Team will go back to fundamentals and technique during bowl practice and develop younger players.
Quinton Washington, Keith Heitzman, and Chris Rock are improving on the D-line. Coaches also trying to coach up Richard Ash.
Bowl practice schedule will depend on which bowl they go to. Team will be active this week.
“It’s great to go out and play well enough to win. I think there’s some things we all know we have to do a better job with when you look at the whole football game, but I think our guys responded well. As a team, I’ve said it many times, but they really complement each other offensively and defensively and in the kicking game. It’s great to win a football game. Anytime you can win that great rivalry game, it’s good.”
Borges has been saying all season that the offense is eventually going to come along. Have we been seeing that the last two weeks?
“You know, I think a couple things: number one, [Denard has] grown and matured as a Michigan quarterback throughout the course of the year. I think the decisiveness that he has run the football with when he’s made that decision, that there’s some open area or whatever has really been good the last couple weeks. I think that’s helped his confidence. I thought he ran extremely hard with the ball on Saturday. When we can rush the ball for 277 yards, it helps you obviously when you get into the throw game. And in the passing game, I thought he made three really good throw again. He was 14 of 17, so his accuracy and completion rate was pretty doggone good. I think he just keeps growing.”
What was the mood like the last 36 hours? Have you been hearing from a lot of people?
“Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of text messages that I haven’t even seen yet to be honest with you. It’s nice and it’s great that people want to congratulate you, but we’re not done with this year yet. Our goal was to win the conference championship and we didn’t do that, so we have a lot more to prove.”
What do you think about the Urban Meyer hire?
“You know, he’s not going to play a down and neither am I. To me, I’ve known Urban. He’s a good football coach. He’s a good guy, I’ll welcome him in, but this is still Michigan and Ohio. It’s still going to be that rivalry. Neither one of us is going to play a game.”
What was going through your mind when the two touchdowns got called back at the end of the game?
“Well, there's probably easier ways to get to the end of the game, but you know, honestly it was so much fun watching those guys compete and watching them play together as a football team. I was having fun. The way they encouraged each other, the way they fought for each other -- there wasn’t a doubt in my mind, but I think a little different anyway.”
Was there something poetic about the fact that the play that sealed the game was made by a defensive back, considering the struggles that group had earlier in the game?
“They did a nice job. You’ve got to give Ohio credit. They did a nice job stretching the field, which is part of what they do offensively. I thought Miller threw the ball well. They max-protected a bunch, so if you have four guys or five guys coming, they could pick them up. That was a good plan for them. The way they run the ball, and with his ability to run and the dual-threatness that he presents, we got distracted a little bit with our eyes from a technique standpoint, and they were able to hit some. But the kids kept playing, and Courtney made a nice play.”
Was this Denard Robinson’s best performance?
“Um … Let’s hope the next one is. He played well. He played with a lot of energy and he played with, in my eyes, he played with a toughness. He went after some of those runs, especially in the second half. It just tells you a lot about him and how he feels about his teammates.”
Is it more gratifying to you that you won by pounding the ball?
“Well, [that] and the last drive that Fitz scored on and didn’t score on -- those offensive linemen, it was neat to see Koger and Denard [when they went] up to the offensive line and said, ‘We’re going to ride you guys. You’re going to win this for us, make it a 10-point game.’ It’s kind of neat to see how they all have the same belief.”
What happened on that last drive when Posey broke free and Miller just overthrew him?
“I don’t know. I didn’t see it well enough. I’m sure he probably double-moved. The guy may have bit on the double move.”
Did you think he was going to catch it?
“You know, if he catches it, we’ve got work to do.”
Was this one of the more satisfying wins of your career?
“What satisfies you [is when] you see those kids in that locker room, and you saw them on the field -- how happy. Because it’s been a struggle. They went to work in January. It wasn’t easy. It’s fun as a coach to see them and how they responded and how hard they worked.”
Do you think you should get a BCS invite?
“I don’t have that decision. I think we have a good football team. Somebody will make that decision.”
Since day one, you said that Ohio was the most important game on the schedule. Having played it and having won it, what do you think now?
“I haven’t changed my opinion. This is the most important game on the schedule, and 364 days and I don’t know how many hours we’ll be teeing up again.”
At any point did you feel the pressure of not having beaten Ohio State for seven years?
“We never talked about it. We never spoke about the last seven years. It’s not fair to this team, and it’s not fair to those teams that played in this game for seven years. So for us to comment about seven years, it’d be disrespectful for those teams.”
Did you feel that your players felt pressure whether it was talked about or not?
“I don’t think so. I mean, I think we had an unbelievable intensity and a focus about our preparation. They’ve been like that most of the year. Maybe there was some more this week. I didn’t sense any of that.”
What was it like being able to celebrate with your seniors afterwards?
“You know, one of them, and that’s Ricky Barnum, threw water on me. But it was -- just to see them happy. That’s the neat part. The investment and the commitment they made as a team. It was special. It’s special. It’s one of those good days.”
The affection you have for your seniors was visible during the senior day introductions. What did you say to them after the game?
