Opportunity Seized

Submitted by Ace on September 22nd, 2012 at 11:32 PM


It was there for the taking.

It was there when Michigan had a first-and-goal on their third possession, when Vincent Smith—yes, Vincent Smith—threw an interception in the end zone.

It was there on each of the next four drives, each ending with a Denard Robinson interception.

It was there when—despite the above—Michigan faced just a ten-point deficit on their first possession of the second half, when they drove to the Notre Dame 16, only to lose a Robinson fumble.

It was there when the defense forced a do-or-die third-and-four with 2:35 on the clock, only to see Tyler Eifert beat J.T. Floyd down the sideline for a 38-yard completion.

In a game that felt like karmic retribution for the last three years, however, Michigan never seized control, instead making error after crippling error until there were no more errors to make. The defense did everything in their power to overcome the offense, holding Notre Dame to just 239 yards on 4.8 yards per play and forcing two interceptions of their own. They could not stop Robinson from turning the ball over, though, and in the end it was a triumphant Tommy Rees kneeling the clock out.

The turnovers overshadowed a stellar defensive effort, one that will sadly be forgotten in the aftermath. Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson was completely ineffective, completing just one fewer pass to Michigan (two) than he did to his own team. The Irish rushing attack never got going, gaining 94 yards on 31 carries. Jordan Kovacs (7 tackles, 1 TFL) and Jake Ryan (5 tackles, all solo) both turned in outstanding games. With no margin for error, however, all it took was two poor plays on third downs—a pass interference by freshman Jarrod Wilson on the goal line and the final pass to Eifert—to foil an otherwise textbook Mattison game.

On offense, the bright spots are fewer and farther between. Fitz Toussaint finally got some holes to run though and looked like his nimble 2011 self when he found them. Roy Roundtree make a few crucial catches after largely disappearing from the offense this year. Al Borges added a promising wrinkle when Devin Gardner took an end-around only to throw downfield to fullback Joe Kerridge, drawing a pass interference on the opening drive. That's about it.

As I'm sure will be said ad nauseam in the coming bye week, all of Michigan's goals are still within reach. The Big Ten is awful and still very much there for the taking. If the Wolverines are to seize that chance, however, they'll have to be far more opportunistic than they were tonight, when a fourth straight victory over the Irish slipped through their fingers and into the hands of a team more willing to take advantage.



September 23rd, 2012 at 12:06 AM ^

Too many mistakes for a senior QB. Hopefully he will improve through the B1G season. My projected record is in tact. I had them losing this one and 2 in B1G play. Though, I still picked Michigan to win the B1G and play in the rosebowl with an 8-4 record.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:07 AM ^

Dom Tiberi still picks Ohio to run the table. I'm amazed the media south of the border isn't more concerned about the D or the one-man-show on offense with a QB who has a history of injury trouble.

San Diego Mick

September 23rd, 2012 at 12:10 AM ^

who is as huge a U-M fan as we are, she's from Iowa to boot, good job by me right? Anyway I digress, she was pissed Hoke didn't take Denard out for a little while and said the game was really annoying for her to watch, touche'


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:26 AM ^

If we still had Forcier, I'd have sat Denard for a series to let him calm down.  But with our only other options being either a guy who's been playing wide receiver or a redshirt freshman who has thrown two career passes, I don't think we really had a choice. 


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:11 AM ^

What Borges did right:

He changed the gameplan in the second half and produced offense that actually drove the field and gave Michigan a chance to win the game. And I like his early, aggressive playcalling, particularly the DGardner pass (why don't we do that sort of thing more often?) that earned a PI and got Michigan moving a bit. 

What Borges did wrong:

Brian was harping on this, but I've been kinda worried about this since UMass: Under center has pretty much been a passing formation for us in most situations. A couple of Denard's picks were the class back-foot throws, but with multiple ND defenders about to decapitate him because of turn-the-back Play Action plays that nobody fell for. Ironically, Michigan's under center sets in the second half were exclusively run plays that actually worked pretty well, as well as we've seen in the Borges era. A PA after a few of those would actually have a chance of working.

Michigan burned a lot of time in the second half too. Not just on the last drive, which took a bit too long and wasn't hurried up soon enough, but in the first two, where Michigan controlled the ball for the entire quarter and only got two drives out of it. I know it's supposed to be "Michigan Football" to huddle and drain clock, but Michigan's time of possession simply did not put it in the best place to win. One extra possession could have made the difference in this game.

