The second half against ND was not an aberration. He threw only 17 passes today-if he hit 12 or 13 of those including the Roundtree deep ball-wow. The most he's thrown is 24 attempts vs. ND. Why so few attempts for Denard this year? We're playcalling to his strengths while developing balance while winning ball games. It's just a matter of hitting 3-5 more throws a game including a few deep balls. Do you really think he can't improve in his passing?
Please, please hear this quote from last Tuesdays presser w/ Al Borges:
How key is it to have Denard establish a passing game? “It’s critical. We’re about balance. We’re going to find a way to be a balanced football team. We’re going to keep working to that end. We do it everyday in practice. For every run we throw a pass. A lot of people say, ‘What do you do that for? You’re a better running team.’ Well we’ll still be a good running team because we still work on running. But I know that at one point in time it’s going to be a difficult thing to do against certain teams. And if you don’t have the ability to throw it over the top of a defense or under a defense without a relative amount of consistency, it’s going to show up. You have to be able to do it, and we’re never going to give up on it.”
I know this may not be a popular thought. I know plenty of people will thing "who cares? we won the game!"
However, I just rewatched the EMU game and haven't been more upset at the offensive playcalling, especially in a blowout win in...well, maybe in my lifetime.
I was critical of Borges after the ND game, saying that he has not called plays to get Denard in a rhythm all season. Particularly early in the game. He's been BRILLIANT at figuring out the defense and calling plays later in games. I think the numbers prove this thought.
Now I'm going to discredit any plays called inside your own 5 yardline, there is only so much you can do there. But where are the quick slants? the bubble screens? the short rhythm throws to get the QB in sync and the WRs involved. Where are the throws that Oklahoma have been making a living off of for YEARS?! Now do we run that offense or have that personnel? Heck no. But that doesn't mean you can't run some of the same plays.
To me it just seems so obvious because it's two-fold. Not only do you get Denard and the WRs involved and in rhythm...you also loosen up the middle of the defense so that your RBs get more space to operate (or Denard in the run game). As much of a genius as Borges is claimed to be, what is the reasoning for not doing this?
The most frustrating drive for me was actually our first touchdown drive. Denard has a beautiful long run to flip field position, and then we run him like 5-6 times in the next 6-7 plays! #1 let the kid get a breather, #2 don't get the kid hurt, #3 get others involved, #4 this is EMU! why are we wearing down our QB vs. EMU!? and #5 they have 8 guys in the box!
So I ask, was anyone else disappointed and frustrated? Was anyone else hoping to establish a short passing game against EMU and SDSU that we could combine with the deep throws from ND? I'm not saying we need to be the Air Raid offense, I would've just liked to have seen Denard get the "Lloyd Carr - he's a freshman QB treatment" and have a bunch of short throws that gets the ball in the hands of the playmakers and allows them to get involved and make plays early.
Everytime he says something like this, I die a little bit inside.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
So here we are again at the beginning of a new era in Michigan Football, not nearly far enough removed from the last “beginning of a new era”, and once again I find myself seated in front of the computer trying to sort out my feelings on the matter. In truth I had planned on not doing these this year. Most of my impetus for spilling my thoughts here for the past three seasons stemmed from the completely foreign sensation a Rich Rodriguez led Michigan team left me with on fall Saturdays – an out-of-sorts feeling of not really knowing what to expect going forward. While Bo/Mo/Carr teams had a character that evolved so slowly that year-to-year change was almost undetectable, Rich Rod’s first tilt against Utah flipped my perceptions of Michigan completely and it seemed each successive game of the past three seasons distorted my outlook further. Michigan football went from being a solid thing I could count on and often take for granted, to a crapshoot of strangeness that forced me to question my unhealthy obsession with Michigan Football each and every week.
I thought Brady Hoke’s hiring would make things easy again and give me that cock-sure attitude back that said “I don’t need to worry about the details; I can just turn on the TV on Saturday and feel assured that Michigan will most probably win.” My cousin who played DE as a walk on under Hoke assured me that there was no better hire to be had, and that the past would become the future. Hell, maybe it will eventually, but for now the trials of the past few seasons compel me to question what the future has in store.
Learn from yesterday…
What did the game against Western Michigan teach us, and what is left unclear?