“I don’t remember, it was kind of a blur. I just told them in there how proud I am of them. And I can tell you, if we would have gone out there and gotten beat, I would have told them the same daggone thing, that we’re proud of them and what they’ve done for Michigan.”
Can you talk about the confidence you have in your D-line and allowing them to call their own plays?
“Those guys are pretty smart. Ryan is really a good, smart football guy. So is Mike. You feel good about guys when you give them a little bit of freedom, and I think they enjoy that, too. We needed to do something and obviously needed to clog up some of the lanes inside and hopefully get some pressure on him.”
What happens to the clock that says 2,900-something days on it?
“It goes to zero. I think it was 2,926.”
When did you know that your seniors were coming together?
“Oh … that’s a good question. It really -- and I know that’s why you asked it, because it’s a good question.”
They’re not all good.
“Well I know, believe me. I think after spring ball, the summer, and fall camp -- we were tough in fall camp. They responded tough. They responded together. And then just the little things, the respect you see in a guy at the training table that he has for another guy. All that stuff. That’s what makes teams -- good teams -- is when they have that respect for each other. You could see it during the course of the game. The offense telling the defense, ‘We got your back,’ and the same thing [the other way around]. That doesn’t happen every year. Hopefully the guys will be in that role next year -- hopefully they’ve learned.”
How will you remember Team 132 and your seniors?
“Well I think they’re a group that obviously had been through a lot. They faced a lot of adversity through their career here. But they persevered and they stuck together. It’s a special group.”
Any thoughts on competing against Urban Meyer at Ohio State?
“You know the good thing about coaches -- we don’t do the competing. It’s the kids. It’s the guys on the field.”
Two question: Molk said you emphasized this game 1,000 more than the last few years. How did you do that? Also, what happened on Will Hagerup’s fumbled snap?
“Obviously took his eyes off it. Like I told him, I said, ‘How many snaps do you think you’ve caught over the course of your career? There’s a probability that happens, that you may drop one sometime. If you’ve caught 1,000, then you may drop one but you won’t drop the next one.’”
And the first question? “We just -- we end every meeting with ‘Beat Ohio.’”
Nothing at the end of practice?
“I think we … eh, I don’t know.”
We’ve asked you a lot about Denard over and over and you’ve had to back him every time. What kind of statement did he make with today’s performance?
“Well, I don’t know who he’s making the statement to, because he’s out quarterback and will be our quarterback at Michigan. When you ask that, I think Denard went out there as a quarterback at Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates on his performance. He couldn’t do it by himself, and no one ever does, but I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game.”
Brady, you’ve got two 1,000-yard rushers.
“I didn’t know that. That’s good.”
What does that say about the balance in your running game?
“Well I think the ability that the guys up front and what they’ve done, I think the offensive staff and what Denard has done in this make-shift, a-little-bit-quasi offense that we have. I think Fitz, the growth and maturity that he’s shown.”
Van Bergen said this is one of the best team victories you’ve had. Do you agree?
“Yeah. I think whenever we win, it’s a team win. I think the magnitude of the rivalry and all those things, that always means a little more.”
How do you feel about your team and your first full regular season as head coach of Michigan?
“I love my team. I love the kids on this team. I love how they represent Michigan. And what was the last question?”
How do you feel about your first regular season?
“Eh, it’s fun, you know? It’s fun! Look, I’ve got the best job in the world. I do. Because at 2:30 every day, I get 115 guys that I get a chance to make a difference in their lives. What could be funner? Or more fun. Is ‘funner’ right?
Does it mean anything to you that three seniors caught touchdowns?
“You know, I just think for our seniors, and it doesn’t matter -- we have some seniors that didn’t play a snap, but they’ve played plenty of snaps on the look team and the scout team. They’ve been tough and they get in the weight room at 5:15 three days a week and go to class. One of them’s going to law school. I’m proud of all of them. It doesn’t matter who caught a touchdown. This is a team.”
Brennen Beyer is the only major injury the team is dealing with. He hurt his leg.
Barnum is practicing, will get consideration to start.
From file, just to spice things up. Still can't believe this game happened.
“This is a great week to follow college football. Obviously with this game, I thought we had a very good practice yesterday. Hopefully we can follow that up today with our preparation. Our seniors have done a tremendous job with really the focus and the things that we need to do as a team and being the leaders out there, so it’s been good so far this week, and we just have a lot of work ahead of us.”
You say the focus was up. Has the focus gone to another level this week?
“You know, I think there’s been a lot of consistency, which is what we want to have a on weekly basis. I can’t tell you if it’s up more, but I think they understand how fun this game is.”
Do you feel like they’re focused on the fun and opportunity rather than the pressure and stakes?
“I think the consistency that we’ve had week to week, I think that the intensity of it and doing all those things has been good. I think they’ve been pretty focused on it.”
Vincent Smith dressed for Nebraska but did not play because of a shoulder injury.
Everything else is sort of general fluff on the rivalry.
