Denard After Dentist

Submitted by Brian on September 12th, 2011 at 11:49 AM

9/10/2011 – Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 – 2-0


is this real life?

Not only can Denard Robinson redefine All-America teams, average nearly 500 yards per game against Notre Dame, and pilot the most insane fourth quarter Michigan Stadium has ever seen, but he can sum up what happened on Saturday in a single word:

If you still need evidence that Denard can do things other people can't, there you go. Because I've got nothing. I can gape, slack-jawed and twitching, if you'd like. Oh, and I can put my finger between my lips and go "brrrrrrrrrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrrbb" with crazy googly eyes. Also I can spin in a circle going "yip yip yip yip yip."

These are my capabilities. All other functions are currently offline. Attempt to access higher cognition and you will receive 503 Gateway Not Found.

That's fine. There's nothing to say that "brrrrrrbrbrbrbrbrrbrbrb" doesn't cover anyway. I am so high, you guys. I don't even know what I'm saying.


Seriously. I'm really struggling here to put words in the computer. I guess… okay.

The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.

I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:


Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field. I couldn't block them from my phone. The tweets sat there, whispering evil things into my ear.

As I projected Denard's state of mind my own got inky black. The road ahead seemed like another two years of painful rebuilding towards a goal Denard will never see, his career relegated to that of Brandon Graham when Desmond Howard seemed in reach. It's going to kill me if Denard ends up a really good player on a mediocre team for the duration of his career and Michigan doesn't end up making anyone who wants 16 in the future wear a patch with dreads on it. It's going to be worse if he's not even a really good player. Someone is at fault for this travesty.

I was running advanced equations of blame assignment amongst Bill Martin, Rich Rodriguez, Al Borges, Dave Brandon, and bloody fate when Denard rolled out. Corralled by a Notre Dame defender, he stood perfectly still but still delivered a game-changing dart to Junior Hemingway before two more ND players could close in.

From there the delirium took over.


That game was delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other. Jeremy Gallon jump-ball touchdowns. Tommy Rees's aiming device locked on Michael Floyd. Tommy Rees throwing a ball backwards for no reason. More jump balls to Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon turning invisible with 23 seconds left. All the reasons it left you with your finger between your teeth are reasons to wonder about the smoothness of this transition (not very), the repeatability of such miracles (even less).

This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.

Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.

For now, though:

The game is ova!

Non-Bullets Of WHAT?


Pantheon placement. I think this is below Braylonfest—but only just—in the competition for Best Comeback Ever (that people 32 or under remember). For Michigan to pull Braylonfest out they had to recover an onside kick and survive not just triple overtime by an oft-forgotten 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation that was set up by a horrible pass interference call.

A good proxy for the level of kickass in your comeback is how many people left the stadium early. While there were some people who took off when ND made it 24-7, they don't compare to the legions who left early during that MSU game. And winning that eventually got Michigan a Rose Bowl appearance. The season-long significance of this ND game is going to be lower.

It easily beats out the Buffalo Stampede game, since it's not against Minnesota or in the Metrodome, and then it's a long way to fourth place.

As far as best game ever… it depends on what you're rating it on. I like my defining victories to be well-played and not hinge on the opposing quarterback throwing the ball backwards for no reason. In terms of pure drama it's up there but with both teams unranked and not looking likely to defy that I'd say most Ohio State games before we stopped being competitive had more salt to them. We lost all the ones that came down to the last play, though.

The entire Denard interview. If you missed this, you should fix that:



Commence the bitching about the offense. Watching Michigan run a play-action bomb from the I-formation after averaging exactly two yards per carry out of the I on previous attempts was exactly what I was beating into the ground over the offseason. No one is scared of Michigan's crappy backs running power out of the I-form so no one has to cheat to it. Thus instead of Worst Waldo plays featuring Roy Roundtree and twenty yards of grass we got a lot of hopeful downfield jump balls into excellent coverage.

