Posts Tagged ‘Chad Henne’

Inside the Numbers: Avoiding the goose egg better than anyone else

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013



October 20, 1984 was a long time ago. Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison were coaching football, not at Michigan, but 100 miles west of Ann Arbor at Western Michigan. Teachers was the highest-grossing film of the weekend. Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the second straight week. The price of regular gasoline was only $1.21. The author of this column would not even be born for another 53 months. Yet, that date marks the last time the Michigan football team put a goose egg on the scoreboard.

On that October Saturday in 1984, the Iowa Hawkeyes held Michigan scoreless, winning by a score of 26-0. It was an ugly, ugly game for the Wolverines. Michigan managed to accumulate only 187 total yards, did not see a single play gain more than 14 yards, and turned the football over four times. U-M’s quarterback tandem of Russ Rein and Chris Zurbrugg completed only 11-of-25 passes for a whopping total of 83 yards and completed three more passes to the wrong team. Michigan’s leading rusher, Rick Rogers, toted the rock 19 times, but averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. There is no play-by-play available to indicate if the Wolverines blew any easy chances to score. Nonetheless, the hideous box score indicates that this was a Maize and Blue mess. [Edit: As reader sarcasMike pointed out below, Rein threw an interception on 3rd-and-goal from the Iowa 14 in the second half].

Michigan has had putrid offensive performances after that dreadful day in Iowa City, but the Wolverines have not had such a showing of offensive ineptitude in the 29 years and one month since. In that span, Michigan has scored points in 361 consecutive games, tying Brigham Young’s NCAA record when Brendan Gibbons split the uprights from 25 yards out with 8:45 remaining left in the first quarter against Northwestern last Saturday.

No current Michigan player was alive the last time Michigan was shut out

During the first two decades of Michigan’s streak, U-M scored in 245 straight games, which at the time was the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history. But the Wolverines needed all three teams with longer streaks to have theirs snapped before U-M would be the given the opportunity to eclipse their marks. Even though Michigan kept scoring, it could not make up any ground on those above them until those streaks were dead.

Then, it happened. And it happened fast. On November 22, 2003, BYU’s record streak of 361 games was put to a halt when its in-state rival Utah Utes shut out the Cougars, 3-0, in the regular-season finale. The following season, the Texas Longhorns—which had put together a streak of 282 games without being shut out—were the next to bite the dust. Texas suffered only one loss during the 2004 season, but it could not make it count when it needed to. Literally. The Longhorns fell to the second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, 12-0, in the Red River Shootout.

This left only one team between Michigan and a shot to break the NCAA record: the Washington Huskies. Three weeks later, on October 23, 2004, Washington, bearing a streak of 271 contests without being held scoreless, walked into the Coliseum to face the top-ranked USC Trojans. The Huskies were no match for the best team in the nation as their scoring streak went up in flames with a 38-0 beating from the Trojans.

And on that very same day, in West Lafayette, Indiana, Mike Hart took a screen pass from Chad Henne and darted 25 yards before reaching over the goal line to score Michigan’s first touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers with 7:40 left in the first quarter. The touchdown extended Michigan’s scoring streak to 246 straight games. But, more importantly, it ensured that U-M would have the longest active non-shutout streak in the nation for at least one week.

Well, 115 weeks of football later, Michigan still has not relinquished its grasp of the nation’s longest active non-shutout streak. During this historic 361-game streak, Michigan has scored a grand total of 10,617 points, averaging 29.41 per game. The Maize and Blue may not have had the most prolific or high-octane offense during this 29-plus-year streak, but only one other school in the history of college football has been as consistent about adding points to the scoreboard.

This does not mean that the Wolverines have not had their share of scares in the process, though. During this 361-game streak, U-M has been held to single digits in 16 of them. The following will unleash suppressed trauma for Michigan fans, but here is a list of those games:

Michigan’s single-digit scoring performances since Oct. 20, 1984
Date Opponent Result Date Opponent Result
Nov. 18, 1984 Ohio State L, 6-21 Nov. 23, 2002 Ohio State L, 9-14
Nov. 2, 1985 Illinois T, 3-3 Sept. 8, 2007 Oregon L, 7-39
Sept. 12, 1987 Notre Dame L, 7-26 Nov. 17, 2007 Ohio State L, 3-14
Oct. 9, 1993 Michigan State L, 7-17 Nov. 22, 2008 Ohio State L, 7-42
Nov. 19, 1994 Ohio State L, 6-22 Nov. 27, 2010 Ohio State L, 7-37
Nov. 11, 1995 Purdue W, 5-0 Sept. 22, 2012 Notre Dame L, 6-13
Nov. 9, 1996 Purdue L, 3-9 Oct. 27, 2012 Nebraska L, 9-23
Oct. 26, 2002 Iowa L, 9-34 Nov. 2, 2013 Michigan State L, 6-29

These games indicate when Michigan’s scoring offense was most futile, but they do not necessarily indicate whether these games put the streak at risk. In most of the contests listed above, the Wolverines scored in the first half, extending the streak, before struggling to produce any more points.

Nonetheless, there were two contests in which the Wolverines did not score their first points of the game until the fourth quarter—one of which is not even listed in the table above. The one that is listed above is Michigan’s 13-6 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 22, 2012. Notre Dame held U-M scoreless until Gibbons converted a 33-yard field goal with 13:10 left in the final quarter.

Yet, the contest that most threatened to end the Maize and Blue’s historic streak was a game in which Michigan actually won. In Lloyd Carr’s Michigan debut on August 26, 1995, the Wolverines trailed the Virginia Cavaliers, 17-0, in the fourth quarter. U-M remained scoreless until there was about 11:30 left in the game when Ed Davis powered into the end zone with a three-yard touchdown run. The score not only extended Michigan’s non-shutout streak, but it sparked the largest comeback in U-M history at the time as the Wolverines scored on the final play of regulation to beat Virginia, 18-17.

No team will look perfect offensively in 361 straight games. Heck, no team will look average in 361 straight games. Every school has its offensive ups and downs over the course of three decades. Michigan was bound to have a few clunkers here and there. However, unlike other squads, U-M has been fortunate enough to avoid the goose egg when it has experienced struggles offensively. To put in perspective how remarkable this non-shutout streak is, the following indicates the number of times the other 11 teams currently in the Big Ten have been shut out in the time Michigan has strung together its record-tying streak:

Big Ten teams shut out since Oct. 20, 1984
Team Number of Times Last time Shut Out Score/Opponent
Illinois 12 2012 0-45 vs Michigan
Indiana 8 2000 0-58 vs Michigan
Iowa 4 2000 0-31 vs Illinois
Michigan State 6 2000 0-14 vs Michigan
Minnesota 14 2011 0-58 vs Michigan
Nebraska 2 1996 0-19 vs Arizona State
Northwestern 8 2003 0-20 vs Ohio State
Ohio State 1 1993 0-28 vs Michigan
Penn State 4 2001 0-20 vs Michigan
Purdue 15 2013 0-56 vs Ohio State
Wisconsin 6 1997 0-34 vs Syracuse

Not only has Michigan extended its non-shutout streak to 361 straight games, but it has also played a substantial role in preventing other Big Ten teams from doing the same. U-M has handed six Big Ten teams their last shutout loss. The most significant one is Michigan’s 28-0 win against Ohio State in 1993. It is Ohio State’s only shutout loss since 1982. If the Wolverines had not held the Buckeyes to zero points exactly 20 years ago from today, OSU would be the Big Ten team with the NCAA-record streak, not Michigan.

But Michigan did shut out Ohio State, and, now, U-M has an opportunity to break BYU’s all-time record this Saturday in the same place where it was last shut out just over 29 years ago: Iowa City, Iowa. If the Wolverines can tack some points onto the scoreboard against the Hawkeyes, Michigan will set the NCAA record with its 362nd consecutive contest without being shutout.

If Michigan hadn't shut out Ohio State in 1993 the Buckeyes would have the nation's longest streak

However, in recent weeks, Michigan has made offense look more difficult than a toddler trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. In the last three games U-M has played in November, the Wolverines have scored only 28 points in regulation. This is the fewest number of points a Michigan team has scored in three straight regulations since the Wolverines managed only 24 points in three straight from September 25, 1965, to October 9, 1965. Yes, this has been the worst three-game stretch of Michigan’s scoring offense in nearly half a century.

So will history repeat itself? Will the Iowa Hawkeyes be able to be the team that bookends Michigan’s non-shutout streak? Or will Michigan overcome its offensive woes to set a new NCAA record with its 362nd consecutive game without being held scoreless? Iowa has not shut out a Big Ten opponent since the end of the 2009 season, and one should not expect it to happen again on Saturday. Tune in to Big Ten Network at noon ET on Saturday to watch history—one way or the other.

