I learned some things yesterday... UConn

Submitted by Lordfoul on September 5th, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Yesterday's game showed me just how different it can feel to be a college football fan.  It was strange to question whether Michigan was legit, to wonder if we might be embarrassed by a blowout loss in our own Bigger and Newly Redecorated House.  Every turn in our favor filled me with relief more than excitement.  In the end I felt calm, with none of the jubilant, happy-dancing, shake my ass celebration that followed last year's blowout opener.  It seems that the last two seasons, and especially last year's collapse, have allowed my brain to be more detached from the game emotionally.  I am happy and relieved that we won, but I am afraid to jump on the wagon that could be heading for another cliff.

I do think this year will be different though, because I learned some things yesterday...

On Offense:

  1. Denard Robinson is so awesome, he deserves to have his name spelled out in its entirety whenever it is written or spoken.  
  2. Michigan is capable of good turnover Karma after all, what with recovering all three bad fumbles/muffed punts committed.  (Gallon, really?  WTF?)
  3. Michael Shaw is possibly the best compliment to Denard Robinson at tailback because of speed.  When the two of them come together for the exchange the defense almost has to commit before they know who has the ball in order to have a chance at stopping the play.
  4. UConn showed what happens when the defense does not commit.  The combined speed of Shaw and Denard Robinson tears the defense asunder.
  5. We are spoiled at Michigan when it comes to sure handed receivers. 

On Defense:

  1. GERG has installed the first defense I can recall that seems to actually "bend" but not "break."  The lack of big, game-changing plays was refreshing.
  2. Giving up yards while making the other team sustain a drive can actually be a recipe for success.  The one turnover of the game seemed almost scripted to illustrate the virtues of this defensive approach.
  3. Ipso-facto, I guess GERG is actually a good coach that maybe we can all have a little faith in.
  4. Craig Roh is going to be a huge factor in this defense's success.  When left unmarked (or marked by a TB) he creates big problems in the backfield.  Marking him leaves less beef to stop Mike Martin and Co. 
  5. Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh are good at some things at least.  Mouton can really deliver the wood, and Ezeh is a sure tackler.  Hopefully they can show continued improvement.  Our run D up the middle still looks pretty bad at times.

Looking Ahead:

So the opener is a win once again (YAY!).  ND may expose our defense more with their spread attack, but after watching them some yesterday I feel good about our chances.  If Charlie was still their coach I would be penciling in a win.  I think we should be ready for some regression on offense though.  Studying the film from the UConn game will no doubt give the ND coaches an edge that UConn couldn't have.  Can a defense focused on stopping Denard Robinson actually slow down this offense?  There is still much to learn...

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Shout out to Kovacs who looked even better than last year.   Dude is still way undersized and gets dragged at times, but he was no doubt in great position to make plays.  

Also let's all try to keep away from the Tate bashing.  That is a 19yo that played his heart out for this team a year ago, only to be sitting at 3rd string now.  I could plainly make out that he was simply trying to hide from the cameras at the end of the game and we should all try to have some respect for what he is going through.  For all sorts of reasons this team needs him and I hope he feels that and stays.

Edit: I forgot to mention our lack of penalties.  One personal foul at the very beginning and that was all she wrote.  The discipline of this team, should it hold going forward, may be what keeps the results mostly positive.

Comments

His Dudeness

September 5th, 2010 at 9:06 AM ^

 I am happy and relieved that we won, but I am afraid to jump on the wagon that could be heading for another cliff.

Afraid to jump on the wagon? Why are you off the wagon? Aren't you a Michigan fan?

LB

September 5th, 2010 at 9:19 AM ^

I will never take Michigan Football for granted.

Mercy? Nada, not after what we have been through.

I am a bandwagon fan! I jumped on in '68, and no one is throwing me off.

Bronco Joe

September 5th, 2010 at 9:27 AM ^

Craig Roh is going to be a huge factor in this defense's success. When left unmarked (or marked by a TB) he creates big problems in the backfield. Marking him leaves less beef to stop Mike Martin and Co.

