Modern Marvels Comment Count

Brian September 7th, 2009 at 9:51 AM

9/5/2009 – Michigan 31, Western Michigan 7 – 1-0

Michigan quarterbacks Tate Forcier, left, and Denard Robinson, right, celebrate Robinson's long touchdown run during first quarter action ot the Wolverine's 2009 season opener versus Western Michigan University at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, September 5th.
Melanie Maxwell| Ann Arbor.com

Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com

Towards the end of the third quarter, a guy in the row behind me started grumbling about Michigan's offense being boringly ground-based. By the fourth, cramped quarters had given way to roominess. After it was over, I was disappointed that Michigan's first-half outburst gave way to a near-scoreless second half and thought Michigan should have given the kids a little more rope via which to test their skills.

In short, it was a typical game against a MAC opponent. At least it was for a given, thoroughly inaccurate definition of "typical." Michigan's seldom had an easy time of it against anyone since the Carr era started flagging. MAC or MAC-ish opponents since 2004:

Year Opponent Score
2008 Miami Of Ohio(NTMOO) W 16-6
2008 Toledo L 10-13
2007 The Horror HORROR
2007 EMU W 33-22
2006 CMU W 41-17
2006 Ball State W 34-26
2005 Northern Illinois W 31-17
2005 EMU W 55-0
2004 Miami Of Ohio(NTMOO) W 43-10
2004 SDSU W 24-21

Over last five years, Michigan has been just as likely to be in an actual game (6) with a supposed tomato can as the expected blowout (6). (I am counting the '07 EMU game as an actual one, as it was 16-14 halfway through the third; the others need no justification.) Hell, even in 2006—when Michigan was a Crable helmet hit away from driving to the national championship game—Ball State had first and goal with an opportunity to tie late in the fourth quarter. In no way is a 31-0 halftime lead typical in the recent history of Michigan football except against Notre Dame.

It was just a MAC team, but think of how good those words sound rolling off your lips. Just a MAC team. Couldn't be expected to cope with our freakishly accurate quarterback or our freakishly speedy quarterback or the zippy skill position players who seemed bountiful and endless. Couldn't be expected to cope with Brandon Graham or Craig Roh or Mike Martin. No chance. Just a MAC team with a quarterback who might go in the first-round of the NFL draft and four-fifths of its offensive line back. No chance.

Yes, okay, there remain plenty of concerns. There were folks that the MAC team could cope with. These were the backup quarterback—and think about how good it sounds to have the identity of that person be utterly uncontroversial, no offense to said backup—and any cornerback not named Cissoko or Warren. Oh and any defensive end not named Graham or Roh. Or… well, you get the idea. The defense is paper-thin and can fall off a cliff with a single injury. So can the quarterback position until such time as Denard Robinson develops into something a more than a beautiful freakshow.

But today there is a thread about Michigan on every opponent message board across the internet where some guy says "looks like all that extra practice paid off lol."

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Last year, the Utah game was an opportunity to radically reassess Michigan's immediate future. It was far uglier than the final score, and I remember going on WCBN—which BTW I will be on at around 5 today—and telling the assembled folk there that the Notre Dame game would be "critical for bowl eligibility," whereupon we mused ruefully about how far Michigan had fallen in such a short period of time without anyone coming close to realizing how optimistic we still were.

The one piece of good fortune coming from that game was the handy metaphor:

underconstructionEvery rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.

We have seen it in action. It could have gone better. At least we have an incredibly direct metaphor all around us:

This program is under construction with a completion date around 2010. 

This program is still under construction, and the completion date is still 2010. But those shabby exposed girders are now sheathed in brick and lightning, shiny in the afternoon sun. As the season goes on we'll undoubtedly see the unfinished parts within brought to the surface. There's no insulation, and if you peer into the windows you can still see the girders that were plain to all last year.

For now, for right now, it's reassuring to look up and see a modern version of Yost on the way. Through controversy and people with ill-considered protests Michigan comes, echoing the past with a back-to-the-future offense and West Virginians in charge and beautiful brick arcs and, Angry Michigan BLANK-Hating God willing, a point per minute.