Three Notes You Should Know Before Michigan-Iowa

1. Under Brady Hoke, Michigan has mustered only a 6-7 record in true road games. After beating the Northwestern Wildcats in triple overtime in Evanston last Saturday, U-M has an opportunity to win two consecutive road games for the first time during Hoke’s tenure. The last time the Wolverines won two straight road contests was during the early portion of the 2010 season, when U-M beat Notre Dame in South Bend and Indiana in Bloomington.

2. Last Saturday, Jeremy Gallon became the 10th different receiver in Michigan history to have a 1,000-yard season—the first to do so since Mario Manningham in 2007. This week, Devin Funchess has an opportunity to become the 31st U-M player to record 1,000 career receiving yards. Funchess needs only 82 receiving yards to achieve the feat.

3. With his interception on the last play of the third overtime to secure Michigan’s win against Northwestern, Thomas Gordon extended U-M’s streak of forcing a turnover to 12 straight games. It was Gordon’s third interception of the season. Therefore, with Blake Countess picking off four passes and Raymon Taylor intercepting another three this season, this is the first time since 1998 that Michigan has had three players with three-plus interceptions in a season.

Michigan-UConn game preview

Friday, September 20th, 2013


Seven years ago Michigan hosted Ball State in an odd November non-conference matchup. The Wolverines were 9-0 at that point, ranked second in the nation, but on that day the Brady Hoke-led Cardinals almost pulled of a shocker. In front of a stunned Big House crowd that Michigan squad, led by Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, Jake Long, LaMarr Woodley, David Harris, and Leon Hall, nearly suffered a demoralizing defeat. Henne threw a pick-six. Hart fumbled for the first time in two years. The defense gave up nearly 300 yards.

Hoke had some good teams at Ball State, but that wasn’t one of them.

Following the game, Henne acknowledged that with a showdown at Ohio State looming the team wasn’t completely focused.

“I think that is a lot of the reason why we weren’t focused,” Henne said. “Coming into the game, people were reading too many press clippings.”

Woodley agreed.

Quick Facts
Rentschler Field – 8pm EST – ABC
UConn Head Coach: Paul Pasqualoni (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 117-73-1 (10-14 at UConn)
Offensive Coordinator: TJ Weist (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Hank Hughes (1st season*)
Returning Starters: 12 (7 offense, 5 defense)
Last Season: 5-7
Last Meeting: UM 30 – UConn 10 (2010)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 1-0
Record at UConn: First meeting
Record vs AAC Teams: Michigan leads 6-0
Brady Hoke vs AAC Teams: First meeting

“Coming into this game, everybody was talking about the hype about Michigan and Ohio State, and it kind of overlooked a team like Ball State. If you disrespect a team, they’re going to come out and give it their all.”

Michigan responded with a 34-3 thumping of Indiana, holding the Hoosiers to just 131 total yards and then played one of the all-time great games in the history of The Game a week later in Columbus, falling 42-39 to the top-ranked Buckeyes.

The point is that even great teams suffer letdowns every now and then. Ball State had a chance to tie the game twice in the final minutes just like Akron had a chance to win the game on the final play last Saturday. Michigan was fortunate to come out with a victory and the man who was on the other side of that 2006 affair knows that all too well.

All eyes will be on how this team responds this week against UConn. With all the negativity surrounding the team following last week’s performance, the Wolverines shouldn’t need anything else to fire them up, but perhaps the fact that it’s a primetime game on ABC rather than a noon start on Big Ten Network will be enough.

UConn is probably a team of a similar level as the Indiana team the 2006 squad rebounded with, and while no one is expecting this Michigan defense to put forth as dominant a performance, the expectations remain for a big, convincing win.

The Huskies enter with an 0-2 record, having lost to Towson of the FCS and Maryland, both at home. The Towson game was closer than the score indicates, but the Tigers racked up nearly 400 yards of offense including 201 on the ground. The Maryland game wasn’t quite as close as the final score shows as the Terrapins widened a 13-10 halftime lead to 32-13 before UConn scored with a few minutes to play.

Paul Pasqualoni is in his third season in Storrs and Husky Nation is already calling for his head after going 5-7 in each of his first two seasons. Prior to taking over in 2011, he spent 14 years at Syracuse, going 107-59-1 with six bowl victories, as well as six seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. In fact, as head coach of Syracuse, he went 1-1 against Michigan, beating the Wolverines 38-28 in 1998 and losing 18-13 in 1999.

In that 1998 matchup, Pasqualoni had Donovan McNabb at quarterback, a luxury he doesn’t currently have. Can he pull off the upset in front of the largest crowd in UConn history? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs UConn offense: When UConn has the ball

Chandler Whitmer has thrown 19 interceptions and 12 touchdowns in the past 14 games (Mark L. Baer, USA Today Sports)

Following a disappointing 2012 season in which the Huskies ranked 118th nationally in scoring offense, Pasqualoni brought in Cincinnati wide receivers coach TJ Weist to run the offense. Weist spent four seasons on Gary Moeller’s staff in the early 1990s, first as a volunteer graduate assistant and then as receivers coach, guiding the likes of Desmond Howard and working alongside Greg Mattison.

He inherited seven returning starters including junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer who completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 2,659 yards last season. But it was his 9-to-16 touchdown-to-interception rate that Weist is hoping to significantly improve. The results are mixed so far this season with 555 yards on 60.8 percent completions and three touchdowns, but he has also thrown three more picks. Against Maryland last week put up a lot of yards (349), but threw two interceptions and just one touchdown.

His main target is junior Shakim Phillips who has 15 receptions for 255 yards and all three touchdowns so far. By comparison, Jeremy Gallon has 18 receptions for 297 yards and four touchdowns through three games. The former four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant originally attended Boston College before transferring to UConn and sitting out the 2011 season. However, he strained a hamstring at the end of the Maryland game, so while he insists he will play he might not be at full speed. Fellow junior Geremy Davis is the only other Huskie with double digit receptions so far with 10 catches for 154 yards. He was UConn’s leading receiver last season with 44 receptions for 608 yards, but caught just one touchdown pass.

In the backfield, Lyle McCombs is the feature back for the third straight year, but is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on 36 attempts so far. He managed just 53 yards on 19 attempts against Maryland last week. In 2011, he broke the 1,000-yard mark with 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns, but those numbers declined last season due to injuries and off the field troubles. No other back on the team has more than three carries this season, so it’s clear McCombs will be the workhorse once again. He’s also the team’s third-leading receiver with eight catches.

Deshon Foxx plays the Dennis Norfleet role, a slot guy with four receptions for 54 yards and three rushes for 21 yards. Weist is counting on Foxx to be the speedy playmaker the offense needs with the ability to take a speed sweep for a big play.

Shakim Phillips is the danger man for Michigan's secondary to contain (Stephen Slade)

The offensive line returns four starters from last season. Sixth-year senior Jimmy Bennett is the left tackle with 16 career starts, while redshirt senior Kevin Friend brings 29 career starts to the right tackle position. However, Friend is questionable this week with a high ankle sprain, which could force Xavier Hemingway into his spot. The redshirt sophomore was pushed around the past two weeks, allowing a pair of sacks against Towson and a safety against Maryland. If Friend is out tomorrow, look for Michigan to pick on the right side of the Husky line.

Tyler Bullock, who started the last eight games of 2012, was supposed to be the starting center, but a leg injury has forced UConn to insert Penn State transfer Alex Mateas into the center position. He was routinely pushed back by Maryland’s defensive line last week. Bullock did play some at right guard at the end of the game last week, but it remains to be seen whether he will see more time this week. Left guard Steve Greene has 20 career starts under his belt, while right guard Gus Cruz started five games last season.

While the UConn offensive line has a lot of starting experience, it was the 121st-ranked rush offense last season and currently ranks 122nd this season. If there was ever a game for Michigan’s defensive line to get off the schneid it is this one. The Huskies have allowed 10 sacks through two games.

Whitmer operates mostly out of the shotgun with one back offset and one tight end. Weist likes to line up three receivers to one side and one on the other, which typically results in a throw to the single receiver, Phillips. This is how Phillips scored a 75-yard touchdown last week. Maryland used a blitz-heavy scheme to pressure Whitmer and attack Hemingway, which is typically Mattison’s style, but we haven’t seen it the past two weeks. After getting torched by Kyle Pohl a week ago by sitting back, expect Mattison to dial up the blitz early and often this week.