Agree completely. Roh had a TON of near misses, hurries, and knockdowns.

Sounds like RR and the O has some more tricks up their sleeves... Denard Robinson (spelled out!) hesitated to answer a question in the presser about the pump fake play that broke loose the long pass over the middle. I think there is plenty the team has held back in expectation of a bigger challenge next week.

clarkiefromcanada

September 5th, 2010 at 9:38 AM ^

a) GERG and his Superbowl Rings likely have some good idea about coaching defense. Of course, the second someone has a bad game we will be subjected to a thousand "regression" posts but at least I know it's coming.

b) While GERG was terrible as an HC his positional work seemed pretty reasonable and the linebacking did not cause me to run crying to my beer fridge.

c) Denard is the real deal; jury still out on the DG redshirt thing and Tate...well, let's treat this situation with some respect. Tate played great last year until he tore his labrum and *still* played out the season. We will need Tate this year.

d) James Rogers...I didn't hear much about the secondary which is good. 

e) the vaunted 330 lb. right side of UConn's experienced O Line did not hurt us badly...Mike Martin, Craig Roh, RVB...they will cause ND much problems.

f) all credit to Brock Mealer.

Firstbase

September 5th, 2010 at 9:46 AM ^

...I felt, for lack of a better term, slightly bored by the singular dimension of the Michigan offense. I can't quite put my finger on it, and I'm extremely happy we won, but it was an odd feeling watching an offense that was so heavily weighted to the QB run. I wanted to see a little more wide receiver involvement, I guess. Maybe it's like Christmas. The anticipation is so great that the actual event simply can't live up to the hype.

I realize you take what the defense gives you, and Denard was superb in that regard, but watching the telecast I couldn't help but feel the crowd noise became less and less apparent as the game wore on, almost like they felt the same strange feeling.

But again, a win's a win, baby. Gotta take 'em any way we can get 'em.

Njia

September 5th, 2010 at 10:18 AM ^

Calvin McGee and Rich Rod might have been holding a few things back for Notre Dame. They probably scripted the offensive game plan for yesterday, confident that Donald (damn it, this Droid) Denard, Shaw and the O-line could shred the UConn D. Denard showed that he really could throw it -- and its not like he never threw it -- since he racked up 189 yards passing. Now, granted, these weren't the short, possession-passing throws and bubble screens we might have expected, but it's early in the season yet. No sense in throwing the kitchen sink at a team when you don't have to. Finally, I'll add that the wind might have played some role in the game plan for yesterday. The coaches might have favored a run-first strategy to minimize risk of a ball sailing away, or into the arms of a defender.

clarkiefromcanada

September 5th, 2010 at 1:02 PM ^

If UConn's vaunted senior linebacking group wasn't so handled by the offensive line Denard wouldn't have had so many run reads. UConn's scheme gave Denard a lot of run opportunities. If ND chooses to spy or commit a safety then you'll see more read to the pass.

For all the hype I was mostly disappointed with how badly UConn's defense was waxed by a still somewhat young offensive line.

AlwaysBlue

September 5th, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

There was most definitely that feeling (boredom or something like it) among those in our seating area.  I can't put my finger on the reason though.  I'm guessing it's due to an offense that is so decidedly different than those of "Quarterback U" and a defense that doesn't look to have the smash mouth, snuff out ability of those we remember fondly.  I don't think there is anything wrong with this reaction, a little healthy skepticism is something all true believers go through. 

The crowd noise did thin as the game progressed.  I attribute that to the opponent.  Had it been ND, OSU or MSU the joy of pounding them would have been sustained through the game and beyond.   

Eyebrowse

September 5th, 2010 at 1:47 PM ^

I can understand your sentiment, but I really thought they were trying to hold as much back as possible too. 