Michigan was lucky as hell to get most of those. That was a Jeff Bowden special right there. I'm not alone in this. There has to be some adaptation now that we know the relative success rates of manball and Denardball. When Denard's averaging 7.5 YPC (sack excluded) and the rest of the backs under are 2, power is a lost cause.

Denard has to be the focal point of the offense, fragile or no. And the new offense seemed to remove Denard's legs as the primary threat without actually reducing his carries: he had 15 carries* in just 50 snaps. Project that to last year's 72 offensive snaps per game and Denard would have carried 22(!) times. What's the point of throwing away snaps on two-yard runs from the I?

*[sack removed.]

junior-hemingway-leapPrimary thing that may just work. "Chuck it up to Hemingway" may be the world's most primitive passing game but dang if it doesn't work. Hemingway not only has great leaping ability, he's enormous and therefore capable of boxing out opponents. Add in an uncanny knack for being able to high-point the ball and he's a hell of a lot like Marquise Walker before Walker got the dropsies as a senior.

Primary thing that did work from under center. Vincent Smith's throwback screen touchdown was a great call since it used Denard's legs. He rolls, defense freaks, he throws back, Smith should have an easy touchdown if any of the offensive linemen block that one linebacker, Smith makes it happen anyway. Contrast with the earlier screen where a short Denard has to float a ball over a guy leaping in his face and ends up throwing it eight yards too far and getting it picked off.

And introducing… Facepalm Guy. The facepalm guy from the sad fugee face picture in the "So I Was Like" post: the the new Lloyd Brady? He's already won an award for "Media Criticism" from Doctor Saturday.

1) He caught ESPN's camera's capturing his facepalm moment and gave them an oh-no-you-di'in't:

2) After the game he… well, he did this:

Can a brother get a Facepalm Guy touchdown Jesus photoshop?

(HT to MGoUser Haterade.)

Defensive events. Brandon Herron and Mike Jones were supposedly out with injury but if I had to guess they were not so badly hurt they couldn't play and Michigan was trying out their other options at WLB. Desmond Morgan started, played poorly—he got trucked like he was in a BTN practice highlight-type substance—and was yanked. Then Brandin Hawthorne came in and may have been plausible. He knifed into the backfield for one key TFL on third and short. I'm guessing he was at least partially responsible for a number of Cierre Wood runs that went for big yardage, but we'll see. WLB remains a sore spot.

The other sore spot is an alarming, unexpected one: WDE. Craig Roh had zero tackles for the second straight week and while he did get a QB hurry or two he seems less impactful from that spot than he did last year. I mean, last year he split two ND linemen and picked up a huge TFL en route to a +11 day. This year he'll be lucky to break even. Hopefully he's still sick. I wonder if we see more Black in the short term.

How did Jordan Kovacs only have eight tackles?

BONUS: Will Campbell got held! By an offensive lineman!

Special teams. Matt Wile has been at least average spelling Hagerup, and with only one more real-ish game left before the latter returns it looks like Michigan will escape that suspension without much real damage. I still hate the regular punt. If ND's John Goodman hadn't made inexplicable fair catches he had tons of room on two of Wile's five punts despite Wile's excellent hangtime.

The patch thing. It's pretty cool. Some potential tweaks and additions:

  • Should we un-retire numbers? I could get behind a 98 if it meant someone was going to be sitting in front of a locker that said Tom Harmon. You'd have to ask whoever the nearest relative is.
  • Further locker room additions. Everyone who's been an All-American should have their name engraved in a fashion more understated than this legends designation…
    ...but still be there. Having Chappius and Oosterbaan and Friedman and McKenzie and Dierdorf and Long's names up in the locker room would be a nice way to recognize All-Americans past.
  • Next up. AC and Woodson. If they don't put the retired numbers back in circulation. Jake Long would probably be next up way down the road.
  • The patch is too big. That's just, like, my opinion, man.

So there's this. Exploit your children for fun and profit:

Profit not applicable.

