11/17/2012 – Michigan 42, Iowa 17 – 8-3, 6-1 Big Ten
M. Ward – Helicopter
A couple years ago Carl Hagelin lasered a wrist shot off the post and in directly in front of my seats at Yost. It was senior day; there was a second left in overtime. I saw the puck rise all the way and knew its path was true. In the aftermath I wrote about a kind of envy I have for old-timers who have only their burned-in memories of these titanic events:
…while I've been craving video boards at Yost for years there's something beautiful about not having the thing you just experienced altered by someone else's perspective. Since the Werner goal isn't on youtube no one can tell me he wasn't wielding a scimitar, wearing an eyepatch, and screaming "hhhhhyarrrrr" as he swashbuckled towards the net. I'm pretty sure the unicorn he was riding was named Steve.
Those days are over but thanks to Carl Hagelin Yost got one last opportunity to walk out of the building buzzing about the thing that just happened in your head, and only your head.
I feel aftershocks of this when I'm on the radio with Craig Ross and the topics get twisted around to 1970s basketball refereeing and Craig gets a little frothy and a guy calls in to froth a bit with him. I love this. You don't even know. I have no idea how much of it is accurate but I've double-checked my brain with Youtube enough by now to know that the things we have in our head are a lot further from the untrammeled gospel than it seems.
When you have this presented to you directly, it's unsettling. You think you remember everything about these blazing moments in your sports fandom and it turns out not to be so, and you wonder about all the other things you may not have right. Before anyone could check their brains, the tower in your head could go unchallenged.
A part of me wishes that Denard turning Tanner Miller into a chasing ghost was gone, extant only in all of us who saw it, slightly different but equally validating and valedictory and satisfying in all of our heads. I mean obviously not, this would be terrible, I can recite Keith Jackson's call of Charles Woodson's OSU punt return (Woodson's got one block… he's got another block… one more and he's gone!) from memory and hear the three separate roars from the crowd without even cuing it up. Obviously not. Despite the memorization I just watched Charles Woodson return that punt eight times. This site is dedicated to archiving the events and the feelings behind the events. Obviously not.
But… maybe a little. If that was just there and gone, well, seeing that would be something. Like watching Tom Harmon. Like experiencing the rage of playing Indiana in a dusky, mustachioed 70s basketball arena where television was just a rumor and your brain the only repository of a precious thing—the life you lived.
"It still haunts me today to not play your senior year," said Smith… "To work that hard at something and have that happen is devastating. It could have led me the wrong way."
It was not particularly reassuring. At some point I thought I realized I'd seen the last of it, and I started thinking one of the things stuck in my head that calls itself forth at times: "And I sat down on the grass, on the burnt grass, on the black, burnt, dirt and grass, and I can admit this now: I wept. I cried big, old, giant tears."
Because memory is unreliable I had to plug it into Google and got two hits and realized that this was the Robert Earl Keen story I'd warped into a column about Michigan hockey losing the national title game two years ago after staying up all night editing my now-wife, then-fiancée's dissertation. I did this just now, and read it, and yeah. This is what I felt when I thought about the black burnt dirt and grass:
At some point Michigan is actually going to win another goddamned national championship and some of this will be redeemed. Not all of it, though. Shawn Hunwick is never going to do that again, and nothing's ever going to match the Swedish flag and my complete failure to get people to replace all words in the goal cheer with "bork" when Hagelin scores. Things come and go; this one has gone and I'm stunned at how much I miss it already.
Except the stunned part, because obviously not stunned more like openly dreading forever.
Denard got a ceremonial snap, and ran for three yards, and then got another, and ran for four yards. Collectively they are the Michigan fanbase's favorite first-quarter plays to set up third and three ever. It became clear that we had been granted a reprieve from the future.
The sun was out, shining on Michigan's present and future as each senior took a bow. Vincent Smith hacked down men much larger than him and scored on a throwback screen. Jordan Kovacs took a quarterback escaping into space and turned it into a tackle for loss. Roy Roundtree was Worst Waldo open for a touchdown.
And on another option play, Denard eschewed a pitch that was there, accelerating outside of Thomas Rawls to the corner, where he faced down an Iowa safety. One juke later, he was tearing down the sideline. A hundred ten thousand took it and put it in their memory. I was there. I saw it. I can tell you about it, but it's something you have to experience for yourself.
As the day descended into a blissful victory lap, Denard audaciously reversed field for another big gain en route to exceeding 100 total yards on 15 touches. On each play, you could feel the stadium burst with anticipation. Please give me one last thing to have here. He did, twice, and the cloud that dogged Walter Smith evaporated.
