Try running on Alabama. Now load up Air Force. Any questions?
things go poorly
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
In a game that felt like something out of the Rodriguez era, Michigan showed that while there's great promise for the future, the flaws exposed by Alabama are very real.
The Wolverines edged Air Force, 31-25, and the outcome wasn't decided until Jake Ryan batted down Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz's fourth-down throw with 1:28 remaining. Denard Robinson accounted for all but seven yards of the team's total offense. The defense ceded 417 total yards—290 on the ground—and failed to keep contain all afternoon.
It wasn't all bad, however. Robinson was masterful, completing 14-of-25 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception—one that deflected off the hands of Vincent Smith—while rushing for 218 yards and another pair of touchdowns on 20 carries. True freshman Devin Funchess emerged as a viable threat at tight end, becoming the first Michigan TE to eclipse 100 receiving yards in a game since Jerame Tuman. Devin Gardner looked like a wide receiver, hauling in five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while running crisper routes.
The offense lived and died with Denard, as Fitzgerald Toussaint found little room to run—seven yards on eight carries, to be exact. The offensive line failed to get a push against Air Force's undersized D-line, doing little to ease concerns from last week's debacle. By the second half, Al Borges had essentially given up on generating yards the traditional way, and he was justified in doing so.
Defensively, Michigan looked ill-equipped to stop the Falcon triple-option attack. The defensive line spent much of the day on their stomachs, unable to evade chop blocks or get any sort of push. Kenny Demens looked positively Ezeh-esque, letting blockers get into him again and again before being pulled in favor of true freshman Joe Bolden. Jake Ryan was all over the field, recording a career-high 12 tackles, but sometimes "all over" can be a bad thing—keeping contain was an issue. The final Air Force touchdown came when Desmond Morgan overpursued. The defensive backs struggled against the run as well, failing to shed blocks and come up to take the pitch.
When the defense needed a big play, odds are it came from an underclassman. Ryan continually redeemed his poorer efforts with critical stops, including two pass breakups on the final Air Force drive. Bolden replaced Demens and displayed the aggressive, instinctual play that made him a high school All-American. Fellow freshman linebacker James Ross spelled Morgan late and acquitted himself well after struggling in his debut against Alabama. Several other freshmen made appearances during the game's biggest moments, including Ondre Pipkins and Mario Ojemudia.
Last season's 11-2 record belied the myriad issues Brady Hoke faced upon taking over in Ann Arbor. After two games in 2012, those issues are at the forefront for the Wolverines. The lack of depth on the offensive line means Michigan must move ahead with the current unit—despite its ineffectiveness in the run game—unless they want to insert a true freshman. The defensive tackles will be a sore spot all year; the players expected to relieve that problem are freshmen or not even on campus yet. The offense still leans heavily on Denard, whose style doesn't always mesh well with the offensive philosophy of Borges.
The Wolverines came away with a victory, a fact that cannot be overlooked, especially against a team with a difficult style to prepare for in a week's time. Denard will still make magic with his feet—his touchdown runs were both exhilarating—and perhaps his arm as well—he looks much-improved from last year even if the numbers don't necessarily bear that out. The future looks bright, too, thanks to the major contributions from a number of young players already gaining crucial experience.
The overwhelming feeling in the aftermath, however, is that this team is still two years away from competing on a national level, the only level of success that matters at Michigan. Today's game had Rich Rodriguez's fingerprints all over it; as we know, that's a smudge that isn't easily wiped away.
Try running on Alabama. Now load up Air Force. Any questions?
Hoke's honeymoon is over. He's going to find out who his real fans are very soon.
Hoke's honeymoon ended as soon as last year's Western game started. Until then he had soundbites to rally the fanbase. Now he just has to produce like every other coach. Just because he produced last year does not mean he was in a honemoon.
Hoke's winning percentage at this school is .800 (12-3). I don't think he's in trouble.
Hoke's honeymoon is over. He's going to find out who his real fans are very soon.
