That was an unbelievable experience, watching the game with my family, unwittingly teaching my 4yo son a bad word or three, watching Michigan rewrite the 2009 script to include the new answer to all that ails Michigan Football. Because that is what Denard Robinson is, The Answer. Not just an answer, but instead The one and only Answer that you will need right about now. Let's demonstrate:
Q. Why is the sky blue?
A. Because Denard Robinson.
Q. What is the sound of one hand clapping?
A. De-Nard Rob-In-Son.
Q. Why do Michigan fans have a shit-eating grin on their faces?
A. The answer is The Answer, and he'll be here all season, just ask away.
Seriously though, enjoy this everyone. Denard Robinson is making Michigan Football history and for the first time I can remember we have a new script.
Other things I learned:
- Rich Rodriguez is old school. To hell with the latest in game theory, he will punt on fourth down and makable in the opponents end of the field, even on 4th and 2, if he wants to. No amount me ranting about it in my living room will make him change his mind. And let's not get started on trusting the leg of Gibbons a second time. Of course there was an answer to my frustration, see above.
- Michigan now has, I believe, the toughest group of players I have ever seen play anywhere. Roy Roundtree comes back a week after serious internal bruising, gets crushed again in this game, and gets back up to catch arguably the most important ball thrown all day. Odoms took a couple wicked shots as well. Of course Denard Robinson defies what every hater has said all week, getting up time and again and channeling the beating he is receiving into pure awesome. Credit to the almighty Barwis.
- Tate looks like he has decided to be a team player. His hug with RR at the beginning of the game looked a tad scripted ("Is the camera looking yet? OK now!") but it was nice to see him with the headset on, ready to help out. Others mentioned in various comments that he was getting the team huddled up during time outs and generally was with his teammates. I am glad to see this.
- This season our defense no longer looks incompetent, it merely looks young and inexperienced. Big plays burned us over and over, but for the majority of the plays faced, the defense appeared to be improving if anything. Man this Kool-Aid tastes good...
- Cam Gordon can really hit, but he needs to improve quickly as the deep contain. One bad angle and one letting a man behind him = burn crispy twice. Future opponents are definitely going to try to exploit him.
The best-case scenario has come true through two games. Denard Robinson's amazing displays have shoved all talk about RR's hot seat and the NCAA investigation out the window, and we are looking at a probable 4-0 start (I don't like adding Indiana into that figure after last year's game). Pretty much everyone of note is healthy and I think this team is showing improvement on defense despite some issues giving up the long ball. Take away the two touchdowns totaling 148 yards and Michigan has at least an average day on defense.
It was easy after this game to get very concerned about our reliance on one player. With Denard Robinson accounting for 502 of 532 total yards on offense, what happens if he goes down? Let's not forget that the OLine is getting great push, creating holes, and protecting the QB. Let's not overlook that the receivers are getting open, catching the football, and blocking well. And most of all, take solace that in Tate Forcier we have a more than capable starter waiting in the wings, and that he appears to have adopted a team-first mentality.
Enjoy this time fellow fans.
Yesterday's game showed me just how different it can feel to be a college football fan. It was strange to question whether Michigan was legit, to wonder if we might be embarrassed by a blowout loss in our own Bigger and Newly Redecorated House. Every turn in our favor filled me with relief more than excitement. In the end I felt calm, with none of the jubilant, happy-dancing, shake my ass celebration that followed last year's blowout opener. It seems that the last two seasons, and especially last year's collapse, have allowed my brain to be more detached from the game emotionally. I am happy and relieved that we won, but I am afraid to jump on the wagon that could be heading for another cliff.
I do think this year will be different though, because I learned some things yesterday...
- Denard Robinson is so awesome, he deserves to have his name spelled out in its entirety whenever it is written or spoken.
- Michigan is capable of good turnover Karma after all, what with recovering all three bad fumbles/muffed punts committed. (Gallon, really? WTF?)
- Michael Shaw is possibly the best compliment to Denard Robinson at tailback because of speed. When the two of them come together for the exchange the defense almost has to commit before they know who has the ball in order to have a chance at stopping the play.
- UConn showed what happens when the defense does not commit. The combined speed of Shaw and Denard Robinson tears the defense asunder.
- We are spoiled at Michigan when it comes to sure handed receivers.
- GERG has installed the first defense I can recall that seems to actually "bend" but not "break." The lack of big, game-changing plays was refreshing.
