I learned some things yesterday... Bowling Green (and UMass)

Submitted by Lordfoul on September 26th, 2010 at 7:09 AM

       It was a strange feeling to come into a game day against a Maccy-Cake with such feelings of unease.  I guess the UMass experience messed with my head more than I had thought.  Friday night it was hard to fall asleep, what with visions of 6-8 yard runs on first down running through my head.  But this Michigan defense turned it around and (hopefully) charted a new course for the Big 10 season.  I saw more decisiveness from our linebackers, flowing downhill to make plays and getting burned by aggressive play once in a while.  I saw three sacks and two interceptions caused by pressure as well.  If our defense has a chance at becoming anything else than a liability to this team, this aggressive play will be the reason going forward.

Other things I learned:

  1. Michigan seems to have covered its bad karma quota.  This is completely batshit crazy, but watching Denard Robinson's rapid progression gives me pause as a fan because I seriously worry about the wrath of Angry Michigan blank Hating God taking away what Michigan fans hold most dear.  So when Denard Robinson is bouncing around after the game, and Perry Dorrestein's injury is "a hangnail or something on his toe (WTF?)," I start to feel that the punishment for years of excessive pride and entitlement may finally be over.
  2. I have been firmly in the camp that can't believe Devin Gardner won the #2 QB spot over Tate (perhaps by myself).  I think what we saw yesterday vindicates this position.  Gardner was pretty good actually, but Tate ran the offense with much more confidence and at a noticeably faster pace IME.  Tate also seems to make sharper, more decisive cuts running the ball at this point, which makes him appear quicker (though DG's touchdown run showed that Vince Young deceptive glide speed).  Overall, it is great to see that this team's outlook doesn't hinge 100% on Denard Robinson.  Oh, and to any fans Hating on the Tate:                           
  3. Macky-Cakes are still good for a round of first-time Michigan Touchdowns.  Congrats to Fitzgerald Toussaint, Devin Gardner, Geremy Gallon, and John McColgan for popping their cherries.
  4. If Michigan still needs that 6th win to become bowl eligible, look to Purdue to save RR's job.
  5. Any team can gut this defense, but aggressive play will give them the best chance of getting off the field.  The defense seems to have the speed and size to wreck havoc when playing aggressively.  If we get burned, that is more time for our offense to make up the difference.

Looking ahead:

        Michigan faces an interesting portion of the schedule now, as the first three games of the B10 season really ramp up nicely.  This stretch should give us a firm handle on how excited we should be about this team.  I think Indiana is a trap game.  The Hoosiers are going to look better than they did against Akron and Michigan can't afford to be looking ahead to the MSU game.  Win or lose against Indiana, I think we take care of business against MSU, and then come through this year on the end of the game drive to beat Iowa.  6-1 or 7-0 heading into Happy Valley.

Have a good week and be safe everyone.



September 26th, 2010 at 7:30 AM ^

...Angry Michigan blank Hating God, when DRob went out, Gardner and Tate showed that they can both run this offense.  When Dorrestein went out, the gent who was the starting LT for the first three games (Huyge) replaced him.  At RB and WR, we have a deep bench.  The same thing can not be said about the defense, and that continues to be a significant worry.  That said, the offensive depth is a very positive development.

Not sure I agree that IU is a trap game.  The team realizes that it's a road game against  a Big Ten opponent that's shown it can score (albeit against weak opponents).  I think they'll be properly motivated and ready.

Bronco Joe

September 26th, 2010 at 8:06 AM ^

Any team can gut this defense, but aggressive play will give them the best chance of getting off the field.  The defense seems to have the speed and size to wreck havoc when playing aggressively.  If we get burned, that is more time for our offense to make up the difference.

Aggressive play is the key to being OK for this defense. Against UConn and ND we saw that aggression and it payed off with being OK, with more pressure, with a better performance. I think there was too much, "OMG! How did we get burned for big plays so often against ND?!?!" comments and thoughts and they went into one of my Top 10 Things I Hate list Prevent defense against UMass. 