I don't think Borges is a bad coach, but I can't get over the feeling that if everything else were the same and Michigan's O-coordinator were a fast-spread guy putting in packaged plays and running a no-huddle, even if they drain clock, Michigan would score more points. 

What else went right:

Line play was surprisingly good on both sides of the ball. I was worried the O-line would get crushed, and I think Borges was too with his gameplan; it didn't turn out that way, and Michigan created holes to run through in the second half. The D was terrific. 

You have to assume, from past performances, that Michigan will sort out the details of its offense. The fact that the defense played this well, even against a middling offensive team, is a great source of encouragement. 

Finally, Jake Ryan is probably the best player on the whole team right now.

Indiana Blue

September 23rd, 2012 at 9:46 AM ^

according B & B on the radio call (I could NOT listen to the tv feed!), M changed their line assignments in the 2nd half and the pass protection was significantly better.  I thought the 2nd half was good football (take away the Denard drop fumble).  But the facts are also the we owned the 3rd quarter but scored no points.  nd put together 2 drives in the 4th 1 for a FG and 1 to run out the clock and that was the game.

Hard to argue about coaching EXCEPT it certainly appears that Denard has never been coached to throw the ball away.  B1G is totally up for grabs and yes the entire league is awful ...  but a championship banner never shows how shitty the other teams were.

Go Blue!



September 23rd, 2012 at 12:14 AM ^

So, like, the defense played better.  Fitz starting to show his old self.  I'm gonna chalk up the interceptions to 'crazy shit that always happens in southbend' and weather.  Mealor might be the answer at center.  I'm surprised we didn't try more downfield jumpballs.  I'm not surprised we lost. I feel better about the MSU game since we get them at home.  Probably will lose to nebraska and ohio on the road.  8-4.  Same thing I've been predicting since january. 


September 24th, 2012 at 9:19 AM ^

to this year, you're right. But if he's as good as he was last year at throwing the ball, we figured out a way to turn a loss into a win BECAUSE of the jump ball against Notre Dame. If the latter, the coaches should have let Gardner/Funchess make a play against a weak secondary. If the former, Hoke needs to get a better quarterbacks coach.


September 24th, 2012 at 10:06 AM ^

I don't know if he regressed from last year.  He's on pace for 24 INTs (well beyond his terrible 15 from last year), but I doubt he'll keep up that pace.  I just think he's always been a bad "passing" QB.  Those jump balls are a great example; the passes were bad but the receivers adjusted and made great catches.  I would've liked to have seen him give Gardner and Funchess a chance, but he didn't seem on top of anything on Saturday.

It's not a matter of getting a better QB coach; we just have a QB who makes bad decisions and has an inaccurate arm.  That's nothing new.  I heard a radio caller on WTKA this morning complaining about the trick play with Vincent Smith.  The guy said, "We shouldn't have a RB throwing the ball."  Problem is that we always have a RB throwing the ball.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:16 AM ^

What an interesting case of a football player?  His upside to downside continuum stretches so far.  I've witnessed things I never thought I would see both good and bad.  It is what it is...highs and lows. 

Hoping the team can figure out a way to win the Big 10.  Next year is kind of already on my mind a bit.


September 23rd, 2012 at 3:35 AM ^

That's why he's the most exciting player in CFB.  You just can't look away.

Don't sleep on Denard this year.  He'll still have another one of his miracle games this year in a big game.



September 23rd, 2012 at 12:16 AM ^

I can't wait for the Denard pass to Te'o.     My wife dropped an f-bomb on that one and she doesn't know shit about football.  I have to see if a receiver fell down or made the wrong cut.  


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:24 AM ^

Denard was expecting the receiver to stop and turn around. Now, I think Te'o still had a good chance to at least break up that pass, if not intercept it. But when I watched the replay it looked like a situation where Denard expected the receiver to read his coverage and turn around, west-coast style. And the receiver (was it Dileo?) kept on going.

Who was in the wrong is open to question, but Denard was expecting a Michigan player there. And I think it was still a bad choice because he didn't see Te'o sitting on the route.

J. Lichty

September 23rd, 2012 at 12:24 AM ^

He turned Dink and Dunker moxie qb Cade McNown into a first rounder and Jason Campbell into an NFL qb.  Borges cant throw the ball for Denard.  Borges cant run a better route than Devin Gardner who broke off his route on one of Denard's INTS.