Michigan offense vs UConn defense: When Michigan has the ball

Both Maryland and Towson moved the ball well against the UConn defense, and both did so with a fairly balanced attack. Towson passed for 193 yards and rushed for 201, while Maryland gained 277 through the air and 224 on the ground. The 212.4 rushing yards allowed per game ranks 104th nationally and both the Tigers and Terps had individual rushers go over 100 yards. Maryland quarterback CJ Brown gained 122 yards on 16 carries, while running back Brandon Ross was five yards short of 100 on 18 carries. Towson running back Terrance West gained 156 yards on 36 carries.

Only five starters return form last year’s UConn defense which ranked ninth nationally in total defense. Three starters from that unit that are no longer around were drafted this past April, most notably tackle Kendall Reyes who was selected 49th overall by the San Diego Chargers.

The leading player on this year’s defense is the only returning starting linebacker, Yawin Smallwood. He led the Huskies with 120 tackles last season and ranked second with 15 tackles for loss. He already has 30 tackles in the first two games, which is twice as many as the next closest. Ryan Donohue and Graham Stewart are the other starters. You and I cheered for Stewart a couple years ago when, while playing for Florida, he blocked an Ohio State punt and returned it for a touchdown in the Gator Bowl. He played in 12 games for the Gators that season before transferring to UConn a year ago. Donohue is a Maryland transfer who played in 20 games for the Terps in 2009-10.

Linebacker Yawin Smallwood has 30 tackles in the first two games (Stephen Slade)

The four-man front includes redshirt senior tackle Shamar Stephen who has played in 34 career games. He ranks third on the team with 14 tackles so far this season. The other tackle is is redshirt sophomore Julian Campenni who started two games last season. End Tim Willman leads the team with 1.5 tackles for loss this season. He started the final game of 2012 and earned the starting role this year, while redshirt junior Angelo Pruitt is the other end.

The secondary is led (on the stat-sheet) by redshirt freshman safety Obi Melifonwu who has 15 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and an interception so far. Free safety Ty-Meer Brown is the most veteran of the unit with 19 career starts. He has nine tackles and a fumble recovery on the young season. The corners are senior Taylor Mack and redshirt junior Byron Jones. Mack has the team’s only other interception this season.

Last week, UConn played Maryland conservatively, intent on not giving up the big play, which they failed to do. The Huskies didn’t blitz once and mostly sat back in a quarters or cover two defense. Against both Maryland and Towson, UConn’s linebackers were susceptible to the run fake, getting drawn up and allowing space behind them, so look for Michigan to take advantage of the play action.

UConn hasn’t sacked the quarterback yet this season, so the Michigan offensive line – which might be shuffled this week – has an opportunity to perform well. Maryland had good success running the zone read and inverted veer, which Michigan doesn’t do as much with Gardner, but has success with especially later in the game.

The other third: Special Teams

Redshirt senior Kicker Chad Chirsten has made all three field goal attempts with a long of 34. He converted 14-of-21 last season and has a career high of 50. He also handles kickoff duties. Last week, only one kickoff resulted in a touchback, so that could be beneficial for Dennis Norfleet. Fellow redshirt senior Cole Wagner was a second team All-Big East selection last season with a 40.5 yards per punt average. Through two games this season he has already punted 15 times and is averaging just 37.5 yards.

Phillips and Foxx are the kick returners. Neither has broken one yet, but Phillips has a long of 39 yards. Freshman receiver Brian Lemelle is the only Husky who has returned a punt – two for two yards.

Prediction

A more focused Michigan team will take the field tomorrow night looking to atone for a poor performance last week. Devin Gardner will be crisp like he was against Central Michigan and Notre Dame. Michigan will look to get Fitzgerald Toussaint established early to set up the play action. Later in the game, the offense will mix in the zone read and inverted veer and Gardner will have a big day with his feet and arm.

The defense will be more aggressive rather than sitting back and letting Whitmer pick them apart. It might give up a couple of big plays, but overall it will keep the UConn offense off balance and result in the best performance of the season to date, piling up several sacks.

The nation will be watching to see just how Michigan responds from the Akron letdown. Everybody wants to know if this team is as good as it looked in the first two weeks or if those were just a mirage. A bye week follows, so Michigan will play with a chip on its shoulder and win convincingly.

Michigan 45 – UConn 20

2012 Michigan offense infographic

Monday, January 14th, 2013



Stay tuned for the Michigan defense infographic in the next day or two.

2012 season preview: Record watch

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


For the past three years, we have all watched Denard Robinson run up and down the field, leading the Maize and Blue as he set our hearts ablaze. From his first snap against Western Michigan to his to his three-year domination of Notre Dame to his clutch five touchdown performance to end Ohio State’s winning streak, the man they call Shoelace has littered the Michigan record books. He stands poised to finish in the top five in pretty much every rushing and passing category in Michigan history, so he will reach certain milestones throughout the season. A few other Wolverines can make their mark in the record book as well, so let’s take a look at all of the career records that may be set this year, project when during the season they might occur, as well as where the player will likely finish.

Rushing Records
Attempts Yards Touchdowns 100-yard Games
1. Mike Hart 1,015 1. Mike Hart 5,040 1. Anthony Thomas 55 1. Mike Hart 28
2. Anthony Thomas 924 2. Anthony Thomas 4,472 2. Tyrone Wheatley 47 2. Anthony Thomas 22
3. Chris Perry 811 3. Jamie Morris 4,393 3. Mike Hart 41 3. Tyrone Wheatley 20
4. Jamie Morris 809 4. Tyrone Wheatley 4,178 4. Chris Perry 39 4. Jamie Morris 18
5. Butch Woolfolk 718 5. Butch Woolfolk 3,861 5. Denard Robinson 35 5. Butch Woolfolk 16
6. Tyrone Wheatley 688 6. Chris Perry 3,696 6. Rick Leach 34 6. Rob Lytle 15
7. Billy Talyor 587 7. Rob Lytle 3,317 7. Steve Smith 31 7. Denard Robinson 14
8. Rob Lytle 557 8. Denard Robinson 3,229 8. Billy Taylor 30 8. Billy Taylor 13
9. Denard Robinson 546 9. Billy Taylor 3,072 8. Tom Harmon 30 8. Gordon Bell 13
10. Lawrence Ricks 541 10. Gordon Bell 2,900 10. Butch Woolfolk 29 8. Tim Biakabatuka 13

Attempts: In his rookie campaign, Denard carried the ball just 69 times, but in the last two, he has averaged 238 per season. Last year was 221, or an average of 17 per game. I would expect that to fall slightly with the emergence of Fitz Toussaint (depending on how long Brady Hoke keeps him out) as a true running threat. Let’s say his average falls by one carry per game. He’ll finish with 754 career carries, which would put him in 5th behind Jamie Morris and ahead of Butch Woolfolk. Projected finish: 5th

Denard will rank highly in every major rushing category

Yards: It’s hard to imagine that Denard ran for just 351 yards in 2009, but he burst onto the scene with 1,702 in 2010, his first season as a starter. Last year, that total dropped along with his carries due to Toussaint’s emergence, but he still broke the 1,000-yard mark with 1,176. Like attempts, his yards will likely drop slightly again this year and be around the 950-1,050 mark. Even 950 would put him just past Tyrone Wheatley into 4th place all-time. He would need 1,164 to pass Jamie Morris for 3rd and 1,243 to pass Anthony Thomas for 2nd. That’s as high as he could conceivably reach.

So when could we see him move up the ranks? There’s a chance he could pass Rob Lytle on Saturday, but it would take a monumental effort against an Alabama defense that allowed just one runner, Georgia Southern freshman running back Dominique Swope (153), to gain that much last season. Denard will surely pass Lytle by Week 2 against an Air Force defense that Michigan should run all over. He should pass Chris Perry by Week 5 against Purdue or Week 6 against Illinois, and then cruise by Butch Woolfolk around Week 9 against Minnesota. Projected finish: 4th

Touchdowns: With 30 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons, including a career high 16 last year, Denard is already in the top five in Michigan history. There’s a slight chance he could move into first place, but 20 rushing touchdowns is a very tall order. It’s more likely that he’ll reach 2nd with at least 12 this season. He should pass Chris Perry in the first two or three weeks and then Mike Hart by mid-season before closing in on Tyrone Wheatley. Projected finish: 2nd

100-yard Games: In 2010, Denard ran for at least 100 yards in nine of Michigan’s 13 games, missing Jamie Morris’ 1987 single-season mark by one. Last year, he had five. It’s likely that the farthest he will climb is 4th, but there’s a chance he could reach Wheatley with six more 100-yard games. If I had to bet, I would say Air Force, UMass, Notre Dame, and Minnesota are the most likely 100-yard games with a couple others possible. But a lot of it has to do with how quickly Toussaint is reinstated as well. Projected finish: 4th

There are several other rushing categories he could move up in aside from the main ones listed above:

• He has averaged 5.91 yards per rush and could potentially pass Biakabutuka and Lytle for 3rd all-time.
• He’s currently in a four-way tie for 4th in career 150-yards rushing games with Taylor, Woolfolk, and Wheatley. One more and he’ll move into a tie for 3rd with Morris. Two more and he’ll tie Thomas for 2nd.
• Denard needs two more games of 200 yards rushing to tie Hart for 1st, although with just three in his career, it’s unlikely.