The mantra of this defense cannot be "just don't suck." Not giving up a big play is not the most important thing. Staying in the game enough so the offense can win is the goal. Give up a big play here or there. But make some stops, cause some pressure and turnovers, and if you're going to get burned then make it because you look like you were TOO aggressive.

I agree - next 2-3 weeks will tell a lot.

Good post!!! Been thinking a lot of this same stuff watching the first three games.


September 26th, 2010 at 10:01 AM ^

The agressiveness pays off; playing faster isn't just what we do, most of the spreads have some form of up tempo play and if you don't read/react fast enough you will get burned. I'm trying to be objective about the 3-3-5, we still aren't where we want to be in terms of personnel/experience, but when the team plays with 'Elan', they are more effective and the stack will be as well.

Blue in Seattle

September 26th, 2010 at 10:49 AM ^

that all season the players progress in their knowledge.  With so many inexperienced players on defense, that is where the biggest jump will be.  But the coaches (all coaches I suspect) know this, and that's why the play calling aggression wasn't as prominent in the first few games.

Specifically on passing downs, to be aggressive and send more people at the QB you have to rely on the secondary to go man to man.  I've read over and over in the off season how playing zone simplifies assignments.  But I think the assumption on this board has been that we are stuck with playing zone all year.

Against UMass the offense never jumped out with a large enough cushion to allow the coaches to start testing the play calling aggression that will take us away from bend don't break.  Against Bowling Green that lead was there and the coaches did start testing out not only new play calls, but also many new players on defense.

Coach Rodriguez clearly believes game experience is the most valuable experience. I've never heard a coach state it so many times in the press before, and also to execute on that so aggressively, i.e. Devin isn't redshirting.  

Finally, I definitely agree that big plays on the defense are less damaging because this offense can respond in kind.  We saw that against Notre Dame, with Coach Rodriguez specifically saying, "we wanted to run some time off the clock".  Which I take to mean, "we could have scored in less time, but I wanted to make sure Notre Dame didn't have the final chance to score.

this year may end up as the most exciting when compared to seasons down the road simply because of the shootout nature of this offensive and defensive balance.

And while I don't know how Michigan is going to achieve that National Championship game against Boise State, I am calm in THE KNOWLEDGE that is going to happen.



September 26th, 2010 at 8:51 AM ^


to make up the difference." Not only is this a valuable observation, but I think that our confident offense understands this, that the D will get gashed from time to time and that they can get back out on the field and up the ante. In the past they might have been more likely to get down.

I also think this gives the D a chance to make some spectacular plays that get their own and the crowd's blood up, which is more fun. They play to their strengths and in turn, their own confidence rises. Plus one to you.


September 26th, 2010 at 9:10 AM ^

This (O helping the D) is truly important.

I said out loud, just after our fumble, "OK...Don't let these guys back into this thing."  One 70 yard screen pass later it was 21-14.

The turning point in the game, however, was Tate coming in and leading the team on the first several of what would ultimately be six consecutive TD drives.

This was like last week, where the turning point was FIVE consecutive TD drives.

The offense has to know that they can NEVER take the foot off the accelerator.  Zero punts yesterday!!!


September 26th, 2010 at 9:43 AM ^

I don't think it can be stated strongly enough how both demoralizing and tiring it is to run against an offense with the pace and playcalling that our O runs. Consistently having to fight through blocks to make tackles for a 1-2 yd gain is extremely difficult on an exertion and stamina standpoint, and eventually the big guys up front will wear down if our offense keeps turning 1st and 10 into 2nd and 3 etc.

So, Im all for the aggression. Big plays? who cares... aggression will give you big plays both ways, and as long as we come out of those big plays on defense even 40% of the time I think this team easily wins 7 games. If they score quickly, thats just a shorter rest their front 7 has before going back in front of the out of control steamroller that is our offensive line. The offense is my opinion might win 3 games left on the schedule all by themselves. Bend dont break still there, but take some shots to make some plays. Make the offense execute. I can dig it.