This was just one of those games.  We have been on the good end of the them in past and today we weren't.

Defense was encouraging and offense moved the ball.  This team will win a lot of games.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:27 AM ^

When was the last time we didn't score an offensive touchdown ?  My goodness, this is so un-Michigan......  we didnt score a td.    After that fourth pick he should've been benched for Bellomy.  Denard can fly but cerebral he is not, and this is a real problem.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:33 AM ^

Funny how I thought our Denard was our rock and our defense was suspect. Tonight was backwards all around. Great seeing the defense step up so many times, though. They did their job, and then some.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:36 AM ^

One game at a time.

Disappointed in the loss and all of the turnovers (minus all the points) but as others have said I do think there are positives from this game (defense owning, offense moving the ball pretty well).

Definitely think we can contend in the Big Ten and hope that our coaches and players continue to work to get better over the next 8-9 games in order so we can make the hopeful bowl game interesting.

One game at a time nice time for a bye and take heart I do think we are making progress.


September 23rd, 2012 at 12:39 AM ^

BIG action, I actually think Minnesota and Northwestern have a shot at this division with the right outcomes.


MInne's crossover games are Wisconsin/Purdue/Illinois.  Anyone think they can't win all 3 of those with some breaks.  Get an upset win or two vs Neb/MSU/UM and they'd be sitting pretty


Northwestern's crossover games are Indiana/Penn State/Illinois.  Jesus, they'll probably be favored in those 3.



September 23rd, 2012 at 12:45 AM ^

as much as I was encouraged by our D tonight.   Brian Kelly's puckered up big time after the INT in the endzone, that dude was deathly afraid of doing anything remotely even riskey with the lead.  ND made no attempt to challenge our D downfield, or even midfield except for a couple passes blazed over the heads of TE's over the middle.

As much as I'd like to think we improved, Kelly made it pretty easy on them.  We tackled better, pursued better and didn't seem to be out of position as much but how much attempt was really made to make our defensive work out there?


Purdue will be another tough struggle, and again it will probably come down to our mistakes, how many, often, and how deadly.


September 23rd, 2012 at 1:16 AM ^

I will say I was disappointed that ND was able to pick up six yards on the ground on its first two plays on the last drive, to set up a manageable 3rd and 4.  It was an obvious rushing situation and I thought we could have stood up a little better those two plays.   The pass to Eiffert was a great call but the relatively short yardage to go set it up.  If it had been say, 3rd and 9, there wouldn't have been the same threat of the run to set him free.

But on the whole, it's hard to fault the D given the number of times it was asked to keep ND from extending the lead.  The only time it gave up a TD was on a drive extended by a penalty (on a pass that looked pretty uncatchable IMO).




September 23rd, 2012 at 8:54 AM ^

What kind of Michigan fan are you? We lost. Our one-of-a-kind quarterback sucks. Our coaches suck. Our lines suck. Our freshman safeties suck. Our running game sucks.

It is not like we just played the number 11 team in the country and beat them pretty well in all phases of the game except stupid mistakes. Nope, we suck and we'll never get better.


September 23rd, 2012 at 1:38 AM ^

I think someone else said this, but Notre Dame is a "traditional power", and while this induces eye rolling in most of us, it gives them the same advantages we have, such as resources and recruiting. Honestly, they're probably a year ahead of us in terms of recruiting talent and the coaching staff setting up their system, etc. They consistently get talent, and once they get a staff that can actually do something with it, they will be good, like they may be starting to be.

Also, we're kind of in a weird transition right now ourselves, as we're split between Rodriguez and Hoke players/schemes/talent/etc. IIRC, Rodriguez' first couple classes were highly regarded, and then they dropped off some later. So, the seniors last year and this year were highly recruited, but many of the underclassmen brought in were not. Hoke's guys are clearly very good, but they're all Freshman (that weird 2011 class doesn't count), and next year a new crop of very good Freshman will come in, combined with this year's class who will be sophomores with experience.