After, I walked down to the tunnel and watched him go, young and old alike reaching down for one last moment.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. You can no longer be denied, Devin Gardner: 18/23, 314 yards, six total TDs. I be like dang. More about Iowa being the worst thing ever a bit later; setting that aside, it's remarkable that Gardner throws an out and you're just like "this is extremely likely to be on target and moving fast when the WR catches it." His accuracy and comfort with the offense grows weekly, and when he needs to have his legs bail him out those are still around.
Honorable Mention. Jeremy Gallon (133 yards receiving without getting a gift long TD, let's not think about the punt), Roy Roundtree (gift long TD but hey 83 more yards), Denard Robinson (8.1 yards a touch), GERG Davis (your QB completed 19 of 26 passes for 7 YPA), Jordan Kovacs (I just like Jordan Kovacs), Will Hagerup (did not wander off to Ypsilanti at halftime, wondering if he should transfer to a school at which he would see the field).
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. It must be Denard Robinson juking Tanner Miller to the ground. Yes. All of the that.
And then he felt he was being unfair so he ran out of bounds.
Honorable mention: Denard reverses field on dinky flare pass, Gardner to Gallon for a juggling 50 yard catch, Roundtree goes Worst Waldo on third and seventeen, Vincent Smith throwback screen for old times.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over. 11/17/2012: Denard WOOPS Tanner Miller in Big House finale.
Iowa caveats apply. Large Iowa caveats apply. Several plays were comically wide open as Iowa's secondary was ruthlessly exposed for the clown college it is. Only the incompetence of Big Ten passing attacks obscured it previously. Meanwhile, Devin Gardner is now eligible for social security after one particular goal-line passing play.
Late in the game, Iowa quit. Caveats apply. Large ones.
Let's ignore all caveats! Holy pants. The combination of the Devin Gardner-oriented slick passing game with spicy deep bombs combined with Denard Robinson carrying the ball to annihilate Iowa's defense utterly. Michigan scored touchdowns on their first six drives and were going in for another when Micah Hyde made a pretty badass interception on what would otherwise have been first and goal for Michigan.
Gardner's accuracy is getting creepy—a couple of underthrown deep balls were short only because their targets were so vastly wide open that the only way to not score a touchdown was to miss them, and the corner routes he's throwing are consistently on the money. This was the third straight game he hit Gallon in the numbers on a deep bomb—on this one Gallon had a guy draped all over him and still brought it in.
More than that it seems like Gardner just has a certain je ne sais quoi about him. The scrambles are a big part of this. There's more to it, though. In this game just having the patience to sit and wait a million years on that play where he could was an asset, and then he had that brilliant improvisation fling at Roundtree…
…that caused Dave Pasch to manically exclaim he was "JUST TOYING WITH THE DEFENSE!!!" He was.
As we go along here I'm moving away from thinking things like the yakety sex touchdown against Minnesota are not sustainable items you can count on to keep your offense going game in, game out. Gardner has kept a ton of drives alive with his scrambles and his ability to adjust on the fly—neither of which are Denard assets.
Horrible defenses all, yes. Inability to run for two yards without a quarterback involved, yes. Still.
Inability to run for two yards without a quarterback involved. …looked like it might be going away as Toussaint popped a couple nice gains—one of them on a real live successful option pitch from Denard—but then Toussaint sustained extreme damage and it was back to the salt mines. Rawls, Hayes, and Smith combined to acquire 35 yards on 13 carries, 2.7 per. Yeah, a number of those were short yardage. Still, a long of eight yards was acquired, and that was when the entire Iowa defense freaked out about Denard only to get the counter pitch in their face. Runs on which offensive line blocking was relevant topped out at six yards.
This is just something that must be accepted. Michigan is not going to get much of anything up the middle against Ohio State, and must be able to throw effectively. It'll be interesting to see if Ohio State tries to match John Simon up against Michael Schofield or lets the Lewan/Simon throwdown go down. Either way, Whoever Versus John Simon is the single most important positional matchup in the game.
Rawls hype level descending. Not very far from a low baseline since the Purdue blip up was only a couple carries, but descending. To me he seems very Kevin Grady so far and it's hard to see him getting anything against that DL and OSU's speed to the outside. I don't know what they can do about it, though. Smith is the same thing, more likely to make a man miss and far less likely to grind out YAC.
Hayes and Norfleet clearly don't have the coaches' trust, which is unfortunate because the role Michigan needs to fill when they go to that Fritz package is the darting outside guy who can tightrope the sidelines no problem when he gets that counter pitch or juke a defensive back when he gets the option. I have the feeling that sometime next year one or the other will get an extended run, do well, and leave us all wondering why they couldn't get on the field in 2012 (probably because they can't block).