- Giving up yards while making the other team sustain a drive can actually be a recipe for success. The one turnover of the game seemed almost scripted to illustrate the virtues of this defensive approach.
- Ipso-facto, I guess GERG is actually a good coach that maybe we can all have a little faith in.
- Craig Roh is going to be a huge factor in this defense's success. When left unmarked (or marked by a TB) he creates big problems in the backfield. Marking him leaves less beef to stop Mike Martin and Co.
- Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh are good at some things at least. Mouton can really deliver the wood, and Ezeh is a sure tackler. Hopefully they can show continued improvement. Our run D up the middle still looks pretty bad at times.
So the opener is a win once again (YAY!). ND may expose our defense more with their spread attack, but after watching them some yesterday I feel good about our chances. If Charlie was still their coach I would be penciling in a win. I think we should be ready for some regression on offense though. Studying the film from the UConn game will no doubt give the ND coaches an edge that UConn couldn't have. Can a defense focused on stopping Denard Robinson actually slow down this offense? There is still much to learn...
Shout out to Kovacs who looked even better than last year. Dude is still way undersized and gets dragged at times, but he was no doubt in great position to make plays.
Also let's all try to keep away from the Tate bashing. That is a 19yo that played his heart out for this team a year ago, only to be sitting at 3rd string now. I could plainly make out that he was simply trying to hide from the cameras at the end of the game and we should all try to have some respect for what he is going through. For all sorts of reasons this team needs him and I hope he feels that and stays.
Edit: I forgot to mention our lack of penalties. One personal foul at the very beginning and that was all she wrote. The discipline of this team, should it hold going forward, may be what keeps the results mostly positive.
This began as a reply to the Board Post below, but screw it, Dad deserves better.
I didn't stand a chance of being anything other than a Michigan fan. Dad, Mom, Grandparents, countless aunts and uncles, Sister, Brother, several cousins... most are alums and diehard Wolverines. Growing up was centered around family every Fall Saturday, with huge parties for the OSU, MSU, and Rose Bowl games. Wins on any given Saturday were followed immediately by a dash to the phone to call Grandma and scream "Yay! Yay! Yay!"
My Dad did host most of those parties, always setting up a great time by all even if Michigan lost (read: most Rose Bowls). I can remember joyous yells of "Touchdown Michigan!" filling the house after yet another brilliant play by Bo's Wolverines. I recall the elation of watching Jamie Morris scamper for a TD, and the horror of watching Tony Boles have his career cut short. Watching a game on TV still always takes me back to that little TV room in Saginaw.
He also took each of us kids to Ann Arbor for a day on our 7th birthdays. My day started with the long car ride, early in the morning before the sun came up. We got to Ann Arbor just after first light and then began with a walk up to and around Central Campus. I especially remember the feeling of running up and down the stone walls that lined some side streets. Then it was off to the Big House, a frigid scamper on the Astroturf field (gotta love Ann Arbor in December), and a climb to the top of the bowl. Finally there was a trip to Blimpie Burger, and then into the car for the ride back north. That trip made me realize that Ann Arbor was sacred ground, without Dad ever having to say it outright.
When Saturday Afternoons were compromised by duck hunting, the radio was always right there in the blind. Dad took his hunting very seriously and he would stay very still and quiet with me charge of listening to the headphones and giving updates. I always hated getting up early, in horrendous weather, to hunt the ducks, but I have some of my most enduring memories of my father from those times in the marshes of Shiawassee, Crow Island, and Saginaw Bay.
Notre Dame games are a blur of memories, almost all taken in at a bar in Lovells. The
town village crossroads is right next to the land where we would one day have a cabin. We seemed to always be there on the weekend of the Notre Dame game and the bar/restaurant would be packed nearly standing room only, with all eyes glued to the tiny TV in the corner of the room. When Michigan scored, things would get rowdy in there. I think Dad even dislocated Grandma's thumb with a high-five once.
Of course introducing me to Michigan Fandom was really the least of what my Dad has done and continues to do for me. He is the most upright role model I know to this day. He instilled a sense of morals and dignity in all of his children, and protected and enriched us in countless ways. He gives of himself always to the benefit of all that know him, and many who do not. If I can end up half the man my Dad is, I will consider myself a success and net benefit to the world.
Thanks Dad, for everything.