Passing Records
Attempts Completions Yards Touchdowns
1. Chad Henne 1,387 1. Chad Henne 828 1. Chad Henne 9,715 1. Chad Henne 87
2. John Navarre 1,366 2. John Navarre 765 2. John Navarre 9,254 2. John Navarre 72
3. Elvis Grbac 835 3. Elvis Grbac 522 3. Elvis Grbac 6,460 3. Elvis Grbac 71
4. Todd Collins 711 4. Todd Collins 457 4. Todd Collins 5,858 4. Rick Leach 48
4. Tom Brady 711 5. Tom Brady 443 5. Jim Harbaugh 5,449 5. Steve Smith 42
6. Steve Smith 648 6. Jim Harbaugh 387 6. Tom Brady 5,351 6. Denard Robinson 40
7. Jim Harbaugh 620 7. Brian Griese 355 7. Denard Robinson 4,931 7. Todd Collins 37
8. Brian Griese 606 8. Denard Robinson 338 8. Steve Smith 4,860 8. Tom Brady 35
9. Denard Robinson 580 9. Steve Smith 324 9. Brian Griese 4,383 9. Brian Griese 33
10. Rick Leach 537 10. Rick Leach 250 10. Rick Leach 4,284 10. Jim Harbaugh 31

Attempts: Denard has averaged 274 attempts per season as a starter, although he threw 33 fewer passes last season than he did in 2010. I expect this year to be somewhere in between, around the 275 mark, which would move him into 3rd place behind Chad Henne and John Navarre. The numbers of those two across the board won’t be challenged. Denard may pass Brian Griese on Saturday, though he threw 26 or more passes just twice all last season and three times in 2010. He should move past Todd Collins by midseason and near Elvis Grbac by season’s end. Projected finish: 3rd

Denard should finish in the top four in every major passing category

Completions: In the last two years, Denard has averaged 162 completions per season. Last year, he completed just 142 passes and I expect that to rise this year along with his completion percentage. Around 175 completions is likely and that would move him into 4th place, ahead of Collins and just behind Grbac. He may reach Grbac, but won’t even sniff Navarre or Henne. He needs 18 completions to move up one spot and pass Griese, but the most he completed in a single game last season was 17. That’s probably unlikely against Alabama’s defense. Projected finish: 4th

Yards: With an average of 2,371 passing yards the past two seasons, I expect that to be about the mark this year. Let’s say an even 2,400. If he does so, he will easily occupy the 3rd spot in Michigan history. The next person on the list to pass is Tom Brady, but it’s not going to happen in Week 1. It will likely happen against Air Force, and then he’ll pass Harbaugh shortly thereafter. Collins should be passed by midseason and then Grbac late in the year. Projected finish: 3rd

Touchdowns: Denard is already 6th in the record books in career touchdown passes and needs just two more to move into a tie with Steve Smith for 5th. That could happen on Saturday. Last season, he threw 20 and the year before that he thew 18. Twenty is probably a realistic number this year and if that happens, he’ll finish 4th behind Henne, Navarre, and Grbac. There’s a big gap between 4th and 3rd and I think it’s too much to ask for. Projected finish: 4th

There are several other passing categories that he could finish highly in aside from the main ones listed above.

• He’s currently 8th in career completion percentage (58.3) and could move as high as 5th with a great season.
• He’s currently 5th in efficiency rating (142.1) and could jump another spot or two as well.
• With three more 150-yard passing games, he will jump up to 4th, and with six he could move into a tie for 3rd with Grbac and Collins.
• With four 200-yard passing games, he will jump Harbaugh for 5th. He needs five to tie Collins for 4th and six to reach Brady for 3rd.
• As a toast to Brett Favre, he will likely also finish his career with the dubious honor of most interceptions thrown. He’s currently 6th and needs just eight more to pass Henne for the top (or is it bottom?) spot.

Other Records
Total Yards Gained Big Ten QB Rush Yds Tackles Field Goals Made
1. Chad Henne 9,300 1. Antwaan Randle-El 3,895 1. Ron Simpkins 516 1. Garrett Rivas 64
2. John Navarre 9,031 2. Denard Robinson 3,229 2. Jarrett Irons 440 2. Remy Hamilton 63
3. Denard Robinson 8,160 3. Juice Williams 2,557 3. Erick Anderson 428 3. Mike Gillette 57
4. Steve Smith 6,554 4. Paul Girgash 414 4. J.D. Carlson 39
5. Rick Leach 6,460 5. Mike Mallory 396 5. Ali Haji-Sheikh 31
6. Elvis Grbac 6,221 6. Andy Cannavino 385 6. Bob Bergeron 29
7. Jim Harbaugh 5,745 7. Calvin O’Neal 378 7. Hayden Epstein 26
8. Todd Collins 5,702 8. Sam Sword 377 8. Mike Lantry 21
9. Tom Brady 5,180 9. Mike Boren 369 9. K.C. Lopata 21
10. Anthony Thomas 4,472 15. Jordan Kovacs 266 15. Brendan Gibbons 14

Denard shouldn’t have any trouble passing Henne for most career yards gained and Antwaan Randle-El for the Big Ten career rushing yards by a quarterback.

Safety Jordan Kovacs is currently 15th on Michigan’s career tackles list with 266. He would need 95 to pass Steve Morrison and move into the top 10. Another nine would allow him to pass Mike Boren for 9th. If he matches his career high of 116 which was set in 2010, he would move up to 7th. An interesting note is that every guy in the top 10 was a linebacker so Kovacs would be the first safety to reach that point.

Kicker Brendan Gibbons is also 15th on Michigan’s career field goals made list with 14. Thirteen of those came last season and if he can match that this year, he’ll move into 7th on the career list, just ahead of Hayden Epstein. As just a junior this season, he has a chance to move into the top three or four by the time his career is up. Who would have thought that after his freshman season?

As you can see, there are a lot of milestones to be reached this season, mostly by Denard Robinson. Stay tuned to Maize and Go Blue each week as we will keep you updated on his progress. It’s fun to see him pass some of the all-time greats in Michigan history week in and week out.

The Rear View Mirror Makes a Case for Denard

Monday, October 24th, 2011


It’s no secret that Denard Robinson had a bad game against Michigan State on Saturday or that his passing has not shown much improvement since last season. He went 9-for-24 last Saturday, lowering his season completion rate to 53.9 percent, and threw an interception to raise his season total to a nation-leading 11. Michigan fans across the spectrum are clamoring for Devin Gardner to replace him. So why is this guy still the starting quarterback at Michigan?

Denard already ranks in the top 10 in every passing and rushing category (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

The answer, in short, is because by the time he hangs up his jersey for the last time, Denard will be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever don the maize and blue. You may scoff at that claim, given the number of signal-callers Michigan has sent to the NFL, but it depends on what your definition of quarterback is.

Is he the best pure, NFL-ready quarterback? No. There are probably a dozen Michigan alums that were better true pro-style quarterbacks. But college football is chalk full of effective quarterbacks who aren’t NFL-style QBs. Denard is one of the best, and the same can be said for his place in the history of college football’s all-time winningest program.

Don’t agree? Look at the numbers. He’s a year-and-a-half into his career as a starter and he already ranks in the top 10 in nearly every major offensive category, both passing and rushing.

Michigan has fielded 132 teams since the football program began in 1879. It has a history as rich as any school in the country. There have been some phenomenal players to take the field, but none have the statistical resume Robinson will have when he graduates.

Putting stats aside for a minute, the main metrics in which any player is judged – and rightfully so – are winning games, winning championships, and beating rivals. Right now, Denard trails in all three, but he’s not as far behind the greats as one would think.

He has a current record of 13-7 as a starting quarterback through his first 20 games. By contrast, Chad Henne and John Navarre were each 14-6, and Tom Brady and Elvis Grbac were 15-5. Brian Griese was 16-4 thanks to the national championship season of 1997, and Jim Harbaugh was 16-3-1. As you can see, Denard’s not far behind the recent greats in the win category. However, judging a quarterback by winning games alone is somewhat misleading unless you look at the talent he has around him.