Meanwhile, while I'm not writing off Rawls the trendline there is not heading towards anything more than a short-yardage guy. A short yardage guy that bounces it way too much.
Nefarious Ohio State plans. Michigan has not called more than a couple runs for Devin Gardner yet aside from short-yardage run/pass rollouts that have turned into half-scramble/half-intentional-run touchdowns. The reason has been obvious: if Gardner goes down Michigan is rolling with a one-armed Denard and Russell Bellomy. This has been a logical thing to do.
I think they have to break the seal on that in the Game.
I'm not suggesting Gardner takes off 20 times or anything, but some dose of Gardner/Denard inverted veer action seems like a big opportunity to hit something big. The problem with working Denard into the gameplan as a not-quarterback is that he basically can't block for reasons of inexperience and elbow, so how do you work around that limitation? To date, Michigan has given him the ball and used him as a decoy.
They'll continue doing that, but it's time for the Denard/Devin Mesh Point. By making Denard the tailback and running the veer, they either get Denard on the edge without contain or option someone off, thus blocking someone with Denard without actually blocking someone with Denard. Add in the potential for play action off that look and you've got my #1 must have thing for OSU.
Toussaint damage. I am probably not informing you of anything you do not know when I say he has broken bones in his legs and is done for the year. A reader pointed out this study done on 31 soccer athletes that saw the subjects with twin fractures return to competition an average of 40 weeks after their injury, which would be just before next season.
If he can't get back in time for 2013, he should be able to apply for a sixth year. His first redshirt was due to a shoulder injury.
Citizens for Dileo. If a ball is thrown at Drew Dileo and hits the ground, it is pass interference and should be an automatic flag. Now please let the man return punts.
Could have gone better. Iowa's touchdown drive was pretty alarming. And even if Vandenberg was making all the three yard passes, it's a little disappointing when the opposing QB goes 19 of 26. Some of that was inexperience, some of it scheme—on a late third and four Michigan moved Gordon down late and used him as a man defender on a TE out successfully; previously they were using linebackers making tougher run/pass reads.
HOWEVA, I don't think I'm as down as Hoke was after the game. Guy seemed downright dispirited by a team that barely scraped over the 300 yard mark thanks to a jerky onside kick and 22 meaningless yards before halftime. Iowa went three-and-out on four of their first six drives. If the ref doesn't throw a terrible roughing the passer flag on Jordan Kovacs, they would have been facing fourth and eleven at the 32 on their field goal drive. By the time they put together the 81-yard-drive that rescued their yardage from the abyss it was 42-10 and Kovacs and others were cooling their heels on the sideline. Iowa is bad and having them do anything is bad; I'm not really sure they did much of anything other than throw it at their tight end.
Weisman coming back was a big help for them. The difference in quality between that guy and Garmon was obvious, and he still only managed 3.9 YPC.
The game in a nutshell. Michigan third down conversions: 9/12 with two of those failures subsequently converted on fourth down by Devin Gardner. Iowa: 6 of 14 and 1 of 3 on subsequent fourth downs.
worst roughing the passer ever (Upchurch)
Godspeed, Kovacs. I may get all blubbery about Denard but if Devin's going to do the things he seems like he is doing, Kovacs might actually be the guy I miss more next year in on-field terms. Do you people remember that Michigan used to give up huge long touchdowns all the time? Like, weekly.
Kovacs's utter reliability has turned Michigan into a defense that essentially never gives up anything without a chance to redzone you to death. He is literally the best safety I have experienced as a Michigan player, walk-on be damned, status be damned. All hail Kovacs.
Iowa tight end cloaking device. I like it much better when Greg Davis is operating it because the end results are decidedly non-Moeaki. Mattison likely has something to do with it.
Weekly Devin Gardner lookalike photo. Not necessarily a thing, but after Hipster Devin last week it's a thing this week because…
…because it's a thing.
Brady Hoke FTW. Moments that make you think "boy I'm glad that guy isn't Michigan's coach" are flying fast and furious these days, what with Minnesota's leading receiver bombing Jerry Kill in a 4000-word tumblr post by way of announcing a transfer and Bret Bielema punting from the Ohio State 30 and Mark Dantonio punting on fourth and medium down three with three minutes left—a decision that slashed his team's chances by a third.
It is impossible to conceive of the first thing happening under Brady Hoke. Jerry Kill seems like a decent guy and doesn't have the opportunity to tell his side of the story, but it's hard to picture anyone on Michigan's team even having a side of the story. I mean, Hagerup interaction post-OSU-atrocity. QED.