The other thing to think about is that any rivalry worth having is worth being competitive, meaning we should have stiff competition from MSU, OSU, and Notre Dame. That's why they're interesting to watch, and the definition of competitive games is that they can go either way. When we win, it's an accomplishment, because it wasn't easy, but conversely, it means we can lose for one reason or another, and we have to be willing to accept that. This could also be a weird blessing in disguise. Think about last year, where we lost two games we maybe could have won, which kept us out of the B1G championship game, where we would probably have been humiliated by Wisconsin, and who knows if we would have gotten a BCS berth that way. If we had won the two games we lost this year, we could be in the MNC talk, and if for some reason we got there or another really high level bowl, we might get really humiliated.


September 23rd, 2012 at 2:41 AM ^

As expected, the official line from the press is all about how ND shut Michigan down


Freaking biased article but typical.  No mention of Denard self destructing and giving it to them, which is what it truly was.

This game changed my opinion on Denard.  He is a marginal QB at best vs. good opponents...and a disaster more often than not.

At this point the season could still be salvaged with a BT10 championship.  However, with Denard as the QB, every B10 game will basically be "a tossup"....could win or lose depending on how Denard goes.

Is that good for the Michigan program?  Is this hoge poge offensive scheme trying desperately to be diversified while hiding this QBs complete regression as a passer...good for the future of the Michigan program?  Is keeping a QB who is unreliable vs. decent opponents in there when he is inevitably awful good for the program?  Are there other options and when should they be utilzied?   After all..a couple of B10 losses could get that churn over to the Hoke guys moving much faster, even at QB. 

If the QBs best option to play in the NFL is at WR...well better sooner than later for him too.  Just asking...and sayin. 



September 23rd, 2012 at 4:13 AM ^

Clearly Borges would not have recruited Denard as a QB.  But they are stuck with each other this year.

Denard and Al are not a match made in heaven.  But I'm still amazed how well Borges, a West Coast offense guy, does make good use of Denard's skills. 

People forget that we are still in a coaching transition.  Last year's exceptional season, where all the close games went our way, hid a lot of this.  

We can't expect Borges to commit to becoming a spread guru for one player.  That's not what he was hired to do.  He was hired to build a program.  So he hodge-podges together some West Coast and Spread elements to work with Denard.  What else can he do?  



September 23rd, 2012 at 5:46 AM ^

... how can you tell the difference between "Denard self-destructing" and ND shutting him down?  He certainly wasn't accurate, but not busting long runs isn't on him self-destructing, it's on T'eo and ND closing off his running lanes.

More to the point, if Denard only has bad days against good opposition, that's not "self-destructing", that's playing to the limits of his talent.  I think he's got it in him to be better this year, even if the overall numbers will be awful thanks to ND and Alabama ... but I think that saying it's all on him is doing ND a disservice.  T'eo in particular had a monster game under less than ideal circumstances and I'm glad that we won't have to face him again.  Good luck on Sundays next fall, sir!

Denard picked an awful day to lead Michigan to a six-turnover night, and for all that we had a puncher's chance to win all night - and he hits hard, as ND knows.

Denard giveth, and Denard taketh away.  I hope he brings his A-game for MSU.



September 23rd, 2012 at 9:08 AM ^

Why should i be worried about which guy on the roster is most likely to play QB in the NFL?

It's a college football team trying to win college football games and the Big Ten...and it's clearly a transistion year given the number of freshman seeing time on both sides of the ball. There isn't a better option, and Gardner is probably better at WR than he'd be at QB right now. Bellomy has no signficant experience.

So, no, there are no other options. They'll play the rest of the games, Robinson will finish his career way up in the total yardage list and in a few years most fans won't remember his failings, just the incredible runs and the zany, last second comebacks.

Quit bitching and enjoy what you have while you have it.


September 23rd, 2012 at 9:28 AM ^

I had a blast watching that game! I'm sitting here this morning trying to figure out why I'm not more upset. I love the sheer edge-of-my-seat excitement I feel when the ball is in Denard's hands. The unpredictable nature of it is such a rush! We only get 8 more games of watching this kid - that's what sucks.

Indiana Blue

September 23rd, 2012 at 9:55 AM ^

That was simply the worst display of football (by both teams) I have seen in a long long time.  How many "great" plays were in the game ... none!  Michigan punted once (first drive) was in the red zone 5 times and score 6 points.  Edge of your seat ????  my back was flat against my chair the entire game !!

Go Blue!


September 23rd, 2012 at 9:32 AM ^

Although Denard has had many amazing offensive moments I doubt any of us will forget that he now holds the record for most interceptions by a Michigan QB and he has most of the season in front of him. Ugh.