Henne had probably the best crop of playmakers of any Michigan quarterback, with Braylon Edwards, Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, and Adrian Arrington to throw to, Mike Hart to hand off to, and an NFL No. 1 overall pick, Jake Long, protecting him. Navarre had David Terrelle and Marquise Walker to throw to and Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry to hand off to. Griese had Amani Toomer, Tim Biakabatuka, Tai Streets, an NFL offensive line, and one of the greatest defenses of all time. Grbac had Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, and Ricky Powers.

Denard has some talent around him, but right now it pales in comparison to what Henne, Navarre, Griese, and Grbac had. Every single one of those above played or are playing in the NFL. How many of Denard’s current supporting cast will make it to the league?

Chad Henne is Michigan's career leader in all major passing categories, but had a losing record against rivals (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

Now that we’ve established that Denard is right on pace in the win category, lets move on to winning championships. If we’re talking national championships, then only Brian Griese can count in the modern era. We would have to go all the way back to Pete Elliott in 1948 to find the last Michigan quarterback to lay claim to that.

If we’re talking Big Ten championships, then Denard has some work to do. Henne started four years but won just one Big Ten title. Denard still has a chance –albeit slight – to achieve that this season. He also has a year left. Brady, Griese, and Harbaugh each also won one. Navarre won two, although one was in 2000 when he started just four games and split time with Drew Henson.

How about beating rivals? This has a chance to be Denard’s strongest comparison but just like winning games, this takes help. He has beaten Notre Dame both times he’s faced them – and did it almost singlehandedly each time. He’s lost twice to Michigan State and is 0-1 against Ohio State with a chance to even that record at the end of November. That would pull him to 3-3 against rivals, and with a sweep in 2012, he could get to 6-3. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Since he will play nine career rivalry games, barring injury, he’ll either finish with a winning or losing record in those games.

Henne went 5-6 (4-0 against Michigan State, 1-2 against Notre Dame, but 0-4 against Ohio State). Navarre went 4-4 (2-1 against Michigan State, 1-1 against Notre Dame, and 1-2 against Ohio State). Griese was 4-1 (2-0 against Ohio State, 1-0 against Notre Dame, and 0-1 against Michigan State). Grbac was 5-2-1 (2-0 against Ohio State, 2-1 against Michigan State, and 1-2-1 against Notre Dame). Harbaugh went 6-1 (2-0 against both Ohio State and Notre Dame, and 2-1 against Michigan State).

So by that measure, Harbaugh, Grbac, and Griese lead, but again, Denard still has a chance to achieve a winning record, which Henne and Navarre couldn’t. Only Henne had a losing record, so Denard will have to avoid doing that.

Stats-wise, Denard currently ranks 9th in career completions (272), 10th in passing yards (4,011), 9th in touchdown passes (31), 9th in 100-yard passing games (14), and 6th in 200-yard passing games (9). He also has the second-best single-game completion percentage, with his 86.3 percent performance against UConn last season, he currently ranks 5th in career completion percentage (59.9), just ahead of Henne, and 4th in career efficiency rating (145.9), ahead of both Henne and Brady. Last season’s 2,570 passing yards was the 7th-best season total in Michigan history.

By the time his career is over, Denard should conceivably rank third or fourth in every major passing category, behind only Henne and Navarre.

Rushing-wise, he’s like no other Michigan has seen. Michigan has had some agile quarterbacks, but none put up anywhere close to the rushing numbers he has so far, partially because they all had solid running backs alongside them. Denard is already second in Big Ten history for quarterback rushing yards, trailing only Illinois’ Juice Williams, and he’s just 1,080 away from passing Williams.

He currently ranks 10th in Michigan career rushing yards (2,815) and career rushing touchdowns (28). Those numbers are for any Michigan player, not just quarterbacks. He also has the highest career yards-per carry average (6.49), the 4th-best single season yardage total (1,702), and the 5th-best single game total (258). Last week, he passed Tim Biakabatuka in yards. By the time his career is over, he’ll likely rank in the top four in yards and top two or three in touchdowns.

So buckle up Michigan fans, because right now we’re witnessing one of the most prolific Michigan quarterbacks of all time, whether you like his style or not. After he graduates, Michigan will likely go back to the NFL-style signal-caller, and years from now, we’ll all look back with reverence at the Michigan legend that was Denard Robinson. Let’s put to rest the calls for Gardner.

Around the League – Week 3

Thursday, September 29th, 2011


Michigan has a great tradition of sending players to the National Football League. While the pace has fallen off over the past few years, there are still plenty of former Wolverines in the League. Each week during the season, we will provide an update on how former Michigan Men fared that week.

Tom BradyPatriots QB
Last game: Completed 30-of-45 passes for 387 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs
Season totals: 93-of-133 (69.9%) for 1,327 yards (1st in NFL), 11 TDs (1st), 5 INTs
__________________________________

Chad HenneDolphins QB

Henne had a good game despite the Dolphins 17-16 loss to Cleveland (photo by Matt Sullivan, Getty Images)

Last game: Completed 19-of-29 passes for 255 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Rushed 4 times for 26 yards

Season totals: 61-of-108 (56.5%) for 841 yards (14th), 4 TDs, 3 INTs
_______________________________

LaMarr WoodleySteelers OLB
Last game: 5 tackles
Season totals: 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss, 1 pass defended
_______________________________

Mario Manningham - Giants WR
Last game: DNP (concussion)
Season totals: 7 catches for 105 yards (52.5 ypg)
_______________________________

Braylon Edwards49ers WR
Last game: DNP (knee)
Season totals: 4 catches for 48 yards (24 ypg)
_______________________________

Charles WoodsonPackers DB
Last game: 3 tackles
Season totals: 10 tackles, 2 INT (T-3rd), 3 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery
_______________________________

Steve BreastonChiefs WR
Last game: 3 catches for 55 yards
Season totals: 6 catches for 88 yards (29.3 ypg)
_______________________________

Jason Avant - Eagles WR

Last game: 4 catches for 33 yards
Season totals: 8 catches for 102 yards (34 ypg)
__________________________________

Tim JamisonTexans DE
Last game: 1 pass defended
Season totals: 1 assisted tackle, 1 pass defended
__________________________________

Leon Hall Bengals DB
Last game: 4 tackles
Season totals: 6 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery
__________________________________

Morgan TrentBengals DB
Last game: 1 tackle
Season totals: 1 tackle
__________________________________

David Harris - Jets LB
Last game: 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles-for-loss
Season totals: 15 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle-for-loss, 1 pass defended
__________________________________

Zoltan MeskoPatriots P
Last game: 3 punts for 140 yards (46.7 avg), 2 inside 20
Season totals: 9 punts for 377 yards (41.9 avg), 4 inside 20
__________________________________

James HallRams DE
Last game: 1 tackle
Season totals: 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackle-for-loss, 1 pass defended
__________________________________

Larry FooteSteelers LB
Last game: 3 tackles
Season totals: 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle-for-loss
__________________________________

Jay FeelyCardinals K
Last game: 1-for-3 FGs, 1-for-1 XPs
Season totals: 1-for-4 FGs (Long 44), 8-for-8 XPs

__________________________________

Alan BranchSeahawks DT
Last game: 4 tackles
Season totals: 9 tackles
__________________________________

Adrian ArringtonSaints WR
Last game: Did not record a stat
Season totals: 1 catch for 14 yards (4.7 ypg)
__________________________________

Brandon GrahamEagles DE
On PUP list with knee injury. Expected to return in Week 7
__________________________________

Jeff BackusLions OT
Starter
__________________________________

Steve HutchinsonVikings OG
Starter
__________________________________

Jonathan Goodwin49ers OG
Starter
__________________________________

David BaasGiants C
Starter
__________________________________

Jake LongDolphins OT
Starter
__________________________________

Jonas MoutonChargers LB
On injured reserve
__________________________________

Stephen SchillingChargers OT
DNP (On practice squad)
__________________________________

Donovan WarrenLions DB
DNP (On practice squad)
__________________________________

Brandon MinorBroncos RB
DNP (On injured reserve)

Around the League – Week 1

Friday, September 16th, 2011


Michigan has a great tradition of sending players to the National Football League. While the pace has fallen off over the past few years, there are still plenty of former Wolverines in the League. Each week during the season, we will provide an update on how former Michigan Men fared that week.

