2010 notre dame
9/11/2010 – Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 – 2-0
The Daily's Sam Wolson.
Sometimes even the corner of the endzone is a perfect vantage point to see something, and we were right on line to see Dayne Crist heave up what looked like a punt in the general direction of a covered Kyle Rudolph. We saw Cam Gordon take the wrong angle, backtrack desperately to take a futile swat at the ball, and twist his body around as quickly as possible to chase Rudolph. From there it's a dull haze as Notre Dame stadium erupted. The public address announcer, normally as staid and even-handed as Carl Grapentine, finished relating the details by exclaiming something about the rainbow Providence had directed to appear above the stadium at that exact moment.
Michigan fans are no strangers to this sort of thing. Ask anyone who's been around the block a couple times about Notre Dame Stadium and you'll get a recounting of injustices cosmic and otherwise perpetrated on not only Michigan but the idea of free will. Find them in a quiet moment in the dead of winter and get a couple drinks in them and you might hear a rigidly controlled statement about how the things that happen to Michigan's football team in South Bend make the speaker just… I don't know… unsure about certain things. Doesn't matter if they're religious or not. If they are, it's the existence of a just and loving God. If they aren't, it's the absence of a wrathful one. Either way the intensity with which your conversation partner is focusing on the rim of his glass will be unsettling.
The last time I went was 2002. Michigan fumbled four times, committed ten penalties, missed a 32-yard field goal, gave up a safety on a Courtney Morgan holding call, saw a Carlyle Holiday fumble at the two ruled a touchdown, and lost when Navarre's first pass on Michigan's last-ditch drive was batted directly to a Notre Dame defender. Michigan lost 25-23; in their previous two outings Notre Dame hadn't scored an offensive touchdown. I wrote two things about it in the aftermath:
- An Every Three Weekly article titled "John Navarre Blamed For Offense, Defense, Kicking Game, Iraq, 9/11, Everything Else."
- The other half of the infamous article exchange with Blue Gray Sky, in which a small child utterly defeats me by saying "good game, mister" as I attempt to trudge my way home.
The thesis statement of the latter:
To a Michigan fan, every Irish loss over the past ten years has been due to an unfortunate confluence of unlikely events: fumbles, ridiculous refereeing, blocked punts, hilarious deflected passes, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not (though it is): that’s what it feels like. It feels like Michigan has nothing to gain and everything to lose, and everything gets lost on a biannual basis.
When Kyle Rudolph crossed the goal line the thing I thought was not an unprintable string of expletives. It was "of course."
Before the season a reporter from the Hartford Courant called me up for a story he was doing on the UConn game, probably because he saw me as a way to tap into the zeitgeist of the Michigan fan. As these things usually go, he only used one sentence from a fifteen minute conversation. This left out what seemed to me like the most interesting bit of the conversation, where he asked what I thought Michigan football stood for, what made it special and unique.
I had no answer to this. I said "that sounds like a question a Notre Dame fan would love to answer"—which caused the reporter to laugh a little more heartily than objectivity would approve of—and then launched into a narrative that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been around here a while. The post titles say it all, really: "Empire of the Fallen." "You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad."
I told the guy that my inability to answer that question any more was kind of the point. The thing that was is dead, having expired from natural causes after a long illness. The thing that replaced it wasn't really anything except incompetent.
Basic understanding of the Michigan zeitgeist is understanding that now there is no answer to the question. Advanced understanding adds that until the Horror there was no program in the country with a more confident answer to it, and puts the two together to find a large number of sad pandas.
And then with 40 seconds left Denard Robinson stared down a blitzing, unblocked Manti Te'o and fired a dart to Roy Roundtree for fifteen yards on third and anything but a field goal attempt. Michigan had done its best to gaffe its way out of it like this uniquely frustrating rivalry demands, but after that it was academic. You try to stop Denard Robinson from going two yards, or seventy-two, or eighty-seven.