That sounds like the rant of someone who bet on Michigan and got burned.
Today's game shouldn't have surprised people too much. Triple-option teams are hard to defend. They rack up yards on everyone. Georgia Southern ran for 300 yards on Alabama (!) last year using this offense. The only thing about today that really concerned me was our OL. It's definitely a work in progress.
You could not be more mistaken. My predicted score was 28-23, and:
"It will be ugly, sloppy, uninspiring. We will have multiple turnovers, including in the red zone. AF will have the ball very late in the game with a chance for a go-ahead score, but our D will finally squelch them."
I was far closer to the final score, and margin, than the vast majority of predictions here, and the only thing I was really off on was the number of turnovers we'd have.
I'm not thinking that you or anybody else here should remember any of my comments, but I've been a big fan of Hoke since shortly after his hiring, and will continue to be. My comment about the end of the honeymoon was directed at the bandwagoners (which every school has) who turn on a coach at the first sign of trouble. After the conclusion of 2011 and up to the Alabama game, Hoke and Gret Mattison got nothing but high-flown praise for their stellar coaching abilities, and after AF some are openly questioning the DL coaching. We'll surely pound UMass, but if we lose in South Bend there will be people loudly jumping off the bandwagon, both in the media and among the fanbase.
I think you've put the cart well in front of the horse here. People turned on RR pretty quickly because of 3-9 and a feeling that we had no chance to beat anyone with a pulse. I mean, when you beat MINNESOTA and it's thought to be an upset... That's not the case here. There might be some bitching, but, hell, Lloyd had people bitching in years we went to the Rose Bowl.
I actually think Ace nailed it right on the head, with this post. We are terribly thin on both the O-Line and D-Line, and it is going to be a problem all year long...and next year too. That's not Ace taking a shot at RR, that's just a simple fact. Our future looks bright, but it's going to be a frustrating next couple of years, as we watch talented young players grow up right before our eyes. Part of that learning process, unfortunately, is going to include some mistakes, along with some spectacular plays.
Will it though?
We're going to have a large, talented group of sophomores going into next year on the Oline.
If Lewan stays, we'll at least return he and Schofield as a base and with guys like Kalis and Magnuson getting a year of S&C, I think we'll be alright. And who even knows about Miller and Bryant, if they stay healthy, perhaps they can slide right in as juniors.
On the D-Line:
5-star sophomore Pipkins, who will have had a year of experience under his belt
4-star junior Beyer who will have had significant experience.
Freakish athlete Frank Clark who will have had significant experience
Jibreel Black, whose had his moments, will be a senior.
Guys like Brink, Ash, Wilkens and Washington will all have been in Mattison's system for a few years and should be able to provide some depth. And that's not even counting guys like Wormley, Strobel and Ojemudia who could surprise the way that Ryan did last year.
We'll struggle at times next year, but I dont think it will be nearly as dire as people think, specifically due to the fact that so many of these guys are going to be ahead of the normal sophomore/junior curve.
with the young players having another year of some playing experience and strength and conditioning under their belts. I think next year won't be as bad as this year, in terms of depth on both lines, but I am concerned when we play an Air Force team who is very undersized on the lines and yet we still can't get much of a consistent push. I can't believe our star RB could only muster 7 yards for the entire game...against a bunch of tiny D-Linemen.
IMO, unlikely Lewan returns. If he is a projected first round NFL pick, he should probably go.
If Lewan goes pro, M only returns 7 scholarship O-lineman;
|Jack Miller||OL||RS FR|
|Chris Bryant||OL||RS FR|
|Michael Schofield||OL||RS JR|
M will return 13 scholarship D-lineman:
|Keith Heitzman||DE||RS FR|
|Richard Ash||DT||RS SO|
|Kenny Wilkins||DT||RS SO|
|Quinton Washington||DT||RS JR|
In 3-4 years, all of this young talent on our roster, and future recruits...I think we will be scary good. We'll be able to have some talented and experienced depth on the Lines. As for now, let's just hope everybody can stay relatively healthy.
