UMass Recap: Pleasantly Routine Comment Count

Ace September 15th, 2012 at 7:43 PM

Dave Reginek/Getty Images

A half-empty student section, a press box full of beat writers already finishing their game columns, a field littered with walk-ons and freshmen; with eight minutes remaining in the final stanza, Michigan Stadium exhibited all the telltale signs of a blowout. A one-yard touchdown run by Justice Hayes had just given the Wolverines a 63-13 lead, one that stood as the final margin.

After the last two weeks, this was a welcome sight indeed.

Denard Robinson overcame an ugly pick-six to complete 16-of-24 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground to lead the way offensively. Robinson spread the ball around to nine different receivers, led by Drew Dileo's 91 yards on three receptions. The stars from last week, Devins Funchess and Gardner, each recorded a touchdown reception—Gardner's on a stellar effort to tightrope the sideline and dive for the pylon—and the enigmatic Roy Roundtree found paydirt for the first time this season.

It was a rebound performance for Fitzgerald Toussaint, as well, as he gained 85 yards on 15 carries, showing off the agility in tight quarters that made him so effective last season; after finding little room to operate against Air Force, Toussaint reached the edge on his 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter with help from an A.J. Williams block. Vincent Smith added a pair of touchdowns from inside the ten, Thomas Rawls doled out more punishment than he took, Justice Hayes recorded his first career score, and Dennis Norfleet made his offensive debut with a 15-yard jet sweep that surely made Brian one very happy blogger.

Michigan fans were even treated to a Fat Guy Touchdown, courtesy of a Taylor Lewan recovery after Denard fumbled into the end zone. Lewan, for his part, appeared more concerned about his quarterback's error than excited for his own fortune, sheepishly pointing his palms towards the sky when the officials belatedly signaled touchdown.

The defense limited UMass to 259 yards of total offense, though there was still reason for concern. The Minutemen doubled their offensive scoring output from their first two games—six points—and strung together three first downs in a drive for the first time this year. This should not cause PANIC, of course—six points, fergodsakes—but there are still issues to be resolved, especially on the interior of the D-line.

UMass got paid. Michigan got a chance to breathe easy and give their backups plenty of run. Now the team can look ahead to Saturday night's matchup with Notre Dame; for today, they can feel content about handling business as expected. With the baby seal emphatically clubbed, it's time to move on to the real season, not unscathed but with the ultimate goal—a Big Ten championship—still within reach.



September 15th, 2012 at 8:01 PM ^

It appears a strength of ours would be jump balls deep, especially one on ones, and why on earth doesn't Borges call this more, to get Gardner and/or Funchess isolated... Let them compete on bombs with the CBs for a jump ball, and theyll get it far more often than not.  Instead Denard will go to Funchess once a game deep, and will underthrow it each time. Has anyone else though the same thing?  Throw it longer to these two in the endzone and let them jump for it, ala the old Herman Moore plays.  I may be saying it is easier than it is, but to me it seems like a screaming strength of ours that has for the most part, been UNTAPPED. 


September 16th, 2012 at 11:12 AM ^

Nice column, and very professional. For a second I almost thought I was reading a newspaper column.

Then I realized you didn't use unnecessary paragraph breaks.

And gave details like "with a block from A.J. Williams" that newspapers generally don't bother with.

Very nice job, Ace.


September 15th, 2012 at 8:10 PM ^

Know how I know you're a Michigan fan?  We beat an FCS team by 50, covered the spread, didn't allow a TD on defense, had 8 different people score touchdowns, pulled our team in the second half, and you are scared to death about our performance today.  RB rushing... DL issues... OMG!!!

Sten Carlson

September 15th, 2012 at 8:31 PM ^

UMass is FBS now, if I am not mistaken.  But, your point is well taken.  Does every fan base whine so much?  This is a very young Michigan team that is still suffering from the lull period that it experienced in the recent past.  Depth and overall talent, are the issues right now.  Michigan has brilliant coaches, and the you players are getting better every weak.  The offense, although stuggling with the RB run a bit, has some new weapons in both Devins, and now perhaps Norfleet, and is in the hands of a senior QB who is a threat to score any time he gets the ball in his hands -- which happens to be EVERY offensive play.

Just calm down.  ND, MSU, Nebraska, and Ohio are going to be wars, we might lose.  Deal with it without the whining please.  I am just sick of our fanbase sounding like bunch of candy asses!


September 15th, 2012 at 9:23 PM ^

So you want people to be happy that we're an 8 win team at best? I'm not a fan of whining either but I'm also not pleased with team 133 even after this victory. People are praising this team for beating baby seals. That's what a good team is supposed to do. Do you think Alabama or Oregon fans are elated after a beat down of a terrible opponent? No. They expect it. I expect Michigan to be a top 20 team every year. I expect Michigan to compete in every game and always have a shot for a B1G title. I understand that the ladder Carr years and RR's tenure have put us behind the ball as far as depth and experience goes and I'm a realist I knew after the Bama game this is a 7-9 win team. I accept it, but I'm certainly not happy about it. The thing im most scared of is the fact that after this season were going to transition once again to MANBALL. The fact that we will have so many freshmen and sophomores is excellent for the future but not good for our B1G championships or big time bowl games. I love this coaching staff and the recruiting is mint but the current talent level needed to win titles, especially in the trenches is not there. The offensive lines future looks great but I'm not sold on the other side of the trenches. Seems like all the big time interior defensive linemen go elsewhere namely the SEC where Bama and LSU seem to have 6-10 each.

