half team. When I said this, I was mainly thinking about the defense. I couldn't think of any one thing to attribute it to, maybe Mattison had been making good adjustments or maybe the team just seemed to be playing better. What started off as a general statement (from someone who admittedly has a limited knowledge about football) made me want to look in to what I said, maybe back it up with stats, so I looked into it. These are just stats so take from it what you will, but I spent time looking the stuff up so I figured I would share it.
WMU (not a full game)
1st: 10, 194 yards, 1 punt, 1 turnover (interception)
2nd: 0, 60 yards, 1 punt, 2 turnovers (2 fumbles)
1st: 17, 251 yards, 1 punt, 2 turnovers (2 interceptions)
2nd: 14, 270 yards, 3 punts, 2 turnovers (2 fumbles)
1st: 3, 172 yards, 2 punts, 3 turnovers (1 on downs, 1 interception, 1 fumble)
2nd: 0, 36 yards, 3 punts
1st: 0, 138 yards, 2 punts, 3 turnovers (1 on downs, 2 fumbles)
2nd: 7, 207 yards, 3 punts, 4 turnovers ( 2 on downs, 2 fumbles)
1st: 0, 68 yards, 4 punts, 1 turnover (fumble)
2nd: 0, 107 yards, 6 punts, 1 turnover (fumble)
1st: 24, 307 yards, 2 punts, 1 turnover (on downs)
2nd: 0, 161 yards, 1 punt, 3 turnovers (1 on downs, 1 interception, 1 fumble)
Total with WMU game counted:
1st half: 44 points, 1,130 yds, 12 punts, 11 turnovers (3 on downs, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles)
2nd half: 21 points, 841 yds, 17 punts, 12 turnovers (3 on downs, 1 interception, 8 fumbles)
1st half: 34 points, 936 yds, 11 punts, 10 turnovers (3 on downs, 3 interceptions, 4 fumbles)
2nd half: 21 points, 781 yds, 16 punts, 10 turnovers (3 on downs, 1 interception, 6 fumbles)
Michigan's defense is a strength. Period. Admittedly, Minnesota was awful. And a freshman QB is a deer in the headlights. Having said that, there is no denying the dominance and strength of Michigan's defense. And it isn't done getting better.
- With the score run up, Mattison was able to get lots of backups plenty of playing time and experience, and see what they could do. This builds morale, keeps the starters fresh, and pays big dividends.
- On the DL, we now have seven solid contributors (Martin, VanBergen, Roh, Campbell, Black, Washington, Heininger.) This keeps them fresh, and means less disaster if any one is out. With three and outs, they just stay strong and get stronger.
- In the secondary, we have four solid CB's (Woolfolk, Floyd, Avery, & Countess.) Countess is still making mistakes, but he will be a good one. At safety, Kovacs and Gordon are being freed up to do what they should be doing, and Johnson and Robinson have time to improve. Kovacs continues to do a great job, but doesn't have to bail out everyone else.
- I'd like to see more depth at LB. But so do the coaches, with four 4-star LB recruits already in the fold for next year. This year, Hawthorne, Demens, and Ryan are doing a fine job, with Cam Gordon finally healing up. I'm not as confident in Fitzgerald, Morgan, Beyer, & Herron, but they haven't been exposed . . . yet.
- The whole defense seems to be very opportunistic in causing and recovering fumbles. VanBergen's strip of a RB vs. SDSU was awesome, and seemingly a direct result of coaching. While Avery & Herron were more lucky than good in their scoring TD's, they still seized the opportunity and ran with it.
- Assuming Michigan's defense last year had a failing grade, they have room for huge improvement over the course of this season, up to say, a B+ or A-. If a defense begins the year at B+ or A-, there just isn't as much room (or need, I suppose) to improve.
Special teams is still a work in process, and yet:
- 3 field goals, 7 extra points, one game. That's more points than Vincent Smith scored! Gibbons is heading in the right direction. At the very least, this isn't a liability.
- No fumbled punts or kickoffs this year. And Gallon is going to break some big returns. I would bet on this.
- With Hagerup back, there will be competition at punter, and this will only get better.
