it's a major award
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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.
Mattison is an old DL coach, as is Hoke. Against a triple option team, your DL is effectively useless. That's just the nature of the system, you're going to end up relying on your DBs and LBs all day long to make plays while your DL just tries to occupy OLs and keep them out of the second level, while not going insane from their lack of impact on the game. You can't make ANY proclimations about the Michigan DL after this game.
Further, Mattison has been in the pros for a long time, and if memory serves, there were not a lot of option offenses in the Big 10 during his last stay, and none of them running the flexbone with all the rocket tosses and such. This could easily just be a case of a smart DC not really being familiar at all with an offense and struggling to find counters.
Why is it when somebody bashes the players RR brought in, citing our lack of experienced and/or good DL, OL, LB, DB, TE, and WR, people immediately yell "DEHRNERRRRRD!!!!!! ?" He's one guy in a sport where one guy cannot hide scars, especially against good teams.
While everyone loves him, he still cannot read a defense and throw the football. Sorry to break it to you guys, but Denard could be at the helm for the next 8 years, and we would not be able to break through this current ceiling of Big 10 competitive, national elite doormat.
People shouldn't be bashing any of the RichRod players because they are, largely, the student athletes playing for the team we all root for.
If you want to shit on the team captain, that's your affair. If you want to callously rip your team , you're better off sticking to the pros.
I bet Borges would be more willing to alter his offensive philosophy if he knew the QB position was stable for the next 8 years.
In all seriousness though, who are the national elite? When was the last time we were among them?
2006? Even then, I feel like Michigan and Ohio were a step below Florida, LSU and USC.
The truth is, I'm not sure if a Big Ten school can win a national championship right now. It feels like the odds are stacked against us.
2004 maybe? When we played Texas to a close loss?
To me, national elite means your team would have a legitimate shot at winning against the national champion. I'm not sure we've been there in a while and I'm not sure how long it will take to get us back to 1997.
I guess we should all praise Matt Millen for drafting Calvin Johnson then. Forget Jordan Dizon, Drew Stanton, Kalimba Edwards, Ikiama Alama-Francis, Gerald Alexander, Daniel Bullucks, Shaun Cody... all second round picks that crapped out. (In looking this up, it seems the best 2nd rounder of the Millen Era was Gerald Alexander or Boss Bailey.)
People act like he found Denard playing street football. Denard chose Michigan over Florida. Kid was going places. Glad it was here.
To be fair, he gave him a shot at QB when Florida was planning on using him in the secondary.
This is a great damn piece of writing, Ace. Take the rest of the week off, you've earned it!
Speaking of rich rod, they killed Oklahoma state!
Since we are so one denardmensional, doesnt make sense for gorgeous al to think about clearing the backfield and giving himself another wr option. Denard would have to roll minus the extra blocker but the rb in this Amex was just not a threat in this one. I thought this would have been particularly useful in the AF game on a couple of third downs.
Michigan has U Mass to begin sorting out some of these issues. Amid ridiculously high expectation I said we were going to be 8-4; 7-5 is possible, and most rational people here know it. The thing to do now is enjoy the development of the freshmen and Denard's last year (saying regular rosaries for his health), knowing this team is on the long-term rise, win or lose this season.
I guarantee the team won't give up, so why should fans? I also guarantee we will pull out a few victories as underdogs--I still think sheer grit and Denard will give us a win over MSU.
So if you are thinking 4 or 5 loses (which I do not agree with but is a fair opinion), and you believe that we are going to beat MSU, where are the rest of the loses coming from? It is hard to watch the rest of the Big Ten and imagine that many loses.
But can someone please explain the Will Campbell holding calls? And if you're going to be sarcastic here's a preemptive 'F you'.
He was doing his best not to be undercut and simply got called for using his hands. You probably won't see that again against any other team
But getting called for it multiple times in one game is. It doesn't have anything to do with chop blocks, it has to do with the interior defensive linemen trying to do their job of soaking up blockers to prevent them from getting to the second level (i.e., linebackers). BWC was grabbing and holding them so they couldn't get to Demens and Morgan, etc., which is rightfully a penalty.
It's like offensive pass interference-- it's a legit call, but happens all the time and usually doesn't bring a whistle unless it's really blatant.
have a huge problem with the clock management prior to half-time? That about lost us the game and was just horrifically stupid on Brady's behalf....
That was inexplicable. We lost two or three plays by not taking a TO. I get holding onto one to set up a FG. But we had two and let tons of time roll off the clock.
Positives: Funchess, Norfleet, DRobinson and umm, umm, no other key injuries...and oh ya, the Big10 is over-rated... again
Negatives: a buttload... to name a few, coaching/game plan/lack of adjustments, Dline and everybody who lined up behind or beside the Dline, Oline - which was magnified by horrendous play-calling (persistent square peg/round hole), etc, etc
PS: the 'deer-in-the-headlights' effect from the AL game remains...from Hoke on down
I saw a lot of positives in this game, and in a year when the Big10 is searching for a team to man that top spot, we should feel pretty good. The one real negative is still drive blocking, and push on the offensive line. It may be time to look at some younger guys and se id they have more fire.
Overall though, we escaped, we found some real positives ( denard, freshman playing fast, penetration from the defensive line, return game, multiple receiving weapons, ramon taylor playing faster, etc.).
Everybody please think back a second to last year's first three games: WMU, ND, EMU.
WMU moved the ball against our D, and a couple of red zone turnovers on their part kept the score down. ND gashed us on the ground for 198 total yards, and 6 YPC. They added another 315 yards in the air. In hindsight, it was probably very bad coaching on their part to abandon the run like they did. EMU gained 207 total yards on the ground, and a 4.5 YPC average.
Then to their credit, the defense really took an upward swing after that. Especially with all of the young talent getting meaningful snaps early this year, I think it is very reasonable to expect another defensive upswing as the year progresses.
It is fait to assume we will not duplicate last year's top 10 defensive status, but to harken back to Gerg this quickly is extremely unwarranted and unfair.
This is the thing that is keeping me moderately optimistic. Although, I am a little disappointed that this is happening with a bunch of guys that have been in the system for 19 months now. But maybe they'll come around when they get more game experience. Nevertheless, I am worried about this Notre Dame game.
It's impossible for me to see the games this year. I work in the Caribbean and watch a lot of cricket, soccer, and Aussie football on ESPN Caribbean while keeping up with the Michigan score on the ESPN2 Bottom Line. So nice to be able to read a review of the game action the very next day. I thought I would have to wait for the UFRs this year. Thanks again and keep up the great work!
This. RR had his issues, but this team has enough talent. Denard is still one of the best QB to pay at UM, and guys like Lewan, Fitz, and Gardner are here because of RR. His defensive recruits didn't pan out great, but he did more right by Michigan than people give him credit.
Well written, but please stop with the Rich Rod stuff. Dude is gone.
Yes, the "dude" is gone but pretending that his recruiting isn't affecting this current team in terms of play is simply whimsical
"Today's game had Rich Rodriguez's fingerprints all over it; as we know, that's a smudge that isn't easily wiped away."
Why even go there? RR's players were good enough to go 11-2 last year. RR is a damn good coach and I love the kids he brought in and refuse to crap on them.
RR is gone. Let us enjoy the new staff without the unnecessary throwbacks, comparisions, and slights.
My biggest takeaway from the game is that maybe Borges isn't that stubborn and is willing to adapt to scheming for what he already has.