I found it exhilirating, not least because Denard's passing was on point as well.  In a way, I kind of had the opportunity to watch more of what was happening on offense because of the almost redundant nature of what was happening.  It was nice to focus on the O-Line play more and even watch some of the downfield blocks by the slots and wideouts.  This is not somethign I typically do as I am in freakout mode and pretty much zero in on the QB-RB exchange or watching where the QB is going to be making a throw.

Oaktown Wolverine

September 5th, 2010 at 1:58 PM ^

I'm going to go ahead and state the [should be] obvious. The fans were not as loud as the game progressed because we had a 2+ touchdown lead and we were getting first downs on just about every play. Also, we were playing UCONN, whether they are supposed to be good or not they are still UCONN. I guarantee you if we were running like that on the Buckeyes people would not have a problem with it.

Muttley

September 5th, 2010 at 3:07 PM ^

Worried about the exposure of a one-man show, both to injury and to defensive coordinators on game film.

OTOH, small creases turned into 10+ yard gains.  You can't teach/scheme that.

And, of course, we have the defense, which can thank the UConn fumble, drop, and errant throw for three missed TD opportunities and a cliff-hanger game.  But kudos to the Mich offense for making the key plays while UConn failed to capitalize.

go16blue

September 5th, 2010 at 9:49 AM ^

Denard looked REALLY good running the zone read too. We wont know the total quality of his reads until the ufr, but some of those fakes when he ended up keeping it were downright rediculous

dennisblundon

September 5th, 2010 at 9:56 AM ^

Everyone seems concerned that ND has film to study to prepare for us next week. Well so do we. A lot of these players were seeing the field for the first time yesterday and now RR has some tape to coach them up. Win next week and this season is setting up to be a special one.

mongoose0614

September 5th, 2010 at 9:57 AM ^

of spelling out Denard Robinson all the time is that we will be confused by UM fan on blackberries and iphones misspelling his name via small keys and sparty and buckeye trolls who really can't spell Denard Robinson.

Duval Wolverine

September 5th, 2010 at 9:59 AM ^

First thing i noticed was that was an excellent game plan not only against UConn but accounting for the weather conditions.  Since it was pretty windy out there UM focused on the run, rushing 43 times to only 22 pass attempts where as Uconn only rushed 24 times and had 37 pass attempts.

Denard Robinson made good decisions all day, no interceptions or terrible reads.  I truly believe in the others when its not as windy, we will see more passes down the field where we can use the speed of Stonum, Roundtree, and Odoms for big plays.  This will force defenses to have safeties playing back to protect against the big plays which will allow for more running room for Denard and the other running backs.  If they do not play there safeties back, that just opens more one on one matches in the passing game.

While listening to the commentors I heard one of them say that Obi Ezeh played out last year with a hurt back which could explain his poor performance.  Yesterday he played much better, being at the right place at the right time and finishing plays.

JT Floyd played alot better than i expected, he seemed to always be in the right place on the pass and was a sure tackler against the run, even causing that fumble near the goal line.

"Denard Robinson's going to make people look bad," UConn coach Randy Edsall

Gene

September 5th, 2010 at 5:50 PM ^

That's whats been frustrating about Ezeh. He has the physical tools, and started seeing the field as a freshman, but the lights still havn't come on. I no longer expect a breakthrough from him, but hopefully another year of experiance and coaching helps his mental game.

Search4Meaning

September 6th, 2010 at 8:52 PM ^

But after going back and watching 3 games from last year - I do believe that he was hurt and could not react.  You can actually see him try to adjust and not be able to completely do so.

That said, he also had multiple poor reads and mental errors earlier on in the season.  Hard to tell if his reads actually improved in later games, but was never able to adjust due to injury.

At worst it was a combination of all the above. 

