“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
Common sense tells us that facing a team coming off of a bye week should be a disadvantage. Give a good coach 2 weeks to prepare for a game and they will have their team refreshed and focused, ready to take advantage of what their next opponent gives them. Mark Dantonio had the Spartans ready to exploit Michigan's flaws and that preparedness (plus a bit of dirty play) allowed Michigan State to dominate us. Brady Hoke used Michigan's bye week to effectively put the loss to Little Brother in the rearview and had the Wolverines ready to put Purdue away in style. When Miles faced Saban after each had a bye week the result was one of the most epic battles I have ever seen. This is what good coaching can do with a bye week advantage.
Ron Zook is a bad coach, this is known. It is remarkable how bad he is though, when looking at his record after bye weeks. Over the past 4 seasons (2008-2011) Illinois has had 6(!) bye weeks, with two in both 2009 and 2010. Their record following these bye weeks? 0-6:
2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24
2009: Lost to OSU 30-0, Lost to Cincinnati 49-36
2010: Lost to OSU 24-13, Lost to Fresno St 25-23
2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!) 31-14
That is epic fail. Ron Zook should be fired.
It was a very satisfying win for Michigan however. Yes, the lack of redzone efficiency kept the game interesting for far too long. This just magnified how much better this defense is than anything we could have reasonably expected. The zone blitzing destroyed Illinois. The run defense was smothering. Even the prevent defense worked almost to perfection, with Illinois needing almost 7 minutes to score when they were down 3 scores with 10 minutes to go. They kept plays in front of them, tackled in-bounds, and strangled the game. Giving up the 4th-26 was painful, but by that point it was forgivable. Greg Mattison has done better than anyone could have expected.
Live for Today…
Several players/coaches should take particular pride in their accomplishments yesterday:
Greg Mattison - Seriously, can we get this guy a raise? I know he already makes a lot of dough, but he has earned it and then some. This defense makes such incredible leaps forward with each game... just remarkable.
Fitz Toussaint - Got his swagger back right out of the gate. Get this guy a tear-away jersey and he would have had 250 yards. It makes so much more seem possible when a top running back steps forward.
Devin Gardner - Looked much less lost out there. Clutch TD throw on 3rd and long really put the game away. Still needs work, but perhaps the future is looking up for DG.
JT Floyd - Beautiful anticipation on the interception that kept Illinois from making a comeback. Played well against Jenkins, really taking away the Illini's best weapon for most of the game.
Jeremy Gallon - Great job on punt returns. Really helped Michigan flip the field position in their favor.
Also of note: Martavious Odoms nice TD grab, Denard Robinson 2 TD runs, RVB 2.5 sacks, Desmond Morgan blowing up fools, Mike Martin is Mike Martin
Hope for Tomorrow
Michigan comes back home to wrap up the season sitting at 8-2. The rest is gravy. Every Michigan fan should be pretty happy with how the team is progressing. I have not felt this confident about the future since 2006 at least. Nebraska will be a tough test in a week, but I think Michigan will be competitive in that contest. Ohio just lost to Purdue and is a team that Michigan should beat. It is the biggest rivalry in all of sport though, so anything can happen. Regardless of how the last two games go though, this team has made this fan happy and excited about seasons to come. It is great to be a Michigan Wolverine.
Go Blue and stay safe!