The rainbow was not Providence, except insofar as Denard Robinson might be it. It was the Shoelace bat signal, or rather one of many Shoelace bat signals: Flagpoles. Trees. Corned beef sandwiches. Damn near anything. Once summoned not even the vast historical juju of Notre Dame Stadium can do anything about him.
So this thing you dared not hope for starts to coalesce just from the things that happen on the field, and then yesterday morning I was struck by a sense of profound gratefulness when I watched the MGoBlue video of Denard's postgame presser:
I love how he smiles all the time and wears his heart on his sleeve and goes "AHHHH" when someone mentions Roundtree blocking for him and seems about as amazed as everyone else as what he's doing. I love how he drops to one knee after he scores in a way that seems genuine in a way I couldn't comprehend until I saw it. I love that if you ask him he'll sign your forehead. I was going to let my skepticism overwhelm, to wait until it was obvious that 2010 was not going to be 2009, but I lasted two games. I'm in the tank again.
That feeling Johnny identified in 2008 when it became clear that neither we nor Michigan had any idea what it was any more is obliterated. I've got an answer for the Courant now: Michigan is receivers blocking like tiny mountain goats 40 yards downfield because it matters, because if you set Denard free he'll go "AHHHH" at you afterwards. He'll smile and it will seem like the sun is poking through dark clouds, scattering colors in a circle all around you.
BULLETS ARE NO LONGER BULLETS
They're annoying. Now bold section titles. More room. Easier blockquoting. Win.
The unsung hero: Shavodrick Beaver, the backup at Tulsa. Does anyone else remember the sick feeling in your stomach when you found out that Michigan had lost a desperately-needed QB recruit to Tulsa? Funny old world, isn't it?
Denard is like a video game, but to Google it's NBA Jam:
HT to reader Apoorva Bansal.
Crist return. We were only getting the usual scattered texts that actually got through but by halftime it was clear that Crist had some sort of head injury that prevented him from seeing out of one eye. I laughed at my friend's concern that Crist might come back in the second half, reasoning that a head injury severe enough to keep someone out of a half of football is severe enough to keep someone out of a game of football. But lo, Crist rose after this:
Q. What play was it that you got dinged up on and what happened?
DAYNE CRIST: Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus. …
Q. Was it your vision?
DAYNE CRIST: Just kind of dazed a little bit and couldn't really see out of my right eye. But that was really it.
How would you feel if Michigan's coach had done that after everything we've heard about concussions the past couple years? Apparently they "did the tests" on the sideline and determined he didn't have one, but it's hard to be comfortable with that decision when it's a debate about in what particular way Crist's brain was messed up.
Ref argh. There have been a lot of complaints about Michigan's many penalties and the lack of ND holding calls—especially after Mike Martin described Chris Stewart getting a "warning"—that I can't comment on yet since I haven't seen the tape, but we saw this live since our endzone was the one it happened in:
What is it with Notre Dame getting free touchdowns on a balls they fumble at the one? No one from Michigan jumped on it, unfortunately, or a review would have been uncomfortable for the home crowd. What happens if a player fumbles into the endzone and it just sits there forever? Does anyone know what the result would have been? You can't claim an inadvertent whistle ended the play until after the ball is out. Commenters seem to think it would have been ND's ball at the one.
Tailback argh. Thirty yards rushing is not so good for all your tailbacks, though as we'll see below Fred Jackson thinks Notre Dame made a bizarre decision to put it all on Denard's shoulders. I'll reserve judgment until I see the tape since the corner of the endzone isn't a great vantage point to draw conclusions, but with a couple of less challenging games coming up it seems like its time to pull the other three kids out of mothballs and see what they can do. Tousssaint's Mike Hart and Chris Perry except fast, after all. That sounds okay.
Flagpole argh. One thing that did not factor into my decision as to which tickets I'd use and which I'd give to my friends: whether or not the flag would be 1) in my LOS and 2) at half-mast. It was kind of hard to see stuff inside the 20 on the far side of the field; people twenty rows higher were probably steamed about Al Qaeda in a way they'd never thought possible.