 

BULLETS

  • Man, JT Floyd looked like he'd have no chance of ever being a legit Big Ten corner on that bomb. I watched him go from two steps ahead to two steps behind the Western WR and immediately shivered at the safety depth. Maybe I'm leaping to too many conclusions from one play, but I see a safety move in his future.
  • Also, and you are going to hear this thought a half-dozen times in this space over the next week, but: man, that Western touchdown was a bummer for a lot of reasons but none more foreboding than its extreme resemblance to the one-man-route Golden Tate touchdown from last year's Notre Dame game. Cissoko's health and Michigan's ability to ignore the Notre Dame ground game will be key.
  • Brandon Graham must be livid he doesn't have a sack. Or three.
  • How dumb does last year's "Rodriguez refuses to adjust his offense" meme look now? Michigan used a thousand different formations, including intermittent deployments of the I-form and a heavy dose of 2 TE ace sets. He's been presented with solutions and has gone in search of the problem.
  • You know, if Michigan compliance is right and they can release a detailed report about offseason activities that results in zero and Michigan does pull out of its steep dive, it's possible the Free Press will be directly responsible for dissolving the gap between Michigan fans and Rich Rodriguez, which would have to go in the Alanis Morrissette Ironic Hall Of Fame. (Note on the linked article: claims that students chanted "keep united" after the game, which would have been awesome if it was true. It wasn't, though: it was "beat the Irish.")
  • No, none of the things in that song are ironic, which makes the fact that the hall of fame is named after her ironic. Obvs.
  • I think everyone needs to go back into that thread posted by that guy who said Craig Roh would start and posbang him like whoah. Also, I was backing two recruits out of proportion to all reason this year: Roh and Vincent Smith. Remember this when the predictions I make in the future are all hilariously off base.
  • Wait just one more before we return to your regularly-scheduled wrongness: I'm telling you about Drew Tate, man. That first touchdown, where Forcier moxied his way away from a defender and then signaled Hemingway to go deep, was vintage Tate. Hopefully it will be vintage Tate again.
  • Similarly, Sheridan's interception was a perfect demonstration of the difference between the two QBs. With the safety pulled up, Sheridan actually had plenty of room to hit Mathews in the back of the endzone if he floated it a bit; instead he attempted to rifle it and the ball was undercut.
  • I twittered this but if you weren't around: I saw someone carrying around a sign that said "In Rich And Staff We Trust." This is banner fail.

ELSEWHERE

This this was interesting from Touch the Banner:

In the second half, WMU quarterback Tim Hiller started getting rid of the ball quicker. He found a rhythm and started hitting underneath passes to his receivers. Greg Robinson might be served well by disguising coverages on the outside, changing the look from cover 2 man to a cover 2 zone. Suddenly, instead of driving the cornerback off with his initial burst, that cornerback is sitting underneath the quick hitch to the outside. A couple well orchestrated disguised coverages might be just enough to make Hiller think twice, which would give Brandon Graham, Mike Martin, and the rest of the defensive line enough time to get to the quarterback.

Michigan's defense in the opener seemed very simple. There was little rotation down-to-down. Michigan went the whole way in the same 3-4/4-3/4-2-5 hybrid thingy, occasionally rotating in a backup on the defensive line (this was done per series, so the series Graham was out he was just out except for a couple of third downs, IIRC) and yanking Cissoko for Floyd once things got out of hand. Everyone else played almost every snap. So it seemed like Michigan wanted to get their guys doing a limited number of things well; I assume they'll expand on that as the season goes on.

Also, by the time Hiller got going the game was out of hand and I can understand the impulse to shelve the exotics with Notre Dame coming in next week.

Meanwhile, MVictors got a field pass and put out a bunch of killer content. There is also a thorough breakdown of Zoltan biffing the banner run.

The Diag asks if Kelvin Grady has stolen Odoms' job, which probably not but he seems a viable option. I was surprised Roundtree was invisible—only came in with the Conescrubs at the end—after his spring game; even Laterryal Savoy and James Rogers got more run.