Pom-poms and RAWK and crowd noise. Is it just me or was the stadium not actually very loud when it would help out the most? The pom-poms encouraged people to use their hands shaking pom-poms instead of making noise and while the piped-in music was indeed loud, when it cut out the people in the stadium making noise were largely going "OH oh oh oh oh, OH oh oh oh oh" instead of "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA." The latter is louder.

Putting aside the insults to the Great Tradition they represent, is the noise level created by the frippery mostly cosmetic? It has seemed much louder in Michigan Stadium—I was frustrated as I was screaming myself hoarse on the last drive while people around me shook their little plastic thingies. Plastic thingy shaking is not that intimidating, people.

And then there's the guy two rows in front of you who's shaking the thing constantly so you can't see the game. In the South they have a protocol about these things: raise that thing above your shoulder during a play and you're not getting that arm back. Here we get them every five years or so and there's always someone who thinks row 14 is the last one.


Ace took a video of the final kickoff. I'm going to point you to "so I was like" again because dammit I can. Chunkums took some killer photos, but hasn't animated them yet:


ST3 goes inside the box score. Michael Scarn says trying to describe that game was like taking a picture of Bigfoot. Post-ND MonuMental riff by ppToilet. (You can't choose your username, man, it chooses you.) MonuMental himself shows up to modify his Denard action figure for the occasion.


Pretty much the best. An obviously drunk Jeff at Maize Pages digs up the fantastically entertaining Roundtree-Shaw Newlywed game BTN video in response to the delerium.

Photo galleries and assorted media. Pregame shots from MNB Nation. Other shots from MNBN. The Shredder took a zillion shots. Tailgating from Also the game. Here's a great stadium shot from Melanie Maxwell:


Also here's this dude:


The whole gallery is worth checking out.

The Desmond Howard emospective has also been youtubed. Try not to get dusty. Ryan Terpstra is making a habit of filming the hell out of ridiculous ND victories:

Wolverine Historian put together a 28 minute highlight reel.

Column-type events. Wojo. More Wojo. MVictors also fills you in on the techno viking behind Hoke: yes, it's Steve Everitt, and no, you do not want to get between him and his cubs. Kyle Meinke says Denard was a big part of the offense and the running backs weren't and that's not so cool. Florek in the Daily.

UGA/M dual-fan Michael at Braves & Birds wonders whether it's better to play poorly and win (as Michigan did) or play well and lose (as Georgia did).

Entertaining serieseses of bullets. MVictors:

On the sunny side, they pulled out all the stops in the press box for the media on hand.  Witness the butter dish of victory:

butter dish

This might have been Brandon's special bonus.

Touch the Banner:

[Robinson's] total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange. Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that's because it's the same as Michigan's kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.  In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.



That graph is intended as a baseline estimator for a team's real-time win probability and is independent of situation, but the site also offers a crude win probability calculator, which, while it's calibrated to an NFL scale, can at least give us a decent estimate of how unlikely Michigan's victory was: four percent, Michigan's win probability after Notre Dame's slot receiver scampered into the endzone without a defender in site. Denard Robinson laughs at your probabilities and says, "Really? Oh man, that's crazy," and throws the ball to Jeremy Gallon standing alone in the Notre Dame secondary.

Maize and Blue Nation wins best headline: "The Denard. The Denard. The Denard."

National takes: Adam Jacobi marvels and notes that Robinson couldn't throw the ball even when he was completing passes; he also points out that uh… the Big Ten is not so much this year. Doctor Saturday:

Here, instead of merely covering poorly, Notre Dame subsequently failed to cover Wolverine receiver Jeremy Gallon at all, incredibly freeing him for a 64-yard sprint to the Irish 16-yard line with eight seconds left for a) A couple shots at the winning touchdown; b) A shot at a field goal to tie; or c) A confused catastrophe that left 110,000 people contemplated mass hara-kiri. With all of every one of those people secretly fearing c), Robinson delivered the dagger.