And while I wouldn't put it past Hoke to freeze up in the heat of the moment (everyone does sometimes) his game theory decisions are near-perfect in two years at Michigan. Saturday, Michigan faced fourth and goal at the one, sent the kicking team out… and called timeout because Hoke was like "wait I am Brady Hoke." While the ensuing touchdown turned out to be unnecessary, it was the right move and it paid off.
Usual statement of preferred policy: all freshmen get to buy tickets; after that you have to show up by kickoff at half of the games to renew.
Iowa: home of the hyphen. Iowa's moved from Inexplicably Great White Wide Receiver—who now makes his home in Minneapolis when he's not bombing Jerry Kill and leaving—to Somewhat Good Hyphenated Name Guy. They're multiplying now: Iowa iced Kevonte Martin-Manley, Henry Krieger-Coble, and Louis Trinca-Pasat this weekend.
Best: Those Who Came and Stayed Will Always Be Champions
I know that everyone has talked up last year’s seniors as epitomizing Bo’s “Stay and Be Champions” motto, but I’ve always felt this Senior class has been given a short shrift considering the environment that existed when they decided to come to UM. The 2011 class came to UM with a fair bit of uncertainty, what with a coaching change and a shift in offensive and defensive systems, but they all arrived on campus in a world where UM hadn’t missed a bowl game since Nixon was in office and had only one .500 record over that span. Like everyone, they figured UM would, at worst, suffer through a “down” season of 8 wins before challenging for more titles.
“It was a good game. A good football win. The seniors got to go up the tunnel singing The Victors for the last time in the stadium. We put a lot of emphasis on that because of the struggles and what they go through when you look at a guy who’s been here four or five years. So it was great for them and great for our team that the younger guys, younger classmen went out there and competed for them. That’s an expectation. The guys who are seniors who were playing in their last game at Michigan Stadium, I thought they did a nice job of going out there and playing 60 minutes of football.”
How bittersweet is it to see your seniors play at home for the last time?
“It’s always difficult because I’m a very emotional person, good or bad. So pick your poison. But we get very tight and close with the players because we are there to help them grow. From a personal life standpoint to an academic, to social, to everything else, they’re one of your sons, and that’s how we look at it.”
When did you make the decision for Denard to play, and when did you decide on his role?
“I didn’t make the decision for him to play. Once he got cleared, he felt good healthwise. We had talked about doing this for 18 months. You know, Al, when he got home last week after the Northwestern game, that night he had nine plays ready. And then we put six more in. I think Al does a tremendous job of taking your personnel and the playmakers that you have on your team and having the ability to get them the ball and let their god-given ability take over.”
How much do you know about Fitz’s situation?
“He’s in the hospital now and he’s had surgery. I think we’ll leave it at that for now and make sure -- his mother wasn’t here, he had two brothers here -- but we’ll leave it for that.”
How important was it to try out the Devin-Denard offense before the Ohio State game?
“You know, next week really never had anything to do with it. We had to beat Iowa. We’re still in a championship race. We wanted to win this game for our seniors and also because we’re still in a race for the championship.”
Was there any thought of using Denard as a passer or did you just decide to give him a limited role?
“Well, I think it would be unjust for us not to use him in the best way that we thought would let him be the most successful. He’s throwing the ball a little bit, not throwing it a lot, so we thought this was the best. This kid has put up with a lot of criticism at times and also he’s been praised at times --”
[Someone’s phone goes off, ring tone is “The Victors”]
“That’s a good song. He’s a competitive guy who loves the game and loves his teammates, and he showed great maturity the last three weeks and great leadership.”
Along those lines, did you have to do any convincing with Denard to tell him that he wouldn’t play quarterback?
“No … He wanted to play. Where could he help us best playing?”
Can he throw the ball?
“Yeah. But not as well as he’d like to.”
Can you talk about Denard and how hard it might be for a senior quarterback to not call plays in the huddle?
“Well, I think it tells you what kind of kid he is. What kind of a young man, I should say. And his development, his growth, his character, and the integrity -- this kid had some unbelievable moments here at Michigan and Michigan Stadium and have had some moments that weren’t so good, but he’s grown within this team, and this is his team. Him and Kovacs, all the seniors have a big piece of it, and I know that Devin said it the other day: he has been the face of Michigan football.”
Devin had six touchdowns…
“Say that again? I’m sorry.”
Devin had six touchdowns. They looked pretty easy for him. Can you tell us about his development?
“Um. He had six touchdowns?”
He had six touchdowns.
“Did he really. See, I don’t remember that stuff.”
He was pretty good.
“I -- well, I think you answered the question. He was pretty good.”
Did you hear the crowd chanting “Beat Ohio”?
“Yeah, and I said to someone next to me, ‘We need to beat Iowa.’ ”
You haven’t lost at home in two years. Is there something to that?