From the looks of it, we should be fine in depth on the DL.
If we lose Lewan, things could get shaky on the OL. Here's to hoping he comes back to try and solidify the #1 pick overall.
looked terrible today. He was getting killed on every play. Is he the best UM has at his position?
and remember seeing a lot of Jarrod Wilson, particularly at crunch time. It spoke volumes that on the last couple of AF drives, you had Ross, Bolden, Pipkins, Wilson, and Ojem.. Ojem.. uh, Mario on the field.
One game at a time.
Alright, I'll say it.... What a punk. If another D Lineman played a crappy game, then proceeded to throw a cheap ass helmet at the head of a defenseless Denard, we would be 100% all over the guy. Moreover, this almost cost us the game and was blatant. Given how crappy our D Line played, I don't think we'd miss a beat if he was suspended for a game after that crap.
In my overeagerness to watch the DL make plays, I must've missed that one.
What an unnecessarily dickish end to the article. Rich Rod's "smudged" fingerprints also include the quarterback you laud.
I don't think anyone (at least, any fair-minded person) is saying that Rodriguez had zero recruiting success. Obviously, Denard is a major point in his favor. But on the whole, those 2008-11 classes aren't as strong as typical Michigan classes are, and it's a problem for us right now. We played 12 (!) true freshmen against Alabama. You're not going to beat (or even hang with) a top 5 team very often when you play that many.
then wouldn't we at least have to agree that RR was dealing with a substantial "smudge" of the Lloyd Carr era? I seem to recall true freshmen all over field during those dark years.
Agree that the RR comment at the end was "unecessarily dickish." Silly way to end an otherwise good article, Ace.
The point is if Ace is going to call Denard "masterful", then he can't make a blanket statement at the end saying Rodriguez's fingerprints are "smudges". It's bush league and petty.
I read this and thought, "wow, this is a very unbiased piece by Brian"....then realized he didn't write it....
Funny how a game like this can bring back the emotions of the Rodriguez era.
Raise your hand if you work, go to school, give 200% in the weight room, and perform mostly for people that you don't knows entertainment ..... Exactly.
Ya'll criticize these young men TOO MUCH! Its just a game damn it. You want to sit there and harp on a young man that's given more to his cause than you could ever think of? Shame on you. You couldn't walk a hundred feet in those 100 or so student athletes shoes. Nothing but a bunch of bandwagon fans and arm chair quarterback sissys.
Don't criticize, thank them. They put every ounce of effort they could into the last to games... and for what? for you to bitch because you didn't like the outcome? I'm throwing a penalty flag. 15 yards automatic first down for poor character.
Man up and think before you blast someone for something you never done.
Seriously, it's like reading the diary of an 8th grader.
And then we have grammar nazi's. The worst of the bunch. Do you seriously have nothing else better to do? Or, do you just have a guilty conscience? That was weak sauce man... weak sauce.
Those who have read my stuff in the past know that I'm notoriously horrific and careless with my grammar.
Notwithstanding that, this guys [plural not possessive] grammar looks fine to me. And [nobody who knows anything about grammar would start a sentence with a conjunction] I daresay that his writing is raw, sincere, and strikes that nerve in all of us that knows truth when it sees it [also - note my use of ambiguous pronouns - my opinion is meaningless].
You go bad-grammar-guy - I thought you're post was grat - I couldn't of write it bebtter myself; but i'm a looser and a moran. i mean what else do you need to no other then i pretened to like limbizkit when i wuz in eight grade. Indeedy.
Awesome stuff. To add to your post, it's a website.... I just don't care enough to put the effort in to appease nit pickers. Call me crazy, whatever. By the way, Mr. Hart, I am fully capable of writing grammatically correct. I just like to antagonize people of your nature. You know..... Trolls.
...specifically to say what you just said, but you did it better. Thanks.
but how many diaries of 8th graders do you read? If you're an 8th grade English teacher, that's super. If not, I'm guessing you're no longer permitted to live near schools...