“Our guys, I thought, played their best football game as a team on Saturday. In saying that, from the kicking game to offensively and defensively, I thought they all complemented each other well. We had a great day yesterday as far as putting that game to bed and moving forward. This is a special week because you play in the greatest rivalry there is in sport. When you get the chance to play in this game or coach in this game, it’s always a fun week. We’ve got a lot of work to do because we’re not where we need to be in any sense as far as the team that we envision ourselves to be and we expect to be.”
What does this senior class mean to you and this program, and how special will their legacy be if they do win on Saturday?
“Well, you know, the seniors are always out in the forefront. This is a group of guys who have been through a lot. They’ve hung together well and they’ve done a nice job of preparing weekly. Just not preparing themselves but preparing their teammates. They’ve got to keep that up and be consistent in what we do and how we prepare.”
Can you remember the first time you ever watched this game and said to yourself, “I want to be a part of that?”
“Wow. Uh. Boy. I can’t remember how old I was or anything, but my dad had a chance and played for Woody Hayes. Loved coach Hayes. You know, that game you were always watching. So I can’t tell you how old I was or anything else, but it’s always been a special significance, at 12 noon, that last Saturday in November or the Saturday before Thanksgiving -- you’re watching that football game.”
Why do you call them “Ohio” rather than “Ohio State”?
11/19/2011 – Michigan 45, Nebraska 17 – 9-2, 5-2 Big Ten
In the aftermath of Saturday's flamethrower job, everyone from the coaches down to emailers is saying that felt like Michigan, usually with emphasis. Picking one at random:
Great game Saturday - I think it was at least partially Nebraska-fueled, but man that FELT like Michigan.
Quick, it's any game from 1998 to 2007 against a spread offense or mobile quarterback. How do you feel? Good? Bad? Have you stopped reading this column to shiver in a corner at the idea of Carlyle Holiday? Troy Smith? Donovan McNabb? Armanti Horror Edwards?
Yes, you have. For the Ohio State fans who persist in reading this column because it's willing to send Michigan fans into catatonic seizures, Michigan fans felt pretty damn bad about going up against mobile quarterbacks during the Carr era. They also felt this during the Rodriguez era but it was a lot harder to parse out a specific mobile-quarterback-related fear when Indiana's putting up more than 30 every year.
Quick! It's any game in which Michigan has an 18 point lead against a mid-level Big Ten team from 1998 to 2007. Nevermind. You're still having a seizure.
Quick! It's a team with Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, Steve Hutchinson, Mo Williams, and Jeff Backus. How many yards per carry do they average?
No, seriously. I'm asking this one. How many yards per carry did the Orange-Bowl-winning, Tom-Brady-featuring, three-NFL-OL-including-a-hall-of-fame-guard-deploying 1999 Michigan Wolverines average?
Seriously. Michigan finished 79th in rushing offense, 24th in passing offense, and ran more than they passed. Tom Brady—Tom Brady!—averaged 7.2 YPA. In the Orange Bowl they fell behind 14-0 because they kept running their awful run offense at Alabama's #2 run defense. They'd finish with 23 carries for 27 yards.
Quick! Fourth and four from the Ohio State 34 up two with three minutes left. What does Brady Hoke do?
I was wrong. I was mad when Michigan hired Brady Hoke because I though it was a capitulation, that it was Michigan returning to the things that made it such a frustrating team to root for once Lloyd Carr stopped having the best defense in the universe.
Carr coached his team like they had an awesome run offense and an awesome defense no matter the facts on the ground, which led to the most frustrating stat anyone's ever compiled. From Vijay Ramanujan's article in your copy of HTTV 2007:
Michigan's fourth quarter woes from 2000 to 2005 … have been the thing holding it back from truly elite status the last several years. Alarmingly, Michigan entered 18 games over that period of time with a lead smaller than 10 points and went 8-10 in those games. They were under .500 when entering the fourth with a small lead! When tied or facing a similarly small deficit, Michigan was 6-1. In all games in which Michigan trailed by any margin they were 8-8.
That is the kind of thing that gets you pawing at the air in your sleep, moaning "no… not again." It's incontrovertible evidence of terrible game management. Hiring Hoke felt like returning to that, like returning to debates about "scoring offenses" and looking at every mobile quarterback on the schedule like it was a loss waiting to happen.
This is not the case. It turns out as I was sitting in the stands burning up inside as Rocky Harvey scatbacked Illinois to victory or Michigan punted itself into oblivion against OSU, Brady Hoke was standing on a sideline burning up inside, whether it was at Michigan Stadium or somewhere in the MAC. Hoke does not want to lead by 17. He wants to lead by 21, dammit. If anything, the playcalling this year has been too aggressive what with the constant unleashing of the dragon.
Al Borges wears a t-shirt with this on it every Casual Friday
That made me mad in the immediate aftermath, but what happens when you put a Michigan program together and… like… use it? What happens when you're Lloyd Carr without the crippling fear of something going wrong? What happens when you go from weak-tight to loose-aggressive?