“I think there’s always, and you see it all kinds of sports, playing at home is something that’s treated us well. Familiarity with everything. I wish I could tell you. I just think there’s a comfort, I guess.”
Have your teams always been so much better at home?
“I have no clue. Again, it’s something that I don’t think about.”
Is this your offense moving forward, or could Denard move back to quarterback full time?
“Um … I don’t know. I guess he could. I don’t know. It’s an option.”
When was Denard cleared, and what did he have to do to get cleared? Can he grip the ball?
When was he cleared?
“What’s today? Saturday? Probably six days ago.”
Is he cleared for good now, or do you have to go through another process? Is he day to day?
“He might be day to day.”
You talked about being an emotional person. You’ve just beaten Iowa, but what does the Ohio State game mean to you?
“It’s fun. Because it’s a great rivalry and there’s a lot of respect on both sides for those programs. For both programs. It’s fun. You asked? It’s fun. It’s going to be fun.”
You had a lot of success in vertical passing. How come?
“I think some play action set it up. And then I think Gallon made a terrific catch with concentration. The ball was where it needed to be, and it was defended pretty decently. I think one of the best throws and catches was an out on the sideline to Roy. I thought Roy did a nice job with his hands. That’s one thing I said this last week, but I thought Roy is catching the ball more with his hands and not with his body as he had earlier.”
When did you see that change for him?
“Eh, shoot. I don’t know. Some time. Probably in practice.”
It looked like you threw out things for Ohio State to think about. Is that something you planned to do?
“If I was that smart to do that, I would have done that. But no, we were trying to beat Iowa. We were trying to put our players -- because it would be selfish of us as coaches for us not to give these kids the best chance to win a football game. And whatever we do offensively or defensively or prepare, if we don’t do that then we’re short-selling this program and these seniors and these kids, and we’re not going to do that.”
You said you’ve been planning this offense since 18 months ago. What prevented you from using it earlier?
“How would I answer this …”
“Um. I would say, in doing it, it would have been done kind of like we did last year a little bit more when we had both of them on the field. And we just added to it. And we just added to it. And there’s a maturity level for everybody to be able to handle those things.”
So do you mean Denard at quarterback and Devin at receiver?
“Maybe. Sort of.”
Synergy between Gardner and the receivers?
“Yeah, and I think there’s a lot of truth to all of that. But I think our front’s blocking better. Part of it is the play-action game. Part of it is the play-action out of the I-back. I think that’s helped.”
How tough is it for the defense to prepare for your new formations?
Well, you have to spend some time on it. So sometimes that’s the biggest thing. You’re spending time maybe on a formation that was run maybe three times and thinking, okay, what can you do out of it, what can they do out of it? So as a coach, you’re spending your time, and then you’re taking practice time. So it’s time. And there’s one thing none of us have, is a lot of time.”
How confident are you that your team can quickly move on to Ohio State?
“Well they’re going to have to. I’m pretty confident in how our seniors have led and how we’ve gone to work every Sunday, win and lose.”
“Yeah. You know … we missed some sacks. We don’t tackle. They’re knocking us off the line of scrimmage earlier. It was awful.”
“We thought he’d be ready, but he’s not.”
Gary Moeller was honored today --
“Yeah, it was cool.”
What did that mean to you?
“Means a lot. Coach Mo as a person, as a coach, as a man. Means a lot. Means a lot to Michigan.”
Denard Robinson's Michigan Stadium career did not begin according to script. It started with a fumbled snap, then became something magnificent.
It ended with him unable to throw a football, but still very able to take the Big House's collective breath away.
Robinson trotted out onto the field with the starters not as a quarterback, but as a tailback, taking a handoff from understudy Devin Gardner for three yards. Over the course of the game, he'd accumulate 98 rushing yards on 13 carries and add two receptions—the first of his career—for an additional 24 yards, lining up everywhere from quarterback to wingback to receiver in a 42-17 victory. While it wasn't the ending anyone had hoped for, there was at least still a little of the Denard magic left, especially on a 40-yard run to end the first quarter that featured an ankle-breaking juke of Iowa safety Tanner Miller.