Tom BradyPatriots QB – Completed 32-of-48 passes for 517 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT

Tom Brady was the main Michigan alum standout in Week 1. His 517 yards passing is a Patriots record and he combined with fellow Michigan alum Chad Henne to set an NFL record for most combined passing yards in a game

Chad HenneDolphins QB – Completed 30-of-49 passes for 416 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; Rushed 7 times for 59 yards, 1 TD

LaMarr WoodleySteelers OLB – 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle-for-loss, 1 PBU

Mario Manningham - Giants WR – 4 catches for 49 yards

Braylon Edwards49ers WR - 3 catches for 27 yards

Charles WoodsonPackers DB – 2 tackles, 1 PBU

Steve BreastonChiefs WR – 2 catches for 26 yards

Jason Avant - Eagles WR – 3 catches for 40 yards

Tim JamisonTexans DE – 1 assisted tackle

Leon Hall -Bengals DB – 2 tackles, 2 PBU

Morgan TrentBengals DB – Did not record a stat

David Harris - Jets LB – 7 tackles

Zoltan MeskoPatriots P - 4 punts for 152 yards (38.0 avg), 1 touchback, 1 inside 20

James HallRams DE – 2 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 1 PBU

Larry FooteSteelers LB – 2 tackles

Jay FeelyCardinals K - 0-for-1 FGs, 4-for-4 XPs

Alan BranchSeahawks DT – 1 tackle

Brandon GrahamEagles DE – On PUP list with knee injury. Expected to return in Week 7

Jeff BackusLions OT - Started

Steve HutchinsonVikings OG – Started

Jonathan Goodwin – 49ers OG – Started

David BaasGiants C – Started

Jake LongDolphins OT – Started

Jonas MoutonChargers LB – DNP

Adrian ArringtonSaints WR – DNP

Stephen SchillingChargers OT – DNP (On practice squad)

Donovan WarrenLions DB – DNP (On practice squad)

Brandon MinorBroncos RB - DNP (On injured reserve)

Top UM Output in 24 Years Shows Growth of Rodriguez’s System

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


3QBs

In what would have been situation of near panic for most teams, the genius of Rich Rodriguez’s system shone bright. After racking up nearly 200 yards of total offense and a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes, Denard Robinson went down with a knee injury. Instead of going into a shell of the offense, backups Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner didn’t miss a beat, leading seven touchdown drives as Michigan pummeled Bowling Green 65-21.

Just like that it became apparent that Michigan is set at the quarterback position for the next few years and Rodriguez needed only to get his type of players into his system in order to succeed. 

It was a stark contrast to both the team on the other side of the field and Rodriguez’s first couple of years at Michigan.

Bowling Green’s starting quarterback Matt Schilz suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s win over Marshall leaving redshirt sophomore Aaron Pankratz to make the first start of his career. He proved ineffective even against a Michigan defense that entered the game on pace to become the worst in school history statistically.

Michigan sacked Pankratz three times and forced two turnovers, limiting the Bowling Green offense to 283 total yards, 71 of which came on one busted play in the second quarter.

Two years ago, it was Rodriguez who found himself in a quarterback quandary with two quarterbacks that had no experience, one a walk-on, and neither of which suited for his system.

While the offense struggled to put together drives and score points and Michigan fans bemoaned the program’s worst season in 40 years, Rodriguez supporters insisted that he needed to be given time to recruit his guys.

Last season, the offense showed a glimpse of what was possible with Forcier, then a true freshman, leading Michigan to a 4-0 start, including a thrilling come-from-behind win over Notre Dame. Robinson, who didn’t enroll in the spring like Forcier did, provided highlights with his legs but had virtually no grasp of the offense.

Now, as sophomores, and Robinson firmly entrenched as the starter, Michigan has again raced out to a 4-0 start, boasting one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the entire nation.

Robinson has rushed for over 100 yards in all four games, leading the nation in rushing, but has also proven he can be an efficient passer. He currently ranks 18th in passing efficiency, right in between Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick.

Offensive stats through four games
2010   2009
4-0 Record 4-0
41.2 Scoring Offense 37.5
1,325 Rushing Yards 961
331.2 Rushing YPG 240.3
926 Passing Yards 728
231.5 Passing YPG 182
562.8 Total Offense 422.3
13/54 (57%) Third-Down Conv. 25/58 (43%)
18/19 (95%) Red Zone Scoring 11/15 (73%)
2* Turnovers 5
1 Sacks Allowed 6
*2 other turnovers were fumbles on a INT returns,
so they don’t count towards offensive stats

He’s certainly the electricity that fuels the dynamic Michigan offense, but in moments like this past Saturday, having a proven starter as the backup allows the offense to keep firing on all cylinders despite a flat tire.

When Gardner, a true freshman, gets added to the mix, one can see how Michigan has perhaps the best corps of quarterbacks in the country. Many believe Gardner to have the most potential of the three, and he has been the first off the bench each time Robinson has been forced out of the game.

His knowledge of the offense is akin to that of Robinson’s last season, but his physical talent and size make Gardner an imposing threat. On Saturday, he showed his passing ability, connecting on 7-of-10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Hidden in those stats is a beautiful deep ball that would have been a 47-yard touchdown pass had Junior Hemingway not developed a case of alligator arms.

Forcier, meanwhile, set a Michigan record for most passes without an incompeltion, connecting on all 12 of his passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.

All together, the trio went 23-for-26 for 255 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

While it’s easy to look at the opponent and say, “Well, it’s just Bowling Green,” consider that the last time Michigan put up offense like that against an FBS team was in 1986.

Michigan plays MAC schools nearly every season and the next closest results were a 59-20 beating of Eastern Michigan in 1998 and 55-0 in 2005. Those teams were led by quarterbacks you may have heard of: Tom Brady and Chad Henne.   

As electric as Robinson is, the offense was just as effective without him for 52 minutes on Saturday, while in Columbus, fellow Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor played all but 16 minutes of his team’s 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan.

Imagine the kind of stats Robinson would have put up had he played another two-plus quarters against Bowling Green.

Despite the initial scare when Robinson got his knee checked out on the sideline, he was cleared to play and could have gone back in had he been needed. Instead, Rodriguez made the right choice to keep him healthy heading into Big Ten play and give Forcier and Gardner some valuable playing time.

Denard is the current front-runner for the Heisman, but he has selflessly embodied Bo Schembechler’s “the team” mindset. By putting the team first, Robinson earned his starting spot, and even though he wasn’t needed for most of the game last Saturday, he’ll be the fuel that keeps the engine running as Michigan travels to Indiana to open the conference schedule this Saturday.

Yes, we have little receivers. Get used to it

When are refs going to realize that just because our receivers are small and required to run block in Rodriguez’s system, it doesn’t mean they’re committing penalties all the time?

Maybe the refs aren’t used to seeing little guys blocking out in the open field, or maybe the defensive backs and linebackers have to get so low to approach them that it looks like it’s illegal, but when Martavious Odoms was called for a personal foul block below the waist in the second quarter, he literally hit the guy in the chest.

It was the second or third time this season a receiver has been called for the penalty when it wasn’t even close. That’s not even a penalty like holding that could be called on every play, or pass interference that is largely subjective. It’s not hard to tell if a guy hits another guy in the chest versus the legs.

Over/Under

If the game would have been three quarters long instead of four, I would have been close. But I’m glad it wasn’t, since it gave us a chance to see the debut of Fitzgerald Toussaint, in which he rumbled 61 yards to set up his own 5-yard touchdown run.

I ended up 17 over on offense and just two over on defense, leaving me 26 to 20 over on offense and defense, respectively for the season.

Redshirt freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint made ran for 61 yards on the first carry of his career (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)
Redshirt freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 61 yards on the first carry of his career (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)

 

I Said What?

“While Michigan’s offense has looked virtually unstoppable so far this season, it will be that much better with a proven back to take the pressure off of Robinson. Hopefully Shaw continues to emerge as that back, and I think he will.

Over/Under – 99 Rushing yards for Shaw. I’ll take the over. Marshall’s Andre Booker ran for 126 last week against Bowling Green.”

Shaw didn’t really need to do much on Saturday. He carried the ball 12 times for 59 yards and a touchdown, but that only accounted for 21 percent of Michigan’s carries. Counting the three quarterbacks, nine different Wolverines rushed the ball against BG.

Shaw didn’t get over 99 yards, so I was wrong (-1), but he certainly didn’t do anything to warrant losing his spot as the top back.

“Over/Under – 2.5 sacks. I’ll take the over again. Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, and Craig Roh have to be licking their chops right now and hope to use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season.”

I was dead on with this prediction as Michigan recorded three sacks. Jonas Mouton, Ryan Van Bergen and Greg Banks each got to Pankratz, besting the total number of sacks Michigan had in the first three games combined. (+1)

“Gardner seems to have passed Forcier on the depth chart, and Rodriguez would love to get him some live reps. On the other hand, Forcier has a year of starting experience under his belt and hasn’t sniffed the field yet this season. Rodriguez would probably like to get him out there as well.

My bet is that Gardner gets at least a few drives to show what he can do and Forcier becomes the Darco Milicic human victory cigar late in the fourth quarter.”