For one, you leave the desiccated corpses of Nebraska strewn around you as you leave the field. Afterwards, Bo Pelini sits in his locker room shaking like Don Cheadle in "Hotel Rwanda." When you win games, you win games comfortably. No one gets nervous in the fourth quarter of San Diego State. The offense is pretty much the offense; when its horns get pulled in it's because you're on your own four up 21 and that's the move. Sometimes you do the audacious thing in the important game, not the tomato can before the important game. Mobile quarterbacks don't automatically rack up a billion yards. And when the right move doesn't work out and someone asks you about it, you say "that's how it's going to be."
So when people say this "feels like Michigan," I agree and disagree. In the immediate post-hire column featuring Will Smith robots I said "to me, getting back to being Michigan means going 9-3 and losing to Jim Tressel." Since 1993, Michigan has lost at least three games every year save '97, '99 and '06; since Jim Tressel's arrival Michigan has beaten Ohio State once.
If this feels like getting back to Michigan, it's the Michigan of your dreams, the Michigan you left back in Peoria when you shipped to Saigon. You've got one good picture of her and she's that pretty every day in an ugly place.
"This Is Michigan" is about the idea, not the reality—at least not a reality from the last 20 years. So far. Days like Saturday inch us closer to the picture in our heads.
There were enough videos to warrant a VOAV, which was posted yesterday. This from Boyz in the Pahokee is worth a repost, though:
Via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer, our Nebraska photoset:
As always, the above photos are Creative Commons licensed.
BRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm tempted to hand this to Lavonte David for 17 tackles, 14 of them solo, 2 of them Y U SO FAST ankle-grabs on a Denard Robinson one step from engaging turbo. But he plays for Nebraska and we only talk about players who play for Michigan.
If we can't give it to David, it's again Fitzgerald Toussaint's to have and hold. He's got his own bullet below explaining why. Runners up: Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Kovacs.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska) 1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Fitzkreig continues. 138 yards on 29 carries and three monster games in the last four. The exception was a 16-carry, 58-yard performance against Iowa when many of his attempts were run from under center.
As a result, I saw Toussaint compared to the following tailbacks over the weekend: Mike Hart (this was me but not just me), Tim Biakabutuka, and Chris Perry. Except fast! I went with Hart because the way Toussaint dodges guys in a phonebooth is reminiscent of #20 and his cuts in narrow areas are what makes the zone game work. Toussaint doesn't have Hart's pile-pushing power but he compensates with Except Fast! He's also been very secure with the ball. (Knock on wood.) I don't recall any fumbles from him this year; that's pretty good for 143 carries.
It took longer than everyone wanted, but I declare him broken out. He needs 191 yards against OSU and in the bowl to crack 1000 for the season; I bet he gets that and enters next year in the conversation for best back in the league. I'll have to go back and check how Northwestern held him to 25 yards on 14 carries. That's nuts.
Weekly Borgeswatch. It's to the point where the scattered –1 yard power plays from the I don't even bother me anymore. They're like old friends reminding me of the spread's superiority for this personnel and how our offensive coordinator has also come to this conclusion, albeit grudgingly.
I thought this was another strong game from Borges. He debuted a pro set that saw Michigan bust a couple of big gains; the flare screen got blown up the second time he went to it but it was effective overall. Outside of that he largely let the offense do what it was recruited to do: run zone from the gun. It worked to the tune of 238 yards.
While the averages for Denard (4.4 YPC) and Fitz(4.8) aren't electric a lot of that is due to Michigan's struggles near the goal line. Those two had eight carries from within the Nebraska seven on which they gained 7 yards total; carries outside of goal-to-go situations averaged 5.3 between the two main weapons. Without Lavonte David who knows what they would have been.
Unfortunately, goal to go is kind of important. Those struggles combine with last week's goal line stand by Illinois* to create the closest thing to a worry possible coming off a 45-17 win. Michigan got lucky on a dubious pass interference call and had to resort to a fake field goal to punch in short touchdowns; on both short yardage TDs Michigan had to bounce to the sideline. Going up the middle was futile.
I wonder why Michigan has never tried to replicate** the virtually unstoppable Gator Heavy package that was Florida's go-to short yardage package during the Tebow era. This was a complaint I had during the RR years, too. I like the idea of giving the D seven gaps to defend and providing Denard two lead blockers that can attack any of them, plus a tailback.
*[I guess you could toss in Iowa's successful goal line stand but that was executed in adverse conditions.]
**[Michigan did briefly feature a double H-back set in 2009 that was kind of like Gator Heavy but they never used the full-on heavy. They always had two WRs.]
Weekly Denardwatch. There were a couple of scary throws I'll have to see on replay to determine whether they were bad ideas or fit in narrow windows—guessing the former—but 61% completions and 10 YPA are pretty good. Yeah, a big chunk of those was a chuck-and-pray to Roundtree but at least that wasn't into double coverage. The safety couldn't get over in time. Roundtree also had a step on Dennard… it wasn't in the same class some of the ND armpunts were. Meanwhile, the Odoms touchdown gets an "I be like dang."
I thought the INT was fluky; some people on the twitters disagreed. I'm not saying the batted ball was fluky, but the dude knocking it to himself and catching it… eh… doesn't happen so often. That's more on the playcall than Denard. Asking a short guy to float it over a tall guy has resulted in two interceptions this year that I'm not sure Denard can do much about other than be six inches taller or eat the ball on a screen that seems open.
