this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
- Michigan was the better team yesterday and if you remove the ridiculous number of turnovers, they kill the Irish.
- The offensive line looked great all game, giving Denard tons of time and opening up running lanes. Michigan probably could have ridden the O-line to victory easily. They dominated the much-heralded ND front seven.
- Borges went gimmicky far too early, IMO. The Devin Gardner pass was a nice play, but also a harbinger of things to come. The Vincent Smith HB-pass was far too cute. Hopefully looking at the film from this game will lead to more confidence and more straight-forward game planning in BIG season.
- The defense is getting much better up front and controlled the game yesterday. Tackles were spread evenly throughout the team, with the LBs and DTs accounting for a good percentage. No sacks is disappointing though.
- Desmond Morgon and Kenny Demens - They were everywhere hauling down Irish backs. Nice to see the veterans (Kovacs too) leading the defense in tackles.
- Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon - Several key receptions on third down for these two.
- Elliot Mealer - Looked very good opening holes for the run game. Props to Schofield as well for superior protection on passing downs.
- Denard's Feet - Take out the 3 sacks and you get 23 carries for 111 yards, or nearly 5 yards per carry.
- Norfleet - Hard running on returns put Michigan in good field position. Still awaiting the inevitable.
- Denard will throw the "d'oh!" pick. It is frustrating to see it, but this isn't going away. It is great consolation to see 67% completions with 12.1 YPA, but "UMass" and all that. Michigan really needs next Saturday to be an outlier here.
- The Devins create a bit of a problem for the opposing defense. Maybe this isn't really a trend yet, but both Devins looked great on their respective TD catches, with Gardner's displaying the athleticism we have heard so much about.
- Toussaint is shifty and will burn you in space. After a slow start to the game, 2011 Fitz showed up and made several defenders look silly. Again, "UMass" and all that, but Michigan will need Toussaint to build on this performance.
- Michigan's Defense is "Bend But Don't Break". UMass couldn't bend it much, but they did have two 60ish yard drives in the first half and another that went for 11 plays in the third quarter. The middle looked soft again, allowing Cox to make some strong runs.
- The Devins - These two have completely changed the outlook for the Michigan passing attack. Now up to 5 combined TDs, I'd put the over/under for these two at 20.
- Roy Roundtree - Breaks through finally with his first TD of 2012. Kudos also to Fitz Toussaint for his first of the year and to Vincent Smith for punching two in from inside the 10.
- Taylor Lewan - Swam 5 yards through bodies to recover a fumble on the goal line for his first career TD. I can't imagine how that play must have looked from his point of view. Congrats also to Justice Hayes for his first career TD.
- Denard - 3 TDs through the air and one long one with his feet. 106 yards rushing keeps him on pace to top Pat White. I love that he doesn't tie his shoes but cringe every time an announcer has to point out how well he cuts in his socks. "D'oh" picks will continue, and must be accepted by fans, but hopefully a lesson was learned about when to reach out at the goal line.
- Will Hagerup - This guy is back and better than ever. I must have re-watched the 70-yard-in-the-air blast off the facemask of befuddled UMass return man 7 times minimum. Punts like that could be game-changers going forward.
- Denard looks like he is indeed much improved as a passer. His throws were mostly accurate lasers and his ball placement looked very good.
- The Devins create a bit of a problem for the opposing defense and are a wonderfully athletic duo to have. Hopefully they will be a mismatch in our favor the rest of the year.
- Toussaint does not look ready for prime-time. In fact, he looked slow and indecisive.
- Troy Calhoun seems to have a problem down under. I can't recall ever seeing anyone grab their junk so much on national television.
- Funchess - Looked the part of the athletic freak mismatch, hauling in 4 passes for 106 yards and his first Michigan TD (congrats). We may have a very special talent here.
- Gardner - Was much improved in his routes it appeared, reeled in another TD and generally looked like a receiver.
- Norfleet - Didn't bust one but you can feel it coming. Ran one back to the 36 but must have ran 72 yards to get there.
- Denard - Gets his 20 carries when he is about as big as anyone on the opposing defense; made the most of them. 200+ yards rushing and passing. Should have had no INTs too. Please stay healthy.
- Troy Calhoun's Crabs - Proved just distracting enough to let Michigan escape his clutches. Hard to clutch anything when one hand is so constantly occupied.
- Campbell - The big guy looked decent, even quick on his sack. He will look even better against the rest of the schedule.
- Gallon - The little guy had a big game, going for over 100 yards receiving and would have had more had Tacopants not been mirroring his routes.
- Gardner - More than at any point before, I think we saw his athleticism in this game. Cleaner routes would have opened him up for several more receptions; the tools are clearly there.
- Norfleet - This guy will be special on kick returns. Seemed to almost always on the verge of breaking it with his speed.