How many of you will be happy if we go 0-3 against ND, MSU, and 0hio?

I know I won't.

Seattle Maize

September 15th, 2012 at 9:57 PM ^

I share many of your concerns about the talent level of the upper class men and realize that this will be a huge issue this and next year as it will force underclassmen to play a huge role. If you look at the offense and defensive linemen that are here/coming in - we will have no problem going toe to toe with anyone in the country by 2014

Sten Carlson

September 16th, 2012 at 12:15 AM ^

So you want people to be happy that we're an 8 win team at best

I don't really care what people are "happy" with.  All I ask of "fans" is that they have some realistic perspective on where the team is.  For example, the reason that The Horror was so, well horrible, was that the expectations for the 2007 season were so high.  Michigan had its soon-to-be senior all time passing leader and rushing leader coming back, an All-American OLineman, stud WR's, and a strong defense.  

This offseason Michigan's deficiencies on the OL, DL, and WR, and its overall lack of experienced upperclassmen depth was well documented.  Despite this fact, Michigan fans seem absolutely aghast and shocked that we're having trouble running the ball with the RB's, and the DL is having trouble getting pressure, and stopping the run.

So, in response to your first question, I would say, "yes, if that is where the team is at this time." Thing is, we're not sure where the team is right now.  We got thumped by the defending NC, and clear #1 -- USC just got beat by Stanford.  We're going to know more after we play ND.  My point, is that it's all about expectations.  If yours were too high this season, that's your fault, don't take it out on the players whom you should have known were going to have issues.


September 15th, 2012 at 9:50 PM ^

We have very  young players rotating in to the DL. Our DL will be much improved by the time we play Nebreska! 

Once the OL can become more cohesive, we'll see that good zone blocking. It will take a few years before we can stand up in the trenches against the likes of Bama...but eventually we will become totally dominating on both the offensive and devensive lines.


September 15th, 2012 at 10:51 PM ^

tough, physical, punishing football.  We did not play with speed and athleticism.  Our two wins so far are against the weakest and least athletic teams will will play all year.  Covering the spread against one of the worst teams in Division I won't mean squat against ND or MSU.


September 16th, 2012 at 8:21 AM ^

Other than this guy being in shape and my brother being fat I would swear this gif was on him.  Yesterday he was litterally YELLING at me after the game "Denard is not a Quarterback....he's a slot receiver" over and over after the game.  Apparently the pick 6 was all he remembered from 60 minutes of football and stats be damned....DENARD IS NOT A QUARTERBACK!!!!!!!!

I reminded him that perhaps...just perhaps the beloved Chad Henne, the revered John Navarre and even God-like Drew Henson & Tom Brady may have thrown an interception once in their careers but he was having none of it.  

PDX Blue

September 16th, 2012 at 2:47 PM ^

I'm a huge fan of Denard and feel he gives Michigan the beast chance to win, however; Denard does not throw an interception every once in a while, he throws at least 1 a game on average. His turnovers seem to negate at least one of his scores, which in tighter games, can be enough to make a win much more difficult.  I was really hoping that the UMass game would be one without an interception.


September 15th, 2012 at 8:12 PM ^

We again had far too many running plays go for low or negative yardage, even against the worst defense we'll face all year.  On top of that, we allowed far too many good offensive plays, especially on the ground, against the worst offense we'll face all year.  No INTs, only one takeaway, only one sack.  A defense capable of competing for a division title should have dominated today, and we didn't even come close.

We will have a very hard time stopping any offense with a pulse, and a very hard time getting offensive production out of anyone but Robinson in any game left on our schedule.  It's looking like a very, very lomg year, with every game being a struggle.  And god help us if Robinson gets hurt...we won't win another game.  

Sten Carlson

September 15th, 2012 at 8:45 PM ^

Sure.  I think the offensive line is gelling, and seemed to get a lot better in the second half of this game.  It was nice to see Fitz shaking and backing like we saw last season a bit.  Also, the OL looked to be pass blocking really well.  I am not too concerned about the run blocking because against the better defenses, Michigan probably isn't going to be all that effective until Denard softens them up by passing -- which he is doing significantly better.  With the emergence of Gardner and Funchess, and to some extent Norfleet, I think the opposing OC's are going to have their hands full.  We know they're going to "load the box," and I say, "let'em try...Denard is going to pick them apart with his arm and scrambling."

Defense wise, I thought they looked pretty good.  A couple of times they had the QB running for his life, but Mattison didn't dial up a whole lot of blitzes.  I wasn't too concerned with the run stop, nor the DL pressure on the QB.  Cox was running really hard, and I am sure he was fired up.  What I love about this defense is that it is very young, and very talented.  They're being coached very hard and expertly.  Every play they're in makes them better.  Obviously it's not a dominant DL, but we never thought it was going to be.  I trust Mattison to scheme around that relative weakness.