Denard implosion argh. In the aftermath of another OMG Robinson day the questions about his durability continue. I think they're slightly overblown since Robinson takes way fewer hits from the pocket than most quarterbacks, and hits in the pocket to a stationary target are always the most dangerous. Even so they're not entirely so, which means Robinson should see a reduced workload over at least the next two weeks and hopefully three as Michigan tries to find some confidence in the backup quarterbacks and find a tailback. If it comes down to it, though, you have to put the ball in his hands when it's do or die.
The truly terrifying thing about Denard Robinson is how often he was one downfield block from being gone like he was on the 87-yarder. These blocks got missed way too often, but I guess it's a lot harder to make them when you don't have any idea where the runner is going to be.
Game theory stuff. I agree vigorously with this message board thread about how the Rudolph touchdown was a blessing in disguise since any Notre Dame touchdown drive of actual length would have pulled so much time off the clock its hard to see Robinson leading a drive to win. He can execute a three-minute drill now (obviously), but with one and a half minutes I keep going back to those seams to Roundtree in the third quarter. The first was thrown directly at a linebacker when lofting it was a touchdown; the second was lofted and would have been a touchdown except it was considerably overthrown.
Giving up a 95-yard touchdown is obviously bad, but I think the play once Rudolph is behind the secondary and around the 35 is to let him score. Michigan didn't do this intentionally, but they did prevent the same sort of agonizing touchdown drive they gave up against Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2005, where they soft-shell their way down the field and allow the opponent the opportunity to score for the win with vanishingly little time left.
While we're on the topic, Kelly's decision to go for it from the three at the end of the first half has come in for rampant bashing by Notre Dame fans because it didn't work out but to me it seems like one of those decisions that's so close there's no right or wrong answer. We happen to have a huge database of one-shot plays from the three because that's where two-point conversions are attempted from. The expected value of a field goal from there is basically 3 points. The expected value of going for it is 45% of 7, or 3.15 points… if you assume an average defense and offense. Michigan does not have an average defense but Notre Dame's offense while directed by a third-string walk-on is probably even further below average, so in terms of pure points expected I'm betting Kelly gave up a little when he went for it. On the other hand, when you're down 14 points and you might not get many opportunities to score because you're down to the third-string walk-on you take variance where you can; you should be willing to give up some expectation for it. My gut feeling was that I was unhappy with the decision to go, which means it's probably the right call.
Yardage bit. This has been noted elsewhere, but what a bizarre game. Over 1000 yards of total offense but a winning score of just 28 and 18 punts. In a game where yardage was dead even Michigan was +3 in turnover margin and barely won. This happened because they lost about 40 yards of field position on punt exchanges, missed two field goals, got away with giving up the bomb at the end of the first half, shot themselves not in the foot but the head with penalties, and intentionally gave away 50 yards on Notre Dame's final drive.
So… yeah, Michigan functionally outgained ND by 50 since they weren't trying to stop those first two passes to Floyd, which makes the second week they did that against a BCS opponent. That didn't happen until the Purdue game last year.
Defense? Caveats about the backups in the first half apply but the defense managed to hang in there. Cam Gordon is going to come in for some huge minuses in UFR, but the rest of the defense can't be blamed for 200, maybe 250 (Jones phantom TD, Rudolph TD, long pass @ end of first half, final drive) of ND's 500 yards. Given the number of drives in this game holding ND to 24 points is an accomplishment. After Crist came out of the locker room and led ND right down the field twice I thought we were doomed, but the D got a stop after first and goal and then got five straight stops after. Say what you want about rushing three but I'm pretty sure all three picks were thrown into a three-man rush when the QB could not find anyone open. I'll be adding a "players rushed" tracker to UFR to see if the thing everyone hates actually hurt M.
Field goal argh silver lining. Rodriguez may be forced to do mathematically correct things on fourth and three from the 25.