Once again, the star was Gardner, who accounted for six touchdowns—coming on Michigan's first six possessions—with three through the air and three on the ground. Iowa's soft zone defense looked helpless in its attempts to stop the Wolverine passing game; Gardner finished 18-of-23 for 314 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception, with all three scores meeting little Hawkeye resistance. Jeremy Gallon had a career-high 133 receiving yards on five receptions, while Roy Roundtree turned in a second consecutive stellar performance with five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Al Borges used the threat of Gardner and Robinson to give Iowa's defense fits, perhaps giving a glimpse of what's to come in Columbus next week. A triple(!) reverse to Denard unfortunately was called back due to a hold. The threat of a Denard jet sweep opened up a cavernous hole for a Vincent Smith throwback screen, which the senior back took in for a fitting senior day touchdown. The most interesting wrinkle met a most unfortunate end when Fitzgerald Toussaint suffered a gruesome leg injury after taking an option pitch from Robinson.*
The defense gave up a score on Iowa's second drive before stiffening up, allowing just 221 yards in the final three quarters as an endless array of dumpoffs to tight ends and running backs couldn't sustain any real threat. Greg Davis was Greg Davis, Greg Mattison was Greg Mattison, and that went as expected. With Desmond Morgan out with an undisclosed injury, James Ross may have established himself as the weakside linebacker of the future, finishing with 12 tackles (9 solo) while showing advanced instincts and sideline-to-sideline speed.
Aside from the pregame festivities and quarterback-related dramatics, it was a mundane beating of a hapless Iowa squad. That much, at least, went according to plan. And while Denard Robinson's Big House finale may not have had a fairytale ending, there are worse ways to go out than with a few more virtuoso runs and a resounding victory.
Of course, Robinson's story isn't over yet. In Columbus, the stage is set for one final twist.
*There's no official word on Toussaint's injury except that he's currently undergoing surgery (via Hoke), but the ESPN replays and this photo from Eric—WARNING: GRAPHIC—tell an ugly story. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Fitz.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker 11/17/2012
As I sit at my desk, I have to admit “Punt” is one tired puppy. Week after week of nonstop work is grinding me down. I don’t take time off—arranging coverage is more trouble than it’s worth. I’m not earning any vacation time because I’ve maxed out on what I’m allowed to accrue. This is a problem that needs a solution. It’s time to train an apprentice.
Making the pitch to my boss went well. He gives me the green light and the proverbial pat-on-the-back for all my efforts. I’m feeling good, looking forward to have someone that can step in for me when needed and not screw everything up. No more feeling guilty over taking a day off. No more dreading what awaits me upon my return. Having things done the way I want and need it to be. This is great! Then it hits me—did I just volunteer to train my eventual replacement?
While I contemplate the pros and cons of my decision, it seems the Michigan football team is facing a similar situation. We have a record setting quarterback who is observing what amounts to a medical leave. We’re missing him, his talent and hope for a speedy return, but a total recovery is first and foremost. Then there is the apprentice. There have been some instances where his lack of experience is evident, but there have also been several “Wow!” moments. He’s stepped up and done an admirable job.
All of this has to have many Michigan fans wondering “What if?” What if our late receiver had spent more practice time being an apprentice? What if the other “legends jersey” wearing receiver had rounded into his expected form a bit sooner? What if Denard’s injury improves enough for him to play? Give Robinson the nod early to try and shake off the rust? Or stick with Gardener and get him as much experience as possible prior to the show down in Columbus?
Something that doesn’t seem to be in question is the outcome of this Saturday’s game. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz brings another ho hum Hawkeye team to the Big House. This seems to be the new normal for the Big Ten’s second highest paid coach. I guess Coach Ferentz feels he owes the Wolverines one – their interest in him a few years ago has paid off handsomely. How no current Michigan senior has had a victory over Iowa is beyond belief.
Now don’t hold it against Counterpunt when he picks Iowa to surprise us. He’s just mistaken the Hawkeyes for his beloved “Stillers”. You can take the boy out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the Pittsburgh out of the boy.
Michigan 35 - Iowa 17
By Nick RoUMel 11/15/12
My co-worker Alex Dieck is dating her high school sweetheart, Michigan cornerback Steve Wilson. Steve starred at QB at Lakeland High School (White Lake, Michigan), and has since switched to cornerback and special teams. He is also majoring in cellular and molecular biology. Brady Hoke told him he was going to cure cancer someday.
Last week in practice, Hoke let Steve mimic Northwestern QB Kain Colter. Steve performed it to perfection, enabling the Wolverine defense to increasingly contain Colter as the game progressed—and ultimately stuff him in overtime to seal the thrilling victory.
I will look for Steve (#20) on the opening kickoff. However, his special teams play has resulted in Alex's growing concern over Steve’s well being. Football is played by players growing bigger and faster every year. A recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analysis of All-State high school rosters over the last 70 years, found that the average offensive lineman grew from 178 lbs. in 1940 to 273 in 2008. On the defensive side of the ball, linemen grew almost as much.
Steve is 5’11”, 179 lbs. according to the official roster. He plays on kickoffs, deemed to be the most violent play in football. ESPN says, “Take two large, fast men and give them long running starts at each other, and their collisions won't be far from car wrecks. Kickoffs are particularly hard on brains. In college football, for instance, 1 in 5 injuries during kickoffs is a concussion; during other phases of play, it's 1 out of 14.”