There was progress.
The above was part of that. When Denard pulled up to throw to a short dude streaking across the endzone my Michigan rolodex flipped to the first interception he threw against MSU last year, where he had the exact same route open and chucked it well behind his guy.
I'm guessing Denard's DSR is in the mid-60s range he seems to have established as his Big Ten baseline. That's a step up from the days when he was struggling to complete anything against the Eastern Michigans of the world. Transition costs here seem mostly paid. Now it's about getting him that extra increment.
The rumors are not true. Do not listen to Heiko: I had nothing to do with the lack of power in Michigan Stadium. I did not make a commando raid Friday night after seeing the image of Pop Evil in the stadium and Do What Had To Be Done. I have an alibi—I was at the hockey game—and if I had done it I would have taken out the north scoreboard, where Special K's speakers are.
"That's on me," he said. "I should have called timeout. For me to not do that, that's bad coaching."
Second Zookian clock management incident. Coaches are always too conservative with their last timeout and this tendency bit Michigan after they ran a couple times at the end of the first half. After Robinson biffed by trying to get to the sideline instead of reading the block Toussaint had made on the closest defender, the clock burned 30 seconds before the third down snap.
I know you want to have that timeout for a field goal attempt but in a situation like this you know the clock is going to run and you're not sure that will be the case down the road. A spike is a quality option with five seconds left; not so much with 48.
This is a nit. I'm going to name my firstborn "Hoke Gametheory."
Helmet to ball. Yes, people who keep telling me about fumbles, the last few have been Michigan's doing. Not so much the ones where people just drop the ball. Terrence Robinson may have just earned a fifth year—it looks like Michigan will have room for him even if they take 28.
Fluck. Michigan's still recovering an inordinate number of the fumbles caused. No, this is not coachable.
I don't always talk about game theory*, but when I do I prefer it to be about going up 17 or 21. Last week I was totally cool with Michigan running a QB draw with Gardner on third and goal from the ten to go up 17; I was similarly cool with the field goal team running out for a chip shot on the fourth and one.
It's a similar situation: up 14 about halfway through the third quarter against a team that's struggling to move the ball. Getting that third score is all but game over. That said, Hoke made it clear in the postgame presser that they had scouted that particular situation and got the look they wanted:
Can you talk about picking the spot to fake the field goal? “We had put it in. It’s the one Penn State used against us in ’95? I think it was ’95 up there. [We] wanted it on the right hash, [and] they gave us the look that we wanted. Even if we had kicked the field goal, Drew Dileo -- having him as a holder, he’s such a smart football kid. He did a tremendous job with it. You got it, you might as well use it.”
Until he runs a fake field goal against the same team he ran a famous fake field goal the year previous—and takes a timeout before doing so—it's all good.
Less than a season into the Hoke regime it's clear his natural inclination is to be aggressive in close situations. That should pay off down the road—it hasn't so much this year because when Michigan wins they win by a lot.
BCS watch. Saturday night's events all but guarantee Michigan a spot if they take care of business on Saturday. They're now ahead of the Big 12 runner-up, which will either be a three-loss Oklahoma or an Oklahoma State team coming off back-to-back losses, one of them to Iowa State. Pecking order:
Big 12 runner up
ACC runner up
You can flip Stanford and Michigan if you like. There are no scenarios that see a 10-2 Michigan left out; even if the SEC can put a third team in because of an all SEC West title game, Michigan is an easy pick over a 10-2 Arkansas. To be safe you're rooting for Okie State in Bedlam.
Now, about getting to 10-2…
[UPDATE: a reader informs me that this is misunderstanding of the way three teams get into the BCS from a single conference. #1 and #2 have to not win the conference, so LSU would have to lose to Georgia and Alabama and LSU would still have to be 1-2. That is… not impossible, actually.]
In the first half, with us up 10-7, Denard threw an INT on a screen pass. I’m starting to think he’s too short to throw middle screens. Anyway, the defense responded with a Kovacs TFL, a Van Bergen pass deflection, and Demens and Martin tackling a WR on a screen for minimal yardage. It wasn’t quite the three-play sequence that bursted impetus against Illinois, but it reminded me of that. Neb had to settle for a 51 yard FG. Our defense basically said, we’ve got our O’s back.
The announcers thought Kovacs was acting a little when injured to slow down Neb’s hurry up offense. For the record, he stayed out for the duration of that series, so I don’t think he was faking. Screw you Urban Paschman for suggesting such a thing.
Are we really at the point where a team that has two injuries in a game gets accused of slowing the game down on purpose? This wasn't the Michigan State defense's fainting couch act against Iowa.
When I think of NU, I think of Northwestern. Since they have B1G seniority over Nebraska, they should get the NU acronym. That leaves either UNL or Neb for Nebraska.
Blog policy is to bestow "NU" on the winner of the NU-NU game. When not in possession of "NU," Northwestern shall be "NW" and Nebraska "UNL." It is my hope this eventually spawns a rivalry trophy: large block N and U letters that the winning team paints their colors after a victory.