Comments

Elno Lewis

September 7th, 2009 at 10:07 AM ^

Brian. I think maybe rr saw the game as being in the bag and just went all experimental and stuff. I mean, he got cone in the game, and did his best to give Sheridan a td. the second half was ipso facto to me. That Koger circus catch was totaly tubluar tho. In closing, let me say--Go Blue!

caw caw!

eastone

September 7th, 2009 at 10:30 AM ^

It was refreshing to notice that either Tacopants has transferred to WMU and is playing without the required year off - or he has a younger brother on Western's team (Burritoskort?).

Don

September 7th, 2009 at 10:47 AM ^

I think they were already fairly solid, but whenever an outsider attacks a group of people and/or their leaders who are collectively engaged in an intense and stressful enterprise requiring their complete dedication to each other, it's a near-universal human reaction to bind together even more tightly in reaction. If Rosensnyder thought that the article would somehow result in an open, public split, they could not be more clueless about human nature.

Talking about ironic: the lone allegedly "current" player on the team identified by the Freep transfers to another team whose coach is also in hot water and then they go out and lose to their in-state rival at home.

Don

September 7th, 2009 at 10:49 AM ^

but he didn't look nearly as bad as the replacement OK QB who went in after Bradford was injured. I don't know if I've ever seen a more deer-in-the-headlights look on a football player.

darkstrk

September 7th, 2009 at 11:21 AM ^

I hope you're being sarcastic. David Cone is a fourth-year junior/human victory cigar and he didn't look good at all. He couldn't beat a former walk-on, a redshirt freshman and two true freshmen.

OK backup QB is a redshirt freshman. While he made a lot of mistakes (which is understandable given his youth and the tight game situation), he showed some flashes of competence.

Don

September 7th, 2009 at 11:01 AM ^

We had 78 offensive plays, which is more than we had in every game last year except the NW game. One year ago in the opener against Utah, we had 63 plays from scrimmage. If we can sustain that kind of increase throughout the season, the benefits to our defense — and the scoreboard—are going to be substantial.

DHerrick

September 7th, 2009 at 11:13 AM ^

Last year, it seemed like it took forever to get the play off after everybody was at the line. I remember thinking "this no huddle thing is really stupid -- it would be faster if they huddled and told everybody the play instead of standing at the line bumbledicking around for 15 seconds."

This year, they got to the line and a few seconds later the play went off. Much better.

Hannibal.

September 7th, 2009 at 11:04 AM ^

I was also surprised by how little attention Odoms got and that Roundtree didn't touch the ball. This makes me think that there is still a lot of the playbook that we have yet to run.

Wallaby Court

September 7th, 2009 at 11:40 AM ^

I'm less concerned about the lack of offense in the second half. From what I saw, it looked more like RR was shutting it down and switching to a vanilla playbook with the game in hand. Tate really didn't come out until that final drive, which only served to kill time and make sure WMU couldn't summon up a miracle. I'm of the belief (and it's hopefully not an irrational delusion) that RR thought it better to send 30 minutes of useless game tape to Charlie the Hutt than keep spanking an already beat MAC team.

West Texas Blue

September 7th, 2009 at 12:30 PM ^

I agree that 2nd half we just shut it down and just tried out a few new things. When Forcier was in for the 2nd half, we moved the ball down to the redzone (3rd and 4th quarter), and then Sheridan and the Coner came in respectively. Great to see the Coner get PT; did he even get on the field at all last year?

Token_sparty

September 8th, 2009 at 10:18 AM ^

... by far the best part of the blog.
You know, after seeing the 'There is no try' post earlier, there could be a whole year's worth of Star Wars tie-ins, leading ubergeeks from everywhere to this blog, much like the Pied Piper of cyberspace. So, Charlie the Hutt (not much Photoshop required, actually), Dantonio as Vader, and Tressel as the Emperor, but with a sweater vest? And wouldn't RR have to play Obi-wan? Oh, the possibilities...

The one thing that stood out about that game was Denard Robinson's speed. The playbook for ND, MSU, and OSU just became:
1. Get Robinson the ball; space useful but not required.
2. Kick extra point.
I mean, like wow, there's fast, there's Jimmy Johns fast, and then there's Denard Robinson. 'He's a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball' cliche is completely true in his case.