I see the limitations of this team, I just didn't really expect them to be otherwise, so I am not really all that concerned.  The kids are playing hard, and the coaches are great.  I have faith they'll come through when needed.

Sten Carlson

September 15th, 2012 at 9:04 PM ^

Well said Don. 

I think what most fans forget is that the only thing the coaches can do is try to put the best 11 guys on the field in any given situation.  If there are players that aren't all that good, well then that is more an indictment of what went on, or didn't go on, in the past than against what is going on currently.  They "coach them up" as best they can, and then get after it every saturday.  The coaches aren't writing the season off, by any means, but they're always building, with a very distinct plan of action.

As an OT note: anyone watching the ND v. MSU game will notice that Brent keeps saying, "ND is coming out throwing tonight."  Why?  Because Kelly knows that he cannot run on the MSU defense, they're going to stakc the box, so you MUST come out throwing to soften it up.  Gholston is 5-13 for 103 and 1 TD.  Not a great average, but Kelly is showing that he's willing to throw.  Bet we see a lot of Riddick when MSU makes adjustements.

Coversely, the ND defense is doing everything they can to stop Bell, and after the 1st Qtr. they're doing ok, Bell is 9-35 avg. 3.9.  Problem is, it doesn't look like Maxwell can throw well enough to soften up that defense.  MSU is a one trick pony.


September 15th, 2012 at 9:34 PM ^

"If there are players that aren't all that good ..."

This is the aspect of coaching that I think is least appreciated, and the most difficult -- getting players to not see their own limitations and to work hard and play hard ... to play over their heads, so to speak.

In that sense, I think our coaching staff might be one of the best in the country.  Everything we hear from the players themselves is they're committed and are going to give their very all.


September 15th, 2012 at 11:06 PM ^

Virginia Tech was probably better. Nebraska was supposed to be pre-season. ND probably was in year 3. Then you might have to go back to ND or Wisconsin. Before that, Florida.

It's kinda a stupid question because generally there aren't that many teams on paper that are better than us, except when we were awful, and then we were awful. And we don't know how much better VT really is at this point. They really should be 1-2. They kinda lucked into beating Tech. They might not be very good (though I don't think Pitt is either).

Sten Carlson

September 16th, 2012 at 1:06 PM ^

Thanks M-Wolverine!

I really didn't start spending time in the blogoshere until after The Horror, and then it was mostly on and then

I joined over here because this site actually provided information about the team, but I never really got into the conversation, just read what I found interesting.  I decided this year that I was going to participate more in here as the discussion over at Hailvictors is pretty weak.

So, here I am.


September 16th, 2012 at 7:30 AM ^


I'm sure they have a plan or at least goals. So what? If they don't have the talent to make the plan work against teams that don't want to let it work, what good is it?

So your argument is that the talent level is insufficient?  Further, your argument is that the talent development is static?

So it seems by your logic football is simply a mathematical function -- season = f(talent).  You seem to allow no room for player development; you seem to allow no room for coaches to find combinations that work; you seem to allow no room for deepening of resolve and conviction.

Well then, let's just play out the season in a spreadsheet and spare all the time and trouble of actually playing the games.

Happily, football is not a simple fixed function like that.  Teams play above and below expectations all the time.  Notre Dame just put 20 up against MSU's supposed brick-wall defense.  Stanford holds Barkley and company to 14.  Louisiana Monroe beats Arkansas, then takes Auburn into overtime.

snarling wolverine

September 15th, 2012 at 9:11 PM ^

We will have a very hard time stopping any offense with a pulse, and a very hard time getting offensive production out of anyone but Robinson in any game left on our schedule. It's looking like a very, very lomg year, with every game being a struggle.

So you are completely ruling out the possibility that our team might improve as the season goes on?


September 15th, 2012 at 9:29 PM ^

This is a very experienced team. We have three 5th year seniors and two fourth year juniors on the Oline, a senior QB, 4th year junior starting RB, 5th year senior starting TE, senior and junior starting WRs. On defense we're starting almost all seniors and juniors. If they haven't figured it out by now, they're not going to. We are pretty much as good as we're going to get this year right now.


September 16th, 2012 at 9:06 AM ^

Everyone you just mentioned cannot be fairly judged as far as talent goes because of the coaching changes they underwent during their time at Michigan.

Last year, much as they did when they came in with RR, they had to learn the new schemes and assignments for their positions, then implement installations within the offense or defense and try and gel with the players around them. A coaching switch can make that difficult.

Coach Hoke and his assistants obviously have a better system in place, but it's not fair to say this team doesn't have the talent to win the Big 10. If this team can continue to buy into the system and focus on both common and individual goals set before them by the coaching staff then we can definitely win the Big 10 Title.

...but that is done one day at a time.

Go Blue!!!


September 15th, 2012 at 8:13 PM ^

"Vincent Smith added a pair of touchdowns from inside the ten, Thomas Rawls doled out more punishment than he took"

I can't get excited about this. Wins against State and Ohio will still hold value, but for this year: that's it.