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.
Want a little more perspective? In its 13 games last year, Michigan gave up 458 points. Through 11 this season, they've surrendered 172. In other words, to equal the punchline that was 2010, Michigan would have to give up 144 points -- in EACH of its remaining two games (OSU and the bowl).
I am annoyed that this is followed by a reference to the scoring offense as if the defense doesn't have anything to do with putting said offense in a position to succeed. The offense has dropped off a bit, and criticisms leveled at Borges after MSU and Iowa are still valid.
Obligatory discussion of J.T. Floyd. Nebraska's one huge play was a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Kinnie, who torched Floyd so badly that all Floyd could do was grab onto Kinnie and hope for a pass interference flag. Prior to that play, Kinnie had 19 catches for 192 yards and 0 touchdowns on the season.
This is true. Also true: that was the first 50 yard play Michigan has given up all season and the first time Floyd has been burned deep on a pass, complete or not, all year. Even Woodson got burned by Boston that one time. JT Floyd is a good corner.
WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan's bid for an at-large BCS bid is still alive as the Wolverines begin preparation for Ohio State. We're told that's a rivalry. What Michigan proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the defense is legit. Nebraska managed just 11 first downs and 254 total yards on the day, and while that's partly a function of the turnovers, it's also a function of Michigan's performance; the Wolverines forced 10 4th downs on 13 opportunities.
And it was, if not exactly the kind of vintage "This is Michigan" mashing Brady Hoke invoked throughout the offseason, at least as close as this particular team has come to its own platonic ideal. Denard Robinson took every significant snap at quarterback, carried 23 times, looked sharp as a passer and accounted for four touchdowns. Tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint went over 100 yards on the ground for the third time in the last four games, adding a pair of scores of his own. The offense as a whole held the ball for almost 42 minutes. The defense held Nebraska to a season-low in total yards and matched a season low in points. The 'Huskers didn't convert a third down until the end of the third quarter.
In a matchup of apparent equals, the only aspect of the game Nebraska "won" — or came close to winning — was average yards per punt. And that doesn't include the punt Michigan blocked.
Jan. 3 New Orleans, La. SEC vs. at-large 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: With both SEC teams in the championship game, the Sugar Bowl will need a replacement and Michigan will be very attractive. It ends up taking an undefeated Houston over the Big East champion.
Palm has the LSU-Bama rematch as the title game, which opens up a weird slot for M. I'd rather play a running team than Case Keenum. BONUS WEIRDNESS: Palm puts Penn State in the Hawaii Bowl in place of someone else who can't fill a commitment. No idea why he thinks the #3-5 Big Ten team isn't locked into an actual Big Ten bowl. SIDE NOTE: Adding Nebraska makes the Big Ten's bowl matchups far more palatable.
Rothstein says the special teams were… wait for it… special. Robinson had no idea he'd tied Brady's record for touchdown passes, but instead of "WAT" he said "excuse me?"
This wasn't the final piece of evidence, but it certainly was the most compelling. What happened Saturday in Michigan Stadium is what used to happen. A big, physical foe rolled into town and ran smack into a wall of pads. The Wolverines' 45-17 rout of the Cornhuskers was their best game of the year, by far, and the loudest statement of the Brady Hoke era, by far.
As the final minutes ticked away, the crowd began an old-new chant. "Beat Ohio!" cascaded from the student section, in homage to Hoke, whose personal homage to the rivalry is to refer to the Buckeyes simply as "Ohio."
Beat Ohio? Uh, that's a good idea. After seven straight losses in the rivalry, Michigan (9-2) has a great chance to do it, with Ohio State (6-5) in complete disarray.
I quote him because he's the only columnist in a 500 mile radius who doesn't compulsively hit enter after each mark of punctuation. Also he had cake.
The defensive improvement is perhaps the most shocking element of Michigan's renaissance. The Wolverines did not sign a bunch of five-star freshmen who raised the talent level. They have succeeded largely with the same players who finished 2010 ranked 110th in the nation in total defense (450.8 yards per game) and 108th in the nation in scoring defense (35.2 points per game). We knew coordinator Greg Mattison could coach, but we didn't know he could work miracles. Through 11 games, the 2011 Wolverines have allowed 312.6 yards per game and 15.6 points per game. "Fundamentally and technically, they're playing what they're coached to do, and they're playing together," Hoke said of his defense. "It's been fun to watch."
The MGoBlue highlights use that frustratingly close camera angle but here they are:
Wolverine Historian has a longer reel if that's your jam. It's not as high quality as the others.
This really should have been the entire halftime show. 20 minutes of Nyancat. I also think they should replace Seven Nation Army with Nyancat. It would have the same effect on the offense that Iowa's pink locker room does.
Can you talk about the importance of special teams today? “Well that was a big part of -- it always is a big part of every game, but to be able to knock some balls loose and start with great field position is a good thing for us. Obviously offensively having a short field, I thought that was a big part of what our kids were doing and what helped us today.”