September 26th, 2010 at 11:17 AM ^

Giving up big plays is the worst thing you can do on defense.  Rationalizing them as "more time for the offense to make it up" is silly.

Certainly defensive players should not be timid and fearful, but when your defense has flaws, it is smarter to take a conservative approach and force the opponent to work for their points than to give up 60-yard scores.  If your opponent has to run 10 plays to score, that at least gives you 10 chances for a fumble, holding penalty, or some other break that can stall a drive.


September 26th, 2010 at 9:01 AM ^

Not going to happen...and on the road this team is going to be motivated to put up numbers against a defense that doesn't show much more than our own.

If there was a "trap" game it was UMass and without crazy interception fumbles and whiffed punts Michigan wins comfortably.


September 26th, 2010 at 9:57 AM ^

I don't know if I've ever been more excited to start Big 10 play, more than this year. It's going to be like a wild ride - absolutely thrilling and @#$% your pants terrifying at the same time. Sounds like fun.

I'm praying that we've been playing a little more Vanilla D than what has been necessary, but I'm probably wrong there. Wouldn't that be a surprise if the "bend dont break", was just gamesmanship?!? One can dream can't they?

Defense wins CHAMPIONSHIPS. Period. I have no doubt that we have a full aresenal of weapons at our disposal on offense, and we will be able to rack up some points on people - but the D must come out and be aggressive instead of passive. If you hit the wrong hole, hit it as hard as you can and pancake someone that is in front of you. We must bring pressure, or we will get cut slowly all the way down the field.

I'm now also in the camp that if we are going to give up points anyways on a long, time consuming drive that getting gashed BIG will just enable us to get back out on offense faster. "11 hats on the ball" as Roundtree was saying. Play as aggressive as possible, and I'm betting we end up on top, regardless of the "big plays" scored against us.

Let the shootout begin!


September 26th, 2010 at 11:58 AM ^

If you think about this, it kinda assumes offenses are equal. It is becoming apparent our offense is NOT equal to other teams. I think we almost have an offense like what RR had at the peak at WVU. the fine is that we still have a very young team. Wait until this offense is veteran. Mistakes will become the only thing that will be able to stop them on a consistent basis.
That or terrible calls like some of the phantom penalties called against Michigan yesterday.


September 26th, 2010 at 4:00 PM ^

about our 'way above average' offense. Dude, I'm thinking 'Greatest show on Turf' good! Remember the St. Louis Rams from '99 to '01? They did most of their winning with a championship offense. We got the potential to duplicate that. This year, and maybe next. After that we're gonna be a Laviathan on both sides of the ball; it's great...to be...a Michigan Wolverine!


September 26th, 2010 at 10:13 AM ^

With a suspect defense, no game is a lock.  Traveling well is also still going to be a challenge for this young team.

If UM is picking up it's 6th win against Purdue and fiinishes 6-6, RR's job would definitely not safe.  I would put the odds at 50/50 at best (depending on the nature of the losses).  That would mean a 5-19 Big 10 record over 3 years, a 4-20 October/November record, and another downward trend to end the seaon. 8 wins or 7 wins + OSU is the definite safe point for RR.  They already proved they can win in September.  This year they need to show they can win in the big 10 and that means 4-4 or better.


September 26th, 2010 at 10:18 AM ^

but the pieces aren't all in place. I think the odds are better than 50/50, where's Jamiemac? I think Coach Rod's position is safe, barring a complete and total meltdown. It would be disastrous to start over again; another coach needing his players and to invest another few more years investing in rebuilding team chemistry and ability...no, I think Dave Brandon has seen enough and I also feel he realizes what 'starting over' entails. This team is better, and keeps on getting better; last year there were some awfully close games that could of gone our way; MSU, Illinois, Purdue, just to name some. Iowa. This year, we win the close ones. Heck, I'm going out to say we are Big Ten Championship contenders. Okay, perhaps 2nd/3rd place would be a much safer bet.