- Kickoff coverage is still subpar, but I have to believe after last week, this will be a major point of emphasis in practice. Punt coverage isn't quite as bad, but also a place where there is room for improvement.
The point is, our defense is keeping us in games, and giving the offense the opportunity to shine. I can't quantify it, but I have to believe that there was a heavy psychological weight on the offense last year, knowing that if they didn't score, they were going to lose. (exhibit A: Illinois game.) As we play teams with a staunch defense (MSU, Nebraska, even Ohio,) the offense can play with a different mindset. They can do all they can to gain yards and score, but the game isn't lost if they DON'T score. Really, both defense and offense have the other's back. This balance strengthens both.
I'm going to the game this Saturday, and honestly, I hope Persa plays, and plays well. I still think the defense will shut Northwestern down, but I think our D needs the challenge more than another tomato can, as they prepare for MSU. I want to see what our secondary can do against a real passing threat. And I am salivating about our DL going against Michigan State's OL. Cousins better have on a flak jacket.
At this point, I have lost all reason. I believe, looking at our schedule, that we will go 12 - 0, lose to Wisconsin, and win a decent bowl game (having a month to prepare!) for a final record of 13 - 1. The most challenging games remaining are Nebraska and Illinois, and I still think we win both. I could never have predicted this at the beginning of the season.
I know a couple members of the football support staff and spoke to one today about the defense...I was definitely happy to hear that a few changes or "test situations" were spotted on the field.
What I wanted to share was regarding sub packages, situational subbing and changes on the defensive side of the ball. Here are some things that ARE being worked on:
WDE - Roh/Black (rotating)
NG - Martin
DT - Campbell
SDE - Van Bergen
WDE - Heininger
NG - Martin
DT - Campbell
SDE - Van Bergen
WDE - Ryan
NG - Martin
DT - Van Bergen
SDE - Black
WLB - Hawthorne
MLB - Demens
SLB - Gordon/Ryan (rotating)
WLB - Gordon/Hawthorne (rotating)
MLB - Demens
SLB - Ryan
WLB - Hawthorne/Jones
MLB - Demens/Jones
SLB - Gordon (remember, Ryan is at WDE)
I think this is a work in progress, and a lot depends on the health of Hawthorne and Cam Gordon...but it's good to see they're trying things and making personnel adjustments after the first two games. Not to say they weren't practicing these groups before, they were...just more time now. I personally think they're going to try a few "new" things over the next game or two to find out who can play and where he should be playing.
Sidenote: As Wolverines we don't want to be compared to a Buckeye...but when I heard about Ryan playing WDE in passing situations and asked about it, it was "yea, it's crazy, he looks SO much like Bobby Carpenter did late in his career at Ohio, SLB and rush DE on passing down with the locks flowing out the back. But the real similarity is that both are sound and smart players from Ohio who love to HIT!" I looked up Carpenter and they're similar height/weight wise too (I ALMOST said "and they're similar in size too).
I am basking in the glory of our win, so I don't want to come down here at all, but I feel like I should make a note. After our win tonight I was hoping to make the argument that our defense is a turnover generating machine. After all, our backfield did jump a couple of those routes pretty well. However, I'm not sure I can.
Last week we took over versus Western on turnovers. We may have won anyway, but still. This week, Western won, but still had 4 turnovers (2 Int, 2 Fumble) and an additionaly fumble that they recovered. The jury is still out a bit, but I'm not sure we can count on generating these turnovers all season.
Prove me wrong, Mattison!
So... time to start dissecting the defense. Even though the game got called short, we got a full game's worth of defensive snaps thanks to the TDs. My thoughts:
- They don't look great. Minus the 2 obviously awesome plays, the defense was getting picked apart, bit by bit. They did a lot of quick throws to neutralize the pass rush, which should be one of our strengths, and exposed the coverage.
- They didn't give up the big play. While getting dinked and dunked for yardage and first downs is bad, they did not give up crippling plays. This gives me a small amount of hope that we'll be only a slightly below average defense.
- Turnovers and big plays!!! OMG, please yes more of this.
Agreement/disagreement? Other insights???