How happy are you with all three phases of today’s game? “Well it’s probably as well as we’ve played with all three phases. We still had some opportunities from an offensive standpoint that we didn’t take advantage. Then we don’t field a punt and [it] backs us up, then we’re kicking with a short field … there’s always something. I can sit up here and go on a long time about that, but as a group, they played with a great toughness and complemented each other well. I thought the guys up front offensively were really working hard to make things happen. Fitz did a nice job. Denard did a nice job. Defensively, our front seven played well.”
With everything that was going on today, did you feel an additional pressure to win? “No. No. We’re going to win the game. We’re going to fight and compete and coach and motivate and do all those things.”
What did you do differently in kickoff coverage this week? “We really didn’t do anything differently. We challenged our guys, which you always do. For them to outcompete the guy they’re playing against. T-Rob hit him and the ball came out, and Cam hit him and the ball came out -- it was really just playing and competing as best we could, every guy who was in that locker room.” Were they going harder? “You know, I don’t know if they were going harder. It looked like about the same speed we do going down.”
How big was the blocked punt and converting it into a touchdown in terms of momentum? “That was huge. When he kind of dropped it there and ran -- yeah. Field position again is a huge part of it. We capitalized on a mistake in there that happened. The hustle that the guys showed, I thought, was great.”
Talk about Denard’s poise in the pocket and the challenge of having to run plays without a play clock in the beginning? “Well, you know, a couple things. Number one, I think the one thing we could do as a coaching staff and as an offense is make sure that we’re getting the plays in as quickly as we could. We had to make sure the huddle was set as quickly as we could get it set. If you’re a receiver or one of those guys coming in and out, you’re hustling on the field or off the field -- those personnel groups. The first one, the penalty we had, that’s on me. I should have called a timeout. For me not to do that, that’s bad coaching. I thought he did a tremendous job.”
How much has this defense grown since January? “The seniors on that defense have done a tremendous job. They’re prideful kids, the Mike Martins, Van Bergens, Woolfolks. We from day one have said that we are going to play and coach for our seniors. I think the young guys understand that and I just think fundamentally and technically they’re playing what they’re coached to do, and they’re playing together. That’s been fun to watch.”
How were you able to limit Burkhead? Was there anything you saw on film? “No. You’re just doing your job. If you’re a nose tackle you’re getting a double or a base reach. You have to play the base reach and get off and make plays. We talked about because of the physicalness that he likes to run the football with, that we wanted to try and get 11 guys to the ball all the time.”
Is that the best you’ve seen Denard play since you got here? “I don’t know. I’d have to rewatch it probably. I thought he did a nice job managing our offense. I think he took advantage of some creases that he found in there and accelerated through them pretty well.”
Could you have dreamt of a better way to welcome Nebraska to the Big House and the B1G? “Well I don’t know. They want to win, we want to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s Nebraska or Slippery Rock. We want to win the football game. I’m just being honest about it. We have a lot of respect for Nebraska. The pride and the tradition that they have. Bo Pelini is an excellent football coach. They’re a good football team.”
Can you comment on the time of possession disparity (42 min to 18 min)? “You play really good defense when you get to watch your offense. Believe me, and that’s part of it. Our offense, not every game, but having a little bit of an advantage in time of possession. One of our best defensive calls is them on the field. And then you look at the defense, I think we were 3 of 13 defending them in third down conversions -- you’re helping yourself defensively and getting off the field.”
With six minutes to go, the crowd was chanting “Beat Ohio, Beat Ohio.” Thoughts? “Well, we’re going to really go to work on that tomorrow. But that’s our next opponent.”
Can you talk about the momentum you have going into the Ohio State game? “You know, we won two in a row, right? There’s another to go win.”
Is this as close you’ve come to play the kind of football you envisioned when you started? “You know, we definitely want to run the football. We want to control it. We want to take care of the football from that standpoint. And we want to play defense as 11. We want to play defense where we’re stopping the run and then putting people in situations where they feel they have to throw the football. That’s where some of the uniqueness of what Greg does has been good for us.”
Can you talk about picking the spot to fake the field goal? “We had put it in. It’s the one Penn State used against us in ’95? I think it was ’95 up there. [We] wanted it on the right hash, [and] they gave us the look that we wanted. Even if we had kicked the field goal, Drew Dileo -- having him as a holder, he’s such a smart football kid. He did a tremendous job with it. You got it, you might as well use it.”
Thoughts on how Denard played on third down? “Well I thought he did a nice job. Believe me, because we were making low yardage on first down and on second down we went backwards a couple times. When you get into a situation [with] those longer third downs, I thought he was very accurate with the ball when he was throwing it. I think the throw that he made for the touchdown to Martavious Odoms was as good as a throw I’ve seen him make, especially on a long ball. It was a great catch by Martavious, but that’s where he had to put the ball.”
You’ve emphasized Ohio State since the first press conference. Why is this going to be different, and how does it feel to go into it with nine wins? “Well I think any time that rivalry is played, and believe me, we appreciate it always at the end of November. We have tremendous respect for that football team and that program and that school. It’s exciting."
"It's exciting! You get excited! Look!”
