Wanted to throw out some wise words for those who were worried about the way Michigan looked towards the end of the first half and most of the second.
Disclaimer: I am a very realistic Michigan fan. I do understand this was against Western Michigan, but last year, 13-10 Toledo.
First of all, I think it's pretty apparent Michigan's incompetence last year was due to their ineptness at the quarterback position. Michigan's options at quarterback were a walk-on who couldn't hit wide open receivers and a QB they never recruited who never really fit the system. They had skill players who made plays when the ball was thrown to them, but that was a rare feat to accomplish. Anyways, I digress.
Let's be honest; Michigan moved the ball at will in the first half. Tate looked like a young Colt McCoy while Denard showed flashes of Pat White/Steve Slaton (more on this in a bit). The linemen looked great; athletic, strong, and fast. Did you see Moosman make those two pancake blocks on the same play in the first half? The defense was playing aggressive and most importantly, hard. They converged on the ball and there were at least 3 blue jerseys around every tackle. I think Stevie Brown has finally found his position. Not athletic enough to be the last resort guy, but talented enough to be on the field. Outside of the last drive of the first half, the Michigan D held WMU to three-and-outs on six of their first seven possessions. Overall, a pretty perfect first half compared to anything Michigan produced last year.
Ok, now to some people's concerns. Short offensive possessions in the first half. The defense allowed a long, sustained drive in the last WMU possession of the first half. The offense looked inept at times in the second half.
The short offensive possessions in the first half I think were attributed to the talent/execution advantage Michigan had over WMU. By that I mean Michigan has superior talent (simple fact) and better coaching (most likely fact, but talent makes them look good). Michigan simply overpowered WMU; rare negative plays/no gains, rushing plays of 5-6 yard gains as opposed to 3-4 yard gains (yes, it matters), offensive linemen driving their men back instead of getting stood up or themselves being pushed into the offensive backfield, quarterbacks able to hit open receivers...
The last WMU possession of the first half was not worrisome to me as it was to others. I think at that point (UM - 31, WMU - 0), Rodriguez just wanted to go into the half up 31-3 at the worst and pretty much was willing to give up short underneath routes (curls, outs, slants). Essentially, they were calling off the dogs on Hiller for the last drive of the half. 31-7 is a three possession game, 31-3 is four.
Michigan's offense in the second half was not stunning, but it was without their apparent leader for most of it. When Tate was in the game, the offense had a particular rhthym and flow to it. This is not to say that when Denard was in there wasn't, but it was pretty clear to me that Denard is still a raw QB in terms of throwing mechanics/defensive reads. [Editor's note: Forgot to mention that I think Denard might at some point be converted to running back if Tate really establishes himself as the season goes on. Denard has too much speed and athleticism not to be on the field and think he could turn into a Slaton type of back. Also, looking down the road with Devin Gardner coming in, that could be a vicious backfield one day.]
My personal opinion is that the offense and defense were not as spectacular in the second half because of the mere fact that Michigan was up 31-0 at the half. I am of the opinion that Rodriguez doesn't want to expose his whole hand the first week of the season (no pun intended, all-in for Michigan) and has a few things waiting for Notre Dame next week on both sides of the ball. In the second half, by running the same offensive plays that were run in the first half and a pretty much base defense, Michigan did not give Notre Dame anything new to game plan for which I think is a strategic, and IMO genius.
I think next week we see a few (lots of) wrinkles to both the offense and defense. Hopefully Notre Dame has a full house and Michigan shows four of a kind (sorry, had to do it).