AnnArbor.com slideshow. Genuinely Sarcastic column makes a good point about Cam Gordon and a box safety spot: ideally that's where he'd be. Doctor Saturday says "at some point you begin to run out of perspective, and adjectives." HSR took video of postgame celebrations. Wolverine Historian has a three-part set of highlights up. USA-Algeria-style bar explosion video from NYC's Professor Thom's. MVictors bullets. The Daily ranks the greatest individual performances in Michigan history, slotting Denard #4 behind three guys who killed Ohio State singlehandedly.
MGoReader scores tickets at face when ND opens up wheelchair seating to the public, sits next to Brock Mealer, and gets told this story:
He told me and a couple of nearby patrons a story about Denard: last week, before the game, he asked our QB if he ever thought about cutting off his dreads in case someone tried to pull him down (a la Polamu). Denard's response?
"If they ever catch me, they can have 'em."
Amongst the great many articles using the above picture and declaring Robinson to be hotter than the surface of Mercury but deploying the same stats and quotes as all the others is Mike Rothstein's from AnnArbor.com, which quotes to Fred Jackson about all those carries:
Notre Dame (1-1) offered no choice. With the defensive fronts the Irish presented, it was Robinson’s ball to carry over and over again….
“A lot of times, his reads tell him to give the ball to the running backs,” Jackson said. “But this game, they were forcing him to run it. They were probably trying to beat him up. But he’s too quick to beat up.”
That's an… interesting decision on the part of the Notre Dame coaches there.
I missed a few of Ryan Terpstra's postgame videos. Here's Jordan Kovacs:
The biiiig torrent is up, a 19-gig uncompressed capture. The more manageable one's ETA is 3PM.
Goot bye 87 yards zing:
Fuller highlights from MGoBlue:
WMAX radio guy Ryan Terpstra's field-level video of Michigan's last drive, the final play of the game, and the aftermath includes some priceless shots of the ND student section right after they got Denarded:
Rodriguez and Denard postgame:
If you could bottle Denard Robinson's smile it would light up the universe.
Other bits after the jump.
I am so tired. I went, and panicked, and then did that some more, and then did that some more, and then did that some more, and then Denard, and then Denard, and then Denard. Here are your muppets, which are very late but better late than never against Notre Dame, as Michigan quarterbacks can tell you the last couple years.
NOW THE MUPPETS:
And you can't have one without the other…
Also, how about JT Floyd and James Rogers? Mike Floyd did not kill Michigan. Other people did, but not Mike Floyd. Sleep now.
In retrospect, obvious. Shredder's latest and something I'm kicking myself for not putting in the preview:
Too bad it's a 100% guaranteed cease-and-desist magnet, or that would be a killer t-shirt.
Nacho dip. Obama's hard edge. Random seven minute video featuring Rodriguez and impressions of Rodriguez from his players:
This is never good. Remember Brent Petway's rap? Yeah… now there's a Michigan State version:
So they've caught up to us in that department. Let's not return the favor with team-wide brawls. Also, athletes: stop rapping. That is all.
Not that this is a surprise, but… John Pollack continues saying "it's just a flesh wound" in AnnArbor.com, further revealing reasons no one should talk to him ever again:
“What happened was that Michigan Stadium was a unique stadium,” he said. “With the renovation, it looks pretty much like every stadium in the country.” … “If you take out seat-license fees, the whole financial model collapses,” he said. “And what did the average fan get in return? A quarter-inch. It’s not even worth repainting the numbers.”
1. The bowl has not seen the seats expand to their final size, since that process will take the next three years.
2. The noise in the bowl has gone up 30-40%.
3. Handicap seating is considerably more extensive.
4. Seat license fees were instituted a decade ago.
4. He continues insisting that now Michigan Stadium looks like "every other stadium in the country," which good lord:
He also keeps saying that the "mystery and surprise" that Michigan Stadium was just a HOLE IN THE GROUND was an asset since surely no one knew it was called "the Big House" when it was a HOLE IN THE GROUND.
