Season Opener: Don't Mess With The Zoltan
Patrick: YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOLTAN!
I was in awe. Hmm, not really. I was just excited that Zoltan and special teams didn’t receive the majority of praise, like last year. It seemed like I wrote a great deal of positive things in 2008 regarding Zoltan in articles, but not enough about the rest of the team. Surprise! It’s a brand new season!
After a long offseason full of drama, speculation, and allegations, the 2009 Michigan Wolverine football team took the field on Saturday with nothing but pure confidence and determination. The team had a great deal to prove to not only the fans, but to the coaches and themselves. The 2008 season had left such a sour taste that I’m sure the team wanted nothing more than to rise to the occasion and put all of the doubt and criticism in the rearview. Well, at least for the moment.
First of all, much praise goes to the defense…
The Wolverines were victorious (31-7) over a surprisingly flat Western Michigan team that I had thought to be a pretty solid bunch. Yes, the Broncos are a MAC team! However, that doesn’t necessarily mean cupcake. They were equipped with a strong offense and an NFL-caliber QB (Hiller) that I was almost certain would give the Wolverines secondary fits.
The majority, including myself, were under the impression that the secondary would be the most vulnerable part of the defense, but I was taken by surprise. Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko played at a high level. Cissoko had an on-the-spot interception and Warren did a nice job shutting down the other side of the field. J.T. Floyd (freshman), along with Troy Woolfolk were burned on the only score of the game.
Greg Robinson’s new 3-4 scheme looked well executed and aggressive. I had not seen a defense so tight and cohesive in quite some time. From the way it looked out on the field, both the coverage and tackling seemed to have improved significantly. The only time the Broncos offense gained momentum was during the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand for the Wolverines.
There were some mistakes made, but for once… no one was really victimized, like the notorious Stevie Brown of last season. Perhaps the hybrid LB/ safety role fits him. I will admit that I did think the LB position was the most talented of the whole defense coming into the season. Jonas Mouton also picked off Hiller and Obi Ezeh wreaked serious havoc by applying pressure and stops up the front.
Brandon Graham and the very young, but talented D-line deserves much respect. Hiller and his OL were out of sync for the most part. They were unable to find any offensive rhythm because the penetration and pressure effectively contained the Broncos on almost every series.
I really hate to say this because the term is severely used in the world of sports hyperbole, but…
MIKE MARTIN = BEAST!
Once I noticed that the battle of the trenches was being dominated by the Wolverines on the defensive side of the ball, the tone was set.
The offense had to follow suit… and they did. The offensive start and its overall production basically gave me amnesia in regards to the 2008 version. It all begins with how much improvement came from the OL and the QB position. The OL was quick on its feet and blocked tremendously. There were also great blocks further down the field that allowed plays to be executed successfully with a consistent attack. It really paid off for this unit to be together for a whole season last year because the difference was clearly evident on every drive.
True freshmen QB’s Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson were just what Rodriguez and the offense needed. Granted, this was their first game and there is still a long season to go with mistakes and bumps along the way, BUT… I’m ecstatic to see positive progression and a very high potential of superb playmaking ability from both.
Forcier appears to have poise, speed, and throwing accuracy. He also seems to have leadership qualities, which is extremely valuable from any freshman. Robinson is what I expected. He is very fast and has the ability to improvise and take off when a play slightly breaks down or goes awry. The only thing he needs to improve on is his passing and decision making… and that will come soon. He’s only been practicing with the team for nearly a month. As I stated before, there will definitely be mistakes made by both players, but the upside gives reason for optimism and future victories.
The Wolverines ran the ball at will. Carlos Brown filled in for the injured Brandon Minor and the QB’s also accounted for a good number of yards. There was a great mixture of classic up-the-middle runs, draw plays, and reverses. Michael Shaw looked impressive on a couple of occasions and maybe his fumblitis has been cured. There was even a brief look at Vincent Smith. I expect for Minor to be a go for Notre Dame, but don’t be surprised if Rodriguez uses the two seniors for the majority of the carries, mainly because of their reliability not to turn the ball over.
I’ve been stoked about WR Junior Hemingway for a couple of years now and he finally had his breakout game. Despite being low on the depth chart in 2007 and being injured in 2008, I still had hope that this guy would soon become the deep threat amongst the receiving corp. Greg Matthews did a solid job as a reliable possession receiver and… PLEASE! Give me some more Kelvin Grady! I liked the guy on the hardwood and it appears that he has serious skills on the field as well.
Oh yeah, DERP!
TE Kevin Koger might be a flatout star if he keeps making videogame catches like this one…
I don’t know if he’s a “f**kin soldier“, but he’s apparently a great threat to opposing defenses.
Overall, it was a highly anticipated game and a much needed win for Rodriguez, especially after a week of negativity stemming from the Detroit Free Press article. The resilient coach and his men went out there and made a huge statement for the fans of the maize and blue. Things couldn’t have started out much better, well… except for a couple of sure scoring drives that were halted by silly mistakes and questionable decisions. All seems right in Ann Arbor.
Let’s not start sucking each others d**ks quite yet. It’s just the first game of the season and a tough road lies ahead. They looked damn good, though… and much improved from last season.
Hail to the Victors!