Brilliant. Did you come up with that one all by yourself?
EDIT: Nevermind, I shouldn't be mad at a troll with 1 post.
O$U barely beat navy in 2009 and went on to win 11 games...its just the nature of the triple option beast I think, I hope...
Whatever the single game record low for points in a UFR is, Desmond Morgan will shatter it. They were picking on him all day. Not to make him a scapegoat or anything, but it was pretty noticeable.
...and Demens wasn't any better. In fact, I think Demens got pulled in the 2nd half for Bolden and Ross. Not a good thing for a Senior LB to play so poorly that you get benched for a couple of true Freshmen- even if they are studs.
Has anyone seen GERG in geographical region outside 100mi radius of AA? coulda swore I felt his ghost today.
I was most upset with how the coaching staff handled the last 2 minutes of the 1st half and then the 3rd down pass attempt that Devin dropped. I thought this was a problem last year in a game or two as well. Hoke has to do a better job in scoring and maximizing plays in the last 2 minutes. Also, the play after a questionable call needs to be a quicker, hurry up play (even though Devin did drop the ball).
"By the second half, Al Borges had essentially given up on generating yards the traditional way, and he was justified in doing so."
I'd say the second to last possession when Michigan had it at the two was pretty traditional and wrecked. The dynamic DRob was not unleashed, an I form man ball run for nothing followed by two bad pass pro and punt.
Ace, you need to be better than this sort of hatchet job. Dredging up all of the Rich Rod nonsense is very unnecessary at this point.
Had this really been a defense from that era, they would NOT have stopped the opposing team two times at the end of the game.
We need to give the other team a bit of credit here as well. AF rushing stats against notable/ranked teams from the past several years:
2011: TCU - 249 total, 5.79 YPC
ND - 363 total, 6.05 YPC
Boise ST. - 264, 4.06 YPC
Year - 315 YPG, 5.66 YPC
2010: Oklahoma - 351 total, 5.57 YPC
TCU - 184 total, 4.49 YPC
Year - 306 YPG, 5.33 YPC
2012: UM - 275 Total, 3.99 YPC
Criticism of the DL from this game is ridiculous. Most if not all of the damage came from outside option plays.
Give this team some time to gell after two extremely difficult games to start the season. Few if any have had a tougher schedule to start the year. Last year, the D had a rough start, and rebounded nicely.
Let's give these guys a chance.
You're wrong, not him. I swore I was watching a game from 2010. And it scared me.
You realize that Air Force lost 10 starters from their offense last year, right?
The point here is unique scheme and ability to execute said scheme. Nobody is afraid of Air Force's talent even when experienced. They clearly care only about the run, and have many unique plays and schemes to run the ball that we will not see all year.
I agree, our d.line was getting chop blocked every play, and that's the blocking scheme for air forces offense, a lot of teams in big ten play don't run this style.
anyone else think the home unis looked super sharp? reminded me of the old school black/blue mix color from the 90s instead of last year's different shade of blue. unless it was just the sun playing tricks on me...
I had to watch tape delayed at home, but the uniforms look incredible on TV.
Why would Brandon schedule a magic trick shenanigans team the week after our NFL game debut.
Doesn't seem well thought out... even if we had won in jerry world, this team screams trap game
Devin Funchess.... quite the tight end. Very nice.
Liked this one, Ace. Good post game article.
To be honest I'm not sure we can take much away from the past 2 games. I think after ND will be the first time we'll actually understand what kind of team this is. Yes, so far the O-line looks concerning and the D-line got chewed up on the ground both games, but I think this team is going to be a lot better than this game showed. We got off to a rough start last year too and ended up just fine. A lot of people forget that we had some trouble moving the ball against Western last year and we ended up just fine. We need to improve tremendously before conference play, but I still think we have a shot at the B1G title until we play a team that isn't full of NFL talent or has a gimicky offense that we won't see again.