Welcome all of you Michigan Football Faithful to 2010 - the Year of Redemption (hopefully). 2008 and 2009 were bizarre years for all of us, both painful and embarrassing to some degree and always with that feeling of an especially bad dream that we just couldn't wake up from. Never in most of our lifetimes have we seen our beloved Wolverines flail about in such a disgraceful manner. Now the corner is there to be turned and with this recruiting haul I see prosperity coming on like a freight train... but like a freight train it may take a while to get here.
And how refreshing was it to see this class come together without the constant re-shuffle that was the 2009 recruiting class? I was happy with the players we landed in 2009 but the steady drip of decommits was frustrating. Losing the two defensive tackles at the last moment was especially humbling. Who does that to Michigan? Nothing like that this year, thank goodness. Just commitments staying the course and signing their papers on time, plus a welcome 4/5 star surprise on signing day to give it that proper Christmas-like feel.
Now with two full Rich Rod classes on board, a vision seems to be coalescing out of the fog of the past two years. We are starting to see positions filled with layer upon layer of players with blue-chip credentials or high upside potential. The cupboard is certainly no longer bare, though its talent is young. The players themselves start to look more interchangeable, like we don't have to fall off cliff should so-and-so get hurt or pick our poison in the defensive backfield.
I mean, just look at the Defensive Backfield for a moment and consider:
Corner - Warren (The MAN! Unfortunately decided to move on)
Corner - Cissoko (Reminder to take every hyped recruit with a grain of salt)
FS - Kovacs (Freshman Walkon played inspired football, but so SLOW!)
SS - Williams (Reminder to take every hyped recrui...
(What too much salt will do to your blood pressure.)
Depth: Yes Woolfolk and JT Floyd were also in the mix with the former decent at times and the latter burnt crispy.
Corner - Turner (Please no grains of salt...)
Corner - Woolfolk
SS - Robinson (Maybe not a LB?)
FS - Dorsey (Please no grains of salt...)
Depth: Christian, Johnson, Kovacs, Emilien, Floyd, Gordon, Talbott, Avery, Vinopal
Yes the 2010 bunch looks young and inexperienced. It also looks light-years better than their 2009 counterparts with the exception of Warren and has some much improved depth to plug in in case of injury/incompetence. If Warren had stayed the D-Backfield could have been a strong point of the 2010 team.
Another area where the depth chart is looking solid is on the OL. Many will bemoan the fact that only one OL recruit was landed in the 2010 class but the depth chart shows that things are looking just fine:
|OL (13 - 3)||M. Schofield*
Those five returning starters are encouraging for the coming season, no? Plus the gap created by taking only one OL recruit this season will provide a nice "early playing time" selling point for 2011 OL recruits.
Looking at the rest of the team gets me downright giddy...
QB - Should be a strength with DG an EE and hopefully a RS as well. Tate will hopefully put on several pounds and take his game up a notch.
Receiver - Stocked to the gills and I, for one, can't wait to see if Gallon can live up to his hype. Stonum, Roundtree, Koger, and Hemingway have all already shown flashes. We certainly stocked up nicely through recruiting as well.
RB - Plenty of talent here though low on proven commodities after V.Smith (may his surgery/recovery go smoothly). Shaw and Cox have had their moments and I think Fitz is going to be special.
DL - We seem to be in great shape as far as starters go. I would love to see RVB slide over into Graham's vacated DE spot and Will Campbell show his quality inside as a starter. Hopefully LaLota has progressed well as a RS and can provide useful depth. Sagasse played well in spot duty last year IIRC.
LB - The huge recruiting haul here was desperately needed but won't yield effective depth until 2011 IME. Here's to hoping that under GERG's tutelage, the likes of Ezeh and Mouton can turn a corner, or that JB Fitzgerald can take it up a notch. LB looks like the weak link once again for the 2010 team unfortunately. GERG needs to bring cohesion and make the LBs a unit, instead of the Stevie Brown w/2 lost sheep look of last season.
P/K - Welcome Mr. Hagerup, your arrival is indeed timely. Gibbons, just don't fuck this up, OK?
Looking Farther Ahead:
These three recruiting classes signed since Rich Rod took over have been solid and very good indeed considering the circumstances. The players signed do seem to fit into the type of team RR favors, now both on offense and on defense. This means there is no going back, really. Michigan no longer has the players for a Pro-Style offense shoehorned into the Spread Option and the defense has stockpiled players for GERG's gimmicky defense. If this team can continue to improve, make a bowl, and let RR and staff make it to 2011, this program is ready to explode. If we are forced to go looking for a new coaching staff however, it will take just the right one to be able to pick up these highly customized pieces and make them work.