Alex can’t get over the assortment of injuries that Steve and his football roommates have compiled over the course of the season’s first ten games. But football players love to hit. I remember a story about pro football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, when he was a skinny but fierce linebacker for Kent State being scouted by the Steelers’ Tim Rooney. The fields were muddy, so the team practiced in the parking lot. Rooney watched in amazement as Lambert went flying after his teammates, tackling them on the gravel, oblivious to the damage to his own body.
Today’s opponent, Iowa, famously painted its visiting locker room pink during the Hayden Fry era. Fry believed pink would have a calming effect, and make opponents less violent on the field. It may have worked. Until Fry arrived in 1979, Michigan had won every game at Iowa since 1962; after the paint job, they won only 1 out of the next 4.
Michigan has had trouble with Iowa lately no matter where the game is played, dropping the last three. But today is different, because Steve Wilson didn’t play last year. With no heed to his injuries and worried girlfriend, Steve – along with the rest of our banged-up Wolverines – will dominate today’s game physically on both sides of the ball.
Just be sure to keep your helmet securely fastened, Steve. We still need a cure for cancer.
This preview assumes that Denard Robinson will play in a strictly ceremonial role.
Run Offense vs Iowa
This has been a depressing grind since Denard Robinson's injury and will remain so unless Michigan finds itself behind the eight-ball late and resorts to Devin Gardner's legs. That seems like a highly improbable outcome what with Iowa being terrible.
So expect a lot of under-center running from Toussaint and Rawls that doesn't make much headway. Against Northwestern late Michigan did finally get some movement by always doubling guys at the LOS before moving on—I'd expect they go that conservative route so that they're at least getting four yards on an iso and whatnot. Michigan's actually been decent at moving bleah defensive tackles when they do that; the foremost amongst many problems on the ground has been blocking assignment errors.
Those should decrease, but at this point it's foolhardy to expect them to decrease much. At least Borges has responded to the problems on the ground and the week-to-week surge in Devin Gardner's ability by doing a lot more passing.
As for the opponent:
Iowa started off well before getting clubbed by Northwestern, had a virtual run bye against Indiana, and then struggling against Purdue. They're dead average nationally—60th.
Issues against both run and pass caused Iowa to remove linebacker Anthony Hitchens, their top tackler with a whopping 114, and insert freshman Travis Perry last week; Hitchens remains on top of the depth chart. The defensive linemen top out at serviceable; the linebackers are just okay. Michigan should be able to get people blocked, somewhat, if they get their assignments right, and grind out a few yards here and there. At this point it's a sideshow keeping folks honest for the passing game.
Key Matchup: Michigan Interior OL versus Block Somebody. Right? I mean, right. [repeat]
[Hit THE JUMP for the joy of GERG on the other team]
Things didn't really fall off a cliff until the 80s.
Probably DFW on the left there. Probably.
All the Kwiatkowski features. The AD must have offered people free nachos for articles about senior walk-on TE and MGoFave-Rave Mike Kwiatkowski, because you can't throw a rock this week without dinging one on the head. The Daily version:
It’s fine to recognize how unlikely it is that Kwiatkowski rose from regular student to scholarship starter in a matter of three years — but don’t call him a walk-on.
“I actually despise that label,” Kwiatkowski said. “Because like you said, there’s been a number of (walk-ons) who have played, and just because you weren’t given a scholarship doesn’t mean you aren’t as capable. Obviously there’s some exceptions to that, of people who walk on and don’t end up playing.
“I guess that’s the rule, if anything.”
Er. Senior Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science major Mike Kwiatkowski. MLive also features Kwiatkowski.
Denard QB controversy stuff. There's really no controversy, everyone strains to point out; unfortunately it seems like there's really no expectation it'll even be relevant. This is where we're at:
If Denard Robinson can't go, Hoke will consider single, symbolic play
That would be something I would think about, but to be honest with you," Hoke said. "The seniors and the guys and the people who are truly Michigan fans, I think they understand the significance he's had."
He was asked about using Robinson in another role Saturday. The injury has caused numbness in his right hand and made it difficult to grip the football.
"Oh, I don't know," Hoke said on 97.1. "The health of him and all those things are what we're concerned about."