· Just because your name is Greg doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate a defense. Seriously, raise your hand if the thought of starting out the season against a very-good, veteran QB didn’t worry you a bit. After last year I was braced for the worst and Carder was every bit the accurate and composed passer he was advertised to be. He shredded our secondary at will until Greg Mattison made adjustments and started getting blitzers through. In truth our defense never truly broke; the longest play allowed was a 24 yard run and the longest reception only netted 20 yards for WMU. I waited all game for the play that would torch us, but the defense did a good enough job of keeping the play in front of them and got aggressive when it was well suited. The end result was something bordering on mediocrity, which felt like competency, and is a win for Mattison for sure. Two defensive touchdowns is a nice start to the season as well.
· Will the Al Borges offense work? Not enough data here really, what with Michigan’s offense having only 6 meaningful drives to look at. The data we have is surely encouraging though. Michigan’s first drive showed a degree of composure and demonstrated an ability to take control of the game tempo. The long runs seemed to be set up for success, especially coming practically back-to-back. We probably would have scored on 4 of 6 drives had the game not been halted, though the other two were 3andouts. Will it work for Denard? I am not so sure of this. The first offensive play from scrimmage looked very familiar indeed. In fact most of the first drive looked much like last year, right down to the amount of punishment Denard was being exposed to. If the defense hadn’t spotted Michigan two touchdowns, I wonder if run-hard Denard would have continued to be the go-to play if the score had remained closer. Denard’s comfort level overall was encouraging though, and he looked much better playing under center than last year.
· +3 on turnovers will make a fairly evenly matched game into a lopsided one. This is obviously true and was on full display in this game. Two of WMU’s three were of the most back-breaking variety imaginable, while the third almost assuredly took points off the board for them. Even the most conservative estimate would have a 20 point swing from turnovers alone. We should all keep in mind that this could have easily been a dogfight to the finish.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Jordan Kovacs– KOVACS!!! KOVACS SMASH!!! KOVACS, KOVACS, KOVACS!!! (I had my four year old son chanting this with me. Kovacs is now the first Michigan player he knows by name.) Seriously, it is insane that this guy came from open tryouts. He is my favorite player.
2. Brandon Herron – Talk about johnny-on-the-spot! The best part though was that neither of those were gimmee TDs. Herron showed great agility and stamina to stay in bounds and truck 94 yards in that heat and scooping up the fumble instead of falling on it was a heady play as well.
3. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Shaw – Big runs by these two led to the touchdown that finally blew the game wide open. If the damned commentator had been right, and the first of the two runs had indeed been Shaw, there wouldn’t have been need of a second because Shaw == Fast. Fitz still looks somewhat slow, but manballed two TDs in from close which is admirable.
4. Kevin Koger – Koger
only had one grab but it had two receptions and one was a doozy. Stretched out and snagging the ball with his fingertips, he still managed to put a hurting on the safety that hit him with a full head of steam. Gets up like no prob, first down converted. Nails.
5. Denard Robinson – No particular statistics are amazing, but he seems to have handled the transition pretty well and had several encouraging plays. Of note: the pull-down-and-scramble move for 12 yards and a first down just prior to Michigan’s third TD. Also the long pass completed on the money (I think at least, TV commentator be damned) to Hemingway. Denard probably doesn’t need to be listed here as he is always awesome and steadfastly refuses to bask in his own glow (making him even more awesome of course).
Also of note was the play of Jeremy Gallon, Jake Ryan, Mike Martin, Courtney Avery, and Kenny Demens. Oh, and Woolfolk before his injury – here's to a speed recovery.
Hope for Tomorrow
Next week brings a matchup with a Notre Dame team that just choked on its season opener, losing to a South Florida team that it exactly doubled in total yardage in South Bend. The Irish seem to have settled back on the QB that led them to 4 straight victories to end last season, Tommy Rees. They also have Michael Floyd. After watching Carder to White shred us yesterday, it is safe to say that Rees/Floyd is going to be bad news indeed.
Then again, Rees did throw two picks, so maybe karma will continue to be on Michigan’s side and we will score multiple defensive touchdowns, and Denard will gain 500+ yards of offense again, and all will be just swell. In reality though, ND is good and will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing and the game is in our house and we may even be favored despite not outplaying a MAC school by all that much. Add it up and history dictates a heart-wrenching loss. I continue to be braced for the worst.
PS - I realize that the quantity and quality of the posting on MGoBlog has increased by leaps and bounds the past three years, and that my posts tend to be more emo/rah-rah than actually, you know, useful. So if the obvious consensus is that my posts are no longer a welcome addition to the blog, then by all means let me know so that I can ride off into the sunset and trouble you all no more.