Here's to a great 2010 season and an off-season filled with optimistic joy free from turmoil and controversy.
With all of the mitigating circumstances, it is really no shocker that this team might have confidence issues. This may be their biggest problem all year actually, both from a long term and short term view. Looking from the long view: The first half of the season this team had the "moxie" required to come back in the face of adversity. Then something happened to shake their fragile confidence. Fellow poster Brhino has given light to this:
Vs. Notre Dame
First Half: M 17, ND 20 (-3)
Second Half: M 21, ND 14 (+7)
Michigan rallies in the second half for the win.
First Half: M 21, IU 23 (-2)
Second Half: M 15, IU 10 (+5)
Michigan rallies in the second half for the win.
Vs. Michigan State
First Half: M 6, MSU 10 (-4)
Second Half: M 14, MSU 10 (+4)
Overtime: M 0, MSU 7 (-7)
[Second Half + Overtime]: M 14, MSU 17 (-3)
Michigan rallies to tie at end of regulation, but loses in overtime.
First Half: M 14, Iowa 20 (-6)
Second Half: M 14, Iowa 10 (+4)
Michigan rallies in the second half but comes up just short.
The loss to Little Brother in overtime cracked the armor and the loss at Iowa finished the job The loss to Little Brother in overtime cracked the armor and the loss at Iowa finished the job. Surely other circumstances like losing Molk had an effect as well, but after the Iowa game this team lost that early season "Moxie" that carried them to improbable comebacks against ND and Indiana. Each game became a microcosm of the season as a whole. Every game Michigan comes out with its swagger back, just to have one swing play kill their confidence again.
Against Penn St: (Drive notes swiped from the Worldwide Leader)
3rd and 16 at MICH 2 - Team rush for a loss of 2 yards to the Mich 0 out-of-bounds for a SAFETY.
And then the very next play...
1st and 10 at PSU 40 - Daryll Clark pass complete to Andrew Quarless for 60 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
BOOM! Confidence shattered and lying all over the field. Second half implosion ensues.
|1st and Goal at ILL 1 -||Carlos Brown rush for no gain to the Illin 1.|
|2nd and Goal at ILL 1 -||Carlos Brown rush for no gain to the Illin 1.|
|3rd and Goal at ILL 1 -||Carlos Brown rush for no gain to the Illin 1.|
|4th and Goal at ILL 1 -||Brandon Minor rush for no gain to the Illin 1.|
And the next drive...
1st and 10 at ILL 30 - Mikel LeShoure rush for 70 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
BOOM! Confidence shattered and lying all over the field. Second half implosion ensues.
2nd and 10 at MICH 32 - Tate Forcier rush for a loss of 13 yards, fumbled, forced by Brandon King, recovered by Prdue Brandon King at the Mich 19.
And the very next play...
1st and 10 at MICH 19 - Ralph Bolden rush for 19 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
BOOM! Confidence shattered and lying all over the field. Second half implosion ensues.
And then there was yesterday's game, which I am sure you all remember just fine thank you. First and goal from the six leads to a blocked FG. Third and long converted against us time after time... Maybe no BOOM! but confidence shattering moments littered throughout leading to a second half implosion.
Maybe this is a manifestation of having a young team. Perhaps having to start walk-ons contributes to this. Some amount of it has to be attributed to coaching, both good and bad. It is admirable that the coaches are able to get this team feeling good enough after each loss to have confidence going into the next game. It is somewhat distressing that the first hint of adversity sends this team over a cliff.
- Am I the only one that was disappointed, to say the least, that we did not use our timeouts on defense during the final minutes of the first half? Instead of having all of our timeouts with 1:09 left we could have easily had two timeouts and two full minutes left. This seemed like terrible clock management.
- The replay officials continue to baffle. It sure looked like conclusive evidence that Clay was not in on the replay of Wisky's last TD of the first half. I am ready to give up replay altogether and just live with bad calls at this point.
- I get that the opposing defense can counter rolling Tate out to throw, but couldn't we try rolling him out anyways? He was awesome on the plays designed to roll him out and once again getting killed in the pocket. Here's to better protection next season.
- Roy Roundtree and Vincent Smith are going to be incredible. Those two put on quite a show yesterday and should hold their heads high.
- Should we be sad for Fat Charlie (no) or for ourselves (yes) if he is fired?