When you hear the fans chanting it, does it get you a little charged up? “Well it’s eight days, less than eight days.”
Defending the option, whose responsibility was it mostly? “Well it was more the ends. Our ends did a nice job on the quarterback. We tried to keep the backers inside because of what they were doing with the zone part of it and put it on the two ends. The one he got out earlier in the game, our end didn’t do the job he should have.”
Did you change some things on offense? Seems like Denard was making more checks at the line. “No. Not really. It was about normal.”
Don’t hate me, but as much as you guys dominated today, there’s a certain team down the road that won, so does that taint this victory at all? “Not at all. Not at all. We had our opportunities. Part of competitive sport and competitive life is you have to take advantage of the opportunities. So no. I really don’t hate anybody.”
Denard looked really patient in the pocket and made some good decisions. Is that the Denard you usually see in practice? “You know, I think he was a little bit beat up in the mid-year with some ailments, but I think he’s healthy now. I think he’s more confident. One thing I can tell is he’s taken ownership as a leader. That’s neat to see.”
Barnum is "available," but Hoke won't say whether he'll actually play.
Woolfolk did everything in practice fine.
As did Denard.
Opening remarks: “It was another good Tuesday for us when you look at practice and preparation on both sides of ball. In the kicking game we really worked on the coverage game. In kickoff returns [Nebraska has] been very successful. They’ve got [Ameer] Abdullah, [who has], I think, 31 yards a return, so that’s field position, and that’s something we have to do a great job of covering -- kicking the ball and the coverage itself. In the punt game they’re averaging nine yards a return. It’s still pretty significant. We’ve got to do a great job of executing the hidden yardage you get from your special teams. We’ve got to do a great job as a team. If you’re punting the football, snapping the football, protecting whatever you may be doing, we’ve got to be very good this week.”
Will you be practicing at the stadium more these two weeks? “Well the kickers will. We don’t go up there at all as a team until game day. It’s a special day for us, and game day is important being in that stadium, but we were fortunate enough to have pretty good facilities obviously and get a lot of work done.”
Does Nebraska’s run game change how you prepare your secondary? “You know, not really. It obviously, when you’re a back end position, the discipline of your eyes and the alignment of your feet are such an important part of playing back there because you are the support at times. You are the last line of defense. You are a lot of different things, and for us, I think we’ve worked every week as far as the run game part of it, which we do a lot on Tuesday. More the passing game on Wednesday. Really work on crack schemes that they’ll run, which they do run -- they’re pretty daggone good at it -- and those kinds of things, just the reaction of where your eyes are, and your eyes will tell your feet where to go.”
Opening remarks: “We’re really proud of our kids and how they played on Saturday, how they went out there as a team. I think we really complemented each other as a football team in a lot of ways. Offensively, taking the ball down on the first possession and scoring always helps you from a mindset and your enthusiasm when you play the game. Defensively, I thought our defense played awfully well. Played together. We had a fourth and 26 that was completed on us that we don’t like at all, and we needed to play better on the one drive in the fourth quarter. Matt Wile did a tremendous job on kickoffs, especially into the wind. Jeremy Gallon did a nice job in the punt return department. The thing I want to mention is those guys on the team really did a nice job, so that was a big plus when you look at the hidden yardage that’s always important in a football game. But I’m proud of the kids, how they bounced back, how they reacted, how they stayed together, how they complemented each other.
“Obviously we’ve turned the page after yesterday. We have a very good opponent in Nebraska, one of the traditional football powers in this country, and we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Is this defense exceeding your preseason expectations? “We always have high expectations. I think the part of it that you like is -- and this is probably more what a coach would see than you may -- but when they come off the field, whether it’s good or bad, how they band together, stay together, [and] they listen. I think Greg and the staff on defense do a tremendous job of making the adjustments that need to be made, and the tremendous job the guys do of keeping each other on that edge -- that’s part of it. I thought they did a nice job staying together no matter what happened.”
Illinois had negative rush yards at the half, and they got 37 total. How did that change their offensive plan? “Obviously when you can get a team to be one-dimensional, if you can do that, and we were able to. The interior of the defense really shut down some of the zones and what they wanted to run. When you can get them in those down and distance situations that are advantages for you, we were able to do that and we were able to get some pressure. I thought the back end did a nice job of keeping the ball inside and in front, which is a big part of it. The capacity for big plays weren’t there as much.”
Delonte Hollowell had his redshirt burned two weeks ago.
There will be some rotation between Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk vs. Illinois regardless of which one wins the spot in practice.
Ricky Barnum still limited in practice. Hoke says he "will play," however.
Opening remarks: “I’m going to make a brief statement just regarding everything up at Penn State. One thing I can tell you, we have an utmost respect for what coach Paterno’s done on the field. It’s really a situation that’s obviously unfortunate, but it’s one that doesn’t affect us. We’ve got to worry about Michigan and the decision that we make in getting ready for this week and going to Illinois and winning a football game.
“Now practice yesterday was good. I like it. I liked how they competed. I liked how they came out, had a lot of energy, and they fought like heck.”