September 26th, 2010 at 10:26 AM ^

The 6-6 scenario means going 2-6 to close out the season.  I said 50/50 because even with that meltdown, you're right that they have shown improvement.  50 yes job because maybe they get some tough luck, lose 3 or 4 close ones to end up with that record and it looks nothing like last year's 2-6 close out.  If the 2-6 is ugly though, well that's 50 no job.  I'm not arguing what should happen, I'm arguing what I think will happen. Anyway, hopefully this can remain hypothetical and they can finish 8-4 or better!


September 26th, 2010 at 10:12 AM ^

is more about attitude; I think Tate's more relaxed, laid back attitude is not what coach wants to see out there. Devin appears more disciplined and focused; Coach doesn't put up with lackadaisical mentality and I believe relegating Tate to third starter is him sending a message.


September 26th, 2010 at 10:19 AM ^

First, let's not forget who ended up playing the majority of the snaps yesterday... Tate!  I think what RR wants is 3 qbs ready to play.  Devon needs pt and so he has been getting snaps. Tate also had to grow up a little bit.  I think really there was still an open competition for the 2nd spot and Devon had it by default to start things off.  I'd say Tate has now earned the 2nd spot with that game.

As far as on the field, Tate looked intense, disciplined, and focused. And I get the feeling that he acts that way off the field these days as well.

Dan TrueBlue

September 26th, 2010 at 10:17 AM ^

I guess the UMass experience messed with my head....  But this Michigan defense turned it around.

Yeah, the defense played a little better and more aggressively.  But there were still plenty of mistakes (especially in the first half) where a better team would have scored against Michigan.  And have no doubt, UMass was a better team.  They also played with a lot more determination than BGSU did.  The strength of the opponent was a bigger difference in this game than the play of the defense, IMHO.

1.  Michigan seems to have covered its bad karma quota.

Flipping tails 10 times in a row doesn't change the odds of flipping it again next time.

2.  I... can't believe Devin Gardner won the #2 QB spot over Tate

Tate was a bad boy.  No big deal: he learned a lesson.  Tate looked a lot better against Bowling Green than he did in the summer scrimmage, and who knows if that improvement would have come if he had been allowed to play right away?  When it comes to getting players to play their best, the coach knows more than we do.

I think Indiana is a trap game.

I was a little worried about this too.  But after seeing how they fared against Akron, vs. how we fared against Bowling Green (and BGSU > Akron), I'm feeling better.  There's also this:  We won last year.  Since then, our two defenses have stayed about the same.  Their offense has improved.  But ours has improved a LOT.  If the defense and special teams play as badly as they're capable of, who know what will happen.  But as long as Michigan doesn't take them too lightly (they won't), they should win this with a little room to spare.


September 26th, 2010 at 10:19 AM ^

Under Lloyd Carr, the "prevent defense" was a recipe for loss.  How many times did we see a decent UM lead whither away as the losing team ran 6 yards / play or threw for 12 yards, down after down to come back and win the game?

The reason UM has given up so many yards and points this year is that they are playing prevent defense the whole game.

The 3-3-5 is not a problem.

The problem is the 3 man rush.

UM should send at least a 4th rusher on every play. 

The advantage of the 3-3-5 is that the offense never knows which linebacker is coming.

oriental andrew

September 26th, 2010 at 10:30 AM ^

If Michigan still needs that 6th win to become bowl eligible, look to Purdue to save RR's job.

