“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
The final score indicated a beat down as would be expected when Michigan plays Eastern, but I wonder if I am alone in feeling that yesterday's game exposed more flaws with this Michigan team than it addressed. What did we learn, after all?
Michigan's defense is going to have trouble against the run all year. Seriously, giving up over 200 yards rushing to EMU despite being significantly ahead the entire second half is bad news. This defense would be looking much worse except for some timely turnovers, and while the turnover numbers are encouraging we shouldn't overlook that last year's team was also sitting 3-0 with a significant edge in turnover margin (10/4 this year vs. 6/2 last year).
Michigan's offense is still mostly Denard, Denard, Denard and a healthy Mr. Robinson is still far more offense than most defenses can handle. Denard does seem to be more solidly built than last year and may hold up better for a while, but he definitely took a beating yesterday, much of which seemed unnecessary. The good news is that Borges seems to understand which side his bread is buttered on, and didn't try to go to mostly under center until the game was in hand. The bad news is summed up by that last drive by Denard, where it seemed like Hoke/Borges are so desperate to see Denard progress as a drop-back QB that they eschewed a great opportunity to get Gardner some meaningful snaps.
Michigan needs Hagerup back. Wile's kicks aren't a ton shorter in distance, but their hang time is non-existent and every one is a threat to be returned for big yardage. It is leading to Michigan fighting uphill in the field-position battle every game. A kickoff into the endzone would be nice too, but doesn't seem to be in the cards unless the wind big at our backs.
Michigan is much better in the Red-Zone it would seem. This may be because of the turnover margin not yet flipping like it did last year, but with 10 TDs and 1 FG out of 11 trips into the Red-Zone (1 actually from the 21, close enough), this year's team seems vastly improved in this area. Of course we must consider the strength of competition here.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Denard Robinson – Honestly asked to do far too much, Denard answered as only he can carrying the team with nearly 300 yards of total offense including ~200 yards rushing on 26 carries. He took far too many shots from EMU's defense and is going to be feeling some discomfort this week. It was ominous when the commentators noted that Denard was limited by arm-pain in practice last week. If Michigan is going to a decent bowl game this season, they are going to need Denard playing near 100%.
2. Vincent Smith – Really showed off the shiftiness that was missing last year, along with some great speed. 118 yards on 9 carries = awesome. The fact that Smith had no TDs validates the yards even more, as none were of the seeya variety.
3. Michigan Defense – The run defense was awful, see above. But Michigan did limit EMU to only 3 points and won the TOP for the first time in a long time. The most encouraging part of this year's defense is that they seem to get better as the game progresses. This is probably Mattison.
4. Jeremy Gallon – I just love that this guy is finally putting his stamp on the program. So far he seems like Odoms with better speed.
5. Drew Dileo – First TD in a Michigan uniform. Congratulations young man.
Also of note was the play of Jake Ryan, Mike Martin, and Craig Roh. Also Heninger seemed to redeem himself somewhat.
Hope for Tomorrow
Bask in 3-0 for now, because this team is looking to be on much the same course as last season so far. I think that our reliance on Denard Robinson will actually help us next week against SDSU, because our offense will not look like what Rocky Long remembers a Borges offense looking like. Then again, our run defense might get gutted by Ronnie Hillman. SDSU will put a scare into us at least.
Our biggest hope for the whole season may actually be Borges's willingness to adapt to Denard's strengths as well as Mattison's willingness to use naked aggression to mask our defense's glaring flaws. Like last year, this team is going to sink or swim based on their ability to outscore opponents. The opponents seem less daunting however, and we have better coaches. I am reasonably anticipating 8-9 wins still as long as the most key players stay healthy. If we can keep the TO margin on the happy side, perhaps this team can develop into a dark horse division championship contender.
Go Blue and stay safe.