As I like to do after most Michigan games, the following are my observations, made for the purpose of prompting discussion on the various topics. Discuss . . .
1. The Molk injury killed our offense. Obviously, the snap issues during our first possession were a problem and Molk, being the leader that he is, found a way to play through it. The fact that he was able to play most of the game was really impressive. It was obvious, though, from the outset that whatever his foot injury was, it REALLY impacted his play, and his ability to move laterally. Much of our difficulty running the ball was attributable to pressure coming up the middle. Note: This is NOT offered as a criticism of Molk, who played through enough pain that many NFL players would have simply sat out.
2. Our running game. I think that the Molk injury, discussed above, was the biggest factor. Almost any running back, with the exception of the most elite (think Barry Sanders, D. McFadden or Peterson) will only have success if their line is giving them holes to run through. Clearly Fitz is not in that elite categoty AT THIS STAGE IN HIS CAREER. That said, there were several plays where his quick lateral cuts and his short bursts allowed him to gain 2-3 yards, rather than losing a yard. I still have a ton of faith in Fitz, especially with another offseason of weight training and practice. I see him having another 1000+ yard season.
3. Denard. It is odd to say this but Denard was a non-factor. Aside from 1-2 runs, his legs were largely taken out of the game by VT bottling him up (see point #1). AS for his throwing, again, he didn't necessarily play that poorly poorly (although we did see a return to his bad habits of locking in on a receiver, regardless of coverage, his back foot throws, his lofted jump balls and his overall poor decision making), but he also didn't play that well. Oddly, Denard was just a guy today. (silver lining: If he put up something like 32-35, 425 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT, 120 russhing yards, 1 rush TD, the OMG-Denard-is-going-pro hype might have built to a point where he would have considered it. PLainly, Denard still has a lot of work to do).
4. Our defense. I am split on my view of our defense. Negative: We continue to struggle against taller wide receivers. We also tackled poorly and allowed a mobile, but slow and lumbering, QB to gash us for a bunch of yards on the ground. Also, 3rd and 20?!?!?! We gave up way too many 3rd and longs. On the positive side, hot damn, our red zone defense is just great, as is our overall scoring D.
5. Coaching. Brady Hoke really is an aggressive coach. He loves to fake the FG, and does so at the right times. Also, on the last play of the first half, my wife said that we should kick the FG and I pretty much told her that she knows nothing about football (although she probably knows more than all but the most avid fans). Damn you Coach Hoke for making me look like a moron by kicking the FG 2 seconds later, but bless you for making the right call, as those points were critical.
Overall, we did not play well, but we found a way to win. I do not like so many fans saying that "VaTech gave us the game by fumbling, missing FGs, throwing picks, etc." VaTech didn't do those things in isolation - they did those things largely as a result of our defense and special teams. Also, we gifted VaTech a few picks, as well. So, while we didn;t play our best, this was a great win for Michigan, that should carry us to a top 10 pre-season ranking.