At this point I'm not expecting him against Iowa, except in that ceremonial role. If it's two weeks on from the Nebraska game and he's still throwing ducks in warmups, as he was before the Northwestern game, it doesn't seem likely he'll get better before the bowl game, if then. John Niyo:
…chances are, we've seen the last of Robinson as Michigan's starting quarterback. The ulnar nerve injury that has sidelined him since the first half of an Oct. 27 loss at Nebraska takes weeks to heal, if not months, or surgery. And coach Brady Hoke's cat-and-mouse games with the media notwithstanding, that reality — along with Robinson's NFL prospects — figures to leave the senior stuck in this new dual-threat role: as an extra coach and cheerleader on the sideline while Devin Gardner succeeds him under center.
At least Gardner is doing well, the considerable silver lining in pretty much the worst way for Denard to go out.
Halfway to a final verdict thing. The MZone's Season Tickets vs Stubhub feature concludes with resounding victory for the scalper, especially for primo seats which could be had at a 40% markdown on the secondary market. This is the easy year, though: a home schedule featuring Nebraska/ND/Ohio State is not likely to end up with the scalper in the black. How close will a two-year total be? Tune in next year to find out.
I'm guessing it'll be pretty close to break-even overall, but once you take the ND game out of the equation… well, Arkansas probably isn't going to cut it.
One of the greatest times I had after I came back was when we watched Michigan football together in the press box. One day up there I found out how much he truly loved this university. He said, “Hey Mo, come here. I wanna show you something.” The band was already out on the field and the players were coming out of the tunnel, and they’re playing The Victors and all that stuff. Bo said, “Now there—isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life? Look at the fans, look at band and look at this team coming out here. That’s what Michigan is all about.” It was as though he was just painting a portrait that was in his mind of something that he was so proud of.
"One of the greatest times I had after I came back was when we watched Michigan football together in the press box. He said, 'hey, come here' and told me to listen to this generic Nickelback ripoff cheese by a band named Porpville or something. Bo said 'Now there—isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever seen in your life?' Then Zombie Nation came on, and we wept in each others' arms."
It may not be much of a comfort to anyone, but Iowa was actually very fortunate to lose to Purdue on a last-second field goal. Or to put it another way, Iowa was lucky to be in the game at all. If Purdue could have just gotten out of its own way on a couple of occasions, they would have won by two touchdowns or more. Every time it looked like the Boilermakers were going to go ahead decisively, they managed to make an egregious blunder -- a fumble, a penalty, a missed field goal -- that kept Iowa inexplicably and unjustly still in the game. If we look at the win probability chart for the game, we can see exactly where these moments occurred (WP here refers to Iowa's chances of winning):
That's how you lose by a field goal despite getting outgained almost 2 to 1.
Tie that running back to the train tracks. Northwestern defensive lineman Sean McEvilly: we need to have a talk.
Sir. You are named Sean McEvilly. You do not pronounce this like you are Scottish adverbial evil, nor do you have a luxuriously nefarious mustache. In fact you look about as evil as a schnauzer.
Also, what is the deal with this?
Good attitude on the practice field.
This should read "conspires to tie pretty debutantes to Venric Mark." At least you are majoring in economics.
I'm sure you feel, like I do, that this is a missed opportunity. Look at Jake Ryan: he grows his hair out and becomes Clay Mathews. To ensure a ticket to the NFL, you need one of these:
Please acquire one posthaste and accept the internet glory that surely awaits.
This isn't Canisius anymore, Toto. Michigan can throw it up, and someone can catch it and rain thunder down. This is… intriguing for John Beilein:
The alley-oop: the most exciting play in basketball.
For the first time in his 35 years of coaching, Beilein now incorporates the alley-oops into his practices.
“I realize it’s a really good play,” he noted Monday, pausing before he finished, “if you have athletes.”
"…I have just discovered that men like Glenn Robinson III exist, and whoah."
before the ball is even snapped, you can see a huge problem: Michigan is badly outnumbered to the boundary side of the field. From the offensive center toward the boundary, Michigan has only four defenders. Nebraska has four men on the line of scrimmage, Colter, and Mark. There's absolutely no way Michigan can defend this play toward the sideline.
It's tough, sure, but doable. I clipped this exact play a bit later and Michigan executed better. Beyer and Kovacs combined to impact Mark near the LOS; the pile fell forward for four.
Also note Ross's presence. The key is for that defensive end to stay on the LOS and widen out. Beyer at the pitch on the first one versus the second:
Beyer doesn't get as far upfield, is a step or two further outside, and is turned to chase on the pitch, which gets him to the back as Kovacs contains. Michigan's alignment there can get the job done, and if you don't slide to the field they'll have opportunities out there. That's what the spread does—requires you to make plays without the advantage of numbers. Michigan's trying to get that back by using the sideline as their 12th guy.
One of Michigan's main issues against the option in this one was the defensive ends giving themselves up one for one quickly. We saw them get a little better at that as the day went on; they'll have to rep it a lot next week in preparation for Ohio State.