Bruce Feldman:

Robinson was, again, heroic for Michigan. He has brutalized the Irish the past two seasons, rolling up a mind-boggling 948 yards of total offense to go with eight TDs. His performance in the fourth quarter Saturday night was downright epic: 7 of 9, 202 yards, three passing touchdowns to go with six carries for 24 yards and another TD. In all, he accounted for a staggering 226 of his team's 229 yards.

In Case You Live Under A Rock

Title reference.



September 12th, 2011 at 5:19 PM ^

I'm glad to see many of posters in support of a healthy mix of both the band and RAWK music.  I agree that the execution was very poor last few years, but the mix on Saturday was just about right.  Not to mention the visual of the maize pom pom's against the dark sky, moving in unison was amazing.  It probably looked even better on an HD TV at home.  As one of the early comments said, I sit in a section where the people behind me are constantly tugging on my jersey to sit down.  Generally I try to appease them for 1st and 2nd down...but for most of the 2nd half and the entire 4th quarter my whole section was standing up cheering, waving the pom pom's, and singing along with the music.  It was nice not to have my jersey pulled for much of this game.  

As a 38 year old season ticket holder I've always felt squeezed between the "down in front" blue hairs and the "kids" who don't have much need for tradition.  There is a definite need to save tradition, but also to mix in some more fun.  For the past few years I don't think the Athletic Department was pleasing anyone.  This year I think the Athletic Department led by Dave Brandon is doing a very good job.  It is time to give them their due and stop this anti-RAWK music, anti Pom-Pom tirade.   


September 12th, 2011 at 5:30 PM ^

Then  I had a meeting and 66 posts blew up to, well, this...and I can't help but thinking:

If you can take one of the great moments and events in Michigan sports history, and come out of it kinda feeling bummed, sad, leery, worried, lamenting...whatever....less than 36 hours after it happened....

I don't think the problem is with the program, or the game, it's with you. Cheer up a little and enjoy it. I'm as cynical as the next guy, and life will dong punch you soon enough. Don't make yourself unhappy in the truly joyous moments too.


September 12th, 2011 at 9:28 PM ^

If you ignore the last quarter we averaged 4.65 yards per play. Not great, but not horseshit. And that's when you cherry pick data. If you don't we averaged 9 yards per play on the day.

Given that Al Borges is not Rich Rodriguez why are you so disappoint? I think you've forgetten that last year we punted 10 times against ND and scored less points.


September 13th, 2011 at 8:07 AM ^

I think you, and many others, are forgetting the ND gave away both games almost as much as we won them.  Cousins is not going to turn the ball over like that.  Neither is Martinez.  Saturday was awesome.  I had so much fun watching that game...

I also thought "MSU is going to smoke us."  If you come away from this game feeling good about the future (this season), I don't know why.  We look like we will probably win the games we're supposed to, but get killed by any quality B10 team.  There isn't enough improvement on the defensive side of the ball, and the offense looked terrible, save some completed jump balls and invisible Jeremy Gallon.

Stats are great, but they can hide the story.  The fact that we don't have a runningback is obvious.  Like I said, we can enjoy the win, but I sure as hell would feel a lot better heading up to East Lansing if we can play better defense, not turn the ball over, have something resembling special teams, and find a consistent running back.


September 13th, 2011 at 8:49 AM ^

If people wanted to believe we were going to be a machine this year, that's fine, I like the optismism. But you didn't need to see a couple of games to know there were major talent deficiencies on this team, particularly up front.  That's going to take time to rebuild. (Luckily, if we can keep winning a few games like this, and hold onto everyone, we seem to be on the road to doing that).

I'm not saying as you analyze the game, you can't notice some of the "ugh", but this column was basically the first reaction. And as I said, less than 36 hours after the game. We're not coaches, or players. There is no 24 hour rule. And if you can't enjoy something that amazing, and your thought immediately turn to doom and gloom over games that won't be played for another month (and who knows how improved things might be by know, Michigan teams used to improve as the season went on), I'm not even mad over it anymore. Just kinda sad for people who live their lives in such misery. Because a lot of people make their families miserable after losses....if you're that mopey after wins, and historically amazing wins at that, I'm not sure what's going to make one palatable to the people around them other than a National Championship night....and from the sounds of it, if it happened with Borges instead of Rich, it'd be "but we could have looked prettier doing it, and scored 3 more touchdowns".  That's just a sad way to live.