False. If I had a picture of this man I would lolcat it like that. just "FALSE."
On the crushening of Denard. A small amount of chatter in the aftermath of the UConn game has been about how the Big Ten rabble rabble defense rabble linebacker rabble Robinson's spleen rabble rabble rabble. Jon Chait points out a reason the 29 carry(!) outing is not likely to be repeated:
The seminal thing about Connecticut's defensive game plan is that it did not work. At all. Michigan had one punt and zero turnovers. Ask yourself this. If you were designing a game plan against Michigan, would your goal be to make Robinson carry the ball as often as possible? Or would you try to force less dangerous players to get the ball? I predict most defenses who have seen what Robinson can do pick door number two, and his rushing attempts per game drop.
Also as Robinson's passing gains the trust of the coaches, Michigan's run/pass breakdown will retreat from 75% run to 70%, maybe 65%. And probably 50% of his carries will be touchdowns anyway.
On secondary aigh. Notre Dame's got some of its own. Starting safety Jamoris Slaughter will not play this weekend, leaving this in the ND backfield:
Slaughter's injury and freshman Derek Roback's transfer to Ohio University earlier this week leave the Irish with only three fully healthy scholarship safeties for the Michigan game - [sophomore Zeke] Motta, junior Dan McCarthy and senior Harrison Smith.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: Kelly says he's not moving anyone to the position because there's a 5'10" walk-on who they're "not afraid to put in the game."
Motta will start his first game tomorrow. He was a pretty big recruit, albeit one the sites all ranked as a linebacker. May his judgment of angles be correct for humans, incorrect for Denard.
Etc.: Good news for people in Denmark: NBC will stream the M-ND game live. This message will be repeated in the liveblog post. Another Michigan blog: Dreaded Judgment. Rodriguez says he "hopes" Forcier stays and competes. Big Ten Network ad revenue increases 22%. And, finally:
First, and sadly: due to a honeymoon in Paris (not mine), longtime friendly adversary Brian of the House Rock Built was unavailable for a Vicious Electronic Questioning this year. I haven't run across any Notre Dame bloggers who aren't enthusiastically answering their roundtable question about why they hate Michigan with links to the Blue-Gray Sky thing they posted on this blog that mostly talks about people who have been dead for many years, so a replacement just wouldn't be the same. Who goes on a honeymoon during football season anyway?
But I can boil it down to its essence:
I know I feel better. On with shew.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, September 11th 2010|
|THE LINE||Notre Dame -4|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, 40% chance of rain, 10 mph wind|
Run Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan obliterated UConn on the ground, racking up 287 yards on 61 carries. That's 4.7 YPC despite running about 75% of the time and spending the last ten minutes of the game pounding it into a stacked line. Denard Robinson did the bulk of the damage running simple QB lead draws that UConn could not stop even after UConn adjusted to them and Michigan showed no inclination to stop calling rock. The tackles performed above expectations, Steve Schilling seems to have made a senior leap, and David Molk is back. The one sore spot on the line was sophomore guard Patrick Omameh. You probably know this bit already.
How meaningful that is is still a question. UConn returned five of its front seven (both defensive tackles and all three linebackers) but lost a projected starter at DE before the season and may have played Greg Lloyd at MLB despite an injury. Last year they were the #45 rush defense nationally largely thanks to playing a lot of terrible rush defenses. When it came time to play anyone with a mobile quarterback or a tailback, they got shredded. Jury may be leaning one way, but it's still out.
Third stringer Dan Dierking career YPC: 4.0. Versus ND: 6.2, although on just nine carries.
As far as Notre Dame goes, their opening matchup against Purdue is not indicative of much either. The Boilers lost Ralph Bolden before the season and went with a platoon of a dinged, unprepared Al-Terek McBurse and Dan Dierking, which latter the announcers tried to praise by saying he could play fullback too. You may remember Dierking playing against Michigan in the long-long ago when Purdue had a similar rash of injuries, but after a 42-carry freshman season his stats for the last two years combined are 12 carries for 38 yards.