Well, Gardner was the first to relieve Robinson, but Forcier was anything but Darco Milicic and I’m rather embarrassed for even suggesting he would be.

Forcier is a very important piece of this team and I have a much greater respect for the kid after his performance on Saturday and the press conference afterward. He basically said he loves Michigan, he loves Rodriguez, and he’s all in. (-1)

“Over/Under – 49 rushing yards for Devin Gardner. Once more, I’ll go with the over. Of course, this all depends on the first-team offense playing well enough to yield playing time, but my guess is that Gardner will get three or four possessions. The game should be well in hand by then, so Gardner won’t be passing much. I could see him breaking one long run.”

Gardner did show his passing skills but only made it halfway to the rushing yards I predicted, so I was wrong. He has certainly shown his talent, but has missed some reads and seems to get tackled much easier than Robinson does. He’s just a true freshman though, so there’s a long way to go. (-1)

“Michigan puts it away early in the second quarter. The offense will be firing on all cylinders and the defense will force some turnovers. Bowling Green won’t have enough firepower to keep up and Michigan’s backups will finally get a chance to play.”

Well, that about sums it up. It was basically put away in the first eight minutes, but BG fought back before it was officially put away with Shaw’s touchdown run just before the half. (+1)

Denard me!

Denard pryor Week 4

Wolverine Wednesday: The Difference a Year Makes

Thursday, September 16th, 2010


Around this time last year, I wrote this, questioning whether it was time to expand Denard Robinson’s role in the offense. Now, just two weeks into the 2010 season, he’s a human Heisman.

Denard doing his Heisman thing, photo by Sam Wolson / The Michigan Daily

Denard doing his best Heisman pose (photo by Sam Wolson / The Michigan Daily)

I’ll be the first to tell you I didn’t expect Robinson’s development to happen this fast, but even in that article after last year’s Iowa loss, it was less about his future as a quarterback, and more about utilizing his athletic ability given where his development was at the time.

Now that he has, to borrow a phrase from the Fab Five, “shocked the world” with his play during the first two weeks of the season, leading the nation in rushing yards and total offense, and vaulting to the top of the list of Heisman Trophy candidates, it seems absolutely ridiculous to think of him anywhere else but lined up behind the center.

While Robinson has captured the attention of the nation, he certainly has his detractors who say there’s no way he can keep it up through the grind of the Big Ten schedule. He’ll end up getting hurt from all the pounding he takes. He still hasn’t proved he can pass.

Those are all legitimate claims and only time will tell whether they ring true or not, but one thing is for certain: Rich Rodriguez has his man.

To be honest, I still haven’t even figured out what happened in South Bend on Saturday.  I think @cjane87 said it best: “I have had every single emotion over the last four hours.”

The game started out ominously with Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist leading the Irish down the field for a touchdown. Michigan responded with a punt. But then instead of Crist coming back out on to the field it was freshman Tommy Rees who proceeded to throw an interception on his second play, and Michigan took advantage with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Roy Roundtree. Just like that it was 7-7.

Jonas Mouton's first quarter interception led to Michigan's first touchdown of the game, photo by the Ann Arbor News

Jonas Mouton's first quarter interception led to Michigan's first touchdown of the game (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

From that point through the rest of the half, the inept combination of Rees and fellow freshman Nate Montana allowed Michigan to pull ahead 21-7. At that point, I was feeling good about the way things were going, but knew for sure that Notre Dame was going to come back.

Sure enough, the momentum swung back to the Irish as Crist returned to bring the Irish back, and ultimately hit tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 95-yard touchdown to take the lead with just 3:41 remaining. At that point, I may have sworn at the thought of my wife jumping up and down. She’s a Notre Dame fan, and I was out of town for the weekend on a business trip, thankfully.

In retrospect, the quick strike was a blessing for Michigan and served as fuel for the growing wildfire that is Denard Robinson. Unlike the Iowa game last season when Robinson had the chance to lead the offense down the field for the win, but instead threw this (at 2:12), Robinson was fully in command and marched the Wolverines on a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ate 3:14 off the clock and sealed the Michigan win.

Just three minutes after NBC announcer Tom Hammond proclaimed that Rudolph’s go-ahead touchdown would go down as one of the greats in Notre Dame lore, Robinson created his own history, becoming the first Michigan quarterback to win his first start in South Bend since Jim Harbaugh in 1986.

That list includes Steven Threet in 2008, Chad Henne in 2004, John Navarre in 2002, Tom Brady in 1998, Todd Collins in 1992, Elvis Grbac in 1990, and Michael Taylor in 1988. In other words: most of the best quarterbacks in Michigan history couldn’t do what Robinson did on Saturday.

Robinson proved he has what it takes to lead the team down the field for the win, not just with his feet, but through the air as well. He hit Roundtree with a perfect pass to the two-yard line to set up the winning score. He actually went 5-6 on that drive for 55 yards and only rushed for 17 yards.

Notre Dame fans will always argue that if Crist had played the entire game, Notre Dame would have won. They may have an argument there and I may have to agree with them, but the cruel nature of the game is dealing with injuries, and Michigan has faced its far share of them this season as well.

After a rocky first game, Tate Forcier was in full support of Robinson against Notre Dame (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)

After a rocky first game, Tate Forcier was in full support of Robinson against Notre Dame (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)

In the same breath that an ND fan can say that, a Michigan fan can say that Rudolph never would have gotten open down field had Troy Woolfolk not suffered a season-ending ankle injury in fall practice.

The fact of the matter is, Michigan won for the second straight year and fourth time in the past five years.

The schedule sets up perfectly for a 5-0 start before another rival, Michigan State, invades the Big House.

We’ll get a good look at MSU this Saturday night as they host Notre Dame.

An ideal scenario for Michigan this week and next is to jump out to an early lead on UMass and Bowling Green, letting the starters play through the first half and possibly into the third quarter before giving way to the backups.

It would be great to get last year’s Notre Dame hero, Tate Forcier, some playing time, as well as freshman Devin Gardner.

Over/Under

Yeah, so I was wrong with my prediction that Notre Dame would win. Don’t call me a sell-out for picking against the Wolverines. As I said in the pick, I desperately want Michigan to win, but have to put bias aside when making my picks. I was only three off Michigan’s point total, but 13 under Notre Dame’s.

For the season, I’m 10 over for Michigan and 34 over for the opponents. I guess I should start respecting defenses, huh?
I Said What?

“The combination of Michigan’s defense this year and Notre Dame’s offense virtually requires Michigan’s offense to score 35-plus points if it wants to win this game.”

If Crist had played the entire game, maybe, but I was a touchdown too pessimistic. (-1)

“While you can’t look at the time of possession alone to determine the outcome of a game, it can certainly go a long way toward helping you win the game.”

Final time of possession: Michigan 34:09, Notre Dame 25:51. Michigan had the ball for just over eight minutes more than Notre Dame. Part of that was due to the 95-yard touchdown pass from Crist to Rudolph, allowing Michigan to put together a game-winning drive while eating the clock, but nevertheless, Notre Dame had just three drives of more than five plays the entire game. (+1)

“Two years ago in South Bend, Michigan lost four fumbles in the rainy conditions and lost 35-17. The weather forecast calls for similar conditions this Saturday, so whichever team takes better care of the ball could be the one that wins.”

The rain held off, but Michigan protected the ball for the second straight week. The only miscue was a fumble by Robinson in the first quarter, but Michigan recovered. On the flip side, Michigan picked off three Notre Dame passes, one of which directly lead to Michigan’s first touchdown of the game. (+1)

“The defense has to employ the bend-but-don’t-break attitude that it used last week, making Notre Dame work to get the ball down the field, rather than making big plays.”

Eh, not so much. The Crist injury may have contributed to Michigan’s success in the first half, but the big plays certainly did happen: A 37-yard pass at the end of the first half, which should have lead to three points, but Brian Kelly chose to go for the touchdown; a 53-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter; and Rudolph’s 95-yard romp for the go-ahead touchdown. Three big plays that lead to 14 (should have been 17) points. All things considered, that’s a success against one of the most talented passing games Michigan will face all season. (-1)

“Michigan’s lines dominated UConn last week on both sides of the ball. There’s nothing to suggest it can’t do the same this week, as Notre Dame has a very young and inexperienced offensive line.”

Michigan didn’t exactly dominate Notre Dame’s offensive line, getting just one sack, though as MGoBlog points out, when Mike Martin and Craig Roh weren’t being double-teamed, they did this, this, and this.

The offensive line did well to not allow a sack for the second straight game and pave the way for Robinson to run for 258 yards. (+1)

So hey, three out of five isn’t bad.