HartAttack20

September 5th, 2010 at 10:00 AM ^

I was pleasantly surprised with the defenses success against Uconn. Beginning with the first drive, UConn fans weren't given a chance to get into the game at all. I was extremely impressed with Denard Robinson and the run game. That O-Line did some serious damage, and I definitely see better things to come. The Molk injury scare was almost heart-breaking. There were quite a few "injury scares", actually, with Carvin Johnson and Denard going down. I agree on the Roh hype, too. He can really bring the pressure, which has to be the key for this defense all season. The only real big play that UConn got was that ridiculous quadruple-running-bobble-catch. It was also an odd feeling after the game for me. I usually don't feel relieved like that. Must have been something in those free waters...

PhillipFulmersPants

September 5th, 2010 at 10:16 AM ^

Michigan is capable of good turnover Karma after all, what with recovering all three bad fumbles/muffed punts committed.  (Gallon, really?  WTF?)

Felt the same way too. Some fortune bounced our way for once (or a least seems like "for once"). Can't live off that for an entire season but it was a nice change. Swirling wind mitigates the Gallon muff, I think. I'll reserve judgement on kicking game and return game when conditions are better.

The mesh exchange fumble between Shaw and Denard - that was six points for Drob if he's able to pull it cleanly. I loved watching andy dalton riding that for a long time for TCU. I would love to see this level of execution.

Giving up yards while making the other team sustain a drive can actually be a recipe for success.  The one turnover of the game seemed almost scripted to illustrate the virtues of this defensive approach.

I don't think this is an approach so much as a reality of this defense.  I'm sure GERG would prefer three and outs, a bigger recipe for success. Given the youth and inexperience of the D, though, yards are inevitable. You're right -- limiting the big plays is the key and at least gives us a chance to get a TO.

Blue Durham

September 5th, 2010 at 10:22 AM ^

Takling is much better - there were fewer missed takles than in the past.  There were also more defenders around the ball more quickly.

A offensive few players broke takles as well - they are clearly stronger.  Granted the defense wasn't on the field much, but I didn't see any players looking tired at the end of the game.  Granted, you tend to feel more tired when losing versus winning, but still.

Denard made the right, quick decisions.  He is much quicker, mentally, and the team, physically, than last year.

It wasn't going to happen overnight (in 1 year), but I think we really are seeing the results of the conditioning program.

MileHighWolverine

September 5th, 2010 at 10:58 AM ^

He played an outstanding game yesterday but there are 2 things I would like him to focus on:

1. Careful not to lead our receivers into bone crushing hits

2. Try to look off a defender every one in a while.  I felt he telegraphed a lot of his passes and needs to work on not staring down his receivers.  It didn't seem to me like he checked off his first option much, if at all, during the game.

Once he fixes these little issues: lights out!

kalamazoo

September 5th, 2010 at 3:48 PM ^

Things harder to catch live, but interesting to note:

1) UM Special Teams did not touch/block one UConn field goal, but two instead.  Two guys were in the right position on the first and Cam Gordon got the official block.  There was also a partially blocked 2nd field goal (the first 3 points for UConn - wobbler due to Van Bergen's big right hand).  Next team may kick higher/quicker and stop our line, but UM will be in good position if not.

2) There were a few times where a UM offensive line blocker was visibly upset that they missed their block down the field, preventing a 10-15 yard Denard run from becoming 25+.  I think since the blockers were already upset at themselves, they will be even better...continuing down the field and looking harder for their block...never quitting on Denard or the RBs.

3) Gibbons should be given more credit for his first game.  The field goal miss was right-onbut blown back crazily by the wind.  The extra point was still almost good even though the ball was sideways on the ground due to a snap/hold issue.  Great lower pressure (since we were winning) learning experiences.  Despite the misses not being entirely his fault, since he did in fact miss, he will work hard to perfect hold exchanges and kicks and not think he is "The Man".  You have to prevent those arrogant FG kickers from getting a big head (just joking).

4) Desperate tackles, but tackles nonetheless - Cullen Christianson got involved in some tackles, including one where he was about beaten but he was able to trip the guy up by the ankles near the line of scrimmage.  Greg Banks did the same on the other side.  While it would be nice to see these guys hitting more square, at least in their last gasp they reached out, dove, and prevented a large gain.  Never say die.