A mélange of those guys, worse-at-running-than-he-thinks quarterback Robert Marve, and assorted who-dats went for 136 yards on 28 carries, Marve's four sacks excluded. That's… kind of ominous for the Irish, as it's a 4.9 YPC against Dierking and the Who-Dats (AKA: Who-dat and the Who-Dats.) Compounding the ominous Tom Hammond head hovering over the ND run defense, Purdue returned just two starters on the offensive line. Two of the new guys are position switch starters somewhere between ominous and klaxon-deploying: the right tackle was a backup defensive tackle last year; the center is a 6'6" converted tackle who had never played the position in his life before being told to practice snapping in June. Despite this, Purdue coaches were positive about him after the game:
"He graded out winning," Nord said of Mondek. "Peters Drey had a very good player head up on him the whole day and he held his own. He did an excellent job for the first time snapping in the game."
Also, in that article the Purdue coaches pin the blame for three of Marve's four sacks on Marve for not throwing the ball on time. The Boilers are going to rush for like six yards a game this year.
Last year's game is worth noting since the lines will be similar: Michigan went for 190 yards on 38 caries with a long of 32. Many arrows point towards schwing. The only one pointing away is the presumably increased competence of the ND coaching staff.
Key Matchup: David Molk vs Ian Williams. The first sign Molk was going to be good was two years ago in the driving rain at Notre Dame Stadium when he blasted Williams back time and again, opening holes up for what would be the best game of Sam McGuffie's Michigan career. A year later he was a major factor in Michigan's 5 YPC. If he can do the same thing this year, Michigan's guards will have free releases on the sophomore middle linebackers and Notre Dame will struggle to get Michigan off the field.
Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan fans' reaction to Denard Robinson's throwing in the UConn game was basically this:
And not without reason when you send Tacopants into a mopey sideline pout due to lack of playing time. Stipulated that UConn's secondary must be terrible and that Gary Gray and Darrin Walls will be a major step up. If the ground game is working like it seems it might, however, the excitable Te'o ("yeah, he missed that tackle, but he missed it like a FIVE STAR") and the rest of the Notre Dame linebacking corps will be tested more than the cornerbacks. The only times Michigan went after corners against UConn were on hitches; everything else was safeties and linebackers. That seems like a viable strategy against ND.
The questions for Robinson are the ones detailed in UFR:
It's more about what happens when his receivers are covered. Can he come off a primary read? Can he consistently recognize when guys are covered? Can he process information fast enough to get the passes out on time?
Notre Dame will spend a lot of time working on a counter to the snag that Robinson threw to good effect against UConn, leaving him riskier throws further downfield that require more recognition than "where is the linebacker"; UConn's inability to play anything but zone against Robinson hurt them badly.
As far as ND goes, Marve struggled against the veteran secondary, throwing a pick when Walls sank into the deep route in cover two and Marve chucked it anyway and completing a large number of uselessly short passes. Though he went 31 of 42, all those completions only gained 220 yards, a Threet/Sheridan-esque 5.2 YPC. The longest completion of the day went for 16 yards. Notre Dame also racked up four sacks, though as mentioned the coaching staff put the blame for three of them on Marve; the fourth was blamed on a tailback's blitz pickup. Notre Dame looks to have the same low-mistake secondary they've had for a long time.
Key Matchup: Play action OMG versus ND linebackers. More play action combined with a successful run game and some inexperience at MLB could yield a big day for slots and tight ends.
Run Defense vs. Notre Dame
First, everything ND did on offense against Purdue:
Did you get all that? AAL breaks it down in various ways. The bit relevant to this section:
On 1st and 10, the Irish were 68% run, 32% pass. On all other downs they were 21% run, 79% pass. … Most popular runs: Power (8), Inside Zone (5), Draw (3), Read Zone (3) … Purdue plays a 4-3 and was happy to sit in Cover 2 for almost 50% of all plays. Often a nickel back was in the game replacing the Sam, but serving the same function. The safeties sat at 10-12 pre-snap and weren’t going to let anything over their heads.