Are you suggesting that Michigan's most likely 6th win will be Purdue?  That would be a huge disappointment following the MSU-Iowa-PSU-Illinois stretch.  I look at IU and U of I as probably wins, so that's 7 right there.  Give the way PSU has been playing (did you see that Temple game?), I feel pretty good about UM's chances, were the game to be played today.  MSU and Iowa are toss-ups, imo.  Assuming MSU-Iowa-PSU are all 50-50, you have to figure UM would win at least 1 of those.  I think 7 wins is the floor for this year, 8 is most likely, possibly 9 if they get lucky somewhere, 10 if this team is better than we think it is. 

Cue the "don't look ahead" chorus in 3... 2... 1...


September 26th, 2010 at 11:34 AM ^

With this team, you simply don't know what will happen, kind of.  It is pretty obvious that our offense is good against lower to upper lower level talent and the defense is mediocre.  The special teams are horrible, although watching Haggerup warm up, it is just a question of time and experience until he is kicking boomers.  One break-out game and he may be fine.

We were able to put points on the board last year and with the experience level and with Denard being able to throw, we should be fine on most good days.  Not all days are good days.

It is obvious after watching the ND-Stanford game, that ND is not any good.  

So, we really haven't beaten anybody any good.  My original expectation was 7-5.  I would like to think 8-4 will happen.   Any better than 8-4, big surprise, any less, than 7-5...hate to think of the ramifications.

With Michigan these days, with in-conference play, it is easier to not expect a win and then be thrilled when it happens.


September 26th, 2010 at 10:31 AM ^

I agree that the defense looks better, but just like people tried to temper the riots after the UMass game, we probably should not read too much into the BGSU game.  After next week, if the defense shows that it really can be average (which is all that is needed for this team to win 8-9 games) against a decent Big 10 team, then I'll be happy.  I do agree that Tate is the clear #2, but this always felt like RR sending a message more than Devin actually beating him out of the spot.  I know that the sentiment here on the board was that Devin clearly beat Tate out, but I think we all saw yesterday that while Devin is a real talent, Tate is just better right now.


September 26th, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

Tate clearly had control of the offense and seems to include more players in the overall game plan, but i noticed that most of his throws were short bubble screens were as Devin had some really good down the field throws. I will wait for Bryan's breakdown for a better review of who is the clear #2, but my initial feeling is that both would play and whoever has the hot hand will get the most snaps (much like last year with Tate & Denard). I feel more comfortable now after seeing all 3 QB's in action even though it was against BG.


September 26th, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

is that he's not really fast. I would venture to guess that Tate is actually quicker on his first step, and maybe faster as well.  Devin seems more like a pocket passer who is really athletic. Denard is the only "Pat White type" on the team right now.

Not everybody on this board thinks Tate got beat out for the #2 QB spot. I posted two weeks before the season started that Tate would be out for awhile due to being punished (I was vague about the reason because I was told not to say anything).  What really happened was that Tate was caught smoking pot and was in the dog house. Seems like he's worked his way back into the coaches favor.

This team knows they need to step up and crush IU this week. They will watch the film of last year's game and see that we got a bad call on an INT that might have saved us.  No matter how you look at it, it was a really close game last year. We only won 1 game in the Big Ten last year, and this year we will do much better. We have so many weapons/options on offense that we will score heavily against every one of them.


September 26th, 2010 at 12:20 PM ^

I was happy to see Gallon get his hands on the ball in the punt return game yesterday - FINALLY.  I know he has made 2 very boneheaded plays earlier in the year, but I thought this special team was our worst in the first 3 games.  I'm not sure if they are placing him too deep, or the blocking is just awful, but he hadn't returned a punt yet, until yesterday.  I think this kid is special and could be breastonish in the return game eventually.  Check out his high school highlight tape   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpYtSF6KUwY


September 26th, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

All I hope is that we can win at least half of our conference games. That will put us at 8-4.  It will be great to beat a b10 team on the road.  IU is probably our best chance to win on the road due to their weaker defense.  Though PSU offense looks really pathetic, so may be we will have another chance.  I hope our defense can improve enough to challenge OSU at the end of the season.  May be OSU will be feeling BCS pressures and we'll knock them off in Columbus!