There is not much left of this season. There is sure to be some adversity faced in The Game and there is not much evidence at this point that Michigan can overcome it. Anything can happen in this rivalry, but Michigan looks to be blown out. I, for one, will be screaming at the TV just as hard as ever and hoping against hope for strange things to happen.
Next season is an enigma. Does Michigan have anyone on defense that can fill in and turn this ship around? Can GERG show his worth and get what we have to improve? The offense is going to be really, really good... good enough to beat anyone on the schedule. It is going to be heart wrenching to watch the defense gack up games where we score 40 points, but maybe we can at least make a bowl game. Hopefully this team will be another year older and have found what it really needs to win.
Find a way, any way, and beat them Buckeyes.
I like Rich Rod. I don't have any real reason for this but I do. I dig his Aww, Shucks attitude and love the potential he brings to Michigan. I firmly believe that he would take us to consistent top 5 finishes if given the time to rebuild this program. There are many variables at work here so I'll just focus on:
- Michigan has the worst defense in the B10. This is not really news and is not relying on any statistics but just my opinion having watched a lot of B10 games this year. This defense has no time or personnel to change what it is and the real problem is in looking ahead to next year: The defense could actually be even worse. Our best D-lineman and Linebacker (by far) will be gone. We have no best Safety. Our best Corner (by far) may very possibly be gone as well. There are bright spots: Roh and Martin are beasts, Fitz has looked pretty good lately, Justin Turner gives us hope. Here's to hoping that simply having the continuity of a second year of the same defensive system will make Michigan's defense better.
- The offense continues to improve. The first half against Purdue was the single best half of offense we have seen since the Notre Dame game at least. Our first four drives ended in points, three of them touchdowns. Purdue is not a top end defense so we should have expected this but what, with all of the turnovers lately (read: past two seasons), it was like a breath of fresh air. Then the second half continued its curse on us. Next year should be better still for this Offense with second year QBs, faster and less-injured RBs, more experienced WRs, and more talented and developed O-linemen.
- This confluence of probabilities is not favorable for the current coaching staff. Michigan is known for giving its coaches time and not being hasty in firings. That said this situation may not right itself in time to save Rich Rod and friends even given the extra slack. The offense, no matter how good it gets, cannot be expected to make up for a defense sucking at the level of this year and probably next. At this point I would put our record next year at 7-5 and that may be optimistic. There is a serious and very uncomfortable chance of 3 straight losing seasons if I am reading the tea leaves right. It appears that 2011 is our real chance for redemption at this point but by then the atmosphere around Rich Rod and the program may be so toxic that anything short of awesome in 2011 wouldn't be enough to save this staff.
- I would put it at at least improbable that we will win either of our last two games this season. Assuming that we finish 5-7 and miss a bowl game for a second year in a row, is there any way recruiting does not take a serious hit? Yes, we are still Michigan but incoming recruits would have to be nervous about the possibility of a coaching change. This comes at a time when Michigan desperately needs to land the commitments they have now and add some more on defense to address depth issues.
- Danny Hope is an asshole.
Let me start by admitting that my gloomy attitude is a distinct departure from my earlier posts this season. I think we all can admit that our perspective has been changed somewhat in the past month. It is truly startling how fast this team has gone from "on the rise" to "on the ropes." So much of the near future of Michigan Football and Rich Rod's place in it looks to depend on the next two games. I don't like our chances of winning either of them but a win could make many of my above thoughts somewhat moot. So let's start by hoping against hope for a win at Wisky or against O$U.
There are glimmers of hope for the defense next year as well. Maybe Warren looks to increase his draft stock and stays. Maybe Turner is a freshman Warren next year and the two of them can solidify the corners. Maybe Vlad or a freshman MRob emerges as a competent safety to play opposite Woolfolk and saves our secondary. Perhaps Fitz steps up to lead a young linebacking unit to competency. Our D-line should be OK but you can't replace Graham with what we have on hand. So maybe the defense could be improved. The problem is then that one injury creates a hole and derails the improvement. And what we can bank on is that no season will be injury free.
So to sum up, I don't see us making a bowl game this year (but holy hell would it help down the road), and next year is looking like bowl game or bust. I should mention again that I like Rich Rod and hope he coaches here for a long while. The sad reality is that he is in a very bad spot and circumstances may send him packing before he can turn this boat around.
Go Blue. Beat them Badgers and save this season.