We Can Always Use More Denard

WolverineWatchDenardvsPryor

A new addition to Maize & Go Blue is the Wolverine Watch, which is housed on the right sidebar. Currently, it features a side-by-side comparison of Robinson and Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, as seen above. It will be updated after every game for the entire season to show where the two stand in comparison.

If other Wolverines break out, they will be added to the Watch next to one of the Big Ten’s best at that position. Right now, the only one I could foresee is Roundtree if he continues his pace from the last few games of last season and has more games like his performance on Saturday (eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown).

Go Blue!

The Fifth Season Begins: Breaking Down Meechigan’s Schedule

Friday, September 3rd, 2010


Each year during the week leading up to the first Michigan game of the season, I dust off my Bob Ufer “Maximum Meechigan” album and put it on repeat. As the goose bumps spread across my forearms I’m instantly transported back to the golden era of Michigan football eagerly anticipating the return of college football.

Perhaps Ufer put it best when he said, “There are five seasons across this country every year: winter, spring, summer, fall, and football. Football season makes the barber cut hair just a little bit better, and it makes the butcher slice the steak a trifle thicker. The shoe-shine boy pops his rag with more gusto, and the landlord doesn’t mention the overdue rent.”

Bob Ufer thrilled Michigan fans with his narrative and passionate enthusiasm for 37 years

Bob Ufer's soundbites live on for Michigan fans even 29 years after his death

While the quote may be a bit outdated, its meaning certainly holds true today. As we reach the start of the country’s fifth season, Michigan looks to start a new golden era, and it all begins on Saturday when UConn invades the Big House.

September 4 – UConn

Randy Edsall’s Huskies return eight starters from an offense that averaged 31.2 points per game a year ago. Fortunately for Michigan, the strength of the offense is the running game, led by Jordan Todman. Both receivers are new, affording Michigan’s weakness, the defensive secondary, a chance to get its feet wet for next week’s battle at Notre Dame.

Conversely, Michigan should be able to put up plenty of points against a very young and inexperienced UConn secondary. All signs point to a shootout, but Michigan should be able to come out on top with an explosive offense led by the duo of Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier.

Michigan 37 – UConn 31

September 11 – at Notre Dame

Notre Dame has a new coach at the helm in Brian Kelly who plans to spread the ball around in an up-tempo offense. Though the Irish will be breaking in a new starter at quarterback, Dayne Crist, he has some experienced weapons in receiver Michael Floyd, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Armando Allen. Michigan fans are already having nightmares of Crist to Floyd in the same way that Michigan State felt about Henne to Edwards. In other words, it could get scary.

The one saving grace for Michigan is that Notre Dame’s defense is similar to its own: strong up front, weak in the secondary. Just like the UConn game, this figures to be a shootout, but Notre Dame will have too much firepower for Michigan to keep up with on the road.

Notre Dame 33 – Michigan 27

September 18 – UMass

Michigan gets a bounce-back game to get the offense firing on all cylinders and this should be similar to last season’s Football Championship Subdivision opponent, Delaware State.

UMass returns just eight total starters and will be no match for Michigan. Devin Gardner will likely get his first action running the offense as Michigan pounds the Minutemen.

Michigan 52 – UMass 17

September 25 – Bowling Green

Much like UMass, Bowling Green won’t put up much of a fight for Michigan. The Falcons return just eight starters. Senior running back Willie Geter is good, but won’t be able to make up for the loss of the school’ second all-time quarterback and receiver.

If there’s a common theme among Michigan’s non-conference schedule, it’s lack of depth and experience in the secondary. Bowling Green doesn’t have much to work with on a defense that gave up just under 28 points per game last season.

Indiana QB Ben Chappell looks to lead one of the conference's top offenses

Indiana QB Ben Chappell looks to lead one of the conference's top offenses

Michigan 46 – Bowling Green 20

October 2 – at Indiana

Last season, Indiana gave Michigan a scare in Ann Arbor. This season, Michigan needs to avoid a trap game on the road before entering the meat of its conference schedule.

Indiana is led by senior quarterback Ben Chappell, who pioneers one of the conference’s most dynamic offenses. Receiver Tandon Doss tore Michigan up a year ago and could be a tough matchup again this year for Michigan’s weak secondary.
Defensively, Indiana returns just three starters, all in the front seven. Michigan should once again light up the scoreboard in a close one.

Michigan 35 – Indiana 31

October 9 – Michigan State

Michigan State has won two straight in the rivalry and is licking its chops for a chance to make it three. Led by junior quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Spartans have one of the top offensive attacks in the Big Ten.

On defense, Michigan State has depth in the secondary but its weakness is up front. The leader on defense is All-American linebacker Greg Jones and he’s a force to be reckoned with, but Michigan should be able to move the ball on the Spartans. With the home field advantage, Michigan pulls it out.

Michigan 28 – Michigan State 24

October 16 – Iowa

The Hawkeyes could be the most complete team in the Big Ten with a senior-loaded offense and eight starters returning from one of the Big Ten’s top defenses. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi won’t be confused for Peyton Manning, but is efficient at running the offense.

Iowa’s defense gave up just 15.4 points per game last season and ranked fourth nationally in pass defense. The entire defensive line returns and should give Michigan’s offense fits for the first time this season.

Iowa 23 – Michigan 17

October 30 – at Penn State

Michigan gets the fortune of having its bye week prior to traveling to Happy Valley, which should help relieve the sting of the Iowa loss. Penn State has been one of the top teams in the Big Ten the past few years, but will be starting a true freshman quarterback, Robert Bolden, this season.

Taking a page out of Rich Rodriguez's playbook, Joe Patern elected to start true freshman Robert Bolden at quarterback this season

Taking a page out of Rich Rodriguez's playbook, Joe Paterno elected to start true freshman Robert Bolden at quarterback this season

Last season’s top scoring defense returns just five starters and has to replace five of its front seven. A primetime “white-out” game in Happy Valley, however, is a recipe for a Penn State win.

Penn State 26 – Michigan 21

November 6 – Illinois

With Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn gone, Illinois head coach Ron Zook finds himself squarely on the hot seat. He will likely be relying on redshirt freshman Nate Scheelhaase to guide the offense that ranked last in the Big Ten last season in conference play.

On the other side of the ball, seven starters return from the worst scoring defense in the conference in 2009. Michigan will be able to score against the Illini and bounce back from two straight losses to become bowl eligible for the first time in three years.

Michigan 33 – Illinois 17

November 13 – at Purdue

Purdue seems to be a dark horse candidate to surprise some in the Big Ten this year, but the Boilermakers face two key issues: rebuilding on offensive line and in the secondary. Head Coach Danny Hope will rely on Miami transfer Robert Marve to lead the offense, but the Boilers suffered a huge loss when running back Ralph Bolden tore his ACL in the spring.

On defense, Purdue surrendered a conference worst 173.4 rushing yards per game last season, but returns most of the front seven. The secondary is void of experience, so the defense should yield plenty of points.

Michigan 31 – Purdue 21

November 20 – Wisconsin

Like Iowa, Wisconsin features a very experienced team on both sides of the ball from a team that finished 10-3 last season and upset Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien returns, as does junior running back John Clay. The Badgers offense ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring (31.8), rushing yards (203.9) and total yards (416.9) last season, and it only has to replace one receiver. This offense should be hard to stop with the combination of Clay on the ground and receiver Nick Toon in the air.

The defense gave up a Big Ten best 88.2 yards on the ground last year but has to replace three defensive linemen. If the replacements can hold up, Wisconsin should challenge Ohio State and Iowa for the Big Ten title. They should be too much for Michigan though.

Wisconsin 28 – Michigan 20

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor looks to break out this season

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor looks to break out this season

November 27 – at Ohio State

The final game in the Big Ten as we know it could be ugly for Michigan. Ohio State figures to be firing on all cylinders with junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor expected to break out like former Texas quarterback Vince Young did in his junior season. Pryor has senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, a virtual clone of Anthony Gonzalez, to throw to, and speedster Brandon Saine in the backfield. Four of five offensive linemen return including Michigan transfer Justin Boren.

While this should be the best offense Ohio State has had since Troy Smith graduated in 2006, the defense has some holes to fill. The defensive line needs to be retooled, but the linebackers all return, including seniors Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, the top two tacklers from a year ago.

Pryor could be looking to wrap up the Heisman with a big performance, and unless Michigan’s secondary grows up fast, it could be a long day for Michigan.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

Many outside the program (and some of the Michigan fanbase) will say that 7-5 isn’t good enough for Michigan, but it’s just what Rich Rodriguez needs at this point to ramp up expectations for 2011. Getting back to a bowl game is the first step and anything more than 7-5 will be considered a huge success this year as Michigan will return 19 starters to challenge for the innagural Big Ten Championship next season.