I'm not exactly Mary Sunshine (I picked us to lose to Notre Dame, and would have been pretty close on the score but for 8 seconds), but my first reaction to fortune is not to PANIC!!!!!  Going into the season we probably shouldn't have beaten ND.  During the game, we probably shouldn't have beaten ND.  But guess what? We did. That's house money. We need better legs, and better arms, and better size/strength (and we're getting it)....but man, we don't need any more heart. We have that in spades.

Ed Shuttlesworth

September 12th, 2011 at 6:15 PM ^

For 30 years (interrupted by 3) Michigan has been successfully throwing the ball to WRs who looked covered but caught the ball because they're more athletic than the guy(s) covering them. 

I guess I missed the part where that became a bad -- or "unsustainable" -- thing.


September 12th, 2011 at 6:28 PM ^

I normally find Brian's analysis pretty damn astute, but I find it hard to believe that someone could've watched that first half and laid blame on the scheme, not on Denard.  He missed open receivers, threw that turrble screen INT (which wasn't a function of Denard being 5'11", but a function of Denard trying to bring the "no look" pass into football), and was just generally wildly inaccurate.  We're not winning anything with first-half-Denard, unless we run a true wing-T.  Meanwhile ND has its safeties selling out on the run so hard that they must've felt bad for us every time we ran into a sea of gold shamrocked helmets.  Hard to run when every gap is filled.

Ain't no scheme thing when your QB drops a stinkin' turd.


September 13th, 2011 at 2:56 AM ^

No true Michigan fan would speak of our QB, especially the great guy that he is, in that fashion. Also, Denard had 4 pretty good passes that will go down as incompletions in the first half that were either drops or wrong routes run by the WR's. The INT is a play that should never been run with a 5'11" QB and 5'5" RB over the middle; had that been Koger Denard probably sees him and he has a chance of catching it.

Denard definitely could have played better in the first half and Borges could have called a better half. If the O-line and receivers had executed better then both those goes would have looked better.


September 12th, 2011 at 8:55 PM ^

I think it was a mix of playcalling and a poor half by Denard. I'm confident that both will revert to the mean.
<br>What I'm more concerned about are idiots who think Denard is the problem here. I had to contain my rage when I explained to the guy a few rows back that, no, we should not sit Denard if he ha another poor drive. This was right before he took over so that was a fitting f u.


September 13th, 2011 at 12:16 AM ^

Anyone else notice that in the Desmond video that @ :28 it was just like Roundtree's catch with 2 seconds left and at :37 it was just like Hemingway's catch in the middle of the field with two safeties around him?


September 13th, 2011 at 12:24 AM ^

The game was actually won because the defense maximized the talent it had and found a way to right the ship long enough for ND's D to get spooked and worn out worrying about Denard erupting.  Then Michigan started to make some plays.

Seriously, after watching Denard do almost nothing in meaningful Big Ten games under the previous philosophy, how could a reasonable mind not welcome the possibilities of what a different approach conceived up by a guy with the experience of Borges could do for him?  Denard failed Denard the first half. The system didn't change. Denards choices and execution within it did.

Besides, how do we know he doesn't have full authority to run out of passing plays at any time and he just doesn't because he never did last year?

Bottom line: the vanilla lead draws all game long by Denard ran up huge stats against trash competition and was a miserable failure in the conference.  We can't go down that road again. Michigan football doesn't exist to look frightening on paper, maximize the potential of one player at all costs, or threaten teams with possibilities. For football game purposes, it exists to win during 60 minutes of actual games on Saturday. 

What's best for the team is what's best for all the players. That has to always be the case.