- Denard - Again, the dude never quit. He only completed 11 of 26 passes, but looked more fundamentally sound than last year IMO. It made me sad to see him not smiling.
“A fundamental vibration is excited when one such quantum of energy is absorbed by the molecule in its ground state. When two quanta are absorbed the first overtone is excited, and so on to higher overtones.”
Wikipedia - Molecular Vibration
Nebraska was the first quanta, then came The Game...
Before getting into the game, let me give my heartfelt thanks to the Buckeye fans that offered to help my cousin jump his dead battery on the golf course, only to take off when the time came to actually help out. For a few horrible seconds I thought I was going to have to reconsider my position towards Ohio. Way to uphold the stereotype, assclowns!
By halftime of The Game yesterday an all too familiar feeling had crept over me. Michigan had looked like they were about to pull away in the first quarter, only to have the game brought back to a neck-and-neck battle when Ohio flipped the narrative in the second. Only there was that one point, the tiny difference between a FG and a safety, and it loomed large in my consciousness. It looked and felt like doom.
Honestly I had little doubt that this team would rally in the second half. It was that the offense would lead the way to victory that caught me by surprise. Denard was an absolute beast, and more in-tune with the flow of the game than at any other point this season. His passes were on the money, whether screen, seams to Koger, or darts into coverage for TDs to Hemingway and Odoms. Then the waggle-like PA to Koger - gods that was nice. But through it all, that single point still weighed heavy on my mind.
After Mattison's defense very uncharacteristically gave up the quick TD to make it 37-34, Denard turned to his legs to sew things up. Following a spectacular pass and catch by Dileo, Denard tag-teamed his way down the field with Toussaint. The added run threat that Toussaint gave Michigan made the read option deadly and Denard again and again gashed the Buckeye defense. Then Toussaint scored the game sealing TD, don't even try to play like he didn't - even Spielman claimed it wasn't incontrovertible. The refs though, they must have decided before the game to keep the finish exciting if at all possible. Turning that TD over was scandalous.
No problem though, Denard has it covered! Around on the bootleg and in for the score! Ballgame! What? A HOLD??? That's not a hold! His hand is on the guys breastplate for crying out loud!!! And a personal foul?????!!! He was just blocking the play! Goddamn zebras! This isn't right you conniving criminals!!! It isn't your goddamn place to try to influence the outcome of the game! Gaaaaaaaaaa!!!
Then, after Gibbons nailed his career long, that point was just sitting there, ready to tear out our hearts again and leave us clutching our dreams as the turned to ashes. It seemed predestined. But the gods had mercy on Michigan fans everywhere, and did not allow the zebras their triumph.
And lo, the highlight package from 2003 was laid to rest for all eternity. May we never be forced to view them again during The Game.
Live for Today…
Several players/coaches should take particular pride in their accomplishments yesterday:
- The Seniors - Van Bergen. Martin. Woolfolk. Koger. Molk. Hemingway. Odoms. Heininger. Huyge. Watson. It was more than could be asked of even Michigan Men to put up with the infighting and general incompetency of the last 4-5 years. May double-digit victories including over Ohio, and (hopefully) a BCS bowl birth serve in place of a Big 10 championship. You guys rock.
- Fitz Toussaint - Denard is light-years more effective with a true home-run threat in the backfield with him. The read option becomes almost impossible to stop if read correctly. Only having 2 negative yards against Ohio in 20 carries is remarkable. It is a crime that the zebras took your TD away, go get 3 next year.
- Denard Robinson - Hands down the best performance of the season on the biggest stage. If Denard can find this level consistently nest year Michigan would have to be the odds-on favorite to win the Big 10. Clutch.
- Martavious Odoms - Odoms made plays. His double-catch for the first down was simply an amazing display of physical prowess. His TD catch after muffing the pitch from Denard was just Odoms being Odoms. This team will miss him as much as anyone.
- Al Borges - When the defense was reeling, Borges came to the rescue in a brilliantly executed second half. Michigan had an answer for every challenge, a response for every score. The final TD that was scandalously taken away was a great call. The Waggle-Like-Substance the TD before was even better. Anyone that wants to question what Borges is doing should be required to re-watch this Game first.
Also of note: Desmond Morgan and Kenny Demens - Linebackers should be leading the team in tackles, Hemingway and Koger and Dileo and Gallon - Cause Denard can only throw it - someone has to catch it, Mike Martin and RVB - Disruptive forces that will be nigh impossible to replace, Kovacs - 2 TFL on nicely timed blitzes and tenacity on the sack, Hagerup - Despite losing us 17 rushing yards and almost costing us the game, this moment will live forever for its hilarity:
Kudos to orobs for the gif.
Hope for Tomorrow
This season is officially awesome and my faith Michigan's coaching staff is sky-high. I hope these guys stick together and retire together, because if that happens I think Michigan will end up with 1-2 more MNCs and rule the Big 10. The pieces are in place for a remarkable run, both with current personnel and through top-notch recruiting. I haven't been this content since 1997 at least.