5) Coaching: Rod only used a handful of plays and players on offense (saving more for next week with 2-3 more running back options and another WR), with most working out and only a one-time reverse not doing much.  Rod and GERG seemed to work ok together...in the first half when GERG was yelling and yelling and yelling at the defense and then forced to burn a timeout, Rod (reading his lips on tv) was upset and yelled "What?!?!".  But GERG turned, said something quick, and Rod grudgingly accepted it, unlike last year when there would be more yelling, and a 3rd yeller would come over the grassy knoll to avoid being left out.  Basically, things are slowly working between coaches and problems being recognized before a larger mistake made.  There was also a moment where the defense audibled and not one, not two, but seven or eight UM defensive players were all sharing the hand signal around in a paranoid manner, ensuring everyone saw the change.  Result: adjustment took 2 seconds.  It was a shining moment, IMHO, of team cohesiveness and understanding.

6) Turnovers: Besides the 2 UM fumbles and 1 defensive fumble recovery, I'd watch potential fumbles on longer plays.  On Terrance Robinson's catch, the ball starting coming out as he was downed...may not have been a fumble (Terrance just picked it back up just in case) but the defense tackles in ways that will always attempt to jar the ball loose.  Now that the players are gaining confidence...don't forget to wrap the ball when tackled!  Those incoming helmets are a great weapon (just ask UConn after Floyd's hit).

7) Shaw backpeddaling trying to find more room to run - he lost 10 yards and got an earful from Coach Rod.  Then, Vincent Smith was used for the majority of running plays after that until midway in the 4th quarter.  Run north/south and you will avoid Rod's doghouse.

Gopherine

September 5th, 2010 at 7:13 PM ^

Desperate tackles, but tackles nonetheless - Cullen Christianson got involved in some tackles, including one where he was about beaten but he was able to trip the guy up by the ankles near the line of scrimmage.  Greg Banks did the same on the other side.  While it would be nice to see these guys hitting more square, at least in their last gasp they reached out, dove, and prevented a large gain.  Never say die.

It's Christian, not Christianson. I kept calling him Christianson until about two weeks ago when someone finally corrected me.

jmblue

September 5th, 2010 at 4:51 PM ^

(Gallon, really?  WTF?)

I can forgive Gallon for that.  The wind wreaked havoc on that punt - it looked like it hit an invisible wall in the sky and dropped straight down. 

NateVolk

September 5th, 2010 at 6:06 PM ^

The difference in our ability to operate in space on defense was noticeable v. last year. Better athletes, better coaching and more experience.

 

We're going to give up yards but teams are going to have to work to score. That is a fair trade off.

ForestCityBlue

September 5th, 2010 at 6:22 PM ^

I learned (re-learned) that I can have fun watching the boys in blue play.  It was nice to see a few bounces go our way, a timely fumble and some key UCONN drop balls, and it was a blast to watch our offence roll over them.  A fun day indeed.  Hats off to Denard Robinson for his record setting game!  We will be on pins and needles all year with the defence, but it looks like the offence has finally turned a corner.  A great day.

TheOracle6

September 5th, 2010 at 7:36 PM ^

The biggest thing I noticed was the downfield blocking by the WR's and RB's.  Kelvin had a huge block on Denards 32 yard touchdown run, Mike Shaw kept getting a hat on the uconn linebackers on our qb draws.  That qb draw is so effective because if you can get a hat on a hat it leaves one tackler vs Denard.  We all know who wins that battle.  The offensive line was more then impressive, they were elite.  I lost a year off my life when Molk went down, good thing he bounced right up. I definitely can't wait to see what Fitz brings to the table, and of course Id like to see Hopkins get some short yardage work.  Great first win, a lot of potential, and a lot of ney-sayers put in thier place.