Big TENNN Big Ack
If there is one thing we've learned from following Team 133 this season, it's - everybody say it with me - "there's an expectation for the position." This is not unique to Michigan football. For example, the expectation for the Iowa running back position is that you will be struck down at some point in the season by AIRBHG*. The expectation for the Iowa wide receiver position is that you will have a hypenated name. With a new offensive coordinator at Iowa, a new expectation for that position has developed. He will now wander the field aimlessly while the Iowa QB goes through his progressions, which start and end with tight ends. There is also an expectation for Iowa's safety position, that he be a fair complected walk-on, who develops into the leader of the defense. Hmmm, seems we co-opted that expectation.
I bring this up because it's pretty clear that the expectations for the QB position at the University of Michigan have been raised this season. We will now expect our backup QB to be a first string WR, and if our starting QB gets hurt, we will expect him to become a 100 yard per game running back. Shane, you might want to work on your route running and learn how to read your blockers.
* After what happened to Fitz, that will be the last time I mention AIRBHG. I suggest we all retire that meme.
Burst of Impetus
* Did Iowa ever really have a chance in this game? They kicked a FG to make it 14-10 in the 2nd quarter, but I never got the sense they would challenge us. There are only so many times you can throw to a tight end before Mattison adjusts, and you sort of need to be able to stop a team from scoring touchdowns every single time they get the ball.
* Brady did go for it twice on 4th down. I guess those were big plays. He has shown a propensity to try to break the will of the opponent early in games, especially when playing an opponent that doesn't match up with us.
* 21 players recorded defensive stats, led by JR3 with 12 tackles. I would guess that most of those were after Iowa tight end receptions. Bolden and Ryan each had 6 tackles. Yay! three linebackers led us in tackles. That, of course, will happen when Iowa averages 9.5 yards per pass attempt. Michigan was at 17.4 by way of comparison.
* We tallied 8 TFLs, 2 sacks and broke up 2 passes, but were again shut out in QHs.
* The last two names listed were Brandin Hawthorne and Floyd Simmons. Each had an assisted tackle. I think Brady Hoke mentioned them earlier this week when he was being asked repeatedly about Denard's last home game. I would guess that Hawthorne and Simmons had larger dreams than being special teams contributors, but in keeping with, "The Team, The Team, The Team" theme, those two guys took on their roles and were every bit a part of the team as the two Ermahgerd guys.
* Devin Gardner was 18 of 23 passing for 314 yards. His first half would have made for a nice game - 204 yards, 2 TDs running, 2 TDs passing. He passed and ran for two more TDs in the second half for a total of 6.
* Denard Robinson became the #1 back after Fitz' injury, and probably got more carries than Brady wanted as a result. He ended up with 98 yards on 13 carries for a 7.5 yard average.
Bunches of Funchess
* I don't know if our receivers were that good, or Iowa's DBs were that bad, but it seemed like our guys were always a step or two away from the Iowa DBs, except for those few times our guys were open by 10 or 20 steps.
* Gallon caught a 51 yard bomb and tallied 133 yards on 5 catches.
* Roundtree also caught 5 for 83 yards and a TD.
* Funchess caught another TD, and Vincent Smith scored a TD on his patented throwback screen play, that was assisted greatly by Denard's being on the field.
And Justice for Rawls
* Fitz had 31 yards on 3 carries before his injury. I'm sure we all wish him a speedy recovery.
* Rawls' running plays was the one area we struggled. He ended up with 2.8 ypc on 8 carries. A lot of his runs were short yardage situation things, but we'll need more than 2.8 ypc in the shoe.
Norf and Souf
* We only punted once, and as a result, special teams weren't much of a factor this week.
* Iowa's punter is named Kornbrath. I'm not making that up.
* Two of the officials were named "Carr." I don't know if they were related to Lloyd. The Field judge was Ed Rohan, which seems fitting considering the Vincent Smith mini-Balrog YOU SHALL NOT PASS haiku from earlier this week.
* L. Trinca-Pasat had 4 tackles. Apparently, Iowa's hypenated name thing is spreading to their DL.
* When he was awake, Collin Sleeper had 4 tackles, and when he wasn't hyding from our WRs, Micah Hyde had 8 tackles and an INT.
* Steve Bigach had 3 tackles. I bring this up because his name is a perfect metaphor for the BIGGG TENNNNN this year. BIG ACK! (Hey, bonus points for me for working in a cat photo.)
Outside the Boxscore
We're nearing the end of another season, and I've started to reflect on the meaning of all this. It's just a game, right? And should big-time athletics really be associated with academic instutions of higher learning? Well, I'd answer no and yes, respectively. Back yard football on Thanksgiving is just a game. Preparing year round to go out in front of 110,000+ fans and a national TV audience, risking your health, while reporters and bloggers track every play, suggests that it's not just a game. There is something larger at stake, and I don't mean the millions awaiting some of the players upon graduation. There are life lessons to be learned along the way, that are completely in line with the goals of an academic institution. Let's look at Devin and Denard. Devin's dream was and is to play QB. When he found himself playing behind Denard, he didn't sulk or limit himself to being the backup. He found a way onto the field to help the team. When it was his turn to play QB, he prepared and performed incredibly well considering the circumstances. When Denard was injured and couldn't throw the ball anymore, did he sulk? Did he leave the team? No, he found another way to help the team, first as a mentor to Devin, and then as a contributor on the field. There will be situations those two individuals face later in life, where they will have to decide between doing what is best for themselves individually, versus what is best for the business they are working for or the family they are part of. I'm pretty sure I know how they will choose. Every now and then, sports teach us some pretty important life lessons, if we are willing to pay attention.