It's great - to be - A Michigan Wolverine!
Go Blue everyone, and stay safe till bowl season!
“I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me down. It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day!”
Learn from yesterday...
First off I would like to give a shout-out to Nebraska fans everywhere, and sincerely say Welcome to the Big Ten. I had family members at the game yesterday, and between their accounts and what I have read in this space I would hope that Michigan Fans can hope to achieve the level of class that Nebraska fans epitomize.
This gravy is like a drug.
At some point in the third quarter I lost my mind and started calling every Michigan fan I know. It was like pinching myself repeatedly to make sure what I was experiencing was, in fact, real, and not just a defensive construct created by my brain to cope with the last few years. That game was epic and wonderful and tremendous even, but best of all it appeared to be part of a sustainable trend. This team is going to continue to rise, and it will be rising on the backs of the best coaching staff we have had in decades.
If Mattison can take this group of misfit athletes and create a fearsome defense, one can only imagine what he will do with the kind of talent Michigan is recruiting now. Michigan is 6th overall in scoring defense. They are showing sound fundamentals when tackling, wrapping up, forcing fumbles, all while shutting down one of the most potent rushing attacks in the country. Somebody, quick, pinch me again.
Borges deserves some praise here too. He still really, really wants this team to dominate from under center, this is clear. During yesterday's game though, whenever I watched Michigan get stuffed on first down from I-Form or Ace sets and muttered "Moar shotgun plz", the next play would be something from shotgun and would get Michigan's drive back on track more often than not. Borges probably could have gotten a win at Iowa, maybe even against Sparty, if he had gone with more shotgun earlier in the season. It is hard to blame the guy for going with what he knows though, and has the most faith in, when the chips are down. It appears that his faith is now in shotgun.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Brady Hoke. This guy has been the exact right fit from Day 1 on the job. Former players and coaches love him. His values are beyond reproach (seemingly at least, JoPa taught us all that you never can tell for sure). He is humble, doesn't pretend he knows it all, and surrounds himself with a staff that ensures success. He recruits astonishingly well. He has restored Michigan to the level fans are used to, and for that this fan at least is grateful.
Live for Today…
Several players/coaches should take particular pride in their accomplishments yesterday:
- Greg Mattison - The Michigan defense and coverage squads on special teams put on a tackling clinic. All three fumbles were the very definition of forced - putting a hat on the ball or punching it out. The containment was good all day, holding a potent Nebraska running game in check without having to dedicate safeties to do it. The zone blitzing is perhaps most impressive. I had fun trying to figure out who was going to rush and who was going to drop. I was always at least half-wrong.
- Fitz Toussaint - Fitz is making lateral moves that I just haven't seen from any Michigan back in recent memory. Mike Hart had the shiftiness, but lacked the size, acceleration and top-end speed that Toussaint has. Fitz is going to blow up the Big Ten next year - book it.
- Denard Robinson - The best game in a long time for our leader and best. Denard looked completely in control of the offense. He was patient, waiting for plays to develop before zinging a TD pass to Gallon or cutting behind his blockers for a TD on the ground. Best of all, Denard finally hit a receiver perfectly on an endzone bomb. He made some more questionable reads on the read option, but overall it was a great performance.
- Ryan Van Bergen - Only two tackles but one a sack and both were for a loss. RVB also recovered a fumble and was generally a disruptive force in the trenches. We are going to miss this guy.
- Brady Hoke - What I forgot to mention above it that Brady Hoke has huge brass balls. The difference between scoring 3 vs 7 points didn't seem like much to me at the time; either way it would be a 3 score lead. The deflating effect it had on Nebraska though, when that fake FG succeeded, I mean - to some extent that was where Michigan put the game away. Similarly though, if the play had not succeeded, it could have been a shot in the arm for Nebraska and the outcome might have been much different. I don't think I could have made that call in Hoke's shoes.
Also of note: Kovacs!!!, Martavious Odoms adds another TD, Will Campbell no longer looks lost, Linebackers - We Haz Them, Mike Martin is Mike Martin and is Awesome
Hope for Tomorrow
So now we have our 9 wins, a number that should serve to satisfy the expectations of all but the most insane Michigan fans. All of my recent experiences re: The Game force me to keep my feelings guarded. Putting too much emphasis on the outcome of the next tilt does the rest of this season a grave injustice. This is something I understand on a cognative level.
But in my heart I know that this is Michigan's time to shine. The point at which they turn the corner and never look back. The Ohio team Michigan faces is deeply flawed. This Michigan team is close to being among the best I have ever seen. Revenge, legitimacy, pride... so much is on the line that it is impossible to be satisfied. Michigan must protect their house - and show the world that good can indeed triumph over evil.
Let's finish this.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Go Blue and stay safe!