Despite the predictability of ND's run distribution, tailbacks Cierre Wood and Armando Allen combined to have an almost Denard-like day with 25 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown. As you can see above, they looked good doing it. (The move to the spread has apparently spelled doom for Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray.) Notre Dame also ran Crist seven times for 20 yards, though he looked bad enough at it that I assume they'll either drop it entirely or keep it as a very occasional effort to keep defenses honest.
Is Purdue's run defense any good? Eh… probably not. They returned 4-5 starters in their front seven but those guys were good for just 94th nationally last year.
Of course, the next question is "is Michigan's run defense any good?" They were 91st (WOO SUCKIT PURDUE) last year and though they return 5-ish of their front seven from last year (counting the spur as a linebacker) the losses were Brandon Graham and Stevie Brown, AKA definitely the best run-defense players on the team last year.
The UConn game does give reason for hope. The Huskies returned four starters and Jordan Todman from a rushing game that was 39th nationally a year ago, but only racked up 138 yards on 30 carries, with 26 of those coming on two carries when Michigan was in a full-on prevent. When Michigan was in their base defense, UConn averaged 3.6 YPC. If Michigan can replicate that they'll be in good shape.
Key Matchup: Mike Martin vs Braxton Cave. Cave was a surprise starter when Dan Wenger suffered a concussion in fall camp, and while he was a decently well-regarded recruit Martin should be coming into his own this year to the point where he tears through Cave like his presence is theoretical. If this happens, Notre Dame's ground game will suffer.
Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame
HAHAHAHA. End preview.
All right, fine: this looked like a pending disaster before the season and looks like a pending disaster after week one, but maybe slightly less of one? Michigan's corners were effective against UConn's short passing game and blameless on their long completions. Cam Gordon made one understandable mistake amongst a reel of good angles, big hits, and mostly responsible play. This is still going to be a horror show; maybe it will be slightly less of one than everyone expects.
On the Notre Dame side of things, Crist proved he wasn't Jimmah, at least not yet, several times. He overthrew several receivers and did not react well when Purdue let the dogs out:
Purdue only blitzed 3 times before the score was 20-3. The Irish handled it at that time (+5, +12, +7). After, Purdue blitzed 8 times netting 2 sacks, 3 incompletions, 1 scramble (for 0 yards), and a safety on a run play. Against the late blitzes, the Irish succeeded once on an Inside Zone run (+18).
Even with those negatives the final numbers were 19 of 26 for 206 yards and a touchdown: efficient but not explosive. His YPA was actually worse than Robinson's, his YPC slightly higher, and this was against a secondary replacing all four starters. IE: probably not a ton better than UConn's. The deep ball was not part of the arsenal. Was Purdue able to bracket Floyd because the guy opposite him this year is Duvall Kamara—all but a tight end—instead of Golden Tate? Is Crist significantly worse at it than Clausen? Was it just one of things? Data not found. Blue Seoul suggests it might be the Crist bit:
Still big, still fast, still got great jumping ability. Unfortunately for him, Crist doesn't seem able to hit him on a fly. Twice they tried a double move, with Crist missing badly. Something's not right with their timing. But he's a huge threat on deep hooks and other sit down routes against a zone.
Even with all that mitigation, your hopes are probably an inch off the floor and that's where they should be. Keeping Floyd off the board on the long ones is all but impossible unless Michigan's pass rush is murderous, and while they were good against UConn they were not murderous.
Key Matchup: Mouton and Roh and to some extent Van Bergen vs ND tackles. ND went empty a ton against Purdue, leaving one-on-one matchups for their offensive linemen. The ND tackles are new and didn't do so hot against Ryan Kerrigan, though that might be understandable. Meanwhile, Roh displayed far greater pass-rush ability against UConn than he did as a freshman in limited time since Michigan rushed three frustratingly often. Van Bergen did not have an impactful game in his first game as a DT, but when Michigan goes to its rush package and Mouton puts his hand down he's a difficult matchup. If Michigan can get to Crist with regularity they win. If not, they probably lose.
Michigan was shaky a week ago. Jeremy Gallon let a punt bounce down to the four, made a ridiculous decision to run up under a 30-yarder and got the muff we all knew was coming. Michigan recovered. Brendan Gibbons missed a 42-yarder, made a 24-yarder, and missed one of four extra points. Kickoff returns were eh, and Michigan elected to frustratingly squib several kicks.
In the aftermath, Rodriguez attributed almost all of that to the wind, gave Gallon a vote of confidence on punt returns, and said Gibbons was good to go this week.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, got a big punt return from Armando Allen—on Purdue's only punt—and saw their field goal kicker go 3/3. On the other hand, their net punting average is just 31.7 yards.
Key Matchup: HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.
- Craig Roh and Mike Martin aren't getting to the quarterback on five- and seven-step drops.
- Patrick Omameh looks as shaky as he did against UConn.
- Crist launches anything downfield.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- David Molk puts Ian Williams on skates again.
- The run game's making the linebackers jumpy and vulnerable to the Oh Wide Open we saw against UConn.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Aigh Secondary!, +1 for Aigh Mike Floyd!, +1 for Aigh The Combination Of The Two!, –1 for Wow Purdue Is Hot Ass, –1 for Dan Dierking YPC: 6.2, –1 for He's White!, +1 for First Road Start For QB, +1 for And The Horrible Things Always Happen At Notre Dame, –1 for …But Usually To The Favorite.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; –1 for Playing With House Money to Some Extent, +1 for But Yeah This Would Be Well On Path Towards Avoiding Doom, +1 for All Internet Notre Dame Fans Are Basically Reprehensible, +1 for Boy The Next Two Weeks Would Be Relaxing With This Under The Belts, –1 for Fairly Understandable Loss If It Happens, +1 for But If It's Doesn't We Might Have Something Here, +1 for Maybe They'll Hire Weis In Three Years If Kelly Does Poorly)
Loss will cause me to... spend three weeks attempting to ignore grumblers until we get more information.
Win will cause me to... definitely not say anything about the Outback Bowl.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Oh, why the hell does this section exist? I don't know. I don't know what will happen, either.
I think Notre Dame can force Michigan into two or three deep coverage and exploit that, I think Obi Ezeh is going to be a key player with Notre Dame running it down his throat a lot from spread formations, I think Michigan's best hope to kill drives is to blitz so those tackles don't have help against Mouton and Roh but that inescapably exposes Kovacs to God knows what. I can see Crist whiffing on some key passes and either fumbling or tossing an interception when he gets pressure. I can also see the Mike Floyd show.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame's performance against a hacked-together bunch of third-string scrubs, converted offensive linemen clearly unsuited for their positions, and a cluelessly arrogant quarterback bodes well for Michigan's ability to run all over them. Once that's established, Robinson's reads get considerably easier and the offense goes right down the field.
I think I'm flipping my position on this after looking more closely at the ND-Purdue game. Total yardage in that game was 350-320, and on review Purdue looks like a team that should be terrible this year, especially if Marve is going to be that guy all year. Is UConn better than Purdue? Almost certainly. Did Michigan disfigure them in terrible ways? Yes. Am I a tiny bit more confident in the reliability of the Michigan offense? Yes. Do I think there's more chance of a turnover when Michigan blitzes Crist than a Notre Dame defense that almost has to sit back? Yes.
So… yeah. I am about to do this. I have no confidence in this prediction.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard only, and he again cracks 100 yards and 5 YPC. Completion percentage comes down to 65%.
- The tailbacks look much better than they did last week, with someone, probably Shaw, breaking a long one due to excessive Denard attention.
- Michigan wins the turnover battle.
- Michigan, 31-27.